Authors: Simon Hawke
The lieutenant saluted Lucas, turned smartly on his heel, and marched off with the other guards.
"That was pretty quick thinking," Finn said to Andre.
She grinned. "With you two, one learns to think quickly." She tapped the paper that Bernajoux had handed back to her. "This helped a great deal. I will never regret having learned to read and I am thankful that Reese Hunter took so much trouble in furthering my education to prepare me for this time. I will miss him."
"So will we," said Lucas, remembering how Hunter had saved their lives on their last mission. And now, through Andre, he had helped them once again.
Finn picked up the unconscious Milady. "I think we'd bet-ter get while the going is good," he said.
"I'm with you," said Lucas. "Let's head back to the safehouse. We can commandeer a carriage."
As they started walking down the hall, Finn, carrying Taylor in his arms, chuckled.
"I just remembered something," he said. "I left Cobra in a secret passageway, watching the king preen bareass before his mirror."
"Getting him out might prove to be a problem," Lucas said.
"Yeah, his problem," said Delaney. "I think we'll just let him sweat it out."
It felt good to be back in the comfortable green transit fatigues and relaxing in the First Division lounge at TAC-HQ. Major Forrester was buying, but he did not insist upon their drinking Red Eye, so Finn and Lucas were sipping Irish whiskey and Andre was having her first taste of unblended Scotch.
She was still numb from future shock and she couldn't tear her eyes away from the huge window that looked out over the Departure Station. Everything that she had seen so far exceeded her wildest expectations. She felt very small and insignificant.
"Cobra got out that night," Finn was saying. "Fortunately, he still had a comset on him, so they were able to contact him from the safehouse and tell him that it was all over; otherwise, who knows how long he might've been there." Delaney chuckled. "He waited until Anne was asleep. After seeing what had happened to Germain, the poor woman was up half the night. The palace must have been a regular circus after we # left. Anyway, Cobra waited until the queen fell asleep, and then he snuck out and stole some of her clothes, bundled himself up in one of her traveling cloaks, and got out of the palace passing as a lady in waiting." Finn laughed. "He's got initiative, I'll say that much for him."
"What happened to Taylor?" said Forrester.
"Sad case," said Lucas. "When he came to, or rather, when
came to, she denied knowing anything about anyone named Adrian Taylor. We didn't believe it at first, but it wasn't long before it became obvious that Taylor had com-pletely lost
mind. She really believed that she was the Countess de Winter."
"Which gave Cobra the idea to dispense some Draconian justice," Finn said. "When D'Artagnan made it back in time to deliver the diamond studs to the queen so that she could wear them to the ball, Richelieu was forced to make a gesture and give her Taylor's two synthetic studs as a present, in addition to the twelve studs she already owned. Those explosives might have been harmless without the transmitter to trigger them, but Cobra sent a female agent in to join the queen's handmaidens and steal them. Probably a good thing, they would have made a hell of a bang if they ever went off.
"Sparrow was dead, of course, and unfortunately that meant that the TIA had to kill the real Constance Bonacieux, who would have been murdered by the real Milady in any case. Cobra said that she died painlessly while unconscious, but just the same, it was a messy business." Finn sighed and took a long drink. "In a way, Cobra followed the original scenario. He had us turn Milady over to the musketeers."
"They took her to Lille," said Lucas, "where Athos had been the Count de la Fere before he joined the musketeers and the real Milady, Charlotte Backson, had once been his countess. We took part in her trial, for the murder of Constance Bonacieux, among other things, and she was predict-ably found guilty.
Athos turned her over to the executioner of Lille and had her beheaded. She believed she was Milady right up to the very end."
"After that," said Finn, "all that remained was to tie up some loose ends, not the least of which was clocking ahead a few years and altering the memoirs of M. D'Artagnan to make certain changes and delete any references to a couple of soldiers of fortune named Francois D'Laine and Alexandre Dumas.
In a way, I'm sorry about that. I wonder how Dumas would have felt if he had seen his own name mentioned in D'Artagnan's memoirs?"
Forrester nodded. "Well, it was a close call," he said, "but you pulled it off. There will have to be some ongoing adjustment monitoring, but you've done your job. I think you can expect another promotion, Priest, and as for you, Delaney, I'm sure you'll be happy to know that the review board took your performance on the mission into consideration and they dropped the charges against you. The officer concerned lodged a formal protest which will go on your record, I'm afraid, but then, considering what your record looks like, I don't think that one more breach of discipline will make much difference.
"Thank you, sir."
"What is to become of me?" said Andre, hesitantly.
Forrester glanced at her and smiled. "Well, I understand you desire an implant. Under the circumstances, I think that's a good idea. You've held up pretty well, considering, but you're liable to break down from sensory overload if we don't do something about it fast. However, implant education is very expensive."
Andre licked her lips and looked from Forrester to Lucas, to Finn and back to Forrester. "I have no money," she said, softly.
Forrester grinned. "That's okay. Soldiers get them free. Welcome to the Temporal Corps."
by Luca Calcinai