NOTES: This story has been sitting on my PC for at least 2 years. It was originally done with a single POV but a beta told me it just wouldn't work for this so I changed things around. Then I needed a fight scene and when my "sub-contractor" didn't come through I had to do it myself. I still really don't care for the ending, but I really wanted to get this posted.


Time Reveals All

Omnia tempus revelat


Alan stood at attention in front of the Tribunal that held his career in its hands. He had been dreading this day since his outburst on Doflair but he had warned them he wasn't a diplomat and therefore the wrong person to send. Now it was time to face the music.

"Col. Kelly, before we hand down our decision, would you like to say something?"

"Thank you, ma'am." She was one of the Temporal Committee and probably understood him better than the others. "I saw unbelievable injustice on Doflair and its basis was political. People died while trying to get rights and privileges we take for granted. I just wanted to help by bringing attention to it in the hopes of fixing it."

"Very noble sentiments, Colonel, but it was not for you to do." She looked at the other members of the Tribunal before continuing. "There were some factions who lobbied for your discharge but speaking out such as you did does not warrant such a strict penalty. Demotion was dismissed for the same reason."

When will she get around to telling me what they did decide?

"After much debate, it was decided that you would be suspended for a period of three months." She hesitated a moment. "It might be best if you spent the time away from the Base."

Suspension? That's it? I think I can deal with that. Maybe I'll go back to London and see Violet…

"I'll need you to turn in your machine, Colonel."


"Your machine, Colonel. It won't be much of a punishment if you can come and go as you please."

"I guess that makes sense," he said as he unfastened the strap. "Am I to think of this as some sort of exile?"

"You can travel using conventional means, we have no problem with that," said the third member of the Tribunal, a politician by the looks of him. "We just can't have you flitting off to God knows where on a whim."

You just want to be able to monitor my movements. "Very well," he said, handing over the machine. "I get to pick my place of residence, though."

"We expected that, Colonel," said the woman from the Temporal Committee.

"All right, then. Let me think on it and I'll let you know in 24 hours."

He saluted and strode out of the door. Once in the hall, he let his shoulders droop a bit with a mixture of dejection and relief. He unbuttoned the jacket of his dress uniform and walked slowly back towards his quarters.

"Alan! Hold on!"

Alan stopped and turned to see his brother pushing his way past people. He didn't know if he was ready to face anyone yet.

"Hey," Ryan said as he reached him. "I meant to meet you when you came out but you were done earlier than I expected." He fell into step beside him. "So what happened? What was the final decision?"

"Well, first they told me what they could have chosen—discharge or demotion."

"Those are a bit harsh."

"Which is why they decided on a three-month suspension. A kind of exile since it was recommended that I keep away from the Base."

"That shouldn't be so bad. You can pick anywhere and-"

Alan stuck out his arm where the marks from his armband still stood out. "I wasn't kidding when I said exile."

"So where are they sending you?"

"I get to choose. I have 24 hours."

"Well, then, we'd better put our heads together."

Not much later, Alan was in his quarters surrounded by his closest friends going over a list of possible locations.

"You're very exact in your requirements," said Gil.

"I'm gonna be there for three months. It might as well be a place I don't mind being."

"That made some sort of sense," remarked Shannon.

"Isolation with mod cons might be a little harder to find," said Eric. "You usually get one or the other."

"Well, that'll narrow down my choices."

Two days later, Alan was on the first leg of his journey. After he arrived on Nebulon, he had to catch a liner to Kemaya and then a number of hoppers until he reached Moho. That fulfilled the isolation requirement and would definitely cut back on visitors dropping by.

At the tiny spaceport he got directions from the porter/ticket collector/cook. "You are here to escape?" he asked.

"Is it obvious?"

"It is the only reason people come to Moho." The man flagged down a four-wheeled cart drawn by something that might be part of the equine family. "We respect privacy, but we also help each other. You need anything, you call Gyoh."

"Thanks." Alan tossed his duffle into the cart and climbed up behind it. The driver clicked his tongue and the beast started with a lurch.

The planet put Alan in mind of a Caribbean island with the vegetation and humidity. The people also seemed to be very laid-back and that was something he felt he needed right now.

The road eventually became a dirt track with ruts cut from many trips by cart. Alan had to duck a few times to keep branches from smacking him in the head.

After the final bend, the land cleared and seemed a bit more manicured. Then he saw the house. When he had made arrangements, he thought it was just some little cottage. This thing was more like a luxury cabin! The ground floor was huge and a smaller first floor was probably the master suite. It was definitely way more than he needed.

"Are you sure this is the right place?" he asked the driver as they came to a stop.

"This is the address Gyoh gave me. He is never wrong." He handed Alan the key.

Alan jumped from the cart then reached over for his bag. He reached for his wallet to tip the driver.

"Oh, no, sir. There's no need. It was an honor." With a quick salute, the driver left.

"Great. And I thought no one would know me here."

Alan climbed the steps to the front door and inserted the key. The door opened with a soft hiss and he walked into a wide-open living space. The far end consisted of glass doors that showed a terrace, infinity pool and the ocean beyond that.

"Damn! I should've gotten suspended earlier!"

He explored the rest of the house and found a fully stocked kitchen with cutting-edge appliances to his left. On the opposite side of the living area were two en suite bedrooms.

He backtracked to the foyer and spotted the stairs that led up to the master suite. The side facing the water was all glass and there was a small balcony. He slid open one of the doors and stepped out. This gave him a better vantage point. There was a path that meandered down the bluff to a beach that had a small boat moored to a brightly colored buoy.

He went back inside and set his bag on the bed before going downstairs to see what kind of meal he could put together in the kitchen. After that, there would be a nap. He had forgotten how taxing conventional travel could be.

Even though there was no need, Alan tried to keep a schedule of sorts. If he didn't, the transition—when it came—would be a lot tougher. He swam, ran and even sailed. He also decided to be productive, writing a memoir of sorts, concentrating on the battles he could talk about. He was in enough trouble as it was. He didn't need to worry about what might happen if word of the TOC got out.

One thing he did want to try was expanding his "gift". The tranquility of his surroundings ought to help with concentration. He wouldn't aim high, just telekinesis and perhaps teleportation.

For this, he set aside a couple of hours during the day. He thought back to Morgan's lessons and cleansed his mind of all extraneous thoughts and outside influences until all that remained was the item he wanted to move. He started with small things and, once he could do it without thinking, he stepped up a size.

Two months into his stay, he took one of his rare visits to the pub in the village. The locals greeted him politely but, as he wasn't one of them, he wasn't included in their conversations. Sometimes it bothered him and at others, he cherished it. Beneath the shadows of panama hats, the patrons glanced at Alan. Some gave him a brief nod. Others simply wiped the sweat from their faces and hoped the day would turn.

"Good day, Alan," greeted the young woman behind the bar. "I had a feeling I'd be seeing you soon."

"Hi, Mara," he smiled in return. "That predictable, am I?"

She laughed. "Far from it. It's just been awhile since you've been in."

"It makes a nice break." He sat at the bar. "I'll take a pint of the house ale with fish and chips."

She smiled and he knew it was because he was the only one to call the dish by that name. The fish was actual fish, but the chips weren't exactly potato but it was still good.

Mara called the order back to the kitchen where her father was cooking. The genial man stuck his head out the door. "Knew it had to be you. Time to get in touch with the rest of the world?"

"You could say that. Don't want to get a reputation as a hermit."

The light-hearted mood ended quickly when the door opened again to admit a muscular man who had a very cruel reputation. Alan didn't know his name but remembered from previous trips how no one made eye contact or got in his way.

Mara was pulling a pint for another man and he just pushed his way forward demanding service. "I've other customers, Joru. I'll be with you as soon as I can." She gave the other man his drink and he paid before rushing away.

"Damn it, girl!" he swore as Mara turned to collect Alan's meal as it was finished. He grabbed her arm as she went to set it on the counter sending some of the chips to the floor. "You gotta learn how to treat your betters!"

"Let go of me!" she cried as she tried to free herself.

Guys like that really ticked Alan off. Alan grabbed Joru's wrist with his hand and applied a little pressure. "She asked you to let go."

Joru looked at Alan, stunned that someone was defying him. "You don't know who you're dealing with."

"No, but I've dealt with similar bastards who thought they could bully people around. Now let go." He squeezed tighter, especially the tender underside of the wrist.

Joru let go of Mara's arm and she backed away.

"Now that wasn't so hard," Alan said with a smile as he released Joru.

Joru snarled and rushed him, but Alan quickly sidestepped the attack sending Joru crashing into some chairs. With a growl, the larger man stood and took a swing. Alan grabbed the wrist of Joru's right arm and pulled it behind his back in a half nelson, forcing his opponent to his knees.

"Now, I believe you owe Mara an apology."

"If you think I'm going to-"

Alan applied a bit more pressure.

"I'm sorry," Joru said through gritted teeth.

"See? That's all it took," Alan said as he released him.

Joru rubbed his shoulder and scowled as he stormed from the pub without another word.

After a moment of stunned silence, the patrons of the bar came over to shake his hand and pat him on the back in congratulations. They were treating him as if he had done something truly heroic. It would have been amusing if not for the sad fact that no one had stood up to him before.

After things calmed a bit and Alan was sitting with a fresh serving of chips, he tried to learn some more about his new enemy. "Joru isn't a native, is he? I noticed his build was different from the rest of you."

"No. He came to Moho a number of years ago. No one knows why and no one dared ask," Mara told him.

"You'd think that living here that long he would have mellowed somewhat."

"His place is even more secluded than yours."

"It's obvious he thinks the rest of us below him," commented Alan popping a chip into his mouth. "I wonder what he's escaping."

The door opened and Gyoh strode in. "I heard there was a bit of a disturbance in here."

"Did Joru lodge another complaint?" asked Mara.

"He said he was attacked."

"If that means he was rude and arrogant while accosting a young woman, then yes, he was." Alan turned in his seat. "You the law, too?"

"I had a feeling it was you." Gyoh sat down next to him. "Is that what happened, Mara?" When she nodded, Gyoh shook his head. "Regular white knight, eh? Just be careful of Joru, 'kay? The man is dangerous."

"I've only a few more weeks before I go home so I think I'll be okay. I'll be extra vigilant, though."

"See that you are. I don't want to find your lifeless body washed up on the shore."

"You paint a lovely picture."

"The news of your death would bring unwanted attention to our little haven."

Oh yeah, he definitely knows who I am. "I'll be on my best behavior."

Gyoh looked at him like he didn't believe a word then stood and walked out of the tavern.

Alan finished his beer and picked up the last chip. "A fine dining experience. I shall recommend this establishment to all my friends."

"You be careful," Mara said. "I'll expect to see you again in a few weeks."

"Just for you, I'll be in." He gave her a wink before stepping outside.

The walk back was uneventful. He knew that Joru was the type to wait and plan his revenge. He would be able to plan better if he knew why the man was there.

Following the incident at the pub, Alan broke his routine so if anyone was waiting to do something, it wouldn't be easy.

Since he was now treating this more as a retreat instead of exile, he decided to step up on his abilities. With his telekinesis somewhat mastered, he figured it was time to try teleportation.

He decided to start off easy by trying to get to the other side of the sitting room. He stared at the spot he wanted then closed his eyes and concentrated on that picture in his head. He felt a strange tingling and when he opened his eyes, he realized he was only a couple feet short of his goal. "Not bad for a first try. Maybe I was being too ambitious in regards to distance." He picked a distance a little shorter than before and tried again. This time it was perfect—except for bumping into a side-table.

He practiced a few more times with success. However, the process drained him and he collapsed onto the couch. "Well, this'll certainly surprise the others when I get home.

After all that mental exercise, it was time for something physical so Alan decided on a swim in the pool. He no longer jogged since he didn't want to give Joru the opportunity to catch him unawares. It nagged him that he still hadn't learned the man's story. Where he sought the isolation, perhaps Joru was driven to it.

While Alan was returning from a trip to the pub a week before his exile was over, Joru made his move. Five men came out of the woods and surrounded him.

"You guys a little lost? The village is just back that way."

"We're right where we're supposed to be," said one.

"I was afraid of that." With a thought, he sent their weapons flying into the woods. "OK, that's more like it."

After a shocked pause, the men charged him. Alan let the adrenaline flow as he threw punches and jabbed elbows into faces and other body parts. It wasn't pretty, but it sure as hell felt good. They started coming at him individually, one taking over for another when he fell back. They changed the rules as both of Alan's arms were pinned behind his back by King Kong's stand-in. Another man, Mighty Joe Young's stunt double, took advantage of the situation and began pummeling his torso.

Alan leaned back on Kong and he lifted both legs to kick Joe in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Using gravity and momentum as he brought his legs down, he tucked and threw Kong over his shoulders.

He didn't realize the tranq dart had hit him until it was too late. The drugs were already traveling through his system. The men stood back and watched. As the figures blurred, all Alan could think was that no one would miss him for at least a week. "Oh crap." Then he lost consciousness.

Ryan strode towards Alan's quarters, anxious to see him after three months. Shannon was planning a welcome home party timed to the minute from when Alan's suspension began. She had missed him the most but wouldn't say just how much. Ryan entered the room and was confronted by colored streamers and balloons. Shannon was in the middle of hanging a banner that read "WELCOME HOME" in metallic block letters.

"Let me guess, you went home for these, didn't you?" Ryan asked.

"I thought something simple would be nice."

"It's geared a bit…young, isn't it?"

"I guess I won't bother with 'Pin the Tail on the Donkey', then. I'm kidding!" She stepped down from the ladder and joined him at the door. "It does seem a bit much now that you mention it. What about just the banner and a few balloons?"

"Throw in some beer and I think you've got it."

"OK, so we tell Evan and Gil, pick up Eric, then go get Alan."

Since Shannon wanted to do this properly, they waited until the exact moment Alan's suspension ended before heading off to Moho to surprise him. The five of them met up and transported to Alan's home-away-from-home. "Good God, this is some place," said Eric. "How he must've suffered."

"He Must really be enjoying himself as he hasn't come running," Ryan commented.

"I don't like this," said Shannon from upstairs. "You think he'd be packed and ready. His bags are still in the closet."

"Let's go into town and see what they know if anything," Ryan said more calmly than he felt. He agreed with Shannon. Something was definitely wrong.

Alan came to, his arms aching, his feet unable to find purchase. He tilted his head back to see his hands tied by a thick rope that had been fed through a large metal loop screwed into the ceiling. His feet were manacled together and attached to a chain that was bolted to the floor.

"Oh, this can't be good."

"How nice to have you with us, Colonel."

Alan craned his neck to try and get a glimpse of who was talking to him. Joru walked into his line of sight and Alan could see he was wearing an elaborate uniform of some sort. This adds a wrinkle. "You must have mistaken me for someone else," he bluffed.

"I think not. I looked you up after our fight, Col. Alan Kelly. It is because of you and your Alliance that I was relegated to this godforsaken hole."

Joru kept walking around Alan making it rather difficult to hold a serious conversation. "OK, you got me—literally—but the name doesn't ring any bells."

Joru growled. "The lazy natives shortened my name because they couldn't handle anything longer than two syllables." He stood in front of Alan and puffed up his chest. "I am Gen. Petrov Jorundarvnik."

Alan tried not to show his amazement. No wonder the guy treated everyone like they were beneath him. He used to have a whole planet under his thumb. He had followed every rule of the Dictator's Handbook—and added a few of his own—until there had been an Alliance-backed coup and he fled. No one knew were he had gone.

"I see that name rings a bell."

Yeah, a huge bell 100 times the size of Big Ben. "Who hasn't heard the stories? There was the massacre at Glanrion, the raid on-"

"Alliance propaganda to gain support for their coup." His gentle façade was beginning to crack.

"Oh yeah, they got all those dead bodies to pose in just the right spot."

Joru backhanded him across the face and Alan could taste the blood on his lip. Didn't take long for the real fun to start.

"I thought I would just be getting revenge on the stupid little man who stuck his nose in where it wasn't wanted, but now I can send a message to the Alliance."

"You couldn't just settle for a nice, little fruit basket?"

Joru punched him in the gut. His body swayed until the chain jerked taunt, pulling on his legs until the momentum drew him back.

"I find this so much more satisfying." He began pounding Alan's torso.

Alan didn't want to give Joru the satisfaction he craved by crying out so he didn't make a sound. Keeping silent didn't last for too long because it really wasn't his style. He normally would taunt, insult and have witty comebacks but as Joru wasn't talking, that wouldn't do. He could sing but his voice would possibly die out quickly. There was always recitation. He searched his mind for something he knew most if not all of and smiled. Oh, that'll annoy the hell out of him—if he even knows it.

He winced as Joru landed a kidney punch then started. "'When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightening or in rain? When the hurly-burly's done, When the battle's lost and won.'"

Joru paused briefly as if trying to figure out what Alan was saying. He started up again with renewed vigor.

"Not a fan of the classics, eh?" Joru ignored him as expected. He wasn't going to give up. " 'That will be ere the set of the sun.'"

Oh, there go a couple of ribs.

" 'Where the place? Upon the heath.'"

Ugh, kidney punch.

" 'There to meet with-'" he gasped, " 'Macbeth.'"

Christ, he'd better stop soon.

" 'I come, Graymalkin. Paddock calls. Anon.'"

Joru changed tactics and began to punch his face, probably an attempt to shut him up. Oh, there goes a tooth. I wonder if he's holding punches to make things last longer? His head reeled with another punch and he spit out some blood and the lost tooth. He had to blink a few times to clear his vision. Didn't think he had it in him.

Joru stopped and turned to a small table behind him that Alan hadn't noticed before. On it was a pitcher and bowl of metal. He poured water into the bowl and washed his hands before drying them with a pristine white towel.

" 'Fair is foul and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air'."

Joru didn't say a word, didn't even look at him, but just walked out.

When Shannon, Eric and Ryan entered the pub, all conversation stopped. For some reason, the stares were intense and Ryan wondered if it was due to close quarters. He walked up to the pretty young woman behind the bar and gave her a winning smile. "Hello, I was wondering if you could help us. We're looking for someone who came here about three months ago."

She looked at him as if she didn't understand.

"He's about my height, sandy brown hair, green eyes…" Still no sign of comprehension.

"We're never going to find out about Alan at this rate," Eric muttered.

"You are friends of Alan?" The girl's face brightened.

"He's my brother."

"They are friends of Alan!" she announced to the room. "This one is his brother!"

A cheer rose from the group before they resumed their drinking.

"I have not seen Alan for some weeks, though he promised to stop by before he left. Maybe he is at the house. I can give you directions-"

"We've already been to the house," said Eric. "He's not there. It looks like he hasn't been for some time."

"Do you have any ideas where he might have gone?" Shannon questioned.

"I really do not know how he spent his time," the girl answered.

"You can't think of anything that could have happened to keep him from coming here? Was there anyone or anything that happened we should know about?"

"There was something," she told them. "It happened the last time he was here."

Ryan listened as she told them how Alan stood up to a local big-shot and bully. Apparently, no one had done it before so the man would definitely have it in for Alan. "What's his name? I want to hear what he has to say about this."

"Joru," she replied. "I doubt you will get anything from him. He hardly comes to the village and his house is even more remote than Alan's."

"Can you tell us how to get there?" asked Eric.

"Why do you want to see him?" asked a new voice.

Ryan turned to see a man who was about 5'9" and somewhere between 45 and 50 years old. Even though he showed no outward signs, by the way everyone reacted to his presence, Ryan knew the man was the local fuzz.

"I want to talk to him because I believe he had something to do with my brother's disappearance. For some reason, I really don't think you want news of that getting out."

The man's calm exterior was broken for a moment and Ryan could see the panic in his eyes. Just as quickly, the calm returned. "I will take you."

He woke with a start when he was doused with a bucket of frigid water. He sputtered and shook his head to try and get the drops from his eyes. It was then his jaw began to ache. Then the rest of his bruises clamored for attention. He groaned.

"Colonel, I hope you rested well."

"I slept well, considering the accommodations are a bit lacking in the basic amenities." He blinked and saw Joru was not alone. How he missed the walking bulk of muscle, he didn't know. Joru must've brought in a sub-contractor. "And you've brought a friend."

"Kolon was my Chief of Interrogation. None of your attempts to rile him will work. He is immune."

"Is he now? I always did like a challenge."

Kolon was looking him over like a side of beef. Hanging on a hook as he was, the comparison wasn't too far off. He was probably judging where would be the best place to inflict the most damage yet prolong the agony. Joru stood there smiling benevolently watching and enjoying the moment.

Alan remained quiet, not knowing what he could use to get under Kolon's skin. If he were going to use recitation, it would have to be the right thing.

Kolon walked over to a table by the door and let his gaze wander over the many choices of instruments. The way he was taking his time made Alan nervous—which was probably the intent. When he turned, both hands bore brass knuckles. Crap.

"I see you're a traditionalist. That's good to know. Nowadays, a lot of the old ways get-" A blow to his midsection cast the air from his lungs. Damn, he's strong. "You've been keeping fit," he croaked as soon as he could.

Joru smiled. "Kolon takes great pride in his work."

Kolon didn't say a word, merely started pounding on Alan's already sore body. Kolon also had no qualms about hitting the face. Alan could feel the blood trickle over his right eye and taste it in his mouth. He knew his left eye was swelling shut.

He knew to hold his tongue, not even giving the satisfaction of a scream or moan. Gasps, well, they were a bit harder to control.

Kolon stepped back, admiring his handiwork as he removed the brass knuckles. He looked to Joru for approval.

"I think we can afford a little break. I'm sure you've worked up an appetite."

"I wouldn't say no to a cold beer, maybe some takeaway."

Of course it probably came out slurred and unintelligible due to his swelling face. That could explain why they didn't hear him. It wasn't until after they were gone that he allowed any sounds of pain. And this is only the beginning.

The house Gyoh took them to was isolated, high in the hills, surrounded by forest. The dirt track was barely wide enough for the cart that was acting as a police vehicle. On the way, Gyoh filled them in on all he knew about Joru as it related to other residents. Ryan let it all go in one ear and out the other. Shannon and Eric nodded as they pretended to be enthralled. The track widened marginally and soon they were in the courtyard of the fortress-like abode of the man Joru. It did not look at all promising.

Gyoh went to the front door and rang the bell like it was a social call. When no one answered, he put his hand to the latch and it opened with a soft click. "We must proceed with caution," he stated. "No accusing without proof."

They slowly entered the house, taking in the stale air and light coat of dust on every surface. "That shouldn't be a problem," Shannon commented. "Looks like no one's been here for a few days at least."

"OK, we'd better split up. Shannon and Eric, you take the basement while Gyoh and I take upstairs. Shout if you find anything."

"Will do," said Eric as he and Shannon headed away.

"Just be careful." Ryan watched them go before joining Gyoh who was already halfway up the stairs. The first floor consisted of three en-suite bedrooms to the front and the master suite across the back. The search revealed nothing that shed light on Joru's life before Moho, which made Ryan suspicious. His fears that they were too late to find his brother increased when he saw the man-made clearing in the woods and the uniform scorch marks. "He got away." Ryan looked at Gyoh. "Did you know about this?"

"No!" Gyoh protested. "I would never be part of such-"

"Not the abduction," Ryan said sharply, "the landing area. Somebody had to have heard it land and take off. It's not like there's a lot of air traffic here."

"If they timed it to coincide with a scheduled flight, no one would know."

Eric's voice came over the radio. "Ryan, you'd better get down here."

Some time later, Alan wasn't really sure how long, maybe days, he came to after a "session" lying down on an actual bed. He knew his face had to be one giant bruise; his left eye was swollen shut and his jaw fractured. One of Joru's lackeys had come to wire it shut. Alan had wondered if the man would be a possible ally but the man had just did his job then left

Now he was in a different room, smaller, less cavernous. And that low humming led Alan to believe he had been moved to a ship. Joru had taken him off the planet. He then tried to get his bearings. The bed was metal with a thin mattress and pillow. The mattress was paper-thin and quite possibly bug-ridden but it felt like a king-size at the Ritz. His hands and arms were bound to the bed frame, as were his legs. Might be a bit easier to get out now that I'm not strung up. Shouldn't take too much to undo the bolts.

The door hissed open and he knew it was Joru. "Like your new accommodations?" He walked into Alan's sight line. "Just so you'll know to stop making plans, Kolon has something else for you."

Joru was too pleased. There had to be something else going on. Alan twisted his head to see Kolon who had followed Joru inside and wished he hadn't.

"Restrain him," Joru ordered two other men.

One of the men held him down by the shoulders and the other grabbed his feet. Alan refused to watch Kolon. Instead he caught Joru's eye. If the man had a mustache, he would have been twirling it. Alan sensed when the hammer fell but he didn't feel anything. He looked down to see that Kolon had chosen to smash his left hand. He couldn't talk which meant he couldn't taunt. All he could manage was to wiggle his eyebrows.

"An artificial hand, Kelly? You've been holding back. It seems I need to find another way to slow you down."

Christ! If he goes for the other hand I'm sunk!

He was spared the loss of his other hand when Kolon struck his right leg instead. Alan was thankful his jaw was wired shut so Joru didn't hear the scream that would have come out otherwise.

"Now I get to enjoy your company for a bit longer."

Ryan raced down to the basement not caring if Gyoh was behind or not. It was hard to tell from Eric's voice what they had found. Hope and dread filled him in equal measure.

He reached the foot of the stairs. "Eric! Shannon!"

"This way!" Shannon called back.

She was answering; it couldn't be too bad. He followed her voice through a door to a small room that could only be described as a cell. There was a metal eye screwed into the ceiling with cut rope dangling from it. There was a second in the floor. In his mind, Ryan could see Alan hanging there, battered and bloody. He shook his head to rid himself of the picture. The fact that he wasn't here dead meant that Joru still had him and he was still alive—or at least he had been a few days ago.

With hope restored, Ryan began delegating. "Gyoh, double check the last flights so we can pinpoint when they left."

"Why do you need to know flights?" asked Shannon. "Somebody would have said something if Alan were…in bad condition."

"Not if Joru had his own transport. There's a cleared area perfect for a small shuttle."

Gyoh placed a call to the spaceport. "Inno, when was the scheduled flight? Doesn't matter." There was a pause as Inno presumably checked. "Right. Thanks." He ended the call. "Three days ago, 1800 hours."

"OK, that's a bit of a head start. This guy has to have some good connections in order to get an unofficial flight here." Ryan suddenly had a hunch. "Gyoh, does everyone here have short, easy names like yours?"


"Like yours. Gyoh, Mara, Inno?" Ryan exaggerated the syllables.

"Yes, everyone."

"If someone were to come here that had a longer name, harder to pronounce, would you shorten it to something like your own?" Gyoh nodded. "Did you do this with Joru?"

"Ryan, why the forty questions?" asked Eric. "We need to start the search."

"It'll be easier now that we know who it is." The others looked at him blankly. "Jorundarvnik."

"Christ! Seven hells!" Shannon swore.

"There's been some talk going around that he was putting out feelers, trying to get a following," said Eric. "I still have my contacts," he added somewhat defensively.

"Why didn't you share this with anyone?" demanded Shannon.

"I told the brass, but they wouldn't do anything based on rumors."

"So if he's trying to regain power, he's on his way to _. We should be able to track and intercept him." Ryan knew he was reaching for straws, but he couldn't help it.

"There is one possible good thing to come out of this," said Shannon. "Odds are that Jorundarvnik will keep Alan alive to use as leverage against the Alliance."

"Either for that or for the torture." Those straws were just out of reach.

The door to his prison opened and he was immediately alert. The lights switched on and he had to blink in the sudden brightness. He heard a scraping sound and, as his vision cleared, he saw one of the guards from before setting a tray on a table he had dragged over. That done, he left.

Alan pushed himself upright and groaned at his stiff muscles. The food was all stuff he could eat with his fingers; bread, cheese, cold sliced meat and fruit. There were no utensils and the cup for his water was plastic. Joru wasn't taking any chances.

Alan reached for a hunk of cheese and lifted it to his mouth—which he couldn't open! Now his stomach was growling and he couldn't silence it. Knowing that Joru was probably watching, waiting for a show of temper, he simply lay back down on the bed. He doesn't want me to die. That would ruin all his fun. No, he'll get me some kind of nourishment.

A few moments later the same guard returned with a tall plastic cup and a straw. He set it on the table then took the tray away. Alan pushed himself upright and reached slowly for the cup. It didn't look all that appetizing but at least it didn't smell repulsive. He took a tentative sip through the straw. It wasn't that bad but more importantly it was cold. He took his time, drawing it out like a meal. He felt full when he was done so he settled back onto his bunk. It was time to continue The Complete Works of Shakespeare.

When they arrived back at Alan's quarters, Ryan had to turn away from Gil and Evan's faces. He didn't want to burst the celebratory bubble.

"Where is he?" asked Gil. "Enjoying himself too much to want to come home?"

"If that were the case, they wouldn't be acting like they're on the way to a funeral." Evan looked at Ryan. "What happened?"

Ryan collapsed into a chair. "He was gone when we got there." He buried his head in his hands.

"We did some investigating when we got there," Shannon explained. "We believe he was abducted and tortured by another man using the planet in exile."

"Jorundarvnik." Eric's statement brooked no argument.

Together, the three of them explained all that had learned and what they had pieced together based on previous information.

"We have to get this to McGuire," said Gil. "He can get ships mobilized along a possible trajectory."

"He's the Base Commander. Giving ships orders isn't up to him," Evan corrected. "But you have to tell him anyway, following the chain of command. I, on the other hand, don't have such restrictions. I'll make a few calls to see what I can do."

Ryan and the others left Evan to make his calls and went to the Base Commander—who also happened to be Alan's godfather.

"I was expecting to see you in better spirits. Isn't this the day Alan comes home?"

"Somebody had other plans," stated Eric.

"What happened now?" McGuire motioned for them to sit.

"In a nutshell, Alan defended a damsel in distress and was abducted," Shannon explained.

"Did you notify the local authorities?"

"We did," replied Ryan as he paced the room. "He helped as much as he could, but this is more than a regular abduction."

"Ryan, I understand what you're going through and how important Alan is-"

"It's not just because of Alan, it's also because of who has him: Jorundarvnik."

Ryan watched as McGuire processed that piece of information. "Did you actually see him or any proof that he's the one?"

"No, but everything fits. His description, the time he arrived, his leaving now when there's unrest on Krishenko-"

"Ryan, it's circumstantial at best. I can't recommend a major military action based on rumors. I need something more concrete." McGuire put up his hand to ward off a further tirade. "That being said, I could have the Lützow—in orbit above Blinsk-ask for flight orders from all approaching ships."

Ryan smiled for the first time since they learned Alan was missing. "Cieran, you are brilliant!"

"Why is there already a ship in orbit?" asked Eric. "I thought the Alliance didn't believe in rumors?"

"When it comes from more than one source, there has to be some truth to it."

Shannon stood. "I guess we'd better start packing."

"I'll notify Capt. Zagorska to expect you."

"Next time you see us, we'll have Alan," Ryan promised. One way or another, he added to himself.

It became impossible to tell how long he had been locked away as there was no way for him to measure time. There was no light in the room and nothing ran on a schedule. He was only fed when the guards felt like it. He rubbed his hand along his jaw and, judging by the growth of his beard, he put his time at about two weeks. That meant his return was a week overdue and his friends were already looking for him. Unfortunately, it also meant that it was time for the fun to start again. The medic would remove the wire from his jaw and Joru would begin the torture. God only knew what he had devised in all his free time.

The door slid open and Joru entered followed by the medic and one guard. There was no sign of the Chief Interrogator. Alan raised an eyebrow at this.

"There is no need for Kolon's talents today." He nodded to the medic who held out a syringe. He gave it a little squirt before injecting it into Alan's arm. "No, it's not a pain killer. Quite the opposite. From what I understand, it increases the synapses in your brain so you feel everything ten times as strong."

Probably just waited until he could hear me scream.

Then he started to feel it, first as pinpricks and then as truly agonizing pain, especially around his leg and jaw. The medic did his best to make it easy but the drug was making that impossible. He retreated back into his mind, a trick he used to escape when trapped. He created an idyllic scene of a cabin in the woods on the shores of a lake. Swaying in a hammock listening to the hum of insects lulled him into the perfect state of relaxation. No matter what Joru did to him, in this tranquil spot he felt nothing, denying his torturer the gratification.

Two days after they arrived on the Lützow, Zagorska called them to the bridge. "We hailed it twice with no response," she told them. "We're going to give them one more chance before taking more direct action. Thought you might want to be here."

"Sounds like it could be the one," said Eric.

"Any chance of us getting over there and searching the ship for Alan while you distract them?" asked Ryan somewhat politely, not wanting to step on any toes.

"Let's see what happens the third time. If it is Jorundarvnik, this needs to be by the book." Zagorska nodded to the comms officer who then hailed the ship once more.

Just as the static on the screen began to clear, Ryan moved out of sight and motioned for the others to do the same. "No need to broadcast our presence."

"Lützow, this is the S.S. Mantilla out of Alala. I apologize for not responding before but our transmitter's on the fritz."

"I need you to send a copy of your flight and cargo manifests," Zagorska ordered, "and a list of any passengers."

"I can't promise it'll hold," the Mantilla's captain said a bit nervously.

"If it will be easier, I can send people over to inspect-"

"That shouldn't be necessary," he said quickly. He looked off-camera as if getting instructions. "OK, sending now."

Zagorska looked over at Ryan and nodded. He responded in kind. The three of them left the bridge.

"He doesn't look that bad," said a hushed feminine voice.

"Don't kid yourself, Shane. He looks like crap!"

Thinking he was hallucinating, Alan slowly opened his eye. "Thanks for the flattering comparison," he whispered.

"Alan, you're awake." Shannon came to the bedside and gripped his hand.


Alan glared at his brother the best he could with one eye.

"What? It would've been easier to move you while you were unconscious."

"We're not leaving," Alan croaked. "Not yet."

"You want Joru," stated Eric. "Zagorska will start firing soon if she doesn't get satisfactory answers from the bridge. She's delaying to give us time to get you."

Alan tried to think of something before the adrenaline left and he felt pain again. "Right. When she starts firing, Joru will come for me, will want to use me as a free pass. He'll appear onscreen and there will be no doubt."

"And then?" Shannon prompted.

"And then you perform your rescue because I'll be too weak to do anything." The ship rocked from the Lützow's first blast. "You don't have much time."

"Fine. Shannon, you go back to the Lützow and tell Zagorska what's going on." Ryan looked at his brother. "Eric, seems like you and I are going into hiding."

"You two had better be careful," Shannon said to them.


"I think it's a bit too late for you." She placed a chaste kiss on his forehead—probably the only place without a bruise—and then left for the Lützow.

As hiding places were scarce, Ryan curled himself under the bed and Eric placed himself so he'd be hidden when the door opened. Alan tried to find a position that caused the least pain. {You didn't think to bring any meds with you?}

{The plan was to bring you back. How were we to know you'd play hero?}

{And I thought you knew me. Remember, no matter what Joru does, don't break cover. We need him to appear onscreen.}

{Fine. You'd better know what you're doing.}

{Ryan, since when did that stop me?}

The ship rocked again as Zagorska directed fire to areas that would immobilize the ship without damaging it permanently. The door opened and Jorundarvnik burst into the room. "You are coming with me!" He yanked Alan up by his good arm and dragged him from the room. Alan felt every bone and muscle in his body protest and he prayed that there was a closer communications array because there was no way he could make it to the bridge. Now way he'd make it there conscious anyway.

When Jorundarvnik had come into the room, Ryan wanted nothing more than to pound the man to a pulp. He had clenched his fists as Alan groaned in pain. After the door had closed, he counted slowly to five before crawling out.

Eric helped him stand. "So now what? This ship is too large to track him down before they catch on that Zagorska's stalling. What is it?"

Ryan had received a flash in his mind of the ship's corridors. "I know where to go!" They rushed out of the cell, Ryan following his brother's clues.

After close to ten minutes, they knew they were in the right spot when they heard Jorundarvnik's raised voice. "Captain," he sneered, "you just might want to think twice about firing on this ship. I have something of value to the Alliance."

With Jorundarvnik's attention focused on the screen and Zagorska, Ryan and Eric slipped into the room unnoticed. Alan hung from the man's grip like a rag doll. {Look's like we won the scavenger hunt. All we needed was the battered hero and lunatic ex-dictator.} That got him a quick little smile from Alan.

"Abducting a Military officer is a federal offense."

"Let me down to the planet and perhaps he'll go free."

"The Alliance does not negotiate with terrorists."

From his position, Ryan couldn't see Jorundarvnik's face but noticed the man's posture change into that of a man used to ruling over others. "I am not a terrorist! I am Gen. Petrov Jorundarvnik of Krishenko and I will not be spoken to like that by a woman!"

"Thank you, sir, for announcing you name so loudly for the record. Gentlemen, you may now complete your mission." Zagorska ended the communication.

Stunned at such a dismissal, Jorundarvnik didn't realize Ryan and Eric were there until Ryan broke his grip on Alan and Eric put on the restraints.

"You won't get me off the ship," Joru declared. "My men will stop you before you leave this level."

"Are these the same men that let us get this far?" Eric looked at Alan. "How is he?"

"I don't want to categorize his injuries, but I think he'll be okay."

{Quit yappin' and take me home.}

Even half-dead the man was bossy. "Let's go."

Ryan materialized with Alan in the sick bay as arranged while Eric took Jorundarvnik directly to the brig. He relinquished his hold on his brother to the medics and stepped back to let them do their thing. He forced himself to watch as they examined his battered body.

That's where Zagorska found him. "Jorundarvnik's secure in the brig."

"Good." Ryan didn't move his eyes from his brother's still form.

"He will pay for what he's done. Every soldier on this ship has taken it as a personal attack. They'd all volunteer for the firing squad—if we still did that."

"I'll make sure he knows that."

"When will you be taking him back to Earth?"

"As soon as they say he's stable. I don't want to take unnecessary risks I don't know how two trips in succession will affect him."

"He'll make it. I've read files on Jorundarvnik's 'techniques' and no one ever lasted that long."

Ryan nodded. He had a feeling that Jorundarvnik actually went a bit easy on Alan since he had planned to use him as a bartering tool. He didn't say anything of that to Zagorska.

She knew he wasn't up to talking and left him with his thoughts—which could sometimes be dangerous companions.

Alan was sitting up in bed playing poker with Ryan surrounded by flowers and fruit baskets when the Committee Chair came to visit him a week later. "You can never do things simply, can you, Colonel?"


"Any other soldier returning from a suspension would have done so quietly, resuming duties as if nothing had happened. You, on the other hand, managed to get yourself kidnapped and tortured only to delay your rescue in order to bring your torturer with you."

"Just lucky I guess." He could tell there was something more serious unspoken. "What else?"

"Jorundarvnik is telling anyone who will listen about how Ryan and Eric got you back to the Lützow."

"I can get him to stop," volunteered Ryan. "We did business once upon a time. I know a few secrets."

"As interesting as that sounds, we've decided to make the TOC public. It's probably one of the worst-kept Military secrets anyway."

"I hope you're not blaming me for having to make an official announcement," he said. "After all, you sent me away."

"Of course we can't blame you. I believe this announcement is long overdue. Your doctors say you're well enough to leave the infirmary and can therefore be present at the press conference."

At that moment Eric, in his dress uniform, burst through the door pushing a wheelchair. "Did someone call for a taxi?"

"A wheelchair?"

"The doctors insisted stating it would be better on your ribs than crutches."

"And come across like a cripple."

"No one in their right mind would call you a cripple," commented Shannon as she and the others entered the room.

"What time is this scheduled?"

The Chair looked at her watch. "In half an hour."

"Cutting it close, aren't you? It'll take me that long to get dressed."

Ryan slipped out of the room while everyone was fussing over Alan. Even though he had been told it wasn't necessary to speak to Jorundarvnik, he wanted to. He needed the bastard to know just where he stood.

Upon entering the brig, the guard on duty snapped to attention. Ryan returned the salute. "I was expecting to see you sooner than this, sir," the soldier said as he escorted Ryan down the corridors.

"I think I can look at him now without feeling the overwhelming need to kill him myself." They continued on to solitary. "How's he been?"

"When he first came, he kicked up a fuss, claiming he was set up and that he was arrested by illegal means."

"He would." Ryan stopped outside the cell door. "Do me a favor and cut the audio feed. It would be better for you."

The guard nodded as he unlocked the door. "As I don't plan to leave, I'll radio to the others. Call if you need me."

Ryan walked in and spotted Jorundarvnik lying on the bunk. "I thought you might be eager to receive visitors."

Jorundarvnik opened one eye. "I was wondering if you were going to show. Come to gloat, have you?"

"No, actually. I have a proposition for you."

Jorundarvnik sat up. "And what would you have to bargain with? You can't offer me a deal regarding my incarceration."

"No, but I can hold back some secrets of yours as long as you behave yourself and stop your wild accusations."

"I never met you before my arrest so what secrets of mine can you know?"

"I know a few numbers to accounts on Schwyz, the ones you used for secret deals. Still skeptical? OK, let me see…" Even though it had been years since he had used the account, the number had been committed to memory and rolled easily off his tongue.

Jorundarvnik was stunned. "How does a soldier of the Alliance know that number? Very few even know the account exists."

Ryan looked at him in disbelief. How can he not know? "You really must live in your own personal bubble. You never kept track of those you had business with should just such an occasion arise?" Ryan grabbed the only chair and sat backwards, his arms on the head rest as he faced Jorundarvnik. "OK, I was not always with the Alliance and I didn't always look like this. I had a number of 'unsavory' connections that actually still come in handy now and then. Run through your mind the list of people who used that account enough to memorize the number."

Ryan watched the man's face as he went through a mental checklist. His eyes widened as he concluded there weren't that many. "James."

Ryan leaned forward and drew on his old persona. "Now you know I'm not one to make false threats. You behave yourself as I ask and there might be some money left when you get out. If not, well, there won't be any need for it to just sit there." He stood and headed for the door. "No need to mention what we talked about, is there? We don't want any others learning of this account, do we?"

Jorundarvnik gulped and shook his head.

"Good. Guard!" he called.

The soldier unlocked the door and kept his face expressionless even though Ryan knew he was bursting with questions. "Sir?"

"I'm done here." He gave Jorundarvnik a parting glare before leaving the cell.

Gen. Maguire came over to them as soon as they arrived. "Alan, good to see you again. Every time I had a chance to visit the infirmary you were sleeping."

"I did wonder." He sneaked a peek at the gathered media. "Sorry about all this."

"It was inevitable. You don't have to say anything if you don't want to."

"I have a feeling I might need to."

Shannon studied his face. "Your bruises are looking better but I still think we should try to tone them down a bit."

"If anything we should try to make them stand out more," commented Ryan as he joined them. "Work the shock factor."

"Does the shock factor even count when Alan's concerned?" joked Eric.

"Where did you get off to?" Alan asked him.

"There was something I had to see to."

Somehow Alan knew there was something more to it than Ryan was sharing.

"C'mon, we're wanted," said Shannon.

As Ryan pushed the wheelchair, Alan took a deep breath. "Time to face the music."

Alan had always hated press conferences or any ceremony that made him feel like he was on display. He had always done his duty and felt no need to vindicate or explain himself to anyone other than his superiors. With this revelation, everything would now be under a microscope to make sure it reflected well. It would only make things tougher and more complicated.

He heard the intake of breath and the murmurs as everyone got a good look at his injuries. He sat up straighter refusing to look beaten.

Cieran stepped up to the podium. "Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming today on such short notice. Today we are making public a Military project that has been in effect for near ten years.

"One of our scientists created a functioning time machine and we have been sending people into the past to watch and document certain events."

Alan could feel all eyes on him.

"Col. Kelly and Lt. Flynn were there from its inception."

Alan stopped listening as Cieran went on about the founding of the TOC and how missions were chosen. He knew questions were going to be directed at him and he was trying to formulate answers. His thoughts wandered to those he had met in the past from known historical figures like Shakespeare and Michelangelo to those whose names history had forgotten like John, Will and Dickon, knights who had befriended him on the eve of the battle of Bosworth Field.

A picture of Violet appeared in his mind. He had been willing to give up traveling to stay with her in 1900. His machine had died and he had begun to plan a life with her when the others arrived. Maybe after he healed he could go back and see her again…

"Alan!" Ryan hissed as he nudged him.


"The press have some questions for you."

Alan looked out onto the sea of faces. "Sorry, woolgathering. Could you please repeat the question?"

"How many times would you say you've visited the past?" asked a middle-aged woman with long blonde hair.

"Officially I've been on six missions but I've also been on a few trips of my own."

"So you've made unsanctioned trips into the past where any wrong move could change history?" questioned a younger man who seemed ready to cause a fuss.

"I didn't say unsanctioned, they just weren't missions. And not being a temporal physicist, I can't really tell you how much of what the general public knows about time travel is myth and how much is real. We do our best not to get involved but sometimes we get drawn in. Who's not to say that's how it was meant to be?"

There was only the sound of a few whispers as those in the room absorbed his words. Alan wondered if he had put his foot into it again until one of the reporters stood and spoke. "It seems these last few months have taught you to hold your temper at least, Colonel."

"It's an ongoing process. Two steps forward and one back."

They all laughed at his comment and he laughed with them even though he wasn't really feeling it. Right now it was more like one step forward and two steps back. Yeah, they had brought in Jorundarvnik, but he now had rehab and therapy to look forward to. It would probably be ages before he was on active duty again which was a giant step backwards in his mind. He inwardly groaned as he thought of what they might have him do in that time off: public relations. Now that the TOC was public and he had seniority, he would become the face of the project. They would forget that it was just such a mission that put him in this position in the first place.