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Starlight, star bright; first star I see tonight; if I may, and if I might; let me blow away Iffley's forces tonight.

Richard slowly mumbled an ancient earth rhyme to himself as he stared out the window of the mighty starship TGTS Act. The sight was utterly devastating; the three remaining ships of the Taft forces stood alone against a dual combination of the Alarian fleet and the huge mega-ship, the Madison. Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention the fact that one of the remaining ships, the Cambridge Bay, was nearly entirely blown up; it was all but a smoldering hot pot of ashes. In fact, only the Act and the Alone stood to fight off the Alarian menace. Oh, well.

"Sir, the Madison appears to be repositioning herself; the Alone is now right in her sights. I don't know how long it takes to recharge her laser, but..."

"Sir, the Alarian forces are moving closer, Alone requesting orders..."

"Sir, we have 156 fighters remaining. All need refueling. Fighters are now returning..."

Richard stared at the stars. "Twinkle, twinkle little star..."

**T. G. Taft**

"Bronson, I have an idea." The voice came from an old retired mentor, Bronson's close friend Madison.

"Oh? What could be better than sitting here and blowing up Taft's forces?"

"Capturing them. You see, it would be much more to our benefit if we would capture their flagship rather than to merely blow it up"

"And how, pray tell, do we accomplish this?"

"Why, with your golden ring, of course. I mean, after all, it can transport you 500 miles, and, if we could get close enough..."

"Perfect, Madison. Perfect."

**T. G. Taft**

"Sir, the Madison appears to be veering away from the Alone. It is now headed straight for us. She's closing to 2000 kilometers... 1800..."

"Full reverse. Keep out of her way."

"It's going to be too late if she's trying to ram us... 1700... 1500... 1300... "

The officers aboard the Act watched their monitors carefully as the huge Madison became more and more clear.

"Laser ready?"

"Yes, sir."

"Fire full load."

"Aye, sir."

The screen showed a large, concentrated beam loom out of nowhere to go straight for the Madison. "Blam!"

"Sir, shields hit. Minor inner damage. Nothing major. No shield damage. That's a pretty powerful ship out there."

"1000... 900... 800... 700... Sir, she's still coming!"

Richard stared blankly at the screen. "Why doesn't she fire?!"

Suddenly a small, red light came on the security screen in front of one of the lower crewmen. "Sir, we have an intruder alert. It's in..."

Richard raced toward the panel. "Intruder! How the..."

"Sir, it's in... it's in..."

"Yeah, go on."

"Sir, it's in the ladies' shower area. It is... male. He has definitely been caught. Apparently he did not even try to escape: He was blushing too much..."

Richard managed to smile a little. "Who was he?"

"He has been identified as Bronson Colt Randolf."

Richard looked for a moment at the screen. Then he giggled. With a wave of his hand he summoned the communications officer. "Hail me the Madison."

"Hailing now, sir."

Richard raised his voice a little. "Madison, this is the Commander of the Taft fleet. We seem to have captured your leader. Would you like him back?"

Madison's voice became audible over the communication channel. "How did you get him?"

"Somehow he got into the ladies' private bathing area. I guess you could say we caught him in the Act. Heh, heh."

Madison did not seem to show any sense of humor. "What price do you want?"

"For you to simply turn away from this fighting and go elsewhere; for you to no longer engage in this war between us and Alarius."

Madison gave a sigh. "Agreed. We'll send a shuttle..."

"No need to. We'll just... hmmm... He'll be there, don't worry. Richard, over and out..."

Richard gazed at a map of the ship that was on the wall, staring not at it but past it. "People, I have one last desperation idea... to win this war.... Prepare, after we have beamed Bronson aboard the Madison, to run close range with one of the Alarian ships: I don't care which one; make it, oh, I don't know, the Panther." He sat back in his big custom-made command chair.

He began to mumble to himself. "Before, I didn't want to run close range. I didn't want to get into their tractor beam range. But now, hmm..."

"Sir, transfer room ready."

"Beam him."

**T. G. Taft**

A figure slowly materialized aboard the Madison. Madison ran over to him and embraced him. "Bronson, I'm so glad you're back!"

Bronson looked downcast. "I could have had them. I could have captured it! Oh, well; prepare the lasers. We'll just have to blow them up..."

Madison gave a different order. "Leave for Earth. We will rendezvous with our orbiting repair ship, the Colt, in 8 hours." Quietly, to Bronson, he said, "Sorry. I gave my word. You for our retreat."

Bronson looked downcast again. "Why did I have to land there? Anywhere else I could have simply used my platinum ring for a defense shield and laser. But there I was too embarassed..."

"Don't worry about it, Bronson. Iffley has them outnumbered 5 to 1. He'll still get them. Don't worry about it. Say, why don't we return to Earth when we get there. I know this great resort hotel. You're gonna love it..."

**T. G. Taft **'

Commander Wrighte, aboard the Panther, was pleasantly surprised when he saw the enemy flagship slowly approaching him. He talked aloud. "He's almost in tractor range. Shields up. Prepare lasers..."

The Act continued to move further within range. One of the many lower officials on the bridge of the Panther began an announcement. "Now within tractor range. She's approaching on a trajectory that is a sort of blindspot... our laser's can't hit her from there. I suggest tractor beams--definitely."

Wrighte looked at the man who was now talking. He felt proud to know that he was his son. "Tractor beam, full power."

A fat red pulse light shot out from the Panther and grabbed hold of the Act. It pulled the Act closer, and began to pull it into laser range. But before the order to fire could be given, a series of red lights began to flash all over the bridge. "Intruder Alert. Repeat. Intruder in Engineering. Twenty humanoids. Intruder Alert."

Commander Wrighte tried frantically to do something, but a frantic jolt rocked the ship before he could go four feet. "They've taken over the engines, sir."

Wrighte sighed to himself. All he had to do was merely emit those two words... "Self-destruct."

**T. G. Taft**

The Act rocked in the dead of space as the huge vibronic surges rushed passed the starboard bow. "Hmm. Maybe we should have stopped self-destruct before we tried to take it over. Hmm." Said Richard with a grin as he lined up the next target, the Troubador.

The Troubador experiment went much better than the Panther's; instead of using the AMTU to beam an attack party aboard the engineering section, it beamed it into the auxiliary bridge. After changing the computer aboard the Troubador to match the frequency of the Act's, the Domain forces were able to take control of everything; including self-destruct. Oh, yeah. You see, life-support in all sections other than auxiliary control was, at that time, seen as useless; so it was turned off. Oh, well.

The Alone, alerted of this tactic, proceeded to do the same to an unalerted Cygnus. Captain Dodge served a good career; too bad it had to end just because Richard said so.

Iffley looked worried. The battle did not seem to be going too well. The Taft forces were acually growing in number; and now it was known that the Act had also captured the Corona. "Sir, the Alone is now approaching the Aurora in much the same way that it had approached the Cygnus. Orders requested."

"Have them put it in full reverse."

The viewscreen began to picture the two ships as they began their game of cat and mouse. Suddenly the cat got sick of chasing, and fired a laser straight down the mouse's gullet. A beautiful aurora filled the screen...

"Sir, the Act is now approaching the Emerald... Distance: 1800 kilometers and closing. Orders requested."

"The Emerald? How dare they attack an Emerald class! It doesn't have a blind spot, does it?" Suddenly the viewscreen depicted the Emerald and the Act engaging each other in combat. The Act made a careful dodge here; the Emerald fired once only to miss completely. The Act came up and into full range.

"No!" Iffley shouted.

But it was too late. The Emerald, after a short time elapse, slowly rotated to face the Scimitar. "Sir! It's coming toward us!"

"Get me Richard, now."

"What was that? You're not thinking of surrender, are you?" The voice was Adena's; it was obvious that she had a direct line from the Enchantress to the Scimitar.

"They have four of our ships, Adena. We have not been able to stop them from taking them over, and now they're coming for us--do you have a better idea? Now, Richard said he didn't want T'mir: Just our fleet. I'll go along with that. I mean, without a fleet, we'll lose all need of war. Perhaps life will be better."

"And what will keep Richard from attacking us again, supposing he gets power-hungry?" Iffley could tell that she was raising her right eyebrow.

"Don't be miffed, Adena."

"Why can't you just transport over there? You have the Sceptre!"

"Well, for one thing, I don't know their ship. What would happen if I would end up next to one of their targets in the archery section of their Rec Room?"

"Sir, frequency open."

**T. G. Taft**

Richard proudly announced the conditions of surrender to Iffley. The crew aboard the Act cheered as Iffley quietly agreed. The compromise was very simple, actually: The Domain would gain control of all of Alarius' ships, except for the Scimitar, the Enchantress, and the Xanadu; in exchange, no attacks would be made on T'mir. All personnel still aboard the captured ships would leave before the transfer took place.

All told, throughout the war, The Domain only gained two ships--and one of theirs was still a smoldering ash.  Alarius, however, had lost twenty-one. It only goes to show what can happen in a meaningless war; for that's exactly what it was. Literally thousands of men and women died defending what they believed was right; and, in the end, the party that was perhaps most in the wrong ended up right after all.

Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. There was one other part of the treaty, unmentioned to Iffley until after the ships had been transfered, that Richard had neglected to say.

The Act slowly sped out into space, apparently innocent of its last final deed.

**T. G. Taft**

Iffley shook in horror as the huge monster materialized on the bridge; Gibbenhide looked hungrily at Suralio and took another step....

"This is one way to get respect," Gibbenhide said as he licked his neck....

 © 1985, 

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

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