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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2017 11:51 am 
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Thank you Jo and Kathy! Sorry for keeping you waiting, but maybe it gives you a chance to catch up.

Chapter 15



"Are you all right?" asked Jason. Horror twisted through him at the bloody mess that shredded Gray's wrist and lower left arm.

"Yeah, I—" He clutched his arm, as if trying to shield it from view. "I just—needed some fresh air."

"Can I come up?"

Gray nodded absently. Jason wasn't sure if it was the best call, but he had to do something.

As Jason walked up the steps, Gray backed away until he was leaning against the opposite railing. He looked from side to side, as if trying to see a way to escape.

Jason spread out his hands. "I'm not going to hurt you."

"I know that." His voice quavered, belying his words.

Jason gestured to his arm. "You need medical attention."

Gray glanced at his arm as if he was surprised it was a part of him. "It's nothing."

"Gray—"

He flinched, as if he expected Jason to tear into him. Jason took a step back, leaned against the railing, slick with rain. He'd have to tread carefully—or just call Connie or Tasha. But in a way, he felt it was his responsibility.

"Tasha's worried about you."

"I don't know why. I'm hardly an asset."

"Not just as an asset. As a person."

Gray looked down, then tentatively caught Jason's eyes. "I understand that even less. And why you'd be concerned about me. You should want this." He grasped his arm.

"I don't. I want you to get better, Gray."

"That's not even my real name. It's a name I'm unworthy of. Besides, why would you want me to return to the way I was? Even if I could. That person tortured you mercilessly."

A twinge of phantom pain flashed across Jason's back, where the whip had slashed…. He took a deep breath. "I don't want you to become the same person. I want you to become a better person."

"Even if I wanted to, how could anything good come out of—this?" He raked his fingernails across his arm, ploughing through the bloody gashes.

Jason leaped forward, then caught himself, stopping in the center of the gazebo. "Please, don't do that to yourself."

"I deserve much worse. I deserve to go back to the cell, let them—" He choked. Closed his eyes, shuddering.

Jason ripped a piece off the bottom of his shirt. "Please, let me help you." He approached carefully, holding out the cloth.

"I don't want help," he said sharply, looking up. Then he said more softly, more anguished, "I don't want to need help."

"There's no shame in needing help."

He grimaced. "I suppose I'll have to get used to it. It's better than…my other option. I just…don't know if I can do this mission at all. If I can't even let myself be touched—if everything scares me—if I keep having nightmares….How much of an asset can this be? I'm more of a liability."

"You know how to be an agent, even if you've…been out of the game for a while. It's just too bad you had to go back in the field this soon. But Gray, those symptoms you mentioned don't make you weak. It just means you have PTSD. I should know….I went through it too."

"I thought I was immune to the effects."

"No one else would be able to go through what you did without having the same symptoms."

He tipped his head. "How much did Tasha tell you. About what happened to me." His voice was dark, strained.

Jason pursed his lips. "She…said you were tortured horribly. Much worse than I was. I can't even imagine what you went through."

"You don't want to," he said in a barely audible voice. He snatched the cloth from Jason's hand, wound it quickly around his arm, some of the blood seeping through the white fabric.

He turned away, looking out at the garden, the colors dulled by the mist of rain. He stood there for a few minutes; Jason wasn't sure what to do. He longed to give him the comfort of a human touch that did not hurt, but he didn't want to startle him either. Jason wasn't sure how to help him. His mission would be separate, too—pursuing illegal weapons sales instead of human trafficking. At least that would not be as sensitive an issue for Gray.

"If there's anything I can do, just let me know. If the mission gets to be too much for you, I'll take it on instead."

Gray whirled around. "I do not want to be that helpless."

"You're not recovered yet. Some things will be hard until you're better."

"I have to go on this mission. Whether I'm ready or not."

"All right. I won't take your place. But I'll help you if I find out you're in trouble. Don't hesitate to call me."

A puzzled expression crossed Gray's guarded face. "I don't understand why you'd want to help me. But I suppose I do need it…till I'm back on my feet. Until I can be an agent again." Longing haunted his eyes. "I don't know if I can. But I'll have to try to keep from being afraid—at least enough so I don't go running off like a coward just because some innocent boy ran into me. Even if I have to resort to this in private." He grasped his arm.

"Gray—please don't hurt yourself again. I can't possibly know how you feel, how deeply this has impacted you so you feel like you have to hurt yourself. But it's not going to make things better. I'm no expert—but see if you can find constructive ways to deal with it, instead of destructive ways that'll only hurt your mission."

Gray's eyes sparked. He nodded.

"And –if you ever need someone to talk to, you can come to me."

"Thank you, Jason." A small smile tugged at the edge of his mouth. "I think that the best way for me to get over this is to be an agent. Or at least, try to. It's in my blood; it's all that I am. Without it, I'll always be broken. If I can even get some semblance of what I was ….Until then, I'll try to find constructive ways to….deal with this. Even though I don't even deserve to be an agent again—I never was one in the first place, really—I was always capable of becoming this—this pathetic creature that can't even cope with—couldn't even defend himself when—" He took a deep breath. Looked down, pink suffusing his cheeks. "I will try—try to keep above this, deal with it—but with all this—mess inside, I can't make any promises."

He clung to the railing for a moment, his head leaning out in the rain, droplets dripping off of his blond hair. Then he turned and without a glance at Jason he strode out the gazebo and down the steps, avoiding Connie even when she offered him her umbrella.

Jason's heart swelled with love for her at this simple, kind gesture. Even if she hadn't forgiven Gray, she was making an effort. And that, Jason knew from experience, was hard. It became easier, but the hardest part of forgiveness was not acknowledging it but going out of your way to help the one that needed to be forgiven.

He strode out of the gazebo and popped up his umbrella again. He walked down the path and joined Connie, stunning in her white dress. He kissed her cheek when he reached her; she laughed, gave him a quick kiss on the lips. Then she twined her hand in his and they walked back through the garden toward the palace.

Jason called Tasha and told her they'd found Gray. As they neared the palace, the rain poured harder, gusts of wind pressing against their umbrellas. Gray walked slowly ahead of them, getting drenched by the rain.

They stepped into the entryway and shook the water off their umbrellas before closing them. Tasha dashed in, soaking wet, her umbrella inside out. "It's turning into an actual storm out there."

They walked into the brightly lit front hall. Gray stood near one of the statues. Tasha hurried over to him, spoke to him in low tones. She led him down the hallway of private suites.

A man in a black suit and tie walked up to them. "His Majesty would like you to join him for breakfast."

"We wouldn't miss it," said Jason. They followed the man to the left. A door opened onto another grand room with an elegantly painted ceiling, images of war and peace swirling across it.

The king and queen sat at the head of a long mahogany table, as glossy as a dark mirror. Stefan lounged with his arm draped around the back of the chair, his ruffled shirt open at the collar, his dark curls spilling to his shoulders. Luna leaned forward, her arms leaning on the table, her face alight with excitement as she spoke.

"Welcome!" said James, lifting an arm and beckoning them closer. "Don't let the setting fool you; we're very informal here, as long as it's not a state dinner."

The queen gave a gracious smile. Luna waved vigorously. Stefan regarded them with interest as they approached.

Jason sat down to the left of Stefan, and Connie sat down at his side.

"Did you find your companion?" asked the queen.

It took Jason a moment to figure out she was talking about Gray. "Yes, we did. He's all right."

"Good. Will he be joining us?"

"I'm not sure. He…he has to get into some dry clothes first."

"It's too bad your visit had to coincide with the rainy season," said the king, "although we can't help what time of year our Centennial falls on."

Stefan leaned forward, resting a ruffled sleeve on the table. "The man I ran into…."

"Gray."

"I didn't hurt him, did I?"

"No, he's all right. You just…startled him, that's all."

"I'll try to be more careful next time. What happened to him, anyway?"

"It's a sensitive issue, so I don't think he'd want us talking about it."

"Sure." Stefan leaned back as if satisfied, but curiosity smoldered in his dark eyes.

"We were just talking about the festival," said Luna. "You're coming, aren't you?"

"We'd love to," said Jason.

"When does it start?" said Connie.

"It kicks off tonight. There's gonna be fireworks! And James is coming. I mean, the prince."

"You can call him James, you know," said the king. "You practically grew up together."

"I know, it's just confusing. He used to be Jamie but he doesn't want to be called that anymore." Her lower lip pouted.

James looked at Jason. "We used to call my son Jamie to distinguish him from me. But now that he's sixteen, he thinks Jamie is babyish and so he wants to be called James. I suppose I'll have to choose another name. Which will be confusing for the people, but…c'est la vie." He smiled. He had hints of gray in his hair that he hadn't had seventeen years ago, and carried more cares in his face, but he also seemed happier, more fulfilled. Though there was still an undercurrent of sorrow, nearly muffled by an all-encompassing joy and a less rough and reserved demeanor from his days as an exile in the Czech mountains. He was now fully king, with a confident but not proud manner, easy, approachable. He'd grown into his role, become a king that Muldavia could be proud of. A twinge of happiness pierced his heart for having had a small role in bringing this king to power and toppling the communists that had smothered the country.

"You are King Roderick," said Darya, looking at him with affection. "So you could take on that name." She whispered in his ear. He laughed. Laced his fingers through hers.

"You may call me Roderick, I suppose. Although I associate it with my father. Or you may choose from among any of my other hundred names." His hearty laugh echoed through the room.

Three men in identical black suits entered, bearing silver trays. They set the trays onto the table, lifting the lids, revealing breakfast food of all kinds. A delicious smell wafted through the room; Jason realized he was hungry, especially after their excursion this morning.

Two more of the servants set plates and silverware in front of them. Connie gestured to her fork, mouthing, Is this real silver?

Jason replied, Probably.

Roderick bowed his head, and the others followed suit. He prayed for the meal and for the state of the nation. He thanked God for Luna's grandfather's recovery, and for the fact that Jason and Connie had joined them.

Then everyone dug in. Jason snatched up two large sausages, several potato rolls, toast, cheese, strawberries. He picked up one strawberry and lifted it to Connie's lips. She bit into it, closing her eyes. "Mmmm." Juice ran down her chin. She hurriedly wiped it away with a cloth napkin.

"These strawberries are really good," she said. "Where are they from?"

"They're from the Dakaley district," said the king. "The best strawberries in the world, in my opinion."

The sausages were plump, juicy, with just the right amount of spice. He was so hungry that he dove into the whole meal and barely looked up until his plate was empty.

"Have all you want," said Roderick. "There's more where that came from. Privileges of being a king. Although—I find myself longing for the simplicity of the Romani camp, or the stillness of the mountains….I do like to treat my guests, but overall, I really try to keep my personal expenses as austere is possible. Still, there are these accusations of corruption….."

"Against you?" said Jason, unable to believe it.

"Sometimes I think they're right. Not the corruption but the fact that this institution really is antiquated. We have a republic with an unelected monarch. I've democratized the country to a certain extent, but it's not enough. To still have royalty in this day and age, inherited by blood…It would be okay if it were just symbolic, like in England. But I have entirely too many powers. I'm considering stepping down soon. The problem is, half the country supports the present system, and half does not."

"It is…difficult to balance the two sometimes," said Darya, looking sympathetically at her husband.

"A monarchy has many inherent weaknesses. A democracy is much more stable, and much fairer to the people."

"It does seem like a necessary step," said Jason. "Although…if you had a democracy, there's no guarantee the president will be a good one."

"True. But he would only be in power several years, as opposed to a lifetime. Even though I came to power with the people's support, I do not feel like I deserve this position. The time has come to end the monarchy, while there's still someone in power who does not wish to be in power. Although I don't think James would abuse his position when he became king, I don't want to give him this burden either. I plan to present my proposal to Parliament at its next session."

"I am not entirely certain that's a good idea," said Darya. "There are many things we need to accomplish before we can destabilize the country with elections."

"Sometimes a little instability is needed to reform old systems. My rule has been a transition period between communism and democracy. It's provided the necessary stability."

"This is…a particularly sensitive time."

"When isn't it? Besides, it will take several years before elections can take place. I will make the necessary reforms between now and then."

Darya nodded, her brow furrowed. She was beautiful, noble, elegant; red-blond hair cascaded over her shoulder, contrasting with her dark red velvet dress.

Stefan leaned forward, shoved his plate to the side. "Uncle James, we're not always straightforward with you. We want you to think you have created a utopia, and we're living well and free. But there's a point where…it's too much to bear."

Alarm spread across the king's face. "What is it?"

"The countryside is in trouble. Crime has reached the roads. We were safe at first, but now—the people blame the Romani for their problems. They're afraid of us like they used to be under the tyrant. We've been harassed, abused…That we could bear; we don't want to trouble you with something we can handle. But now—you know our cousin Karima?"

"Yes, she married someone from another kumpania."

"She had two daughters. But they were attacked one night and stolen—we think. We've heard of others attacked and stolen. It's not just because they hate us. They're selling us."

Roderick stood, pushing his chair back with a scrape. His eyes flashed. "How do you know this?"

"We don't know it. Except Aunt Jael thought she saw some Romani girls being bundled up into a van one day. It was in a bad part of Rakima, where there have been lots of disappearances."

"There's already too much trafficking going on in the country, and if they're enslaving Romani—a minority I'm supposed to protect—"

"They're also attacking Turkish people."

"It's not even like you're immigrants. Both minorities have been an integral part of Muldavia since the beginning." His face was flushed with anger. "I'll do everything in my power to help you. It's true, I do get a bit sheltered here in this palace…."

"We did try to keep it from you. No one else comes to the aid of Gypsies." Bitterness seized Stefan's voice.

Darya turned to the king. "You need to be careful how you handle this. Some are already calling you 'Gypsy-lover'."

"Let them."

"It's just that…with the situation as it is, you need to be careful how you present your image."

He flung out one arm toward Luna. "These are our family."

"We'll help them in every way we can. But we should not announce it to the country. That way, we won't tip off the criminals that you're onto their plan."

Roderick nodded, eyes narrowed. He turned to Jason.

"You're here to investigate human trafficking, right?"

"We're searching for the boy of a client of ours."

"That's why you're consulting with Saul and Kris. And Tasha and Gray are chasing the weapons angle of Yavesh."

Jason nodded.

"That's why we need you to stay in power," said Stefan. "No one else would help us like you do. No other ruler would care about us like family."

"Your family saved me when no one else would. I will not abandon you. But I cannot stay in power forever. You must trust the people—"

"Trust the people who are attacking us?" Stefan stood. "If you abandon us, perhaps we should just take care of ourselves like we always have." He strode out of the room, the door slamming behind him.

Luna giggled nervously into the silence. She looked at Jason. "Family gets into arguments sometimes."

"Especially me and Stefan," said Roderick. "This time, he's has a point. I cannot abandon him." He looked at Darya, who seemed a little shaken beneath her composure. "Perhaps I should postpone the vote. At least until this crisis is over. The last thing we want is chaos. If order is breaking down even in the countryside, where it's usually peaceful…." He looked down at his empty glass pensively. Then he stood. "Excuse me." He bowed swiftly, then strode from the room.

"Thank you for joining us," said Darya. "Excuse me." She followed her husband, leaving just Luna, who fiddled with her fork then stood.

"I've gotta go call my mom. I'll see you later!" She skipped out the door, her green dress flying.

Connie looked at Jason. "I'm…not really sure what to think."

"When I was shot, Stefan's grandparents took care of me. I might not have been brought up in their camp like Roderick, but I do feel like I owe them. While we're looking for Ben….we might find evidence about the ones who were kidnapped. Just as long as I don't get in the direct sights of Yavesh."

"I don't want you to get hurt. They…tortured that agent that Kris told us about. It was too much like my dream."

"Don't worry. I'm not going to run headlong into danger like I used to. Most of all, I don't want to put you in danger." He caressed her hand softly with his. She pressed her hand to his cheek, kissed him. Kept on kissing him—He pulled away reluctantly.

"Let's go back to our room," he said, breathless, and her hand snugly in his, she followed him back down the hallway to their luxurious suite.

_________________
Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Wed Mar 29, 2017 4:24 pm 
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Great job! You are excellently thickening the plot! Can't wait for the next chapter!

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Jo March
Child of God, book-lover, history-lover, cook, baker, reader
2 Timothy 1:6-7, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God has not given us a spirit of fear but or power and love and sound mind."


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 11:45 am 
Fudge Marble
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Thanks Jo!
sorry it took so long to post, I forgot to post the last chapter here (it's on fanfiction.net)
here's a long chapter to make up for it.

Chapter 16

Rain pattered softly onto Jason's umbrella, which he shared with Connie. She huddled snugly against him. All around them, people were jumbled in a vast mass on the cobblestone plaza. A red brick building with ornate white trim stood in front of them. On either side its large central balcony stood two soldiers; the center of the balcony was empty.

A strong feeling of déjà vu hit Jason. Along with an echo of apprehension. Last time he was here, he'd been undercover, listening to the speech of the communist premier, Karl von Warberg. And then a soldier had started beating a man for holding his umbrella for his wife—a sign of disrespect to the premier—and Jason had gone to rescue the man. He'd beaten the soldier to the ground, felt a rush of exultation—and then realization slammed into him of what he'd done. Made it impossible to finish their mission—and maybe not even get out of the country alive.

Somehow, his impetuous actions had not ended in their deaths—and miraculously, events had worked together to bring about the downfall of the communists and the rule of the king. But not before the king was nearly executed, in this very square….He could almost hear the surge of the crowds as they attacked the soldiers who'd oppressed them for decades. The bloody, glorious clash of revolution. Despite the insistence of others, it had happened in spite of him, not because of him.

Elena had said that his actions had given the people hope. But that had all been an act. She had been working for Zahl all along….He fought the memory of her lips on his. How had he ever fallen for her? What a foolish boy he'd been…..

Tasha stood on his right, Gray beside her. Somehow she'd coaxed him out to this vast crowd. Admiration stirred in Jason—he knew in a small way what effort it took to face your fears. And with the pain Gray was going through, it would take a lot of strength to simply be here.

Gray's jaw was taut, his face pale under the umbrella. His blond hair was sticking up in spikes and he wore an immaculate charcoal suit. He almost looked like the old Gray, and a chill ran through Jason. But his very posture was tense, his fists clenched against his sides as he looked straight forward, as if trying to avoid seeing anything close to him.

A man walked onto the balcony. The king. He wore a black suit with a red sash across it. Behind him stood Darya, resplendent in a silver gown. A muted roar swept through the crowd, interspersed with cheers. People from the media began snapping pictures, leaning against the iron fence; security guards in dark sunglasses stepped closer warningly.

The king's voice boomed out over the square. He spoke of the accomplishments of the last seventeen years. Of his own journey to become king, hiding with the Romani, and in the cabin in the Czech mountains, and then coming back to share the fate of his people.

"When I stood on that scaffold, I told you that even though I would die, you should not give up hope. It was not me—it was you who started the revolution. It would not have happened if you hadn't acted against your oppressors. As long as we let the flame of freedom burn in our hearts, as long as we don't forget the lessons of history, we will forge forward into an even greater future.

"As I pledged on the day of my coronation, I will always serve you, and protect that future with all that is within me."

A swell of applause and cheers burst around them. The king spoke and they quieted again. "At midnight, Muldavia will officially be one hundred years old. If it is God's will, we will celebrate another centennial in a hundred years. As long as we remain a nation of freedom and of justice."

The crowd cheered, tossed confetti in the air. Hats flew high and disappeared in the crush of the crowd.

The rain had lightened and Jason collapsed his umbrella. Connie's hand snuck into his. They made their way through the mass of people; they could hardly help but bump into someone. Jason looked back to make sure Tasha was coming and saw Gray's face, white and drawn, his eyes shot through with fear and pain.

They reached the front gate. Security men blocked them, hands near their guns.

"We have an invitation," said Jason, his voice drowned out by the roar of the crowd. He carefully reached into his shirt and drew out a piece of paper with the king's signature on it. A guard inspected it with a frown and then nodded. He unlocked the gate and let them in, then shut it swiftly before a member of the paparazzi could dart inside.

Escorted by some guards, they walked into a large hall with a red marble floor and eighteenth-century portraits on the walls. Then they went through a labyrinth of narrow corridors until they reached a large room with long rectangle tables decorated with Muldavian flags and abundant bouquets.

"This is beautiful," said Connie softly.

"The one in the US was just a pale imitation. This is the real thing."

"It's nice to have another reason to wear my dress!"

"You look stunning." He kissed her cheek, remembering the banquet in DC, how he'd longed to be closer to her, close the gap, repair their love….

"You look amazing yourself." She kissed him lightly on the lips.

The guards ushered them to the table at the front of the room, where a few people had gathered already. They sat down next to their nameplates, Connie on his right, Gray on his left and Tasha beside him.

"Are you all right?" Jason asked. Gray's face was ashen.

"Yes. It is…better now, out of the crowd." He looked at Tasha. "Without you, I could not have done it."

"It's part of my job to get you back into peak operating condition."

"I will fight to become an agent if it's the last thing I do."

"It will take time, but you have it in you to overcome this."

"I'll be praying for you, Gray," said Jason.

"Me too," said Connie.

Gray looked taken aback; he nodded but did not reply.

A woman with short red hair strode up to the table.

"If it's not Jason Whittaker!" she said, leaning across the table with proffered hand, which Jason took.

For a moment, Jason couldn't place her. Then an image sparked in his memory. "Dana?"

"Yes! I'm flattered you remembered."

"Well, you're hard to forget."

She laughed and sat down next to Leila. "So what have you been doing with yourself since last time? Saving any more countries?"

Heat rose to Jason's cheeks. "No…well, I never did much to save this one."

"Nonsense! You were instrumental in bringing the prince back, saving him from Zahl."

"After almost getting him killed."

She waved one hand. "All's well that ends well. And who's this? You're beautiful bride?"

"Yes. This is Connie. How'd you know?"

She shrugged. "I'm a reporter; discovering the truth is what I do." She held out her hand to Connie, who took it. "It's nice to meet you, Connie. I'm Dana."

"It's nice to meet you!"

"So how long have you been married? Any kids?"

"Not yet," said Jason, stiffening, hoping to avoid any more questions about children. "We've been married—oh, four months."

Surprise crossed her face. "I would have guessed at least a few years. Though you do have this honeymoon glow about you…."

"We were friends for years before we got married," said Connie.

"Ah, the best kind of relationship. Like my second marriage."

"Where's your husband now?" asked Jason.

"He has to work tonight."

"During the Centennial?"

"He's a security guard. We met on a story—never looked back. It's been five years. So—you were never married before this?"

"I took my time."

"To find the right one, I see." She smiled. "Well, congratulations."

"Thank you," said Connie. She slid her hand into Jason's, lacing her fingers with his.

A group of people spilled into the room and filled the remaining seats at the table. Stefan, Luna, a beautiful girl in a red dress, a man who looked vaguely familiar, a woman with gray streaking her long dark hair—Jason had seen her before. "Marija?"

"Jason!"

Marija embraced him, then she introduced her husband, Stefan Sr., whom Jason had met just once after he'd had gotten out of prison. He looked much better now, hearty and strong rather than thin and frail. She also introduced Zara, the young woman in red, who curtseyed and gave a bright smile. "Maybe we can dance this time," she said, her eyes twinkling. He remembered her as a little five-year-old girl, twirling around the fire….

Sofia and Nikola, Marija's parents, came over and gave Jason a hug. They had saved his life when he'd been shot, and brought him to their camp to heal. Jason introduced Connie and they all welcomed her as if she were part of their extended family.

Then the Muldavian national anthem played and everyone stood. Many sang the words, which Jason didn't know, so he just laid his hand on his heart, pondering the sacrifices of the past that suddenly seemed so vivid, as if he'd leaped in time from the revolution to the centennial. The contrast made his heart skip a beat. He drew Connie close; she pressed her cheek to his.

Then the king and queen entered and the crowd hushed. Behind them walked the prince, James, in a dark suit that matched his father's. The king took his place at one head of the table, the queen on the other, while James sat beside Tasha.

The king welcomed everyone and led them in prayer. Then waiters brought in hors d'oeuvres on tiered crystal plates. Connie lifted a crepe shaped like a flower, turned it carefully around. "This looks too pretty to eat!"

She ate it slowly, as if savoring every bite. "It's really good." She snatched up another. "Oh—I don't want to eat all of them."

"That's okay," said Dana. "There's more where those came from."

"Anything you want, just ask!" said the prince. "You're our guests of honor. Without some of you, Muldavia wouldn't exist."

Jason wished he could set the record straight—they all thought he was some kind of hero. He knew he'd never be able to live up to the pedestal they'd put him on. It was false—a mirage. Even many years later, he hadn't become a great agent. He'd failed miserably, many times.

"I'm no hero," he said quietly, almost to himself.

"It's true, you did do some pretty foolhardy things," said Dana.

"That's an understatement."

"You were young, inexperienced. Of course you made mistakes. But you cannot downplay what we all saw, at the end. It took an outsider to show us that we could resist. And the most Muldavian of us all." She lifted her glass toward the king.

"But I too was an outsider," said the king. "I abandoned you."

"It's what you had to do. To save yourself. So you could come back and save us all. In the end, it doesn't matter what mistakes we made along the way. It's the result that matters. A hero is an ideal, a figurehead, something that doesn't really exist but which we strive for. It's the best that's in us, that overcomes what's worst in us."

"Well said," said the king, who raised a glass. "To heroes."

Jason raised his glass, which was filled with wine, and clinked it against Connie's. He took a sip; it was heavy and tangy.

"Well, I guess a little wouldn't hurt," said Connie, and she sipped some of the wine, reddening her lips. Longing sprang up inside him to kiss those lips. He had to look away for a moment or he might forget himself and kiss her right there.

"What do you think?" said Saul. "It's one of our best wines, called Lessanne."

"Delicious," said Jason.

"It's grown not far from here," said Leila. "Near where we live. If you'd like to come out to our place for a day or two, you're welcome."

"We're not exactly here on vacation."

"Of course not. But we are also investigating Yavesh, so it could be a working vacation. And you could meet our kids. They're sitting at another table with our relatives; maybe we can introduce you later."

"I'd like to meet them," said Connie. "You have five, right?"

"Gina, Tessa, Mark, Lukas, and Katrina," said Saul.

"Katrina!"

"That's our youngest," said Leila. "Is something wrong with the name?"

Connie laughed. "No! It's just that Katrina's the name of one of my good friends."

"Good namesake, then. She's our little ray of light. Our surprise baby."

"She's the sweetest little thing!" said Zara. "I want a whole bunch of kids l after I graduate."

"You need to get married first," said Marija.

"Of course, Mama." She lowered her eyes. "That's what I meant."

"Any good prospects in college?" said Nikola.

"Not yet, Grandpapa."

"Then what are we sending you to college for?"

"Nikola!" said Sofia, giving him a playful nudge.

"To be a teacher," said Zara.

"And leave the kumpania, I suppose." Nikola sighed.

"I could teach our kids."

"Times are changing," said Sofia. "The opportunities for smart young women are in the city, not traveling about the countryside. We'll miss you, but you will always be a part of us, and we'll come visit you when you have a family of your own."

"I will see if I can settle down with a nice Romani man. There are not many at the university, though."

"Well, just do your best and come back to us if you can," said Nikola.

"Are you planning to leave us too?" asked Marija, looking at Luna.

She looked up from her salad. "I don't know, Mama. I don't want to leave. But I do want to learn, like Stefan and Zara."

"You're already away from us so much."

"There's so much I want to see. And I need to see Uncle James sometimes too." She looked at the king. Then her eyes strayed to the prince. He gave her a bright smile; she flashed a smile back at him and then looked down at her plate.

The main course arrived—steak and potatoes. Jason cut into the steak and lifted it to his mouth. It was tangy and tender.

He looked at Tasha. "We certainly eat better this time around."

She nodded. "When we were on the run, we had to take what we could get."

"Times have changed," said Dana. "We are a more prosperous country now than we ever were under communism. Not to say we don't still have kinks to work out."

"It's your job to keep us accountable," said the king. "Especially since we don't yet have a true democracy. Something I plan to rectify. It's unconscionable that I have been so complacent as to wait so long to create one. We need full, free and fair elections within the next few months."

A murmur rippled across the table, and some of it spread to the crowd below. People looked at each other, whispered excitedly, apprehensively.

"It's a credit to your rule that we have been satisfied as a people," said Dana. "We trust you to make the right decisions for us."

"But that's the problem with absolute rule. The communists were right about that part—they just went too far the other way. When the power is in the hands of one person, the country has to rely on the benevolence of that monarch. There are no checks and balances. A constitution is the foundation of a country; without it, we could easily fall prey to a demagogue or a revolution. Even I could go the wrong way and abuse power."

"This may not be the right time, your Majesty," said a man next to him. "There is unrest in the provinces. We need a strong hand. Later, we can craft this constitution, when things have settled down."

Roderick waved one hand. "There is never a perfect time for a transition. But it must be done. We will make it as smooth as possible. I will not step down until a legitimate candidate has taken my place and transfer of power is guaranteed peacefully. Our country must enter the modern age. It's only because we're so small that we've escaped scrutiny from the rest of the world about democratic progress."

"And because of your impeccable record," said Dana. "There are no human rights abuses here. The people are happy and prosperous. It's true, few monarchs would be able to resist the temptation for corruption."

"It is only by the grace of God I have kept on the right path."

"Ironically, there are those who take issue with your faith. We're still quite a religious country, but there are more atheists and agnostics than there once were. We're becoming more diverse, and that brings the clashes of culture and race that we've been seeing lately."

"Elections may settle things down. Or they may bring to light just how divided the people are."

"We are not divided," said the man who had spoken before. He had steel gray hair and glasses. "We are happy and prosperous, as you said."

"Yes," said Dana. "But with all due respect, you are not among the people every day as I am. I look into their faces, and there is joy, but there's also suspicion and hatred simmering beneath the surface. If we're not careful, it could explode. It could even bring new revolution. Elections may bring us stability; they may fan the flame of conflict. That's just the risk we have to take."

"I see what you do not see as well," said Stefan. He leaned forward, dark curls slipping over his forehead. "I see the hatred against my people. It is getting worse, not better. My own father was hurt when he tried to intervene when gadje were attacking some of us."

"Perhaps, if the Gypsies were more integrated," said the man with the steel-gray hair, "these attacks would not happen."

"You would not allow us to be integrated. Even if we wanted to be. At the university, they stay away from us like we carry a plague." Stefan clenched his fist.

"It is not as bad as all that," said Zara. "I've made lots of friends. Maybe you should try being less adversarial."

"You see the silver lining everywhere. Even after you were attacked."

"It wasn't so bad." She brushed her cheek with her fingers, looked down.

"Two men hurt her. I wasn't there to stop them."

"Zara—I didn't know," said the king.

"We don't want to beg favoritism," said Zara. "I'm fine, really. It was in my sophomore year. The majority of students have been very welcoming."

"That is how most Muldavians are. But there are bad elements too, and it's my job to eliminate them as much as possible and protect our minorities. When I step down, there will be provisions in the constitution that will protect the Turkish, Jewish, and Romani people and give them seats in Parliament." He looked at Stefan, who nodded.

"That will take care of the common criminals," said Dana. "But there is a cancer in our society and it has deep roots, taking advantage of the unrest and the economic hardship of some."

"You're not talking about Yavesh," said a blond woman next to Sofia. "That's a fairytale."

"Most fairytales are dark and violent. But it's real and spreading. If we don't stop it, it will undo all the hard work as a country and consume us."

"You're exaggerating."

"From what I've seen, no, I'm not. There are just enough pieces to connect into a pattern. We have to destroy it before it uproots our society."

"You think it is that intertwined?" asked the king.

"It's roots are deeper than we realize. We have a lot of work to do before we can even scratch the surface. I would almost consider postponing the vote, if I were you; it might take advantage of the country's instability. It might even engineer a coup."

"I wasn't aware it had political ambitions."

"From the pattern I've seen, it wants to take over as much of the country as possible. If it can't take over like a vine rotting a tree from the inside, it will crush the state and take over completely. Like cancer, it will survive at all costs, even death of the host."

"We would appreciate any help you can give us," said Leila. "If we work together, share information, we can accomplish more than we could alone."

Dana nodded. "I'd be happy to share anything I come up with. Though I've scraped up little concrete so far."

"We have a chance to bring down Yavesh if we all work together," said Saul.

"My niece's two girls were stolen by them," said Marija. "Could you help us?"

"Yes, we will. Just give us as much information as you can. That might not only help us find the girls, but bring down Yavesh and save many more children. If you see anything suspicious, report it so we can have as clear a picture as possible. We have to find a weakness of some sort. A way to destroy their foundation. Right now, we're just going after the periphery, not the heart, the brain of it."

"If I have to fight them myself," said the king, "I will."

"Rod," said Darya, "you are not expendable."

"On the contrary, I am…or soon to be…obsolete." He smiled a little wistfully. "If the only way to save my country is to sacrifice myself, I will do it in an instant. It is…only by the grace of God that I did not sacrifice my life seventeen years ago."

"It would have been me that caught that bullet," said Jason, gratefulness rushing through him for what the king had done. He was truly a selfless man, a great leader if there ever was one.

"You saved me; I only had to return the favor. You brought me to life by connecting me to my people."

"Is there anything I can do?" asked the prince.

"It might be good for you to learn more of Muldavian affairs. If you want to, you can look at the reports, see what you can learn. And maybe you can shadow some investigations—as long as they don't go into danger."

"Thank you." He bowed his head, the circlet of a crown around his hair glinting in the light from the chandeliers.

After dessert of strawberry shortcake, an opera singer in a pearlescent silk dress stood on stage and sang a song in Muldavian. Jason lost himself in the beauty of the language, the soaring heights of the music.

"It's beautiful," whispered Connie when it was done. Jason gently brushed away the tear on her cheek. His heart ached to gather her close, but he drew away, leaving disappointment in her eyes.

After the opera singer came a rock group which caused everyone to get up and sway to the pounding of the drums and rhythm of the guitar. Finally there was a scene from a play, and this was in Muldavian too, so it was hard to follow. But it seemed like a version of Romeo and Juliet, only between a wealthy city girl and a poor country boy.

When the scene ended, everyone got up from the tables. Saul and Leila introduced them to their kids, who had black hair and dark eyes like their parents. Leila lifted little Katrina up and kissed her; the little girl laughed and Leila hugged her tight.

Connie turned away, pain in her eyes.

"Connie—" He led her away toward the wall.

"I'm okay. I'm just tired and there's so much going on and—seeing her made me think of what Jeremiah would've been like if….."

"We can go back to the palace."

"I'm okay. I want to dance." They walked to the ball room, a grand room with shimmering chandeliers with pictures of battles swirling across the floor.

He held her close as they danced. She draped her hand over his shoulder, fingers caressing the back of his neck. He gazed into her beautiful green eyes, her face perfectly framed by her cinnamon-brown hair. He kissed the bridge of her nose, unable to help it; she laughed and pressed even closer, then kissed his cheek, close to his ear. Thrills raced through him.

"My Connie," he whispered.

"My Jason." He pressed his lips to hers, savoring a slow soft kiss.

She lifted her hand, brushed his hair back from his brow. "You are more beautiful every time I look at you." She ran her hand down delicately over his scar. He closed his eyes, remembering a flash of pain, wondering how she could see any beauty in him.

"I don't want to do anything but be near you." She closed her eyes, pressed her cheek to his. They swept past the other dancers, like mirages in mist.

After about five dances, Connie said her feet hurt and they sat on a bench along the edge. He wrapped his arm around her waist, while she leaned her head on his shoulder.

Saul and Leila swirled past them, completely absorbed in each other. Dana danced past with her husband, a tall man with brown hair and intense brown eyes. She introduced him. "This is Sam."

"It's good to meet you," he said. "I would like to throw my hat in the ring, if possible. See if I can get a transfer to Internal Security, help fight Yavesh."

"You'd be a good asset to the team," said Jason, not sure what he should say, since he was just here as a freelancer.

"He would, wouldn't he?" said Dana, wrapping her arm around Sam's. She pressed close to him with a laugh, and they swept around the dance floor, blending with the other dancers including Nikola and Sofia, Stefan Senior and Marija, and the king and queen in the center, regal and graceful and perfectly in sync.

Stefan and Zara twirled past, laughing. Luna and Prince James danced slow and close, Luna's cheek against his, her eyes closed, the prince gazing at her with affection in his eyes.

"Do you think they are… together?" said Connie softly.

"I don't know. They look pretty close. I wonder if the king knows."

To Jason's surprise, Gray was on the dance floor with Tasha. He looked awkward and uncomfortable; Tasha draped her arm around his shoulder. He closed his eyes, his head bowed for a moment. Then his body relaxed and his steps moved with the rhythm of the music and he swept Tasha around the dance floor, moving elegantly. His dark suit and her red dress complemented each other, while her dark hair and his blond hair contrasted, as if they'd chosen each other as partners to maximize effect. They danced in symphony, almost as if they anticipated each other's thoughts. The next dance was faster and Jason marveled at their moves. Even the king and queen stopped and admired them, while only a few others remained on the floor. The rest watched the masters at work, while they remained oblivious to anything but each other. Jason had never known Tasha was such a great dancer, and wouldn't have suspected it of Gray, although they were both the kind that strove for excellence in all that they did. The only thing that marred their movements was Gray's slight limp. Otherwise, one would never suspect that he'd been horrifically tortured, or how broken he'd been earlier that day. It was as if he'd shed who he was and something else had emerged—similar to his old supremely confident self.

Connie leaned over as the music tapered off. "You don't think…there's something there, do you? Something between them?"

"I…don't know. I wouldn't think so, but…." For some reason, the thought disturbed him. Not jealousy of course, but even with Gray's reformed attitude, his present harmlessness, it didn't seem right that Tasha would fall for someone like him. She wasn't the kind that could ever care for a murderer….

Maybe I haven't forgiven him as much as I thought. There is this part of me that cannot trust him. Not yet.

Gray and Tasha came over and sat down beside them. Sweat sheened their skin.

"That was amazing!" said Connie.

"Thank you," said Tasha breathlessly. "I haven't danced like that in a while."

"You could dance professionally."

"Maybe we'll do that," she said wryly, looking at Gray. "How are you doing?"

"I'm all right," said Gray. "I…didn't think I could do that. Not with all these people. But somehow I was able to forget. Like it was just us two in the room. You're good at knowing just the right thing to say, to do."

"You just have to believe you can do it. Look what you just did." She touched his hand.

People were still stealing glances at them and murmuring. Gray looked away, a blush spreading across his cheeks. "I hope they did not see my limp."

"All they saw was your expertise."

He gave a sheepish smile. "I just…can't help but think they can see it, sense it, somehow. What…happened." He looked sharply at Jason and Connie, as if he thought he'd said too much. Jason had never told him that he knew the worst of what had happened, and didn't know if there'd ever be a right time to tell him.

Connie changed her blue dress for a more practical white one. While Jason waited for her outside the bathroom, he heard soft rustling around the corner. He crept down the hall and slowly turned—

Prince James had his arms around Luna's waist and was kissing her passionately. Luna swept her arms around his neck and kissed him near his ear—he laughed, gathered her lips in his once more—

Jason cleared his throat.

The teenagers whirled around, pink suffusing James' cheeks, Luna's eyes wide. "We were just—um—" James stumbled.

"I can see what you were doing." He strode up to them.

"It kinda just…happened," said Luna. "It's a good thing you showed up, because we…don't want to get too carried away."

"I don't want to keep this a secret, anyway," said the prince. "Now that I know how you feel." He wrapped his hand in hers.

"I love you, James!" She giggled.

"I love you too, Luna. I want everyone to know, especially because there's no law anymore about who I can marry."

"You're getting a little ahead of yourselves, aren't you?" said Jason.

"If I love her, there's no reason to wait."

"Well, speaking as someone who waited too long—maybe you're right. As long as you wait till you're married to…"

"We will!" said Luna.

"I know we're young," said James. "But if Mom and Dad approve…" He pulled Luna down the hall and she followed, her green dress flowing behind her as she laughed.

Connie came around the corner. "What was that all about?"

"Young love." He came up to her, grasped her hand. "It's too bad I waited so long to realize how I felt about you."

"Those years weren't wasted, because we were friends. And now …we get to catch up with all we didn't do." She caressed his face, drawing her fingers down over his jaw to his lips.

"Maybe those two had the right idea…." He turned her hand over, kissed along its edge. She drew in a sharp breath, looked up at him with sparkling eyes. He grasped her shoulders, slowly, gently pushed her against the wall. She leaned back, closed her eyes, her lips slightly parted. He admired her astonishing beauty, totally unworthy before her. She grasped the back of his neck, pulling him closer. He gathered her mouth in his, reveling in her graceful movements.

She slid her hand into his hair, ran her fingers delicately over his neck. Loosening his tie just a bit to slide against his throat. Chills raced through his body, longing for more of her bursting through him.

But he pulled away, settling for entwining his arm around hers and whispering, "You are so beautiful."

"I still can't believe I…kept myself away from you for a month."

"You were in pain. I understand—I felt a lot of it, though I can never know what it's like to …to carry a baby, and lose him." Infinite sorrow rose in his chest.

She nodded, tears sparking in her eyes. He wished he could comfort her. There was only so much he could do; he didn't want to invade her space if it was something she was working out for herself.

They headed up onto the balcony, joining the king and queen, the prince, Sofia and Nikola and their family, and Tasha and Gray.

Jason walked up to the prince. "Have you told him?"

"Well…I didn't think this was the right time…"

"There's never a right time. If you're serious about this girl—"

"I am!"

"Then—"He swept his hand toward the king.

James nodded. He stepped over to his father and mother and spoke to them; Roderick patted James on the back, and Darya hugged him. James beckoned Luna over to them. James gave Jason a thumbs-up sign.

Jason leaned back against the brick wall, Connie beside him. "It's a much different scene that it was seventeen years ago," said Jason.

"Von Warberg stood here on the balcony and gave his speech," said Tasha. "We were down there, pretending to be reporters." She laughed. "I could've done a lot better myself back then. Though I was a bit…distracted."

She gave him a meaningful look.

"Oh. By me, you mean." He felt supremely awkward.

"Don't worry. I don't have that problem anymore." She gave a small smile.

BOOM! Bright fire splashed across the sky. Two more, bright flowers of green and blue, that left puffs of smoke against the dark.

As they watched the fireworks, Jason pulled Connie close, wrapping his arms around her to keep her warm. He had long sleeves while her dress was sleeveless. Men's and women's formal fashions really weren't very fair….Good thing she took those painful looking high heels off and was standing in her bare feet. He almost got distracted from the fireworks, admiring her beautiful feet….

Afterwards, they headed to the palace in the king's limousine. The prince could hardly contain himself, now that he'd declared his love. He kept looking out the window, talking about Luna.

"She has her own family to go back to," said Roderick.

"I want to get her the most beautiful ring…"

"Maybe you should wait a while. Let your relationship grow."

"You can't know if it's the real thing yet," said Darya.

"I do! I love her."

"It's best to have a courtship period," said the king. "Perhaps a year—"

"A year!"

He smiled. "We will see. It's not like you won't see her during that time. You do have to be careful, you know—"

"I know, Dad. I don't want to hurt her."

"Good. I know how passions can get the better of you, though." He looked at Darya, who pursed her lips.

"We almost did," said Darya. "At least there is no law now, against you marrying a commoner or a Gypsy."

They stopped at the palace, shining in the dark. Connie leaned on Jason's arm, carrying her shoes while he carried the bag with her dress in it. "I'm so tired…."

He kissed her temple. "We'll get to bed right away."

She smiled wearily.

The king's cell phone rang and he picked it up as they entered the foyer. "Yes? What is it? No, she didn't come back with us. Yes, James is with us. She's not—Yes, I'll do everything I can. I know. It'll be okay, Marija. I will." He slid the phone back in his pocket.

"What is it?" said James. "Is Luna all right?"

"They don't know where she is. They thought she came back with us but….

"She's disappeared."

_________________
Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Mon Aug 07, 2017 4:36 pm 
Raspberry Ripple
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Location: Look in the Library
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OMG!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS SOOOOO GOOOOD!!!!!! You did an amazing job! I can't wait to see how this unfolds!

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Jo March
Child of God, book-lover, history-lover, cook, baker, reader
2 Timothy 1:6-7, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God has not given us a spirit of fear but or power and love and sound mind."


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:31 am 
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Thank you Jo!!! I'm glad you are enjoying this story!


Here is a little shorter chapter ;)

Chapter 17

“What?” said the prince, looking stricken. “How can she be gone?”
“Maybe she got lost in the crowd. I’ll send the police, my best agents, right away.”
James leaned his head in his hands. “What if it’s Yavesh?”
Connie’s heart flipped. What if that sweet girl had been kidnapped—bound for a horrible fate….
Darya laid her hand on his shoulder. “It’s probably just a mixup. They thought she was going with us, we thought she was going with them. If she’s smart, she went back in the building. We might get a call from a security guard any moment.”
“Is there anything we can do?” said Tasha.
“Not at the moment,” said Roderick. “The police should be able to handle this. But if it’s Yavesh….” He closed his eyes, shook his head. “I don’t even want to think of it. But we have to consider every possibility. If it is—we’ll need your expertise.”
Connie’s heart sank. What expertise do I have? I’ll just have to support Jason in whatever way I can. And get out of his way if I’m going to mess it up by not knowing what I’m doing….
Connie followed Jason back to their suite.
They didn’t wake up until 9:30 the next morning. In the breakfast room, a table was laden with pastries and coffee and juice and biscuits and eggs and sausage and strawberries. Connie gathered some of each. She sat down beside Jason and devoured a sausage-egg biscuit—salty and delicious. Then she ate one of the pastries, and flakes of it fluttered off onto her shirt but she didn’t care, it was wonderful, all the more so because she was practically starving.
Jason pulled the stem off of a strawberry. “Here,” he said, and lifted it toward her mouth. She opened her mouth and he dropped it in, his fingers just brushing the edge of her lips. She bit down on the berry, and juice flooded over her tongue.
“Mm….”
She picked up a strawberry from her plate and twisted off the stem. Then she lifted it to his mouth. He bit into it, a little juice reddening his lips.
He lifted into his arms, his hard biceps pressing into her back, and gave her soft, smooth kisses— every second satiated her and made her long for more of him and she gasped as her love for him poured through her, finding expression in every touch—
A throat cleared behind her. Connie sat up to see Tasha and Gray standing in the doorway.
“What have you been doing all this time?” said Tasha.
“Well…” said Jason. “We slept in.”
“I can see that. Do you have any sense of propriety?”
“What do you mean?” said Jason, standing.
“Our hosts need our help. We’re not here for the luxury tour.”
“I….I’m sorry,” he said. “I did get carried away with how luxurious this place is. And we’re….kind of on another honeymoon.” His face flushed beneath his tan.
Tasha’s eyes flicked down a moment, and then glanced at Connie before looking at Jason again. “I see,” she said. “Perhaps it’s better to keep out of the game completely if your head’s only half in it.”
“No—you’re right. I’m sorry. I…do have to start acting professionally. The celebration is over—time to get to work.” He took Connie’s hand and she stood. “Although…I can’t bring myself to regret anything we’ve shared.” He kissed her lightly on the bridge of her nose and a pleasant shiver ran through her. She longed to lean into his touch. But there would be time for that later—although her entire being ached to be as close to him as she could every waking moment.
“Have they found Luna?” Connie said.
“It’s beginning to look like she was kidnapped. It’s become a criminal investigation—and they want us to cover the Yavesh angle, just in case they’re the ones that kidnapped her.”
A horrible chill ran through Connie. “Luna—she’s so sweet and innocent. She can’t—“ She shook her head, not wanting to imagine what Yavesh would do to that beautiful young girl, like it might be doing to Ben, the one they were here to rescue…..
“We have to look at all the angles—and get her back as soon as possible.”
Jason strode over to the doorway. Gray flinched, pressing back against the corner.
“Sorry,” said Jason, and backed away, giving Gray his space.
Gray frowned. “I’ve got to get over this if I’m going to be of any use.”
“It’s all a process. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
“I can’t just be okay with how I am, either.”
“No—but it will take a while. Give yourself a break sometimes. This will be hard enough without you being your own worst critic. Be okay with not being perfect all the time.”
Gray tipped his head. “You’re starting to sound like a psychiatrist.”
“I’ve been to one a few times—trying to get over… the worst of it.”
Gray looked at him for a moment, then nodded and looked away.
Gray was the reason Jason had had PTSD in the first place. But despite the residual anger that she wasn’t sure she’d ever be rid of, she felt more sympathy for Gray than anything. He was struggling. He knew now, more than ever, what Jason had gone through, and even worse.
They followed Tasha out into the hall and into the entryway, where they met Roderick, Darya, and James.
“Thank you for helping us,” said Roderick. “I know you have other priorities, but I feel better knowing that Tasha and Jason are on the case.”
“Even if they have not kidnapped Luna,” said Tasha, “Yavesh is a plague on your society and we’ll do all we can to bring it to justice.”
“Be careful,” said Darya, her face pale and weary, a few strands of blonde hair hanging from her otherwise perfect braids. “They are the most dangerous people in the country.” She blinked back tears, and grasped Roderick’s arm. “Luna—somewhere out there—“ He caressed her cheek, running his hand down to her chin.
“We’ll get her back,” he said, although his strong voice trembled slightly.
“I’m going,” said the prince, stepping forward.
Darya turned to him. “No. We need to keep you safe.”
“I can’t just stay here and—“ He took a deep breath, anguish in his blue eyes.
“If he’s just at the security center,” said Roderick, “he should be okay.”
“He’s the prince. He could be a target.”
“There’s no evidence they’ve targeted us.”
“But if they took Luna….”
“It could’ve been random. Not everyone thinks of the Romani as part of our family like we do. They’ve kidnapped many and if she happened to get lost she might’ve been an easy target. I should’ve made sure she was protected…..”
“There is no evidence that she’s been kidnapped by Yavesh,” said Tasha.
“But they have been kidnapping Gypsies…” said Darya.
“It’s true, we just don’t know at this point.”
“That’s why we cannot let James out of our sight.”
Roderick turned to Jason. “Would you mind keeping an eye on him? Make sure he stays in the security center and doesn’t go out into the field.”
“I will.”
“Thank you.” He turned to James. “You’re not a professional. You’re just learning—make sure you don’t do anything rash. Others are better equipped to find Luna; don’t forget that. You’re in a support capacity, not a leader. If the way you’re asked to support is to bring the agents coffee, then that’s what you’ll do. Understand?”
James nodded solemnly.
“Rod…” said Darya, looking worriedly at her son.
“He’ll be fine. I trust Jason with my life. Besides, he’ll basically be in a fortress. It’s safer than the palace.”
Darya, looking doubtful, turned to James. “Be careful.” She grasped his shoulders. “Don’t do anything foolish. Do what Jason and the agents tell you.”
“I will, Mama.”
She kissed his forehead and he stepped back, his hand sweeping back his brown hair.
“The car will take you to Aleem Center.” Roderick gestured to the doors; a black, nondescript car was idling, a driver just visible in the front seat.
“Aleem?” said Jason, alarm in his voice.
“I know. We didn’t change the name. But it’s been repurposed; it’s not the slaughterhouse that it was.” A shadow crossed his eyes.
Tasha and Gray headed out to the car. Roderick hugged his son, who then followed Jason and Connie outside. Tasha and Gray were already in the front two seats.
Jason opened the door for Connie and she slid into the middle seat. Jason sat beside her, the prince on the other side behind the driver, who started the car off down the driveway.
“What is Aleem Center?” Connie asked, wanting to know what had made Jason react like that, and at the same time dreading the answer.
“It’s the internal security headquarters. Although it was a lot different under Von Warberg….” He looked out the window, his profile gilded by golden light. Sorrow reflected in his eyes, and he didn’t seem like he’d say any more. It must be a bad memory, and she didn’t want to make him relive it. But then he continued, “Zahl, the security director, showed me and Tasha the cells where they kept the political prisoners. It was…very hard…not to intervene when I saw how they were brainwashing and torturing people. Somehow I didn’t blow my cover and we didn’t end up as prisoners….but after we were captured, we ended up back there anyway.”
“Did they hurt you?”
“Not really. They mostly focused on James—I mean, the king—and Tasha. They were very hard on them both.”
“It was the first time I was tortured,” said Tasha, matter-of-factly. “Not nearly the worst, though.” Her voice became strained, and as she glanced at Gray, they shared a meaningful look. “They hurt the king much worse than me. They wanted to punish him because he was the rightful heir. They also wanted to show a broken, defeated prince. But he didn’t give them the satisfaction. He had so much honor and dignity, even as they were torturing and humiliating him. True nobility.”
“My father never told me that happened,” said James. “He never talks much about the revolution.”
“It was probably hard for him to talk about. And his humility would forbid him from flaunting how well he conducted himself. Although it would only improve people’s estimation of him.”
“There’s no question he was the right person for Muldavia, king or not,” said Jason. “Although….”
“What?” Connie asked, when he didn’t finish the sentence.
“I’ll see if Whit will tell you the story sometime. Since you’re part of the family now, you have a right to know. But it’s his story to tell.”
Curiosity burned in her, but she knew better than to try to pry a secret out of Jason.
Connie watched the countryside roll by…the gentle hills, dotted with clusters of trees. Horses and cows grazed in broad green pastures. The prince looked out the window, his face pensive. She wished she could comfort him. He’d lost the love of his life; she knew what that felt like.
It struck her how much he looked like Jason. He could have been a cousin, a nephew—or a son.
A twinge hit her heart. No. I can’t go there. Not yet. Besides, he doesn’t look that much like him….the pictures of Jason at 16 are a quite a bit different. For one thing, I have a feeling Jason was always fooling around, not taking things seriously. The prince seems more grounded. And he wanted to get married already…while Jason waited till he was almost forty.
Maybe that was a mistake. To wait so long. He should’ve married someone else—Gloria from college, or Tasha…. Look at how I’ve hurt him already! No matter how much I try, I’m not ready to have a baby yet. I know how much he wants one, and I’m still making him wait to start a family. He didn’t abandon me after I lost Jeremiah like I abandoned him. Another woman would not have been so selfish…And she would have been able to bear a child without harming it. He could’ve been married long ago and had the family he wanted….

The car entered the city, driving down the expressway, the suburbs giving way to high rise apartments glittering in the morning sunlight. When they reached the brick buildings at the heart of the city, Connie had a nagging feeling she’d forgotten something. “Did we need to bring something else with us?”
“You have your cell phone, right?”
She nodded, and lifted her purse, digging out the cell phone from the front pocket.
A horrible feeling shot through her. She scrambled through her purse, trying to find the package of pills. Looked in the little pocket it usually was in—but all she found were pens and old candy wrappers and pennies.
“What is it?” he asked. “Did you forget something?”
“I—I don’t know. It might be back in our room, but….” Horror clutched her heart. “I don’t remember taking it from the hotel in Washington DC.”
The car pulled to a stop, but she barely felt it. She dug out old movie tickets and napkins and her checkbook and lipstick and laid them on the seat. The others climbed out, including the driver; the open doors sent a breeze through the car, sending some random papers flying. Jason caught them before they could fall out of the car. “Connie—what is it?”
“The birth control pills. Jason—“ She grasped his arm. “The last time I remember taking one was three days ago.”
“Maybe we can get some here.”
“But they kind of build up and if you don’t take one it throws everything off, and you can get pregnant even if you start up again.”
“Well, we’ll just have to…keep from getting too close.” His face fell.
“It might already be too late.”
He caught her eyes. “We have needed each other so much after…all that happened, it’s not surprising we forgot. I should’ve reminded you.”
“It was up to me to remember. Jason—what if I—“ She couldn’t finish the sentence.
He sat back and took her hand. The others were speaking together in a group; someone else had joined them. “Connie—would it be so bad? I mean…what if it’s God’s will that we have a baby now?”
“I want to go to a doctor first. I don’t want to hurt another baby. I can’t—not again.” Panic welled up in her. He gathered her to him and kissed her cheek.
“I know. I know, my love.” He stroked her hair back. “Maybe you aren’t pregnant. And if you are…we’ll get through this. We’ll get health checkups—we’ll do everything to make sure the baby is born. God will be there for us.”
She nodded, and wiped away her tears. “I know.” I should know, she thought. I’m still not over…losing him.
“Are you coming?” said Tasha, leaning down to look into the open door.
“Just a minute.”
She nodded and turned to walk inside with Gray and James.
Jason folded his hands around Connie’s and prayed that God would heal her, and that if she were pregnant, the baby would be born healthy without any complications. Pain squeezed her heart at each word. But it also gave her a tiny sliver of hope—that maybe everything would turn out okay.
She looked in the mirror in the front seat and wiped away some stray mascara, and then followed Jason into a low gray building, its modern design a little out of place among the ornate brick buildings and cobblestones.
Inside, it was bright and spacious, lit by fluorescent lights. At the front desk, a receptionist with honey blond hair and black-rimmed glasses greeted them and told them to follow the hall to the left. “Your colleagues are in room 2 B,” she said, and turned back to her computer.
Connie followed Jason down a long corridor and they stepped through a frosted glass door labeled 2 B.
Inside, Markov sat at a round wooden table, his back to a floor-to-ceiling window. Beside him sat Saul and Leila. Among about ten others she didn’t know sat Dana, with her bright auburn hair. Tasha, Gray and James sat near some empty chairs close to the door. Connie slid in beside Jason, hoping not to be too conspicuous, because she didn’t feel like she belonged with all these agents. What am I doing here? she wondered. Because I can’t stand to be apart from Jason.
“Thank you for joining us,” said Markov. “We were just discussing the purpose of this group. For instance, it can be beneficial to have an outsider’s perspective, especially on a complex issue like this. However, efficiency is also important, and extraneous elements will only hinder our mission.” His piercing eyes roved to Connie, and she felt like shrinking into the floor. He knows I don’t belong here. Maybe I should just run out the door…But she was rooted in place.
“I have gathered experts in their fields, who will work on their areas of expertise and then report back to me. We will meet periodically and collaborate when necessary. Most of those here are leaders in their own divisions and will direct field agents to carry out their orders. Some are consultants, who will be working on a freelance basis and may conduct field missions of their own, but their non-traditional points of view will keep us from getting too insular.” He looked at Dana. “I was hesitant to include a reporter; however, Dana has convinced me that she knows the streets of Rakima, and she has informants with crucial sources. As a veteran reporter, she has investigation skills akin to those of a junior agent.”
Dana smiled wryly and inclined her head.
“As deputy director, I will decide who is valuable to the team and who is not. Some of you are not officially part of this group, and will mostly work on your own, although we may periodically ask you to supply intelligence.”
“That would be us,” said Jason.
“You are here for your own ends, and you are not beholden to us. However, as long as you work with us, you will conduct yourselves professionally and according to our parameters.”
“Of course.”
“This includes not bringing amateurs along on a mission where the slightest mistake could mean death.”
“Kris—“ said Dana.
Markov shot her down with his eyes. “I owe the king the deepest respect. But this is my domain. To arbitrarily send a young prince to assist in any capacity shows either a shocking naivety or a regrettable disregard for my position and service.”
James cleared his throat. “I am sorry if you have misunderstood. I do not want to become an agent. I just want to do something to help find Luna.”
Sympathy sparked in Markov’s dark hazel eyes. “I know. You have lost someone you love. You cannot sit by and do nothing. But that’s precisely what you must do. You have to let the professionals do their jobs, because interfering will make it harder for us to recover her.”
James shrank in his chair a little. “My father said to respect you and do as you say. He said that if you order me to give you coffee, I have to do that.”
Laughter rippled around the room.
“If you wish to demean yourself with such menial tasks. Otherwise, you would be better served to return to the palace.”
“That’s just it. I…don’t want to be stuck in the palace, separate from the people. I don’t want to become an agent… but I want to learn how this country’s institutions work.”
Markov nodded. “That’s very commendable. And I would let you if circumstances were different. However, the situation with Yavesh has reached a crisis. We cannot afford to waste time or resources on anything that will hinder us from our ultimate goal—destroying this criminal organization so it can never rise from its ashes.”
The agents around the room nodded in agreement.
“Isn’t there any place where he could serve in a support capacity?” said Jason. “A task that requires minimal skills?”
“All of our resources must be focused on a single goal. I am not about to risk one shred of my resources just to train a non-professional for a redundant role. Perhaps another agency would be more lenient.” He glanced at Saul and Leila. “But I am in charge of the investigation against Yavesh, and I will decide what is needed and what is not.”
Connie’s heart sank. She wanted to help—but Markov had not even deigned to address her, as he had the prince. She was the very definition of amateur. She whispered to Jason, “Maybe I’d better just leave.”
“No. Don’t let him intimidate you.” He turned to Markov. “They can stay for this meeting, at least?”
Markov inclined his head. Then he lifted some manila folders onto the table and opened them. “Let’s get started.”
They discussed what the best angle of attack was, and whether Yavesh had any weaknesses to exploit. They admitted they didn’t even know if it had weaknesses. A lot of it went over Connie’s head and she felt herself zoning out as they delved into more of the details.
I’m not meant for this. I’m fooling myself if I think I’ll be able to help find Ben and Luna. I just wish I could do something….I can’t stand the thought of those kids sold, hurt….
After the meeting, most of the agents left while a few stood speaking in a small group. Markov approached Connie and Jason. Connie instinctively stepped back, but Markov focused on Jason. “Now, I want to know how closely you wish to work with us. I can give you an assignment, but you’d have to adhere more closely to our rules, although as freelance agents you’ll retain more leeway. I can also give you resources and you can conduct your own investigation and then report back to me if you find anything of interest. If you’re on your own, you’ll be able to choose your own colleagues and will be free to make your own mistakes.”
Jason gave Connie a meaningful look. “I think I’ll take my chances.”
“And you?” He looked at Tasha and Gray.
She and Gray exchanged glances and then Tasha said, “I think we’ll work on our own as well.”
“I do have a mission that might suit freelancers. They would have no official ties with our agency, and thus would have a harder time getting caught. I would like to have someone to masquerade as buyer, perhaps an entire fake criminal cell. Would any of you be interested in something like this?”
Connie automatically shook her head, and Jason took her hand as if to reassure her.
Gray stood, his jaw set, his eyes determined. “I am.”
Tasha turned to him. “Are you sure?”
He narrowed his eyes. “I have experience inside criminal organizations.”
“If your cell performs well, you may just be able to impress the higher-ups enough for them to let you in. I can’t lie, it’ll be dangerous.”
“I’m not going to run from danger.”
“Good. Tasha, will you be accompanying him?”
“I will go wherever he goes.”
“You’ll need substantial resources to pull this off, and I’ll offer my support; it’s the best chance we have of truly finding out what lies inside Yavesh. I’ll give you what you need to start out, Jason, and then I’ll work personally with you both to set this up.” He looked at Gray and Tasha.
He turned to the prince. “Will you be returning to the palace?”
James nodded.
“That would be best. Don’t worry, we’ll do our best to find Luna. But your best hope is for Luna to be not kidnapped by Yavesh in the first place.”
James looked horrified. Connie’s heart went out to him.
“I’ll go back too,” she said.
“You don’t have to do that,” said Jason.
“I’ll only be in the way.”
“Connie—“ He squeezed her hand. “You’re never, ever in the way.”
“I wouldn’t know what I’m doing.”
“It helps me for you to just be with me. As long as you’re not in danger—and I’m not planning to go anywhere dangerous—you might as well tag along. You too, James, if you want.”
“Really?” His face lit up.
“Yeah. I’m freelancing, so I can choose whoever I want. Your father did tell me to look out for you.”
Jason looked at Markov. “Would it be okay if they stay, just for the day?”
Markov nodded. “I suppose. They can always wait in the lobby; the receptionist has coffee and cookies there. Now, let’s get started.”
Jason’s phone rang. He snatched it from his pocket.
“Hello? Oh, hi, Sierra. Have you found out anything—? Really? That’s wonderful!”
“Did they find Ai?” Connie asked, her heart pounding.
Jason shook his head. “But she finally has a lead! She’s found a witness who was at Ai and Jerry’s wedding.”

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 11:38 am 
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Where can I read the rest of this chapters 1-14

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:16 pm 
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They are on the previous pages. This story starts on page 8 and continues to page 9. (at the bottom of all the posts on this page)

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 3:52 pm 
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Ameraka wrote:
They are on the previous pages. This story starts on page 8 and continues to page 9. (at the bottom of all the posts on this page)
sorry I didn't,t see all the pages

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 8:54 pm 
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Okay, Ameraka, this is AMAZING!!!! You are such a good author!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 12:16 pm 
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Thank you Jo! And Katie!

Chapter 18


"What does the witness know?" asked Connie.

"Sierra didn't tell me yet."

Markov looked at him disapprovingly as he led Tasha and Gray further down the hallway.

"Have you talked to the witness?" he asked Sierra, leaning against the wall.

"Of course. I wouldn't have called if I didn't have any information of value. But I'd better tell you up front—it's not good news."

Jason's heart fell. "Is—she still alive?"

"I'm sorry, Jason." Sympathy filled her voice. "From what I can piece together, she tried to get out before Saigon fell. But the government captured her as a spy and she was executed."

Horror filled him. Jerry's wife—gone….killed amid terror and torture… He forced out the words, his voice shaken. "It's….the worst thing that could've happened. But thank you for finding this out for me."

"No problem."

"How is your main investigation going?"

"I've hit a dead end for the moment, except there might be some clues on the dark web….But Jason—that's not the end of the story."

"What do you mean?"

"For one thing, Ai's sister is still alive. That's who the witness is. You might want to meet her family, learn more about her."

Jason's heart ached. "Maybe I would," he managed.

"And—there is some possible good news. Ai had a son."

His heart leaped. He had barely considered the possibility, considering how little time they were married. "Really?"

"Ai's sister, Yen, raised him after she died. She tried to give him all the attention she could, but she had five children of her own, and he ran away when he was eleven. She hasn't heard from him since."

"So that's another dead end then."

"Not necessarily. She heard rumors he had joined the communist party, and it turned out to be true. He was a low-level official in government for years until there was an internal feud and he was forced out. He had to flee to another country—it looks like he went to the Philippines. That's where I'm going to check next."

"So he could be in the Philippines."

"This happened only a few years ago, so unless the communists got to him in another country, or he contracted an illness or something, it's likely he's still alive. Oh—and get this. He had a wife—she left him—and a daughter, who it appears he took with him. The wife's name is—well, never mind her. Ai's son is Lam Minh Tam and his daughter is Lam Hue Mai. It took some finding because Tam changed his name—he had been named after his father, Jerry, with Tam as his middle name."

"I have a nephew..." He could hardly comprehend it.

"I'll do all I can to find him and his daughter."

"Thank you, Sierra."

"Don't mention it. I'll call you when I have more info."

As they followed Markov down the hall, he told Connie what Sierra had told him. Tears came to her eyes when he told her that Ai had been killed. Anger flashed across her face when he told her that Tam had joined the communist party. It hit him, then, the implications of the information he hadn't totally processed yet. Ai's son had betrayed everything she and Jerry had died for. How could he do such a thing? Especially when it seemed he had abandoned Ai's sister, who had raised him. There was probably much more to the story. But he couldn't help but share Connie's anger at his nephew, and wonder if, when Sierra found him, he would ever want to connect with the family he had never known, the family of a father he'd rejected.

Markov led them to the elevator at the end of the hall and they ascended to the second floor, where he opened a door to his office. They all filed into a spacious room with a large antique desk.

"Jason, I'll give you the resources you need to start and then you can go off on your own. Some angles will be more difficult with non-professionals involved." He gave Jason a meaningful look, and then turned to his computer. "There are not many options, as we barely know anything about Yavesh to begin with. You could examine financial records of possible suspects. You could collaborate with the police on human trafficking investigations. You could work with at-risk kids to see if they've seen anything suspicious, families of children who have been taken, and victims of human trafficking who have been rescued to see if they can give us any leads."

"We'll work on all of those angles, if we can."

"I'll send you our unclassified files. The case with our agent who was killed is still open, and we'll take any leads we can get, so if you want to look into that as well…."

"Sure."

"Just so you know, we have been threatened not to investigate by anonymous messages that appeared on our supposedly unhackable computers. With Yavesh, there is no such thing as being out of the danger zone. If you're not willing to take a certain amount of risk, it's better if you just pack up and leave right now."

Jason looked at Connie. Fear sprang up in her eyes.

"Everything has some amount of risk to it," said Jason. "Just because I'm not willing to go past a certain point doesn't mean I'm not willing to risk anything at all. I may be afraid, but not so much that I would shield myself from danger. Not anymore. But I cannot leave Connie alone."

Markov looked at him, his eyes narrowed, for a moment. Then he nodded. "I understand. You have a family. That is why it's easier in this business to be unattached. The agent that we lost left behind a widow and a son. It's had a deep effect on our organization as well. Our agents are family. It's hard to approach this professionally, but we'll be less likely to succeed if we give in to emotionalism. Although it can be a strong motivation if channeled correctly…." He sighed. "I might as well show you. You need to know the full extent of what you're up against, so you don't make the same mistakes." He motioned them forward, and Jason, Connie, Tasha, Gray, and James gathered around the computer.

When Markov clicked on a file, a picture appeared of an official-looking photo, a man in a suit against a generic blue backdrop. The man had wavy brown hair and green eyes with a hint of mischief and a wry, brilliant smile. He looked like he could take on the world, and have a good time doing it.

Markov clicked to another picture. Shock shot through Jason. It was a picture of something vaguely recognizable as a face—eyes swollen shut, massive blue bruises spreading over the cheek and jaw, a large cut across one cheek, and the angry welts of several burns on the skin.

"Is it—?" Jason asked.

"Yes, it's the same man. Agent Beck." Markov's eyes were haunted. He clicked to the next picture.

A body lay in an ally, crumpled next to some refuse. Jason wanted to turn away, but Markov would probably see that as a weakness. The body was covered in cuts and bruises, and several of the fingers were missing. One arm was bent completely backwards. Burns crisscrossed his skin. Jason had never seen such extensive torture.

"I get the picture, Markov."

The deputy director nodded grimly and exited the file.

Connie had turned to the window, her face pale. James stood, transfixed, as if in shock. Gray was sitting on a chair in the corner, his head in his hands, Tasha kneeling next to him.

Jason crept over to them, Connie beside him. "Is he all right?" Jason asked softly.

"I—don't know," said Tasha. She stroked his hair back. His breathing began to slow a little. "The pictures hit too close to home, I think."

Markov strode over to them. "What's wrong with him?"

"It was a little much for him to take," Tasha answered.

"If he can't take a few pictures—how can he possibly go on a mission? I mean, they are hard to look at, but they should not be enough to incapacitate you. Yavesh would see through him right away, and you would end up just like Agent Beck. Perhaps I should not give you any of my information—I don't want to be responsible for your deaths."

"He's just…recovering. He can do this."

"What's he recovering from?"

"Torture."

"Is that why he has these injuries?" Markov gestured to the bandage on Gray's arm, and he flinched.

Tasha nodded.

"Why is he being sent out into the field so soon? He's obviously not fit for it."

"It was the Agency's orders."

"And here I thought the NSA was a professional organization."

Gray sat up slowly, his jaw set, his eyes afire. "I need to do this."

"You can work on the sidelines. There is no shame in that, especially with the condition you're in."

Gray stood, facing Markov, trembling, fists clenched. "Give me this chance. I will be the agent you need me to be."

Markov tipped his head. "I admire your determination. But sometimes, not even an iron will can force your body and mind into the right shape. You have been through a harrowing ordeal. Give yourself a chance to recover. Then you can prove yourself."

Desperation showed in Gray's eyes. Jason knew the motivation behind it—which he could not tell to Markov. If Gray did not perform the missions the Agency gave him, they'd give him back to Vivian to wreak her perpetual revenge.

"This is part of my recovery. I need to be who I was."

Markov nodded. "I can understand that. How about this. I give you a more straightforward, less dangerous mission, and if you can perform that, I'll let you go undercover."

Gray considered for a moment. Then he gave a quick nod.

"Tasha?"

"I think it's a good idea to not jump right into the deep end. I am responsible for him, after all."

"I'll see what I can find for you." He looked at Jason. "I've sent you the files you need, so you can begin your investigation."

"Thank you," said Jason. "We'll get out of your hair."

Markov gave him an absent nod and turned back to his computer.

"Let's go, James."

James, looking a bit dazed, rushed over from the wall to the door.

"See you at the palace later," said Tasha. "We'll probably stay there until we go undercover."

Jason looked at Gray. "You can do this."

Gray nodded, a determined look in his eyes, though still desperate and wounded. Jason hoped he'd be able to pull himself together enough to do this mission. Because it would be fatal if he couldn't—either way. He would not be able to survive going back to the secret detention center to face more abuse. Not after all he'd experienced, and how much effort it was taking to recover.

They headed back to the palace, and Jason spent most of the afternoon at his computer going over the material Markov had sent. James was with him most of the time, sitting beside him, sometimes leaning over his shoulder to look excitedly at the information. Not only for Luna's sake, although that was a driving factor, but because he seemed to enjoy it.

Connie, on the other hand, stayed with them for a little while then she said, "I'm not going to do you any good—I don't have a clue what I'm doing," and left to explore the palace. Jason was fine with that; he didn't want her to do anything she was uncomfortable with. She wasn't the kind of person who would ever want to be a secret agent. He wanted to make her happy too, though, and not drag her all over the place for his own sake. She did want to find Ben and Luna—but after this mission, he'd ask her what she wanted to do.

He found Connie talking with Darya in a large living room, the golden walls lined with paintings. Darya wore an elegant white dress, while Connie wore a green shirt and jeans. Connie looked just as ravishing as the queen.

"Connie has been illuminating me about your life in Odyssey," said Darya, rising from her chair. "It sounds like an idyllic town."

"It has its moments," said Jason. "You have quite the idyllic country yourself."

She inclined her head. "It is not without its problems, as you are discovering. But there is great beauty here, and the people are good and honest. It is only a small criminal element which is trying to spoil it."

"It would be a shame if the communists were deposed just for criminals to take over. I doubt you will let this happen. But it has been a common theme since the fall of the Iron Curtain—countries either descend into chaos or a dictatorship takes over."

"We have tried to strike a balance. Perhaps we have been too lenient, and allowed the criminal element to grow….but Roderick is right. We need to step aside; we have guided our country long enough. However, I hate to leave it to the people when Yavesh is still a growing force. It is the single biggest threat to peace and stability this country has, so we should wait until it is defeated to have elections. I'm not sure Roderick agrees with me, but I don't think we should leave such a significant threat for the people to take care of. It arose during our regime, after all, and perhaps we are partially responsible for its rise."

"I doubt that."

"We're a small country, Jason. There is only so much we can do without resorting to authoritarian measures….and we may have to get a bit tougher on crime in order to eradicate this disease. Although there are methods I would employ that the king would avoid. Now that Luna has been kidnapped, perhaps he will be more receptive to them." She turned, the hem of her gown sweeping along the carpet. "Come. I believe it's time for dinner."

Jason took Connie's arm in his, and they followed Darya to the dining room. James was already sitting at the table with his father.

Roderick turned to Jason after he sat down. "It sounds like you've found some interesting avenues to your investigation."

"Markov wasn't kidding when he said he had information for us," said Jason. "And this isn't even the classified files. But we're going to have to start somewhere. I can't just sit around and look at information without acting on it."

"What angle do you think you'll work on first?" said Darya.

"I'd like to talk to some suspects. And of course I would like to work with the police on Luna's disappearance, to see if there are any connections. I'd also like to interview victims and families of victims, like Marija's cousins. Working several angles at once will help me find commonalities between them."

"That sounds like a good strategy—as long as you keep your focus."

"I've gotten better at that over the years. At focus, I mean." He smiled. "I also want to see if I can work with Saul and Leila, get the international angle."

Several servants came in with a salad and they began to eat.

Something struck him. "Where are Gray and Tasha?"

"They are not back yet," said Roderick. "Markov must've given them quite the project."

"I wonder what it is…." Curiosity bit into him. He wished he were able to work more closely with Gray and Tasha, but they had a directive from the NSA and he was a freelancer…best to keep a distance.

"Can I go with Jason on his investigations?" asked James.

"It's probably best if you confine your search to the computer," said Roderick.

"But I can learn a lot more on the ground!"

"I see." Roderick looked at Jason. "I don't want you to get in Jason's way, though. And I don't want you to go into danger."

"He's not in my way," said Jason. "And I'm not planning to go into danger. I'm fine with him coming with me."

"We'll discuss it later," said the king, looking at James, who looked disappointed.

After supper, Jason went back with Connie to their room and called his father.

"Hi, Dad."

"Jason! I was just thinking about checking in. The last thing I knew, you'd texted that you were headed to Muldavia."

"We're there now. We went to the centennial yesterday and today I just started my investigation."

"Are you and Connie all right?"

"We're fine. I'm not planning to run headlong into danger, although it might be harder to avoid than I thought. Yavesh—the organization that perpetrates most of the human trafficking in this country—is professional and lethal. They've got deep roots in Muldavia, though we have no idea how extensive the organization is; we barely know anything about it, except that it is involved in weapons as drug sales as well. Most of what we have on them is just assumption."

"Be careful, Jason."

"I will. I…would be okay with tackling this head on, even though I'd rather not face that kind of danger again—if it were just me. But it's not. I have to consider Connie in all this, and I can't risk leaving her, especially after all that's happened." Connie gave him an appreciative glance from where she stood by the window.

"I'd rather you stick to tamer adventures myself. There have been too many times in the past few years when I thought I would lose you."

A pang struck Jason's heart at this. Somehow, he'd rarely thought of what his father would feel if he lost him as well as Jerry. Partly because his father knew this business; he'd practically gotten Jason into it. He knew the risks. And partly because, for most of his adult life, Jason had felt invincible. Gray, however, had shattered that image of himself.

"Speaking of which," said Jason, "Sierra called today with news about Ai."

"Has she found her?" Jason's heart broke at the hope in his father's voice.

"I'm sorry, Dad."

"She—she's gone?"

"The communists killed her, a long time ago."

"Oh…Jason." For a moment he didn't speak. When he did, his voice was hoarse, as if he were holding back tears. "It would have been so wonderful to bring a part of Jerry's life into ours again."

"Maybe we still can."

"What do you mean?"

Jason told him about Ai's son—that he was a communist, that he had fled to the Philippines, that he had a daughter.

"I have another grandson!" his father said, renewed hope in his voice. "And a great-granddaughter. They can't be living in too pleasant of conditions after being kicked out of the communist party and becoming refugees."

"I hadn't thought of that."

"We need to bring them home. I wonder….You couldn't give me Sierra's number, could you?"

"Sure. You want her to give you updates too?"

"More than that. I want to go there."

"Dad—maybe you should just let Sierra—"

"I've been around the block, Jason. And I'm not that old—not as old as having a great-granddaughter would suggest. I can't just sit around here while I have family on the other side of the world."

"Be careful, Dad. They could be in a bad neighborhood."

"That's true. But that's why I have to go. If they're in a desperate situation—I have to help them."

"I wish I could go. Maybe I'll join you when I'm finished here—if you haven't found them already. It'll probably be a long, involving process to bring them back to the States."

"This still hardly seems real. It probably won't, till I see them with my own eyes."

"Do you want to talk to Connie?"

"I'd love to."

"And Dad—I think she'd like it if you'd tell her the story of how you saved Muldavia."

His father chuckled. "I'll do that. It's time she knew one of the deepest Whittaker secrets."

Jason held out the phone for Connie and she grabbed it, pressed it to her ear. "Whit! I have so much to tell you!"

Connie paced the room talking to his father for about an hour. There was a long silence punctuated with gasps and cries and "Really? No way!" When the story was apparently finished, she said, "That's awesome!" and turned to Jason, lifting the phone away a little. "Jason, your father was a king! For a day! No wonder you look like the king and the prince." She lifted the phone back to her ear and told him about staying in the palace.

Meanwhile, Jason showered and then made a fire in the fireplace. A smoky smell drifted through the room, reminding Jason of campfires he'd sat around with his family, long ago…

After Connie hung up, she sat beside him in one of the high-backed red chairs. "It's amazing that both you and your dad saved Muldavia."

"Whenever he tells that story, I'm always impressed with how heroic he was, even though he tones down what he did."

"Yeah…." She leaned forward, her elbows on her thighs, her eyes reflecting the fire.

"We both care for this country. I wonder if Dad would want to come back here…after we find Tam and—" For a second, he forgot the little girl's name.

"Mai?"

"Yes, Mai."

"That's crazy, your dad going there!"

"I don't know if it's the best idea."

"No, I mean—it's all crazy. That you have a long-lost nephew! In the Philippines. It's all going to work out after all."

"I don't want to dash your hopes—and I didn't want to mention it to Dad. He was so excited. But they might not want anything to do with us."

"They won't want to meet their family?"

"He pretty much rejected his father and everything he stood for. Let's just hope he's had a change of heart. Otherwise….we may never meet them."

Connie's brow furrowed, sorrow glittering in her eyes. "I don't want to think about that. There has to be a happy ending after all of this."

He nodded. "After Tam and Mai, and Ben and Luna, and—" He stopped himself. He was about to say "us" and something about a baby.

Connie leaned back. "I have to trust God that he knows what he's doing. Maybe he has healed me, who knows. I just…really hope that I'm not pregnant. I don't feel ready yet. Someday we can try again…just not for a while."

"It's only been two months. If you're okay with it—a year from now—"

She nodded and caught his eyes, a slight smile on her lips.

He climbed into bed and then he felt her lay down behind him. She slid her arm beneath his, searching for his hand, and he laced his fingers in hers.

----
"Jason!"

He jolted awake, his heart slamming hard against his chest. Connie's face, pale in the dark, her eyes wide.

"What is it? Are you okay?" He sat up beside her and drew her close, her body shaking. Then she pulled away a little, her hair tangled, tears gleaming across her cheeks.

"Connie—what happened?"

She swept her tangled hair back. "I had the dream again. The one where you were—" She closed her eyes. "It was worse. I saw the agent, you know, the one Markov showed us. Just pictures. Then the pictures came to life, and it wasn't the agent, it was you, and—Jason, please don't go into any kind of danger."

"I wasn't planning to."

"Maybe we should just leave. I can't lose you. I can't—lose anyone else."

"I'm not going anywhere, Connie. We can leave if you want."

"I know we have to try to find Ben….we promised. I just wish I could do more. And I wish there wasn't any chance of you getting hurt."

"There's not much of a chance."

"Markov said they warned them to stop investigating! What if…"

"How about this. If I see any sign of danger, I'll pull out. I'll let Sierra handle this, once she's done with the investigation in Southeast Asia. That's what I was going to do anyway."

She looked up at him, her face caressed by moonlight, and he couldn't help but lean down, meet her lips in a gentle kiss. The kiss grew stronger, and morphed into more kisses. But then she pulled away, a hint of regret in her eyes.

In the morning, Jason climbed out of bed, careful not to wake her, snatched a quick breakfast, and headed back to the city.

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Avatar by Laura Hollingsworth (thesilvereye)

My book, Justice Lost, is on Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JM1XFCI


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Odyssey fanfiction
PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 11:43 am 
Raspberry Ripple
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Location: Look in the Library
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AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!! THAT IS SOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't wait for the next chapter!!!!!!

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2 Timothy 1:6-7, "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God has not given us a spirit of fear but or power and love and sound mind."


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