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                             by Jonathon Pierce

Things were a bustle at Yorkshire, this only two weeks from Christmas. Meric, Dr. Sharpe, and Lt. Teale traveled to Quendor to procure an idoneous tree. Horace, as well as the other servants, quickly prepared the mansion for the festive season.

Despite the closeness of the holiday, diplomatic missions had to be performed. The most major need for diplomacy was the island of Opgirg, in the Restricted Territory. The Dark Time had ravaged the island, and now its occupants were ready for assistance. As T'mir's orbit brought the moon out from Saturn's shadow, the Ecaps realized that the safety of the New-worlders was only inches away. Puffin, a member of the Ecaps' Circle, crossed the ocean in a wave-rider. He then contacted the Key-bearer. As the New-worlders talked over his proposal, he examined the lights adorning the mansion, "Strange customs, these New-worlders have."

In the meeting, Iffley, Adena, and Jonathon discussed their tactics to secede Opgirg. Dion sat busily at the recorder station, making sure the computer was doing its job correctly. She wanted everything to be perfect for her only love.

Iffley spoke, "I should be the one to go to the Ecaps, I have had the most experience with them. However, I need to stay with the Fleet. It has been several days since we have last heard from Taft, and I am afraid that he is preparing another attack."

"I agree with Iffley," Adena began, "he belongs here. Alas, I cannot go either: my orientation with Fleet procedure is not complete."

Iffley glanced around the table, his gaze falling on Jonathon. "Since neither of us can go, the logical choice is you, Jonathon. You are next in line to Colonial rule. With your knowledge of our system, you should be able to persuade the Ecaps to join the Colonies. I am counting on you, Jonathon.'

Dion interrupted him, "Suralio, perhaps I should go along as well. I have met the Ecaps before and I know their customs. I..."

"Yes, Dion," Iffley returned the favor, "you would be a valuable asset on this mission. Your shuttle leaves in..." he glanced at his chronograph, "thirty minutes. I suggest you get packed." The pair stood up and left the table. Jonathon opened the door and stepped outside. As Dion left the room, she said to Adena, "Keep the 'cream' cold for me while I'm away, Honey."

* * * * *

Several hours later, Adena was busily reading, filing, writing, and checking crew reports for her new ship, the Enchantress. Her usually neat office was scattered with files. Stacks of papers adorned her desk. The 'in' box was overflowing, while the 'out' box contained only a few stamped triplicates. She was greatful for Dion's abscence; she has really been a pain lately. 'Cream', indeed. But, she was letting her mind wander from her work. She settled back down and continued her research.

She picked up the crew transfer reports. Jarrett Tourne's file was placed on top. She flipped through his file and then came across his recommendation. He had had five reprimands, all signed by the elusive Admiral Barrymore. She stamped 'Transferral Denied' on his file. Next was the file marked Mericus Tartre. In amazement, she opened and perused its contents. He was wanting to transfer from the Scimitar to the Enchantress. His recommendations were excellent, there was no reason for his denial. Yet, she needed to know the reason for his transfer, and with his being off at Quendor, she would have to ask Iffley.

She glanced at her chronometer: Dinner was shortly to be served. She fully realized that dinner at the mansion was an extravagant affair. She would have little time to dress. She grabbed Meric's file and hurried upstairs to her room.

She quickly found the appropriate dress. It was gold and formal, but also comfortable. She swept her hair up and pinned it with a golden comb. The Amulet completed her beautiful appearance. She stared into the mirror and brushed an unruly lock of hair behind her ear. With an approving nod, she headed for the Ruby Room.

The computer lock told Adena that the room was occupied. Adena readied herself for another mental challenge; she was sure that Iffley had changed the combination-code. She calmly said, "Enter please." The computer hummed and, much to Adena's surprise, the door opened. She hurried inside in case the computer changed its memory-access storage.

Inside, she found Iffley waiting for her. He was handsomely bedecked in a silver-gray jacket with matching slacks. Ruby cufflinks dazzled from his white shirt. He smiled at Adena, "Would you like to join me for dinner?"

Adena, resisting to say 'Oh, I didn't know you were apart!' instead replied, "Art thou ready to leave, kind sir?"

"There's no need to leave: We're having dinner at my place tonight." Slowly and effortlessly, the door slid shut.

Iffley led the way to the dinning area, in the back-half of the suite. A small table was set for two, a roaring fire in the red-brick fireplace nearby. A small candle illuminated the table, its candescence dancing off the crystal glasses and china. A crystal vase contained a single red rose, its petals bursting outward in an array of color. 'Moonlight Sonata' flowed melifluously from the Disk-reader, stirring beautiful images in the couple. Iffley held Adena's chair for her and pulled a small cart alongside the table.

He applied generous helpings of food from the cart to her plate, and then to his own. The meal was delicious; the company, amiable. Iffley casually took off his jacket, put it aside, and muttered on the temperature of the room. With the completion of dinner, Iffley stood up and directed Adena to the couch angled toward the fireplace. They sat down and stared into each other's eyes.

"I love you." Iffley whispered and leaned over. He kissed her tenderly, but she was obviously not ready for his audacity. Sensing her restraint, he stood up and violently hit the wall. "Why must things always be like this?"

"Be like what?" Asked a confused Adena.

"You...I...You still think of me as your Father-figure." Iffley looked into her piercing eyes, "I have changed. I am what I was, but now things are different. I love you, Adena, is that such a crime?"

"No, dear Iffley, for I love you too." He returned by her side and they embraced. He gently kissed her, and to his surprise, she returned the gesture. Her pathway was clear now; she had come to a final decision.

The clock above the mantle hummed to life. A tiny soldier, dressed in a red uniform, marched out of a door and blew on a small trumpet. Eleven were the notes that he sounded. His task then completed, the mechanical soldier marched to another door in the clock and was gone. The pair, otherwise absorbed, only registered the time subconsciously.

Iffley put his arm around Adena and gazed into the dying embers. She finally felt warm and safe. Iffley's eyes sought Adena's and were greeted with sincere radiance. "You are so beautiful." He repeated for the hundredth time.

The door to the suite opened quietly and Dion entered. She had good news to tell Iffley, the mission had been a success. The Ecaps were easily convinced of their need for protection, and they seceded willingly. The trip was short, and almost unnecessary. Not seeing him in the fore, she deduced that he was working late. She walked into the rear of the suite. She entered the room, the pair sitting with their backs to her.

Iffley nonchalantly pulled Adena's comb from her hair. Her long, brunette hair cascaded to her shoulders. He took her face into his hands and kissed her warmly. Shocked, Dion ran from the room and bolted into the corridor. The door slid shut behind her.

Adena's sensitive ears picked up the sound. She sat rigid and tense, "Iffley, I just heard the door close."

"Impossible, it was locked."

"Are you sure? I know I heard something." She insisted.

"Of course, I'm sure."

Adena glanced at the clock on the mantlepiece, "It is getting rather late. I have a big day tomorrow, I think it's time I left." The pair stood up and walked to the door.

"Should I walk you to your door?" Iffley inquired, showing that chivalry was not dead.

"No, thank you, I think I can find it myself." She replied teasingly. He kissed her goodnight, and she left the warmth of his room for the solitude of her own.

She took off her clothes and threw them down the hamper-chute. She pulled on a soft pink night gown and brushed her hair one hundred times. Images of Iffley invaded her mind. Then she remembered that she had forgotten to ask Iffley about Meric. She crawled into bed and slept peacefully: Each dream reestablishing the peace she had found in her heart.

* * * * *

Iffley undressed slowly, as his heart raced. His thoughts turned time and time again to Adena. Then suddenly they pivoted to Dion; how could he forsake her when she had stood by his side? He would have to let her down gently. Perhaps he could set up a date with her and Jonathon. They would make a beautiful couple. Jonathon was only 4 years Dion's senior. All he had to do was set the cogwheels in motion.

His thoughts once again centered around Adena as he drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep....

 © 1984, 

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

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