Liam paced up and down the room. Up and down. Up and down. Trying to think.
Okay, he wasn't suspected. He hoped. They'd given him a two-day leave until he could be assigned to a new Companion agent.
He had to get Da'an and Lili out of there!
Okay, calm down, he told himself. You can't think if you're panicking.
Augur'd been right about the Resistance. Calls had been pouring in from all over the country, Resistance cell leaders reporting on their conditions. More better than worse. So far.
Liam figured he wouldn't be able to rescue Da'an and Lili without betraying himself. It just wasn't possible. So...the first order of buisness was to find someplace where they could all go underground for a long, long time.
Preferably someplace small and out of the way.
Then, it was just a matter of going back to the Mothership, avoiding the guards, getting Lili and Da'an and making a fast escape by ID portal, which he'd heard had been installed on the Mothership.
"Augur," he said.
Augur looked up from his computer. "What?"
"Give me a list of all the Resistance cell leaders who have checked in, and their current conditions."
"Sure, hold on just a sec."
A moment later, a long list of names was printed out. Augur handed it to Liam. "Why do you want to know?"
"You were right about a new headquarters. Besides, if I'm going to rescue Da'an and Lili, I'm going to need a place where we can all go underground for a while."
Just then, HoloLili piped up. "Agent Kincaid, there's a call coming up for you."
Liam glanced up. "Who?"
"Another Resistance leader. Only I think this one called earlier."
"Put him through."
Alicia Hickman's face came up on the screen a moment later.
"Agent Kincaid. I'm Alicia Hickman, the Tucson Resistance cell leader. I'm calling to report two things. First of all, we have a permanent base of operations. And second, we have a new ally on the Mothership."
Liam blinked. "On the Mothership?"
"A Volunteer whose CVI has been disabled."
"What makes you so sure he'll help us? And how did it happen?"
"She was trying to track me down, along with three policemen. We wiped the cops' memories, but disabled her CVI, just on a hunch, and it turned out she was unwillingly implanted. She's already reported on conditions up there-and you're not suspected. Yet."
"Actually, I already knew that, but thanks." Suddenly and idea occured to Liam. "You're in Tucson, Arizona?"
"That's near the Mexican border, isn't it?"
"Yes, actually. Why?"
"Just curious. So, you're equipped to stay in hiding for a while?"
"Yes, we are."
"Good. Just stay put until further notice."
Liam nodded and signaled to HoloLili (who had breifly dissapeared and come back with Little Augur, her digital "baby") to hang up. She did so.
"That place may be a possibility," Liam told Augur.
"What do you mean?"
"A new headquarters. Close to the border, well equipped...but I'm not turning down any other options, so we'll just have to see."
"Sure. Whatever, Liam."
Lili woke up to the beeping sound that said she would come out of interdimensional soon. Five minutes later, the shuttle shot out into space.
Lili looked around, then ran a scan. There were three ships heading straight for her coordinates, but they were still too far away to identify.
"Neutral space," she murmured to herself. "They could be Taelon or Jaridian...or some other alien they haven't told us about."
She could try and run or she could wait. Maybe she should run. The Taelons had her under arrest...and she was in a Taelon shuttle, which meant the Jaridians wouldn't hesitate to kill her. And yet...some instinct in her said 'wait.' She must be here for a reason. And she had learned to trust her instincts long ago, back during the SI wars. So she waited.
Dorothy stared at the computer sitting in her basement and shook her head in disbelief. She'd never seen anything so high-tech. Sheesh--and she'd thought her old PC could be complicated.
Alicia had decided to construct an underground hideout off of Dorothy's basement. Construction was going smooth and quick. They were already moving the essential equipment into her basement and leaving it there until the hideout was completed.
Alicia was standing in front of the screen, talking to Liam Kincaid. "Okay, I have the computer password from Cari. She says she thinks it's possible to get Da'an off the Mothership, but it's going to be tricky, and require precise timing. Ever since Capt. Marquette turned up missing--"
She stopped as Liam practically exploded. "What?!"
Alicia blinked. "You haven't heard?"
"Heck, no!!! What are you talking about?! What happened to Lili?!"
"She turned up missing from the blue tank she was being kept in about a day ago. A shuttle was missing as well. The entire ship's in chaos and Zo'or is furious, from what I understand."
Liam shook his head in a mixture of relief, disbelief, and worry.
"Well, at least they don't have her..." he trailed off, muttering to himself. "But if she has a shuttle...and hasn't contacted us..."
Alicia grew impatient. "Wherever she is, you don't have to worry about getting her of the Mothership. However, if you are still determined to risk your life over that Taelon, I suggest you listen up. I'll transmit the information to you as I'm speaking."
Liam shook his head to clear it, then nodded. "Yeah, go ahead."
"Okay. You'll make your way to the halls outside the brig. Try to keep a low profile. Hopefully, no one will notice you. They're still scouring all known space sectors for Capt. Marquette, so there's not many people actually on the Mothership.
"At exactly eighteen hundred hours, Cari will initiate a virus into the Taelon computers that will cause several systems in various parts of the Mothership to go down and start up again at random. The brig power supply is set to go down at exactly eighteen oh five hours. You'll have two mintues to get Da'an out, then you'll have another seven minutes to get to the shuttle bay before all power goes out in there for ten minutes. By then, you'll have to be in a shuttle and well away from the ship. Shortly after that, all systems will go back to normal. It's going to be tricky, but you should be able to do it. Other than initiating the virus, Cari won't be able to help you, though, so you'll be on your own."
Liam took a deep breath and nodded. "You sent a copy of all that to the computer here?"
"All right then. Good luck, Major."
"There's one other thing," Liam said just as Alicia was about to close the connection.
"Do you think you're well enough equipped to act as the new Liberation headquarters, at least for a couple months?"
Alicia stared. "You can't be serious."
"I am. We're too exposed here. Too many people know about us. You have a completely new base of operations, so the few of your people that were caught won't be able to betray you. Moreover, you're close enough to the Mexican border for us to head out of the U.S. at a real pinch."
Alicia just shook her head in disbelief. "Well...hey, wait a minute, does that mean you'll be bringing Da'an here?"
Alicia took a deep breath. "A Taelon. Here."
"Is that a yes or a no?"
"Hold on a sec." Alicia leaned off the screen. "Dorothy, c'mere a minute."
Dorothy, who was listening to an engineer explain all about the way the new computers worked, and learning how to use a global, looked up. "Yeah?"
"Listen, Liam Kincaid...well, look, they want to make this place the new Liberation headquarters."
"Yeah, well, that was my reaction, too. You'd better talk to him."
Dorothy stepped over to the screen.
"This is Dorothy Jennings, the owner of the house here," she said to Liam.
Liam dipped his head in greeting, as did Dorothy.
"I was just suggesting to Alicia that the Tucson cell base of operations become the new Resistance headquarters."
Dorothy hesitated a moment, but then shrugged. "Well, I don't see why not. I'm already in this thing about as far as I can go."
"Good!" Liam turned back to Alicia. "You can expect us to be showing up on the doorstep tomorrow evening around twenty hundred hours, with a lot of equipment."
"We'll be ready," Alicia answered. A minute later, she cut the connection.
Lili felt her heart sink as the three ships drew close enough to be identified--Taelon.
If she was close enough to scan them, and as they seemed to be heading for her coordinates, Lili could only assume that they'd already spotted her.
Was it too late to run? Frantically, Lili began to program a new set of coordinates into the shuttle, hoping to jump to ID before they could fix a tractor lock on her.
Just then, a message came through from the leading ship.
"Captain Marquette. Lower you shields and prepare for tractor docking."
Yeah, right, Lili thought, and prepared to jump to ID.
"Lower your shields," the ship persisted. "You will not be harmed."
Lili froze for a moment, wondering what to do.
"You will not be harmed," they repeated.
Lili finally decided to respond, even if she wasn't ready to just give herself up. "Who are you?" she asked, "and what do you want?"
"You were sent here to rendezvous with us by one of our allies. We have need of each other's help."
You've got to be kidding, Lili muttered to herself. This, coming from Taelons--it's got to be a trap.
"Who is your ally?" she asked.
"His name is Agent Ronald Sandoval."
Lili stiffened and sucked in her breath. Sandoval! Sandoval had sent her here? It couldn't be--could it?
Slowly, Lili felt her hand creep toward the controls again, almost on its own. She closed her eyes...and lowered her shields.
Liam walked swiftly down a corridor on the Mothership. Volunteers were everywhere, still looking for Lili. Liam felt his face twist into a wry smile. Wherever she was, at least the Taelons didn't have her. A small relief, but better than nothing.
At least they took no notice of him. He only hoped he would be able to dodge them, somehow, when he was heading the opposite way--with Da'an. His palms were tingling a bit, and Liam clenched his fists nervously. He was prepared to give everything up to get Da'an out of here--even exposing his true identity as a Kimera hybrid, which would make him more of a wanted man than even Jonathan Doors was right now.
He checked his watch. Two minutes until that Volunteer initiated the virus. He began to walk faster.
He slowed just outside the brig. One minute. He didn't want to be seen in there until he was actually going to get Da'an--it would arouse suspicion. Of course, he couldn't be seen sitting around just outside the brig, either. Ducking around a corner, he found a shadowy niche and stood there, waiting.
And waiting. And waiting.
Something was wrong. The virus should have been initiated almost two minutes ago. What had happened?
It was a trap. Suddenly, he was sure of it. A trap.
He was just wondering what to do, when, finally, he heard an alarm go off. The ship shuddered, and the lights went out.
"Drat!" he said aloud, trying to feel his way back to the brig entrance in the dark. He heard shouts nearbye him--very nearbye, but he assumed that Volunteers couldn't see in this dark any more than he could.
He finally found the doorway of the brig and found emergency lights on in there. The two puzzled guards were already on their feet, but Liam didn't even wait for them to say anything. He already had his gun out and set to stun, so he just fired.
The forcefields were down. Da'an was in a cell nearbye. "Liam!" he said, startled.
"Da'an! I've got to get you out of here!"
Da'an shook his head. "No, Liam. If I leave, it will only point to my guilt."
Liam clenched his teeth. "Da'an, I don't have time for this. If you stay here, they'll kill you! Come on!"
He reached out and grabbed Da'an's arm, hoping fervently that Da'an wouldn't revert to his true form and keep Liam from touching him. Fortuneatly, Liam's argument seemed to have gotten through to the alien, and he reluctantly agreed to cooperate.
The ship was swarming with Volunteers, and sirens were going off everywhere. Seven minutes, thought Liam. How the heck will I get to the shuttle bay in seven minutes with all the detours I'm having to take to avoid getting caught?
He came around a corner, with Da'an on his heels, only to see a group of Volunteers at the other end of the corridor, coming his way. He turned to go back the way he had come--and found himself face to face with the one person he'd been dreading to see the most.
"Major," said Agent Sandoval. "You are under arrest."
Lili tried to keep from shaking as the shuttle came to rest inside the shuttle bay of a strange Taelon ship. It actually wasn't that different from the Mothership back home, but she hadn't realized until now just how much the sight of a human crew and Earth just outside the window made things more comfortable. Especially when you could be reasonably sure they weren't going to kill you. Or torture you until you answered their questions.
Lili slowly climbed out and looked for anyone who might tell her what was going on. Sure enough, two Taelons walked up and stood purposefully in front of the shuttle. Lili hesitantly took a few steps forward.
"Okay," she said. "I'm here. What do you want with me?"
One Taelon, slightly taller than the other, reached out his hand in the Taelon greeting. "Hello. I am Je'ir. My companion is Me'tri. Welcome to our ship, Captain Marquette."
Lili nodded, still unsure of anything. At least they seemed friendly.
"So," she said, "you know my name."
"Agent Sandoval told us to expect you."
"I don't suppose you would be interested in explaining a few things to me?"
"On the contrary, all shall be revealed in due course. Come this way, please. Ve'tra, the captain of this vessel, would speak with you."
What is it about Alicia? Dorothy wondered again. She sighed, thinking, I'd like to ask her if Alicia Hickman is her real name...but...I don't know if I want to know. If she is who I think she is, do I want her to know who I am? I don't want to bring that life back. That person is dead. I want it to stay that way.
But then again...I never thought I'd want this life, either, did I?
It was all probably just her imagination, she decided. It would be a million to one chance that she'd run into the same friend she'd known as a girl.
Wouldn't it? she asked herself. Looks like Audrey...acts like Audrey...everything she does reminds me of Audrey! She lives in Tucson like Audrey and I did. I wonder if she was born here?
Her curiosity got the better of her. If Alicia Hickman was Audrey Simmings, she wanted to know. Had to know. Then she could decide what to do.
She found Alicia taking a coffee break down in the basement, sitting on an old discarded lawn chair. Dorothy pulled up the other lawn chair and sat down. "How's work down here going?"
"Pretty good." Alicia sighed and rubbed her forehead. "I've forgotten how grueling setting up one of these things can be, though. Any incoming messages up there?"
"No, not yet." Dorothy frowned. "I went into Summerhaven. Things are pretty bad. There's Volunteers everywhere, even up here. If they come to this house again, we're going to have a pretty hard time concealing things. I'm worried."
Alicia nodded. "So am I. But we should be able to start moving most of the equipment in there soon."
"Wow. That's...that's fast. Really?"
Alicia shrugged. "We work fast--besides, Taelon technology does have its uses."
"You mean like the concrete-cutting lasers that nearly sliced through one of the support beams and collapsed the entire house on top of us?"
Alicia smiled weakly. "Um...yeah. Like that. Sorry. We're being more careful."
"I should hope so."
"You know, Dorothy," Alicia said, "just in case...in case something does happen, and we have to evacuate...you may want to have a false identity set up and ready to use. I can get a computer guy on it."
Just like Audrey--practically psychic.
Dorothy frowned, wondering what she should say. "I guess...sure." She wasn't yet ready to say she already had one she could use, if things came to a pinch. "Um...are false identities common in the Resistance?"
"Depends. In this cell, yes. Some don't use them that much. Some cells require them. Some will never say."
Dorothy nodded. Now, here came the million dollar question. "Do you have one?"
Alicia raised her eyebrow. "And what makes you think I'd tell you if I did?"
"Just curious." Dorothy wasn't ready to push it. But she did have one question. "Just out of curiousity...how long have you been living in Tucson?"
"All my life. I grew up in the Sabino high school district, then I moved down near the UofA for collage. I posed as a student all the while I was leading the Tucson Resistance cell--which was located right under the oldest section of the University. We used the old bomb shelter they built back during the Cold War."
"That's pretty big."
"And you're intending to build something of that size here?"
"Eventually, maybe. Especially if this is going to become the at least temporary North American Resistance headquarters. You should hear the rumors about the one they had in Washington--two miles underground, someone told me."
"Tell me about it."
Dorothy's mind wandered. She was sure, now, that Alicia Hickman was Audrey Simmings. Lived all her life in Tucson--in the Sabino high school district. She had gone to a school with Audrey in that area. She remembered it in perfect detail.
The last question--what would she do now?
Would she tell Alicia who she really was?
Liam looked Sandoval straight in the eye and his palms began to tingle again with the energy he was charging in them. He just needed to right moment to fire.
He managed to catch Da'an's eye to warn him with a look of what he was going to do. Don't, Da'an seemed to answer back. Not yet.
Sandoval, meanwhile, turned to three of the four Volunteers standing there. "You two," he said, "go inform Zo'or of the events. You, go and find out why the guards at the Brig were not more active."
They hurried off, leaving only one standing there with Sandoval. "And you," Sandoval said to the last one, "give me your gun."
The Volunteer was puzzled, but he handed the weapon over.
Sandoval simply turned, pointed the gun back at the Volunteer, and fired.
Liam jumped. What?!
Sandoval turned back to Liam and Da'an. "You have three minutes to get to the shuttle bay. Get going!"
Liam wasted no time, but turned and started down the corridor, turning halfway after a few steps to be sure Da'an followed.
"Agent Sandoval," Da'an said simply. "Thank you."
Then he turned and hurried after Liam.
Sandoval had work to do. He laid the weapon on the ground and vaporized it with his skrill. Then he turned and hurried in the other direction, deliberatly avoiding anyone else until he was sure Liam and Da'an had time to get to the shuttle bay. Then he grabbed the next squad of Volunteers he saw.
"Da'an and Agent Kincaid have escaped again!" he said. "Kinciad grabbed the gun from the guard and vaporized him. I only just managed to escape. They'll be heading towards the shuttle bay--I expect you to get there first and apprehend them!"
No one wasted any time. Sandoval let one of his rare smiles cross his lips as he watched them hurry off. Then his face resumed his normal stern expression, and he went to see Zo'or. Undoubtedly the Taelon would be furious. Sandoval didn't care. He was sick of being Zo'or's lap dog, and the one Taelon who had ever treated him like an equal or cared in the least bit for his race was not going to die for treason. Sandoval began to wonder what other damage he could cause between now and the time that Captain Marquette returned with the Taelon Resistance members Then the real war would begin.
The bridge was not unlike the bridge on the Mothership. The Taelon who was obviously Ve'tra stood up from his chair when Lili, Je'ir, and Me'tri entered the bridge.
"We have brought Captian Marquette," Je'ir announced.
Ve'tra offered the Taelon hand greeting to her. "[S]inaui [e]uhura, captian. Our ally Agent Sandoval informed us he had sent you here."
"He may have informed you," Lili snapped, "but he didn't inform me. What's going on?"
Ve'tra settled easily back into his chair.
"Not to long ago, a Taelon named Be'li came to you, did he not?"
Lili's eyes grew slightly wider. "He did. Wait a minute. Are you telling me that--"
"These three ships are a convoy sent by a group of Taelons who disagree with the actions of our people. Agent Sandoval has been working for us for over one of your years, now. We sent Be'li in an attempt to ally ourselves with the human Resistance movement, but other events occured to prevent this alliance from becoming a reality. So when he saw his oppurtunity, Agent Sandoval sent you to us."
Lili stared. "So...you're trying to join us? And Sandoval is working for you?!"
"I trust this comes unexpectedly."
"Just one question."
"Be'li died when he deliberatly reverted to an Atavus so he could hunt down and kill Da'an. He claimed Da'an was the entire architect of the entire invasion of Earth! The Da'an I know is not like that! He...he just wouldn't do something like that! He's risked his life over and over again to help the Resistance movement and humanity. What was Be'li talking about?!"
Ve'tra sighed. "What Be'li told you was true, and the Da'an you speak of is not the one I once knew. Can it be that he has changed, I wonder? Yet I find this hard to believe of Da'an."
"Look, I want to free my planet. But I'm not going to do it at the expense of Da'an's life. If you want me to help you, I need your word of honor that he's not going to be harmed."
Ve'tra shook his head. "This is useless conjecture. We wait here for Sandoval's message, then we will return to Earth. Your Resistance fighters will engage the enemy on the planet--and we will fight in space. We will stop this attack on Earth once and for all--and take the Synod leader with it. It will be a great blow to our people--and a great opportunity for us."
Lili said nothing, but agreed. It would. It would win the war. She just hoped Liam could get Da'an off the Mothership before that happened. She didn't want to risk what had happened with Be'li happening again.