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The Price of Compassion

                               Jonathon Pierce

Iffley shook himself awake, realizing that his half-brother was trying to contact him from Terna. Iffley concentrated on the image, but it slipped away, leaving Iffley to contemplate his heritage.

Iffley remembered his mother speaking about her first marriage, but she did not report having any other children. Iffley wondered why she had had the operation. Probably because of how Enad had turned out, Iffley mused. He teleported back to Adena and Naidis, hoping to clear up this mystery.

"Your mother met me soon after she had had Enad," Naidis answered Iffley's probing questions. "We both fell immediately in love. Ephryre, however, would not leave her husband without explaining matters. Enad was most understanding: He agreed to the divorce as long as Ephryre had a sterlization operation.

"Your mother," Naidis continued, "and I conceived a plan to fool Enad. Ephryre received a reversible operation. Enad, satisfied that Ephryre would never have children again, divorced her. Unfortunately, the plan backfired. The resulting infection left her sterile. The doctors assured us that her condition was not irrevocable, but the years passed and she still bore no children."

"And so, the Taft twins were born," Iffley interrupted.

"Yes," Naidis said slowly, "I hope that clears matters up for you."

Iffley glared at contempt for his father, "How could you abandon your wife when she needed you most?!"

"Suralio," Adena spoke softly, "Your father did what he thought was best."

Iffley continued to glare.

"Remember, Suralio. Love and forgive always," Adena responded sagely.

"That will take time, Adena--as it did with you."

"Have you finally forgiven me?"

"Yes, Adena, both you and Blue."

"Then you must help me." Adena begged, "They have taken Blue, and you must return him to me. Please, Suralio, I beseech thee." Adena turned away and began to cry.

"Alright, Adena, I'll do everything that I can."

"Perhaps this can help," Adena said as she pulled out her compact. She opened it up and fluffed her hair before giving it to him.

"Thanks," Iffley said as he dissolved into Terna.

*  *  Just a Ripple in Time  *  *

Iffley appeared on Earth's scarred surface. He glanced nervously around and teleported to the City of Remembrance.

Iffley quickly ran down a small alley and came to giant box. The box was a delicate shade of Blue, and it cast a small Blue aura around itself. Printed on one side were these words:

Piers Anthony plots inside!

Iffley walked slowly around the box and was greeted with a flashing neon:

Band President waiting inside to be taken to Prom!

Iffley shook his head and continued his trek:

Story Chain authors waiting for a Gamemaster. Just step right up!

Iffley finally came to a door made of polished sapphire. Iffley stared at his Blue reflection and straightened his hair. Iffley reached for the aquamarine doorknob and turned it. Instantly Bluemind, Bluewill, Bluemotion fled from the cage.

"Thank you for rescuing us," Bluemind said, not wanting to be impolite.

"Yes," Bluemotion said, "it was so dark in there I almost cried."

"Shut up," Bluewill snapped, "show a little backbone."

That, however, was the last that Blue said, for a smiling Bronson appeared, Tiara in hand. He snatched the three Ledics and disappeared into time.

Iffley stared in amazement as Bronson Colt Randolf strolled down the lane.

"You just stole Blue Ledic!"

"I did what?" Bronson said slightly flabbergasted.

"You had the Tiara and you kidnapped them." Iffley said hotly.

"Oh, really, what a wonderful plan." Bronson smiled to himself and ran down the hallway.

Iffley shook his head at the paradox.

Taft, followed by the Historians, stormed up to him, "What was the big idea of letting Blue go?!"

"I'm sorry, but I, well, I felt sorry for him."

"Not as sorry as you're going to feel. Tell him, Light." Taft turned to the Historian.

"Unfortunately, your act of compassion has caused us to disqualify you." Light said a little uncomfortably.

"What? How can you disqualify me?" Iffley angrily created a hat, placed it on his head and then threw it on the ground.

"By releasing Blue, you interfered with the accomplished task of a fellow contestant," Beam said.

"Which means you are out!" Taft laughed.

"Well, Theo, you are not in much better shape."

Taft's face transformed into one of concern, "Why?"

"Because Bronson kidnapped him." Iffley cooly stated.

"Wait," Shine stopped Iffley, "Did Bronson kidnap Blue before or after you released him?"

"How could Bronson have kidnapped Blue if I had not released him?" Iffley said sardonically.

"I'm sorry," Beam commented, "but I'm afraid that you are still disqualified."

"And to add insult to injury," Light added, "Bronson is now the Historian. He kidnapped Blue after Suralio released him, therefore he was open game. Since Bronson has completed two of the three tasks, we must consider him Historian." Beam and Shine nodded in acquiescence.

"Nice going," Taft said lamely, "Now, how are you going to make this up to me?"

*  *  The Waning of the Blue Moon  *  *

The Madison flew swiftly in her eliptical orbit around the earth. She was a happy ship, for she was Bronson's.

Bronson laughed at his prisoner, whom he held in a time statis. Bluewill stood motionless, his mouth agape, as if he were going to say something important. "Typical," Bronson said. "Blue always had his mouth open. Something was always coming out, or something was always going in." But mostly, Bronson considered, something was going out.

Bronson could not believe Iffley's stupidity. Surely he knew that the price for compassion was lonliness, failure, and death. But, if everyone was as smart as Bronson Colt Randolf, he might have a few problems getting what he wanted.

He turned to his communications console and pushed a button activating a strange machine on the console. A vanity mirror, stolen from Adena's palace, leaned against the wall. Some wires led from the console and disappeared into it. The wires seemed to have been glued to the surface of the mirror. Bronson, of course, knew differently, for he had built it. The machine hummed to life, and Bronson spoke eagerly into it. "Agent Inside-Job, come in please."

In Ralle, Agent Inside-Job switched on his fortenmik-communicator, the wires disappearing into its measurement scale. "Agent Inside-Job, here. What can I do for you Big-Boss-Man?"

"Did you take care of our little problem?"

"Naturally, Big-Boss-Man, I'm the best. There was a slight problem, though." The Agent's voice was gutteral and deep.

"I told you, no loose ends!"

"Well, Jonathon Pierce seems to have eaten some of Asiel's poisoned food. I recognize the symptoms."

"Shhhh." Bronson scolded. "I told you, no names."

"The Pestilence Charm that Mad...Agent Spell-Giver made is working...well, like a charm."

"So no one suspects."

"Not a thing."

"Good." Bronson patted himself on his back for placing an Agent on T'mir. Now he realized why the Ranierian Intelligence Agency was so effective. The RIA had the best leader imaginable: Bronson Colt Randolf. "Agent Spell-Giver will pick up our package at midnight. Does this present any problems?"

"No, you know what hours we Nightstalkers keep. Agent Inside-Job, out." Horace disconnected the communications device and a crusty grin spread over his face. Poor Jonathon was about to lose another love. The Nightstalker hummed tunelessly; soon he would be a rich man.

 © 1985, 

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

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