The room was quiet. Ed Straker lay on the bed stretched and relaxed, then opened his eyes and froze. This was not his room. Yet there was the touch of familiarity to the place. Touches of memory flashed through his mind too fast to really comprehend. He got up, let his body go through the familiar motions of arising and got a shock as he looked in the mirror. He looked both older and younger than he remembered. There were the faintest traces of crows feet wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. His hair, brushed straight back off his face, seemed to start a little farther back on his head than he remembered. He ran a hand over his head and froze. This was some sort of a joke?
He pulled a long braid of pale hair over his shoulder. Loosened, his hair would reach to his waist. He shook his head. Tumbled memories, brief flashes, his hair down, someone’s fingers tangled in the strands, joy. Nothing. He left that mystery for the need to dress. He found clothing not too far removed from his favored look, close fitting trousers and a tunic that mimicked his Nehru style jackets. The fabric was soft, comfortable.
He heard footsteps outside the door. Firm, light steps stopped outside the door. He looked for a place to hide. Nothing. The door opened. A surprising young woman entered, closing the door behind her and locking it before starting to remove the large backpack she was toting.
“It is nuts out there today. I —” she finally looked at him. She took in his stance, his look. “Oh – my. Commander? ” she said uncertainly. His look answered her. “Oh boy. You certainly picked a great time to come back.” The half laugh softened the implied criticism.
“Lt. Dobbs, isn’t it?”
He was aware that she was watching him closely, even warily. “What is going on?” he asked evenly.
She took a deep breath and released it, almost in a sigh. “Maybe you’d better take a look.” She scooped up what looked like a TV remote control and hit one of the buttons. The shutters on the windows slid upward into the ceiling to reveal the window, almost a wall of window. There were vertical bars on the outside. That was normal enough. The view was not.
For just a moment, his world rocked. He had seen that purple and magenta sky before. Somewhere out there was “the Straker”, a white haired woman with feline eyes and a feral grin boding ill for her enemies. And there were enemies, too many enemies. He reached out a hand to steady himself. He noticed that Lt. Dobbs had started to move when he did, but stopped, uncertainly. He frowned. “How long?”
“Almost three years, sir.”
Three years. He searched his memory. Nothing. He remembered –
“You remember the crash? Well, the break up of the shuttle actually.”
He frowned at her, pulling bits and pieces forward. The shuttle had been shaking as they started re-entry, but then it started bucking, coming apart. Captain Andrews trying to hold it together. When it became obvious that the shuttle couldn’t stand the strain of the buffeting, Straker and the six other passengers hit the life pods. “We ejected.”
“Yeah. And we hit, hard. Well, the ejection pods did. Mine just about jarred my spine through the top of my head. When I got out – Yours had cracked open on impact. How you survived with as little damage as you did, I will never know.”
“The others?” he asked, ignoring her comment.
She shrugged her shoulders. “I made sure you were breathing and didn’t have anything broken. You had a nasty gash on the side of your head and didn’t seem interested in being awake, so I made you as comfortable as possible and went to look for the other pods. I didn’t find them. The tracking equipment in both of ours was smashed. I couldn’t even stick the two together and make one functioning unit.”
“And I woke up –”
“Fine. Well, as irascible as ever – ” she stopped and looked a bit appalled at her evaluation. Damn. It had been a while since she’d faced “Commander Straker” instead of Ed. “Sorry, sir. Anyway, you were fine when you woke up, except for the expectable headache, of course. It was – we ran into one of the fliers. The thing landed and the – occupants got out and – you didn’t take it very well.”
“Yes, sir. You – attacked them.”
“And you stood there and watched?”
“No,” she contradicted with a laugh. “Where the Commander leads, Dobbs follows. I figured you had a really good reason for wading into the ugly things and followed suit. You took some damage, including a couple of blows to the head that probably should have dropped you in your tracks. As soon as the triad was dead, you did.”
“Dropped. Like a stone. And when you came to again, well, you weren’t there.” She sounded uncomfortable.
“You weren’t. I mean, you answered to your name and you knew enough about survival that we kept away from the aliens and found someplace safe to hide out, but – you – weren’t the Commander.” She regarded him as though he might get angry and she really wished she was someplace else entirely. She had a habit of chewing on her lower lip when she was really nervous. He remembered that from working on the installation of the new computer components at MoonBase.
“And I haven’t been since then.”
“Have you met “the Straker”?”
“Oh, yeah. Didn’t take long for the underground to find out you were here. She is something else.”
He wasn’t certain he appreciated the admiring tone in Dobbs’ voice. “Yes. So,” he moved to the window and stared out at the nearly alien landscape. “We’re – stuck here.”
He swung back to face her, eyebrows raised.
“I’m – working on it. I still haven’t located the other pods or a crash site. I don’t think the shuttle came through. But, I’ve been working on a time transmitter. It’s just a little slow going since time theory is *not* one of my strong points, sir.”
That got a snort. “It’s not anyone’s strong point, Lt., or we’d have more people tampering with it.”
“Yeah.” Silence. Dobbs waited a minute or so, then started putting things away. Canned goods in the pantry, meat in the tiny refrigerator, water in the cistern. She looked around at the small apartment. It was very unlike what she had surmised Straker’s own place had looked like. But he’d never objected to the colors she added. She wondered if he noticed there was only one bed. Had he made any conclusions at all about the living arrangements? Maybe he hadn’t had time. It would be natural for her to continue to make certain that her commanding office was taken care of – especially if he was suffering from amnesia. What a hell of a time for him to recover. “Uhm, sir?”
“You don’t recall any of the intervening time?”
She’d caught him out on that, hadn’t she. He scowled at her, realized that was an extremely worried look and softened. “No, Lt. I don’t.”
“Euw. Sir.” She met his gaze directly and chuckled. “Sorry, sir. It just seemed – appropriate some how. So, what you like to know?”
“The Straker. What we’ve done. The underground?”
“Three years condensed. OK. I can do that.”
It turned out that she could. He listened in silence, watching her closely as she talked. He discovered that she could cook and talk without getting tangled in what she was doing and without missing a beat. He also noticed that she set the table and served both of them without a second thought, as though it was natural for them to eat together.
One bed, wide enough for two to comfortably sleep together. He shied away from other thoughts. One apartment. It would make sense. Keeping an eye on a companion with amnesia, even after he’d adapted to the locale. He watched her expressive face as she talked. She was not a beauty, but the style of this place suited her. There was a wildness of spirit, a freedom that seemed to have surfaced. It worked. He found himself losing her words in watching her face.
Her eyes met his and she blushed before she looked away. He had to concede she dealt with it well, she kept right on briefing him about the time they’d spent in this world without even a falter in her words.
“So, you’ve been counseling and offering advice to the underground while “the Straker” is the big target.”
He digested what he’d heard. “And you’ve been working on –”
“A way home, maybe. Like I said, time theory is not one of my strong points. I understand that we need to find a weak place in the fabric of time, to use really mundane designations, but – I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for or how to focus it in so we can access it. My math on this is kinda vague – sir.”
“Did you ask?”
“Sir?” her eyebrows rose expressively.
“Mathematics, including physics, is one of my strong points.” He didn’t mean for it to sound as acid as it did, but the woman should have made better use of her resources.
“Oh – well – uhm – not exactly –”
“Uhm – while you were – uhm – onvacation,sotospeak – you didn’t.”
“I didn’t what?” Although he had a nasty feeling he already knew the answer to that question.
“Mathematics. Higher mathematics – quantum physics and that sort of thing. You – didn’t. Couldn’t?” She looked as though somehow his inability to use his knowledge had been her fault and if she could figure out a way to apologize for it she would.
“Yes, sir. I mean, no, sir.” She closed her eyes and looked miserable. She wasn’t quite certain how to answer that negative.
‘It’s all right, Lt.” It wasn’t. They both knew it. But there was no point in attempting to assign responsibility where there clearly wasn’t any. “The underground forces don’t have an expert, I take it.”
“No. Not yet.”
His eyebrows rose in inquiry. She grinned.
“There are a couple of prodigy kids who will probably be able to solve my problems in another few months, but they’re only 9 and 10 right now and sometimes a kid has to be a kid.”
Nine and Ten. And they would probably have the answer in another few months. He hadn’t been anywhere near that good, and he was damn good. He nodded. “Perhaps if you ask me now.”
“Yes, sir. Let me get the drawings.” She walked into a small back room, closing the door behind her. She leaned back against it and let out a pent up breath. So far, so good. No, not good. She rubbed a hand across her barely rounded belly. Not good at all. She stared at the cloth covering her device for a long moment. She blinked back tears that threatened to fall. No time for that. No time for – Time. The puzzle, the answer, the enemy – all rolled into one. Why did he have to come out of it now? Why couldn’t he have waited say – seven months?
Oh, right, she chided herself. Can’t you just see that? Hi, hon. How was your day? Oh, you’re back. The baby? Ours. Oh no! That just would not fly. Much better now. Not a hint. Thank heavens morning sickness was *not* a part of her repertoire. She’d just finish the machine, get them back and — oh, shit.
She stared at the mechanism through tear filled eyes. Back. Back to their own time where Commander Straker had no time for companionship, for love, for family. Back to where he’d been hurt, lost his son and locked out all the emotions he could. Back to where Lt. Dobbs was just another cog in SHADO’s wheels. She couldn’t do it.
But she couldn’t keep him here, either.
She wiped her eyes and thought about it. OK. She couldn’t keep him. Well, he wasn’t hers any longer to keep. The Commander was not her Ed. Well, not that she’d planned it, dammit. It wasn’t her idea to get seduced one hot summer night. Well, not completely her idea. Not that she’d objected, of course. She shook her head to unmuddle her thoughts. OK. Plan. Get the Commander back to SHADO where he could do the most good. Good plan. Label that Plan A.
So what was plan B? She stared at the time control. Obviously, Plan B was that the device could only be operated from outside the field. Since the Commander needed to go back, that meant Lt. Dobbs would have to – hold it. That was fine as far as it went, but what was to prevent him from ordering her to have someone else push the button, flick the switch, or whatever and come with him?
Capacity. Of course. One at a time. That worked. But why couldn’t she train someone else to do the work and send her back? Well, of course, she was — No, no, no, no, no! The idea was *not* to tell him! Somehow, she had to build the thing so that a one shot deal was logical. How the hell was she gonna do that? She chuckled. Maybe she should get the math solved first. Maybe the answer would lie in the calculations. Mass weight ratios. Time dilation. That sort of thing. She grabbed up the plans and went out muttering to herself.
“What was that?”
“Huh? Oh, uhm, something I read that had to do with a somewhat skewed understanding of the theory of relativity. Something about setting off on a journey and returning the previous night. I always thought it was funny. Sir. The plans.” She set them down on the table and unrolled them. “And do be careful, please. There’s only the one set. Paper this large is not easy to come by.”
He nodded his understanding and started perusing the plans. Dinner came and went. It might have been unobserved, but Dobbs literally moved the plans away and set the food in front of him. He scowled at her.
“Sir, Col. Freeman might put up with that, but you’re the only other member of my crew here and I’d like to keep you around, healthy. Eating is part of that plan.”
His look softened. He almost smiled. She grinned at him, hazel eyes twinkling. “Bossy Lt.”
“Yes, sir. Comes of having three younger brothers, sir.”
“Drop the “sir”,” he requested.
“Yes, sir –” her laughter exploded as she caught herself. “Sorry,” she apologized, still chuckling. “Force of habit.”
“After three years without a memory?”
She blushed. Her mouth worked to find words and failed. She took refuge in her plate, concentrating on dinner and eating.
“Lt. – What is your first name?”
“Gianelle,” she told him, the name softly Italinate in flavor. “Which somehow devolved to Nell at some point.”
Nell Dobbs. Straker found his own color rising and looked away. He recalled the first time he met the recruit. He’d been his usual hard ass self at the induction speech, ignoring the furtive rush of interest that Nell Dobbs inspired. She was a touch more rounded than most of their recruits. Not heavy, just – round. The word nubile kept springing to mind. He had wished it wouldn’t. The catsuit that most personnel wore had not looked efficient on Dobbs, it had looked like an invitation to peel her out of it.
He firmly told his libido to crawl back into its box, just as he had back then. And without his normal restraint – this was not going to be easy. He met her eyes across the table and saw that she understood. There was a touch of sorrow in her eyes, but no indication that
she would attempt to retain the relationship. Sadness flooded him. He felt a hollow emptiness that he had not known was there and a desire to pull her into his arms and promise her that all would be right, that nothing would change. But it had already changed. The man who had loved her was gone. Only the Commander was left in his place.
“Nell. You’ve done very well on your own.” He nodded to the plans. “I’ll give the math some thought and see if we can’t finish cobbling this thing together so it will get us home.” She smiled at him, nodding her agreement. Yet there was something telling him Nell would not be going home with him. The knowledge hurt.
They were altering the plans the next morning, hardly speaking to each other after a ridiculous argument over who would get the bed the night before. Straker had won the argument, but only by falling asleep on the couch under the windows before Nell had returned from her shopping expedition to find more parts. She’d been civil this morning, but only civil.
There was a knock at the door. Both of them looked up. Nell nodded and went to answer it. The woman who entered was tall, slender, breathtaking. All the beauty and grace of a cat packed into a genetically tailored package sprung from manipulation of Edward Straker’s cells. She frightened him as much as she made him proud. She nodded to both of them. He had expected a flicker of recognition in those slit pupiled eyes. Then he realized they had been there for three years and the Straker did not yet know that her progenitor was back in mind as well as body. It took him a few minutes more to realize that this was not the clone descendent he had met before. With a shock, he came to an understanding that a hundred and fifty years had passed. This was the third successful clone since that meeting. He wondered if there were any more shocks coming.
The Straker acknowledged both of the occupants of the room. She noted that there was something different about Edward, but did not inquire what. She did ask what they were building now. Nell explained it was the same device she’d been working on for a while, but now she had new information to help her design.
“Excellent. I have news, also.”
Both Straker and Nell looked interested.
“We have found the others,” she told them.
Straker looked curious. Nell’s reaction was much greater. “All of them?”
“All of them. All of those who fell here,” the Straker amended.
“There were four other pods,” Nell added. “Three men and a woman.”
The Straker nodded, looking pleased with herself. “All are alive.”
Nell turned to Straker, her face beaming. “I was wrong!” she said with a laugh, then realized that he hadn’t a clue what she was talking about. “The other pods. The ejection pods. The underground has found the others. They’re alive.” Her face fell abruptly. “Oh, shit!” She turned back to the Straker. “Where?”
“Two are inside. Two are – within the domes.”
Nell sat down hard. Luckily, there was a chair where she hit. “Oh, no. Any idea how long?” The Straker met her gaze seriously. “Aw, no. Not the entire time. Please tell me not the entire time.”
The Straker made a movement half shrug of the shoulders, half sympathetic nod. “Their pods fell inside.”
She swung around to face Straker, her eyes wide, her face unhappy. “The domes.” She sounded like she expected him to understand. It sounded bad. “Oh, Hell. You don’t remember. The domes are under the control of *our* aliens. But the really bad thing is that viable males are few and far between.”
“Nonexistant. Males do not survive long after birth. Those who do are sterile.”
“Well, 99.9 percent of them, anyway. Those that don’t fall into the dead or sterile category –”
“Are protected,” Straker said slowly, nodding. Inside alien controlled domes, what had befallen the two who landed there? Abruptly his situation made more sense. Nell had done all that she could to keep his existence a secret save to a very, very few. The Straker was obviously one allowed to know.
“What about the two inside?” Nell asked.
A fatalistic shrug.
“That’s not an answer.”
“We have found the pods within. The occupants left them alive. If they still live – ” Shrug. “We do not know. If they hid and became a part of those within, anything is possible.”
The Straker gave him an odd look.
“Oh, yeah. Commander Edward Straker has gotten his memory back. But in doing so, he seems to have lost the part about being here.”
The feline eyes regarded him directly. The Straker nodded her understanding. “Perhaps it is for the best. Now we need the Commander. You wish to retrieve your people.”
“Yes. Very much so.”
The Straker and the Commander put their heads together and came up with a plan. The only real drawback to the plan was the Commander’s inability to go with the rescue groups. He understood that his presence could jeopardize the survival of both the groups and those they were rescuing, but it galled him to have to wait for the troops to return with his people.
“Commander, even if you went, we’d be more worried about keeping you in one piece than anything else. We’re expendable. The others are also expendable if necessary. You need to get back to SHADO. You’re the one hope we have of making this future not exist.”
He’d rounded on her at that, cutting words threatening to spill out of his mouth. But all he saw was her honest evaluation of the plan, of the situation. For one brief instant, he saw the roles reversed between them, Nell leading, him following. He saw the touch of gentle innocence she had protected for three years. He saw her love for him, both as Commander and as the man whose life she held in her hands. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her, a world of emotion locked in their touch. Then he released her and sent her off with a curt nod. If there were tears in her eyes, he didn’t see them. He was too busy dealing with unexpected moisture in his own.
Kelly and Ribaud were first. The domes were easier to get into than the city. And it was easy to find where the breeders were kept. The team entered the dome easily, their faked identification cards allowing them access. They were all of an age to be interested in the comforts and the potentials within. Breeding bore a high price, the first born child remained in the dome. Second and third children, female, could leave with the mother. It was frightening to find that humanity had sunk so low. Yet the species would survive, somehow. And there were always those like Dobbs’ little group which had other things in mind.
Jan Kelly threw his cards down on the table, knocked over his chair and slammed a fist into the wall. Timothy Ribaud watched his irritable companion and sighed. He gathered up the cards in his short fingered hands, shuffled them and waited.
“Dammit!” He swung round and glared at the more easy going young man with him. “I want out.”
“OK. I’ll slug the guard and you can escape. Mind you, hiding among a population of women who are all six inches shorter than you are is gonna take some doing.”
Kelly was across the room and on him in a second, grabbing a handful of his shirt just under his chin and forcing him painfully backward against the back of his chair. “You like it here, don’t you? Admit it!”
“Kelly, I prefer alive to dead. Even I get tired of being a fountain of virility for every woman who wants a child, thank you. Now, I’m getting gouged and I’d appreciate your backing off.” Kelly released him with a push that sent him tipping over onto his back, thumping his head on the floor. “Ow.”
Tim guffawed at that. “Oh, yeah, right. I think not. Look, if I could think of a single way to get us out of here, but we’ve tried.”
Kelly’s face fell. He looked forlorn. “He’s not coming, is he?” he said softly.
Tim’s face hardened. “I don’t know. If he’s alive, eventually he’ll find a way to get to us. If not, well, there are worse ways to go.”
“I may start looking for one. Oh, god. Not again.” The door to their quarters opened to admit a quartet of hopeful looking women. “I’m not in the mood.”
“Good. Neither am I,” one of them said softly.
Both men jerked around to stare at the women. Lt. Dobbs grinned at them. The other three women nodded and headed for the walls in a businesslike manner as Dobbs joined the two men. “Well, you’re looking well treated.” She reached out and patted Tim’s slightly protuberant belly.
“Well fed cattle,” came Kelly’s ripost. “You gonna get us out? Where’s – you know?”
“Waiting for you. We had a hard time finding out where you were. These guys like to keep secrets, I guess. Tho’ what they want with the two of you ——”
The two men watched the women moving along the walls until one nodded.
“OK, guys. Which one of you wants to die first?” Dobbs asked with a wicked grin.
Twenty minutes later, the apartment was a mess. It looked like the worst kind of fight had broken out. There was blood everywhere, two of the women were lying on the floor, sightless eyes staring at nothing. Both of the men were slumped across furniture, clothing
bloodied. Nell, half clothed, was screaming for help. Guards ran in. Soon, four guards with stretchers walked out of the building, waved down a vehicle and quietly gave directions to the edge of town. The driver never knew what hit him.
Getting out of the dome was a little harder. Kelly was wounded in the firefight. He was looking a bit pale when he was finally ushered into Straker’s presence several hours later. Dobbs locked the door behind them and someone else made Kelly sit down so his shoulder could be tended to.
“It’s clean,” the woman told him as she bandaged the wound.
“Thank god.” He finally realized that the striking man by the windows was his Commander. He slammed to his feet and regretted it. “Commander!” he managed before he sat down again.
“Kelly. Good to see you. And you, Ribaud.”
The smaller man smiled. “Commander. We were beginning to give up hope.”
Straker nodded. “We’ve got two people left to recover. Then we can complete the work on the device that will try to get us back where we belong.”
“Yes, sir!” both men responded with enthusiasm.
“Though, I was wondering, just where are we, Commander?”
“Our future. A version of it. One I intend to prevent.”
The second force went out under the Straker’s command, leaving Dobbs behind to work on the device with help from Ribaud who was also a talented techno. His understanding of time theory was a notch higher than Dobbs’ which meant he could translate some of Straker’s mathematics into something Dobbs could grasp. Between them, the machine to take them home was taking shape.
They were both twisting wires into useable shapes when Ribaud finally broached the subject that had been bothering him. “Dobbs.”
“Yeah?” She didn’t look around, remaining intent on her work.
“How long have the two of you been together?”
“The two of whom?” she asked.
“Don’t be dense. You and the Commander.” He watched her color fluctuate pink then pale and drew his own conclusions. He waited for her answer.
“He had amnesia when we got here. Concussion. I stayed with him. Once I realized what a prize he’d be to any of the communities, not to mention aliens, I made sure he wasn’t left alone.”
“Any good in bed?”
That got him a look. Ice and fire and daggers all at once. “Ribaud —”
He held up his hands in front of him protectively. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked. But there *is* only one bed and it’s obvious the two of you – well – you know.”
She groped for words and couldn’t find them. “Pervert.”
He laughed. “No. Curious. The Old Man has had a reputation for *not* being interested – in the ladies or the laddies. I’m curious if he – er – succumbed to the situation. I mean, he wasn’t stuck where we were, you know.”
She chuckled. “Too many even for you and Jan?” she cracked with a laugh.
“Way too many. If I *never* see another woman – wait a minute. Let me rephrase that.” He was laughing himself then.
Ribaud barked appreciatively. They were both still laughing when Straker walked in. He raised an eyebrow in inquiry. “I’m glad you find your work amusing. How’s it going?” He surveyed the tangle of wires curiously. It did not look like a smoothly working piece of technology. It did look like it might fall apart if breathed upon harshly.
“It’s going,” was Dobbs response. “I mean, it’s progressing, sir. It really is. Two more days and I think it’ll be ready to test.” She frowned at it. “I’m just not exactly certain how to test it.”
“I’ll give it some thought.”
Straker stood staring out the window at the storm clouds. The sky mirrored his inner turmoil. Dobbs was hiding something from him. He could sense it in every encounter, a tension hovering just on the edge of breaking loose. Their mutual attraction had obviously been given free rein while he was MIA mentally. Since his “return” Dobbs … Dammit, Nell. Nell had avoided any discussions of experiences here except as they directly affected the work on the machine to reverse their visit and the plans to rescue the rest of their people.
Since that rescue, talk had been wrapped around the ability to get back, Trevor and Guilliani pitching in to build a transport to hold the six of them for the return. They were all enthusiastic, except Nell. Which brought him back to what Nell could be hiding. He was making his own head hurt.
Three years. He pulled the braid over his shoulder. Nell had helped him get it redone this morning. Her movements were sure and easy as she worked with the length of hair. Why didn’t he just have her cut it off? Because her fingers running through it felt good? Because he enjoyed the intimacy of the … intimacy. Flickers of memory teased him. Why was nothing tangible? Why couldn’t he remember?
He considered her since his regaining his right mind. Nell avoided him. She recognized that they’d lost whatever relationship they had and was content to let it go. Or was she? No. But she was disinclined to humiliate herself if he was incapable of finding their bond. Nell would let Ed make the first move and let the relationship go rather than dealing with the humiliation of his rejection.
There were ways that she could be the answer to Alec’s continued attempts to get him to loosen up. But did he dare let Nell into his life? What if he lost her the way he lost everything else? Visions of Mary screaming “I never want to see you again” danced through his head. He cringed internally. No, better to let it go now than to lose her entirely.
“There’s only room for five,” Straker growled. “That is not an option.” He glared at his team until he realized Nell wasn’t looking at him.
“Dobbs?” He watched her face as she decided whether to lie to him or not.
“Could I talk to you outside for a moment?” she deftly managed not to answer his implied question.
Stone faced, Straker followed her out of the room onto the small outside balcony. “What?”
“There’s no way to rig an automatic system to kick the final power boost in,” she told him. It was true. They’d tried to figure out a way to do it, but there wasn’t one with the tools and material they had to work with.
“You knew this was coming.”
“I suspected it was. I didn’t know until we put it all together today.”
She grinned at him. “Oh, come on, Commander. That one should be obvious. Two pilots who are desperately needed, Kelly and Ribaud are male and spent all their time in the domes. I’m the only one who has a pretty good chance of survival if I’m left behind.
“And?” He would get his answer.
The bright hazel eyes searched his face, looking desperately for a way out, a way not to hurt him again. Unfortunately, this was Commander Straker, not Ed. “I’m pregnant. There’s no guarantee we can balance the energies right to get me and the fetus through alive.” There. She’d said it. Bald-faced honesty and she now wished she could go find a rock to hide under.
The blue eyes dropped to her belly, discerning the slightest bulge there. They flickered back up to meet her gaze. He knew without a doubt whose child she carried. It was probably a wonder there weren’t already others. “That’s .?”
“No, there aren’t any other little Dobbs-Strakers running around out there. I think that would be more challenge than either The Straker or I could manage.” Her gaze dropped. “You’re not … angry?”
Angry? Hell, yes, he was angry. At least he’d known his son for several years. This child … this one he would never know, never see and that hurt. He reached out and pulled Nell into his arms, just holding her for a while. “I’m sorry,” he finally voiced his feelings.
“So am I,” she said in a soft voice. “I wish … I really wish things hadn’t moved the way they have. But they need to get back. You need to go. We’ll be okay.”
“We’ll be okay.” The words echoed through his mind as the five returning operatives strapped into the massively modified escape pods and Nell threw the switch sucking the power out of a six block radius for a fraction of a second. Then she was gone. The trip back was as rough as the one that threw them forward. The landing carved a three hundred foot scar in a Kentucky hillside and tossed all passengers out of their seats at the end.
Kelly broke the arm he’d been shot in, figuring it was just his luck to have that happen. Ribaud cracked a couple of ribs. The other two were fine as was Straker. They walked for several hours until they located a house with a telephone wire attached to it.
Foster and Freeman arrived with a rescue crew as soon as humanly possible. Straker was all orders: retrieve the transport, clean up the crash site and he would see them back in England when they were done. If he noticed the crew heading people away from him and blocking questions, he didn’t acknowledge it. Straker was back where he belonged with the same mission he had always had: get rid of the aliens.
Ed Straker awoke in the middle of the night with a feeling of pressure all over his body. He got up and went to the bathroom, splashing water on his face and trying to find an explanation for how he felt. A once over of his security showed nothing out of the ordinary. Still … his fingers traced the braided bracelet on his left wrist. He felt a tingle and looked down at what he was doing. The long strands of the braid he cut off when he returned were intricately interwoven into a half inch wide bracelet, impossible to get off until the individual hairs wore through. It kept him reminded of the future he was trying to head off and of… Nell. The tingle was stronger this time, almost shocking his fingers and playing around the skin of his wrist.
Somewhere in the future, a child was being born.
Nell Dobbs lay back feeling exultant and exhausted. Thank the powers that be they’d only engendered twins. She smiled at the babies as The Straker and her people handed them to her. Wow. A daughter and a son. Damn she was tired.
Disclaimer: All things UFO belong to The Powers That Be (Gerry Anderson, Century 21 productions, etc) dragon’s just goofing around wit’ ’em and’ll put ’em back soonest.
Time: Oh, mostly then, a little bit now..
Place: Just outside the occupied lands, a bit more toward the icky triads than the domes.
Spoilers: Hmmmmm. (thinking hard here) Don’t think so. Confusion and a touch of angst count?
Synopsis: Time travel can throw a kink in your existence.