My husband has an old-fashioned flat photograph of himself and Captain James Kirk. Kirk is smiling, while Herb looks as grim and solemn as a celibate monk on Mount Seleya. He hasnt changed much since then; oh, he relaxed just enough to grow a distinguished white goatee, but inside he is much the same, grim and solemn, though I see a side of himthe caring, gentle husband and father, the doting grandfatherthat few are privileged to know.
For many years, the photo was stored away, deep inside the dim and dusty reaches of the hall closet with other mementos from our respective times aboard the EnterpriseIve never been shy about expressing my ambivalent feelings about the good captain, even to Herb, whos one of his most ardent admirers. Most people who have served closely with Kirk express a view of him very similar to Herbs. I can respect, if not quite understand, this.
Today, Herb dug the photograph out and sat on the couch, staring at it throughout the afternoon. When he placed it on the living room wall, amidst the holos of family, friends and grandchildren, I didnt object. I understood his pain and loss.
Kirk, though eight years younger than Herb, was his mentor, the man who encouraged him, at age thirty-nine, to leave the enlisted ranks and apply to the Academy. At forty-four, Herb was the oldest Human ensign in Starfleet.
After I was paroled from Tantalus, and after Herb retired at the end of Kirks five year mission, we were married. I talked him into taking one of the Federation land grants being offered on Nimbus III, the Planet of Galactic Peace. Before we shipped out, we stopped by Kirks office in San Francisco, and Herb asked the then admiral (Operations Chief, or something like that) to personally autograph the photograph for him. When Kirk saw me loitering in the hallway, trying to look inconspicuous, he recognized who I waswhat I wasif not my name, and insisted I come in. Herb just stood there, stiffly uncomfortable, as I mumbled my way through an apology, and tried to blame the whole thing on youth and Sto-Vo-Kor knows what. Kirk smiled, told me he held no hard feelings, shook Herbs hand, kissed me gentlemanly, and signed the picture.
"To my friend and comrade, Ensign Hurley, from one Herbert to another Jim Kirk"
Before we left, Kirk took me aside and in that inimical style told me, "Mavig...dont... be...surprised if-one-day-your-past...catches...up-to-you."
"Brother, youre reaching," I think I said.
Nimbus III never quite turned out to be what we hoped for (what does?), but I think we, along with a couple thousand other settlers, were too stubborn to admit defeat. Herb buried all his hopes and ambitions in a farm on an oasis overlooking Jonns lakebed, and I buried my anger at Sevrin, my pain, my disappointment and my dreams of bringing the universe into perfect harmony in the farthest recesses of the closet, next to my "Down With Herbert" stickers and Aldebaran Round Harp.
Rissa was born at the end of 70, and I barely noticed when I turned all my energies to her and Herb, and stopped worrying about the cosmic balance. When the Romulans strip-mined the Natoan range, I complained only about the noise. I remember composing an indignant subspace message to the Federation president when the "Genesis Controversy" was all the rage on the Fed newscasts, but I dont think I got around to sending it. Hell, I hadnt voted in years.
Life settled into a comfortable routineplanting, harvesting, trips to Paradise City for supplies, which seemed to dwindle exponentially as each year rolled past.
And I became one of the Herberts I used to despise, and never noticed when Rissa began spending more and more time in Paradise City with Kerg, the eighteen-year-old nephew of (and erstwhile aide to) Ambassador Korrd.
And then one day she was gone, and there was no note.
"God damn little Klingon bastard," Herb said, crossing the living room to the closet. He dug through the accumulated junk, paused to balefully eye me when he found a copy of "How to Disrupt a Starbase" (the use of which had gotten Irina and me tossed into Tantalus). He hurled it aside, finally came up with an old phaser. He fumbled with the power pack, cursed.
"Herb, we dont know if Kerg"
"Ill be back," he said, and grabbed his coat, tucked the illegal phaser into an inside pocket. He slammed the door on his way out. I followed him.
He was in the corral, saddling Tribble, one of our two native dahsu.
"Herb, youre just going to get yourself in trouble."
"Mavig, stay out of this. If you had listened to me"
"Be very careful, Mister Hurley!"
"Filling her head with all this nonsense about equality for every damn backwater species, protesting authoritysilly damn bit"
"Thats enough, Herb." A clinched whisper is so much better than a shout.
He stared at meit wasnt enoughbut swung himself into the saddle. "Ill be back when I find Rissa, or kill a damn Klingon, or both."
I grabbed another saddle from the rack, threw it on Old Les. Herb reined in, watched me for a few seconds, surprised, though he shouldnt have been. Wed been married fourteen years. Finally, he said, "What the hell do you think youre doing? I can handle this without you."
"Somebody has to watch out for fools and Redshirts." I cinched the saddle down and mounted. "After you, Herbert."
His eyes narrowedhe hates when I use his full nameand he tugged at Tribbles reins. We galloped down off the oasis, through the arroyo and out across the lakebed. We passed Jonn and Zaaras old ramshackle homestead on the waydeserted, though the yard was drilled full of holes for a hundred feet in front of the desolate shack.
We burst into the ambassadorial quarters (a room behind The Hole) and found General Korrd at the plain, hand-hewn table in private conference with a bottle of kilvan. Ambassador Talbot, the Federation envoy, had obviously just concluded a consultation with Jack Daniel, and was likewise unavailable for courtesy calls. Herb marched across the room, grabbed the Klingon, half-pulled him across the table.
"Wheres that damn oversexed nephew of yours?"
"Hu-Hutegh, petaQ-Q-Q," Korrd said, and his head lolled to one side as he snored deeply, the sound rattling the dirty windows in the small dingy room.
"What?" Herb shook Korrd. "Answer me!"
"QonoS," Korrd mumbled, "back to QonoS."
Talbot walked around the table, faced Herb. "My dear fellow, he is telling the truth." Talbot burped, wiped his grizzled chin. "Kerg had the good sense to get out while the getting was good."
"Did my daughter go with him?"
"No, just he and the pilot."
"You wouldnt lie to me," Herb said.
"Well, bloody hell, yes, I would lie to you if it served my purpose, but it doesnt in this case."
Herb frowned, pushed the sleeping Korrd back into his chair. "Mavig, lets go," he said.
"Perhaps I could help you, though," the Human ambassador said.
"How?" I said. "Do you know where she is? Shes fourteen standard years, reddish-blonde hair"
"Oh, I know who Rissa is."
Herb moved a step toward Talbot. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. She comes round to see Kerg."
"So he is dallying with her?" Herb said.
Dallying? I thought. Where does he get these words?!
Talbot grinned. "Dear boy, she has chased him since the day he landed, but I dont suppose you want to hear that. In fact, it doesnt appear you want to hear anything I have to say. Good day, sir and madam. I really must get this place cleaned up. The new Romulan representative is due any minute."
He tottered over to a collection of empty bottles, threw them in the trash can, first ensuring they were completely drained.
I pushed Herb aside and gave Talbot my best piteous "help a poor female" look. "AmbassadorSt. Johnplease, shes all we have."
Talbot stared down at me for a moment, his face relaxed, and there was a hint of kindness in his rheumy eyes. "I had a mother who loved me," he finally said.
"So did I," Korrd rumbled. He stirred, lifted his head from the table. "I really did..." His forehead ridges smacked back against the table top, and he resumed his basso profundo snores.
Talbot walked to the window, drew the blinds, stared out at the inhospitable sands. The sun was burning low in over the horizon. "Theres someone out there," he said, pointing past the eastern edge of the Hobart range. "I hear rumorsa mystic, a bloody magician who gives peace and comfort to all."
I smiled. I had met my share of those.
"Where?" Herb demanded.
"The old refining facilities."
Talbot turned to me. "Mrs. Hurley, your daughter and Kerg have been...what is the term? Courting, dating. But I believe that Kergs intentions are, to coin a Klingon phrase, honorable. Kerg cut short his internship when he realized that youthat Mister Hurley!would never condone their relationship. Maybe Rissa is seeking to deal with the loss."
I knew he was right. Herb snorted, headed for the door. "If I want your God damned opinion, Ambassador, Ill ask for it." He marched out of the room.
"Sorry," I whispered.
Talbot shrugged, sat down. "Its okay, Mavig. I can understand his anger."
"Thanks," I said, clasping his hand. I turned to leave, then remembered. "St. John, you mentioned a new Romulan ambassador. What happened to Centurion Meklos?"
"Ah, that," he said. "Uh, Korrd killed him."
"What? Some nonsense over honor and courage, no doubt."
"Something like thatMeklos drank the last of Korrds Bloodwine."
The Planet of Galactic Peace, indeed.
Outside, Herb was waiting. We rode east. And hello, Captain Kirk, you were right.
The past, in the form of a laughing Vulcan, had indeed caught up with me.
Sixty or seventy pilgrims, seekers of the truth, searchers for enlightenment, dry, sand-blasted, wind-whipped people in tattered rags and makeshift dust masks, sat, slept and meditated before the main group of tents and sheds left over from the abandoned refining plant. They were the dregs of society even by the sliding standards of Nimbus III, the lowest of the low, untouchables on any world. I remembered when I was one of them, and felt my sympathy stir with my anger.
They had my child!
Old, nervous Jonn was among the few we recognized. The thin, hairless Deltan shuffled out to meet us. He carried a homemade pipe-gun, slung with the barrel pointing to the ground, but kept his hand firmly on the stock, finger curled against the trigger. He cocked his head to one side, stared up at usour clothes were relatively clean and patch-freegrinned and lisped slightly when he spoke. "Do you seek Sha-Ka-Ree?"
"No, you moron," Herb said. "We seek Marissa Hurley. Is she here?" We dismounted, Herb pushed Jonn aside, moved to go around him, but the wiry little man scuttled back to block his way.
"If she is here," Jonn said, "shes under the protection of the GAL."
"Gal? What gal?" Herb asked. "Show me this gal; bring her to me."
"You misunderstand, friend Hurley. We belong to the Galactic Army of Light."
Herb looked at me, shook his head and sighed, looked back at Jonn. "If I dont see my daughter in about ten seconds, friend, Ill show you an army of light," he said.
He was going to shove the little man out of the way, but I put my hand on his arm, just enough pressure to stop him, and said to Jonn, "I am familiar with Sha-Ka-Ree; we are all seekers of the way." I formed the familiar triangle with my thumbs and forefingers. "We are One."
A chuckle from one of the pilgrims seated before the largest tent. It built into a throaty laugh, and a figure robed no better than the others stood and strode toward uslong strides, purposeful. "One of Sevrins wayward children," he said, still laughing. He pulled his hood back, revealing his unkempt hair and beard, and his ears. "Hello...Mavig," he said with a smile. "Long time, no see."
Cant even count on Vulcans to avoid clichés these days!
"Sybok," I said, "youre looking...well, like hell, to be frank with you."
He shrugged, waved his arm about a bit melodramatically, encompassed the harsh desert surrounding us. "It isnt exactly sterile Tiburon, is it, child?"
"Mavig, who the hell is this fool?" Herb asked.
Sybok looked at me, smiled as he waited for my reply.
"For a while he was one of Doctor Sevrins students, a fellow seeker of One, until...they disagreed. His name is Sybok; hes a Vulcan."
"A Vulcan who laughs?" said Herb.
"He laughs," I said.
"I laugh," said Sybok, chucking softly.
"Are you holding my daughter?" Herb asked.
Sybok broadly pantomimed disappointment. Herb pulled his jacket flap open, slid his hand inside. I hooked my arm inside his, pulled his hand away from the phaser.
"No one is being held," Sybok said. "To the contrary, I am merely their leader, their guide, the one who has been gifted with the vision of Sha-Ka-Ree."
My head was beginning to hurt, a dull ache that began in the muscles under my right eye and spread up and across my temple. Leader, guide, visions, I had heard those words all too many times before. "Sybok, we would like to see our daughter. Please."
"Of course," he said. "Jonn,"the little man had been standing silently, gazing up, gaped-mouthed, in deity-like reverence at the taller Vulcan"find the young one. Bring her to my tent."
Jonn shuffled off, cut down the alleyway between the two rows of tents and shelters.
"Come with me," Sybok said, and turned and walked toward the largest tent. "Allow my men to give your dahsu water and grain." Two of his followers led Tribble and Old Les away. Herb almost protested, but the young sycophants had such open faces even he was disarmed.
"Easy on the phaser there, Redshirt," I whispered. Herb gave me the patented condescension-laden rolling of his eyes. We ducked through the tent flap after Sybok.
The interior of the tent was almost as austere as the Nimban desert outside. A cot, a blanket, a water flask and a meditation rug.
"Sybok, this is my husband...Herbert Hurley." It never gets any easier telling old friends from the movement his given name. Most have to be told three times before theyre assured Im not joking. Sybok merely gave me the barest hint of a smile. He grabbed the water flask and two glasses, dusted them on the hem of his robe, poured, and handed one to each of us.
"Water," he said, "is all I can offer in the way of refreshment."
"Thanks." I drained the glass. Sybok poured me another. Herb seemed uneasy, but finally drank. "Thanks. Now, about my daughter."
"In good time," Sybok said, holding his hand up to silence him. "In good time."
Herb drew his phaser before I could stop him, aimed it at Syboks chest. "Now," Herb whispered.
Sybok smiled. "Hearts down there," he said, pointing. Herb, chagrined, lowered the phaser, aimed at Syboks heart.
I whirled. Jonn and Rissa stood just inside the tent. Her eyes were glazed, her smile was as vacant and empty as one of the holes in Jonns lakebed. I ran to her, reached out to hug her. She backed away.
"Rissa, honey, this is not the answer."
"What would you know?"
"Youd be surprised."
"Come here," Sybok demanded. His voice, hard, hypnotic, was like a siren call. Even Herb felt it. Rissa and I walked over to him. Rissas smile brightened in his presence. He reached out, brushed a lock of her hair off her forehead. Herbs finger closed on the phaser trigger.
"Put that thing away!" Sybok said. Herb fought the command, but his finger involuntarily relaxed, and his hand stuffed the phaser back inside his coat.
"Rissa, please dont listen to him," I said. "Your father and I can"
Rissa whirled on me. "Dad wont listen! It doesnt matter now, Sybok has given me more than Kerg ever could. He has shown me true love, happiness. He has taken away my pain."
"What the hell kind of pain can a fourteen-year-old child"
"Shut up, Herb," I said. "Just shut up, okay."
"Darling," I put my hands on Rissas shoulders, "Ive seen his kind beforethey offer only empty promises and"
She pushed my hands away. "Right, Mom, like I said, What would you know? Sybok could help even you, if you gave him a chance. I cant tell you how wonderful it feels to be free. You can be free, too. I see the way you look toiling over that stupid broken oven. I see the agony on your face when you try to straighten up after hours spent hoeing that pathetic little garden! Dont tell me youre happy."
I glanced at Herb. He said nothing, just stared at me. Sybok took me by the elbow. "We all hide a secret pain," he whispered as he pulled me to a corner.
I nodded; he was right. Sybok had always been right. Sevrin never could see it, and had driven him away. Cast him off, as our parents and teachers had cast us off. I thought of my mother for a moment...
"Behold," Sybok said.
For a moment, I thought the very air had been vacuumed out of the small tent. There was an utter and desolate stillness, as if a moment between heartbeats, an instant between the tolling of microseconds. Silence, then shouting.
In the darkened corner of the tent, a tiny pinprick of light grew, expanded until it was as high and as wide as the canvas, and just as solid.
It was meit was Adam, Irina, Tongo and Lyra.
"Herbert! Herbert! Herbert!"
The memories flooded back, unbidden. We were congregated in the corridor outside Doctor McCoys office on the Enterprise, demanding the release of Doctor Sevrin. I glanced at Herb; he was a dumbfounded as I was.
I moved closer, and Sybok silently glided to my side, stroked his beard as we watched methe younger mescream and shout, red-faced, features distorted in rage. It was at once exhilarating and shaming.
"You felt so much, expressed your feelings so freely, didnt you, Mavig?" Sybok said. "Pity what time has done to you. Wouldnt you agree, Herb?"
"What?" Herb said. I turned to look at my husband. He shrugged, but I sensed Sybok was right.
"Look," Sybok said. He waved his hand, and the figures dissolved into the sand, were replaced with images of the Enterprises recreation lounge. Adam was playing and singing. I smiled, felt a warm glow as I remembered his beauty, his humor, his living spirit, dead all these years.
Spock and I jammed on Cosmic Solitude, and Sybok suddenly stepped closer, looked straight into my eyes, straight into my thoughts. "Who is that Vulcan?" he asked.
"Commander Spock," Herb said, moving closer. "First Officer."
"I thought so," Sybok said, and frowned slightly, but smiled as he watched Spock relax somewhat as we played on.
"Nice legs," Herb said, watching the reenactment.
I elbowed him in the ribs. "Quiet!"
Sybok glanced at us, perturbed, but let it pass.
From behind us, I heard a sudden quickening of breathing, sniffling.
I whirled. Rissa was kneeling on the sand, bent double, supporting herself with one arm, breathing in deep, spasmodic gasps.
"Sybok, stop this," I said.
"Remember, and grow, bring your pain forth into the light"
"God damn it, Sybok"
Herb and I dodged past him, knelt by our daughter. "Rissa, its okay, Im here."
Rissa gasped, raised her head, tears streamed out of her eyes, she shook uncontrollably, and
slammed her fist against the packed sand
laughed! "Oh, Mom, say it isnt so." She giggled, gasped and guffawed at oncelooked and sounded painful. I looked into her eyes. Though not completely free, she was returning. She got to her feet and walked unsteadily over to Sybok and his shadow play. Her shoulders bunched and quivered. I moved to her side.
"This isnt funny," I told her.
Hey, out there!
"Its killing me, stop it! Whered you get that outfit?"
"Even in the 60s, that thing was garish, Mother!"
"What happened to your tattoos? Who did your hair?"
"She should have been phasered."
"Rissa, honey, theres something you should know." I took a deep breath, squeezed Herbs hand for support. "I spent a year in a correctional facility for"
"For singing like that? Im not surprised!"
I didnt think it was funny, but even Herb chuckled at that one. I turned on him. "Id laugh; that nasty Izarian hair tonic never did you any favors!"
"Do you mind? Were trying to share the pain, here!" Sybok raged, tore at the front of his vestment, ripped away a couple of the stones inlaid on the chest plate.
Rissa turned and frowned at him. "Dont mind me," she said.
Sybok trembled, the scene disappeared, was replaced by
"Sybok, no more, please."
But he let it play out, a blurred montage.
the crew of the Enterprise dropped around us
the stolen shuttlecraft
the breathtaking vista as the shuttlecraft doors slid open to reveal Edenthe reds, the greens and yellows, free, open, widethe most beautiful sight my young eyes had ever seen
pain as the acid ate into our feet
Adam stared at us as he choked. His eyes pleaded. He was dying. He was already dead, but his mind would not accept it. He toppled over and the fruit rolled from his hand
Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Irinas old boyfriend coming for us
that night in Sickbay, when Doctor McCoy showed me the file and I had no choice but know that Sevrin was a carrier of Synthococcus novae
All I had believed in was gone, all my truths were lies, as hollow, as empty as Adams body, freezing in the Enterprises morgue. I cried myself to sleep.
And watching, I felt the pain returning, and the tears began to flow down my cheeks.
"Deal with the pain, and set"
"Sheesh, Mom," Rissa said with a smirk, "Sorry I insulted your outfit."
"Get out! Get out, now! Jonn, get them out!" Sybok ripped off his cloak, slung it at us as Jonn pushed and prodded us out the door flap into the brown glare of the Nimbus desert.
I shook my head at Marissa as she dried her eyes.
"Oh, Mom, dont worry; I wont tell." She came over and hugged me. "You did what you had to do."
"Thanks," I said, and pulled her closer. "Ill talk to your dad about Kerg. Itll be okay."
She nodded her thanks. A moment, then: "Mom?"
"Theres something I have to know."
"You dont have to answer if its too painful."
"Its fine; go ahead."
"Was that a bicycle wheel you were playing?"
She kissed me on the cheek and giggled. Herb very gallantly helped me onto Old Les. I glanced down at him. "Herb, what did Sybok mean? Why would you agree with him?"
"Hes just talking nonsense."
He glanced at the ground, toed the sand with his boot. "Mavig, I miss the hell-brand. You were something else. I miss the fiery woman I had to escort under guard back on the Enterprise. I miss the minx who wouldnt leave a happy ending well enough alone and who got locked up for disrupting an entire starbases transporter system. I miss the person who sent me angry subspace messages from Tantalus. I miss the idealistic wife who settled on Nimbus Three with me." He paused a bit, kicked a pebble. "We sure settled." He motioned Rissa over and helped her up behind me, then mounted Tribble.
I stared at him for a long moment, nodded, then looked around at the determined little band of pilgrims. A dirty air of fanaticism settled over the entire lot. "Im worried about this," I said. "Theyre up to something."
Herb glanced at the scraggly band. "Just another bunch of lunatics. Whatre they gonna dohijack the Enterprise?"
How the hell was I supposed to know?
Things have a way of working themselves out. Rissa returned to school (shes a nurse at Paradise Hospital!), and Ambassadors Talbot, Korrd (along with his permanent aide, Kerg), and the new Romulan envoy, Dar, returned to Nimbus III, and we really did have a second birth. The Federation sends supply ships every few months, and Rissa and I even protested the banning of Romulan produce after the Carafel Virus scare of 91. Herb says as long as he and Kerg can get their Romulan Ale, hes fine. Oh, he rolls his eyes and tries to debate whatever issue has gotten me on my high dahsu, and stomps off to pout in the smoke house when he loses.
When Rissa married Kerg, I pulled my harp out of the closet, cleaned the dust off the strings, and Ambassador Korrd and I played and sang a bit of traditional Klingon opera for the newlyweds. I think we acquitted ourselves well. Kerg is too much the gentleman to criticize, though I swear I saw Rissa smirking when I couldnt hit the low notes. Herb, spiffy in his classic Dress Reds, gave her away. At their request, we gave Kerg a book of romantic poetry and Rissa a brick. I never asked!
Jonn even danced with the Caitian strip, er barmaid.
Life was good. . .
This morning, the grandchildren woke me up. They were shouting, downstairs
"Grampa, Koon called me a petaQ!"
"Emily has no honor, Grampa!"
"Shut up," Herb screamed. "Get out."
The man has never raised his voice at our grandchildren. And why would he? They are only the most adorable three-year-olds in the universe, with the cutest little forehead ridges this side of the Neutral Zone.
I pulled on a housecoat and trudged downstairs. The children were sulking in the kitchen. Koon was munching on a heart-of-targ sandwich; Emily was trying to lift Kergs batlhetlh. I took it from her. "Youll put an eye out with that thing," I warned.
Herb was in the entertainment room, watching a Fed newscast. He sat, unmoving, on the couch, seemingly barely breathing. "Is there discord in the House of Herb?" I asked as I stumbled in and plopped down by him. He frowned, looked back at the newscast.
A ponderous dirge of a montage was drifting across the flat screen (holo sets are still rare out here in the galactic boonies)photographs of James T. Kirk. From childhood to his early academy days, to him in the gold uniform I remembered, through his encounters with Khan and Sybok and Chang, until the footage came to the launching of the Enterprise-B. Herb had mentioned the new Enterprise a couple days earlier, but Rissa and I were playing Klingon scrabble with the kids, or yapping on about the endangered Nimban tree fish, and I paid him little heed.
Some pompous Talking Herbert was droning on about Kirks legacy. I leaned in and pulled Herb close as he wept for his lost friend.
I have mixed feelings about Kirk. He will always remain one-part Herbert, one-part philosopher, attempting to stride both camps, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.
But I will give him this. . .
A few months after Sybok had hijacked the Enterprise through the Great Barrier, I chanced upon an interview Kirk had given. He recounted a discussion he had had with Spock (still cant believe he was Laughing Syboks brother!) and Doctor McCoyan idle rumination about "God."
Kirk said, "Ive traveled in space for over forty years, and Ive yet to find Him. Imposters, pretenders, wishers and dreamers, certainly, but no truly omnipotent god of love and reason."
What he said next has never left me, and has, in fact (please dont tell anyone!) buttressed my own thinking on the subject.
And then Kirk said, "I dont think Hes out there."
And he turned to the camera and lifted his hand, and touched his chest. "I think He, She, or It, is right here."
I couldnt agree more! Kirk was so right. He was far from original, but he was right! Dont you understand, Herbert? Its old news, but it bears repeating.
The Human (or Klingon, or Romulan, or whatever) adventure really is only beginning.
Space is not the final frontieronly where well meet the challenge.
The way to Eden, despite what I may have once said, is not charted on any star map.
And God sure the hell doesnt need a starship.
And if larger-than-life James Tiberius Kirk and little Mavig Hurley can agree on something, theres hope for the universe.
Am I reaching you, sister?
Are we One?
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