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BY: DANAE CONRAD

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

"Energize, Lieutenant!" Adena felt her body being torn asunder by the powerful transporting rays; she then felt the coolness of space as she approached her destination. She had hardly solidified on the Scimitar's bridge when she began her tirade. "Iffley! Why did you surrender?! Appeasement has never worked, not in history and most certainly not now! That was the most foolish..." She realized that the bridge crew was not aware of her, nor was Iffley. She saw the enormous creature before her and her Amulet lurched in a recognition of it. She stood still and received the images projected about the creature...

"GIBBENHIDE!" A commanding voice tautly pronounced his name. "In the power that created you, so will you find your destruction!"

The monster had stopped its horrid lurching towards Iffley at the first sound of her voice. This was the woman he had been warned of, for she carried the key to his destruction. He turned to face the Enchantress and she blanched slightly, not expecting the gross countenance.

"You shall desist immediately! The forces within this Amulet created you and they will destroy you!" She arched her eyebrow in nervous tension.

"To that that," he gurgled to her, "you must disrupt your Amulet's power! Would you leave yourself defenseless?"

Adena looked at Iffley and unwaveringly said, "Iffley, get off this ship! Take the crew with you! If I fail, self-destruct her."

"In a pig's eye!"

"I said, 'get off the ship!'!"

"Adena, forget it!"

Adena looked sorrowful and reached for the console behind her. She lay her right hand on a metal terminal. Her left hand snatched at and pulled open an electric wire. Her body went taut with the electricity. Her mind became unconscious - blank; the Amulet's power was off.

Gibbenhide screamed, "No! Don't do that!" His power was already draining. He tried to remove her from the circuit but he received a painful shock. He returned to Iffley - to complete his task before he died. Iffley, however, easily evaded the monster.

When the monster moved, Iffley's gaze fell on Adena. "No! Adena, you'll kill yourself!" He jumped away as Gibbenhide embedded his spike into the metal next to him.

The Gibbenhide was stumbling now - he was dying. Soon the hologram would dissipate and his evil spirit would be dispelled into the eternity of space. The ogre tripped one last time and his form flickered, then vanished. He was dead; the monster's threat was over.

Iffley breathed a sigh of relief as he ran to Adena's side. She was looking around dazedly. "Surely you,..."

"Iffley," she said, tiredly. "Keep in mind I have the Ring." She smiled. "I set in a protection field and, enhanced by the Ring, I didn't need the Amulet to guard me. The Ring protected me in the unconscious state."

"How are you feeling?"

"Fine, my strength is already beginning to return." Adena became aware of the bridge crew's working, but obvious interest in their conversation. "You surrendered. Why?"

"I had no choice, Adena."

"Choice?" She laughed. "You had plenty of choice. This monster can only signal the beginning of treacheries to come. The Alarian Space Fleet WAS the pride of the skies. Look at us now!"

"Adena, that is enough!" He shook his head. "The other choices would have been ones that we wouldn't be living to talk about." Obviously, Adena Ludit was not pleased with this answer; she was used to fighting big odds and winning. They had lost and she hadn't totally come to grips with it. "Go back to the Enchantress, Adena, and take her home. We'll talk about it at Yorkshire later." He turned and went to sit in his command chair. Hailing the Xanudau, he gave them orders to return as well.

"I'll take the ship in - she needs the repairs anyway. But, I won't see you later. Remember, I moved out of Accardi."

Her statement brought the bridge to silence. The crew was quite aware of her move to the Space Academy, but they knew Iffley wasn't. They also know no one stood up to Iffley.

"You actually did it. I thought you had been kidding."

"In the middle of a war, which we lost, I don't kid."

"You will move back." He stated it with a tone of authority; a tone demanding obeyance.

"No. I won't." She signalled her ship, but never broke eye contact with Iffley. "Energize!" She saluted sharply as her ship drew her back.

"Get to work," Iffley snapped at the startled crew. They hurriedly picked up their duties. "Front screen." The screen displayed the Enchantress in all her glory. She was powering up for the trip home. Smoothly, she slid into the descent pattern to return to T'Mir. The Xanadau and Scimitar followed suit - all would be home by morning.

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

Morning shone brightly on T'Mir; Sol wreathed the planet in ephemeral gold as the exhausted crews from the fleet's remaining vessels alit. Last to leave, Adena stepped into the halls of the academy. Several lieutenants saluted her and she followed suit. Her boots clicked sharply on the marble stairs leading to the observatory tower. She was glad to be on solid ground again. The picture windows revealed the beautiful countryside of T'Mir. She wondered how her new friend Eve was getting on.

So much like Furanose, she mused to herself; a ghosted smile played on her face. So much like Alarius, like ....Accardi. She loosened the collar of her uniform. Stretching her neck slightly, she tried to organize her thoughts. Oh well, she looked at her watch, Iffley would be on his way to Yorkshire now. She could got to her private suite here at the Academy.

Turning, she saw red flexxon and lumped back in surprise, rapping her head sharply on the window. She found herself at a total loss for words.

"Are you quite finished disputing authority, Miss Ludit?" Iffley was obviously displeased and Adena couldn't think of a single response. "I asked you a question!"

"No, I mean, yes, Captain." Her heart beat was frantic and she was sure her eyes could match its state.

"Good. Then let's get your things and go home."

"I am home." Her anger quickly gave her confidence.

"To Accardi, Adena."

"NO!" She tried to bolt past him, but he grabbed her arm and pinned her back to the glass.

"I thought you said that you were finished disputing me."

"I said I was finished disputing authority," she snapped back smartly. She instantly regretted it; Iffley had obviously interpreted a challenge from this. "Iffley, please. Let me go."

"Not so soon, little one, and not so fast."

"Don't call me that!"

"I am the authority, Miss Ludit."

"Then as an authority, you should know to address a head of state." She added, "Properly."

"Don't get that way, En - Adena!"

She glared at him defiantly. Her emerald eyes were challenging his angry tawny gold ones. "I'm twenty-five. I should have never come here. Furanose is my home and domain - even though there isn't much left of it." She wrenched herself free of his grasp. "I am the Enchantress. I have been since my parents..." She stopped and her eyes got a faraway look.

Iffley shook her gently. "Adena!! You're still doing it, aren't you?" He felt her pain and torture. "You're still blaming yourself for their deaths!! God, please make her stop." He turned Adena to face him. She had closed her eyes now. "Adena, you cannot blame yourself for other's deaths. Believe me, I know." He thought of the cemetary that he had spent Christmas in.

Her words came slowly. "Everyone, Iffley. Because they cared for me, they died." Her last words came in a rush. "I don't want that to happen to you!!" She ran from him towards her own apartment.

"Adena!!" Her name echoed around the empty tower. Hadn't he taught her that it wasn't her fault that her parents had died? He remebered the day that he had told Camille that he was in love with another. Adena had been young; she still was. He remembered asking Adena what she was going to do when she go older. Her answer had been: live. They had both laughed. Now laughter seemed so remote. He longed to hear it. He had returned expecting everything to be like it had; he still underestimated her at times.

The intercom sounded: CAPTAIN ADENA, YOUR SHUTTLE IS WAITING AT DECK 5. iffley started. A shuttle meant that she was leaving - somewhere. He rand down the corridors as fast as he could to Deck 5. He had beat her there for the shuttle still was waiting. h heard her footsteps behind him.

"Captain." Her eyes were shining with unshed tears; her face was pale and drawn.

"Where are you going?" He tried to ask her forgiveness with his eyes, but she wouldn't even look at him.

"Home."

"But..." He placed an exasperated hand on his head. She began to walk out to the shuttle. Never underestimate her, he thought to himself. Ask her to stay. "Adena!" She stopped and faced him. "If you want to go, I'll let you. It's up to you to stay - but I'll always hold the door open for you." It cut him to the very heart to say that to her. The burden of the decision was on her now. He couldn't stay any longer for tears were already blurring his vision. "Goodbye, Adena." He left the shuttle bay.

She had started to say something but he had left. She had been wondering, if he'd ask her to stay - after the fight, the loss. Her decision was made, however. She would go to....

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

"Iffley! Iffley! Wait a minute!"

Iffley was attempting to start the hover car to drive back to the Mansion. He heard the shout and the clattering of boots.

"You'll never get it started like that." A slender hand slipped around to pull a wire under the hood. The Ring of Ranet sparkled brilliantly on it. "try the key now." The hovercraft started instantly. "Do you have enough room for a little extra baggage, sir?"

Iffley looked across the vehicle. He could only see brilliant green eyes imploring him; her hair was flying loose in the breeze. he stretched his hand across the roof of the car palm up. She interlocked her fingers with his. "I'm sorry."

"Me, too." She cocked her head to one side, "Can we go home now?"

"Yes, climb in." She threw her bags into the trunk and opened the door. Emerald green flexxon dazzled his eyes and made her simply irresistible.

"I get so tired of red," she teased.

Iffley pulled the car from the Academy and they began the long ride home to Accardi. Adena fell asleep about halfway there. She had tried to stay awake, but it became too much for her. She was dreaming; every once in a while she'd speak a word or fragment. Iffley hated to waken her when they finally got to Yorkshire. He leaned over to kiss her awake, when...

"Iffley! and, for crying out loud, Adena's finally come home, too. Dion! Asiel! They're home!" Jonathon Pierce came running to greet them he shook hands warmly with his friend and picked up the sleepy Adena, hugging her tightly.

"There is so much happening, Iffley." Adena was trying to catch her breath after his welcome. "Dion and I are going to be married. And...this is Asiel." He introduced her.

"A pleasure," said Iffley, bowing.

"This Suralio Iffley, Sceptred Ruler of this fair land," Jonathon said dramatically. "And this is Adena...The Enchantress." Adena came around the care and smiled. Asiel seemed nervous.

"Asiel, don't worry. You are among friends," Adena said comfortingly. Asiel smiled.

Jonathon continued to talk a mile a minute trying to fill them in on all the details. Adena looked around the mansion with relief - it was good to be back. She'd have to get Eve over some evening. "Hello, Dion."

"Hello, going to try to hold him this time?"

"Bite your tongue!" Adena's brow arched menacingly.

"Oh! I see. That accounts for the outfit, right? Dressed to kill?"

Adena slapped her soundly. "Don't ever be so crass, again. I'll have you thrown out faster..."

"You've been her hardly a half hour and your trying to take over already. You are..."

"Adena, Dion! Come to dinner, would you?"

Both women complied. Dinner was an extravagant affair to welcome the weary soliders home. Jonathon kept up a constant chatter to fill in all the details. He and Iffley discussed the possibilities of other conflicts.

At the end of the meal, Jonathon raised a toast. "To the rulers of T'Mir - health and long life!" Iffley acknowledged the toast with a nod.

"But, Jonathon. I do believer you made a grammatical mistake - you pluralized ruler."

"My dearest Enchantress, your services are invaluble to T'Mir and she is happy to be your servant." Adena flushed and murmured a thanks.

Dion and Asiel excused themselves and Jonathon got up to escort them to their rooms. That left Adena and Iffley. Adena began toying with her wine glass; she rotating the rim under her finger to make it ring. Suddenly, she stopped.

"Habit," she said in way of explanation.

Iffley stood up to leave the table. Adena didn't follow suit. She sat at the table, deep in thought. He didn't disturb her, but slipped out of the room. Once he had left, Adena stood up and went to the stables. She toyed with the Danaes and pulled out Shamrok to ride. The Dark Phase was coming, but she went out anyway.

Inside, lamps were being lit for the Dark Phase. Jonathon and Iffley were in the Ruby Room still discussing affairs of state. Jonathon asked where Adena was. Iffley said that she was probably in the dining room still.

Dion came into the room.

"Gentlemen," she said. "Have either of you seen Adena," she asked, her voice cloying with concern.

"Isn't she in the dining room?"

"No."

Footsteps were heard in the hall. "Adena?"

"Yes."

"Come here, please."

"Well, good night, Iffley. Come on, my dear," said Jonathon. Dion kissed Iffley on the cheek as Adena walked into the room.

"When the cat's away the mice get the cream," she hissed at Adena as she and Jonathon left the room.

"Yes, Captain."

"Don't be so blasted formal."

"Yes, sir."

Iffley stared at her with exasperation. "You enjoy your ride?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

"Your hair is all a mess."

Adena stepped in front of the mirror. "No, it isn't."

"Lucky guess?"

Adena laughed lightly. "You're being ridiculous." She turned around to see red flexxon again - this time she didn't jump. "What do you want now? I've come back to Accardi, and I'm trying very hard to behave." She noticed a mysterious glint in his eyes.

"Why don't I let you guess?" He leant forward and kissed her, realizing how much he'd missed it.

"I know what you want."

"What?"

"You want me to go so that you can get some rest. Goodnight." She slipped from his grasp before he could say a word.

Things are returning to normal, he thought to himself, I hope.


 © 1985, 

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

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