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The clock pulled closer and closer to one in the morning. Adena tossed her pen to the desk and stretched. That presentation ceremony had lasted longer than she had anticipated; that accounted for her working late. The Alarian people had responded enthusiastically to her, as her own people of Furanose had done. The destruction of the Hall of Mirrors had ruined much of the farmland and forest surrounding it. The Furanosian population had never been very large so she had arranged for her people to select a new home. They could remain on Earth and inhabit the lush lands of Alarius or they could go to then new power center on T'Mir. Many of the youth had chose the space route and were being indoctrinated into Fleet policy.

She picked up her pen preparing to resume her work. She simply stared at the instrument. Her body called her to sleep, but she quickly overrode such impulses; this work needed to be done. She rested her head against her hand, her delicately curled hair falling to shroud part of her face. She decided that a break was in order and stood up from the table. Her pearl gown shimmered in the light. She removed the emerald from her neck and locked it with her new metal. The pearls bedecking the Amulet shimmered in quiet harmony with the gown.

Adena glanced down and mused over the day's events. That's it - she mused. Iffley hadn't apologized for losing his tempter with her. Well, maybe she had spoke a little sharply, but no, he would have to apologize first. Suddenly, she heard a noise - quiet though it was, beyond the range of normal human ears.

She went to the door and opened it cautiously. When nothing attacked she stepped into the hall and walked to the banister. Looking down, she hoped to spot the source of the noise. Seeing nothing, she paused; should she get help? Of course not, she reminded herself and with that, she ran lightly down the stairs.

Nothing was amiss on the second floor and the same for the ground level. She puzzled over this. She knew that she had heard something. She heard something over her left shoulder. Spinning to face it, she peered into the darkness.

"Who are thou?" she whispered lest she wake anyone. Her fear brought out the Old English in her speech.

Nothing answered her question but heavy breathing. Her mind began to whirl with thoughts. "Who art thou? What business dost thou have here?"

A grotesque silhouette appeared on the wall and Adena's mouth flew open. She began to back up to the lightswitch; finding it, she turned it on, flooding that corner with light. Her relief was immense when she discovered that it was the night guard, Horace. Iffley had told her about him but had never formally introduced them.

"Forgive me, m'lady." His voice was gutteral and deep. "Must have sharp ears to hear a Nightstalker." Nightstalkers were a rapidly diminishing species on T'Mir, they were one of the few creatures that could stand the Dark phase on the planet. They resembled Earthen trolls in looks and speech, but were gentle and trustworthy; hence, Iffley's reason for hiring Horace. "If the Lady would be as kind to dim the lights, tis bad for one as I."

"I'm sorry." Adena dimmed the lights to where it didn't pain the Nightstalker but allowed her sight.

"I did not mean to wake thee, m'lady." A crusty grin spread over his face. "The master warned me that the young one had sharp ears."

"I wasn't asleep. I just heard a noise and came to investigate. I am pleased that it was just thee."

"The Nightstalker smiled again with her speech. "Long since I have heard the words of ancient times." He paused. "Thou should not have come alone."

"I can take care of myself; but I heed thee."

"All is well, m'lady. I wouldst take over from here."

Adena gave a farewell to the creature and dimmed the lights completely. She slipped back up the stairs quietly. As she walked to her room, she stopped in front of the Ruby Room, Iffley's quarters. Making a decision, she buzzed the outer bell. The computer came on and gave a reponse.


"What dost thee mean? Surely, he is there."


"Well, open up any way and I'll wait."


"Code?!" She was getting frustrated by this machine.


How am I supposed to know the code? Oh well, her mind was sharpening for the challenge. Something near to him, yet not obvious - that would be it. In their youth, Adena and Iffley had loved solving riddles and playing jokes. This was probably a challenge to her. The light dawned!!

"The last laugh is on you."




She slipped in expecting to find him frustrated because she found out his code. Now he'd have to think up something better. But he wasn't at his desk. She keyed the door to lock and wandered into the suite.

It was gorgeous and she had thought that hers was the prettiest. Red velvet stroked her bare feet and there was a faint red sheen over the whole room. It felt warm to her senses. She like this room - maybe Iffley would switch with her. Her eyes were distracted to the table.

Disks were stacked neatly on the desk corner and the computer felt warm to the touch - it must have just been shut off. Several stacks of printouts lay adjacent to the terminal. She sat in the desk and casually picked one pile up and began to read.

FUEL CONSUMPTION REPORT, boring, UPDATES ON ENGINEERING REPORTS, dull, she picked up another stack, COMMENDATIONS FOR CADETS AND PROMOTIONS DUE, she noticed with pleasure several of her cadets on the list, COMMUNICATION RECORDS...

The desk clock chimed - it was two. Well, I guess he went out, Adena said to herself. She stood and began to walk toward the door, when she found herself with a mouthful of the lush carpeting. She kicked intending to inflict as much damage as possible. That's why Iffley wasn't in, some stranger had hurt him. Her struggles became harder, but the hands that held her were strong. She tried a new tact, by going limp.

This caused her attacker to let up to pull her in and she kicked. Her foot hit its mark and sent him sprawling across the floor. She stood quickly to defend herself and her eyes darted around the apartment trying to find Iffley. Then she saw him....

Shaking his head dazedly as he got up from the corner where she had kicked him. "Iffley!"

"Adena?" He looked at her with full realization. "What on earth are you doing here at this hour?"

"What are you doing attacking me at this hour?"

"That's true --- Now wait one minute! This is my room. Don't try to tell me that you've been sleepwalking."

"I wasn't for your information!" She was brushing red fuzz out of her hair and Iffley was cleaning the same off his slacks. "I heard a noise so..."

"You came to get me to see what it was."

"NO> I am a big girl now and I went down myself."

"You...you went downstairs during the dark phase. You must be ill."

"Not in the least," she stated. "It just so happens Nightstalkers are too noisy."

"You ran into the Nightstalker?"


"Then why did you come up here?"

"Because my room is next door and I had work to finish. I wanted to mention the noise to you - if you were still up. Your foolish computer informed me that you were out."

"But that doesn't explain how you got in."

"Yes, it does. I gave your computer the code it wanted."

"You didn't know it!"

"Right. But I am not stupid either. I can figure problems out."

Iffley stared at Adena and she challenged him right back. "You are unbelievable, Adena. Absolutely unbelievable. Somehow you always manage to surprise everyone."

Her challenging stare turned question. "I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or not, sir."

"Drop the 'sir', and I might consider talking to you."

"Very well...sir," she teased.

He sank into the settee next to the fireplace. "Now that you have woken me up completely." He shook his head. "Look, you're going to have to teach me how to slide down that banister." She flushed a deep red. "Keep that up and I may hire you as a decoration for the room."

"I am sorry." She turned her eyes down to accomodate her statement.

"I, too."

"Thee needn't be so. Tis my fault and blame." She sat on the floor next to his chair.

"Then I guess it's my duty - as the wronged party - to mete out a suitable punishment." She nodded quietly; her eyes pleading softly. He was teasing her now, but she hadn't become aware of it. "As your punishment-" she winced. "you will have to - oh, the heck with it.."

He pulled her to him and kissed her. Her eyes were wide in the lambent lighting of the room. "You were asking for it. Dressing that beautiful and then fabricating a story, cracking a code and waking me up..."

"But," she began, cut off by another kiss. She drew back, unsure of the territory.

"That's all. Your punishment is complete." He smirked and came to his feet.

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "You think that..." She decided not to push her luck farther. She turned to leave, but whirled to kiss him gently. Then, she bolted from the room.

He listened as her door opened, closed, locked and lights extinguished. She always able to pull a last minute surprise. Tomorrow, he thought to himself, tomorrow will be interesting.

 © 1984, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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