Interlude

Taking place the night and next morning after Part Twelve ends

They were laughing at her. She just knew they were all laughing at her.

Diana ignored everyone as she walked down the corridor toward her office, promising herself she would one day get even with them all. As if the failure to capture the Barbarosian wasn't enough, it had been Steven who had lead the party who had come to the burning warehouse to retrieve her and what was left of her guard. There had been no outward signs of amusement but she was certain he had been laughing inside. And the others as well, smirking at her filthy uniform and the tear across her false human face ...

She swept into her office, stopping abruptly at the sight of Pamela sitting behind her desk, casually going through the reports there. Diana felt a flash of anger, an anger she quickly concealed as Pamela looked up.

"Diana. Feeling better?" She asked, her concern as false as her face and Diana felt her teeth grind.

"I feel fine." She lied, ignoring the beginnings of a headache.

"I just wanted to check up on you, after your experiences of yesterday." Pamela leaned back in the chair, waving Diana to another chair opposite her. Diana barely hid a glower at being ordered about in her own office but finally sat down. Pamela smiled slightly. "Why, Diana, didn't you report the presence of a Barbarosian on Earth?"

Diana knew that question was coming and smiled, answering smoothly. "Because I wasn't certain. There were rumors, yes, and some evidence but nothing certain. I thought if I could capture it ..."

"Using bait better used elsewhere." Pamela chided and Diana once again felt her teeth grind. She forced herself to relax.

"On the contrary. The boy is now a spy in their camp. Soon he will report to his grandmother the whereabouts of the Resistance's camp." She answered sweetly. "And she will report it to Steven."

"Perhaps." Pamela sounded unconvinced. "Meanwhile the Barbarosian is still out there, helping the humans ..."

Diana laughed, speaking scornfully. "Hardly. If he wasn't killed in the explosion, he surely drowned. My men were watching very carefully and he never surfaced ... what?" She demanded.

Pamela was looking at her almost sadly. "This is why scientific types should never be sent to do the military's job." She murmured almost sadly and Diana felt a rush of venom she barely managed to suppress. "But then, your predecessors were never able to use water in their experiments, were they?" Pamela sighed, barely managing to conceal her intense enjoyment. "Some races of Barbarosian are capable of breathing under water, Diana. And if this one is of the race that most resembles humans then I think we can safely say that he is alive and well, even as we speak."

"What?" Diana clenched her fists in rage. "How do you know this?"

"Just as they have had spies among us, we have had spies among them. Not nearly enough and none that have survived very long but we have gotten some information about them. Tell me, Diana, did you manage to see the Legacy mark behind the Barbarosian's ear?" Pamela asked innocently.

Diana gulped air. "No." She said shortly, refusing to admit she didn't know what that meant. By the smirk on Pamela's face, she wasn't fooled.

"Pity. We may have been able to find out his family from that."

"Why wasn't this information passed on?" Diana demanded, anger slurring her words.

"One would have thought that with all the experimentation done, you would have known." Pamela almost purred.

"As you said, my predecessors were never able to use water in any experiments." Diana resolved to double-check all the reports, to see what had been missed. And what a Legacy mark could be. "But again, we have a spy among them."

"A spy of limited use." Pamela murmured then, ignoring Diana's outraged look, continued in a more normal tone. "Meanwhile, there are new orders concerning the capture of any Barbarosian, as well as any major member of the Resistance. If a Barbarosian is captured, he is to be immediately placed in military custody. You will have a chance to ... examine him but first he will be interrogated properly."

"I am capable of interrogating a prisoner." Diana said coldly.

"I've no doubt about that. It's your ability to pass the information that I worry about."

Diana didn't bother to hide her glower this time.

"John agrees with me." A smile curved too-perfect lips. "That any Barbarosian be turned over to me first. I will stress the same with the other commanders."

"Fine. Once we've made the appropriate announcements, we should have ..."

"Announcements?" Pamela said sharply.

"Of course." Diana said smugly. "Steven is already setting up the arrangements. We make a special Announcements, letting the humans know that there is an alien species among them secretly and that they ..."

"We most certainly will not let the humans know there are other alien species!" Pamela hissed so fiercely that Diana stopped dead, staring at her in surprise. "We have worked too hard to convince them that there are no other species capable of space travel!"

Diana faltered, cursing herself for forgetting that. "An unknown species then ..."

"And give them the idea of perhaps forming ties with another species?" Pamela asked curtly.

"But if we present the Barbarosians as the enemy, that they are perhaps behind these resistance groups ..."

"It's possible that more humans will join the resistance, if they knew there were potential alien allies. Not to mention that if we do such a thing and the Confederation catches wind of it, they may start to take a serious interest in this planet and use our accusations as an excuse to do so. No, we can't take that chance. As far as the humans are concerned, we are the only other sentient species out there with space travel capability. A species that looks as they do." Pamela said scornfully. "That appeals to them and the majority of them never look any deeper. Give them the knowledge that there are other aliens out there and they may try to contact them." Her lips curved almost cruelly. "Like those fools who sent out that message some months ago. Well, we put a stop to that! The last thing we need is the humans calling for help. Someone just might answer."

Diana thought fiercely. "But there could be other Barbarosian on Earth. Will you warn the other commanders of that?"

"Just the commanders." Pamela stressed. "We don't need rumors running rampant through the ranks. Are there any humans that know of them?"

Diana's lips twitched. "Just Eleanor Dupres and she will say nothing. I promised her that once her grandson returns, she will be able to keep him."

The other woman nodded. "Good enough." Her smile sweetened and Diana tensed. "And how did the Barbarosian find out about your plan, Diana?"

"Donovan must have double-crossed us." She said tightly. "Eleanor would never had said a thing."

Pamela picked up a knick-knack from the desk, idly turning it in her fingers. "I agree with you, on the latter at least. This Eleanor reminds me of some of our people I know. Greedy for power and willing to destroy all to get it. Give her back her grandson and perhaps even her son, once he's been properly converted, and she will be ours forever."

"The announcement ..."

"Oh, there will be an announcement. Niles has written one up that will damn the resistance even further without any mention of other alien species. As for the Barbarosian, you will stress to Eleanor that she is not to say a thing about them to anyone. We will let the commanders know of the possibility of Barbarosian on Earth and some select, suitably converted humans as well. Any Barbarosian is be captured if possible, killed if not. Tell me, Diana, did you at least get the name this Barbarosian is currently using?"

Diana sucked in air, visibly fighting to control herself. "No."

Pamela shook her head sadly. "So we know nothing more about him then we did before. Pity." The woman rose gracefully. "There will be a meeting in an hour and the special announcement in three hours." She walked out the door, not bothering to look back.

Diana glowered after her, curses she didn't dare say out loud for fear she'd rip her mask running through her mind. Moving to her desk, she scanned the surface then the drawers. Nothing looked disturbed but that meant nothing. Pamela was very clever. She settled behind the desk and typed her code into the computer.

Forty minutes later she leaned back, frowning thoughtfully. There had never been any experiments using water on any Barbarosian. Not surprising really, considering their planet's lack of water resources but there were detailed reports of an organ located above the Barbarosians' lungs and a great deal of speculation of what it did. No one had ever even considered the possibility of it being used to breathe underwater. And as for that Legacy mark, there had been reports of a tattoo behind the captives' left ear but no indication of what it was for.

Diana looked at the computer without really seeing it. Apparently the military had information that was never passed on to the scientific community. Well, she'd see about that! For now though, she needed more information on this particular Barbarosian. Like it or not, she would need Steven's help for that.

She glanced at the time piece then pressed a button on her desk, ordering Steven to come at once to her office.


It was early morning when Julie stepped into the stable, surprised to see Fontana setting cross-legged on one of the long tables. He was absently carving something but glanced up as she approached.

"I wanted to catch you before you went inside." He answered her unspoken question then added. "And away from Kom as well."

"Why?" She asked bluntly and Fontana gave her a ghost of a smile as he set the carving and knife to one side.

"Because he'd be unhappy that I showed you this. And told you a few other things."

Julie groaned. "I'm getting so tired of secrets ..."

"Not secrets, not really." Fontana corrected. "But Kom is extremely stubborn and what you'd call hard-headed. It's unlikely he'll tell you these things himself, not until the last minute. Or maybe when it was already too late." He hesitated and Julie realized that Fontana wasn't entirely certain he wanted to tell her these things but obviously thought he had to. Because most likely Ham wouldn't.

The woman sighed, collapsing into the battered easy chair. 'Okay, let's hear it." She said in a resigned voice and Fontana smiled.

"It's mostly medical." He admitted and Julie's interest peaked. "It's not information we normally give out to non-Confederation species but it's stuff you may need to know. Especially given Kom's tendency to get wounded here." Fontana pretended not to notice Julie's wince. "But I don't advise trying any of this out on humans or using it to run tests on. Eventually Kom will need it and if it's not there ..." His voice trailed off and Julie felt a chill at the look in Fontana's eyes, reminding herself once again that, for all his friendliness, Fontana was as dangerous as Ham could ever be. She looked at the med case sitting on the table next to the man.

"What don't I know yet?" She asked. "So far, I've come to the conclusion that ninety percent of your medicines comes from a plant called the kuta ..."

"Almost true. More like seventy percent. And some of our deadliest poisons as well. And a very rare spice too." He grinned at the look on her face and shook his head." Someday when this is all over, if our peoples are on speaking terms, you'll hear the story of our wonder plant, trust me. Knowing Kom, he'll probably have your name at the top of the list to study it's effects on humans. But I'm wandering off the trail ..." He reached for the case. "This is what I wanted to show you."


An hour later, head still spinning from everything Fontana had told her, Julie watched as Fontana gingerly checked Ham's ears. Ham was grumbling words she couldn't understand under his breath, looking around grouchily and giving the impression he wanted to pound something. She stayed very carefully out of his reach, just in case. He glared at her balefully and she smiled sweetly back, which only made him glare harder.

"A little infection." Fontana said. "Just a very little." He added hastily at the alarmed look in Julie's eyes. "Should clear up by morning. But." He turned to Ham, signing. "You stay in for the next few days and rest."

Ham frowned, signing something sharply. Fontana shook his head firmly but that only made Ham sign something else. "Julie! Talk to him. I think you'll have to make it an order." Fontana finally said in frustration.

Julie stepped closer and gripped Ham's shoulder to get his attention but he looked away, refusing to see her. She frowned, hesitating briefly before raising her hand and dealing him a hard blow on the shoulder with the palm of her hand. He looked at her, surprised.

"You stay inside today." She ordered firmly, leaving him no doubt that it was an order. He looked at her for a moment then looked away again. Fontana, however, looked relieved.

"He'll obey."

"I hope I don't have to do that often." She shook her hand gingerly.

Fontana grinned. "Once he can hear again, you won't have to. Right now, he's being stubborn just to be stubborn. And because he thinks he can get away with it. It's been a long time since he's felt comfortable enough to act ..."

"Juvenile?" Julie supplied. Despite the oddness of the situtation, a part of her was pleased to realize that Ham felt that comfortable in her presence.

"Exactly." Fontana rose and walked over to the refrigerator, pulling out a covered bowl. Ham looked up, nostrils flaring then he glanced at Julie almost apologetically. Julie was confused until Fontana removed the cover to reveal cut up chunks of raw meat.

"You went hunting last night?" Julie said in surprise and Fontana half-grinned.

"Ully and Reginald did. Kom needs the protein. What's so funny?" Fontana asked, glaring at a laughing Ham.

"He expected me to be revolted. And I am, a little, so don't start eating until I'm gone."

"No worries. I need to warm it up a little." Fontana commented. "Raw meat cold isn't so good."

Julie nodded then looked directly at Ham, speaking clearly. "The girls want to come over to say good-bye."

Ham nodded. "After we eat. An hour or so." His voice was off and too loud.

Julie nodded then turned at a sizzling sound. Fontana had dumped some of the meat in a frying pan and was stirring it lightly to brown it. The smell of cooking meat filled the air and Julie heard her stomach rumble, reminding her that a single donut did not make a very filling breakfast.

"I better go get something to eat."

Fontana nodded, scooping meat from the pan onto a plate and adding more meat to the pan. "Just a suggestion, Julie." He said, his back to them both. "You might want to have Maggie help with nursing Kom once I've left."

"Maggie? Why ..." She paused, glancing at Ham but he was intent on the meat and didn't notice her thoughtful look. It occurred to her that he had no idea what Fontana had just said.

"Just a thought." Fontana turned to shove a plate of steaming meat across the table to Ham, along with a fork. Ham scowled at the fork but took it up and used it to spear up the meat. Fontana set a tall glass of milk down before looking directly at Julie, his expression innocent. "She seems to get along very well with Kom. I think he'll listen to her."

Julie studied him for a long moment, "Yeah, I think he will. I'll see what I can set up. I better get going. Later." She slipped from the RV, closing the door behind her then leaning against it, her thoughts churning.

"You look like you're having an epiphany." Reginald sat on the back of the sofa, balancing a feather on his nose. He snorted, sending it into the air then maneuvering to catch it once more.

"I think I am." Julie shook her head hard to clear it of confusing thoughts. "That isn't one of Ully's feathers, is it?"

"Hah! Hardly. Found it somewhere. You did good, by the way, securing the saloon. I could get in only by way of the roof and Alice caught me coming down. Woman has an odd sense of humor."

"Not going there. And Ully?"

"He got in only by camouflaging himself. Of course, we're a lot smaller and smarter then anything the phrashi could send."

"True." She stopped, struck by a sudden thought. "Do they ..."

"No, they don't have anything like us. They may have spy machines but nothing as clever or as flexible ... or as handsome ... as us." He snorted the feather back into the air and watched regretfully as the wind caught it up and spun it away.

Julie laughed, mostly in relief.

"So how's Kom doing?"

"Grumpy."

"That's why I'm out here and not in there."

"Smart." Julie started for the doors.

"He'll be all right. They're a tough species. And it isn't your fault, you know."

Julie stopped dead then turned and walked back to the sofa.

"That is what you're thinking, isn't it? You should have seen something, you should have done something ... " The fox looked up at her. "The question is, what should you have seen? What should you have done?"

Julie opened her mouth to answer then closed it.

"Exactly. What is the Earth saying? 'Hindsight is twenty-twenty.' Besides, we both know whose fault this is. Speaking of which ..." The fox looked toward the door and Julie turned to see Donovan walk in.

Donovan frowned at the fox before turning his attention to Julie. "How's he doing?"

Julie gently but firmly wrapped her hand around the fox's muzzle. "As well as can be expected." She said pleasantly, ignoring the sound of wheezing coming from under her hand. "He can't hear a thing and he's hurting badly, not to mention that he's grouchy as hell and taking it out on poor Fontana."

"Can't ... breathe ..." The fox mumbled.

"You don't breathe." Julie pointed out, releasing his muzzle.

"Oh, right."

"I highly recommend you stay away from the stable, at least until Fontana's gone. Ham's hurting too badly to do much damage but Fontana's capable of doing quite a bit. And I doubt Ham would bother trying to call him off."

"And you?"

Julie threw him a surprised look. "I have no authority to call Fontana off, Mike. He won't listen to me. He barely listens to Ham."

"Smart woman." Reginald said approvingly.

Donovan turned his attention to the fox. "You wouldn't know anything about a dead rat in my bed?" He asked crossly.

"Dead rat? No, of course not. That must have been Ully. I go more for live snakes." He gave Donovan a sharp-toothed grin.

"I'm going to keep sleeping out in the main body of the trailer until you guys are gone." Julie broke in. "No live snakes. No dead ones either."

"Party-pooper." The fox muttered as he jumped down onto the sofa and then to the floor. He trotted out the door, muttering something about a stolen feather.

"First my clothes are all torn up and now there's dead rat all over the bed!" Donovan said in disgust.

"If it weren't a rat, I'd say it was Polly but she's gotten rather fond of Ham's Pular Singe stories." There was no sympathy in Julie's voice. "Don't worry. They're leaving tonight. Then you just have to worry about Ham."

"Meaning?"

"Meaning nothing actually. I don't think Ham intends any revenge." She ignored the muffled 'hah!' that came from the eavesdropping fox. "He's a professional and he's going to act like a professional. Even if it means working with a man who very nearly got him killed."

"Captured, tortured, declawed, blinded, crippled ..."

"Reginald!"

"Yes?" The fox popped his head around the corner, looking as innocent as a fox possibly could. "My feather's gone. Have you seen it?"

"It blew away." She walked over to pick him up.

"Hey! Dangling feet! That's better." The fox settled into Julie's arms. "They're packing the van up."

Julie glanced toward the trailer to see that Robert and Father Andrew were indeed packing up the van.

"Yeah, I was wondering about that." Donovan came up behind her.

Julie looked around and then stepped back into the stable, tugging Donovan back with her. "The official story is that Robin and the girls are going to Chicago to live with an old friend of Linda's until the baby's born. They'll hook up with Fontana some miles away. Them going off-world isn't something everyone needs to know."

"Of course, we are assuming they don't already know." The fox gave Donovan a hard look and the man gritted his teeth but before he could make a sharp retort, he realized Julie was looking at him with pretty close to the same expression.

"Hey! You know me better then that!"

"I did. Once." Julie shook her head. "Like it or not, Mike, it's going to take awhile before I can ever completely trust you again. The only reason I'm telling you this is because you already know about the baby's parentage and the girls leaving. All I ... we ... can do is hope you didn't tell your mother about any of this."

"Or anyone else, for that matter. Like maybe that scaly buddy of yours." Reginald spoke up.

Donovan flushed angrily. "Julie, I haven't mentioned anything to anyone inside or outside the group. The Visitors knew about Tyler on their own. In fact, I kinda got the impression that he's the only one they know about."

"I suspect he's the only one they know about for certain." Reginald said then he grinned. "But I bet the old rumors are flying." The fox stopped suddenly, looking thoughtful. "You know, that's not a bad idea ..." His voice faded.

"What's not a bad idea?" Julie asked as the fox's silence stretched on.

"Uh? Oh. Generating rumors about who might be on this planet. It may keep the Visitors off-balance. Put me down please, I need to find Ully. Thank you." The fox started across the street then darted to one side with a whooped 'Hey! My feather!'. Snatching up the wayward feather, the fox ran across the street and into the saloon. The guards only gave him a passing look as he ran under the door.

"I thought the guards were supposed to keep unauthorized ... people out of the saloon." Donovan asked resentfully.

"If we're having a meeting, yes. We're still using the main room for other things. And the back rooms are off-limits." She started for the van. "Besides, Ully and Reginald have been testing out our security systems."

"You trust them to do that?"

"At this time, Mike, I don't have a reason not too. Everything set?" Julie asked Robert.

"Yeah. They'll be leaving in an hour, hour and a half. They want to see Ham first. And Polly wants to return his medallion."

"He said to send them over in about an hour. He should be done eating by then and cleaned up. Did you manage to get the translating done?

"We put together an alphabet and a guide to translating so we should be able to translate anything that's in the Visitors' main language. Anything in dialect we won't be able to handle."

There was a sudden shout and a series of curses that sent the four of them spinning around, reaching for weapons. Hansen was glaring after a speeding Reginald, who was running for them full-out. Ignoring Hansen, the fox tried to stop but ended up skidding into the van's wheel, bouncing off to sprawl in the dirt. That didn't stop him from passing on the message he carried.

"You might want to get into the saloon, Julie. The Visitors are making an announcement."

"Damn!" They ran for the saloon. After a moment, Reginald rolled back to his feet and followed.

Maybe a quarter of the adult population of the camp crowded into the room and around the television set above the bar. On the small screen, a broadly smiling Eleanor was speaking but Julie missed what she was saying when Ully muttered a question almost in her ear.

"Who's that?"

"Eleanor Dupres. Visitor spokesperson. Mike's mother." She muttered back.

"Well, that explains a lot." Reginald's voice came from about ankle-high and Julie took a sharp step backwards. Reginald yelped as she came down firmly on his paw and he glowered up at her.

"Quiet, both of you. I need to hear this." Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Donovan flush and knew he had heard what the fox had said but she had no time to soothe his feelings as she listened to the announcement.

" ... first shipment of the planet-saving chemicals are now leaving the planet." A cutaway scene of a Visitor mothership leaving the airspace above what looked like Tokyo filled the screen. "Ten of the motherships will be leaving Earth's orbit and returning to their home world today, bearing within them millions of tons of the chemical that will help save their world."

"Eh gads. Someone get me an airsick bag." Ully said as John appeared on the screen. "Is she always so ..."

"Vapid?" Reginald offered.

"That works."

"She's smart." Julie said. "Which is one of the things that makes her so dangerous."

"Along with greedy, power-hungry, and totally without a conscience." Robert supplied.

"Yes, those pesky things do tend to get in the way." Reginald jumped up onto a barstool and then onto the bar to sit down. "Ten motherships ... how many humans per ship?"

"Maybe ten thousand." Donovan answered. "A hundred thousand humans." He threw Reginald a resentful look. "Can't the Confederation do anything?"

"Like what?" Reginald said in a reasonable tone. "The Visitors aren't stupid enough to go into Confederation territory. If they did, they could be stopped and searched ... trust me, there are Arbitrator ships patrolling our borders just waiting for the chance. No, they are skirting around Confederation territory and the beings whose territory they are going through aren't powerful enough to do anything about it."

"On the upside, them having to go around our territory puts at least a year's travel onto the itinerary." Ully, now a metallic silver, said from his perch near Robert.

"So there's no way the Confederation can do anything?" Donovan persisted.

"Not without a legitimate excuse to stop and search Visitor ships outside of our territory." Absently the fox trapped his tail with a paw and studied the white tip intently. "The Confederation may be one of the strongest, most powerful entities in the known universe but that doesn't gives us the right to run ramshod over other planets and entities. We have to respect the borders. Trust me when I say interplanetary war is not fun. We had one once, we prefer never to have another. What was that?" The fox looked at the television. Eleanor was looking suitably grim as she spoke.

" ... a terrorist attack on a small factory outside Los Angeles destroyed vital components for the cure for cancer given to us by the Visitors ... "

"She's talking about the warehouse." Caleb said in disgust.

"What damn cure?" His son said at the same time.

" ... several lives were lost in the attack, which was apparently lead by the LA group lead by this woman ..." A picture of Julie flashed on the screen. "... Juliet Parrish and ... " A look of profound sadness followed by righteous indignation crossed the woman's face. "... Michael Donovan." A picture of Donovan appeared next to Julie's.

"Apparently they haven't heard of the new pecking order." Ully mussed.

"Hush. Something's missing here." Reginald stood up and moved closer to the screen, watching until the announcement had ended and regular programming returned. "She should have been an actress." The fox grunted. "Interesting. They didn't mention Kom. Or the fact that there are aliens other then them on this planet."

"Is that good or bad?" Robert asked.

"Fifty-fifty. Having it public knowledge would have caused you problems but my guess is that it would have caused them even more, in the long run. On the other hand, it could fit nicely into my suggestion." Jumping down from the bar, Reginald trotted over to a nearby table and jumped onto it by way of a pulled-out chair. He nosed papers aside until he found the one he wanted. Pulling it out, he looked around. "Here ... do we really need an audience?"

Julie looked around. "People! Back to what you were doing! Aren't you supposed to be on sentry duty?" She asked Hansen sharply and the man flushed. She watched as people left the saloon until only a handful remained. "And your suggestion is ..."

"A pretty good one." Caleb sat down. "I'm surprised we didn't think of it sooner, except that we were trying to keep the fact that Ham was alien under wraps." He waved a hand at the paper Reginald had in his mouth. "Rumors."

Julie took the offered paper and ran an eye over it.

"Here's the plan." Reginald pointed a paw at Donovan. "You have a hotline into the Fifth Column. So you take these rumors and a few more we're working on and get them to your contact. She ..."

"He." Donovan corrected.

Reginald snorted and Robert grinned. "Fine, he can spread them out to the other motherships so different rumors appear in different places. Then they let them leak, a few at a time. The rumors will spread and there'll be more then a few Visitors jumping at shadows."

"I like that plan." Elias said approvingly. "Should we spread them too?"

Reginald started to speak then paused, looking thoughtful. "Might not be a bad idea. Humans shouldn't know about anything on that list but maybe a human could hint to a Visitor that she'd overheard other Visitors talking about something ... maybe make a joke out of it."

Elias grinned, looking at the list over Julie's shoulder. "Yeah. I can see some great possibilities here."

"Is Coyote really in St. Louis?" Julie asked in a bemused tone.

"Actually, last I heard he was in New York, along with, Trinity help us all, Herself." That brought an alarmed squawk from Ully but Reginald ignored him as he continued hastily. "But don't mention Herself. As for the locations, we only want to to spread uncertainty among the Visitors, not tell them where anyone is. That's why everything is so vague. Though some of them have a hint of truth in them. The Piper is in Australia but Australia's a big place and I doubt they could find him, even if they looked. Which I doubt they would. They believe, quite wrongly, that he doesn't exist. Hawk is on Earth ... kinda. Coyote is here ... somewhere. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to have the rumor change so some say he's in St. Louis and others in Seattle ... you get the drift."

"Why would things like this bother the Visitors?" Maggie asked.

"Because despite the various Leaders' best attempts over the last several centuries., they would never have been able to eradicate the old stories and legends. And you know how such things grow over the centuries. Admint it, wouldn't you wonder, just a little, if you heard from a reliable source that Dracula was currently touring North America?"

"Dracula's fiction." Donovan pointed out.

"But Vlad the Impaler is not." Robert countered. "And that's where Dracula came from. A story about a mad ruler who killed tens of thousands becomes the story of a undead creature who drinks blood. When ... whatever it was happened centuries ago, the stories and tales the Confederation brought with them would have stayed on." Robert began to pace, eyes glinting with thought. "And they most likely would have been changed to reflect the Visitors' changing views of the Confederation. Heroes would have become villains, simple abilities would have been transformed into great and evil powers. They would have become the bad guys."

"So we start dropping hints that they are here, on Earth. Or on their way." Julie said approvingly. "Or maybe even just interested with what's going on with Earth."

"But carefully." Reginald cautioned. "The rumors have to deal with individuals. The Confederation should never be mentioned. And neither can smugglers or goods being brought to Earth."

"But the high-ups will just deny everything." Donovan pointed out.

"They can deny all they want." Reginald snorted. "These rumors will be spread among the underlings and the grunts. By the time those in command find out, Visitors will be jumping at shadows all over the place." The fox absently began to pace, forehead crinkled in thought. "In fact you might ... oooooff!" There was a crash as Reginald walked off the table and tumbled to the floor. Ully, shrieking with laughter, barely recovered in time to flap out of the fox's reach.

"You might want to pace on the floor." Julie suggested, barely managing to keep a straight face.

"Yeah, right." The fox muttered, glowering up at the still snickering hawk. "Where was I? Right. It might not be a bad idea to spread the rumor that there is a Barbarosian with your group."

"Would that be safe?" Julie asked.

"I don't know." The fox admitted. "You should talk to Kom about it first. But it's more then likely the rumor is already spreading. There were troopers at the warehouse, right?" Reginald asked Donovan.

"Yeah."

"You really think they're not going to say anything? No matter how scared they may be of Diana, someone's going to whisper the news that a Barbarosian is on Earth to a friend." He shook himself. "Linda and I are going to work out some more appropriate rumors. You'll have to run them past Kom first."

"And then we'll get them to spreading." Elias grinned.

Julie nodded as she set the paper back down. "Did you get all the depositions together?" She looked at Father Andrew.

"Yeah. Ham's been going though them. He'll bundle them up and have them ready before we leave."

"That's what those were for?" Donovan said, surprised. Alice, Linda, and Robin had gone around a day or two ago, handing out writing material and requesting that everyone write out a deposition about what they knew about the Visitors and what the Visitors had done to them. Some were heartbreakingly short, like Katie's simple "They killed my mommy" while others were long and detailed. Julie had spent hours on hers, detailing everything she could remember of the conversion process, sometimes writing through a blur of tears. She hadn't wanted to write it down but Father Andrew had insisted, almost bullying her through it, telling her that she was the only one available who had gone through the process and therefore the only one who could write about it. Write everything about it, no matter how much it might hurt. Besides, he had continued in a gentler voice, it would make her feel better. And, to her surprise, it had.

"We're making copies to keep for here, to hide away someplace safe but yes, that's what they're for. Ham thought it would help. We've got depositions from outside the group as well. The Bernsteins, some others. And, you may not believe this, but we got one from Willie as well."

"Willie?" Donovan said in surprise.

"He wanted to write one out telling everything they were told about Earth and humans. Father Andrew will take them with him, to present to the Confederation."

"Will they do any good?"

"I don't know." Julie looked at the fox, who was making it a point to look elsewhere. "Reginald?"

After a moment, Reginald meet her eyes with an odd shrug. "Relatively speaking, Kom's family has a great deal of influence. His mother runs a planet, one grandfather is the Master of the Smugglers Guild, the other was the Commander of the Garrison for decades, there have been three members of the Four Quarters in their line. His brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles populate high positions all over the Confederation. But they are still only one family. They can only try."

"Well, that's all we can ask for." Julie sighed.


Author Notes: Nothing to see here ... Move along ...

Send Email
Part Twelve || Home || Interlude