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This Mortal Coil

                              by Jonathon Pierce

The Scimitar pulled slowly into orbit around Titan. Its long journey ended, it returned home to reap the rewards of its mission. The rescue attempt had been successful, Adena had been saved from the lion's den. Iffley, however, had some explaining to do.

He stared at Adena, remembering the joy she once brought to his heart. Adena recognized Dion, but Iffley would have to explain his youth to Adena. She was still recovering from shock, but the sooner she found out, the better for all concerned. He thought that a familiar nickname would convince her of his identity. "Little One," he began, "are you feeling better?"

Adena stared at the youthful Iffley in unrecognition. "Who are you? How do you know my nickname?" Her face flushed and grew quite pale.

"Don't you know me...I guess not. I am Suralio Frith Iffley, the advisor to Adena Ludit Ledic and the throne of Furanose." Iffley's eyes twinkled with each word. He noticed her smile as she recalled his face and name.

"How...What happened? You look so young!" She purposely stressed 'young' to annoy her ally, and her friend.

Iffley, with constant interruptions by Dion to fill in missing details, informed Adena of their transformations. His narrative then continued to the rescue attempt and finally finished with the recent recovery of one battered patient named Adena.

Adena now fully recognized Iffley and the couple embraced warmly. Dion, in the manner of her friend, raised an eyebrow. The couple's reunion, however, was short-lived. The intercom buzzed, "Captain Iffley, we have just received a warning from an unknown source. The message warns that Taft is about to attack."

Iff1ey stared, deep in thought. After a moment, he said, "Condition Yellow. Have Jonathon and Taft II sent to the bridge." He turned to Adena, "You stay here. You are not well yet. You mind the Doctor."

"In a pig's eye." Adena said under her breath as she watched the receeding figures.

* * * * *

The scene on the bridge was tense. A dim yellow light flooded accented the various consoles staggered about the room. Iffley sat in a large chair in the center of the room. The lift opened and two figures stepped onto the bridge. Jonathon quickly assessed the situation and examined the tactical screen. Several large blips, representing missles, flashed on the screen.

"Mr. Tartre, please locate the missiles' point of origin." Iffley said in control of the situation.

"Already computing, Captain...The point of origin is Phoebe, one of the outermost Moons."

Jonathon interrupted: "Missles closing at 3000 kilometers."

"Mr. Greene, target the missles. Await my order to fire." He turned to Taft II and said, "I have a few questions for you. First, how do you know that Blue Ledic is ruling the Domain? My Informers tell me that Archie won in the power struggle. Secondly, why is your father attacking me? 1s he that afraid of the Alarian forces?"

"Iffley, I know that Archie is in reality Blue Ledic. I was informed of this by Mij Slocin--which was why I wanted to bring him along."

"I want facts, Taft, not innuendoes."

"Mij supposedly has the proof...only I haven't seen it yet. In answer to your second question, my father could not possibly be attacking us, because he is dead." Taft II replied bluntly.

Adena, who had slipped onto the bridge unnoticed, shouted, "You liar! Taft is not dead! Granted his body is gone, but his evil mind still lives. I discovered his secret--" Adena's words were drown out by Jonathon's status report of the missles. At the conclusion of his report, she continued, "Blue and I had made a promise to love one another. Material possessions did not matter as long as we had each other. I asked 'Archie' to complete our pact, and when he answered wrongly, I knew that he was an imposter." Adena's voice trailed off. Her head began to spin and she grabbed the railing to maintain her balance.

"Adena, you are not well. Return to sick bay or I will have you carted down in a stretcher." Iffley's concern spread throughout the room, everyone affirming his statement. For once, Adena did not protest. With Dion's help, she entered the lift and returned to the Medical Level.

"Well, Taft, your father does seem to still be alive. Like a snake, his mortal coil is tightening upon us, cutting off our only exits. Why is he attacking us? Is it for the sheer enjoyment of feeling his prey squirm in his grasp? Obviously, he knows that we rescued you and Adena. Is he that afraid of you, Taft? or is it Adena that he fears?"

Taft's lack of response showed his apparent puzzlement. He could not believe that his father would throw him in jail and now try to kill him. Then, of course, there was that matter about his usurping his father's rule. He deserved the Domain, not his father.

"Missles at 1500 kilometers."

"Conditon Red. You may fire when ready, Mr. Greene. "The navigation officer obeyed the command, releasing the tremendous energy from the ship. The bolt of energy sped through space, impacting on the lead missile. It exploded in a brilliant burst of sparks, setting off a chain reaction.

"Excellent, Iffley, my father was right: you are a worthy opponent." The speaker looked quite pleased with himself. "It really was terribly easy to enter this ship, though. Perhaps your security is a bit too lax. Allow me to introduce myself, I..." His voice trailed off as Dion returned from sick bay. He stared at Dion in deep recognition. After a moment, he finished his sentence, "I am John Jemason, son of Kirk Jameson and, yes, you, my dear, Dion Puriantio."

He stared at the group, moving from one face to another. He stopped at Jonathon. "I thought I had gotten rid of you. I went to all that trouble to take over Alarius and I got nothing in return. That was a tough battle between the Titan and myself. Of course, had I not taken your place, you would have died from that wound."

Jonathon looked shocked, "So it was you that shipped me off to Aldery. That explains a few things. But how did you 'take my place?'"

"Soon after I was born, my father took me away from my mother. I had, however, received some very interesting traits from you, Mother. I had the ability to read people's memories. I am not a telepath, but because of my mother's empathy, I can probe the deepest reaches of the mind. Strong memories work the best, like memories of friends or family. I probed Iffley's mind and came up with the idea to take over Alarius.

"While I was a mere infant, I exhibited this talent. My father, however, was too impatient to wait for me to grow up, so he accelerated my growth rate. He also taught me to master molecular structures. I can only transform my molecules, but it comes in handy. Let me give you a demonstration. From Iffley's memory..." His body began to blur and disassemble. The correct changes made, the blur returned in the form of Adena.

Horror filled Iffley, as he realized that he could now no longer trust his friends. With John on the loose, he would never be able to completely rely on anyone again. Unless...

Dion slapped the image of Adena, scolding John never to do that again. Obligingly, John returned to his normal form.

"At least the missing Ring has been explained. I was beginning to wonder if I hadn't gone off the deep end."

Jonathon nervously began twisting the Ring around his finger, while John finished his story." I wasn't as evil as my father expected. He wanted me to use my talents to exploit other people. To please him, I tried to take over Alarius. I failed. I then realized that unless I used my gift to help people, I would always fail. I guess, Mother, that your traits were the more dominate ones." His story finshed, he embraced his mother, in attempt to reconcile his crimes.

It would seem that John was not so evil after all; and yet, Iffley could not but fear for the safety of those around him. John had seemed almost too sincere, and that worried Iffley. He kept his thoughts to himself, wondering if Jonathon was thinking the same thing.

"Miss Teale, contact the Fleet and arrange a meeting at Yorkshire. The topic will be plans for attacking Taft and his Domain."

 © 1984, 

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

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