Julie never found out exactly what happened in the stable the previous night. All she knew was that all the participants ... Ham, Chris, Alice, Maggie, Robert, Sancho, Rico, Elias, Caleb, Fontana, a few others ... spent the next two days at the mock church, working at cleaning it up. All of them, even the two Barbarosians, looked more then a little hung over but no one complained as they cleaned out the trash and did what repairs they could. All of the women and some of the men occasionally burst into uncontrollable giggles. When she ventured to ask Father Andrew what had happened, he'd just said that he'd caught them doing something they shouldn't have been doing and took the opportunity to guilt-trip them into fixing up the church. She never found out what it was they were doing and she wasn't ever too sure she wanted to know.
While most people in the group concentrated on relaxing with a vengeance, Donovan left the next day to meet with several of his contacts. Julie found herself too busy to miss him as she stepped from the role of resistance leader to recreational director, determined, with Father Andrew's help, to keep the games clean and safe. Which is how she found herself refereeing a football game in progress. Or rather, not in progress.
"Damn it, Tyler! Stop catching the ball with your claws!" Elias yelled for the second time in the first half. Tyler was holding the deflating football, eyeing it almost sadly while the majority of the field howled with laughter.
"This is why my people don't have any games that involve air-filled objects." Tyler grumbled, tossing the ball to one side. It landed next to another football, much more severely deflated. "And I am not catching them with my claws! Exactly."
"You ever think of declawing ..." Sancho started jokingly then stopped dead at the sudden fierce amber-eyed look Tyler gave him, a look that softened almost immediately.
"Sorry, slick." Tyler said apologetically. "Just not a good idea to mention declawing around a Barbarosian. That's one of the things commonly done to a captured Barbarosian." He looked off in the distance, where the mothership could be dimly seen. "They cut our claws out."
Julie shuddered, thinking of what it would feel like, to have claws cut out. Probably like having your fingernails pulled out. She could hear Sancho apologizing then Chris, returning from the stable, tossed a pair of leather gloves to his friend. "Here. These'll help."
Tyler grunted, pulling on the gloves, smiling slightly for no reason Julie could see as Chris handed a second pair to Fontana. "We got another ball?" Chris tossed him the one he'd brought with him. Tyler caught then passed it on to Elias. "Sure you don't wanna play, Parrish? We could use another person ..." There was a teasing note in his voice.
"Haha." Julie grinned suddenly, an impish look that made her look even more like a kid. "I'm enjoying the show too much." The game was skins versus shirts and a number of the camp's women were on the sidelines, enjoying a rare opportunity to ogle the men. Tyler's side were the skins.
For once Fontana, playing on Tyler's side, was wearing sneakers, as was Tyler himself. This had puzzled Julie until Tyler had explained that while there was little chance of accidentally hurting anyone with the claws on their fingers, in a pile up someone could land on their bare feet and get clawed that way. Fontana was obviously unhappy with having to wear the shoes and now gloves but otherwise he seemed to be having fun. Not so the other side, who were finding that the slender Barbarosian was extremely good at slithering through tight openings or, if need be, simply leaping over the opposition.
"I thought you guys could run real fast." Linda said during a break. "Like when you grabbed up Katie that day."
Tyler poured water over his head, shaking his hair to get rid of the excess. "Just for very short distances. I can run steady all day, if need be but those bursts of speed can be killers. They wear us out faster then pretty much anything else can ... if we do it too much." He ran his hands through his hair, pushing it back and squeezing water from it. Julie caught a glimpse of the tattoo behind his ear then he let his hair fall back into place, once again covering it. "So we don't do it often. Just when absolutely necessary." He took a soda from the cooler. "What's up there?" He nodded back toward the camp and Julie looked back, feeling a pang of dread. She felt an even sharper one when she realized what Tyler had spotted.
"I take it your eye's healed." She remarked in an attempt to avoid answering. She knew it wouldn't work even before Tyler gave her a sharp look. While there was still some discoloring around his right eye, it was obvious his eye was working fine. "Harmony thought Willie could use some fresh air. Both she and Caleb are with him." She said, meeting Tyler's narrowed eyes with a level gaze. It was obvious he didn't like it but, to her surprise, he just looked at the trio in the distance, his face expressionless. "He'll be back inside before we return to camp." Julie said firmly and Tyler looked at her in surprise. She smiled slightly and, after a moment, he nodded.
"Fontana, behave." He said sternly and Julie noticed that the other man was looking after the trio as well, his own eyes narrowed. "Come on, let's get back to the game."
They had two and a half days of activities that had nothing to do with the Visitors or fighting before reality set back in. A grim message came to the group stating that over two-thirds of the Playa Del Mar Resistance had been wiped out in a raid on their headquarters. Julie found herself staring at the message with a mixture of anger and grief until Tyler finally pried it from her hands and read it himself.
"They want help with a Visitor instillation." He said tonelessly. "What do we know about this group?"
"Does it matter?" Julie asked angrily.
"It might." He tossed the message onto a nearby table. "How was their HQ found? Did the survivors get away or were they allowed to get away? Or maybe they were captured and then allowed to get away. It could be a trap."
A part of her wanted to scream at him but the leader part of her reflected that he could be right. He was looking at her coldly and she could see the old Ham Tyler in his eyes, waiting for her to screw up. She gulped air and steadied herself, looking around the war room. "Who knows this group?" She asked. "Or anyone in the group?"
The others shifted uneasily, looking at each other. "I do." Alice spoke up. "Or I should. I grew up around there."
Julie nodded. "Anyone else?" There was no answer and she nodded. "Fine. Alice, I want you and Chris to go out there, see what you can find out. Be careful."
She half-expected Tyler to protest and from the looks on some of the others so did they but he just watched as Alice and Chris left the building.
"Uhm .... why Farber?" Elias finally asked.
"Because he and Alice work good together. I'm sure between the two of them, they can work out a cover story."
Tyler chuckled deeply and she was surprised to see amusement gleaming in his eyes. "Ten bucks says they go with big bad biker and his chick." The others looked at him startled and he shrugged. "Hey, Chris'll use any excuse to ride a bike. And most folks ... human folks ... won't mess with a biker."
An hour later, the couple left the camp on one of the battered souped-up Harleys Elias had brought in, wearing the colors from a Canadian biker gang. Chris was grinning broadly, as happy as a child with a new toy, and Alice was hanging on for dear life, looking like she was wondering how she ever got into this mess.
By evening, Julie was considering a good long wallow in self-pity. Mike was gone for yet another night and she was wrestling with the mess he'd made of the accounts while she was held prisoner on the mothership. She found herself longing for a long bubble bath but knew she couldn't justify it, not even to herself. Maybe there was a gallon of ice cream in the freezer. Or a bottle of scotch somewhere ...
"Parrish." Julie jumped, clamping down on a shriek of surprise. She turned to see Tyler standing behind her, looking at her speculatively.
"Don't do that!" She said between clenched teeth and Tyler looked faintly surprised. "We don't hear as well as your people do." She reminded him.
"Sorry. I did forget." He paused, frowning. "We need to talk."
"About?" Julie asked, puzzled.
Tyler hesitated again. "Things you should know ... need to know ... about me." He said finally. "About my people. Things that can't become public knowledge yet."
Julie felt her stomach lurch, wondering what secrets Tyler was going to reveal. A part of her didn't want to hear them, didn't want to know any more secrets but another part of her reflected that if Tyler thought it important to tell her, she'd better listen. Not to mention the fact that he seemed to trust her enough to tell her these things. She took a deep breath.
The tension seemed to ease from Tyler's body. "The northern field. Where we can't be overheard." Humor glinted in his eyes. "And where your reputation will be fairly secure." He saw the puzzlement on her face and arched an eyebrow. "You haven't heard the rumors then? About you and me?" He asked dryly. "They're very interesting, considering the total time we've spent together alone consists of less then thirty minutes."
Julie felt her face flame. "Who ... no, never mind. I don't want to know." But she could guess, she thought as she grabbed the holster she had taken off earlier and put it on.
"Not that thirty minutes wouldn't be enough time ... barely ... but one doesn't like to rush these things ..."
She glared up at him, seeing the laughter in his eyes. "You ... you ..." She sputtered and he grinned.
"Don't tell me you haven't wondered?" He purred and she felt her flush deepen. Taking a deep breath, she crossed her arms and stared up at him sternly.
"According to Robert's notes on your people, all daughters are taught by their mothers on how to use a gelding knife." She said sweetly and the amusement fled Tyler's face, along with a little color. He backed up slightly, looking down at her warily. "I'm thinking maybe that might be something we should start here."
After a moment, Tyler chuckled ruefully. "All right, point taken. Come on, let's get this over with." He turned toward the door then hesitated. "Fontana, Robert, and the girls are putting together pizzas. Wanna join us tonight? Some of the others are coming over as well, to watch movies."
Julie blinked, surprised at the invitation then grinned. "Sure, that would be great. Wait a minute." She glanced over her shoulder. "If I'm not coming back here then we better put that stuff away." She started back, Tyler behind her.
"I don't know. That could bring our time alone up to almost an hour ..." He murmured almost in her ear and she caught him in the ribs with a sharp elbow, leaving him sputtering and laughing on the floor. Scooping up the papers, she walked them back to the office and locked them up safely, all the while trying to maintain an air of dignity, well aware that she wasn't succeeding and seriously wondering if having Tyler as a friend was really any better then having him as an enemy.
After three days on the road, Donovan finally returned to the base about noon, exhausted but elated. He'd managed to pick up a great deal of helpful information from his various contacts and there had been several requests for meets with other Resistance groups. He'd go over the stuff with Julie later. Parking the car under the camouflage netting, he started for the town only to pause as a motorcycle roared up. Chris flipped the bike off and looked over his shoulder, grinning broadly.
"You can let go now. And open your eyes."
After a moment, Alice peered cautiously around the big man. "I don't know if I can. I think my fingers are locked."
With a roar of laughter, Chris swung off the bike and scooped Alice up and off the bike with one arm. Flipping a casual wave to Donovan, the couple headed for the stable.
Donovan looked after them for a long moment then shook his head. After a rather lukewarm shower and a change of clothing, he gathered together everything and headed for the saloon. He was disappointed to see Tyler there, sitting on the bar cross-legged, thumbing through a sheaf of papers, looking remarkably comfortable in shorts and a sleeveless shirt. He glanced up as Donovan entered.
"And I thought my math was bad. No wonder Parrish is so stressed out."
"What are you doing?" Donovan asked sharply, feeling uneasy. Maybe it was the fact that Tyler was once again minus his boots and gloves. For some reason, that disturbed him.
"Back checking the accounts." Tyler made a series of notations on a piece of paper and compared the result with the original before shaking his head in frustration. "What we need is an accountant."
"That bad?" Julie said worriedly as she emerged from the back rooms.
"Worse then bad. This account is less then five dollars from being empty. This other one is a little better." He absently rubbed the tips of his fingers against his cheek and Donovan realized that he was rubbing the back of his extended claws against his skin. "Of the others ... " He shook his head, frowning. "I'm going to try and get a message to Johnny." He said suddenly. "See if he can send something to help out."
"Would that be safe?" Donovan asked.
"Probably not." Tyler said bluntly. "If I had access to my Swiss accounts, I could transfer money in but that's even more dangerous, especially without the proper help. The Visitors have locked down on the Swiss banks in a major way. On the other hand ... " He looked thoughtful, absently rapping the end of the pencil on the paper he held. "I might be able to work things out ...eventually ... but we need cash fast. At this rate, we'll be broke in less then six weeks."
Julie winced. "Do what you can." She said and Tyler nodded. Setting the papers to one side, he slipped off the bar, pausing to stretch. Donovan couldn't help but notice Julie watching that maneuver appreciatively and he felt a stab of jealousy. "Come back when you're done. I think Mike has some information for us."
Tyler nodded again before padding from the building. Donovan scowled after him as he set the packet he carried on a table. "This isn't stuff he needs to know." He said curtly.
Julie looked at him in surprise. "Of course it is." She sat down, reaching for the packet.
"Julie ... " Donovan glanced after the man as he sat next to her. "We're letting Tyler get too involved in everything. He knows too much. He could do a lot of damage to the group."
"So could you." Julie pointed out. "And so could I. And so could others in this group."
"But he isn't actually one of us."
"One of us?" Julie looked at him, remembering some of the things Tyler had told her the night before and her voice sharpened. "One of us ... what? A member of the Resistance? The Human Race? White? Catholic? Heterosexual? What?"
Donovan looked at her in surprise then decided he didn't want to go there. "You're trusting him way too much."
"Like you trust Martin?"
"How?" She demanded.
Donovan hesitated, trying to find words that she wouldn't misunderstand. "Martin has helped us out a lot."
"So has Tyler. Only he's down here with us. Helping us, fighting next to us, taking wounds for us. Saving some of our lives." Julie studied him for a long moment then shook her head. "What you really mean is that Martin is your friend."
"And Tyler isn't." Julie sighed. Obviously Donovan thought that the fact Martin was his friend meant more then it really did. "Ham is a member of the LA Resistance and he is the only military expert we have. Probably the best one we could ever have. This is the kind of work he does. We need him and he needs to know everything so he can help us. Now let's see what you have." She looked up at him with a sudden smile. "I hope what you have is worth the three days separation."
Donovan blinked then grinned back. "Well, let's look and see."
A half hour later, when Tyler came back, the couple had everything spread out on the table and were sorting it in order of importance. He sat down, not interrupting, just watching and listening as Donovan outlined what he'd found out. Despite Julie's words, the former reporter found himself holding some things back, telling himself he'd discuss them with Julie later. Once or twice, he noticed Tyler looking at him oddly but he ignored it. When he'd finally finished, Tyler studied him for a long moment then looked at Julie.
"Johnny's going to do what he can about helping us out with finances." He said. "And he's getting a message to the London Resistance. I think maybe they can sneak in and drain my Swiss accounts ... for a fee, of course ... and siphon the money to us." He startled Donovan by grinning suddenly, shaking his head ruefully. "They're currently financing their big projects with money siphoned off from the old Nazi accounts still in the Swiss banks. They should be able to handle this."
"How can they get away with it?" Donovan asked.
Tyler hesitated then shrugged. "The London Resistance has a major league computer expert." He paused, smiling slightly at the thought of the buxom blue-haired ... or whatever colored hair it was this week ... woman working her deft computer magic in the tiny fitting room that was constantly closed for maintenance. "Plus it's based in a series of legitimate stores. They can launder the money through them. But it'll take a couple two, three months. Maybe longer."
"So we keep our heads above water until then." Julie sighed.
"If it's enough money to be helpful." Donovan challenged.
"It will be. I doubt they'll take too big of a fee and I suspect they'll siphon some of the Nazi money this way as well."
"Why would they do that?" Donovan demanded.
Tyler smiled slightly, a smile with a hint of mockery in it. "Well, to be honest, I think the leader of the London Resistance wants to get into my pants." He gave a bark of laughter at the look that statement brought to Donovan's face before rising and walking from the building, still chuckling.
Julie was laughing as well. "The look on your face ..."
"It's disbelief." Donovan said sharply. "I have a hard time thinking anyone would want to get into his pants."
"Oh, I don't know ..." Julie said thoughtfully, looking after Tyler.
The woman rolled her eyes at him. "Please. Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not interested in him, he is not interested in me. But that doesn't mean I can't look." She added sternly and Donovan knew she's seen his expression earlier. "Just like you look. And don't try to tell me that's different."
Donovan flushed, realizing that was exactly what he was thinking and wondering what rumors she was talking about.
Diana entered the morgue, her anger almost palpable. The destruction of the water plant had put their plans back several weeks, if not months. Most of the technicians dead and all that water .... not lost just temporarily out of reach. The plant would have to be rebuilt, new technicians either trained or brought from the home world and security increased. All of which took precious time and resources.
"What is it?" She snapped at Steven, barely giving the shrouded body on the slab a glance.
"Something you might like to see." Stephen said with more smugness then she thought applicable. He stepped to the side of the body, pulling the shroud down and gesturing at the neck wound.
She glanced at it, wondering what the fuss was about. Despite the decomposition, she could see that the trooper's throat had been cut rather inexpertly but other then that ... then she looked again, eyes narrowing.
Not one wound but four. Four slashes across the throat, not immediately fatal but eventually so as the trooper had bled out. Raising her hand, she curved the fingers, setting them at the entry site of the wounds. If she had claws ...
"A Barbarosian." She breathed.
"It was thought that there were some on Earth."
"Outriders." Diana smiled. Outriders, she knew, were not covered by the laws of the Confederation.
"There have been rumors."
Diana waved him silent, her thoughts churning. There had been rumors, yes. The Piper was supposedly in Greece but that, of course, was utter nonsense since The Piper and his two counterparts ... The Singer and The Dancer ... didn't exist. But Wolf had reportedly been seen in Italy and rumor had it that Coyote had been spotted in New York, a thought that almost made her shudder. Wolf was, for the most part, predictable but Coyote the trickster never went the same way twice. Or so she'd heard. And then the rumor that the former Hawk was on Earth ... She'd suppressed that rumor quickly and ruthlessly and even now buried it in her own mind.
There was nothing they could do about them except hope they'd eventually get bored and go away. Even the Four Quarters were constrained in what they could do on a non-Confederation world. But a Barbarosian ... What she could do with a Barbarosian.
She thought back on the research she'd studied over the years, the experiments that had been conducted on captive Barbarosians. Regrettably none in her lifetime. By the time she'd been hatched, the Confederation had changed their routes to avoid their territory completely so all she had to go on were recordings and research over seventy years out-of-date. Though Diana did have to admit that some of the experiments were rather inventive. Especially that time when her former mentor, in his youth, had decided to find out what would happen if a caustic acid was introduced into the bloodstream of a Barbarosian. It had, if she remembered correctly, taken the creature several hours to die.
Waving Steven to her side, she turned and walked from the morgue. "We have established that it was the LA Resistance that destroyed the plant, correct?"
"Yes. Some of the survivors remember seeing Parrish and Donovan."
"Any indication as to who the Barbarosian may be?"
"None. The plant's recording equipment was all destroyed and none of the survivors remember seeing anyone who would meet the criteria. Leaving this evidence of its presence had to have been an error."
"A fatal error on its part." Diana fell into deep thought. If she could just capture one, it could be confirmed whether or not they could be converted. She suspected the theory that they couldn't was correct but it would be so much fun just to try. And if it didn't work, well, there was just so much that could be done to a Barbarosian. In fact her mentor had theorized that if you could break them down into an animal state they would make for an interesting pet. After all, it was common knowledge that Barbarosians were little more then very clever animals, barely sentient at all. Of course you'd always have to be on guard around such a pet ... Diana smiled suddenly, her thoughts racing. If she could breed the Barbarosian to a human, the resulting offspring should be more pliable. She'd have to look through the past research carefully to see if anything similar had ever been attempted.
Diana stepped into her private area and walked through to the small sleeping room where she keep her most prized human pets. There was only one occupant at this time and she studied him with a critical air.
"A little change in plans, I think." She said over her shoulder.
Steven looked at her with some uncertainty. "We won't be able to get information from a Barbarosian. We can from Donovan."
Diana threw him a scornful look. Steven, like far too many of her people, vastly overestimated the Barbarosians. Some even believed that outrageous tale that a curse cast by a Barbarosian is why their people had changed so many generations ago, after the so-called Sundering. That, of course, was pure foolishness. "Perhaps we can get it all. The Barbarosian, Donovan, Parrish. And the LA Resistance."
She smiled at the brown-haired boy sitting at the table inside the little room.
Author Notes: This interlude includes what had
been the last section of part eight and the first section of part nine.
Other Media Mentions: Are You Being Served?, Mrs. Slocum, Mr. Humphries.