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The silence slowly whispered through the fleet, and a wind, if possible in space, calmly filtered through the stars. "Sir, we now have a full inventory of the fleet. Emerald class ships: Emerald. Enchantress class ships: Labyrinth, Nemesis, Phoenix, and Troubador. Scimitar class ships: Cutlass, Spectre, Corona, Cygnus, Ambrosia, Sphinx, and Centaur. Susan Smith class ships: Alone and Act. Pacemaker class ships: Cambridge Bay.

"Excellent. The time is right. Have the Labyrinth and the Nemesis come with us for Project T'smear. The rest of the fleet continue homeward."

"Aye, sir."

**T. G. Taft**

The crickets chirped softly above Yorkshire; their humming exemplified the unwillingness of the mama bird. Deep inside the mansion, Adena, Iffley, Dion, and Jonathon were just waking up in the midst of SOL's light. Dion slowly rose out of bed, unaware of the importance that this day would have on the rest of her life. She slowly dressed, planning in her heart some evil plan on how to rescue Iffley from that terrible Adena. "I wonder if she likes turning his heart cold. Yes. She must love ice cream..."

Suddenly she noticed a twitch in the corner by her dresser. She stood in the middle of the room, yet not fully dressed, staring, unwilling to move. Nothing. She would have sworn she had seen something move. Slowly she inched closer to the corner, and saw the outline of a man. The next thing she felt was a handkerchief over her mouth, and ether making its cruel path into her lungs....

**T. G. Taft**

The Enchantress signaled the Xanadu. "Emergency! Repeat! Same enemy ships. Still bearing down on us."

The Xanadu raced. Silently its commander realized that, if Richard had chosen to break the treaty, T'mir had no defense. "We're almost there, Enchantress. You know that we're leaving a hole in our defenses...."

**T. G. Taft**

Richard stared at the sleeping figure on the couch, longfully looking into her eyes. Only once in his life had he seen a figure this beautiful. Memories floated through his head; memories of his life on Furanose; memories of the girl that he had seen only once and yet held close to his own heart. Could this be her? He closed his eyes and turned around. Could it?

Suddenly he heard a voice behind him. He wondered if he should turn around. If this wasn't who he hoped... he did, however, with reticence, and looked into her eyes.

"I... know... you..." Dion said with a look of perplexity.

"Richard Nobowitz!" She suddenly recalled triumphantly, jumping to her feet.

But she was too weak. Her feet buckled beneath her, and she crumpled to the floor. Richard jumped to her side immediately, but her head had received a bump near the eye. It started to bleed. He kissed the bruise and replaced her body onto the pedestal from whence it came. He turned around and faced the wall. It looked just like the wall in Furanose where they had met before....

He turned around as he heard a moaning behind him. Dion had pushed herself into a sitting position and her hair had fallen into her face. Richard stooped to her side to see if he were needed. Dion glanced up quickly in alarm.

"Are you all right now? That was quite a fall you had and straight onto the hard floor, too. Please accept my apologies for capturing you so. I have this plan to take T'mir, you see, and...~,'

Dion looked at him with confusion, "How did you know where I was? Very few know the mansion well."

"Lucky guess, I guess. We wanted Iffley..."

Dion's mind began to whirl. Iffley? She couldn't let them get him. She looked into Richard's eyes again. Or could she?

"I'd like to stay." She motioned for him to sit down beside her. "It won't heal like that."

He took his shirt and rubbed it against her sore. The blood stopped as he touched it; perhap1s, she guessed, her heart needed it more than her head, and was using up the excess.

"Thanks," she said. "Where did you get the name 'Richard'? I personally prefer Richie."

"My name just sort of came about. No other good reason. You can call me by what you prefer though."

"I hope I haven't insulted you. I didn't mean to," she asked, biting on her lower lip.

"Not at all, Cameo," he answered calling her by...

"My middle name!" She looked downward. "I would prefer if you would not call me by that."

He looked down at her. "I'm... sorry..."

She looked back up. "It's okay. It's just that it brings back bad memories."

Richard smiled and turned around. "Lay down. You'll need your rest. I have some work to do..." With that he left her alone. She sighed and fell asleep again.

**T. G. Taft**'

"Cancel operation T'smear." Richard's voice floated throughout the chambers of the building; their headquarters were in an old abandoned playhouse not but half a mile from Yorkshire. "I want a company of three guards to assist me in confronting Iffley. Time: 1900 hours." Richard coughed, remembring he was not aboard the ship. "7:00 PM."

Quietly, Richard went off to the corner of the room and thought to himself. Yes. This was the girl that had created hope in his heart. He remembered it fondly. That had been one of the few shifts that he was working where he could have seen her, and the talk that they had had created in Richard a sort of need for independence that he had carried on since then. He hit himself on the leg. Last time he was powerless and had to let her go; she was an upperclass girl; Richard was but the servent of one. Oh, how, he had cried that night...,

**T. G. Taft**

Dinner was being served as normal in Yorkshire; but a strange sense of weariness permeated the group. Very little was said; especially from Jonathon. Near the end of the five-course meal, the doorbell rang. Iffley, after motioning for one of the butlers to answer it, began to talk. "A very good meal. I must say, this sure beats ship chow...."

"Dion used to make meals like this." Jonathon turned his head down, and pushed the plate away from him. He let out a small whimper.

Iffley looked up. He wanted to somehow say "I'm sorry," but he just couldn't find the words. Where had Dion gone? Had she left? Had she been taken? His thoughts quickly flew as he looked up to see the incoming visitor. Adena had already acknowledged him.


"Hello, everybody. Long time no see, huh, Iffley?"

Iffley immediately replied. "What are you doing here? How did you get here?"

Richard waited a moment before answering, sighed, and began. "Surely you detected the Labyrinth and the Nemesis coming in, did you not? Did you not consider the fact that we were trying to create a hole in your defense shield, just long enough for the Act to come close enough to T'mir to transport a couple of troops?"

Iffley nodded a bit. "Richard, we had a deal. You signed a treaty...." Iffley was rudely interrupted by Adena.

"I knew you weren't any good ever since we were kids. I told my mother that...."

Richard turned his attention away from Iffley. "That what? Huh? Yeah, I know. That Richard was bad. That Richard didn't belong. Let me tell you something, Babe." He took a couple of steps closer and glared into her eyes. "I respected you. I really did. But you never liked me. You never gave me the chance."

"That's a lie!"

"No it's not! Who got the late night dungeon shifts? Was it Bill? Bill Cumference? No. He got to be messenger for Little-miss Enchanter-iss. It was Richard Nobowitz that was left alone, down, deep... and even when I did get to see the sun I never had time to play. You hated me ever since your family took me in."

"Richard, how could I single you out from the hundreds of centurions that worked the mansion?"

He took another step closer. "How the heck do I know? But I can still remember that first day.... We were only five, most of us, when the bus brought us in. All orphans. Funny. That's the only way your family could get slaves. As orphans. And you truckloaded in as many of us homeless dogs as you could. To be your slaves. To serve you. To improve your lifestyle and to worsen ours. And let me tell you something: From day one you hated me. Who was the first one to shine your shoes? You betch'a. Richard. Your slave. Your pers..."

"Slaves! Hah! If it wouldn't have been for me you would've been a homeless idi..."

Richard couldn't stand it anymore. He reached over to Adena and grabbed her by the neck and pulled her out of her chair. Iffley stood up. "Let her go!"

Richard looked at Iffley, and, as if reminded that he was getting out of control, threw Adena into her chair. Adena stared in disarray. "I don't understand. My Amulet..."

Richard nonchantly took his position back as he had been before the argument. "Getting back to the point, anyhow. My plan was to destroy you...."

Iffley sat back down. "Then why haven't you? Apparently you have us completely outnumbered."

"Because I feared one thing. Your Keys. I, as you know, do not own one. And, heaven knows what I might face if I got too close to one. So I devised a plan to rid you of all of your Keys. And then, after I had the Keys, I could utterly destroy you.

He walked around to the other side of the table. "But, you see, I have changed my mind. I do not wish to utterly destroy you: No. I wish to give you each gifts of friendship and truce." He looked stubbornly at Adena. You, Adena, shall be first. He reached into his pants pocket and threw her the Amulet of Wisdym and the Ring of Ranet.

**T. G. Taft**

Adena reached down into her lap, amazed at this sight. Richard began to speak again. "Since it is past your mentality to figure it out by yourself, I will tell you that you are now wearing two wooden fakes so much like the originals that even you can not tell the difference between them. Unless, of course, you try to use them. You see, Adena, we, the Domainites, have mastered atomic transfer. I had someone enter your bedroom last night, from the Act above, and, after drugging you, take the Amulet and Ring. I planned to do the same to Iffley, but it seems that I made a mistake and transfered into the wrong room."

"Into Dion's room!" Jonathon stammered, standing up, and feeling the blood begin to fill his cheeks for the first time today.

Richard ignored him. "But Iffley, I have changed. You are right: I signed a peace pact, and I intend to keep it. And, to prove this to you, I will give you two of the ships that I tried to decieve you with: The Nemesis and the Labyrinth. Let them continue to strengthen our trust."

"What about me?" Jonathon screamed, pacing around to Iffley's side.

Richard gave him a side glance. "You don't even deserve a gift, you filthy pig." Jonathan pulled himself back, not expecting such a hostile answer.

"But in the interest of equality, I will give you one." He snickered beneath his breath and pointed towards the hallway leading out of the dining room.

Dion bounced in, and, after doing a little jig, settled down into Jonathon's happy eyes. She immediately changed her style, and paced quietly over to his side.

"Thank you." Said Jonathon to Richard beneath his breath.

"I still don't understand why you have changed your mind." Iffley said with a glancing stare. "Richard, there has to be a better reason why did you not 'utterly destroy' us."

"All will be explained in time. But, you see, I have still not given one last gift." He motioned to Dion, and she stepped over.

He took, from his shirt pocket, a tiny ring with an onyx stone set in gold. Richard began a story. "It was made from a man's ring that I had found inside of Taft's desk when I took over his office."

"Well," said Adena, after staring at the very expensive ring, "It seems we've been used to present Dion a gift of ultimate worth to Richard."

"I guess you owe him something now, don't you?" Asked Jonathon. "Will you repay him?"

"Yes," said Iffley, "what are you giving him in return, Dion?" The words thundered out of Iffley's mouth before he could catch them: He assumed a far-away look as his memory played back an unhappy image. No, could it be?

"The timing is dreadful, but my gift is my troth," said Dion.

"What?" thundered Jonathon. "You can't have that! It's mine!"

"Not anymore," said Richard, taking his fiancee's hand and holding it next to his heart.

Adena looked out into space, while Iffley stared at the table in dismay. He had gone through this twice too often, now. Jonathon quietly whimpered out of the room. Iffley listened to his footsteps pound through the hall. Iffley knew Jonathan's pain. Yes. Iffley knew it just a little too well.


 © 1985, 

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

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