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TITLE: In Time’s Shadow--Part Two
AUTHOR: Cassie <cassie_efc@yahoo.com >
TYPE: Story
RATING: PG
DISCLAIMERS: Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict is copyright Tribune Entertainment Company www.tribtv.com and the show is produced by Roddenberry/Kirshner Productions. They are used without permission. No infringement is intended. (This disclaimer was taken, with permission, from Brown Unicorn’s fan fiction)
SPOILERS: Spoilers up to: “A Stitch in Time”
SUMMARY: Past and future collide as they team up to fight against more then they had once thought.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thanks to everyone who pushed, and especially thank you Toni, for your continued help in this endeavor.
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In Time’s Shadow--Part Two
by Cassie <cassie_efc@yahoo.com >

Liam didn’t know what to say. He looked at Augur, who seemed just as stumped and surprised as he. He knew he had to say something. He stepped forward. “Denner,” he said. Nothing original but it was something.

She, in her turn, said nothing, only looked at him, then at Augur, then back at Liam. Her face was emotionless.

Liam tried again, “I wish I could say it’s good to see you, but when ever you appear there seems to be someone trying to kill someone I know.”

Denner did not smile at Liam’s attempt at humor, neither did she speak.

“Why are you here?” Liam asked directly, frustrated by her silence. He remembered her earlier evasion to his questions and her unwillingness to give answers to Lili’s. He was not in the mood for it.

She almost seemed reluctant in answering any question, yet she spoke clearly and unhesitantly, “We have been unsuccess—”

“We?” Liam interrupted.

“—ful,” Denner continued as though Liam had not said anything, “in our attempts to apprehend the criminal Ronoff. I have come to request that you lend your help to us.”

“Who is this ‘us,’” Liam asked confused.

Denner mearly turned her head and looked behind her. Liam turned his eyes to that direction as an older man walked forward making his way in carrying two packs, one in each hand.

“This is Hughs,” she introduced.

“Do you mind if I put these down on that table,” Hughs asked. “They’re not heavy but it’s getting to be tedious to keep holding them.”

“Yeah, sure,” Augur said coming forward and leading him to the table. Seemingly glad to do something, Liam noticed.

“Before we can help you we need some answers. Like what exactly is this guy after? And why?” Liam said.

“Kincaid,” Denner said to him coldly, “peace is threatened by the possibility of the death of very important figures. You will help me, because if you don’t, then Ronoff will be successful,” she stated.

Liam knew she was right. He couldn’t risk anyone’s life. “Can I at least ask where you think he will turn up next?” he asked tartly.

“He will not ‘turn up’ anywhere anytime soon. He will need to recuperate from his last ineffectual attack.”

“Recuperate,” Liam repeated softly to himself.

“Well now,” Hughs said with a slight hesitation, and a look at both parties. “I think we had better get to work.” He turned to Augur, “I have some codes and upgrades that may be useful to you. They may help us to defend against Ronoff at a more improved ratio.”

“Where, Denner?” Liam insisted on knowing information that might be helpful in finding Ronoff before hand, especially when he might turn up anywhere.

“I surmise that Ronoff’s next target will be the embassy.”

“You mean he’s going after Da’an again?”

Denner said nothing. Their was no need for her to, Liam admitted to himself. Da’an was the only one at the embassy that Ronoff would be after.

“I have to get over there,” Liam said. “You stay here.”

Denner lifted an eyebrow at his statement. “You can’t confront Ronoff,” she stated.

“And why not?”

“You have no weapons that will effectively hold him.”

“You’d be surprised,” he told her.

“I have been ordered to take Ronoff alive, and that order is one that must be followed with all costs. He cannot die.”

“If it can be prevented.”

“I will apprehend him alive. You cannot accomplish that alone.”

“Then come with me.”

“I will when it’s time.”

“When it’s time?”

“Ronoff will need, at the very least, an hour to recuperate from his injuries…”

“An hour?” Liam heard Augur’s voice ask. “How would it take him an hour?”

Hughs looked back and forth among Denner and Augur, wondering what she would say. She could hardly tell the that, being from the future, they had very advanced ways of healing. But, of course, it took longer because of time variance.

“An hour,” was all she said. “We have some things that we have to attend to first.”

“Yeah? Like what?” Liam asked.

“Wait a minute,” Augur voiced. “There is something that I want to know before we do anything.” When he had their attention he continued, “Exactly what happened to my computer when I tried to access Denner’s DNA code?”

It was Hughs that answered, “Ah…well, the computer I carry is programmed to do that. When you went…ah…online and searched for a match to her DNA your search was picked up and your computer was sent a shock wave that took your program off line and deleted the information you where looking for. Standard procedures.” Hughs, seeing Augurs confused look, smiled. “No one has a defense against this program, my friend,” Hughs said in answer to Augur’s silent question.

“Oh,” What else was there to say? He’d have done the same, if he had the technology for it. Augur’s fingers went to his chin to stroke the hair there. If he could get his hands on technology like that…

***

Denner followed Liam into Da’an’s office.

Da’an looked up to see both Liam and the woman that had diverted an attack on him, Tara Denner, as he sat poised in his chair.

Liam noticed a slight hesitation on Denner’s part as she looked at Da’an, and was confused by it, but said nothing on it. “Da’an, I believe you know Tara Denner,” he said when the two were in front of Da’an.

“I am pleased to finally meet you in a less hurried manner,” Da’an said to Denner with a smile.

Denner mearly nodded slightly to his greeting.

Liam knew that he wasn’t the only one to sense the wall being put up, his confirmation was Da’an eyes shifting momentarily to him. Liam had more practice with Denner than Da’an and could therefore make the excuse that it was who she was, but he had been unsure at how Da’an would respond to her. Da’an seemed to give an understanding to how she acted.

“I’ve brought Denner here, because we have a reason to believe that the attacker, that has been identified as Ronoff, will strike here next,” Liam told Da’an.

“I understand,” Da’an said. “And this man?” Da’an asked looking behind the two.

Liam turned around, then said, as Denner walked away from the two toward the now present Hughs, “His name is Hughs, he works with Denner as a more technical hand.”

Denner took the bags from Hughs, that he had carried in. Hughs stood quietly as though waiting for something, which came as soon as the bags were securely in Denner’s hands. She tipped her head in a jerk to the side—in the direction of Liam and Da’an—only then did he walk toward the two.

“Hughs I’d like you to meet Da’an,” Liam said to him.

“It is an honor to finally meet you,” Hughs said to Da’an.

Da’an smiled at the sincerity of the man’s words, and nodded his greeting.

Hughs continued. “I have heard many good things associated with your name, and have always wished I could have met you.”

Liam looked at Hughs in a startling manner, then to Da’an who, he noticed, was surprised by Hughs’ use of words himself. Hughs only said, “Excuse me,” and left the two so he could help Denner unpack.

When Hughs reached Denner, he expected some kind of pointing out of the absentminded use of words, but she said nothing, didn’t even look up. He wondered if she had even heard him, but knew she had and was just in no mood for words. He put a hand on her shoulder then began to help.

“What do you think he meant?” Liam asked Da’an, looking at the two.

“One can only surmise,” was Da’an’s answer.

Liam looked quickly to Da’an. Da’an’s response was odd to him. The tone of thought and serenity didn’t make him feel any better about what Hughs had said. Maybe he misinterpreted Hughs, they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t expect to save Da’an would they. He was brought out of this train of thought by Denner, who was walking forward.

“Liam,” Denner called walking forward. “It may become necessary to bring in some extra help.”

“I could get some more security…” Liam started.

“No,” Denner interrupted. “I meant that you should bring in Captain Marquette.”

“Why Marquette? I’m not even sure that I can get her down here.”

“You will,” Denner said, then turned and walked away from him.

***

Captain Marquette arrived at the embassy an hour later. As she exited her shuttle she nodded to Liam. He had briefed her on their situation, and Denner’s and Hughs’ presence before she had arrived, so all that was left was to follow Liam to Da’an’s office.

Part of her had not been surprised when Liam contacted the Mothership requesting that she join him on the surface to help in the defense against Ronoff. Zo’or had disagreed until it had been pointed out that perhaps if, as they worked up there, it would be better if she stayed mobile on the surface to be better able to reach Ronoff if he showed his face down here after another Taelon.

Denner looked up as Liam and Lili entered the room. She gave Lili a quick nod in greeting, then she returned to her work with Hughs.

Lili considered at the two for a moment then turned her eyes to Da’an who sat in his chair awaiting her and Liam.

“Da’an,” Lili’s tone was formal and polite, but a certain warmth and trust was also present.

“Captain Marquette,” Da’an responded with a graceful nod. For a moment their eyes met, then both turned as Denner approached.

“It’s ready,” Denner said to the trio. “All there is now is to wait for Ronoff to arrive.” If it was possible, Denner’s voice seemed closed off in Lili’s opinion.

“What makes you think that he will come here next?” Marquette asked Denner.

“There is no guessing,” Denner replied. “I know he will come here next.”

“How do you know then?” Liam asked.

“I just do,” she answered. She turned, and walked from them to the system that she and Hughs had just set up.

“Well you heard her. Augur is ready on the other end,” Hughs said walking forward. “It’s not easy to predict Ronoff’s movements, but I am sure he will come, and within the next hour.”

“But how does she know?” Liam repeated in question to Hughs.

“Sometimes I have found that it is better to trust her, and not ask questions on how she works.”

Liam nodded at the information, and Hughs walked away.

When Hughs had sat down, he found that Marquette had followed him. She wanted to say something, he could tell, but wasn’t sure if she should

“Is she always like that?” she asked, her arms folded. “Cold and distant,” Marquette clarified.

“Like that?” Hughs repeated. “Well, time can do that to anyone. And she’s seen a lot of that,” he told her

“She’s seen a lot of time?” Marquette asked, not really understanding what Hughs meant.

“With the context of everything, she’s older than she looks,” Hughs answered with a small smile looking down.

“How old is she?” Marquette asked.

Hughs looked up quickly, almost panicky saying “Well…that is to say…she’s been around a lot of different times. It can age a person quickly.” He paused to look in Denner’s direction, calming, then continued. “The UFT picked her because she can do this, distance herself from her job. But if they knew…” Hughs stopped, and smiled. “Her parents taught her a lot, she grew from their life and their death, though I think that it was their life that she learned more from, as she believes it was their death.”

Marquette smiled, sympathetically, to his careful and uneven words; then asked, “UFT?”

“UFSDTT, actually,” Hughs answered, being careful. “You have figured out where we are from, haven’t you?”

“The future?”

“Precisely,” Hughs said with an unsure smile. “Now about the UFSDTT, more commonly known as UFT in my jurisdiction, all I can say is that people in Denner’s business are not just time travelers, they have a purpose.”

“Like stopping people like Ronoff?”

“Yes, Captain, exactly,” Hughs answered, a bit of hesitation in his voice, showing that he was trying to keep something back.

***

Johnathan Doors and Vega stood face to face. Neither trusting, neither at ease, and each sensing the other’s power.

Doors examined the man in front of him, suspiciously. Vega’s browns eyes were steady and shielded, they were smart and commanding—a leader’s eyes. He wore his black hair short, close to his head. His muscles showed training and his straight and stationary form showed discipline. Giving the impression that he was born and bred for the action of the resistance movement.

Tyler sat in a seat and watched the two, amused. The amusement quiet evident in his face—his lips conveyed a smile and his eyes were alight with it. Even his voice gave it away when he said, “Let’s get started now that we’ve finished introductions.”

“What makes you want to join us?” Doors asked quickly, and suspiciously.

“The Taelons don’t belong here,” Vega responded. “They should not be allowed to enslave races as though they are gods.”

“So you know that much about their affaires?”

“Anyone in my position would.”

“And what is that position?”

“Against the Taelons.”

“I told him, Johnathan,” Tyler cut into the argument as the voices began to raise in volume and rate.

“Why is it that no one has ever has ever heard of you?” Doors resumed. “You’re not in any files.”

“I like to keep a very low profile,” Vega replied.

“Obviously,” Doors remarked. “How do I know I can trust you?”

“Because, Mr. Doors, I have no good feelings for the Taelons. I know that is not a viable reason to alleviate your doubts, because you don’t know how good my word is. I am committed to the fight against the Taelons, and the only backup I have is my actions, which have thus far proven the truth of my words.”

Doors’ eyes went to Tyler. Tyler’s eyebrows rose in question to Doors. Doors looked back to the erect Vega.

***

The communicator beeped in front of Hughs and he reached for it. When he turned it on a red haired man appeared in it.

“What is it, Terry?” he asked, his eye brows drawn together in question.

“I am ordered to come and assist Denner and yourself in apprehending the criminal Micheal Ronoff,” he said monotonous. “I will be arriving in the next window. This is only to give you warning.”

“Don’t you think you had better clear it with Denner first?” Hughs inquired.

“There is no need for that, I have already been cleared by the Council.” And with that the communication was cut.

“Denner,” Hughs called loudly.

“What is it?” she asked coming toward him, followed by Liam and Marquette.

“We have a problem,” he began. “The Council is sending Terry.” Denner took a deep breath and folded her arms in disapproval. “Normally I wouldn’t mind the help, but I don’t think that it would be preferable for him to find us working with those of this time, when were supposed to be keeping our distance.”

“Who is Terry?” Liam asked.

Hughs hesitated. “He is a traveler, like Denner, only a couple years longer in the UFT and a couple of levels lower than Denner,” Hughs explained, after a moments pause.

“When did he say he was coming?” Denner asked.

“The next window,” Hughs replied.

Denner dropped her head, and looked to the ground in thought. “That doesn’t give us much time.”

***

A Volunteer, a young woman, came forward and handed Sandoval information contained in a small computer pad. He took it from her and began to read as she walked from him. The more he read, the more interested he became. When he was finished he took his news to Zo’or.

Zo’or sat waiting for Sandoval, when Sandoval had begun to approach.

“Zo’or, we have found some new information,” Sandoval told him.

“Well, what is it?”

“When Ronoff and Denner where aboard the Mothership, the system picked up on some kind of energy signature. “If it comes from both or either, we may be possible to track them when they appear again. If we program the sensors to pick up on that energy.”

“Proceed.”

***

“I have a question,” Augur said through a com link that he had established with Hughs, through a global Hughs carried and Augur’s computer. Hughs had his hands full and wanted to work while he talked in contrast to using the visual aspects of the global.

“Go a head with it,” Hughs said in reply, as he went through city maps on his computer looking for any sigh of Ronoff’s signal.

“How is it that Ronoff has an energy signal, while Denner doesn’t?”

“His technology isn’t as up graded as Denner’s.,” he replied concentration still on the screen.

“But why is there even a signal, and one that only appears when he is in action, after someone?”

“You ask a lot of questions, my friend.” Hughs said, sitting back with a small smile. He thought for a moment, then said, “Let me ask you one. How do you think that Denner seems to disappear without a trace, or Ronoff for that matter?”

Augur sat back in his own seat and thought, then it came to him. He sat up slowly; the excitement heard in his voice as he said, “They have some kind of transporter.”

“Exactly, or almost. The time travel device is used in that same area. Going from one time to another in a matter of seconds, as well as one place to another.”

“Is there any news,” came Denner’s voice abruptly behind Hughs.

“No,” Hughs answered, knowing that the only reason she had asked that was to get him off of his present course of conversation. She then motioned for him to follow her, and she walked away. “Keep a close eye, Augur, I will be absent for a few moments.”

“Okay, but get back quickly,” Augur answered.

“As soon as I can, I hope.” Hughs got up and went in the direction that Denner had gone in.

Lili, Liam and Da’an, who stood together on the other side of Da’an’s office, watched the two go to have a private conversation. Liam would have followed but Lili prevented him.

“Don’t you think it is better that we know exactly what is going on?” Liam asked in a way of a demand.

“No, Liam,” Lili answered him, shaking her head. A compassion filled her eyes as she looked in the direction that Denner and Hughs had taken. “We shouldn’t ask them any more questions, especially since they probably won’t give us the answers.”

“But we can’t just sit here.”

“Is it not what you would do, if you were in their place?” Da’an asked Liam. “Would you not also conceal such knowledge.”

“I think that we should keep from talk of the future with Denner and Hughs,” Lili said to both of them.

“And I must agree,” Da’an put in.

“But—” Liam started.

“No more questions, Liam, don’t ask her any more questions,” Lili caught Liam’s attention with that soft assertive plea.

“Alright, I won’t ask any more,” he said, but after a pause began speaking once more, “but you can’t expect me to just sit and do nothing.” Liam then walked from them in the direction that Denner and Hughs had.

“Liam,” she said with a disappointed sigh then followed him to talk some sense into exactly what he didn’t understand, leaving Da’an behind in his office. He was so young, so impatient. She remembered being that way once, so she understood, but it didn’t make it any easier to deal with him. When she reached him, however, she was close enough to hear the conversation that was taking place nearby.

“You know full well that any knowledge of the future is classified, and the giving out of that knowledge is a breach of the directive and illegal and you could be imprisoned for it, and even executed,” Denner’s voice sounded as she spoke to Hughs.

“Yes, I know,” Hughs answered ashamed.

“Especially the giving out knowledge of technology.”

“Yes,” his head dropped.

“And the apparent lack of tact that you have shown, is also not to be tolerated.”

“I known, Denner.” In the pause he looked up at her. He should not have slipped up, he knew that. The temptation to change what will be was great, and he was tempted. As he looked at Denner, he knew how hard it must be for her, how great the temptation was for her—it must be greater than his own—and yet she held on to duty, and held on tightly. She knew what the future held, and she remained a loyal agent to the beliefs of the UFSDTT and its rules.

“It is true that you training was limited in this area. You were never meant to experience this type of contact with the past, but I know your are well aware of the possible repercussions of this kind of heedless giving out of information. I have never seen you absent minded in past instances.”

“I know,” he admitted. Yes he knew.

“What reasons are plausible enough to inspire you to give out this information?”

Hughs paused for a moment, a bit unguarded for the question of why from her—a question that she was not known for asking. He, then, spoke solemnly, “To show them that they have a future to look forward to for their children, if not for themselves.”

Denner closed her eyes at his last words. “Some futures are better left to those that build them, and not to those who are living them,” she said looking into air. The words had been slow and solemn and sad. Denner shook herself and said, looking Hughs straight into his sympathetic eyes with her own unfeeling ones, “I expect you to be more observant about what you say.”

“Yes, Denner,” he said with a small nod, and she turned from him. “I’m sorry.”

“There is no reason for you to apologize,” Hughs heard her voice waver slightly.

“Someone should,” Hughs said in a confident compassion. He watched her head lean downward, knowing her unwillingness to give into emotions, and continued, “Denner, I have known you since you came to the UFT, and I know a lot more about you then anyone else, and we have been through quite a bit, you and I, so you can’t pretend with me.”

“I never tried before, why should you think I would now?”

It was a rhetorical question, Hughs knew it, but he felt he had to answer it, “Because I, like you, know what is at stake. I, like you, know about those involved, and I, like you know how they are involved—even as they do not.”

“I know,” Denner said softly, then, after a moment, walked from the two entry conference room that she had taken him to.

Hughs stood there a moment watching her, and hurting for her. He knew that she would never except sympathy given to her, it did not seem to be because of pride, but in order to keep the continuing strength that she always shown. It always intimidated those around her, and helped her to keep going. But sometimes he almost thought that she purposely held in all that hurt and pain that she had acquired over time to keep up with her job. If you couldn’t keep compassion under control, then you weren’t right for the job. But, he thought as he walked out of the door opposite of the one Denner had used, he was afraid that one day she wouldn’t be able to hold herself together because of all of the things compacted inside of her.

Lili wanted to pull away before Denner turned the corner and found herself and Liam standing there, but couldn’t seem to.

“Is there a problem, Captain, Major?” she asked. When she had seen them she had stopped.

“No,” Lili answered with a slight shake to her head, compassion in her voice. She lowered her eyes for a moment then looked up.

It was apparent that Liam wanted to say more than, “No,” but that was all he said. Lili was glad of that, at least.

Denner turned from them and Liam did the same after a moment, but Lili did not. She stood and watched Denner as she walked. Her early thoughts that they should leave Denner and Hughs had abandoned her quite suddenly when she heard Denner’s and Hugh’s voice and their conversation. At first intending to quietly pull Liam away, she had in the end stayed to listen to their words. The Captain knew it had been a mistake—how would Denner trust those who listened at doors, and quite obviously did not believe in secrecy.

They might have already decided not to question Denner about the future, but it didn’t stop her wondering. There were so many questions that floated around in her head, but the chief was: what had happened to Denner to make her that way? Lili could tell that it wasn’t just a sudden decision that could be made to suppress all emotions, especially not that kind of suppression. No, this kind was the effect left by war, and loss, and an emptiness that made the decision for someone. It was one that came from a continual succession of being alone. Denner’s tone while speaking of leaving the future to those who build it only helped to show that, though there were still emotions inside of her, those emotions were stopped to prevent the pain that could follow in having them.

Other questions where: What, exactly, was at stake? Why were we involved? Questions.

***

Dr. Leroy walked through the empty hall of a well used wing at the Stuart Research Center—his center, he liked to tell himself. He was not the owner of the building nor was he a share holder, but he was their best scientist, in his own opinion. Everyone, even his ever faithful associate Dr. Clare Lawrence, had gone home for the night. Well…everyone except him. He still had to get a few things done before he got home, and it was almost a shame, he thought, that he was the most dedicated. Yet sense everyone had gone home there would be no interruptions—a light from an ahead room took his attention. He walked slowly and curiously to it. A woman stood there, her back to him as she went through a file cabinet. Her hair was a light brown braided bun, he could see, but that didn’t identify her, did it?

“Excuse me,” he said, causing her to jump.

She turned around and relaxed, with a smile of relief on her lips, a hand on her chest as if to help calm herself. “You scared me Dr. Leroy,” the woman spoke.

“What are you doing here this late, Ms. Spear?” the doctor questioned her.

“I wanted to take some of the records home of the newly registered students,” she explained.

“Is anyone aware of your presence?”

“Yes, Greg knows I’m here,” she replied, speaking of the security guard posted at one of the entrances.

Dr. Leroy nodded. “How are they doing? The students, I mean.”

“They’re coming along,” she answered.

“Good,” he said in finality. “I have always thought that the W.S.P. was the best thing to happen here.”

“Yes, Dr Leroy. This program has helped a lot of students,” she said.

“Yes, these students are lucky to have such a program to help them.”

“Many believe so, Dr. Leroy,” she said carefully with a small smile.

He gave a smile of self importance to himself, then looked back to Mrs. Spear and said, “Well, good night Ms. Spear.”

“Good night Dr. Leroy.” When he left, she returned to her work, shaking her head slightly at the good doctor’s fortune of being so hypocritical and not losing sleep over it.

***

“I’m getting a signal coming from over there,” Augur told Hughs in an elevated voice.

“I have it to, but it is a bit too early,” Hughs told him.

“Early or not, I’m getting it.”

“Denner!” Hughs yelled

“Yes,” she said coming forward.

“I’m getting a signal,” Hughs told her.

“Where?”

“Outside of the entrance.”

Lili watched Denner take her gun out and made her way to the entrance. Denner motioned to Liam and herself to be ready, taking out her own gun she watched as Denner swung around the opening. The next thing she saw Denner do was relax…to a certain extent. “Stand down,” Denner said after a moment. “It’s Terry.”

Lili could hear the warning tone in Denner’s voice. She did not like this at all, Lili could tell. Lili also saw a recognition in Liam as he looked at the an that wore the same uniform of black and green as Denner.

Terry walked into the open and looked around in surprise. His eyes went quickly to Denner, in question. “I believe, Denner, that a briefing is in order,” he said in a superior tone of voice.

Lili noticed Hughs evident disapproval. She couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason for that disapproval, but it was there. Hughs had said that Terry was a lower level in the UFT, then Denner, so it is a good guess that Hughs’ opinion comes from the little respect that Terry had just shown Denner.

Denner was looking at him with an icy expression, but said nothing and Terry seemed to take it as an invitation to continue, which he did smugly, “I don’t believe that the Council will be very happy about this, if it is what it seems. And what it seems to be is that you have allied yourself with the present citizens of this time. Which is against the directive that the UFSDTT is very adamant about.”

Lili had this odd urge to wipe the smug expression off of his face, without really knowing why. She stretched her neck to the side, and folded her arms across her chest trying to dispel the impulse.

Denner didn’t need to defend herself, but spoke calmly, “I found that it was necessary to join with them in order to insure that Ronoff will be securely apprehended—”

“This dose not seem very secure,” he cut in.

“You will follow me, Terry, so we may discuss this in a more detailed way,” Denner’s voice was expressionless, yet you could tell she didn’t like the way that Terry had spoken. Lili wondered why Denner just didn’t reprimand him in the open for his disrespect.

Terry followed Denner with an air of conceit surrounding him. Leaving all but Hughs in the dark about the situation. “What was that all about?” Marquette asked trying to control the anger that came into her voice.

Hughs looked at her, wondering inside himself if he should answer her question. “I’m not supposed to give out specific ranking information…”—Marquette let her arms drop and brought her hands to her hips—“but I don’t see the harm. Terry is the son of one of the Council members, one of the Chief members, so he thinks he has the right to speak or act toward anyone as he sees fit. As a higher level operative than he, while being in training for a lesser time, Denner has Terry’s ever fixed jealousy. He hates her for doing what he can’t seem to be able to.”

“But as a higher ranking officer, dose not Denner have the right to insure a respect,” Da’an spoke, seemingly with the same concern over Terry’s unrespectful behavior toward Denner.

“Yes, she dose” Hughs said with a sigh. “But the tone of words can hardly give her good reason to do more that a slight reprimand, which Terry wouldn’t listen to anyway.”

Even in the future, Captain Lili Marquette said to herself in disgust. In her own career she had had to deal with those who discriminated against her because she was a woman, and frequently it was a male soldier of a lower rant who was jealous of her. It had always disgusted her that she had to work harder to earn respect. But, she thought, it made you stronger.

This time, Liam did not try to follow, of that Lili was glad. After what had been said before, she had no wanting to give Denner any more of a lower opinion of herself.

***

“And where are they now?” the distorted voice asked Ronoff in the usual smooth way it always did.

“They are all at the D.C. Taelon embassy,” Ronoff said as he leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. He watched the figure standing in the shadow of the room.

“We find it very disappointing that you have not completed your task. And that you decided that your own personal vendetta was more important than what you have been paid for,” the voice still spoke calmly, but the threat was obvious.

“I have been doing my job,” he told the figure.

“And how is that?”

“I know more about Denner than you—that is way you chose me after all—and I know how to bring her down. Denner, despite her façade, is not without emotion. She has a…connection to the people involved. If any were to die it is possible that, not only would the future of this present world be threatened, but her very existence as well. She will do anything in her power to stop me, and that will be her mistake.”

It was the contempt in Ronoff’s voice that pleased the figure. There would be no trouble in keeping with the plan that had been set. Ronoff was, after all, filled with hate, and that made him perfect for his part, albeit unknowingly in their plot.

“Let us begin, then,” said the figure.

***

“What you have done, Denner, is highly reprehensible,” Terry spoke with satisfaction. “And I will tell the Council of it, you will not be able to hide this from them.”

“I had no intention of keeping this from them,” she said looking around the same conference room she had used to reprimand Hughs in.

“Yeah, right.” He said sarcastically.

“Terry, need I remind you that I am your senior, and that you lack the respect that you should posses in speaking to me.”

“No, you don’t need to remind me of that, I know perfectly well who you are,” he said rigidly.

“Then I suggest that you use that knowledge to the full extent,” Denner said low and coldly.

Terry looked into Denner’s eyes then watched as she turned and walked away. He allowed his head to drop, and his eyes close, but only a moment before he lifted hie chin proudly and walked after her.

***

Augur was sitting in a chair watching a screen, waiting and eating from a bag of chips when he heard Hughs voice from his end at the embassy say, “I’m getting another signal.”

“Is it him this time, or is it another one of your friends?” Augur asked getting up from his chair hurriedly, while he voice held a bit a amusement.

“None of my friends said they were coming,” Hughs told him.

“Well, in that case, you better warn them. I’ll start the process.”

“Alright.”

“I hope this works,” Augur said to himself as the began typing keys on the keyboard. The screen showed an energy pattern. “Let’s seen now,” he said beginning to identify the key parts of that signal.

“Denner,” Hughs yelled.

“Yes?” she said coming toward him from where she had been standing, against the wall examining her weapon.

“He’s here!” Hughs had just enough time to say that as the first shot came through an entrance to Da’an’s office.

Lili had been surprised when the shot came, as she had been listening to Hughs, or trying to. As she was closest to Da’an, it was she that pushed him back against a wall as, simultaneously another shot rang out and she heard Denner say, “Marquette, Terry take Da’an out of here! Kincaid, over here!”

There was an indent in the wall where Lili stood her arm over Da’an’s chest pushing his back against the wall as she was facing it. She knew that Da’an wouldn’t be able to really defend himself, that made her job more pressing. Lili noticed Terry was now standing in front of her, when she turned her head slightly. Lili turned her head back toward the wall and tightened a grip on Da’an as a shot came near them and hit the wall that they stood behind and Terry moved back. She could feel Da’an’s hand on the arm she had over him and his other arm around her keeping her against the wall and out of the line of fire.

Liam watched Lili, Da’an, and Terry on the other side of the room. “We have to get them over here. The only other way out is behind us,” he told Denner and Hughs referring to the tunnels underneath the embassy.

“No,” Denner said, after another moment of thought. “I was wrong. It’s safer if they are in here. Ronoff will only follow them if they leave.”

“Then what do you think we should do,” Liam asked sarcastically.

Denner looked at him sharply, then turned away and looked to the opposite wall and the three who stood there.

***

“We are picking up the energy signal, Zo’or,” Sandoval said.

“What is its location?” Zo’or asked, his agitation evident in his voice.

“I don’t know yet, we are experiencing a delay…got it. It’s coming from the embassy. We are also picking up the energy pulses that come from Ronoff’s weapon.” Sandoval looked up and asked, “Should we send a team?”

“No, Agent Sandoval, I’m sure that the security at the embassy can handle it.” Zo’or responded with a small smile of satisfaction.

***

Denner quickly looked out from behind where she stood to aim her gun at where Ronoff was hidden. She shot, but didn’t pull back quick enough to avoid getting hit. “Ahh!”

“You okay?” Liam asked looking to her burned forearm.

“I’ll manage,” she said, then promptly braced herself against the wall.

“Yeah, right.”

“I don’t have a choice,” she said forcefully, she turned and shot then pulled back.

Liam opened his global, “Did you get it yet?” he asked Augur.

“Almost,” Augur told him.

“Can you hurry it up?”

“Give me a break, over here; this is not exactly what I do every day.”

Liam closed his global, and noticed that the shooting had stopped. “What’s going on?” he asked in a whisper.

Denner held up a hand to silence him. “Hughs, stay put.” She walked from behind the wall, her gun at the ready. Liam followed her. From the opposite side Terry, and behind him, Lili moved from their positions, Da’an stayed protected.

Lili didn’t like the quiet that surrounded the office. She looked back at Da’an’s tense form, and his eyes looked back to hers. He seemed to calm slightly as he looked back, but not completely. There was something in the air.

Lili turned her head and watched Denner walked slowly forward to where Ronoff had been, keeping close to the wall.

“Where did he go, Augur?” Liam was asking his global quietly.

“What are you talking about?” Augur asked he in return through the audio. “I didn’t detect a transport. He’s still there!”

As Augur spoke the last syllable Ronoff appeared his gun pointed up at Lili. When he pulled the trigger it wasn’t lightning that flew toward her, but something invisible and strong. She fell backwards, and onto the floor as the wave hit her. “Don’t move Denner, don’t move, any of you,” Ronoff spoke. “This is trained to its target; it won’t miss.”

The gun was on her, Lili knew, but she couldn’t seem to lift her head to look. Her own lack of strength confused and scared her. It was as though she was on the verge of unconsciousness, but it wouldn’t take her. Her head filled with dizziness and uncertainty, she could hardly open her eyes and not close them when the world around her started to spin. As she tried to control the feeling of nausea she hardly noticed the figure that kneeled next to her and put a hand on her forehead. Once again she opened her eyes from their closed position and saw Da’an, his eyes alight with concern for her. After Da’an’s hand left her forehead, she tried to get up, but after a small moan escaped her she fell back the inch her head had traveled.

“Well, look who we have here. The offspring of the great Marcus Terry,” she heard Ronoff’s voice as Da’an put an arm around her and helped her into a sitting position, then held her there as her head became accustomed to her new position.

When Lili looked to Ronoff she saw that his attention was not on them, but on Terry who looked back at the man with disdain. “You are violating a UFSDTT edict, the Time Travel directive of 2398, that prohibits the interference with the past events of any world. You are to put aside your weapon and allow us to return to the present.”

Lili’s strength seemed to be gaining and she listened closely to what was being said as Da’an helped her to her feet. When she was fully on her feet she nearly fell off of them as a wave of dizziness washed over her. Da’an steadied her, and when she felt more or less steady he lead her arm around his shoulder , putting his own around her back, to lead support.

Ronoff’s laugh echoed through the room. “I wonder how long it took you to memorize that,” Ronoff’s sardonic voice said. “And I find it hard to believe that you think I’d drop everything and follow. Denner knew I wouldn’t listen so she didn’t bother to spout rules and regulations, it’s time you learned that as well. I’m not leaving until I accomplish what I was sent back to do.”

“And what is that?” Liam asked. When Ronoff looked away from him he looked in Lili and Da’an’s direction.

Ronoff’s eyebrows lifted and he looked to Denner. “You didn’t tell him?” he asked her. He laughed and continued, “No, I don’t suppose you would. You always were one for keeping secrets, weren’t you, Tara?”

Lili looked to Denner who straightened, and became more rigid when he spoke her name. Her eyes were a mask of coldness; both unreadable and expressionless. Lili looked from Denner to Ronoff then back to Denner in bafflement. Lili then looked back to Ronoff as he continued to speak.

“And not one for emotion, either,” Ronoff said. “You would have to be like that for what you did. No one with any humanity could, but then again, you’re exactly full—”

“That’s enough, Ronoff,” Denner’s voice stopped his words. The ice in Denner’s voice surprised Lili, as did the force to stop Ronoff from continuing. She quickly looked at Denner wondering what Ronoff would have said if Denner had not interrupted him.

As soon as she heard Ronoff’s humorless laugh, Lili looked back to him. It was a laugh of contempt that vibrated from him. Then he looked toward her and Da’an, noticing them again and the fact that Da’an had helped her off of the floor. Next to her Da’an looked back at Ronoff coldly. “Aren’t we a nice happy family,” he said glancing quickly around the room. From her and Da’an to Denner, then to Terry and Liam. “Yeah, nice happy family,” he said as if he had a foul taste in his mouth as he stressed the word “family.”

Lili had followed his eyes around the room, then remembering that Ronoff didn’t see everyone, but so far he didn’t seem to know.

“Micheal,” Denner called softly.

“No!” he yelled. “You have no right to speak to me, murderer!”

Lili jumped when Ronoff’s voice thundered unexpectedly, but didn’t get a chance to react any further as Hughs came from behind where he had been hiding, a gun in his hand. Lili hadn’t known that he could be that quick, as he shot the gun. Hughs’ shot had not damaged Ronoff, it had not even hit him, but it had preoccupied him long enough for Denner to take action.

She then felt herself being pulled by Da’an after Denner ordered, motioning to her and Da’an, “Terry, get them out of here.” Terry hesitated, obviously not wanting to be ordered. “Terry,” Denner spoke softer, with an underlying pleading in her tone that Terry didn’t argue with. He followed Da’an and Lili’s slightly wary self out the back way—the underground tunnel.

Denner aimed her weapon at Ronoff, her position unsteady.

“Denner!” Liam called, noticing her hesitation.

Ronoff brought his weapon back up to shoot, but Denner fired hers. The blast hit a device on Ronoff’s belt, causing him to swear which was lost in a spark from that device. He activated another device and transported out.

“Did you get it, Augur?” Liam asked, looking at his global.

“I got it,” Augur said through the link, sounding utterly pleased with himself. “Ronoff’s energy signal is decoded, locked in the database and ready to track, though we may need to cycle it into the data base a few times.”

***

Terry, Marquette, and Da’an, unaware the Ronoff had gone, continued on their way. Marquette’s strength had gained and her disorientation had lessened, though not disappeared.

“Where are we going?” Terry asked the two leading him.

Lili was about to answer when she fell against a wall in dizziness. Terry passed them then stopped in front of them. Lili grabbed her head with her free hand, feeling the hold Da’an had on her that had kept her steady throughout the extension of the tunnel tighten to make sure that she didn’t fall. The arm that Lili had kept around Da’an’s shoulder loosened slightly as she turned slightly letting her back lean against the wall.

Terry flexed his hand around his gun, and looked around. His arm went up. Lili looked at him in surprise as his gun pointed toward them.

“GET DOWN!” Terry yelled and shot at something behind the two as they ducked. A shadowy figure dodged the energy and disappeared. He looked around, and seeing it clear, directed his vision to the two beings at his feet.

Marquette sat on her legs, and Da’an kneeled beside her, in a position that suggested that he had put himself between Marquette and the figure that Terry had just shot at. In the histories this “Companion” had really cared for humanity, it told stories of how he had done his best to protect them. He questioned himself as he watched the Taelon, Da’an, alight with concern for a human, it was difficult to deny what was right in front of your eyes. The companion lifted his hand to Marquette’s forehead, in a gesture that Terry had been taught would survey any injuries Marquette might have.

The signal from the global he carried distracted his thoughts. He activated it, and Denner’s face appeared. “Ronoff has left and no other energy fluxes had been sighted in the embassy,” Denner informed him. “How are they?”

“We may have worse things to worry about then, Ronoff,” he said, then stopped to think over Denner’s question. “They are…they are in the best condition they can be in spite of the latest occurrence.”

“What ‘things’ are you talking about?”

“Who ever sent Ronoff, sent an ACE right along with him,” Terry’s voice was grave, a strange contrast to the conceitedness he had shown in the past. “Unless it was ACE that sent him, I had thought that that gun he used looked familiar.”

Denner slapped the global she had just used shut, sliding a hand through her hair. Though she had heard Terry’s suggestions about the attachment of Ronoff to the ACE, did not dwell on it. It was the fact that an ACE was even present that worried her.

“What’s an ACE?” Liam asked having the distinct feeling that Denner was swearing inside of her mind.

Denner looked up at him quickly, a face of complete loathing and hate had covered it for a split second, then her face was cold and unrevealing again. “A trained assassin, they have no compassion no heart except a black one, and it doesn’t work except to keep their cold blood pumping through their murderous veins.” The hate for them was clear in Denner’s voice, and Liam gave a sigh a relief that he wasn’t in any way connected to them. Denner took a deep breath and continued. “The UFSDTT has never capture one, so…so they don’t know exactly what an ACE is capable of.”

***

“No, Hughs, the directive forbids it—” Denner broke off as Lili, Da’an and Terry reentered Da’an’s office. She flexed her arm and wrist.

“They must know what they are up against, we cannot keep such information from them,” Hughs answered hurriedly lowering his voice understanding Denner’s hesitation. They both spoke softly so that no one would know of what they were talking. When Denner turned her head in another direction, Hughs pushed harder, “It would endanger their lives. I don’t think you can let that happen, Denner.”

Denner was silent, as she watched Liam help Da’an help Captain Marquette to a seat—which happened to be Da’an’s since when Terry entered he had gone straight to the chair Hughs had been using, and that was the only other chair in the room. “No, I can’t,” she said.

Hughs waited a moment before moving on to the others, to examine her face. They had to know this. And though Denner might object, to a certain extent, she knew he was right. To anyone else, she was the same hard soldier she had always been, but to him she was almost like a daughter. Deep inside he knew she hurt, and that the hurt made her feel vulnerable, and when she was vulnerable she closed up deeper into herself. When she had first entered the UFT some had misinterpreted her coldness with bloodthirstiness, and part of him had believed it, but he understood after a while that what Denner was and what they thought of her were two different things. Being cold and in one’s self was nothing like being bloodthirsty. As he thought about it now, he wondered how the two had gotten mixed up in the first place, it was common sense to separate the two.

“There is something that must be known before we do anything,” came Hughs voice from where he stood.

“And what’s that?” Liam asked.

Hughs hesitated for a moment and looked to Denner. She turned away, her arms folded, she didn’t try to hide her disapproval, nor the understanding that the subject must be discussed. “Ronoff’s gun,” Hughs spoke.

“Ronoff’s gun?” Marquette repeated.

“No,” came Terry’s voice. “That subject is restricted. We are not allowed to give out information—”

“I’m not saying that I’m going to give them the schematics of the damn thing,” Hughs took a deep breath, trying to control his long existent annoyance of Terry. Denner lifted her eyebrows with the knowledge that Hughs had an aversion to using colorful terminology, and only did so when he would or almost would lose his usual calm. Terry himself, Hughs noticed, looked taken aback. “What I am proposing is to ready them, so they don’t run into him or the ACE with an ignorance that might be dangerous.”

“Alright,” Terry said, with a glance at Denner.

Hughs turned to those of the time in which he now sat, and began the explanation, “The gun that Ronoff possesses—and uses with great frequency—has been fashioned by a group that, so far, we don’t know a great deal of. They call themselves ACE. Now the gun itself is of a metal that we had discovered two decades earlier then the present that Denner, Terry and I live. Being very resilient to the force of an asteroid existing stone called the SX2 stone, which is what powers the gun. Once fashioned in the gun the stone can have the power of electricity roughly 200 volts, and upward, but understand that it is far past that when at full power—its full power is as of yet immeasurable. Its closest relative is lightning, being able to fire that force at anyone he chooses.”

“But lightning isn’t the only thing…” Marquette said softly in remembrance of the force that had hit her not very long ago.

“No,” Hughs agreed. “It is not. Thunder is created by rapid heating of air to high temperatures in the lightning channel, or area. When the lightning element is used the gun has a mechanism that cools itself so that it does not become uncontrollable. But the beam can be restrained while the power of sound, as well as its force, can be magnified at the right frequency. That however is just about all I can say on that aspect, because we just do not have a great deal of information on it.”

“At the right frequency?” It was Liam that asked this.

“Yes we believe that the gun works with sounds, most of which too high or too low to hear.” Hughs explained. He took a deep breath.

“And this weapon can kill a Taelon?” Liam asked him.

“Yes, I’m afraid it can, and quite horribly at that.” He said hesitantly. It was worried faces that met his own, those were that of Major Kincaid and Captain Marquette. While Kincaid’s face did look worried, it also took the news as though it was exactly what he expected to hear. Captain Marquette’s eyes held surprise and confusion as they looked from him to Da’an. Da’an’s eyes were downcast and to the side as he took in what was said. Terry was at the computer and Denner had her back to the group. He could probably guess what was rolling around inside of her head, but he would say nothing of it. “The gun can be set to a pulse that uses what can be described as a circular motion, repeating itself until it tears an energy apart.

“B-but h-how did Sandoval survive the gun’s power?” Marquette asked, remembering what she had seen of the gun’s power.

“It all deals with the fact that he has a CVI, the fact that the gun wasn’t at full power, and the time stream—which I can’t speak about. Agent Sandoval was not his target, so its conceivable that he did not see the point of doing anything to seriously damage him.”

“But how did he set the gun?” Marquette asked, her brow wrinkled.

“There are still unknowns concerning the technology. We don’t know how they got the technology—which is likely from decades of work—and we don’t know everything about how it works.”

“It is a theory,” Denner spoke turning to the group, “that the technology is somehow connected to the mind of the one who uses it. Most believe that is rumor, but what can be said for certain is that the user knows exactly what to do at the rate of reflex.”

Liam glanced at Da’an. That sounded very close to something that the Taelons would have, but when Da’an’s showed no signs of recognition, Liam asked “Who is Ronoff’s target exactly?” Liam looked to Denner then from her to Hughs. He had believed that the whole of the Talons and their employees had been Ronoff’s target, but now he wasn’t sure. Ronoff would have killed Sandoval if that had been so.

Denner and Hughs exchanged looks for a moment. When Denner spoke she did it in an informative tone, with a small layer of disconcertion, “ACE assigned him to kill…Da’an.”

Now it didn’t make sense, to him. Liam brought thoughts around in his head, but could think of nothing, so he spoke his question. “Then why did he go after Lili?”

A quite surrounded the room. Even Terry had stopped working and was looking around, waiting for the answer. The voice that answered was neither Denner, nor Hughs. “Justice,” Marquette spoke softly, looking down at the floor. “Some how in the future I do something, something that only killing me can stop from happening. When he looked at me on the roof of the Montgomery Hall, I could see that he hated me, he had so much contempt in every word that he said. He said that I deserved to die.” Marquette looked up to Hughs then to Denner, questioning.

Denner turned her back to them quickly, her head was down and the arms that had been folded were now griping herself tightly.

“No, you did nothing,” Hughs told Marquette. He looked at Denner’s back wanting to say something, but decided against the idea.

Lili saw Hughs look to Denner, who had turned her back as she had spoken. There was a sadness in Hughs look, compassion for the cold soldier that seemed to shield herself from any and all emotional contact. She knew, yes, Denner knew why, but something kept her from speaking. Perhaps it was that same something that had always kept her closed, though Marquette didn’t know what that was, besides loss.

Lili still felt tired. She leaned her head back slightly, and noticed Da’an still behind her. He looked at her worriedly. At her, the resistance soldier that had, he had just recently found out, had been lying to him all this time. It was odd, she thought, that that should come into her mind now. Not to say it hadn’t come into her mind before, it had. He, seemed to understand, though, and that made her feel guilty; like a betrayer. He had gone through so much already, and now some group from the future was trying to change history and kill him. It can’t be forgotten that someone was trying to kill her too, though why she wasn’t dead now was a puzzle to her. But she was tired. She forced herself to stay awake, it was important that she knew these things. Da’an caught her eye again as his own eyes turned to her.

“Is that why you were so adamant in bringing Lili here?” Liam asked, he himself startled. “You made sure he’d come by making sure both of his targets were here,” he continued to Denner’s back when she did not reply to his question.

“He could have killed Marquette when he was here, but didn’t. Why?” Terry spoke cutting through Liam’s accusation, and giving words to the puzzle that was on the mind of more then one.

“That is a good question,” Hughs said, his attention on Terry, with a slight hesitation, at Terry’s tone. Terry blinked and looked around, then turned back to the computer. Hughs turned to the Captain, “Marquette, you should still rest. You do not have a CVI that would help you to recover.”

“I still don’t understand why it steals energy,” Liam said, watching Lili’s eyes close, in silent agreement to her need to rest. He glanced up at Da’an who seemed to notice Lili’s condition as well.

“Neither do we, Major. There is a theory, however. With cloud-to-ground lightning charges from the cloud meet charges from the ground. We believe that its possible that the energy of the SX2 stone meet those of the body, meaning that the energy is pulled from the individual. This might also lend power to the gun, itself. With the element that Marquette was exposed to, it was similar, but, as I have said, that aspect of the gun is still a mystery.”

“Can we somehow prevent it?” Liam asked taking a couple of steps from where he stood. He rubbed his palms, his heritage, in thought.

“I’m afraid not,” Hughs said. “A CVI could protect someone to a certain extent, but the effect of the gun cannot be completely shielded. As I had said before, part of the reason that Mr. Sandoval was not killed was the CVI he had, the fact that Ronoff used low power was another. If Mr. Sandoval had been hit at a higher voltage as directly as he was, it would have killed him. Since the CVI has a healing property, anyone with one that is directly hit by low voltage or hit indirectly with high voltage should recover quickly, even with his underdeveloped model. Marquette was directly hit but I imagine that the…well the thunder—is all I can think to call it—may have a low to high stream and she was hit by a low one.”

“It is also possible,” Denner started softly, “that the sound wave is only has a low measure.” Denner had turned back to the group, but was not looking at any of them.

“Yes, that is also a possibility.”

“We know more about the lightning like aspect because it deals with electricity, or similar energy. But the other deals with sound. Sound can deafen a person, but it cannot logically kill, can it?” When Hughs shook his head, Denner continued, “You could get thrown back and get the wind knocked out of you, but the sound itself cannot kill.” Denner’s thoughts came now as though she were speaking to herself out loud. “But why did he use it?”

***

Liam looked over to Denner where she sat at the desk in Da’an’s office as she examined Augur’s findings. He slowly walked up to her. “Anything yet?” Liam asked casually.

“No,” she answered. “Not yet.”

“I’m curious…” He began.

“It’s a bad habit you have, Kincaid,” Denner replied.

“Maybe, but shouldn’t we get a doctor to look at that arm of yours?”

“There is no need.”

“Really,” he said. He walked slightly away from her, then turned back and reached for one of the devices on Denner’s belt. She reflexively blocked his attempt, with her left arm, the same arm hit by Ronoff’s blast, taking hold of his hand with her own gloved one. Liam grabbed her sleeve and pulled it down. There wasn’t even a scratch left from the shot of Ronoff’s gun. Denner snatched her arm from his hand with a bit too much ease, in Liam’s opinion. Liam didn’t say a word, but he knew that Denner knew what he was thinking. It stood out plain as day in his eyes.

Denner watched as he walked away from her, then looked to Hughs who sat in the seat next to her, and back at the screen.

***

Lili still felt a bit drained, but she felt better. She looked toward Denner and Hugs, there had been something plaguing her mind and she needed an answer. When Lili walked up, Denner and Hughs were examining a strange machine. She spoke when she reached them, “Just what was that with Ronoff?” She had not asked it in demand, nor any sort of forceful tone, but in a soft curiosity. She didn’t want to accuse Denner of anything nor sound like she was.

Hughs looked up, while Denner did not. “If you’ll excuse me.” he said, then walked away, leaving them alone in the conversation.

“It is none of your concern,” Denner told her, trying to concentrate on the job she was doing.

“None of my concern,” she repeated. Yes, Denner was technically right But Lili wanted to continue, she searched her mind for a reason. But found no technicality that she could sight. “Why did Ronoff call you a murderer?”

Denner paused briefly in her work, then answered. “His grief needs something, or someone to hate and blame, for his loss.” Was it Lili’s imagination or was Denner trying to sound curt.

“Loss?”

“Clare,” Denner said softly, after a moment, with regret her eyes closed for a moment when saying the name. “She was his sister, the last of his family. I was the only one present to blame, so that is what he proceeded to do.” As Denner spoke her voice turned into a more informative tone. Lili touched Denner’s shoulder, and Denner tensed, then relaxed.

“I’m sorry,” Lili said with a sincerity that she knew she meant, but was still surprised at how much she meant it.

Denner looked at her then, tears were in her eyes. Lili took hold of Denner’s other hand, with her free one. Denner closed her eyes and gripped Lili’s hand, as if to be an unspoken thank you. Lili hurt for Tara. She didn’t try to ask herself why, knowing only that she did. She wanted to take all the pain all the loneliness away from Tara.

Tara opened her eyes and looked to Lili, and Lili saw all that pain, all that loneliness, and even something vulnerable in those eyes. Lili could feel the tears in her own eyes. Tara opened her mouth as if to say something.

“Denner, Marquette,” Hughs called coming forward, then stopped hesitating. “We’re tracking him.”

“Show me,” Tara ordered her voice shaking subtly as she walked forward, away from Lili. She followed Hughs back to his computer, and Lili followed her feeling almost disappointed. There had been something in Tara’s eyes that had made her want to protect, to shield Tara from the world, but she couldn’t do that.

He touched the screen lightly, and the position of the blinking red light come into clearer view. “It’s there,” he stated.

“That’s the Stuart Research Center,” Lili said, confused. “But what would he do there?”

“Finding materials so he can repair the technology that was damaged,” Tara said.

***

At the Stuart Research Center, Kathleen Spear walked out of the elevator door into the lobby, her work in hand. She stopped and stood securing the buttons of her jacket, when she was violently pulled backward and a hand covered her mouth. “Don’t scream,” male voice spoke to her then he moved his gun, to show that it was there, she shock her head to show that she wouldn’t. “Show me to the labs,” he commanded, loosening his grip on her. Her work was now scattered at her feet, but she stood upright as though she ad forgotten, or just refused to let him see any concern. He held her arm, his gun pointed at her. He took quick looks around as he followed her, waiting for someone to appear.

***

“Stay here Terry, I need you to protect Da’an, and Marquette, you stay as well, Kincaid, you’re with me,” Denner said back at the embassy in Da’an’s office.

As Liam watched Terry nod with stubborn assent, he disagreed. “Lili should come with us. We’ll need the help to stop Ronoff.”

“No,” Denner decided. “It’s better that she stay here.”

“You can’t decide that for me,” Lili spoke. “I’m not going to stay here when you need my help.”

“I don’t have time to argue,” Denner said, a bit impatiently.

“Who’s arguing?” Lili asked. “I’m going.”

“Captain,” Da’an said softly beside her “You have not fully recovered from the effects of Ronoff’s gun, perhaps it is best that you stay here.”

“But if I can be of some help,” she said almost pleading.

“Perhaps you could be of more help here,” Da’an said, his eyes shifting sideways to Denner.

“Yes, Marquette,” Denner said, glancing swiftly at Da’an then back to Marquette. “If something goes wrong, and Ronoff succeeds in getting what he went there for he will return, I’d rather have you here to protect Da’an in such an instance. And may I remind you, in case you have forgotten, an ACE is still on the loose,” Denner said, her voice soft and informative, and not in the least insulting.

Lili looked at Da’an, then nodded, “Alright.” She didn’t like staying, not when Tara might get hurt, but to protect Da’an she knew she had to.

When Tara and Liam had left, transporting out in a flash of light, Lili turned to Hughs and said, “Lets hope they get him.”

“Yes,” Hughs answered softly, sitting in front of his computer.

“She should have gotten him earlier,” Terry said bluntly from his place standing near them.

“He doesn’t seem to be a person easily caught,” Lili told him.

“Then he should have been killed at first opportunity,” he told her, with a voice that was annoyingly condescending and superior.

Lili looked at him questioning, “I thought that he was supposed to be taken alive.”

“And where could you have gotten that idea from? The orders were that to bring him back, alive is preferable, but not necessary if it proves too much of a waste of resources He’s nothing but a traitorous bastard anyway.”

“But they sent you back to help Denner.” Lili looked over to Da’an noticing e had caught the news as well, ten back to Terry. It took Lili a moment to process that Terry had just called Ronoff a traitor. Why?

Terry started to say something, that most likely would have proved to show his temper, but he stopped. Lifting his head he said, “It is not for you to speak of things that do not concern you.”

As Terry walked away, Lili watched him, a frown wrinkling her brow. Terry had seemed to act defensive when she pointed out his presence, the question was: why? And another question was present, that was: Why had Denner been so adamant that Ronoff be taken alive, when it wasn’t necessary for the mission she was sent back for?

“What did he mean by traitor?” Lili asked Hughs.

“He was once a UFT officer, like Denner,” Hughs explained.

“What happened to effect this change?” Da’an asked softly.

“Personal reasons,” Hughs said looking at the computer screen. “They weren’t really disclosed to me.”

“Probably because Ronoff thinks she murdered his sister.”

“Probably,” Hughs said. “Now if I could get back to my work…”

Lili, nodded her head and turned to Da’an.

“Please follow me, Captain,” Da’an said then began to walked away. When they were out of Hughs’ hearing, Da’an began speaking once again. “When did you come by this information?

“She told me,” Lili said.

Da’an nodded at the information. “Yet she answers other questions with great reluctance, and mostly silence,” he said after a moment.

“I-I know,” Lili said, unsure of his point. “Maybe she just needed to tell someone. And I was the one asking.”

“Perhaps. What do you conclude from the knowledge she has imparted.”

“I think that they were friends,” Lili told him. “Tara and Ronoff. Even when he accused her of being a murderer, she’s still loyal to him.” Lili was silent a moment, then said. “It must really hurt her.”

“But how are we sure that she did not murder his sister?” Da’an asked.

Lili looked to him sharply, she opened her mouth to say it was because Tara said that she didn’t, but she stopped herself. Just because Tara had said it, doesn’t mean it is true. “I don’t know,” she said instead.

***

When the man and his hostage had reached one of the labs, the man hastily looked upon the tables, and through the desks, until a flash of light stopped him. The light came first, then the two figures appeared, catching him off guard, and the woman he had held got away. He had a feeling that he would see them, but part of him had not believed it until he had to run to keep from getting caught. Denner was too fast, and he too slow. She tackled him in mid stride out in the hallway. He, however slow, was not weak. He pushed her away from him and brang his gun up to fire. Liam, however, kicked the gun from his hand, and as Liam stood there, Ronoff was obliged to trip him, bringing Liam down to his level. Both men were up and fighting.

Ronoff delivered a punch to Liam sending him back against the wall, disabling him for a minute. Ronoff, then, repositioned himself with his gun pointed at Denner. “Don’t do it Kincaid,” Ronoff warned. “It’s a hair trigger, one small squeeze and that’s all it takes.” Liam backed off. “Not even you can survive, Denner, if you get directly hit, by this level of voltage.”

Liam looked quickly to Denner, after what he had thought was confirmed. There was no doubt that she had an implant. He was still surprised by the news, however. His face must have shown it , because Ronoff, after looking in his direction, chuckled and said, “Didn’t tell him did you? You elicited the help of people from this time and didn’t tell them the whole truth. Well it’s expected, you never were one for showing much were you? But the UFSDTT sure won’t be happy about you making contact with them to begin with.”

Liam was anxious, he wanted to do something, but couldn’t. He had noticed that at this moment Ronoff had carefully positioned himself close enough to Denner to cause considerable damage and most likely death, as Ronoff predicted; and also far enough away that Denner could not take action without getting hit first.

Ronoff was concentrating hard on keeping his gun steady. It was not from the exertion of the physical the he had just taken part in, there hadn’t been enough of it to tire him. His hand shook from tension, and he tried to fight that urge to let the gun fall.

“You can’t do it,” Denner said softly, so as to point it out to him.

“I know who you really are, Denner, I can, and I will,” he assured her shakily.

“No, that is why you came to the past, because you couldn’t kill me like this.” Denner had thought she understood before, but now she felt that understanding even deeper.

“No, Denner, you’re wrong. I know Tara is dead. You killed her, she was your friend, Denner, and you killed her,” the passion in Ronoff’s voice threatened to consume him, but he accused he not of the first mentioned but another.

In his passion, Ronoff had not noticed that Denner’s eyes had very slightly shifted to the side and moved back. Liam, however, noticed; and carefully let his eyes slide to the side.

“Then kill me,” she softly dared. “That is if you think that’s she would have wanted.”

“And who are you to tell me what she would have wanted, did she want to die, did she want you to kill her?”

“I didn’t kill her, Micheal,” she clarified.

“You expect me to believe you?” Ronoff asked with a laugh.

Denner said nothing to this. She stood there and looked at him, making him want to put down his gun; to feel ashamed he had ever pointed it at her, or threatened her. It was a ploy, Ronoff told himself.

“Hey!” a voice came from behind Ronoff, distracting him. He looked around to see the woman he had taken to show him up here. Realizing his mistake, he turned around in time to see Denner coming toward him then the floor coming closer.

Liam had watched as Denner had run forward and tripped Ronoff while he was distracted. Then he watched as she checked Ronoff’s pulse. Why would they want him alive, he asked himself, why? He took a deep breath as he rubbed a small tense feeling out of his hand, the conduit of his shakarava. Looking up from Denner, where she sat, he saw the woman who had helped them, he and Denner, capture Ronoff. She stood tall, but not really proud. Her skin looked blue in the moon light that shined through the windows, and her hair—which was in a braided bun laying on her neck—seemed to lighten from its obvious brown. She looked at him then, as though feeling his eyes. He felt as though all there was in this world was those midnight blue eyes. She looked away, and down.

Liam shook himself and looked back to Denner, who had taken her eyes from Ronoff and had the on the woman as well. Her eyes almost showed surprise, and, if he wasn’t mistaken, astonishment. Then there was a recognition in the green depth of Denner’s eyes. She didn’t stay that way long, she blinked a few times then reached for one of the small devices on her belt that he had, as yet, not seen used. She held the small device against Ronoff’s two wrists. It quickly bound his two wrists together just as a moan escaped him. Denner helped Ronoff to a sitting position. Denner, then, took out the global that she used and opened. She was now engrossed in looking at what was displayed as readings.

“What is it?” Liam, asked, seeing Denner’s face show worry.

“The link with Hughs has been cut,” she answered.

Ronoff gave out another humorless chuckle.

Liam turned his head down to Ronoff in a quick motion when he heard Ronoff’s laugh. “What?” Liam inquired kneeling down next to Ronoff.

“Why should I tell you?” was Ronoff’s reply. “There is no reason for me to care what they do to me when Denner takes me back. I had nothing before and I don’t have anything now.”

Denner’s eyes went to the floor, in reaction to his statement. Her head then jerked up suddenly, with a look of full understanding on her face. “We have to get to the embassy now,” Denner said, stressing the “now” considerably.

“You may already be to late,” Ronoff said with a smirk.

“For what?” Liam asked worriedly getting up from his position on the floor.

Denner’s breathing was agitated, and deep as she tried to calm it. “It’s the ACE, the ACE is going to kill Da’an, unless we stop him. Now, no more questions, get Ronoff up so we can go.”

Liam did as Denner said, and in a scan of lights they transported out, leaving Kathleen Spear to stand there and wonder just what had happened. She blinked a couple of times and looked around the now empty hall way. She, then, did all she could do, head back to the lobby, pick up the work that had slipped through her fingers and go home and get a good nights rest.

***

Da’an watched as Captain Marquette slowly paced the floor expectantly, as he sat in his chair in his office. She held her weapon in her hand, and flexed that hand at intervals, those of which seemed to occur frequently. There was an apparent uneasiness in her stride that he could not seem to avoid seeing with the knowledge of human body language that he had learned. He, himself, felt such nervousness, and fear. Fear that was not only for himself. Captain Marquette stopped her pacing and took a deep breath. She looked to him and gave a small smile, that seem to assure him.

Her smile was meant to assure Da’an, but not only. She, herself, needed a bit of assurance. Da’an smiled back apprehensively. She could see Da’an’s feelings as the mirror of her own—the nervousness and the fear. It was the waiting, always the waiting that made the feelings stronger. The waiting is the unknown, and that was what brought a lot of the anxiety from that place inside of you that you always tried to cover up or alter, because getting rid of it was not always possible. In an actual combat situation, when energy was being used, fear was only second to her, but the waiting was different. She looked from Da’an and scanned the room. Hughs sat at his computer, his attention fixed on what was on the screen. She looked around for Terry, but did not find him. She walked over to Hughs, and when she reached him spoke, “Where’s Terry?”

Hughs looked up at her then around the room. “I-I don’t know.”

Lili walked to the entry of Da’an’s office and nearly collided with the hurrying Terry. “Where were you?” she asked him.

“Looking around,” he explained. He stood there until she turned, then followed her back to Hughs.

“And you were…?” Hughs asked him repeating Marquette’s question.

Lili waited for the tone that Terry would surely use in repeating himself to Hughs, but it didn’t come. “I wanted to take a look around,” he explained to Hughs, adding to it a, “Is there anything you need me to do?”

“No,” Hughs said in a composed way, that didn’t betray the odd question that came from Terry, and Hughs knew it was odd. When Terry walked away after giving them a nod, Hughs watched him closely. It was the sudden arrival of Denner, Liam, and their captive that diverted his attention.

Denner rushed forward to Hughs, leaving Ronoff to Liam. “What happened?” she asked immediately.

Hughs looked at her confused. “What do you mean?”

“When I tried to contact you something blocked me,” she told him.

“You mean the ACE…?”

“That is what I had concluded.”

“So Ronoff was supposed to be a decoy? Well it didn’t work.”

“No, it didn’t,” but even as Denner said it, part of her doubted it.

***

“Sir?” the policeman said shaking him. “Sir!”

Terry woke sharply and sat up quickly, then felt his mistake and grabbed his head. Feeling moisture, he brought his hand from the back of his head and looked at it. Blood. He groaned slightly then became conscious that the period law enforcement was saying something.

“Sorry, sir you can’t sleep here,” he was saying. “It’s time to go home.”

“Where am I?” Terry asked him looking around at the dark alley.

“Yep,” the man said aloud, to himself, “drunk.”

“I am not drunk,” Terry told him strongly.

“Yeah, right,” the man said as though speaking to a child. The officer took a look at Terry’s uniform and his eye brows raised.

Terry, annoyed, decided not to push it. It didn’t make any difference anyway. A quick thought of the ACE came into his head. He swore softly as he tried to get up. He had to get to Denner and Hughs, to warn them...now what was e thinking? He grabbed his stomach, this time. It felt as though he had been hit there by a titanium foot.

“Come on,” the law enforcement agent said helping Terry to stand. “Your lucky I saw you stager over here, or I might have passed right by and never come in.”

“But I didn’t stager in here, I was most likely dragged,” he said more so for the benefit of himself rather than the man that was still holding him up.

“Well someone walked in this way, making more then enough noise to wake my aunt Tina,” he said, then smiled at his private joke. “Now she could sleep through a hurricane. Here, let me call you a taxi,” he said leaning Terry up against a wall and then taking out his global.

“Thank you, but that really isn’t necessary—” Terry began as he tried to concentrate on where he had to be. It wasn’t easy with the throbbing that pulsed through his head.

“Yeah right,” the an said opening a global. “Yeah, Washington Taxi? Yeah I got—”

But Terry wasn’t concentrating on what the man was saying. If he had any sense he would go back in time and stop himself from even coming, from deciding what he had. But the thought of his father stopped him. His father had said that he didn’t belong in the UFSDTT work, well so be it. He would show his father, and everyone that had said the same thing.

After the Taxi cap drove up, Terry was helped inside.

“Where to?” the an driving the cab asked.

“That depends,” Terry said. “Are we still in Washington D.C.?”

“Yeah,” was the short answer.

“Then I would like for you to take me to the Taelon Embassy.”

“Ah-ha, right,” the man said in disbelief. “Where to really.”

“Just where I said.”

“Alright, what ever you say. The name’s Charlie by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Charlie,” Terry replied as the cab, with him inside, drove away.

***

“I’m having no luck at all,” Hughs told Denner as she leaned over his shoulder at the computer screen. “He seems to have completely disappeared off the face of this earth.”

“He couldn’t have,” Denner told him reaching forward and pressing a couple of keys. “We would have detected him.” She straightened, standing at her height. “Keep looking.”

Hughs nodded and did just that.

She turned and surveyed the room. Da’an was sitting on his chair in thought, Captain Marquette and Major Kincaid were in their own private discussion, and Terry stood by Ronoff watching him. Terry was jealous of her, but knew when it was time to work--albeit in a self preserving and even immature way--that is why he didn’t really question his superiors as much as he questioned her. It was that barrier that he had built between the two of them that made it hard for them to work together. The UFSDTT knew of this barrier, so Denner couldn’t help but wonder why they had sent him.

Denner turned her head as Major Kincaid approached. When he reached her he stood there wanting to say something, but not knowing how. “What is it?” Denner asked him bluntly.

“Why did you tell us that you had to take Ronoff alive when that didn’t matter?” he asked in a harsh whisper.

“This does not concern you,” she told him in a low voice.

“It is not for you to say what does and doesn’t concern me. I say it does and you should have told us the truth. You’ve been lying to us all this time, and I don’t know what you think you were doing, but it was wrong.”

“Major Kincaid, it is not for you to dictate to me how I do my job,” Denner said, every word sounding like a threat.

“Well someone seems to have to since you weren’t doing it very well.”

“And you think you are to be that person? May I remind you that I am more a senior in my position then you are in yours. And that fact has shown itself more than once.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you don’t have the experience or the expertise that it takes—”

“I do my job just fine,” he cut in with a growl.

“Is that how you explain running off to catch the ‘bad guy’ when other precautions should have been taken.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The first time you met me and were confronted with Ronoff. My job was to catch him, yours was to stay with Da’an and protect him.”

“Now you listen—”

“If Ronoff had come back there would be no one who could proficiently protect Da’an, because none of their weapon would have been strong enough. That is if by now you have stopped caring about his safety.”

“And would about when Lili shot him?” he asked determined to prove she was wrong.

“It was only because I had worn him down, and unless you have forgotten, he recovered quickly.”

“But—”

“So I suggest, Major, that you not give me pointers on my job, until you know how to do your own. Luck runs out,” she said as though it was a promise. Denner turned to walk away.

“I know what I’m doing,” Liam told her back. She had gone too far, and he was angry.

“You know nothing,” she said in a low, harsh voice as she whirled around to face him, “but the sound of your own voice. You always said loyalty, but that’s not what you think. It was the power always the…” Denner cut herself off, and looked around quickly taking deep breaths. “Excuse me,” she said shakily. And turned and walked from the room.

Liam had no idea what to think of her words. She was deeply misinterpreting his actions. He had loyalty, and he would never betray that loyalty.

When Liam looked around he noticed that their conversation had drawn some attention, the attention was everyone that was in the room--excepting Hughs who was deep in his computer data--even though he was sure that some of that conversation couldn’t have been heard, especially the last part. Lili shook her head in disapproval, then her eyes turned to and followed Denner. Da’an let his head lower. Ronoff looked humorous; and as for Terry, well Liam couldn’t figure out what he might be thinking.

Then what Denner had just said penetrated his thoughts. If none of the security guards’ weapons would have been strong enough, why would she think that he had a weapon that was. Unless…his Sha’karava. Some how she knew exactly who he was. He should expect it, he told himself, she is from the future.

Lili shook her head at Liam’s action. Yes she disapproved what he had done. She had told him not to go and confront Tara with the news, because she knew that Tara must have had her reasons. She thought that it would be for the best that Liam knew the truth that Terry had told her about Tara’s mission, but now she wished she hadn’t told him.

***

Tara Denner leaned heavily against the wall outside of Da’an’s office. She pulled a shaking hand through her short hair and took a couple of deep breaths. She had to hold it together. This had never happened before, she had never confused someone’s past with there future, and she was determined that it wouldn’t happen again. She had broken nearly every rule of the UFT for this trip, and could only hope that it had not been in vain.

She looked to the entrance of the office. She had to go back in, and when she did, she had to act as though nothing had happened. She would go straight to Hughs to see if he needed anything. If he didn’t then she’d think of something else.

***

Denner stood on the balcony and looked out into the night, which would soon turn to day. Hughs hadn’t needed her help, so she had found her way up here, with a lot of memories. She heard the soft footsteps coming to her, but did not turn to see who it was. She knew who it was. Her back became rigid as she barred herself away from any and all emotion.

Da’an stood next to her in silence for a moment, then said, “You find much trouble in this mission.”

“Yes,” she answered in monotone.

“And much thought. You try not to reveal too much of the knowledge of your time, yet have you not considered that it is the very information that you give that may set in motion what will happen.”

“It may also be what changes the future. It’s like telling someone that they are going to die and seeing them resolve themselves to it, when they are supposed to do something important before they go.” Denner looked down and continued, “I did that once.”

“And it did not change your time?”

“No, I made sure that it got done.”

“If you had not, how do you know that it would have if you did not do it yourself.”

“I don’t,” she said with a small smiled. The smile slowly disappeared as she fought to gain an emotional distance.

Da’an could sense the wall that she was putting up between them and felt regret because of it. She had smiled and relaxed for a moment but she would not allow herself to lift this strange guilt that she held.

“I can’t do this,” Denner said suddenly, her voice quivering.

Da’an had been looking out of the window throughout their exchange of words, but he now turned his head and looked at her, surprised by Denner’s sudden words. “Yes, you can,” Da’an assured her insistently.

“What do I do?” she asked in a whisper, her eyes closed.

“What you must.”

Denner opened her eyes and looked at him, and her green eyes seemed to turn blue in her remembrance of those same words that she had once heard long ago. She looked away quickly and closed her eyes once more; she lowered her head. “Thank you,” she said, in a whisper that seemed more her own thought than conscious verbal words. “Thank you for everything you have ever done, and I’m sorry for all those times that-that I failed or wasn’t good enough.” Denner brought her hand up to her head and pulled her fingers through her hair. Taking her hand from her hair, she looked at the white glove that she still wore. Gloves that were too much an instinct to wear.

Da’an knew the importance of the words that Denner spoke, but he did not know their meaning. He could not deny the possibility that Denner had known him in her life time. Her words had shown that they knew each other well. She had shown her fear, and her uncertainty to him, and he knew that she would not confess to those things easily. She thanked him for “everything” he had done for her and apologized for “all those times” that she had failed. Yes, she knew him, it was the only possibility that could bring forth those words. But who was she to him. Looking closely at her face, he was almost reminded of Captain Marquette, and he hardly knew why. He looked away and out of the window. Not just the way she looked reminded him of Captain Marquette, but some of her mannerisms as well. Captain Lili Denner Marquette. The thought startled him. Denner. He looked back to her quickly. It could explain her openness to Captain Marquette, Captain Marquette was her ancestor…but if Captain Marquette was one of her ancestors, who was the other? Who had Captain Marquette…?”

Da’an let his eyes fall downward, then turned his head toward the window once more, and pulled himself away from those thoughts. Yet why would she chose the name “Denner” and not use another surname, unless she had chosen it in the real surnames stead. Or perhaps she was not Captain Marquette’s descendant. But something inside of him told him it was true, the same force through which he felt a connection to her. Yet there was something more that she carried around inside of her. Something that might give an answer to many questions.

From where they stood, Hughs, Lili and Liam watched the two. Liam wouldn’t have paid much attention if Hughs and Lili had not turned to watch the pair. Now he could see the connection. He didn’t have to hear the words that were spoken, because he could see Denner’s reaction to what ever it was, a very strong reaction.

Lili could see it as well. She had not really seen Tara’s coldness fade until now--if you discount when Tara had talked to her about Ronoff’s sister, but even then Tara had been fighting for control. It was clear that Tara had known Da’an once in her life--known him well enough to trust him. As she watched them, she hadn’t realized that a smile had formed on her face. For two seconds she had had an odd feeling of worry thinking about a connection, but that worry had only lasted for two seconds. A feeling of pride rose inside her after those seconds, but she hardly knew why—

“YOU LYING SON OF A—” Ronoff yelled. The yell caught every one’s attention. Ronoff had some how gotten free and was struggling with Terry to get the gun from his hand. A shot fired and Ronoff fell.

Denner had come running at the first sight of the struggle but arrived too late. “Micheal?” She knelt by Ronoff and touched his cheek.

He opened his eyes and looked into Tara’s. “What a hell of a thing for me to die looking at.” He was saying as Lili arrived next to them.

“Your not going to die, Micheal,” Tara stated.

“I think that I can disagree with you there,” he said, then squinted his eyes from the pain. He took her hand in his and said, “I was wrong, Tara. I’m sorry. Forgive me, before I go.”

“Micheal don’t sound so melodramatic. You’re not going anywhere.”

Micheal Ronoff laughed slightly, then grew serious. “I am, Tara. Forgive me, I know it wasn’t you that….”

“Of-of course I forgive you. It was an honest mistake.”

“Nothing honest about it,” he said weakly.

“Micheal? Micheal! Don’t you leave me too,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry for leaving you,” he said in a whisper, “but…I can’t…seem…to…Denner…th-the-he killed her,” he said urgently. He was trying to tell her something. And his body relaxed in a way that could only come with oblivion.

“Good-bye, Micheal,” Tara whispered as the fingers of her hand came to rest over his eyes and closed the vacant orbs. His figure slowly vanished from that time.

“What’s happening to his body?” Lili barely heard Liam’s question to Hughs.

“The TF device that allows us to travel through time can sense life signs. When those cease the TF does as well, and the person goes back to their own time. We can’t go leaving corpses around, after all,” Hughs smiled slightly, but with out much humor, and it quickly faded.

Tara got up and faced Terry. “How did he get free?” she demanded as she blinked her tears away. It was all Lili could do not to reach out and take a hold of Tara.

“I don’t know,” he said unsure. “One minute he was secured and the next he was free trying to get the gun out of my hand. If I hadn’t killed him, he would have killed me.”

Tara was about to make a reply when a voice came from the entrance of Da’an’s office. “Don’t listen to him,” the voice said in deep breaths. “He’s lying.”

They turned to see Terry at the entry way. He stood with his feet spread, breathing deeply.

Tara’s gun was already in her hand, just as quickly as Lili had gotten her own. Tara backed away from the Terry that she had stood next to, but didn’t go to the Terry at the door. Lili followed suit, but then went to Da’an to stand in front of him, and saw Liam do the same. As Tara backed away from Terry, he raised his gun to the entrance. “Don’t do it Terry,” she warned raising her own gun.

“It’s me, Denner,” he said in reply.

“I can’t be sure of that.”

“It’s got to be the ACE. We should kill him.”

“You kill him, and I won’t hesitate to pull the trigger.” Denner said lowly.

“Will you just shoot the damn gun,” the Terry at the entry said.

“Alright,” she spoke to the Terry closest to her, “who should I shoot?”

“Both of us,” he told her. “Stun us both and I’ll prove it when there is no danger.”

“To Hell with that!” said the Terry by the entry way. “My father would have a fit if you turned that gun on me. I don’t care who you think you are, but your not doing it.” He took a step forward but leaned back against the wall, griping his head.

Denner let her gun slowly fall and said, to the Terry closest to her, “I think you just proved which is which.” She saw him smile. “Hughs,” Denner called.

“Yeah?”

“Go help Terry,” she said motioning to the entrance. Her gun went back up and the other Terry’s smile faded.

“Are you sure?” Lili asked.

“Positive. Only Terry would say that to me.”

“I see your point.”

“Denner,” pleaded the Terry that stood at the opposite side of Denner’s gun. “It is me. You know very well that taking both of us is the only way to make sure. It’s the ACE, Denner, can’t you see that. You know what they’re capable of.”

Her gun didn’t drop, nor did it falter. Now all remaining doubts had vanished. No one in the UFT knew that.

“Denner,” Came Hughs voice. “I don’t…that is to say…Are you sure which is which?” Hughs had stopped on his way to the Terry in the doorway on hearing the other Terry’s words.

Denner was silent, and unperturbed. Liam watched her, trying to figure out whether she was doubting her first conclusion, or not. He was certainly having his doubts.

Lili exchanged an uncertain look with Da’an and then Liam. Looking back to Tara she moved closer to her and the Terry on the other side of her gun. She tried to wash away the doubts that filled her, but Tara’s silence wasn’t helping. “Tara,” Lili spoke, “please tell me that your sure.”

“I am,” Denner stated, finally. “That is not Terry.”

Da’an heard the words and tried to resolve himself to them. But before much thought could be put into them, he saw a flash of a metal object as it flew out of the said false Terry’s hand to Tara and Captain Marquette. They had all moved out of the way, but in doing so were left vulnerable. He watched in horror as the Terry had grabbed Lili, disarming her, and held a gun to her neck.

“Don’t move, any of you! I don’t want to do this, Denner, it isn’t for us to hurt others, but you don’t leave me much choice,” that Terry said.

To test his strength, Lili struggled a little. She found that he was very strong.

“Put it down, Denner,” he said. She did, putting it down by her feet.

If she could hit him in the right place and twist out in the right way then she might be able to get free, Lili thought.

“Kick it away,” Terry was saying to Denner. Lili was about to try her plan but Tara caught her eye. Tara was trying to tell her something. Her head very slightly bobbed down then up. It was almost indiscernible, but Lili saw it and understood it. She gave a small nod. “Do it, Denner.” Terry yelled.

Tara looked back at him and said, “If that is what you wish.” When her foot hit the gun it didn’t go across the floor, it went up into the Terry’s face as Lili ducked. She was now loose, her gun in her hand once more, and she pointed it at her target.

“Very good,” he said, faltering and giving his real identity away. “Now I understand why Ronoff always took those extra precautions with you. I’ve never seen that move before. You seem to have me completely under your control.” He smiled slyly. He looked at those around him. Three guns pointed at him—the old man’s, and the two agents’ from the present time.

“Watch this one closely,” Denner said lowly. “Watch him very closely.” Denner then went to retrieve her gun.

Denner picked up her gun as Liam went to secure the mysterious man that had pretended to be Terry, whose eyes seemed to follow Liam.

Denner was examining her gun when Terry walked up to her. “You should be conserving your energy,” she said without looking up.

He said nothing until she looked up at him, then he spoke, “How long did it take you to realize that that wasn’t me?”

“It didn’t feel right to begin with,” she told me, “but I had no reason to doubt that it wasn’t you. It was when I ordered him to watch Ronoff, and he conceded without another thought, that I really became suspicious.”

“And my little remark helped you to decided completely,” he said finishing her narrative. “And you’re sure that I’m not just another imposter?” he asked sarcastically.

“Quite certain,” she stated then turned to her gun.

He gave a small laugh, then turned his own attention to the man who carried his face. It all seemed to be over. They would take the man back to their time and Denner would be revered as a success and he would be reprimanded to the greatest extent. Well so be it.

“Oh, yeah,” he said in remembrance. “There is a taxi in front of the building with a guy named Charlie in it. He’s waiting for his fare.”

“Charlie?” Lili repeated with a smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.”

“Now, Terry,” came Denner’s voice next to him, “all we have to do is figure out a plausible reason for your presence.”

“I should have known,” he said humorlessly. “You knew all along?”

“It wasn’t hard to deduce,”

“Really?”

“Yes. You were using out dated technology, which was the first and foremost clue. Your father would have never let you come using it,” after that said, she walked toward the ‘other’ Terry.

“You must be enjoying this,” that Terry spoke once face to face with him. “I know you’ve wanted this for a long time, Tara. And I’m sure you know exactly who I am.”

Tara Denner ignored his statement, and said instead, “You are in direct violation to the UFSDTT edict that states that one from our time cannot use the technology to disrupt the flow of time. It is also illegal to impersonate a UFSDTT officer. You are therefore under arrest for your crimes. You will be taken to the UFSDTT council where you will undergo a trial that will determine you fate.”

“You think so?” after that stated question the figure shifted and changed forms. He wore, no longer, the face of Terry, but a black mask and uniform that showed his ACE membership. As he had taken the others by surprise he overcame the hindrances of his restraints. He took, from one of his pockets, a small device and began to throw it as a strange energy came toward him. The device, however, was not stopped as it traveled through the air in the direction that the energy had come from. It hit Denner with enough force to push her back against Terry with a blast of light.

No one had remained standing—the ACE, himself, motionless on the floor. Lili lifted her head, and looked around in the clearing mist of her eyes. She blinked a few times, trying to restore her vision. As she stood, she saw Da’an lying not far from her. Worriedly she went quickly to him praying that she wasn’t too late, and that he was not hurt. “Da’an,” she said quickly, kneeling down next to him, when she reached him. When he turned his head too her, she sighed relieved and smiled, then held out her hand. He took it and rose from the floor with her help.

She saw Liam, near by, helping Hughs. Looking around the only other person she saw was the ACE. Neither Tara nor Terry were present. She walked forward giving another look around the room, but did not see them. She walked quickly to the ACE who laid on the ground still, barely conscious. Kneeling down she grabbed him by his shirt and hoisted him up slightly. “Where are they?” Marquette demanded.

He laughed behind his mask and said in a distorted voice, “Not just where, but God only knows when.”

“How do we get them back?!”

“You can’t,” he laughed more.

Liam came forward and helped Lili hall him up from the floor, then let go of him shaking his hands slightly and rubbing his palms from the small tingle he felt. “What do you mean ‘can’t’?” he asked, his tone not as harsh and demanding as Lili’s was, but still threatening.

The figure gave a distorted laugh. “Exactly what I said,” he told them with amusement. “They’re lost.” The figure focused on Liam “Your so naive to the possibilities,” he whispered to Liam.

“They can’t be,” Hughs said disbelieving and angry. “If they’re still alive I’ll find them.”

“Not likely, without their Time Fluctuator you can’t track them and they can’t return. They are lost, and you’ll never get them back.”

Da’an looked from Hughs to the ACE quickly; feelings of surprise, worry and panic mixed inside of him. That Denner was lost…He looked to Lili, then his eyes went back to Hughs’ questioning.

The ACE’s laugh was the final straw for Hughs, he walked forward in a rage, pulled his fist back and let it go. It hit the ACE straight in his face and ensured that the ACE wouldn’t laugh until he awoke from his unconsciousness, and even then Hughs would make sure that in was in a UFT prison cell. Hughs rubbed his knuckles in pleasure. “That felt good.”

“What happens now?” Marquette asked. Her words sounded uncertain and worried

“I go back with this…criminal so he can go to trial, and do my utmost at finding Denner and Terry.”

Liam touched the ACE’s mask.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you major,” Hughs said to Liam

“Why not?”

“Well…um…you see, there is a special device that keeps the identity of the ACE secret. It won’t be pleasant if you decide to test that device. Only the ACE can take off his own mask.”

Liam nodded and got up from the floor, still wondering who the man was under that mask. Liam looked around the room and saw Denner’s gun laying on the floor. He walked to it, then slowly bent over and retrieved it. It looked oddly fused. As he rolled it around in his hand that very hand tingled. He was examining it when Hughs walked up.

“I’ll have to take that,” Hughs told him.

“What happened to it?” Liam asked.

“Too much wear.”

“That meaning?”

“Too much power used from it. Its supply is burnt and when it’s burnt some of the particles fuse. That is why Denner took so much care of it. It looks like it’s been low on power for a while now,” Hughs said absently.

“Low on power?” Liam questioned. “Then what did she use on the ACE?”

Marquette and Da’an were listening intently to Hughs as he spoke to Liam. Hughs looked to them, and back to Liam. “She always has one trick or other at hand,” he said walking from them. When he reached his computer he typed some thing in and a face appeared on the screen.

“Yes Hughs?” the baritone voice said.

“My mission is complete,” he began, but the man stopped him.

“Hughs, the Chief wants to speak to you.”

After Hughs’ nod an older man appeared on the screen. His reddish gray hair and strong features were the same as Terry’s.

“I hear you’re returning,” the man known as Marcus Terry said.

“Yes, but not without bad news.”

“Yes we picked up Ronoff’s death. We have him now.”

“It’s not just that. Denner and Terry were lost.”

“What?” he asked ragged and confused. “What was Terry doing there.”

“I thought that you sent him.”

“No, we had an argument because…” he didn’t finish the statement. “I expect a full report when you return.”

“Yes, sir. Also, ready a confinement room. I’m bring an ACE back.”

“An ACE? I definitely expect a full report.”

“Yes, sir.” Hughs closed the link. After he had packed his things up he turned. “I believe it is our time to part my friends. I wish you well.”

“And you,” Liam said and offered a hand which Hughs took without hesitation. He noticed a same look of questioning in the majors eyes, most likely about Terry.

Hughs turned to Marquette, “Live well,” he told her. “And you the same,” he said to Da’an, with a smile. “You have much to do in your life.” He paused and looked from Da’an to Lili, “Much in both of your lives.”

Da’an nodded and said, “I wish you well.”

“Find them, please,” Marquette said softly.

“That I will,” Hughs assured her with a smile. “She’s always been like a daughter to me in some ways. I always hoped that her parents wouldn’t mind.”

“I’m sure they wouldn’t,” Marquette answered soulfully. “They would probably be honored.”

“Thank you,” he said earnestly and turned. “Well,” he said with a sigh. “I’d better get going.” He took his things to where he had set the TF 13 and waved one last time before he flipped the switch. His last words echoed in the room, “Always one trick or other.” It was Hughs’ deepest hope.

“What is it?” Lili asked Liam, after seeing a strange expression on his face.

“I don’t know,” he relied, looking at his hands as he rubbed his palms. “Some how it feels incomplete. Like…like…”

“Like there is something else that should have or is going to happen?” she finished.

“Yeah.”

“I feel it too.”

Da’an glanced at Captain Marquette and his protector out of the corner of his eyes. It was an odd expectancy that he felt as well. As well as an understanding. It was not that Tara Denner had another trick at hand, he saw it was from within her hand.

FIN??

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Copyright 1999 Cassie <cassie_efc@yahoo.com >.