To Sapphire & Steel Hub

Sapphire and Steel

by P. J. Hammond
Episode # 2,

"Abandoned Railway Station"

Transcripted by Jill





It was an October night at the abandoned Duwolten Rail Station with the full moon shining far above, clouds obscuring its face and the wind blowing strongly. Yet the station was a mass of silent noises; leaves tumbling across its outside platforms, wooden shutters banging in the wind, and an occasional eerie whistling that filled the air from no visible source. Another sound entered the noisy silence; heavy footsteps and the creaking of an old door opening.

A middle aged man stepped out of the building and shivered, closing his big overcoat against the chill night air. He slipped a packet of matches out of his pocket and used one to light the oil lantern he was carrying. Tidily closing the door behind him, he crossed the platform and entered the building on the other side.

This was a small hotel that was part of the station. The man was George Tully. He had left most of his equipment in the buffet of the hotel and now he set to work. He had more oil-lanterns, and out in the entry-hall he hung them up on opposite walls. He paused to survey his work; the trash he had swept to the walls, how his lanterns warmed the dead appearance of this area. Satisfied, he arranged the rest of his materials on a bench across from the staircase. He owned an old tape-recorder with a microphone he had made a stand for out of a coat-hanger. He tapped lightly on the mike, watching the gauges to see if they registered the sound. Satisfied they did, he sat down and clasped his hands together in his lap. Keeping his voice soft and low he began to speak.

"In the name of God, please tell me who you are. 'Cuz I know you're here!" He paused to peer hopefully around, then resumed. "I'm a friend, and I want to help you. So will you let me help you? Please? You can trust me...." Muffled by the dust and cobwebs there came a soft sound. Tully looked up quickly but it was just a white dove flapping its wings. He shifted the tape recorder, then moved it to the bottom steps beside a lighted candle he had left there. Picking up the candle he stepped slowly up the stairs, carefully lifting his feet over the tiny trip-wires stretched from banister to wall. At the landing, he stopped nervously, looking up into pitch darkness and feeling an odd sense of... he did not know what. Something was there, he felt it. "I... I want to help you," Tully told the air. Then he heard it, the sound of footsteps across the bridge coming his way. "Who -- whoever you are." A moment later a figure appeared in the shadows atop the staircase. Tully could see light fall on one pale hand. "I want to help you, so in the name of God... who are you?"

For a moment the figure neither moved nor spoke, then inquired quietly, "Who are you?"

Tully almost backed up. This was the first time a ghost had ever spoken to him. "Who..?"

"I am from the other side."


"The down platform." There was a sound of exhaled breath, and Tully's candle went out.

Still adjusting to the presence of another living person here, for Tully realized that was indeed what he was facing, it took him a second to react and then it was with indignation and some anger. "My candle! Do you know what you've done?!"

The quiet voice stated calmly, "Yes," and the stranger started down.

"You've blown it out during an important psychical investigation!"

"Have I?" A young man he was, with cropped blond hair and stern grey eyes.

Tully bristled at the stranger's arrogant manner. "Yes! And that could be dangerous!" He turned automatically to follow as this annoying stranger went down the stairs. "Mind the thread that -- " He heard it snap. The young man ignored it. "There's another one there!" The stranger glanced down briefly as his passage broke the other trip-wire. Tully glared down at him and followed, pausing to turn off his tape-recorder. "I'd appreciate an explanation!" he practically yelled.

"For what?"

"Breaking in here and interrupt -- "

The blond glanced back at him and asked coldly, "You own this place, do you?"

Flustered, Tully replied, "No. But I'm in the process of conducting an investigation -- "

"So am I."

Tully absorbed that cool statement, startled. "What?"

"Conducting an investigation, a serious one." He glanced contemptuously back at Tully, "You'd better pack up your junk and leave."

Tully stared open-mouthed at the young man, shocked by his callous rudeness. Then he pulled himself together and said angrily, "When I was here first, oh no!"

He did not know the significance of how the young man suddenly turned his head slightly, did not hear the voice that reached the other. {Steel...}

"I've been here for nearly two months!"

Steel ignored Tully. [Yes?] he answered Sapphire.

{Anything new approaching?}

Putting his irritation with the man he had found into his response, Steel answered, [No. Where are you?]

{Platform, your side. I think you'd better come here, now.}

Steel turned abruptly and headed for the door, Tully called after him, "It's my ghost, you know! I located it first!"

"Have you seen it?"

"No, but I've heard it!" The blond turned around just before the door, clearly surprised, and Tully smugly picked up his candle. "I've been observing their presence for nearly two months and they -- "

Steel interrupted angrily, "You have no right! Not in this." He shook his head and gave Tully a fiercely troubled look. "You see it happens to be more than just a ghost." He turned and went through the door quickly, slamming it behind him.

Tully stared at the door for a long, puzzled moment, finally he turned away and picked up his tape-recorder to carry it into the Waiting Room. He did not see a blackness appear in the air behind him and arrow through the closed door.

Sapphire stood on the platform, hands on her hips and head lifted, intently scanning. Steel asked impatiently, "Now what?"

"The time of year now?" she asked him.

He frowned. "Late October, why?"

She walked toward him. "Not here. Not on this platform."

He raised his head and scanned as she had been doing, but he sensed nothing. "What?"

"It's summer!" Sapphire drew a breath, savoring the air.

Bewildered, Steel asked, "Summer?"

"Yes, can you feel it? It's a summer night, can you feel the warmth?" She stretched contentedly.

He blinked and shifted, puzzled. "No."

"And the air! Filled with the smell of flowers!" She walked by him, intent on absorbing all the sensory data she was picking up. "And the trees! The movement of them! And the smell of newly-cut grass..!"

Steel turned his head, watching her. Firmly he asked, "What Time-period?"

She shrugged, "I don't know."

He moved after her, not liking how distracted she was. "The source?"

Sapphire stopped, listening again. "I can't tell, it's just that... it doesn't seem malevolent..! A sensation of -- warmth and calmness." She breathed in the air, enjoying it.

Steel's stern voice cut through the feelings. "It is malevolent. It has to be!" He bowed his head and said to her urgently, "Sapphire, there are no trees, there are no flowers." To the stubborn set of her lips he added, "There's only you and I, It, and a man." Then he turned to go through the door behind them.

"It's not locked," Sapphire said thoughtfully. Steel decided not to respond to that and just went in. The room beyond was the Buffet. There were tables, and chairs stacked on top of each other and one of Tully's lanterns lighted and sitting on a table. Sapphire asked softly, "Who is the man?"

Grumpily putting his opinion of Tully into his tone Steel replied, "Some would-be ghost catcher. He's in the booking hall busy trying to make contact with what he thinks is a lost soul." Sapphire smiled, trying not to laugh aloud. "Does it feel like summer in here?"

"No. This man -- "

"What's in there?" Steel demanded, standing at the next door. Sapphire considered answering that, then grinned and waited. Steel finally turned around and shot her an injured look then asked again, "What's in there?"

She walked over to him. "It's the reception area."

"Reception area?" He hated it when he did not understand. He also hated it when Sapphire laughed at him without laughing aloud.

"Yes, this wasn't just a station, there was once a small hotel attached to it. A railway hotel."

Steel said sarcastically, "How romantic." He ignored Sapphire's wide smile.

At the other end of the platform, the blackness gathered itself and released a figure.

Steel opened the doors and entered the reception area. It was a real mess; dirt, dust, papers and cobwebs everywhere. Sapphire walked past him and picked up a newspaper. Checking the date she said mildly, "Nineteen forty-seven."

Steel let slip some of his limited local knowledge. "They still had steam engines in those days."

"Why has it chosen this station?"

"I don't know." Disgruntled, Steel turned his back on Sapphire's curious gaze.

She cocked her head and said thoughtfully, "I mean, why choose this place? It's hardly what we expected."

Steel peered up the staircase. "Depends what it has in mind, what form it's taken."

Sapphire joined him. "Or whose form it's taken." She started up.

"Oh yes," he agreed, following her slowly. Yes, the man.

"Landing, hotel bedrooms," she told him as she got to the top stair, cataloguing the place for him. Dingy grey halls and shadowy closed doors greeted her eyes. Sapphire turned and waited for Steel to join her. They walked a pace down the hall, and glanced up the next staircase. "There are two more floors like this," Sapphire waved up.

They opened doors on opposite walls of the hall. Steel stared into the one he had opened. "How many rooms are there in all?"

"Twenty." Sapphire looked into Steel's room, then closed the door. They checked the next two rooms and she said calmly, "Only it doesn't seem to have taken up residence in any of them."

Steel grumbled, "You expect it to arrive with a suitcase, do you?"

She glanced back at him over her shoulder. "No." They stepped into the two rooms. Sapphire took a few steps in and for one instant her clothing changed, becoming a bonnet and blouse, and a long brown skirt. It was just a moment, but while she could not see the clothes, she felt it in a stirring of time, a whisper on intangible winds. She stopped, puzzled, then stepped forward and it happened again, for just a tiny bit longer. Alarmed, she called, "Steel." He appeared immediately at the doorway. "There's something happening here, something changing." Steel started toward her, but she held up a hand for him to stop. "Stay there. Watch me." Sapphire walked slowly across the room, then turned a puzzled look at her partner.

"What am I looking at?" he asked, confused.

She took a few nervous steps. "Well it happened just now, twice. My -- my clothes, my hair -- changed!"

"Into what?"

Sapphire stepped into that strange stirring of time and raised her hands to tentatively touch at the area around her head. As the feeling vanished she dropped her hands and looked at Steel. "It was a light cotton shirt, and a straw hat!"

He frowned. "Summer clothes?"


He paced, fretting. "Summer clothes, I don't see them. You smell summer on the platform, I don't." He paused at the door and looked back at her. "From here?"


He walked slowly across the room toward her but felt nothing at all. To double-check he asked her, "No?"

She shook her head. "No."

Steel looked disgruntled. "Well it seems to be interested in you, whatever it is." They both jumped as from outside came an eerie whistling, two level tones then a high one and a lowering scale of tones following it. Both of them peered out the window quickly at the platform, then Steel dashed out of the room and downstairs across the reception area into the buffet. Pausing at the door he turned to find Sapphire had kept up with him. "What did it look like to you?"


Impatiently he asked, "Male or female?"

"I couldn't tell." Steel glared for a moment, then opened the door and they stepped out onto the platform. Side by side, they walked swiftly toward the other end. Sapphire suddenly slowed down and Steel stopped. They stood still for a moment, startled by the sweet scent of flowers suddenly filling the air. Sapphire turned quickly and froze. The filthy flower pots with their dead sticks and leaves were filthy no longer. They were full of blooming flowers. Sapphire said softly, "Steel..." She knelt and tentatively touched the flowers. In surprise she exclaimed, "They're real! They exist!" Steel turned around, startled. "The soil's fresh, it's been newly dug. Chrysanthemum compositae, Geraniaceae, cariaphallaseae..." Sapphire catalogued the flowers.

"Summer flowers in full bloom." Steel gazed at them uneasily.

"In late October," an amazed Sapphire added.


Sapphire looked up curiously. "The man in the booking room..."

"What about him?"

She looked up determinedly from where she knelt by the flower pot. "Does he exist?"

Defensively Steel grumbled, "He's in there."

"But is he real?" At his glare, Sapphire shrugged. "You said it could take any form, did you do a spot-analysis?"

Steel was silent for a moment, then shot her an injured look. "Now you know that's not my territory."

Sapphire stood up and met Steel's eyes with silent laughter. "'Tis mine, you know." She brushed her hands off and rested them on her hips, teasing Steel with an affectionate smile.

Tully poured coffee from his thermos into its cup. He sighed, thinking wearily of that rude young man who so brusquely ordered him away. The blond seemed quite convinced of his own importance. *He's trying to steal my find,* thought Tully, watching shadows cast by his candle's light on the walls. *Thinks just because he's young he can force me to allow it.* Idly, Tully wondered what the stranger's name was. He started to take a drink when the door opened and the blond came in, stiff and tense.

Glaring at Tully, he said, "Are you playing tricks with me?"

Tully found the question confusing. "Tricks?"

"Yes. Tricks with flowers."

Ah, that explained the flashing eyes. Tully huffed, "I happen to be a psychical investigator, not a conjurer!" He calmed himself and asked thoughtfully, "So you've seen the flowers, have you?"

The blond faced him directly over the table. "I've seen some flowers, yes." He was obviously looking for an explanation.

"On the platform?" To the young fellow's silence, Tully shook his head. "Well I shouldn't worry, they won't be there long, they never are!" Feeling uncomfortable under the younger man's steady, suspicious gaze, Tully continued, "Even if you took some home, they'd still disappear later! I've tried it!"

The other's voice was low and cool. "And what about you?"

Tully stopped in the middle of taking a drink. "Me?"

"Are you likely to disappear... later?"

Tully started to laugh. "I shouldn't think so, no." He sipped his drink, feeling this strange youngster's fierce gaze on him.

Steel went to the door and Sapphire stepped in. She met his eyes and then walked over to stand in front of Tully who had not noticed Steel move.

Tully muttered sullenly, "I didn't make these notes to enter -- " he looked up at that point and broke off, staring at Sapphire. Standing in front of him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Tall with a slender build, hair like silken gold sunlight... an angel's face and sweet dark eyes. Entranced, Tully stood up because he felt that was the only appropriate way to greet a vision. He ignored the young man who stood a few feet away. "How do you do?" he managed.

Eyes twinkling with affectionate laughter, the young woman held out her hand and replied, "How do you do, my name is Sapphire."

Tully automatically took the offered hand, delighted. "Oh!"

"And your name is..?"

"Oh -- eh, Tully! George Tully." Suddenly remembering he was holding one of his shoe pads in his free hand, he set it down and tentatively let it join his other hand. Her skin was soft and warm, Tully imagined she smelled as clean and fresh as she looked.

To his delight she took his hands in both of hers. "Well I'm so very pleased to meet you Mr. Tully." With both hands closed over Tully's skin, Sapphire began her spot analysis, dividing her attention enough to talk to Tully and send the information to Steel. {Muscular power emission ergs per second, pulse times acceleration, times distance divided by time...}

Tully continued on joyfully, "Well I must say I'm very pleased to meet you!"

She smiled warmly. "I suppose my friend didn't bother to introduce himself."

He smiled back, "No!"

{... spinal contraction enables movement to be made voluntary, or involuntary.} Sapphire spoke aloud to Tully, "He never does, I'm always having to apologize for him." Steel shot a glare her way.

"Are you? Oh," Tully sympathized.

{Voluntary muscle consisting mainly of fluid and skeleton is commanded at will....} "You know at first he thought you might be a ghost!"

Tully laughed, "Well I thought he was one!"

Sapphire laughed too. {... carrying nutrients and oxygen to the tissues,} "Well you certainly don't look like a ghost to me, Mr. Tully."

Tully shook his head shyly, "Oh I'm not! Flesh and blood like everyone else, I'm afraid!"

Steel broke into Sapphire's listing of Tully's composition with a flare of annoyance. [In other words it's human.]

{Yes. Life expectancy of present subject, fifty-seven point zero three years.} With that Sapphire released Tully's hands abruptly and left the room. The dazzled man followed after her but she closed the door behind her, and he was left with Steel.

"This ghost of yours..." began Steel immediately. Seeing that the other man did not hear him, he called, "Tully?"

Tully masked his annoyance behind politeness. "Yes?"

"Describe it to me."


Sapphire listened at the door for a moment, then wandered away from it toward the staircase. She looked up thoughtfully and decided to check out the platform. Maybe the flowers were still out there.

Tully straightened up self-importantly, temporarily distracted from following Sapphire out. "Well I'm glad you asked that question, but it's not really my ghost -- "

"'It's my ghost, you know. I located it first!'" quoted the young man mockingly.

Embarrassed, Tully started, "Yes but when I said that I -- "

"Describe it to me."

Tully glared angrily and thought how annoying this fellow must be to work with. This led his thoughts back to Sapphire. "That young woman, is she, um...."

The young man looked at Tully for a moment and asked, "Is she what?"

Tipping idly back on his heels, Tully tried to sound casual. "Is she a relative of yours, or just a friend?" After all, he thought, they do look quite a bit alike; same color hair and skin tone, even their eyes.

A long moment passed as the young man considered Tully's question. "A business associate."

Tully nodded, thinking that if this was true, the young man was either an idiot or queer. "Oh. Business, yes I understand." He sat back down at the table.

The blond leaned over impatiently, "Mr. Tully -- "

George Tully interrupted, his eyes sparkling. "Of course I always work alone, myself! Not that I prefer it that way, but it's... difficult to find someone compatible, someone..." he looked up and met the other man's eyes knowingly. "Business associate." You are a fool aren't you, boy? He nodded politely to the young man who glared down at him.

Sapphire looked at the empty, grungy flowerpots and pursed her lips thoughtfully. She paced from one end of the platform to the other but nothing happened, so she entered the hotel buffet. The moment she was gone, a pocket of darkness coalesced and a young man clad in a brown soldier's uniform and carrying a rifle and kit-bag stepped out of it, whistling the same tune that had caught Sapphire's and Steel's attention earlier.

Tully was trying to explain some of the things that had happened since he came, that he had noticed. " -- Kind of darkness, that's all. Like a piece of darkness, not quite a shadow. Yes, like a piece of darkness."

The blond man sat beside him, gazing intently at him. "And that's all you've seen?"

Tully sniffed. "Well it's enough for the time being! I'm a patient observer!" He stood up with his bag and heavy coat on, and walked around the table.

The blond smoothed his coat, and said coolly, "Two months!"


"You say you've been observing this presence for two months."

Tully tapped the barometer on the wall. "Approximately, yes." He heard the young man sigh softly and his thoughts returned to Sapphire. "Been very long?"


"Business associates?" he asked, taking the barometer down.

The blond shifted uneasily, his gaze hawk-like. "Yeah, quite a long time, yes."

Tully raised his brow. "Good working relationship?"

"Perfect," and the young man was beginning to sound annoyed.

"Well that's a God-send, these days I -- "

"How long has it been haunting this place?"

Amiably, Tully answered, "As far as I can make out, for just those two months. From the time I happened to find it!" he said pointedly. Moving away, he paused and added, "I regard that as an important private and personal discovery! So what's your interest?"

The blond was idly fiddling with Tully's tape recorder, but he responded firmly, "I'm here to get rid of it." Tully turned around and stared at the other man in shock.

Sapphire sat on a table in the buffet, listening to the whistling outside. She got up and left the room for the reception area. The whistler fell silent as Sapphire went upstairs.

Tully puffed up with self-importance and turned on the blond man. "Making contact with that ghost as I have done and as I will continue to do is -- is essential!" There was no way he was going to be intimidated out of his discovery, no way at all.

"Not to me." The blond had picked up Tully's tapes and was turning them over in his hands curiously.

"It's necessary! I -- it's of supreme importance both to psychical and theological groups all over -- " Tully broke off as the blond abruptly stood up with one of his tapes and made for the door. "You won't get rid of that ghost, you know, you can't!"

The other man stopped, and looked at him. "It is not just a ghost."

Taking his chance, Tully snatched the tape back. "Thank you." The blond shrugged and started out the door again. "But what else can it be?"

For a hundredth time in this discussion Tully wished he knew this fellow's name. The young man stopped, eyed Tully's tape for a few seconds, then came back in and closed the door behind him. He turned to Tully and while he spoke softly, his gaze was fierce. "Whatever it is, it represents a kind of energy."

"What kind of energy?"

"Negative energy." At Tully's exasperated look the younger man said contemptuously, "Cranks like you could never understand it. You only increase the danger."

Offended, Tully flashed indignantly, "By trying to help?!"

For a moment the young man looked taken aback. Then he smiled an amused, sad kind of smile. "By interfering." He turned and sat down at the table, lifting Tully's microphone and gazing over at him. "You're still in the dark ages, Mr. Tully!"

"Am I!!" Tully pointed at the door, "Well at least in my ignorance I'm sympathetic! At least I know he's in trouble! That he's been hurt in some way!" Noticing the other man's eyes stray to his tape, he held it protectively and joined him at the table, putting the tape back in its case. To Steel's somewhat exasperated expression, Tully added, "That he needs help!"

The blond blinked. "He?"

Sapphire made her way to the room where she had felt her clothing change. From outside the whistling again warmed the October air. She headed for the window to look out and stopped, staring in surprise. Written perhaps by a finger into the dust on the window were four elevens, each atop the other. At a faint stirring feeling, Sapphire turned and beheld on the table behind her a spray of flowers.

Tully said sheepishly, "I just feel that it's a man, that's all. The ghost of a man."


With an embarrassed shrug, Tully answered, "It's just that -- well I sense it, I suppose. I accept that it's a man, I haven't seen him, but... I just know. And then there's the sound."

Steel had laid down lazily on the bench, purposely antagonizing Tully. Now he sat up quickly. "What sound?"

"Of the things he carries." Tully shrugged seriously as Steel looked confused. "Heavy sounds. Well not all that heavy, but it's just as if he were... as if he were carrying a lot of bulky objects -- bags, luggage -- things like that." Steel listened thoughtfully, standing up and removing his heavy black overcoat. Tully continued, "That's why I feel he was a traveller, or-or a member of the station's staff. I feel... I think he cares about this place."

The blond tossed his coat onto the bench and walked over to Tully. "He has a... weird kind of interest in the place, yes."

"No! He cares. And someone who provides flowers, has the power to decorate that platform with beautiful flowers..." Tully chuckled softly, "how could he possibly represent danger?"

Hesitantly, Sapphire picked up the flowers. As she did so her clothes changed again for only a moment. Time moved around her, breathing like a mortal being as she sniffed the flowers. Once again the whistling came from outside, and this time Sapphire followed the sound downstairs and out onto the platform, still carrying the spray. Before she looked his way, the soldier vanished. Then the flower pots filled again with blooming plants, and she heard a demanding drum-beat, pounding out the heart of a song.

Tully packed his stuff away. Steel watched him coldly from a chair he had settled down in. "When will you be back?"


"At what time?"

Sapphire's voice called urgently, {Steel!} Steel flashed to his feet, alarmed.

Tully answered with dignity, "To continue my investigations about eleven o'clo -- "

"Yes. Be quiet."

The quiet urgency of the young man's tone startled Tully, who turned to see Steel standing stiffly, face pale. "I beg your pardon?"

"I said be quiet." Ignoring Tully, Steel cast his voice to Sapphire. [What is it?]

Her answer carried echoes of nervousness. {The platform again. Something... changing, something happening!} She stood very still and listened as a pipe joined the demanding drum, and the daylight bathing her brightened and dimmed.

[Tell me,] demanded Steel.

{The flowers have appeared again. And the smell of summer, but... there's something else, Steel. There's something else this time.}

She felt him instinctively shiver, then he asked, [Can you identify it?]

{Just... a very powerful feeling... of hatred and resentment, a strong feeling of resentment. The whole atmosphere around here is charged with it. And that sound, Steel, can you hear that?}

[No. What is it?] He closed his eyes and drifted on inner winds, trying to hear what Sapphire heard.

{It's the sound of a band. It's approaching. It's coming here... and I can hear them, marching.}

Tully had been watching Steel intently, trying to understand what was happening. Now he heard the sound of a marching band and, startled, he rushed to the door calling back, "Do you hear that?"

Steel ignored Tully and sent frantically to his partner, [Be careful, Sapphire!]

Tully called again from the door, "You hear it?"

Sapphire had not answered him. Steel sent again desperately, [Sapphire be careful!]

She answered him this time, but her voice was tinged with spinning time. {I'm all right, Steel.} On the platform, her clothing changed again and stayed that way.

He should have stayed with her, provided a buffer when the attack came. He summoned intently, [Sapphire! Leave that platform now!]

A voice sang powerfully, the song the whistler had been whistling, "What's the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile..!"

Sapphire was delighted and paced along the platform. Steel's voice batted at her all a-fire with protective fright. [We're in the waiting room; come here, now! Sapphire!]

She stopped for a moment. Time twisted and left her floating in a sort of calm. When she spoke her words curled softly in a different accent. "It's hot... it's a hot summer day."

From somewhere the voice was still singing, "... Smile boys that's the style! What's the use of worrying?"

The tall young woman with long golden hair smiled wistfully. "He likes the sun, he says it makes things grow, makes the cold warmer. I can hear wood pigeons, and bees. It's very hot..! And very, very still," she whispered, no longer hearing the marching band that still played in some other time. "He's with them, you see. It's their special send-off." She entered the booking hall, just a door away from Steel and Tully.

Tully stood at the door and tried again to catch Steel's attention. "Do you hear it? Do you hear that?"

[Who are you, Sapphire?] The dim, dirty window of the waiting room suddenly was aglow with outside sunlight. Steel ignored it; nothing mattered but communication with his partner. [Who are you?] he called again.

Sapphire turned around in the booking hall, looking about curiously. She spoke aloud to Steel, to herself. "No passenger trains today. This station is closed to ordinary passengers. The waiting room doors are locked! There's just the girls. Just the girls who gave... who gave them...." She fell silent and dreamingly bowed her head.

Steel moved to the door, ignoring the sunlight streaming in. Tully ran to the window exclaiming, "Look! Look it's daylight out there!" He grabbed for the doorknob but could not open it. Stunned, he turned to Steel. "They're locked!"

Both men looked up as joining the cacophony outside came the hiss and shriek of a train braking. Steel pressed his palms and forehead against the door trying desperately to reach Sapphire.

She felt a melancholy grief, a loss to her heart and soul. The doors at the other end opened and a young man appeared in the entryway. She was proud of him and afraid for him as well. He stared at her across the room and she raised the spray of flowers to her lips. He marched stiffly forward and stopped just in front of her. His was a young farmer's face, hazel-blue-green eyes and fair skin, and he was tall. He said to her softly, "The girls who gave us flowers."

A cue of sorts for her to raise the flowers and pin them on his lapel. She looked up, met his eyes and began drowning in the memories he held out to share with her. The sound of a train pulling out and then... and then... crying in pain as his own life dripped into a growing puddle of blood; terrified as bombs fell all around and fires raged near him oh no, not burn to death! Better a quick death help me! And the terrible burning smell of nearby trees, fear that his flesh would be the next smell before he died HELP ME!!

A whimper escaped Sapphire's lips. Her eyes closed and tears spilled through the thick lashes as she felt his remembered pain. Then he stepped forward and through her, letting her feel the full intensity of his anger and pain. She gasped for breath, then she was released into her normal thoughts and called out, "Steel!"

Night came back abruptly and the waiting room door once again was unlocked. Steel burst through it and Sapphire joined him quickly, pointing at the stairs. The soldier was walking up them.

Steel hissed and ordered, "Wait!" The soldier stopped mid-step.

Tully dashed back into the waiting room, snatched up his cross and put it around his neck, grabbed up his candle and quickly came back out dodging around the two blondes and heading for the stairs. "It's amazing! Really amazing."

Steel aimed his voice at Sapphire. "Tell me."

She was still trembling, watching the ghost with wide, frightened eyes. "He... it is without life."

"An external projection?"

"No, an after-image." She shuddered.

Steel was startled. "After-image?"

"Yes, it lived once."

Tully babbled in awe, "To think we're witnessing... it's amazing!"

Steel headed forward, sparing the older man a quick glance. "Would you please be quiet?" He ignored Tully's wounded look and moved to the foot of the stairs. To the soldier he asked slowly, "Who... were you?"

Tully whispered angrily, "Surely you can see he was a soldier!"

Sapphire moved to Tully's side, watching the soldier tense as Steel coldly repeated, "Who... were you?"

The soldier turned around and glared angrily down at Steel. His voice was young and wounded. "Who am I, more like!"

Steel shook his head and said firmly, "No. Sorry, but you're dead. Who were you?"

Tully read the quick pain on the soldier's face and tried to soothe with tone, speaking to Steel, "Please give the poor lad a chance."

A hand touched his arm, Sapphire said softly, "Please... let him do it his way."

Steel ignored all of that, his attention on the young soldier. "You might as well tell me."

The boy lifted his head, challenging Steel. "Reckon you might as well find out for yourself!"

"All right. What do you want, here?"

The anger left the young soldier's face. He almost smiled and dared them coolly, "Reckon you might as well find that out more." Then he turned away from them and continued up the stairs, whistling his tune. He turned on the landing and vanished, Steel and Tully plowed to a stop on the stairs and stared up.

Tully turned furiously on Steel. "You see what you've done? You've driven it away!" Steel shrugged and started down to join Sapphire. "So that's your threat, is it?! That poor lad! I mean... I mean is that really your idea of evil?!!"

Steel said firmly, "Yes."

Tully blew up and shouted at the blond, "Well 'tisn't mine!" Realizing the uselessness of shouting at Steel, Tully turned and went up the stairs pleading, "Please come back! In the name of God, please come back. I heard a voice from the heavens saying unto me... blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord from the henceforth... Yea, said the spirit, that they may rest from their labor...."

They abandoned Tully to his efforts and went to the other part of Duwolten, to the buffet. Sapphire walked into the room and joined a pacing Steel. She said mildly, "The afterimage is of someone who died during the Great War."

Her partner was instantly confused. "Great War?"

"Nineteen-fourteen to nineteen-eighteen."

Bewildered, Steel sat down in a chair. "Died here? You mean this was a battleground?" It didn't look like one.

"No, the sendoff was from here. His sendoff. Didn't you hear the train?"

He nodded. "Yes."

"And the women?"

Steel looked up from Tully's lantern. "Women?"

"Yes, the ones who once cheered them on their way, made them think that they were heroes."

A laugh broke from him. "No, I didn't hear them."

"I did. It was something he wanted me to experience, to participate in." Steel eyed her sharply, and she smiled. "Just momentary, I don't think he wanted to frighten me, he just wanted me to experience it."

He folded his arms and glared indignantly at the table. "Why?"

Sapphire considered the question carefully. "Because those women were part of this place for him, he resented what they stood for."

Now this was information he could use, but it still astonished him. "You sensed that!"

"Yes." She listened to the flow of his thoughts, his determination to work out this puzzle to his satisfaction.

"Was it the same feeling of resentment and hatred you felt earlier on on the platform?"

She thought about that, too. "Some of it, yes. But not all of it."

Steel stood up, his thoughts a streak of hunger for data. "So this is where it all started for him! His death started here!" Sapphire bowed her head in agreement, feeling Steel's mind twist around furiously. He began to pace, grumbling, "Great wars! Civil wars! Holy wars! You know sometimes I wonder why they bother to send us here!" He shook his fist angrily. "It's not enough. That amount of resentment, it's not enough!" He stalked back and forth, thinking aloud. "He was a soldier! He went to war, he must've allowed for the possibility of being killed prematurely!" Finally Steel sat down, fuming. "No it's not enough." When she was sure he wasn't going to get up again, Sapphire joined him. He looked up at her. "You're sure that was the war he was killed in?"

"Oh yes. I saw his death. It was something else he wanted me to experience."

Steel gave her a long, fretful look, resting his hands in his lap. Suddenly he frowned. "Where's Tully?"



Silently laughing, she answered, "In the waiting room."

He looked at her indignantly for a moment then stood up abruptly suddenly very worried. "I'm going to send him home." He stalked out the door with Sapphire quick on his heels and they went into the other building. Steel paused and looked over at the staircase. Softly he said to Sapphire, "We have to find out who he was. His name, where he lived, and exactly where and when he died. What his intentions are."

Tully sat on the bench, all puffed up and angry. When Steel walked in the older man looked up at him accusingly and grumbled, "He didn't come back!"


Tully shifted angrily. "Well I'm hoping, praying if you like, that he hasn't deserted us for good!"

Steel sat down beside Tully. "I doubt he has."

"That'd be a pity, a great pity. I feel the ghost of that poor lad has things to say."

To Tully's surprise, the blond man shrugged agreeably. "I'm sure he has."

"Things to tell us!"

"Mr. Tully -- "

"So I've decided to stay on tonight, not to go home."

Tully could almost feel the gray eyes blaze. "Have you."

Suddenly scared, the old man stood up and away from Steel's cold gaze. "A sort of emergency service, if you like. But no more jokes! I'd rather you didn't make fun of me." He had the satisfaction of Steel looking away rather sheepishly. "I'm not stupid, I happen to realize -- " Tully cut himself off as the other man looked at him again.

"Realize what?"

Having the strangest feeling of knowing a secret, Tully found himself able to smile. "That the pair of you seem to be working along similar lines to me." For just a moment the faintest flicker of amusement appeared in the blond's eyes. Puffily, Tully said to it, "All right then, alternative lines."

"Yes I'd prefer that."

Tully glanced over at the door where Sapphire was standing, and flashed her a 'point made' look. She smiled warmly back at him. Emboldened, he continued, "I mean I'm aware of your... well I suppose your tour de force."

Sapphire cocked her head. "Our what?"

"The way you're able to communicate. Some method of thought-transference, is it?"

For a moment Sapphire seemed quite startled, then she almost grinned. "Something like that, yes."

Tully nodded. "Very clever. And you obviously have a leaning towards clairvoyance also, must've taken years of practice." While Tully was preoccupied with Sapphire, Steel had been rummaging through the tapes on the table. He looked up as Tully babbled on. "Now my approach to the supernatural is much more -- "

"Mr. Tully!" Steel interrupted sternly.

Tully glanced around. "Yes?"

"Do you have any more tapes for this machine?"

Wary of letting Steel into his stuff, Tully snatched his bag up. "I have some, yes."

"Recordings you've made here during the past two months?"

"Yes." Tully backed away as Steel came swiftly over, quite obviously after the bag. "Well I'm not giving them to you! You referred to my equipment as junk!" They glared at each other.

"It's still junk, give them to me."

"Oh, no no!" Tully shuffled the bag behind his back but he realized if the blond wanted it enough, there would be no way of keeping it from him. An idea hit Tully and he said reasonably. "This happens to be part of a record of my research, now I've answered a great deal of questions from you, but you haven't answered one of mine." Steel shifted uneasily under Tully's steady gaze. "So as fellow investigators -- " Tully hurried on as Steel opened his mouth to object being classed with him, " -- a part of my research information in exchange for a part of yours."

Steel considered that, then smiled and aimed his words at Sapphire. "Tell him." Tully allowed him to take the bag then, and on his way out of the room Steel stopped beside Sapphire and, giving Tully a look of pure malicious mischief, held up two fingers pinched together. "This much!" and left.

Sapphire watched him go, then smiled at the frustrated Tully.

Steel crossed the platform and went through the buffet into the hotel. He walked up the darkened stairs to the room where Sapphire had said her clothes had changed, where he set the tape recorder on a low table and started rewinding the tape that was on it.

Tully and Sapphire sat on the bench in the waiting room. Tully was gratified that Sapphire looked straight at him and seemed to take seriously everything he said. "This force, what does it look like?" he asked her.

"We don't know."

"And yet you say that it's dangerous, it's evil!"

"Yes," she said seriously.

He thought about the impression he had of the young ghost, and said determinedly, "Then it can hardly be the ghost of that poor soldier! The man who killed him, perhaps."

"No, this force is not human."

Her tone left no room for argument, and it startled Tully. "But you said-uh -- "

"It simply draws its power from the emotional responses of the human kind."

Tully frowned. "You mean the human soul?"

She considered that, then smiled. "No I do not mean the human soul. I mean responses."

"Like what?"

"Like hatred, anger, resentment." Her attention was drawn away suddenly, time drew a breath outside. Alerted, she walked to the door and looked out.

Tully was shocked. "You're trying to tell me that this force thrives upon the feelings, upon some of the worst human feelings?"

She turned back to him, "Yes."

"Of living people?"

"No. Preferably the dead." The feeling of time moving outside was growing at an alarming rate. She left the room, closing its door behind her. Tully stared at the closed door in confusion then nervously picked up his cross and held it tightly.

On the platform, the blackness coalesced again, then vanished. It left behind the young soldier and another man, a man in a flight jacket and goggles. The two men looked at each other, then as one their gazes turned toward the hotel. The soldier started briskly toward it, the pilot followed after him. They stopped outside the door and considered their next move.

Tully looked out the waiting room door. Sapphire stood at the base of the stairs, her attention firmly focused up. He joined her and asked, "So where does this force come from?"

"We don't know that either," she answered without looking at him.

"Well you seem to know enough!" he huffed.


Tully had a feeling Sapphire wasn't going to answer many more questions, so he chose his next one carefully. "Well how can this force use the persona of the dead?"

"Because the persona lives on."

"Where?" Tully asked quickly.

"In the atmosphere. It only has to be activated."

"All right, so where does the -- "

"No more questions, please." She turned and stood sideways on the stair, her mind elsewhere.


"The exchange is over."

Tully blew up indignantly. "It is not! I let your friend have four tape recordings! All I've had so far in return is a few hints about how dead people..."

A door slamming outside startled Tully into silence. A moment later Steel's voice called, "Mr. Tully!" and the blond came in.

Tully turned to him, relieved. "Ah, just the man I wanted to see -- "

"The first tape on this machine." Steel was carrying it.

Startled, Tully asked, "Yes?"

"Had it ever been used before?"

"No." Steel headed for the waiting room, so Tully tried to talk to Sapphire. "It's a blank tape -- " he broke off as the woman quickly followed her partner. "-A new one!" he called after her, hurrying to catch up with them.

Steel set the recorder down and asked Tully, "Did you check it before you used it?"

"Of course, I always do!"


Thoroughly annoyed, Tully grumbled, "Well I just said it was blank!"

Steel turned to his curious partner. "The first and only recording with this tape was out there earlier this evening."

Tully snapped angrily, "Yes."

"Have you played it back since?"

"Well I haven't had much chance, have I?"

Sapphire interrupted softly, "What is it, Steel?"

Something had upset him, that was apparent. He fiddled with the tape player, rewinding the tape, and then turned it on. Tully's voice came clearly, with little distortion and Tully felt proud, even though the blond man kept eyeing him suspiciously. "In the name of God, please tell me who you are. 'Cuz I know you're here! I'm a friend, and I want to help you."

Tully fidgeted under Steel's stern gaze. "Well there's nothing wrong with that!"

"Listen!" Steel ordered, sitting on the table-edge.

"So will you let me help you? Please? You can trust me...."

The flapping sound that suddenly came and went, Tully identified for them. "A pigeon." Sapphire smiled at him.

There was a thump, and a crackling sliding sound. Steel lifted his head. "That's you moving the machine?"


"You don't switch it off when you move it?" he asked accusingly.

Tully flushed. "No."

Then the sound changed. It was sudden and startling how the background noise suddenly became hollow, as if in a cave, and there was a humming sound like electrical equipment. Tully frowned, confused. Within the background noise was the sound of someone breathing in quick, shallow breaths. And then a voice spoke, a very young, frightened and helpless voice. "What're they doin'?"

The voice that answered was much deeper, and a bit older-sounding. Both voices kept catching, as if they couldn't breath well. "Radio... radio messages. Making... making distress call."

Steel shared a pained look with Sapphire as the younger voice spoke again. "Jamie's passed out. The air... not enough air..."

The other said sternly, "Then don't waste it talking."

Still the young one spoke dazedly between harsh breaths, "How... how deep are we? At the bottom? Aye? No pumps workin', an-and we're at the bottom, aye? Tanks are full... and we're at the bottom. Right at the bottom..!" The speaker was obviously suffering from oxygen starvation, his repeated comments a symptom.

"Don't... don't talk. Save... save the air...."

The hollow sound went away, they heard Tully's angry voice on the recorder. "You've blown it out during an important psychical investigation!" Steel had apparently been out of the microphone's range, as it hadn't recorded his response. "Yes! And that could be dangerous!"

Steel reached down and shut off the tape. They all stood for a moment, painfully affected by the sad, young voices they had heard.

Tully shifted and asked softly, "And that was picked up..?"

"On the footbridge stairs."

That the blond didn't sneer or remind him he should know where the sound had been picked up, somehow made Tully feel less angry with him. "But I heard nothing at the time."

"No?" Tully shook his head. "Have you ever heard anything like it before?" Steel was rapidly recovering what seemed to be his usual temper and interrogated Tully mercilessly.

"No," Tully answered, still shocked.

"NOTHING like that," frowned Steel.

Tully shook his head gravely. "No. Only the sounds of the soldier."

Sapphire steepled her fingers and murmured, "Sounds like death again, someone's death."

Steel flinched. "Yes."

"Where were they?" Sapphire puzzled.

Tully glanced at her, "In a submarine." At another time he would have been gratified at how startled the two young people were, but now he was still grieving for the ghosts. "And yet..."

Steel came over to him, "What?"

"Well, our young soldier was obviously from the first world war, and that seems sort of... sort of later."

"Why later?" Steel had shifted to data-gathering mode, intently.

"Well I don't think they had electric pumps for ballast tanks in the first World War. But I couldn't swear to that but uh -- " he broke off. Steel had held his hand out to Sapphire and the two left the room. Tully quickly followed after.

Steel stood near the bottom steps and pointed up. "I was at the top of the stairs on the foot bridge. Tully was at the foot here, he -- "

"Working my way up."

They both looked at him, apparently they had forgotten he was there. "Working his way up!" Steel and Sapphire looked at each other in silent agreement, and then the woman started forward. "Try the stairs," suggested Steel.

Sapphire took a few steps, the two men watched her anxiously. She stopped and looked back at them. "Nothing."

"What about the top?"

She went up to the landing then paused and whispered softly, "Yes. There's something... somewhere." She could feel time twitch and stir nearby and looked back down at Steel. "It's not very strong. But somewhere here."

"What are you sensing, resentment?"

She shook her head. "No."

He frowned, this data didn't fit. "Hatred?"

"Neither of those. It's more like..." suddenly she stiffened, taking a deep breath as her feelings identified the contents of the nearby emotional field. "Fear, and hopelessness."

"What's the temperature?"


Tully leaned near Steel, whispering softly, "That's odd, I've never recorded a temperature drop there, always the opposite." Steel flashed him a startled look.

Sapphire's mind drifted in shifting time, "Yes it's quite cold."

Steel's voice anchored her from a distance, "Give me details."

She stepped up the stairs and it got colder, she shivered and hugged herself. "It's just cold. But it's a strange sort of cold, like..."

"Like at the bottom of the sea?"

When she hit the top stair, Sapphire stepped into a pocket of light. brilliant clear white light and blue sky surrounded her, high winds tossed her hair. "No, the other extreme!"


"It's like high in the air! The air is thin, it's a high altitude!"

"But it's still dark..?"

Her cheeks were cold, and she raised her hands to warm them. "No! The sun is shining! It's very bright, it's almost dazzling!" Time twitched again around her, then straightened out abruptly, and Sapphire found herself standing in the dark. "It's gone. Whatever it was, it's gone, Steel!"

"Maybe it's all designed to confuse us." Steel and Sapphire stepped together onto the platform. They had left Tully behind inside. Steel worried at the problem like a dog with a bone, "It's all a bit of a mixture, isn't it? Bottom of the sea, high in the air. Things out of order, out of time."

"And the voices?"

Steel turned around, not liking the situation they were in. "It has to be the soldier. The main instrument is the soldier, only him."

A light wind ruffled their hair and tossed leaves along the platform. "Yes," Sapphire agreed.

Steel glanced at her, then began to pace. "We've seen him. We know this place is a goad to him, that his resentment started here."

"Is that what you're thinking, or what you're hoping?"

"Hoping. I'd rather not have to think the obvious." He stopped pacing and knelt beside Tully's tape recorder.

"That this could be a recruiting ground for the dead."

He picked up the tape recorder, "Yes. I'm gonna check the other three tapes." Steel entered the hotel and started upstairs, pausing on his way up because he heard the soldier whistle tauntingly. Steel got to the room he had appropriated as his and set the recorder on a table, rejecting bedsprings. The taunting whistling drew him to the window, but there was nothing to be seen. Shaking his head, he went back and put a tape in the recorder.

On the platform, the soldier appeared first and then the pilot, then three young men in coveralls. The soldier looked up toward the room Steel was at work in.

Steel dusted off a chair and carried it over to where he was going to sit. As he set it down, he felt a change. For an instant he was clad in a flight jacket, the pilot's uniform. Steel froze, then cautiously checked his head and arms, but he was still in his normal suit and tie. Calming himself, he sat down and reached for the recorder and the change manifested itself again, catching him off guard.

Sunlight streamed through his cockpit and warmed the control panel. He desperately moved to counter the malfunctions, but the plane began to shake around him and its nose suddenly dipped as the engine stumbled and roared, then exploded. He frantically held onto the wheel, sweat-soaked hands slipping in his leather gloves. Falling, falling! No way out! In despair he closed his eyes as the room (room?) spun around him.

Sapphire sat with Tully in the waiting room. She was getting rather bored but then she raised her head to look at Tully. Something drastic had changed... it wasn't him. She looked up and reached out to Steel.

Tully glanced up from his book and saw a look of quick horror cross Sapphire's face. "What's wrong?" She didn't look at him, just got to her feet and went quickly out to stand at the foot of the stairs. Tully followed her and spoke very softly, coaxingly. "Will you please tell me what's wrong?"

She turned around, still intent upon the upper level, then finally looked at him. "It's Steel." Without bothering to explain more, she headed out onto the platform. He followed quickly.

Tully stopped, "Look!" The flowerpots were once again alive.

Sapphire's voice was icy with anger. "Ignore them." As he bent to touch the flowers she spoke coldly, "I said ignore them, Mr. Tully. Stay with me." He stared in astonishment at her as she started purposefully across the platform.

"Yes but the flowers are-!" Tully broke off as he heard the soldier whistling loudly nearby.

Sapphire glanced around, her anger palpable. "We must ignore that too... for now." She led Tully into the reception area. "Steel?!" Aside from the whistling, there was silence.

"It seems to be everywhere!" Tully edged near to Sapphire.

"Yes, I know. Steel!?!" She started toward the stairs.

Tully rushed after her speaking frantically. "All I wanted was a chance to try and talk to him!" Sapphire stopped on the bottom step as Tully started again, "The soldier..." he trailed off as she turned.

She was angry, and it frightened him how sharp her look had become. "Mr. Tully, I'm sure you will get your chance but not just now."

He gazed helplessly after her as she started going up. She paused in mid-step. {Steel!} She felt him above her in beaten silence and gently called, {Tell me, Steel. Try to tell me what's happened.} Still he couldn't answer. She glanced down at Tully, her expression a summons to follow her.

"Where're you going?" Tully asked as they got to the top and Sapphire started up the next staircase. He stepped up with her, saying, "There's nothing there!" The words rang in a hollow, damp tunnel of sound. Sapphire stopped and came down a step. "Listen!"

"I heard that."

"Like being in a room under the ground," Tully whispered.

"Or under the sea..." Sapphire reminded him.

"Yes." They stepped down into the hall, and when he spoke again, "Under the sea... we're back to normal!" Tully exclaimed.

Sapphire turned and moved toward the third room down, suddenly sure where Steel was. Tully gallantly ducked in front of her. "I'll go in there first please! You just keep behind me, right?" He opened the door cautiously and they walked in. On the other side of the room, they could see Steel slumped in a chair, his back to them. Sapphire cut Tully off and moved anxiously to touch the chair. "Is he asleep? Or what, is he ill?" Tully asked nervously.

Sapphire looked at him. "Mr. Tully..."

"Yes, can I help?"

"Would you check the other rooms on this floor, please?"

He frowned, "Check them?"

"Make sure there's nothing strange in them."

Tully headed for the door, "Leave it to me." He paused in the doorway, staring worriedly at Sapphire who had turned and bent over her partner. "If you get worried -- " he broke off as she looked at him, eyes ablaze with fury.

But she said softly, "I'll shout."

"Fine." He closed the door behind him, glad to be out.

Sapphire turned and ever so gently took hold of Steel's upper chest, ignoring the soft brown hair that capped his head. She pulled him back and as she did so, for a split instant his clothing changed into a flight jacket and the rest of a pilot's uniform. {Steel,} she whispered into the still mind. The body was not his, and fit his suit badly as it was taller. It was a tall young man with brown hair and nearly black eyes, and eyebrows that grew together in a rectangular face, faintly slanted eyes betraying a bit of Mongolian ancestry.

He stared blindly and then spoke, Steel's flatter tones through another man's vocal chords. "Take it back, Sapphire. Take time back. But hurry."

She whispered softly, "Yes, Steel."

The door swung open and a relieved Tully stepped in. "It's all all right out there -- "

"Please stay there, he's unconscious," Sapphire said urgently.

"Unconscious! Well let me -- "

One more time Tully saw Sapphire go dangerously cold. "Mr. Tully, I KNOW him, I KNOW what to do. Just stay there." The open threat in her eyes scared him to obedience.

"All right," he said quietly.

Steel reached through terrifying distance. [Quickly Sapphire, take time back.]

She knelt beside the chair, intent. {With Tully here?}

He turned slightly and looked desperately into her eyes. [You'll have to. You must get me back, quickly.]

{Take my hand then.} She grabbed his and they twined their fingers together. Tully watched in confusion. {Keep me here,} Sapphire told Steel. And then she began to turn time. Tully vanished from the room.

He appeared outside the door, a tape rewound just a little, "I'll go in there first please. You just keep behind me, right?" Again, the tape rewound to Tully coming around the landing heading up.

Steel held on tight to Sapphire's hand. "Quickly. Quickly!" he gasped.

Tully hurried by the flowerpots heading for the hotel. Time flipped.

Steel fell back against the chair he sat on, the body he had been forced into shaking violently. "Quickly... or I'm as dead as he is!"

Tully appeared at the bottom steps in the reception area.

Suddenly the room Sapphire and Steel were in filled with brilliant sunlight and high-atmosphere winds, Sapphire looked up.

Tully came through the doors onto the platform.

He sat reading his book, looked up alertly and then headed for the waiting room door.

The walls around faded into a brilliant blue sky. Sapphire stood up, her hands tight around Steel's and she hung on tightly as Steel, wearing the pilot's clothes, fell through the air. For a moment the room was back with a terrified Steel in the seat clinging to Sapphire's hands, then it was the pilot, clinging and falling with a roaring engine in his ears and then... then the wind died and the light faded. Sapphire looked down at Steel. He stared dazedly ahead, then pulled her hand down and kissed it thankfully.

Tully spoke outside the door. Steel glanced around, met Sapphire's eyes and released her hand. She disappeared, pulled back by time to where she had been. The door opened and Tully stepped in, followed by Sapphire. Steel turned around and asked politely, "Yes?"

A human was a tape that both played and recorded. Tully stuttered in confusion, "Oh, uh... we've been looking for you."


Tully's mouth opened and closed, his first impulse for some peculiar reason being to ask Sapphire if Steel was asleep. "Because uh -- " He finally looked at Sapphire. "Yes why?" and then his subconscious memory jogged him. "Wasn't I supposed to be... checking out the other rooms on this floor, or something?"

"Yes," she answered him softly.

"Making sure there's nothing strange in them?"

"That's right."

"Ah, leave it to me." He left, closing the door behind him.

Sapphire sat beside Steel, noting that he was still very pale. "Remember?" she asked him.

He whispered hollowly, "I'm not sure," and held out a hand to her.

She took it gently, and let her power flicker. "Remember now?"

Steel gazed into the distance, "Yes...." With a gasping cry he leaped from the chair and spun to stare at it wildly. After a moment he pulled himself together and turned to Sapphire. "It was a death. Someone's death."

"Yes, it was your turn to experience it."

"Who was sitting in that chair, the soldier?"

She considered that, "No it was someone else. Another arrival. A new recruit."

"What did he look like?"

Sapphire looked at him. Despite iron control, his face was still white. She stood up and walked around behind him. "He was young, he was wearing flying clothes."

"What time period?"

"Their second World War. But there were no connections with this place."

Steel frowned, puzzled. "None at all?"

"Not during his life, none that I could sense."

If possible, he turned paler as he spoke. "And how close did I come to joining him... in his last flight?"

She touched his shoulder, gripped it tightly. "Almost as near as the real thing."

He turned his head, eyes touched with haunted fear, and then determined. "Yes? Yeah well I've had enough of GHOSTS waging war on us!" He snatched her hand from his shoulder and headed for the door. "It's time we fought back!"

He jerked the door open and almost plowed into a very startled Tully who started to speak, "It's all all right out there -- "

"Lights!" Steel said harshly.

Tully stared at him blankly, his inner-mind floundering in brief confusion. "Hmmm?"

Steel pointed at the lamp on the wall. "Lights are for the living!"


Slowing himself down, Steel said smoothly, "The darkness is for the dead, right?"

"Well, uh -- "

"I think it's about time we got some of these working," he indicated the gas-lamps.

Tully looked doubtful. "You'll be lucky."

"I should think so, yes." Steel headed out the door.

"These lights have been out of action for donkey's years!" Tully hollered after him.


"So how do you expect to get them to work?" Steel didn't answer, hurrying downstairs.

Tully frowned at Steel when the young man came into the waiting room. The blond was down to his shirt and thin tie, having removed his jacket to work on the gas-system's controls. Steel wiped his hands off now and looked up at the light, seeming satisfied. Tully asked him, "Light it?" still very doubtful.


Sitting on the bench as he was, Tully grumped, "Well how on Earth do you expect me to light that?"

Steel cocked his head and shot Tully an innocently surprised look. "With a match! Come on, up you get." He picked up his coat and started putting it back on. When Tully didn't move, he said impatiently, "Will you get up and light it?"

Tully sighed and stood under the light grumbling, "But they're obsolete!"

Steel said mockingly, "Well you should know about obsolescence, Mr. Tully!"

"I beg your pardon?!"

Steel snatched up the matchbox and shoved it at him. "Just light it," he said, straightening his coat and doing up its buttons.

Tully stepped up onto the bench. "But what about all the other lamps?"

The other man's response was faintly teasing. "They're waiting to be lit."

"'They're waiting to be lit,'" mimicked Tully. He opened the light's cover, pulled a cord to release the gas, and lit a match. He held it under the light, but nothing happened. After a moment Tully shook out the match and closed the light, stepping down and giving Steel an "I told you so," look.

Steel walked over to stand beside Tully and gazed up at the light. There was a sudden soft whoosh and Tully gawked up at the now lighted lamp. He looked over at Steel, who was quite pleased with himself. "Beautiful," the blond said. Then he turned and left the room.

"One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five." Steel walked as he counted, his mind flicking out light pulses of heat leaving a trail of lighted gas lamps behind him. He entered the buffet and then reception area, heading upstairs to the hall where Sapphire stood, looking up the next flight of stairs.

"It's not happening now," she told him.

"When it was, did you sense anything?"

"Not really," she glanced around at his startled face.

"NO responses?"

She shook her head. "It didn't last for very long."

Steel paced. "Did you sense anything that was once human?"

Sapphire shrugged and watched him. "There wasn't enough time."

He stopped, then began pacing again. "One, two, three, four -- " he stopped again. "So there was only... really a change in the quality of the sound."


"And you think it came from the submarine."

She turned and looked suspiciously upwards. "From a compartment in that submarine, yes."

Steel stalked into the room where he had left the tape-recorder and hit play. Tully's voice came out. "I... want to help you." Snatching up the machine, he joined Sapphire on a bench in the hall. They listened to the hollow sound, faint machinery humming.

"That?" Steel asked her.

"Not as much, not nearly as much."

Steel hit fast-forward and then play again. The hollow sound had a different pitch this time. "How 'bout that?"

"No I didn't hear that."

He sat restlessly beside her. "You didn't hear that and you didn't hear the sound of the electric generator."

She shook her head, "No."

He hit fast-forward twice and then play. The young, terrified voice spoke. "The air... no' enough air..."

"Don't waste it talking..."

Sapphire cocked her head, remembering. "There are three of them, and one's unconscious."

"H-how-how deep -- " continued the younger voice.

Sapphire looked at Steel. "Young voices."


Nodding, Sapphire added, "The voices of young sailors."

"No pumps workin', and we're at the bottom..!" The voice sounded helpless and bewildered, and so young.

Sapphire drew a breath, reaching to shut off the recorder. "I think -- I think that what Tully and I experienced was later than that, when the electrical supply to the submarine had failed."

Steel winced. "The men were already dead?"

"Well there was no air left for them to breathe."

He thought very hard, "And they were all young. The soldier, the pilot, the men from the submarine."

"Seems like it, yes."

Steel pursed his lip, intent. "Young men die in war, it's ACCEPTED, so they can't be using that."

"Maybe they were work -- "

He did not hear her. "But they're still here!" Sapphire rolled her eyes and waited for him to come out of this intense focus. "It's supplying them with power..." he paced fretfully. "It's allowing them to use after-images of their own deaths to fight us. Therefore each one has his own death, his own individual resentment."

"Maybe they're working as a group."

He looked quite startled at her. "Collective grievances?"

She nodded. "The soldier acting as head-man."

"The spokesman."

"Yes," she agreed.

He started pacing again. "Yeah, maybe. The spokesman usually wants to negotiate, and he hasn't asked for anything from US."

Sapphire waited, and when he stayed silent said pointedly, "Not yet."

Steel went back into the room, to its window. He held his fingers bare inches away. "Just before I took that crash dive, he was keeping things cheerful by whistling that little tune of his..." He moved away to the chair. "And there was another thing, written on the window."


Startled, Steel said, "Yes."

Sapphire raised her head, eyes distant as she tapped into a data-source in another time. "The Great War ended with the suspension of hostilities, the fighting stopped the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Finished, she turned to him and waited.

"There were FOUR elevens." He began to pace again.

She nodded, "I know."

"So do ghosts make mistakes with their arithmetic?"


Steel was on a roll, completely furious. "Well this particular ghost made another kind of mistake." He glanced briefly at her. "Wouldn't you say he feels a bit too sorry for himself?"


He sat down, his back to her and a stiffness to his shoulders that invariably boded ill for anyone who angered him. "Showing you the kind of women that sent him to war, haunting the place that gave him send-off."

She softly reminded him, "Writing out the date of a cease-fire he never lived to see."

The tense shoulders sagged somewhat. "Yeah, he's a ghost with FEELINGS. It's almost as -as if he's asking for sympathy..! *I* think whatever it is made a BAD choice in him."

Sapphire nibbled on a nail thoughtfully. "Don't be too sure," she cautioned, remembering the intensity of the soldier's feelings.

"A ghost with feelings.... I'm gonna bring those feelings OUT!" He stood up abruptly, eyes alight.

"WHAT?!" Sapphire turned around, appalled.

"You stay there, watch from the window, watch the platform." Sapphire looked extremely rebellious as Steel said, "I'm gonna bring him out!" He snatched up a board from the floor and turned to her, teeth bared dangerously. "I'm gonna make things REALLY irritating for him!" He tapped the wood against the wall and Sapphire stared at him. "After all HE'S been through he needs cheering up!" he said, raking the wood against the bedsprings. He turned cheerfully to his partner. "Right?"

Sapphire was gaping at him with shock. She shut her mouth and said sternly, "Wrong."

Steel disregarded her. "Just watch the platform, let me know when you see him." Giving Sapphire no chance to argue, he ran out.

She shook her head, thinking he must have been a devil to raise, and went to look out the window.

Steel slammed into the waiting room and said one word to Tully, then he went out of the room almost at a run. Tully went looking for him and finally found him by following the sound of banging to a room where Steel was digging through buckets and cans. Tully stared for a moment, then demanded, "What d'you mean, sing?"

Steel lifted his head. "I want you to SING. We'll cheer this place up a bit!"

The gleam in his eyes betrayed him with its maliciousness, making Tully suspicious. "I wonder if you mind telling me why -- "

He was cut off by Steel's making for the door, carrying a big silver bucket. The blond grabbed Tully's arm and pulled him out with him. "The soldier."

"Yes?" urged Tully.

"We're going to bring HIM to us."

"How?" asked the suspicious man.

Steel's eyes sparkled with laughter. "By singing his song for him, that's how. But we're not going to do it the way HE does it." He dashed up a few steps on the stairs and looked down. "We're gonna liven things up a bit! Do you know the words?"

Tully found himself suspicious. "Words?"

"Yes, to the tune he's always whistling?"


Steel nodded. "Sing it." He went running up the stairs. Tully clamped his lips shut and glared after the young man, who came back down a few seconds later to give Tully an almost friendly innocent look. "Come on Mr. Tully, let's hear them!" He started whistling cheerily.

Against his will Tully was drawn to begin, "Pack up your t -- " he stopped himself, thinking *Dear Lord he's got ME doing it now!*

"That's fine," cheered Steel. Tully threw his hands up and turned away, heading for the waiting room. Steel trotted after him and grabbed his arm. "Tully..."

"Yes?" asked Tully, shooting Steel an angry glare.

"I can't do it without you." He flashed an utterly charming smile and waved his hand hopefully. In spite of himself, Tully gave in. Steel grinned and urged, "Let's make them sound happy, come on!"

In spite of the effort to keep glaring at Steel, Tully began. "Pack up your troubles in your old -- "

Steel cheered him on, "Great! Louder, louder!"

"-Kit bag and smile, smile, smile. While you've a Lucifer to light your fag, smile boys that's the style..!"

In the hotel room, Sapphire lifted her head and listened. Tully really had quite a good voice. She smiled to herself and glanced up at the lights to make sure they were on. Steel was asking for it, and he would very probably get it, and so might she and Tully.

"What's the use of worrying, it never was worthwhile, so pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile." As Tully sang, Steel came down the stairs with bucket and stick. Tully eyed him suspiciously and fell silent when he finished.

Steel looked at him. "Again." When Tully kept silent, "Come on, you wanna see your ghost again?"


"You wanna make contact with him?"

"Of course."

The now-familiar expression of cruel mischief lit Steel's eyes. "Well let's waken the dead, shall we?" He lifted the bucket and started beating on it, the tempo of the song and he started singing, his voice pushing Tully into it if for nothing else, to make up for Steel's off-key tones.

"Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. While you've a Lucifer to light your fag, smile boys that's the style! What's the use of worrying, it never was worthwhile, so pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile!"

Sapphire above raised an eyebrow at Steel's deliberate bad singing.

Steel paced as they sang, picking up the tempo on the repeat verse, leading Tully out onto the platform. As they began to repeat it for the fourth time, the blackness solidified in the booking hall. It vanished again in a moment, leaving behind the furious soldier with his rifle cocked and ready. He turned and started up the stairs, then stopped. There was a more vulnerable target than this "Steel" fellow. The soldier turned around and vanished.

Sapphire was still watching the platform when the gas-lights went out in the room. She ran quickly to the hall to find those lights out too. Slightly alarmed, she turned around and jumped several inches back as she almost walked into the soldier. As Tully and Steel began their sixth repeat, the soldier left Sapphire in a hallway lit by blue electrical light. She slowly slid down the wall, clad now in coveralls and a woolen hat, gasping for breath.

As they began the eighth repeat, Tully decided that was enough. "No more!"

"Mr. Tully..!"

"No more!" the angry man stated sharply.

"Come on!"

"No, no." Tully ignored Steel. Looking up he whispered a plea to the ghost. "I'm sorry! I didn't want to do it, really I didn't." As Tully whispered, the soldier appeared in the buffet. "I'm sorry. Please bring back the flowers again, will you?" A self-satisfied smile spread across the soldier's face, and he vanished again. "Let's see the flowers again -- " Tully's plea was cut off by the sound of rifles going off. He looked up, startled as the night air was lit with falling bombs, and one specially bright flash of light.

"A flare..!" Steel exclaimed.

"What?" Though startled by the turn of events, when a World War I hand grenade rolled to a stop in front of Tully he quickly grabbed it and threw it as far away from them as he could. It exploded in a fierce ball of fire, and gunfire erupted around them. Tully ducked low and ran into the hotel.

Steel stood in the midst of it all, clenching his fists. This was annoying but he knew better than to let it scare him. Then he realized that it was not him who was scared at all. "It's Tully!" he exclaimed. He went into the hotel calling, "Tully! Mr. Tully!

Tully was nearly all the way upstairs when he heard the guns and bombs outside stop. He almost went back down but then a noise from above caught his attention. It was a sort of clanging, hollow sound and it brought him into the upper hall. At the other end he could see Sapphire crumpled on the floor. Without thinking he started toward her and after a few steps he stepped into a pocket of darkness and electric light, of air laden with carbon dioxide. For a moment he remained himself, stopping in shock. Then his clothes changed to overalls and a shirt over them.

Jamie was slumped on the floor and the other boy was nowhere to be seen. But somehow he knew it wouldn't be long before the other one joined them. Coughing, he staggered over to Jamie and slid down beside the crumpled figure, putting a hand on his friend's shoulder and wishing there was a way to save them all.

Steel started up the stairs when from the buffet behind him came music, jazzy music and the sound of people talking. The room was empty to his eyes, but he heard a door swing shut in the middle of the room. Footsteps came past him, a soft, velvety young man's voice spoke hopefully. "Excuse me, sir," but Steel shook himself free of his curiosity.

[Sapphire?] he called. The lack of response alarmed him.

"Tully?" No response from either party. Though he did not care about Tully, Sapphire's continued silence upset him a great deal. He got up to the hall and stared at the two limp forms across from him. "Mr. Tully?" Cautiously he stepped forward, holding out his hand as far in front of him as he could. In a moment his fingers brushed into damp, cool air. He let his fingertips trace the change from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. There was no way past, he would have to go through. But no sense in not knowing what he was walking into. Steel snatched his hand back and took off his coat. He draped it over his arm and held it out into the cold dampness.

The change was sudden. His coat became a multi-colored hand-woven vest. Looking narrowly over the vest he could see the hall as it was for them. Faint electric lighting... his flesh crawled as something touched his back. Steel quickly pulled his arm out of that part of the hall and put his coat back on, looking around warily. He checked the stairs but nothing was there. He went back to the point in the hall where it changed, hesitated, then turned and kicked open the door beside him. The lights were out in there and he could see the soldier standing near the window.

"I'm the one that's responsible! I'm the one that wants to get rid of you, ME, not them!" he raged at the soldier. Calming himself, he stepped forward. "So why punish them?"

The soldier shrugged. "Everyone has to die."

Steel hesitated, his temper vanishing in the face of this lost young man. "When it's their time, yes. Not your time. 'Cuz you have no SAY, you DON'T belong with the living."

This put the soldier on shaky ground. He said defensively, "I'm here, aren't I?"

"Then prove it." Steel gestured towards a chair. "Shake my hand! Or come and sit down with me!" He moved and sat down. "Come on, talk with me. Tell me your name. Perhaps we can have a nice, warm human conversation." The soldier glared helplessly at Steel, who was rapidly recovering his usual mocking manner. "Ah, but you can't do that, can you? You don't belong here, you don't belong with us. You belong in the darkness! You and your friends!" He stood up and tried to sound casual as he pointed out, "You're dead! Every single one of you."

The soldier glared impotently at him, tears in his eyes. "Not for long we won't be."

Steel held out his hand, eyes blazing with challenge and stepped forward slowly. The moment his fingers brushed the soldier, the man vanished and all the lights came back on. Steel slumped heavily against the windowpane for just a moment, then he pulled himself together and went back into the hall. Tully and Sapphire still lay across from him. He drew two deep breaths, preparing to enter, when the soldier whispered in his ear, "Not for long... we won't be." Steel glanced warily around but there was nothing to be seen. Holding his breathe, he stepped into the pocket of change.

Another identity circled his, he tried to ignore it as his clothes changed into the woven sweater and coveralls. Tully turned his head and asked, "What're they doing? Jamie's passed out," he indicated Sapphire's limp form. Steel swayed, fighting the responses that were pushing out of him. He stepped shakily forward until he got to them and sank down beside Sapphire, gathering her up into his arms. Tully kept talking, stuck in the identity of one of sailors. "The air... not enough air...."

{Steel,} Sapphire called weakly. He pulled her up and they leaned heavily against the wall.

Tully continued, "H-how deep are we? At the bottom?" There was a scraping, sliding sound and the hall tilted sending the two young people stumbling solidly into the other wall. The impact forced Steel to take a breath of horribly thick air. "No pumps workin', and we're at the bottom?!" There was nothing he could do for Tully yet. He grabbed Sapphire's leg and tried to drag her down the hall but the deck lurched again and he fell beside her.

Sapphire managed to open her eyes and meet his. {Steel. Now.}

[I can't breath!] he replied desperately.

Tully's voice echoed behind them. "Tanks are full... and we're at the bottom, right at the bottom..."

Steel looked at Tully and saw no help coming from that quarter. He clambered up, pulling Sapphire with him, bracing them against the wall and staggering determinedly toward the other end of the hallway.

{Steel!} she called in warning.

The second voice, older deeper, spoke out of the air. "Don't talk... save... save the air."

Steel's mind clouded. For a moment he lost control and his identity was suppressed as he said, "Don't talk... save... save the air." He broke free and looked for the ghost whose words he knew he was speaking, but there was no one else there. They were at the interface so he set Sapphire down.

She whispered, "Steel..."

[It's all right.]

Sapphire shook her head feverishly. "It's not all right, I can't breathe!"

"Here!" He grabbed her shoulders in both hands and shoved her through the interface. For a moment he saw her stumble in the blackness beyond, her blue skirt flowing around her legs, then she was out of his sight. He fell exhausted against the wall, and then the deck lurched again, throwing him against the other wall. He was getting really tired of that. He gathered his strength and made a quick dash for Tully. Grabbing the older man's arm Steel hauled him down the hall and shoved him over the interface. Again he sagged against the wall.

"Help us...." Steel jerked around and stared in shock. There were three young men at the other end of the hall. "Please, help us!" They were so young and he knew, knew from what he had experienced just now, what they felt. Even the one... what was his name, Jamie? half sat up and looked hopefully at Steel. Right, get them out too. He closed the distance with a few steps, reaching out a hand to the one young man who held his hand out too. Just short of touching, Steel realized the futility of trying. They were dead and not even hauling them across the interface could change that. It wasn't in his power to help them. Mutely he lowered his hand and shook his head at them, pleading for understanding. He backed away, forcing himself not to look at them again, and stepped across the interface into dry oxygen-rich air.

He stood for a moment inhaling deeply, then looked down at Sapphire where she sat beside an unconscious Tully. Unable to keep the pain out of his voice, he asked her, "You saw them?"


"You heard them?"

She nodded, "Yes." Steel turned around to look back down the hall, but the interface was gone, having failed its purpose. Sapphire spoke again from behind him. "Let's get him off the platform, Steel."


"He needs air."

Oh yes, Tully. Steel turned to her. "Fifty-seven point three, you said." Sapphire looked blankly at him. "His life expectancy."

"That's right, yes."

"How old is he now?"

Sapphire set a hand firmly on Tully's shoulder, scanning. "Fifty-two point nine."

The merry light came back into Steel's eyes. "Then he'll survive, won't he?" he said, nodding.

She glared at him with sudden understanding. "You're enjoying this, aren't you?"

Steel nodded, his voice gruff. "Yes."

"Got more than you bargained for, though."

He refused to be shamed. "It worked, didn't it?"

Sapphire shook her head and turned back to Tully.

Sapphire re-lit the lamp in the waiting room. Tully was still out, but now at least it was more sleep than oxygen starvation. Steel was pacing the room.

"They weren't dressed as sailors," he finally said.

"No," she agreed.

"So what were.. civilians doing on a submarine?" he turned hopefully to her.

"I couldn't tell."

Steel frowned and grumbled, "I thought you were always the expert on history."

She grinned at him, "When it makes sense, yes."

He frowned again and then turned and leaned toward her. "When they called out to me for help -- "

"They were probably trying to trick you." Sapphire knew then what was bothering him; despite knowing they were beyond help, he felt he should have tried.

But he looked extremely doubtful. "Maybe, but when they did call out...." He hesitated.

"Yes?" she asked, reaching for the thermos cup.

"Was it as ghosts or as living people?"

Oh, this was worse than wanting to help. He really felt he might have been able to. Sapphire said reasonably, "Well it could hardly have been as living people, unless of course you were once a ghost in THEIR time."

"I wasn't."

"Well there you are, then," and she cheerfully poured coffee into the cup, feeling Tully would need some.

Steel straightened up, his brow furrowed. "Well anyway, I don't think they intend to be ghosts in this time-period for long."

Alert to his phrasing Sapphire asked, "What do you mean?"

"NOT according to that soldier." He avoided her eyes and folded his arms, pacing to the other side of the room. "Wake him up."

Sapphire set the cup in front of Tully, and sat close to him. "Mr. Tully. Wake up Mr. Tully."

He stirred, then blinked awake. He was surprised to find her there holding out a cup of coffee to him. "Oh, thank you!" He took a drink, then Sapphire put the top back on the thermos. Innocently Tully asked her, "It wasn't my asthma again, was it?"

The furious explosion came in a most startling volume. "NO IT WAS NOT YOUR ASTHMA!! When you first came here, what did you do?" Steel demanded, glaring at Tully.

Tully ignored him and turned to Sapphire in horror. "I remember now, they tried to kill us!"

Steel corrected him angrily. "Not quite, they encouraged us to die. When you -- "

"But you antagonized -- "

Steel overrode Tully's protest, "When you first came to this place -- "

Tully refused for once to be overridden. "You antagonized the ghost of that young soldier!" he accused.

"I know, I meant to."

Astonished, Tully gaped at him. "Meant to?!"

"Yes! And given the opportunity I intend to antagonize him even FURTHER, if it helps me to find out WHO he is, who his friends are, and why they've decided to haunt this particular railway station!!"

"Well perhaps if you go -- "

"Oh if I went out there and asked him NICELY what his name was? I TRIED that!"

Tully remembered very well how Steel had tried that. "Well knowing how you talk -- "

Steel interrupted him impatiently. "Come on now, Mr. Tully, are they behaving the way your average ghost is supposed to behave?" He started to pace, then turned and asked mockingly, "Would all your pals at psychical HQ classify them as good ghosts or bad ghosts?"

"That depends!"

"And what about one of your priests?"

"What about him?"

Steel picked up Tully's cross. "Would he give them a favorable report?" he asked, dangling it.

Tully snatched it out of Steel's grasp and glared at him, but controlled himself. "Again that depends."

"They attack us with their own pasts," Steel began.

"I know!"

"With their own DEATHS, Mr. Tully! I saved you from one such experience, Sapphire saved me from another!" Tully gaped at Sapphire in surprise. She just looked back at him, not willing to clarify that. "So, when you first came here..." continued Steel.

Tully turned angrily away from both of them. "When I first came here there wasn't all this trouble!"

"There was no danger?"


"Just NICE peaceful ghosts!"

Tully clenched his fists, fighting tears. "Until you people arrived yes!" He jumped up and went out of the room, shooting back over his shoulders, "Everything was all right until you arrived!"

Steel looked after Tully for a moment, then sat on the table and looked almost apologetically at Sapphire. She shrugged back at him, then went out into the booking room and joined Tully on the bench. He sat with his arms tightly folded and a rather petulant expression on his face.

"Mr. Tully," she began softly.

He shook his head. "I'm sorry, I will NOT be placated!"

"He has a job to do," she replied, gazing steadily at him.

"And so have I! I seem to have no say in anything anymore, decisions are made FOR me, and look what's happened!" He looked at her finally. "I would never THINK of making a ghost angry! But then that's the way *I* do things, unfortunately nobody seems to be interested in the way that I do things."

Steel's voice boomed in his head. [So what is your way?]

"What?!" Tully looked around toward the waiting room, but with a soft whoosh of displaced air Steel appeared behind him.

"When you first came here two months ago, when everything was going right for you, what did you do?" he asked curiously.

Tully was not prepared for Steel to behave almost friendly. "Do?!" he snapped as the younger man sat down beside him.

"Yes. I mean, the ghosts weren't sitting around here waiting for you, were they?" Steel folded his arms and both young people looked at Tully.

"No. I prevailed upon them to make some form of contact." He glowered at his feet, refusing to look at them.

"Ah, and how did you um... prevail upon them?"

"Well if you must know, I had a sitting!"

Steel looked blank. "A what?"

"A sitting! A one-man sitting!"

Sapphire smiled slightly, "A seance?"


Steel leaned forward curiously. "Where?"

"In the buffet."

The blond man gave a perplexed shake of his head. "And the ghosts responded to that, did they?"

"Well they have to, it's a kind of summons!" Tully met Sapphire's eyes for a brief second and closed tighter into himself. "All right it wasn't very successful, but then, it confirmed my belief!"

Sapphire was amused. "Why do you say it wasn't successful?"

"Well I'm afraid I'm not very mediumistic."

Steel looked at Tully steadily, then said, "Sapphire would make a very good medium."

"So?" asked a confused Tully.

"So, why don't we try it YOUR way for once, Mr. Tully."

"My way?"

"Yes," Steel coaxed, "why don't we have a seance?" He leaned hopefully toward the startled man.


"Right now."

Tully blinked in surprise, then jumped to his feet and backed away from them. "After what just happened?!"

"Happened?" as Steel asked, Sapphire slid quickly over into what had been Tully's place, and the two leaned against each other staring innocently up at Tully.

"All that business in the hotel!!" he waved in that direction.

Steel gave him a distressingly innocent look. "What about it?"

"Well when I had the seance I was friendly!"

"Well what's that got to do with it?"

Tully stormed in frustration. "Well you've upset them, haven't you? You've antagonized them!"

They continued to look blindly innocent of any danger. "Yes?"

"Well to have the seance now, to summon them now under these conditions would be... would be...." Steel raised his eyebrows, silently urging Tully to finish. "... Dangerous!"

Steel led the way, cautiously opening the door to the buffet. Sapphire was right at his shoulder and he asked her worriedly, "Do they have music on submarines?"


"Yes, on the radio."

"In most cases they would have access to a radio, yes."

Steel looked back at her. "Submarines don't have wooden doors." He was not positive about that, but he was pretty certain.

"Hardly," she agreed.

They stood peering in the doorway. Steel was wary of entering because of the things that had happened upstairs. He frowned, "I heard somebody open an old, rickety wooden door in the middle of the room. Then the laughter and the talking stopped, all the fun stopped."

"Where was this?"

Abruptly Steel opened the door wide and walked on in. No sense in being afraid all the time. "I told you. Right in the middle of the room." He stalked impatiently to the other side.

Tully came up beside Sapphire. "Well, I'm ready." They entered the room, Sapphire closing the door behind them.

She picked up a chair to set by the table and asked Tully, "What about the lights?"

"Hmm?" He was busy pulling stuff out of his bag.

Steel gestured at the lights on the walls, "Mr. Tully?"

"Oh yes, that. Uh, you can leave those but, uh, put this one out, I think," he indicated the cheap chandelier over the table. Steel climbed atop a chair and pulled on the chain to turn the light off. Tully muttered seriously, "The moment's now. A little candlelight I think."

"And the cotton threads?"

"Not this time, no. Would you sit there please?" He smiled slightly as the young man obliged. "And you there," he told Sapphire, indicating the middle seat. "As long as you're sure -- " he began to caution.

"Sure?" Steel interrupted.

"That this is what you want to do."

"Yes, I'm sure. Sapphire?" His tone asked, are you ready?

"Yes," she answered softly.

Tully set the candle in between them and lit it. Then he brought out his cross and hung it about his neck.

"What's that supposed to do?" Steel asked curiously.

Tully shot him a glare. "Make me feel better." Tully shifted his baggage, ignoring Sapphire's silent merry eyes. "Hands on the tabletop, please. Now we join hands."

Steel obeyed but asked as he did so, "Is this important?"

"Vital!" Tully said firmly.

Now Steel was even more curious. "Then how did you manage when you had a one-man sitting?"

Tully flushed slightly and replied, "Well I just held my own hand!"

Steel blinked, "Ah...."

"Now then..." Tully murmured, settling down.

Sapphire asked, "You'd like me in some sort of auto-hypnotical state, wouldn't you, Mr. Tully?"

"Yes, please."

Steel looked in confusion from one to the other. "What?" he asked Sapphire.

"It's a self-induced hypnotic state half-way between waking, and sleeping," she replied, smiling slightly.

Tully nodded, "Yes, that'll be fine."

"Right," she agreed and closed her eyes.

After a few moments of silence Steel leaned over to her and said urgently, "I want his name." Tully made soft shushing noises and Steel glared at him. "I want the soldier's NAME."

"Well give her a chance! Give IT a chance. I think perhaps we should close our eyes. Try to share the moment with her."

Steel stiffened perceptibly. "I prefer to stay awake, thank you."

"No one's suggesting that you should sleep..!" Tully chastised him.

Steel eyed him, then reluctantly closed his eyes. Tully followed suit and added quietly, "I've always believed on occasions like this that closing one's eyes is... well, courteous."

"Courteous?" asked a puzzled Steel.

Tully smiled sheepishly, "I've often felt in the past that, spirits are rather like strangers paying a visit." Steel's eyes snapped open and he watched Tully intently. "They're a bit shy, a little insecure. Why shouldn't they be after all -- " Sapphire twisted suddenly in her chair, commanding their attention instantly. "Yes," said Tully with relief.

Sapphire struggled and clung to their hands. "Oh he doesn't like this, Steel. He doesn't like this, not from us."

"I want his name..."

"No! No!" she fought his voice now, with the soldier's feelings.

"His name," Steel demanded.


"His name!"


Tully spoke softly, "Please."

"No!" she responded to that gentle voice.

"Please!" he insisted ever so softly. His voice soothed her and she fell silent. Tully turned to Steel. "You cannot be coercive, it never works that way. Now you leave it to me."

Steel glared rebelliously at Tully, then said stiffly, "All right."

"Thank you." Bringing his attention to Sapphire, he began. "Now, I am not interested in knowing your name. Or the names of ANY of you! Only if you wish to tell me." Sapphire relaxed by degrees as Tully spoke. "I want... we want to help you."

Drawn by the sweet siren voice of a powerful receptive mind, three young men sat on the stairs to the upper hotel-rooms, trying to decide what to say to someone like this. Finally, one young curly-headed black-eyed boy called down, "Help us... please! Help us!"

Steel looked about for the voice's source but saw nothing. He recognized the voice of the young sailor, high-pitched and terrified. Then Sapphire leaned back in her chair and squared her shoulders, and began speaking in tones deeper than her usual. "Trials. They said there'd be trials. It was a last minute decision."

Tully prodded her gently with questions. "What kind of trials? A court martial, something like that?" Sapphire said nothing, did not react to his voice. Tully urged, "Was it a court martial, or the sizes maybe?"

Sapphire suddenly turned her head sideways. "What?"

"The trials."

She was not listening to him. "Oh, they were told," she answered somebody else's question.

Steel stared at Tully, who was frowning. Suddenly Sapphire cried out and jerked in her chair, gagging.

After a moment she relaxed again, only when she spoke it was with slightly different body language and tone. Another ghost was speaking through her. "The sea..!" she whispered in awe. "Well it's the channel, really. But, I suppose you could call it the sea. Back by five, they were told. You'll be back by five, be like any other working day."

Tully asked softly, "Who said this?"

"They were TOLD!!" she snapped at him.

He soothed her quickly. "Yes, s-s-sorry now. Tell us about the trials."

Sapphire seemed confused. "We're talking about the trials, aren't we? Back at five... out at dawn, and back by five. Just like any other working day." She fell silent.

Tully suddenly understood. "SEA trials! A-are you... talking about SEA trials?"

Angry again, Sapphire snapped, "Of course they are!"

"Sea trials for a submarine?"

"Yes!" She suddenly struggled in her chair, and as herself said urgently, "Steel! There's... resentment here, there's... so much resentment -- "

Tully felt Steel start to move and he said quickly, "Please..! Tell us about the submarine, a-about the trial." He was oblivious to Steel's angry glare.

"No! There's no point now, there's no point in talking about it."

"But if you want he -- "

She cut him off stiffly, "There's no point!"

Tully changed his tactics. "You're sailors, are you?"

Sapphire threw her shoulders back in offended dignity. "Of course we're not!! They're not sailors, that's obvious, isn't it?" she added as an aside. "Sailors get PAID to take chances, they get PAID to DIE!!" Suddenly she was crying. "We don't, we get paid to work. A day's work! Back by five, they said. We never came back d'we?!"

"What year was this?" Tully asked.

"Oh, nineteen thirty-eight."

Tully considered. "What are your jobs?"

"Jobs?" she -- they were puzzled.

"You say you're not sailors..?"

She was offended again. "Of course we're not SAILORS, if we were -- "

He cut her off gently. "Then what're you -- what are you doing on the submarine?"

"We're civilian workers, aren't we?! We're civilian-attached WORKERS. Bright futures! Home by five, hah!" She shook her head, contempt in her tone. "That wreck should NEVER have gone to sea!! Home by five, they said."

Tully opened his eyes and sighed, suddenly understanding with no doubts why these three ghosts were angry. "Yes. What're your names?"

Sapphire turned her head stubbornly away. "Can't tell you that."

"Surely you can," he said sweetly.

She wasn't tempted, however. "Anyway, there's no point."

"But if we can help you?"

Sapphire smiled smugly. "Don't need it. We've already got help, thanks."

"What kind of help have you got?"

Sapphire stiffened and pulled on their hands. On the stairs the three young men stood up one by one, and taking a few steps up they vanished, except the last, the youngest who lingered and called desperately, "I want..." he was cut off by a quick demanding summons from the soldier. He clenched his fist and refused the order. "... Help me..! Please..!" The soldier ordered him away furiously, and he finally obeyed, vanishing.

Steel held his breath, fighting sympathy, knowing he had to do what was necessary. But how he wanted to be able to help, oh he wanted to. His voice was thick, "I think they've said their piece."

Tully opened his eyes again and tried to reassure the blond man. "At least we know something about those three."

"Yes." Steel shook his head, trying to shake off his sympathy, too.

"But isn't that -- "

As usual Steel cut Tully off. "It's not enough," he said softly.

"But they volunteered that infor -- "

"Oh they like to give us BITS of information! But I want the name of the soldier."

"But I've already said it -- " Tully broke off as Steel clenched his fist, sending pain shooting up the older man's arm. "It's dangerous..!" Tully finished anyway.

Steel ignored him. "Sapphire. Sapphire!"

She straightened up. "Yes?"

"The name of the soldier. We still need the name of the soldier."

Sapphire concentrated, reaching out. She shook her head. "They won't communicate."

"Then find someone else, someone... who once knew him."

Sapphire reached out again, throwing an image of the soldier to the faint presences that shrugged it back. "There's no one who knew him," she shook her head.

Steel frowned. "Then go further back. Into the past. Find someone he knew, find someone who was close to him! Try Sapphire. Into the past, into HIS past."

Sapphire spread her mind out like wings across time. "It's a long way back, Steel."

"Try," he demanded grimly.

"It's a LONG way back," she murmured.

"TRY, Sapphire, try!"

"Oh it's such a long way...." her mind skimmed the mental signature of the soldier and then traced backwards to find his lifetime.

Tully whispered, "She mustn't go back -- "

"Sh!" Steel watched as Sapphire suddenly raised her head as if she was looking around. "Sapphire?" he asked gently.

She smiled. "It's a warm day! Oh it's a beautiful hot summer's day!" The soldier heard her where he stood upon the stairway and he gripped his rifle, frightened now. "Mmm! There are flowers in full bloom, Ohhhh, there're such a lot of flowers!" Suddenly she frowned and looked very sad and lonely. "But there's no one here anymore.... They've all had to go."

Steel said sweetly, mimicking a tone Tully had used, "There MUST be someone... someone who was CLOSE to him."

Sapphire drifted in that other shadow of time, summoning softly with the image of the soldier, a summons designed to attract someone who was interested in him. And finally, "Just a minute... yes there is someone... yes there is." Someone who had been asleep a long time and was reluctantly waking up to reach for the soldier's image. "Come on, come on...." Sapphire caught the reaching thoughts and pulled the sleepy after image into her mind, crying out as she had to scatter herself to do it. "THERE!"

"NO!!!" screamed the soldier in protest. The pilot heard him scream, and hugged his good-luck teddy to him, scared. "NO!!!" The soldier turned, slamming his strong young mind out to the presence that had woken him up with promises of living. "They're lookin' for me, so you'd better help! You brought us here! You promised!! So you'd better help!!" A whispered answer came.

Sapphire slumped into the chair. Steel's alarm was almost palpable but Tully ignored it and asked Sapphire, "Who are you? Will you tell us?"

The lovely woman suddenly stood up, humming a tune she swayed to, and then sang, "Here we are on Tum-Tiddily's ground, picking up gold and silver!" She set their hands down firmly on the table, looking down but not seeing them, seeing instead a bunch of young faces peering up at her. "Now children, back to your desks, please. All of you!" She waved at them, then walked away from the table. "That's better. Where is Sam Pierce?"

Sam Pierce. The soldier turned white when he heard the name and the way it was said. Oh, oh no.

Sapphire continued, "Late again is he? Always late, that one, always will be." She walked over to the window and stared pensively out.

Steel's shoulders sagged. "It's gone wrong."

Tully gaped at him. "What?!"

"We want the name of a SOLDIER, not a child!"

Sapphire spoke again fondly. "Sam Pierce, I reckon you'll be late for your own funeral." She turned around sadly. Sam Pierce, the soldier, listened to her voice and groaned.

Steel said grimly, "Get her back."


The blond man freed his hand, glaring. "YES, it's gone wrong, get her back."

Tully drew a breath, exasperated. He turned to Sapphire and spoke very gently. "Will you come back to the table, please? The circle has been broken, will you return to the table?" She did nothing, not seeming to hear him. "Will you come back to us, please?" Steel suddenly stood and started toward her. Tully blocked him with a hand, hissing, "No! No, no! She -- she must come to us, come back to us, we sent her."

Steel shot Tully a rebellious glare, but obeyed him and stood still. He tried speaking to her. "Sapphire... Sapphire!"

[Please answer me, Sapphire. Come back to us. Come back to the table.] The lack of response even to his mind scared him and he started forward again.

Tully was on his feet quickly, shoving an arm in front of Steel. "No, you can't!" Tully could swear he felt the younger man tremble, so badly did he want his partner back. But Steel backed away and sat down, leaving Tully to wonder what that obedience might have cost the younger man.

The ghost suddenly woke all the way up and noticed her surroundings. She turned and said timidly, "I don't want to be here. I don't know why anyone should want me here." Steel stared at her, startled. Sudden curiosity at the sight of him and Tully replaced the ghost's fear, she stepped away from the window, hugging herself nervously, but still she asked them accusingly, "What are YOU people doing, sitting in judgement or something?"

Tully made a quick recovery. "No."

The ghost sniffed, "Sitting there like that?" She looked around then and dropped her hands in surprise. "The state of this place!"

"You know this place?" Tully asked quickly.

She shrugged, "Well I don't know it like this! I did know it once, mind."

"It's a railway station."

She raised her head, startled. "Oh!"

"Duwolten Station," Tully supplied, hoping to jog her memory.

"Oh, yes!"

"Do you recognize it?"

With the quiet dignity of a woman who knew herself, she replied, "Well not in this state!"

"You've been here before!"

She clasped her hands in front of her. "Off and on, yes. When it was tidy, mind."

"Of course," Tully said agreeably. The ghost turned away.

Steel leaned forward and whispered, "Tully! The name of the soldier!"

Tully shot him an exasperated look and asked the ghost, "Can you tell us about yourself?"

She shrugged shyly. "Oh, there's nothing much to tell."

He flattered her, "Oh there must be."

The ghost recognized flattery and laughed softly, but she was still frightened. "Look, I-I don't want to BE here, there're things here." She looked around, shivering.

"Things? What kind of things?" Tully asked. Behind him, Steel stiffened uneasily.

The ghost looked at Steel for a long moment. "It's... like a power! It's... using other things. I just don't want to BE here," she pleaded with Tully, backing away slightly from Steel.

Steel asked curiously, "It's using you?"

She forgot her fear for a moment in indignation. "Of course it's not USING me, I don't have a grievance!"

"What do you mean by that?"

The ghost glared at him, then suddenly blinked in surprise. "I don't know what I mean. It's what I feel, all around me!" She looked nervously about.

"Can you -- can you describe this power?"

She looked at him, then away as if what she saw made her uneasy. "Not really. It's like... dark. Darkness." Suddenly she came close to Tully, seeking out a familiar feeling of normality. She kept shooting quick nervous glances at Steel. "It's just... it's very dark. It's darker than anything!" Gathering her courage, she glared at Steel. "Anyway, I don't want to talk to YOU, not you."

He was startled. "Why?"

The ghost's answer startled Tully, too. "Because you're different, that's why."

Steel shot her his hawk-like stare. "Why different?"

She was not one to be intimidated by a mere glare, though. "You don't seem like one of us, so I don't want to talk to you."

"I'm only asking you why -- "

For a change it was Steel who was cut off. "And I'm only telling you that I don't want to talk to you! Not you." She turned away and walked to the window.

Tully asked her, "Will you tell us your name?"

"Why?" she asked, suspicious.

"'Cuz we'd like to know."

She eyed Tully, then risked a quick glance at Steel. "I'm not telling him."

"But you can tell me, can't you?"

The ghost thought about it. "Yes," she finally said.

"So what is your name?" The ghost stepped close to Tully, keeping a watchful eye on Steel, and bent down to whisper her name in his ear. She gave Steel a 'so there,' look and stepped away. Steel slid a piece of paper across the table while the ghost's back was turned and Tully wrote the name on it. Then Tully asked the ghost, "And were you at your school?"

She was humming and broke off to ask, "School?"

"Just now, teaching at your school?"

"I'm not -- anywhere. I'm here an' I don't want to be here."

Tully soothed the upset ghost. "Tell us something about your school."

"It's just a school. Please, I don't want to be here. I'm frightened." And she was trembling. On the stairs Sam Pierce wanted terribly to reassure her, but that would bring him too close to Steel for his comfort.

"Just tell me SOMEthing about your school."

The ghost shrugged. "It's just a village school, that's all. It's just a village school. Please -- "

"Who is Sam Pierce?"

She froze. For a long moment she stood staring at the two men. "Sam Pierce...." She turned and looked wistfully out the window. "Always late for school, Sam Pierce. Always late for everything."

"What happened to him?"

The ghost was not listening anymore. "'Specially in the summer. Couldn't keep him indoors for long in the summer." She rested her chin on clasped hands.

"I said what happened to him?" Tully tried again.

She was alternately amused and grieving as she spoke. "He loved the sun, and the soil. He liked seeing things grow. Didn't make a lot of difference really, twelve years. But it did when he was at school! But not after. Not when he was grown up. Twelve years... didn't mean a lot then."

Sam stood several steps closer to the reception floor. He was caught by her presence, by a poignant memory of real love and warmth. He rubbed tears from his eyes and spoke to her from the memory he recalled best. "Oh it's turning hot now. Usually does after a pattern for a winter. Or when there's a frost in March, 'course! Thought you'd known that! You know Hap Goodman's field, I laid out straw there last March, dragged it up there, spread it out. Took hours!" He smiled, remembering the question she'd asked. "For the lapwings! They start nestin' in March! And they nest on the ground, see? So if there's a frost...." He came down the last steps, his uniform gone, replaced by clothes he only remembered wearing. Unconsciously he manipulated the area around him, and the birds he remembered sang, the air scented with flowers, his favorite time of year. "That one there... look!" He pointed toward the floor. "No, by there! Well turn your head then. That's a Pasque Flower." He leaned back, pleased. "Well, when it was in bloom. They're rare! Must be chalk here somewhere. Chalk pasture! Know what? That would've been in flower at Eastertide! And we missed it," he finished sadly.

The ghost stared out the window, remembering as the soldier was.

"So, what happened to him when he grew up?" Tully asked her.

She looked around at him, her eyes filled with tears. "He went away, to France."

"To the war?"


Sam listened to the children laughing and playing. He turned to his lover, smiling. "I made a highland wreathe, didn't I? Out in Colt Marsh!" Suddenly full of mischief he said, "Take you there one day." She had asked him a question about birds. "Oh, all kinds. Warblers, wee buntins, yellow wagtails..! Y'have to be patient, mind! All right, you bring the bread and cheese, I'll fetch the ale! Oh no! It'll stay hot! You know what? Come next Eastertide I'll pick that Pasque Flower." He answered her, "Oh they're rare! There may not be another in a season or two! Next year... I'll pick that next year!"

Footsteps on the stairs woke him up. The other four were there, wondering what was going on. Broken out of his memories, Sam was clad in his uniform again and he heard above them the dry hissing of the darkness as it brought him back to the present.

Tully turned to Steel. "I think we've found out who your soldier was."

"Yes," the young man answered, brow furrowed.

As he said nothing else, Tully began to feel sharply uneasy. "Then let's get Sapphire back, shall we?"

"Not yet." Tully started to protest and Steel said firmly, "NO."

"But you've got the soldier's name, that what you wanted, isn't it?"


"Then that's enough!"

Steel's temper flared. "No it's NOT enough!" He stood and moved closer to the ghost. "Eleanor...."

She spun around and glared at him, then shot Tully a reproachful look and turned her back on Steel. "I don't want to talk to you."

"Tell me some more about Sam Pierce," and there was a faint threatening note in Steel's voice.

"There's nothing more to tell."

"He died, didn't he?" Steel asked accusingly.

She glared over her shoulder at him. "Of course he died!"

"In that war."

Eleanor bared her teeth slightly. "Not quite."

Tully was trying to get between them and stop what he felt was a real row in the making. Steel ignored him and demanded of the ghost, "What do you mean by that?"

"Look I said I wouldn't talk to you," she turned away.

"Eleanor..." Steel started forward but Tully shoved his way in front.

"Please..! Don't go near her, please. Any change, any sudden shock could... could KILL your friend Sapphire!" Brought up short, Steel frowned. Tully continued, "Do you want that to happen?! Are you prepared to risk that for information about someone who's already dead?!!"

Steel backed off sullenly. "All right, then YOU find out what she meant by that!"

Tully sighed. "Right. Eleanor... when did Sam Pierce die? Tell me please, when did he die."

On the stairs, Sam stiffened.

Eleanor looked at Tully, tears in her eyes. "It was a shame, really. He should've come home. It was summer again. Twelve years age difference, it didn't mean a lot, really." She turned inward again.

"So when did he die?" Tully asked softly.

"Well they said in the village it was exactly eleven minutes afterwards. Someone out there had made a mistake, you see."

Tully frowned. "Eleven minutes after what?"

She was surprised at his ignorance. "Well after the Armistice, of course, after the cease-fire. Someone out there had made a mistake, that's all." She turned away again to keep her grief private.

Steel shook his head, appalled. "Eleven minutes after eleven on the eleventh day of the eleventh month..!"

"Yes," whispered Eleanor.

"Four elevens." Steel sighed, then he sat at the table. "All right, let's get her back."

Sam was horrified. He turned for reassurance to the others and the youngest, who on occasion challenged his authority, asked him worriedly, "What's wrong?"

"They've found me."

There was immediate panic. "So what do we do? Do we go? Go back?!"

"No. It's all right. It's coming to help. It's coming NOW!" From above them came the dry whispering dead-leaf voice of their help. They turned to look as blackness filled the staircase.

They all sat down at the table. Eleanor eyed Steel suspiciously, but took his hand anyway when she took Tully's.

"Well let's close our eyes, please," Tully said.

"Why?" the puzzled ghost asked.

"Because we have to."

She hesitated, then turned a soul-deep look on Steel. "Can I go back, now?"

"Yes," he replied firmly.

Tully looked up. "Just close your eyes."

"Like this?" she asked, obeying.

"Yes. Think about your classes, the students."

She smiled, "Yes."

Blackness crept into the room through the reception area door, inching its way across the ceiling towards where the three sat.

Tully guided Eleanor. "You just think of your village, the village where you live."


"On a hot summer day a long time ago. Do you remember it?"

She nodded, beginning to smile. "I do, yes."

"Can you see it?"

"Almost, yes."

"And the school, the school where you teach?"

"Yes, I can almost see it."

Tully nodded. "Good. Keep thinking about it. Think about your classroom. The children."

"Oh yes I can -- almost see them. The sun's shining, it's a hot day." She turned her head. "Open the windows, somebody! That's better." She started to hum the song.

Steel immediately pounced, "Sapphire?"

"Who's Sapphire?" she asked, and continued to hum.

"Shhh..!" Tully hissed at Steel. "Just think of your classroom..."

"Yes!" the delighted ghost agreed.

"Think of the children in the classroom."

The blackness blanketed the chairs behind them, closing in.

"They're all there, all of them. All except Sam Pierce. Always late, Sam Pierce." The blackness swallowed up the immediate area around them. Eleanor stiffened and warned frantically, "Oh the sun's gone! It's dark! Darkness! Careful at the back there! Careful!"

Steel stirred, then opened his eyes to see blackness everywhere. "Tully!" he hissed.

Eleanor was panicking even as she slipped back into her own sleep. "Please be careful!" she warned the children.

An alarmed Steel whispered to Tully, "Have you seen darkness like that before?"

"No, what is it?" Tully gaped, horrified, around him.

Steel started to his feet, his eyes wild. "Whatever it is it's capable of bringing back the dead!"

"No you can't break the circle now, she isn't back yet!"

"Why isn't she back?!"

"I don't know!"

"Sapphire!" Steel called into her ear.

Tully tried to stop him. "You can't wake her that way!"

Steel shook Sapphire, calling urgently, "Sapphire!"

Tully suddenly realized what Steel was going to do. "No you can't!"

But he did. He dragged Sapphire's unresisting body out of the chair and made for the door. "Come on, Tully!" Tully looked around at the whispering darkness. "TULLY!" he heard Steel shout. The blackness got to their table and blacked out the candle.

Tully reached toward Steel trying to tell him, "No you can't... leave...." He shouted urgently, "You broke the circle!" Steel left Sapphire leaning against the door and grabbed Tully's hand to drag him out of the buffet. He slammed the doors behind them and headed for the other side. Tully shouted, "You broke the circle! She could have been left out! Left outside!! Between journeys, between journeys from one life to the next!" He raced after Steel and the woman who was only moving because she was being practically dragged.

The darkness surrounded Sapphire's chair, which remained in a pool of light.

Sam stood in the reception area, tears streaming down his face. His lover's presence was gone, but he tried to speak to her. "Eleanor? Elen? No chalk pasture there, Elen, no chalk pastures..! No birds, no trees." Stuck in his memory was the sound of rifles firing. "There was no one!"

Tully was yelling at Steel still. "We were at a point the sub-conscious had arrived, between journeys!" he bellowed as they entered the booking room. "I mean can't you -- can't you SEE that!?" Steel stopped his headlong rush and faced Tully. "Between the school teacher's life and her own, you must NEVER break the circle, never!" Tully was very nearly in hysterics. "Do you know what you could've done?!"

Steel turned away and brought Sapphire to the bench and sat her down.

From the chair in the buffet came Sapphire's voice. {Steel....}

It was lost in Tully's ranting. "You could have lost her forever out there, OUT THERE!!"

Sapphire stood suddenly, she called her partner from the depths of exhaustion. {Steel....}


Tully was frantic, "You could have lost here!"

"Be quiet!"

"You could have lost her!" repeated the older man.

Steel snarled, "I SAID BE *QUIET*!!!"

Tully snapped his mouth shut, frightened again. Steel turned and called anxiously, [Sapphire?]

This time he heard her voice clearly. {Help me Steel.}

[I heard you, Sapphire, I heard you didn't I?] he sent, gripping her arms tightly. There was only silence. [Answer me!] he pleaded. No response. Slowly he released the still body.

Tully stared horrified at Sapphire, then as Steel made for the door he started yelling again. "I was right, look at her! You -- you broke the circle and you lost her out there! Out THERE!" he shook his fist.

Steel slammed the door and came back to Tully, seething. "What do you know about out there, Mr. Tully?!"

"Well not a great deal, b -- "

"Exactly!!!" Steel drew Sapphire into the waiting room.

Again her voice came calling him, {Steel... HELP me....}

He stood staring at her for several seconds, then sat her down and continued to stare at her.

Tully followed them in. "It's something we've come to believe in -- "

"Who is 'we'?" Steel growled.

"People like me, MY kind!"

"Then I shouldn't worry too much about Sapphire, if I were you."


"She knows more about 'out there' than you and your kind will ever know." Steel was smug about that, even now.

Tully shrugged that off and waved at Sapphire's still body. "But she's not with us, is she?! I mean IS SHE!" he shouted.

Steel turned a haunted look on him then bent over Sapphire and gently cupped her chin in his hand. He said softly, "Look after her for a moment, will you?"

The older man gaped at him. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to see where that darkness has got to!" Steel replied, making for the door.

"Oh. Uh, I'll come with you."

Steel grabbed Tully's arm. "No!" He cast a worn look at Sapphire. "No I -- I need you to look after Sapphire. Please?" he pleaded.

The please did it if nothing else. Tully sympathized with the young man. "Very well." He sat beside Sapphire, gazing at the door.

All five of the ghosts were on the platform. They vanished as Steel stepped warily out the door. He looked around cautiously and then headed across to the buffet. Pulling back the shutters, he glanced inside. The room was empty so he went inside to the table. He was just reaching to touch the chair Sapphire had been sitting in when the whistling started outside. He went out onto the platform.

The soldier was marching slowly towards the other end. Steel called after him challengingly, "Pierce? Sam Pierce?" The soldier vanished. There was a noise from the buffet. Steel entered the room again and spoke with deliberate cruelty. "Sam... is that what they call you? Sorry, USED to call you. Or is it Sammy?" He paused and pushed a chair neatly in. "Well it wouldn't have been Samuel, would it? Not a Private soldier." Sam listened to Steel from a hiding place he'd chosen, lying down against the wall near the footbridge. Steel picked up a candle, then started to get really nasty. "I wonder what they called you when they marked your gravestone? I wonder what's written there.... Or maybe they didn't give you a stone. Maybe there wasn't enough left of you to fill a grave..! Not enough of Private Pierce, left to bury." He set the candle down again and walked nonchalantly into the reception area. "Have you been back, Sam? Been back to take a look? What about Eleanor? Do you think SHE ever went to take a look at your gravestone? To see what's engraved on it?" He bared his teeth in a feral grin. "No, doubt it. I doubt she'd bother. She was too old for you." He looked in the hall then took a few steps upstairs and shouted , "And probably too good!" Sam winced at that. "What chance would you have stood once that summer was over? Eh?"

Sam sat up. Oh, you're going too far, mister!

Steel spun at the sound of a door slamming. "Help us!" The three young men from the submarine appeared on the ground floor and reached through the banister for him. He backed away and they vanished. Steel jumped down the stairs and stopped, hearing music from the buffet, merry voices and an opened door. He looked in. The pilot walked across the room towards him

The dark-haired young man stopped and politely took off his flight-cap. He spoke to the air, "Excuse me, sir!" The merry voices fell silent. The boy stepped nervously forward. "Group sent me here, sir. I've got one more op to complete and then I go home, and he did say sir, Group said, that... as your flight is one man short, and all my team aborted, that you'd -- " The boy flinched as if he'd been cut off. He gripped his hat tightly. "All right, sir. Sorry, sir." He turned and walked away. The merry sounds resumed. Steel followed the ghost until it vanished at the door. The whistling began again on the footbridge this time. Steel followed it.

Tully was pouring coffee when the whistling began again. He looked nervously towards the unmoving Sapphire, then went out into the booking hall. Steel came in and they stared nervously at each other. Finally Tully said, "He's up there!"

Steel closed the door behind him. "Yes. How's Sapphire?"

Tully picked up his lantern. "She's still asleep." He followed Steel to the staircase. "Are you going up there?"


"Sounds like an invitation," the older man fretted.


"Each time he starts to whistle one of those tunes." Steel suddenly turned and made for the mop-closet. Tully trailed after him stuttering nervously, "I-I-I-I'd like to say, with the seance and what happened afterwards," he closed the door behind them and met Steel's neutral gaze. "I -- I could've been wrong! About some things, that is. It was the darkness, you see. Even the spirit of the school teacher warned us..!"

Steel nodded, suddenly understanding and he tried to calm the frightened man. "Yes, yes, yes she did."

"But I knew... I knew, the moment the darkness appeared, that we were dealing with something evil! I sensed it! I felt it! Even the crucifix trembled!" Tully clenched his fist around it. Steel had been eyeing the door with impatience, but at that he turned an interested gaze toward Tully. Then the whistling started outside. "There he is out there inviting us once again!"

"Yes, but things are different now," Steel soothed.

"Hmm?" Tully doubted it.

"We know about him. We... we know his name."

Tully could not see the use in that. "Oh yes."

Steel steered him out the door. "You go back into the waiting room, take care of Sapphire!"

Tully braked and whispered, "B-but what about the darkness?!"

"It's gone."

"But it -- it could be up there, couldn't it?"

Steel hesitated. "It could."

Tully nodded and held the lantern out to Steel. "I thought so. That's why I got this!"

Steel took the lantern, surprised and a little grateful. "Take care of Sapphire," he told the older man.

"Right." Tully fled into the waiting room.

Steel steadied himself and started warily up the steps. "Sammy? Sam?" At the landing he let his voice chill into ice. "Sam Pierce? That's your name, isn't it. I know it is, so there's no need for you to hide in the darkness." The whistling stopped. Steel walked up onto the footbridge. "You don't have to hide, because that's our privilege. A privilege of the living." He glanced nervously back down.

"Steel...." Sapphire's voice came from behind him. He turned quickly, holding up the lantern. For a moment Sapphire was caught in the light, staring at him palely, then she turned and vanished. Steel spun and raced downstairs.

"Tully?" he called.

Tully opened the door timidly. "Yes?"

"Is Sapphire still in there with you?"

The confused man replied, "Of course she's still in here."

"Check again," Steel ordered him.

"Check again?"

"LOOK!!" Tully flinched and backed in. He looked at Sapphire, still sitting on the bench.

He poked his head out the door. "Yes she's still there, she's still in there!"

Steel's eyes went black, scaring Tully even more. The blond rushed back up and onto the footbridge. Halfway across he slowed up cautiously, holding the lantern out in front and listening to Sam Pierce whistling outside. There was a crack in the wall, boarded up. Steel pulled back the boards and crushed wooden slats out of his way and got a quite satisfactory view of the platform. Sam Pierce paced cheerfully back and forth on it. As he turned the other ghosts appeared and at the end of their line stood Sapphire. Steel clenched his teeth as the soldier stopped beside Sapphire and they both looked up at him. Sapphire's gaze was pleading.

Steel ran down the stairs again and into the waiting room. He stalked past Tully and took Sapphire's face in his hands, peeling back the lid of one eye hoping for a sign of consciousness. Defeated, he tenderly brushed her bangs off her forehead and dropped his hands.

Tully sat beside him. "What's the matter? What is it?"

"You said something earlier on, about the subconscious." Tully looked confused and Steel flushed guiltily and indicated Sapphire. "The fact -- the fact that it could be somewhere else."

Tully hesitated. Steel looked so forlorn that the older man tried to reassure him. "I did yes, between journeys. Either that or the seance has had an exhaustive effect on her, after all she was sent back a long way to do it, a great distance in time and that can be very tiring."

A slightly apologetic note crept into Steel's response. "You were right."


Steel closed his eyes. "I've just seen Sapphire on the platform."

Thrown into helpless confusion, Tully said, "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

Steel's voice rose with stress. "I have just seen Sapphire or what LOOKED like Sapphire out there on the station platform, with Pierce and the others." He forced himself to lower his voice but it shook. "It was as if... Sapphire was one of them. The -- this subconscious, can it be seen?"

"You mean, does it have a human shape?"


Tully found himself using his gentle calming tone on Steel. "I wouldn't have thought so, no, otherwise it -- it could hardly be termed the subconscious, could it?"

Steel shuddered, closing his eyes. "All right, Tully. Would you say it's possible to have such things as ghosts of the living?!"

Steel's voice was raising again, Tully tried to soothe him, shaking his head. "No! Would you? I mean there are all sorts of theories about visual phantoms..."

"The seance hadn't quite finished."


"I broke the circle."

Tully bit back an impulse to be cruel. "Yes, and here's the result."

Steel took Sapphire's hand and stared at it, then at her. Finally he raised his head, determined. "I'm going to take a close look at the other one." He stood up and headed for the door, then paused and looked worriedly back at Sapphire.

"Don't worry I -- I'll look after her," Tully assured him kindly. Steel vanished out the door, then looked back in again. Tully sighed. "I realize how important she is to you, I'll try talking to her."

Steel looked confused and embarrassed. "What?"

"Well, many medical practitioners believe that... talking to a patient who's comatose can often prove therapeutic. Even... curative."

Steel winced but said, "That's a good idea, you do that." He closed the door behind him and headed for the platform again.

Tully scooped up Sapphire's hand and studied her face. "Sapphire... Sapphire..?" He did not expect her to answer, but he wished she could.

Sam stepped out of the shadows behind Steel, watching him. "It's no good, Pierce," the shorter man began. He sensed the soldier and spun around. The two walked across the platform slowly, Steel still challenging Sam. "No good! You're STILL late, you see. Over sixty years too late." He glanced up at Sam's face to gauge his reaction.

The soldier was smirking faintly. "Oh I wouldn't say that!"

Steel stopped and stared after Sam. "I would. Your war's finished. Finished a long time ago."

Sam stopped and turned around, now smiling a somewhat sinister smile. "A bit different from yours, then. Yours has just begun." Steel eyed him, then Sam looked away towards the buffet. Steel followed the look and as he did, Sam Pierce vanished.

The blond man shifted nervously. He pulled back the shutters and peered in. Sapphire sat at the table inside. It was a trap, he knew, but was it baited with Sapphire or an illusion? He went in.

Sapphire turned her head and looked at him with the usual mixture of teasing laughter and affection. She scolded him lightly, "You left me here, Steel. This is where you left me!"

He sat down beside her. "Well we didn't exactly LEAVE you."

"Right here! So now I suppose I'm as much a part of this station as he is!"

Steel stood up laughing softly and walked around the table. "No."

His partner grinned mischievously at him and rested her chin on clasped hands. "Not sure of me? Well you can't exactly do a spot analysis, can you? It's not your territory, remember?"

He restlessly pulled out a chair and sat down again. Somewhat belligerently he asked, "Why shouldn't I be sure of you?"

She settled her arms on the table and silently laughed at him. "Because I know it's not in your nature to be sure of anything."

"But I know you're Sapphire."

"Oh!" she said agreeably, amused.

"And there's only one of you, isn't there?"

"Yes," she smiled.

"Well then." His point made, he sat back and glared toward the door. "Where's Pierce gone?"

"How should I know?" she asked, innocently surprised.

"Well you just said that you're as much a part of this station as HE is, so I thought perhaps you'd know." He eyed her, then looked at the door again, frowning.

She shrugged. "Well I expect he's busy."


"Busy waiting."

Steel stared at her, puzzled. "What for?"

She threw up her hands, surprised at his ignorance. "For others, of course!"

"Others, like him?" Steel was astounded.


"And like the pilot, and the young men from the submarine?"


He frowned, puzzled. "How many others?"

She blinked. "What?"

"How many others is he expecting?" Steel asked impatiently.

Sapphire pouted. "I don't know."

"One? Five? Ten?"

"I said I don't know."

"A thousand? A hundred?" He broke off and shook his head. "Well there must be a lot of Africans, surely."

Sapphire shrugged and looked away. "Anyway Steel, since you left me here, ever since you abandoned me, I've had time to think."

Steel bit down a guilty apology. "Oh yes?" he asked.

"And realize."

He wasn't as sensitive as Sapphire, but he was very nervous and kept glancing behind him. Now he looked suspiciously at her. "Realize what?"

She drew a breath and started tracing a pattern on the table with her finger. "That we shouldn't be here on this particular assignment." She looked up and gazed seriously into his eyes.

He was immensely surprised. "No?"

She shook her head. "Our information was false. Our briefing was wrong. Those after images are harmless!"

Steel looked extremely doubtful. "Harmless?"

"Yes! They'll be gone soon, anyway! So why don't we just leave them in peace?" She sat back and smiled at him.

He thought about it, then came to a decision. "All right." He stood up and looked at her smiling face. "Let's leave them in peace, shall we?" He held out a hand which she eyed worriedly. "Come on."

Sapphire raised her head and shot him an injured look. "I haven't finished talking, yet."

"Oh. Sorry." He sat back down in his chair.

Tully sat nervously beside Sapphire. He kept looking around to see if Steel was back but as he wasn't, Tully decided to tell Sapphire about his life. "Well I suppose my interest in the supernatural started early. When I was at school, I suppose! Yes I think it was when I was at school. It started as a game, but I soon realized that I was experiencing something MORE than that." Dark nights filled with soft voices and things that moved of their own volition, and immense loneliness that needed something to fill up the void.

Steel got up to pace nervously. Sapphire had adapted a listening posture and now she turned to him again. "When the others have arrived they'll all leave."

He stopped and leaned on the table. "To go where?"

"I don't know," she shook her head.

"To go back where they came from?" he wondered.

"I don't know, but I do know that they intend to leave." She turned a look of wide-eyed innocence on him. From the reception area came a rustling, whispering noise. Steel moved to investigate but Sapphire called after him, "Steel! Would you mind looking at me when I'm talking to you?" He joined her at the table, looking sheepish and pale. The soft noises were getting louder, Sapphire smiled flirtatiously at him and spoke to cover them. "After all there's no one else here. Only us."

"I spent a great deal of time as a lad going to churches and places like that, my -- my hobby in those days was glass-rubbing! And, other lads at my age were involved in sporting activities..! But not me." He envied them a bit, those others.

In the far corner of the waiting room the darkness appeared.

Steel forced himself to turn his head away from the sounds. His instinct of self-preservation was screaming at him to get out, but he still had to find out if this was Sapphire and if so, how to free her. The darkness was blunting his senses. "Tell me what happened."

She looked innocently back at him. "Happened?"

"Well you want to talk -- "

"I do!" she interrupted him, smiling.

He shrugged to hide the trembling in his shoulders. "Well then, tell me what happened when -- when you were left behind."

She considered the question. "Well, I suppose I was given the chance to understand."

"To understand Pierce and his friends?"

"Yes," she nodded.

He puzzled that a moment. "And to sympathize with them?"

Reading his hesitation as doubt, she nodded casually. "To an extent, yes."

"And to find them harmless...." His brow furrowed. They certainly were NOT harmless, no. But whether this was Sapphire or not, she certainly was under the darkness' control.

She eyed him and seemed to answer his thought. "Yes."

Talking about his life made Tully sad. There were so many things he had not done that he wished he had. Sometimes when he looked back like this he wished that things were different. He was so lonely, living his life. Steel was lucky to have Sapphire. "I've always allowed myself to have an open mind. To believe that one can approve and accept something without necessarily having to understand its meaning, is a first essential before any man can handle supernatural or religious experiences. A mind that is closed cannot BE receptive."

The darkness had covered the wall behind Tully, and was edging its way across the ceiling.

Darkness had swallowed up most of the buffet behind Steel. He could feel it gathering but not how close it was.

"What about the power?" he asked Sapphire.

"What power?"

"The darkness, remember?" Steel reminded her softly.

"Oh, yes." She looked away from him, seeming embarrassed.

"Is it also harmless?"

Sapphire sat very still, then stiffened as if she was being prompted. "Yes."

"We were wrong about that as well?"

"Yes," she said firmly. She turned to look at him. "So in a way it was fortunate that I was left behind."

Now Steel looked away, frowning. "Why fortunate?"

"Well because of what I've learned! The truth!" She was quite pleased with herself, but seeing his expression she cocked her head. "Steel? Aren't you pleased with me?"

He stared at the darkness less than a foot away from him and clenched a fist. "Huh? Yes."

His lack of enthusiasm made her smile. "Well you might at least show it! Might at least congratulate me."

Steel looked at her and said thickly, "All right I congratulate you."

"Thank you Steel, thank you very much."

"I'll just go and fetch Mr. Tully, shall I." He started quickly to his feet to run for the door. Less than halfway out of his chair he was caught in a grip of iron, and slowly forced back down. He could not see what held him but pain like pinpricks travelled his shoulders. Unable to escape he held onto the arm-rests and stared straight ahead. "I'm sure he'd like to congratulate you too."

Whatever it was that looked and seemed like Sapphire watched Steel calmly. Her gaze was faintly malevolent and she leaned back in the chair. "Oh there's no need to fetch Tully, he will be here. He will be with us, soon."

The darkness was almost upon them, unnoticed by Tully who was still telling his story, full of wistful wishful loneliness. "I've often felt that I was the wrong age for... proper psychical achievements. A friend of mine once told me that cats turned into old people, to pass the time. Perhaps that's because they have the time to be patient. The time to be tolerant." Briefly Tully thought of Steel, remembering that those words didn't describe that young man at all. "So in a way I'm... looking forward to reaching seventy, even getting into my eighties if it means I shall... find success."

"Don't you think so Steel?"

Frozen in his chair, Steel answered her hollowly, "Yes. As soon as Mr. Tully arrives we'll pack up and leave."

She smiled and mocked him lightly. "I thought you'd agree. After all, we have such a FINE working relationship."

Steel's spirit suddenly came back as he tried to find the truth somewhere here. "Even though there's one particular question that keeps nagging inside the head. Like the one that's inside my head right now; the one that's crying out for an answer."

Sapphire watched him for a moment. She smiled and shrugged, challenging him. "Well, perhaps it doesn't need an answer."

His head snapped around and for the first time in several minutes he looked directly at her, gaze deadly. "Oh but it does."

She gazed at him for a long time with a faint pitying look in her eyes. "Ask it. Ask your question."

Steel spoke slowly, voice shaking slightly. "If you're the Sapphire that I've grown to know... and to love," he began. She stiffened and stood up, her clothes changing to become the brown skirt, blouse and summer hat Sapphire had once described to him. Steel looked up at her. "Who is that person?" he finished softly.

"What person?" her voice was cold with something short of hate.

Steel eyed the flowers Sapphire held as she shifted them near his shoulder. "That person in the waiting room with Tully." For just a moment more they stared at each other, and then she struck at him with the flowers. He fell away from her onto the floor. Flowers they were but whatever they were made from hurt worse than knives. She came at him again.

"Anyway I'm prepared to go on until I was a -- " Tully had turned to reach for his coffee cup. The room behind him was gone into darkness. "Oh my God..! STEEL!"

Steel scrambled to his feet and turned to run, but she was ahead of him ready to strike. And something was stabbing at him, pulling the world out from under his feet and twisting time to force fear on him. It was working. Steel made a break for it only to stumble over chairs or tables hidden by the darkness. He fought the fear but failed and broke into a run again. He crashed into more invisible things and finally halted himself to stand frozen, waiting for the next move to be made.

Tully cradled Sapphire's unresponsive body against his shoulder. He stared at the gathering darkness and muttered prayers to God, hiding his face in Sapphire's hair.

The darkness pulled aside behind Steel, opening a path to the door that exited onto the platform. Aware of the trap though he was, Steel moved for it. When he opened the doors though, the pilot stood in the doorway glaring at him. He backed away as the image split and blurred. The pilot said despairingly, "I couldn't get out of the plane!"

Steel turned to look for another exit and the three submarine ghosts appeared, fragmented as the other had been. The youngest one smiled at him. "It's my little kid's birthday tomorrow..!"

The ghost he remembered as being Jamie asked, "Who's going to look after the garden?"

He was surrounded, and terror beat at his mind, not all of it his but Steel was unable to shake it off. From a side that suddenly became clear Sam Pierce and Sapphire (or whatever she was, Steel reminded himself) walked to stand close to him. Sam's smile had more than a hint of cruelty. "Said your war had just begun, didn't I."

Tully pulled his head up and prayed, "By thy quick mercy Lord defend us from the perils and dangers of this night!" He hid his face again, seeing no reaction anywhere to his prayers. "Fight the darkness...!"

Unable to think, Steel backed helplessly away from the surrounding ghosts. With the greatest effort of will he managed to stop and stand still. Sam gazed at him, just the flicker of a smile to mock the living man. He and Sapphire stepped aside, the door to the platform swung open behind them. Steel stared at it and then at Sam, sick with the knowledge that he was at their mercy, and knowing they wanted him to go out that door. Pushed by Sam's will he started for the door and suddenly broke and ran. Into barbed wire that appeared and bombs, dust and fire. A long scream of despair and pain came from him before his body went limp on the wire. He fought the death that tried to take him, breathing in harsh gasps, swaying in the wire's grip.

Tully trembled as the darkness took the table. He pleaded, "Oh please wait! Leave us alone, I beg you!" To Sapphire he urged, "Wake, wake up! You must wake up!" He tried the dark again. "We haven't harmed you, I -- I haven't harmed you! Oh please, please let -- please let us go..! I -- I promise -- I promise that I'll leave, I'll go now! I promise that!" He stood up, releasing Sapphire's body to plead. "I-I-I'll leave you in peace!" The darkness cleared the door suddenly and pulled it open. Tully gaped at it in sudden relief. "Oh! Oh thank you!" He started to gather Sapphire up and the door slammed shut. He looked up, terrified, trying to figure out why. "I'm sorry! I -- I d-didn't understand! I-I-I'm sorry I -- " Suddenly it clicked. He was horrified. In a small voice he asked, "Just me, you mean?! Y-you mean you -- " He released Sapphire and the door opened. Tully gaped at it with sick horror. "Just me?!" He was so afraid, and the exit was there, open for him. Hesitantly he stepped out the door then turned to go back in but the darkness slammed it shut, leaving him in the booking hall, and Sapphire still in there. "Sapphire!" he shouted through the door. "I'll -- I'll get -- I'll get help!" He ran for one door but the darkness was ahead of him and blacked it out. Without hesitation then Tully went out onto the platform instead. "STEEL! Steel!" Steel was there, in the doorway of the buffet, his limp body wearing most of Sam Pierce's uniform and hanging in a tangle of barbed wire. His eyes gazed blindly ahead, but Tully could see the faint rise and fall of his chest that meant Steel was alive. "Steel? Steel... the-they -- they said I could leave, Steel!" He prayed for a reaction, but there was none. Tully bit down the impulse to untangle Steel. "Th-they said I could go..! But -- and I'm going! B-but -- but don't worry I'll -- I-I'll -- I'll get help! I'll send back help!" He turned and ran, searching for a way out. He was blocked from one exit and entered the booking hall again. The doors kept blacking out and the windows too. The stairs remained clear.

Tully stood still, trying to think what to do, how to get out and still keep his soul. Behind him came the sound of music and laughter. He turned, and there was the pilot with his teddy bear. The young man opened an invisible door. The music and laughter stopped. Shyly, the pilot spoke. "Uh, excuse me, I need one op. Eh -- just the one! Then I'm off home on leave. I don't mind what I fly, I'll go tailing Charlie, it makes no difference to me! And I know you fellows are flying two short, so -- " He was interrupted by voices that weren't speaking to him, just standard barroom conversation. "Really, can't any of you use me, please!" he begged. He staggered back as someone shoved him out of the room and stood there looking defeated. Suddenly he became aware of Tully's presence on the stairs, and turned. "Excuse me, sir..!"

Tully ran upstairs. He paused at the landing and looked back. The pilot was gone, but darkness filled the area. Frightened even more Tully went up the rest of the stairs. Passing the wall-section that Steel had torn a hole in earlier, Tully stopped to look out on the platform. The ghosts were there, and as he watched, several more appeared. In the dark hall there was a sound of a rifle being cocked. Tully looked up. Sam Pierce stood just before the footbridge, cleaning his rifle.

"I've been allowed to leave," Tully told him.

The soldier glanced coolly at him. "Have you now?"

"Yes." Tully was shaking with fear, but he held on to talk.

Pierce turned and shouldered the gun, smiling cruelly. "Reckon' you'd better leave then."

Tully nodded and waved at the area beyond Sam. "That seems to be the only remaining exit point!"

Pierce nodded back. "That's right, over the bridge."

"Yes." Tully started nervously past Pierce. The soldier set his gun down and as he did so, Tully dredged up the remains of his courage to ask, "I noticed just now that w-w-w-there were others down there on the platform. Who are they?"

"Just others." Sam drew a box out of his pocket and got out a cigarette.

Tully could be tenacious, even frightened as he was. "Oh. When I first came here two months ago I said that I was your friend. I still am. I said then that I wanted to help you, and I still do!" Sam kept his back turned, but a guilty flush crept across his face. Tully continued softly, "My dear boy, whatever it is that has this shameful hold on you, I -- " Pierce spun around and glared at him, and from some distant nowhere, the darkness whispered. Tully cowered away from Sam and started down the footbridge. He looked back once, pleading silently for pity, as the darkness came down around him.

Consciousness crushed, yet he held onto life. Distantly he heard the sound of bombs falling, machine-guns firing. The bright light of a flare occasionally pierced his closed eyelids. Something different. The sound of boots crossing a wooden floor. He clung to the sound and the scent it brought with it of tobacco smoke, so different from the scents of sulfur and blood which threatened to make him ill. He had no strength to spare for sickness.

Sam Pierce stared down at the limp form tangled in barbed wire. He crushed the sympathy; no one had helped him, after all. He sat down against the doorframe, blowing smoke out and able to laugh cruelly at Steel. You might live, if you're strong enough, he thought. No, I want you to suffer. He smiled and spoke. "Be a detail out here 'fore dawn. WIRE detail. Might find you! Or what's left of you after the next barrage! Then again, they may not come. I mean, y' can't blame them! Even the stretcher-bearers won't come out here." There was a piercing whistling from above. Sam ducked reflexively as a bomb fell close by.

The sound jerked Steel to his senses. "Sammy..." he forced out through the pain.

Pierce was startled, but he mocked the man coldly. "Pierce! PRIVATE S. Pierce!" His first friends, the other four ghosts, gathered a few feet away, silently urging him to come with them. He fought sudden guilt. "You should have left us alone. We were causin' no harm! We just wanted what was owed to us, that's all!"

The youngest man from the submarine called impatiently, "Pierce! come on!"

Sam drew on his cigarette and stood up. He paused, settling his gun and mocking Steel for all the mockery the living man had given him. "You asked me once, remember? You asked me to sit and talk with you. Well I sat, and I talked. On MY terms for a change and not yours." He looked back along the platform, then grinned at Steel. "It's gonna be a favorable winter! It'll slip into spring like it was one and the same! And then it'll be Eastertide. Anyway, you'll be leaving soon. You got no choice!" On that nasty note, he went to join the others.

As Pierce walked by, the curly-haired boy asked worriedly, "Everything's all right, isn't it?"

Sam smiled. "'Tis now, yes. 'Tis now." He continued down the platform, and suddenly time shivered and drew back upon itself, as if crouching for a leap.

Daylight streamed in the windows of the waiting room and touched fair skin and unmoving flesh.

Steel hung limp in the buffet doorway. The barbed wire was gone and a cobweb stretched in its place, but not touching Steel. He opened his eyes and didn't know where he was for a long moment. Slowly he realized his position, kneeling on the floor with hands stiffly up and out. He moved carefully to stand in the fresh, cold air. Intact, he felt with relief. He was whole. He pushed the cobwebs down and away and stepped out onto the platform. Day? He hesitated, then crossed the platform into the booking hall. Nervously he entered the waiting room. It was as still as the rest of the place and there was Sapphire, unmoving as when he had last seen her.

The intense burst of near-fear from him woke Sapphire. "Steel?" she asked, puzzled by it.

"Yes, it's me," he answered wistfully. She turned toward him and started to speak. "No! Stay there." Steel came and stood opposite her.

"All right." She settled back, giving him a chance to calm himself.

His brow furrowed and she knew he was very upset. "It's early morning. It's dawn."

"I know, I just realized it."

"WHY is it dawn?" he demanded.

"Well how should I know why?" At the frozen look on his face she became impatient. "What is it? Look Steel I've just woken up, I've been having some TERRIBLE dreams -- "

He cut her off belligerently. "I had a few bad dreams myself. In one of them you attacked me. With a bunch of flowers." Sapphire stared at him with barely hidden amusement. Steel glared back. "Give me your hands." She obeyed, gently grasping his hands.

The need to confirm her reality was a palpable pain. [We brought you here after the seance. Tully and I brought you to this room, is that right?] Sapphire drew one hand away and brushed her fingertips along the tabletop. [Sapphire?] As she stirred dust around thoughtfully, he pleaded, [Sapphire, can you hear me? Can you hear me?] Her continued silence hurt. He let her other hand go despairingly. [You can't hear me, can you.]

"Of course I can hear you!" Sapphire finally responded. She relented at his distressed look and became all business, standing up. "We've got work to do. There are some things I MUST remember."

Steel dove for the floor as Sapphire stood up, her arm raised to strike. "Sapphire!"

"I remember! I remember the girl with the flowers, it wasn't me!"

Steel stared at her from the floor, then jumped up and grabbed a chair. "An illusion?"

"Not quite, it was an image, a projected image!"

"Created by Pierce?"

She focused intently on her impressions. "Created THROUGH Pierce, created BY the darkness."

Steel frowned. "Even though you didn't SEE the darkness."

Sapphire touched things around her, trying to draw impressions from the chairs and tables. "I didn't need to, I was away."

Steel gripped the chair top and sang softly, "La, la, la, picking up gold and silver..."

It triggered an association, as he knew it would. "I remember little desks... and inkwells. A school, an old school..."

"Eleanor," Steel called gently.


"Ah, you don't remember her!" Steel sagged, disappointed.

Sapphire frowned, "No."

"Then that's probably because SHE wasn't created by the darkness, she was INVITED to take part in the seance," he concluded stubbornly.

Sapphire closed her eyes, listening to a memory echoed in her mind of children laughing. She smiled fondly at Steel, "Well you HAVE been busy in my absence!"

There was a distracting stirring of memory in the room, a young man's voice, Sam Pierce calling, *"Eleanor? Look!"* in her mind.

She crossed the room to stand at the window. "I do remember a flower!"

"What kind of flower?" Steel asked. He wasn't able to listen in on what Sapphire was hearing, which annoyed him.

Sam's voice continued to cheerfully come out of her memory. *"That's a Pasque flower."*

"A wild flower. Present in a kind of pasture."

*"Oh they're rare!"*

Steel eyed Sapphire suspiciously. She stood in sunlight, speaking thoughtfully. "It's very beautiful. I think it's very rare, but I don't know why I remember it." She closed her eyes as other memories swept up. The sounds of soldiers marching singing Sam's song and rifles firing, and the horrible pain of the dying soldier... horrible, triggering a leftover voice in her mind so strong she called out its message. "I DID visit your grave!! They suffered! Why did they have to suffer so much?!" She was herself, but caught up in the tumult of five men's pain and fear.

Steel's urgent voice anchored her. "They TOLD you?"

"N-no, I sensed it!"

"What's the solution?"

"What?!" The question startled her.

He gave her no time to stabilize. "The answer to their problems! Whatever it is the darkness has promised them, did you sense that?"

"No, no that was kept from me."

"But you do know that they were waiting."

"Yes," she moved towards him, trying to follow his line of thought.

"What for? For more of their kind! Then what?"

Sapphire shook her head. "I don't know!"

"Were they optimistic?"


"But you STILL don't know WHERE they were going," Steel frowned.

Sapphire fell into a chair. "No!"

Steel was following some line that held him tight. "But you do know they were definitely going somewhere!"

"Yes the darkness promised them that!"

The blond man locked onto what was really bothering him. "WHY is it morning?!!" Sapphire sighed and hung her head. Steel leaned close and what he said made her look at him, startled. "I'm sorry, but you see, I also fell asleep. And *I* don't sleep." Sapphire looked down and brushed up some dust on the table. Steel stalked to the doorway. "Right here. When I awoke there was a cobweb across the doorway, here. It wasn't on ME, it was on the doorway, here!" She joined him and he gave her a strand of webbing. "Analyze that."

"I don't have to. How long was I asleep?" she asked curiously.

"A few hours, why?"

"There's a new layer of dust in the waiting room, on the furniture and on the floor." Steel gave her his blank, what's-your-point? look. She gestured back into the buffet. "This room is the same."

They went back to the table and Steel sat down. He looked up at Sapphire, bewildered. "I can't see anything."

She smiled and ran her hand across the tabletop. "No, but I can."

"Is it a natural formation of dust?"

Sapphire studied the grey dust on her fingertips. "Yes. The particles are stratified. To an analyst that means it wasn't just dumped here in one go. It is a natural formation of dust."

Steel was still confused, but he hid it well. "And how long would it take this amount of dust to settle, naturally?"

She came around behind his chair and held her dusty fingertips over his shoulder so he could see them. "Chronologically, with this degree of stratification, about twelve days." She knew this was going to be difficult, Steel never handled misplaced time very well. It made him a determined agent.

"And you've been asleep for a few hours, and I... for only one."


Steel sped across the room and stood in the doorway glaring out. The sunlight angered him because it should not be there. "And all of a sudden it's MORNING! Early morning!"

"That's right," she agreed firmly.

"It can't happen!" he growled indignantly.

"It HAS happened." This would just take waiting. He would accept the truth after a few minutes of arguing over it.

Steel clenched his fists and turned to her. "I see. You say we're twelve days adrift."

"Approximately, yes."

He stood there a second longer, then hurried across the room to Tully's bag. He snatched it up and brought it to the table. "Tully's sandwiches. They were a bit stale, but they were well wrapped and perfectly edible. I saw Tully eating one a few hours ago just before the seance, and these are -- " he broke off when he opened the sandwich box and a sickly-thick rotten smell wafted out. Sapphire grinned smugly at him. Steel held up a sandwich wrapped in plastic-wrap, and after staring at it for a while, dropped it heavily on the table where it landed with a loud thump. He looked hopefully at his partner. "Maybe it's another image."

"Not this time," she calmly disagreed with him.

Steel stubbornly packed the box back away. "Why not? The darkness is good at images, you just admitted that."

In a tough no-nonsense tone, Sapphire replied, "Yes."

He stared at her and drew a deep breath. "There was another image that you missed when you were asleep... a barbed wire entanglement, I ran right into it."

Sapphire's gaze was steady. "Where's the barbed wire now?"

"It's gone, of course."

"But the cobweb hasn't," she pointed out. Steel shifted nervously and looked back at the doorway. "It's still there. Did you receive any cuts from the wire?"

"How could I, it wasn't -- " he broke off again, finally accepting it.

"Wasn't what?"

"It wasn't real."

Sapphire held out dusty fingertips to the distressed man. "This dust is." Steel stalked out onto the platform. Sapphire followed him commenting, "When I woke up there was no dust on my clothes, and you said the cobwebs hadn't touched you while you were asleep. Therefore those things were not placed in OUR time, we have been deliberately placed in theirs!"

Steel glared indignantly at her. Gesturing around he asked angrily, "You mean we've been shunted forward in time?"

"Yes! And there's something else! They're not here anymore. Pierce and the others, they've gone!"


Sapphire answered Steel's disbelief as he stalked around her. "They have gone! Ever since I've woken up I've realized that. The atmosphere is gone, all of it! The malevolence, the after-images, there's nothing like that here anymore! Even the darkness has gone! This place is free now."

Steel stopped pacing. "Free. Twelve days ahead! What happened in between?"

"Well how should I know that?!" Sapphire demanded, getting frustrated with him.

"Your subconscious!"

They glared nose-to-nose, or rather nose-almost-to-nose, Steel was shorter than Sapphire and she was wearing heeled boots. "My subconscious would have missed twelve days as well! If this is true then you know what could have happened."


"While we have been shunted to one side, TWELVE DAYS to one side, the darkness could've kept it's promise -- " Steel finished with her, "to Pierce and the others." Sapphire sighed in exasperation and looked away.

"It could have, yes. But what has it done with Tully?" Steel asked, and having made his point, kissed her on the cheek.

She swung back to face him, confused. "Tully?"

"Yes, where is Tully? I left him with you, I told him to look after you." Steel headed off for the booking hall, leaving Sapphire to roll her eyes.

"I've been asleep, remember?" she muttered aloud, then followed.

"Tully!?" Steel poked his head into the waiting room. "Tully? Tully?" He came back out and joined Sapphire in the middle of the booking hall. "We've been moved forward twelve days in time, Tully's been left behind us. We've been manipulated," he finished, furious.

Sapphire's patience with him was wearing thin. "Tully could have been moved forward with us, he could just be hiding."

Steel was innocently surprised. "Why would he do that?"

"I don't know!"

"He wants proof...." Steel muttered. He walked around the room, calling "Tully?"

Tully's voice came out of mid-air faintly, full of guilt. "Will you ever forgive me?" Steel and Sapphire both spun looking for him. They pinpointed the stairway after Tully spoke again. "Here, I'm here. Thank God you're safe, that's all I want to say before I go, just... thank God you're safe."

"Tully!" exclaimed Steel, delighted with himself for finally finding the man. He started up the stairs with Sapphire.

Tully replied wanly, "Oh, no accusations please. I apologize, I apologize here and now." Sapphire stopped a few steps up and pulled Steel over against the wall. They tentatively touched the air sensing Tully's presence not quite here yet. "When I realized the darkness must have swallowed you up," Tully began.

Steel looked for Tully's body to appear, bewildered. "When you what?"

"When the darkness -- it must have swallowed you up, it was everywhere!" He fell silent as they puzzled over his words, then he asked them wistfully, "You're not injured?"

Steel sat down on the step, staring at the area Tully had to be. "No," he answered, folding his hands in his lap.

"Thank God for that."

"But you saw me?"


"Saw me, on the wire."

Tully appeared suddenly on the step beside Steel. "Eh, more or less, yes."

Steel shot Sapphire a look.

She lifted her head. "There's your proof," she said to Tully.

Tully gasped and stood up, reaching guiltily to take Sapphire's hand. "Oh my dear girl! I abandoned you! But I had to you see, anyway I was going for help, I intended to send back help. You will forgive me, won't you?" Sapphire's kind smile shot relief through Tully.

Steel interrupted firmly. "Where were you?"

Tully was still absorbed in Sapphire. "I intended to send back help as quickly as possible," he strove to assure her.

"When you... abandoned Sapphire, as you put it, where did you go?"

Steel's quiet insistent voice for once lacking mockery or threat brought Tully to answer. "I-I-I... I looked for you and then I came up here."

"Then what? Did the darkness swallow you up as well?"

Tully blinked, and puzzled a moment. "I've no idea, I -- I fell asleep. Sound asleep."

"YOU fell asleep?" Steel asked, incredulous.

"Yes. I -- I saw the ghost of that poor airman down there, and then I saw the ghost of the young soldier up there." He pointed as he spoke. "Then I crossed the bridge and -- and I fell asleep!" He clung to Sapphire's hand, recognizing how unnatural it was for that to happen. "I -- I slept like a log, uh, slept for hours! I -- I must have done, it -- it's dawn, it's almost daylight!"

Tully's mind was tangled in fear and self-loathing. He knew he had not slept naturally. A small inner instinct picked up the clues around him measuring days rather than hours, and there was a point where his memory doubled back on itself which was somehow most frightening of all. Tully fled to the buffet and started gathering his stuff.

Steel followed Tully into the buffet. "And now you're leaving?"

Tully was shivering, his face white. "Well it -- it's simply that my work here is done."

"Who decided that?" Steel asked, stalking across the room.

Tully frowned, confused. "I did."

"Nothing decided it for you?"

The older man packed his materials away. His skin flushed at Steel's question. "Well if you mean, have I been frightened a little, well I don't mind admitting it I -- I have been frightened somewhat. That's why I have to leave."

"Mr. Tully," Sapphire spoke gently.


She held up one of Tully's sandwiches. The sick smell wafted toward Tully, who tried to ignore it. Steel lifted his head, "Take a look at your sandwiches, Mr. Tully." Sapphire turned her hand over and the sandwich fell with a loud thump. "If you leave now -- "

Tully backed away, screaming inside and refusing the evidence of nose, eyes and ears. "I-I-I'm not concerned about a few sandwiches, I -- "

Steel cut him off. "Mr. Tully if you leave -- "

Tully overrode Steel urgently. "I -- I -- I am concerned about having to leave when there's so much more to learn!" As Steel turned away from him in disgust, Tully felt awkwardly guilty and stepped closer to the younger man. "But that's the way it must BE, I'm afraid." He turned to Sapphire. "Naturally I'm -- thankful for the things I've witnessed here, the opportunity to see the spirits of the dead, even speak to some of them. I'm sorry I have to deny myself the chance of talking to the others...!" Suddenly realizing he had said too much, Tully headed for the door.

Steel's voice gone sharp as daggers stopped him. "WHAT others?"

Tully silently begged to be let out of this and continued where he had left off. "... Before they've even had time to express their troubles to me!"

"I said WHAT others?!"

Tully turned around, surprised Steel did not already know. "Well the new ones, of course. You haven't seen them?" The silence answered him.

Steel glared belligerently. "No, I haven't seen them. Tell me about them," he asked calmly, stepping close to Tully.

"Well they arrived," the older man backed up nervously.


"Just before I fell asleep last night."

Sapphire joined them and was very firm about it. "It wasn't last night, Mr. Tully. It was twelve days ago."

Tully shuddered. It was said now, and he could not deny it. "What?" he asked, begging her to say something else.

She held up the sandwich. "It was twelve DAYS ago."

The truth terrified Tully, he licked his lips and shied away from Steel's demanding voice that asked, "Where did you see them?"

"On the platform, waiting."

"How many 'new' arrivals?"

"Oh I don't know. Nine or ten, something like that." Steel stared coldly at him and he began to panic, backpedaling away from the two young people. "Anyway, I have to go -- " Steel's palm lightly touched Tully's back, and he was frozen in place. He knew who had done it, was unable to deny the truth of it. "Please let me go. I -- I have to leave."

"Why?" Steel asked from his left.

"Well I've explained my work here is done -- "

"No it isn't. You've just been complaining about missed opportunities."

"Yes but when I say that...." Tully trailed off, afraid of being trapped in the truth.

"Tell me," Steel's cold compassionless voice demanded.

"I don't necessarily mean -- "

"Tell me!" Tully clamped his mouth shut and Steel became deadly angry. "WHY are you leaving?"

"Because I -- I... I made a promise."

"A promise?!"

"Yes." Tully felt sickly relieved to have admitted it.

"To whom?"

"To it."

Steel's anger chilled Tully to the bone. "To the darkness?!"

"Yes," he answered hollowly.

"To the darkness that brought the ghosts here? That's supposed to have swallowed me up? Swallowed Sapphire up!!" Steel was building up to a furious explosion, Tully could feel it heating the room.

He whimpered, "Well you're both all right, you're -- "

"Yes! But you didn't know that at the time, did you?!"

"Yes but I told you I was going to get help -- "

Steel cut him off again, contempt slicing Tully's heart. "You made a promise, did you? The dark, it plays games with people's minds, it plays games with time!"

"Well I'm a man of my word!"

"You're a WHAT?!" Steel snarled incredulously.

Tully flinched but rallied. "All right then! They gave me my freedom and I asked them to let me -- "

Steel stepped in front of him and glared into Tully's eyes. "You pleaded for it!"

"Just as you like, pleaded for it and they gave it to me last... last... night." Tully shivered violently, knowing it was not last night anymore by a long shot.

Sapphire's voice came gently from behind him. "Why are you still here, Mr. Tully?"


She was being reasonable, something he had less defense against than Steel's natural bullying. "If it wanted you to leave, why did it make you sleep?"

He could not answer her at first. Finally he said, "I don't know."

Sapphire looked at Steel. He gave her a silent shrug and she stepped in front of Tully, trailing her hand through the air an inch from his flesh down to his chest, releasing him from the paralysis Steel had set upon him.

Tully gasped in relief and almost fell. All that had happened to him since these two had shown up came crushing down then and he found himself crying. Sapphire took his hands in a comforting gesture and led him to a chair as he spoke. "Please! I'm so frightened! I didn't think I'd ever be this frightened after so many years of hauntings but I am. I'm scared silly! I mean the way I deserted the pair of you!"

"Sit down," Sapphire urged, pushing him into the chair.

He willed calm upon himself but it took a great deal out of him. "I did, I deserted you! B-but it -- it frightened me you see..." he cradled his cross desperately, "even my prayers didn't seem to work."

Sapphire sat beside him and took his shaking hands between her own. "Mr. Tully...."

"Yes?" he asked weakly.

"It's gone."

"What?" Tully pleaded in silence that it was true.

"The darkness. It's not here anymore." Sapphire felt her partner watching her, sensed his mind working intently over the problem.

"And the ghosts of those poor lads?" Tully asked.

"They've also gone." There was a pulse of doubt from Steel.

"In peace, do you think?"

"We hope so."

Sapphire turned her head slightly and cast a look at Steel. {Do you want him to stay?}

There was a brief jealous flash before he asked her back, [Don't you?] Sapphire smiled at Tully again.

Tully was encouraged. "Because they deserve peace, you know, those poor lads. With all their problems, their bad luck, it isn't fair!"

Steel winced at that.

"What isn't fair?" Sapphire asked.

"Well th-there they are, looking for peace after death, after such short lives and -- here am I, hoping for peace in my old age."

Steel's head snapped around. He stared at Tully for a long moment. There was the silent feeling, so long familiar to him, of having the answer. He moved to the door of the reception area and sent to his partner a summons. [Sapphire?]

Sapphire gave Tully's wrist a quick squeeze and followed Steel as Tully trailed off his last sentence. "It's all I -- it's all I want."

Steel stood staring up into the hotel. Sapphire closed the door behind her and asked, "Well?"

"The darkness hasn't really gone, has it."

He was masking his thoughts from her. A dawning suspicion made her watch him. "As far as WE are concerned, yes."

"But it's playing games with time." He turned and stalked to her, indignation masking his thoughts still more. "USING time against US, isn't it!"

She reluctantly agreed, "Yes."

"Therefore, in its own way, it must be around here somewhere."

The silent pattern of solution-found briefly pierced Steel's strong masking. That he would keep it from her set alarm bells ringing in Sapphire's mind. She turned away to hide it. "I suppose so."

"Good." Steel snatched up a chair and moved it to the center of the reception area.

Sapphire suddenly knew what he intended her to do, but that did not frighten her as much as what he was hiding from her did. "I can't do that, Steel!"

"Can't do what?"

"I can't take time back twelve days!"

"I don't want you to." He hunched his shoulders then spun and caught Sapphire's wrist, avoiding her eyes. "I want IT to take us back. Can you make contact with it?"

She shied away, alarms ringing loudly in her mind. "Make contact with the darkness?"


Sapphire wanted to say no, but honesty compelled her. "Possibly if I tried."

"Then try."

She glared at him warily. "Look, it's hardly likely to -- "

"Cooperate?" He released her wrist and courteously urged her into the chair. "I think it will." She balked, glaring at him. He said softly, "I want to make a deal with the darkness."

That did not reassure her. "You want me to negotiate the deal?"

Steel evaded the question Sapphire was really asking, the why-are-you-keeping-it-from-me? question. "No, I'll do that. AFTER it's taken us back."

Sapphire reluctantly stepped closer to the chair "Just the two of us?" she probed.

He was silent for a moment. "Yes." Sapphire sat down, Steel set his hands gently on her shoulders. "... And Mr. Tully." He held her down as she almost sprang from the chair. They briefly fought each other on a mental level, Sapphire digging for his intention, digging for why it included Tully.

In the buffet, Tully held his cross against his lips, trying to draw courage from it.

She had not managed to get Steel to reveal his decision, but he had reassured her that she was not part of it, as she had been afraid. Now Sapphire sat in the chair, eyes closed and head tilted back, thoughts tossed on waves of time. "It may not give us a second chance, Steel."

He still held her shoulders, gently now. "There's no real guarantee it's given us a first one yet."

She shook her head in agreement. "No."

"Who says we're safe, here in storage? Find it, Sapphire. Find the darkness!"

Sapphire started to push back against the forward tide. Suddenly she remembered, "Tully!"

Steel released her shoulders. "Wait for me." He opened the buffet doors and came face to face with Tully. Steel hesitated for an instant, then closed the doors behind him. "Sapphire asked you to rest!"

The older man trembled. "She did, yes."

"Then, sit down and rest," Steel gestured at a chair. Tully eyed it reluctantly as though he were afraid it would bite. "It's for your own good, Mr. Tully!" the blond told him, pulling out the chair.

"What is?"

Steel turned a disconcertingly innocent look on Tully. "You've been frightened, you said so yourself."

"Yes," Tully agreed nervously.

"Well then you should sit down and rest! Calm yourself."

Tully wearily obeyed him and sat down leaning back in the chair. "All right."

"That's better." Steel bent down beside Tully and asked curiously, "How old are you, fifty-three?"

"Fifty-two," Tully answered.

Steel nodded interestedly. "Fifty-two. Oh, well well." He stood up and started for the door. "All the more reason to take care of yourself."

The strange kindness Steel was showing confused Tully. "You'd rather I didn't leave, then?" That Steel stopped just before the door and stood quite still did not help. Tully clarified, "Go home," thinking perhaps the young man did not understand him. Steel turned around and stared steadily at Tully, his brow furrowed in thought. Tully turned away from the steady gaze feeling ashamed of himself. "Not because of the promise I made, I realize that was wrong. That was as bad as making a promise to the Devil."

Steel shifted slightly. "And THAT would never do," he agreed.

"No. I -- I... I wanted to leave just because I was frightened, it's just that... I don't feel that I'm of any USE at all. My faith... has taken a knock, you see."

Steel moved away from the door and sat in a chair beside Tully. He hesitated. "Oh, well... we'd rather you stayed," he finally said.


"We need you."


"*I* need you," Steel said earnestly.

Tully gaped at him, amazed. "You? I never thought I'd... ever hear that kind of admission." He chuckled wearily. "YOU needing me!"

"All right I was... I was wrong about you." Steel idly picked up Tully's cross and pocketed it.

"Well that's easy enough to -- " began Tully.

Suddenly Steel was closer to his usual temperament, interrupting Tully, "You just sit there and relax. Sapphire and I uh... have things to discuss." He was on his feet and heading for the doors again.

"What things?" worried Tully.

"Private things."


Steel started out the door, then stopped and came back in to sit beside Tully again. Cocking his head he asked curiously, "By the way, Mr. Tully, do you have a family?"

"A family?" the startled man repeated.

"At home."

Confused, Tully answered, "No I -- I live alone. Except for my cat, I have a cat. Nelson."


"He's only got one eye, you see."

Steel didn't see. "Oh," he looked away from Tully guiltily.

Tully hastened to reassure him. "Yes but don't worry, my neighbor always feeds him, when I'm not there."

Somehow, Steel managed to accomplish looking both relieved and ill at the same time. "Oh! Good." He stood abruptly and walked into the reception area, closing the door behind him. Tully gazed after him and shrugged.

Steel joined Sapphire. "Now. Quickly!"

"What's Tully doing?" she asked worriedly.


She closed her eyes, then opened them and looked at him. "This deal you want me to make -- "

"NOW, Sapphire."

She shook her head. "What exactly is it?"

Steel avoided her eyes, setting off the alarm bells again. "I can't tell you. Not yet."

She grabbed his hand nervously. "If I'm to make contact with the darkness -- "

Steel pulled his hand free and put her's in her lap. "That's ALL I want you to do, make contact with it."

She straightened up, "All right." As he took his hands off her shoulders she delayed longer. "But if I DO make contact with it..."

"It may decide to come back," he responded in her ear.

"It can't come BACK, it can only come forward -- "


Sapphire tried again to get him to understand the danger he would be in, not just her. "It may well decide it wants to do its bargaining from here!"

"From this room -- "

"Well from SOMEwhere here! You could be face to face with it, Steel! Do you realize that?!"


His determination finally decided her. "All right. But WATCH for it. I may not be able to help you. Please be careful!" she pleaded, closing her eyes. Steel hesitated, then set a hand on her shoulder communicating in a brief pulse all the reassurance he could muster.

Sapphire reached back along time, along life and living. Her voice generated from the strength of her powerful mind carried a firm command back twelve days. {We wish to talk with you. We have something to say to you!} Twelve days earlier the ghosts stood on the platform and stirred restlessly, drawn to answer the command. Sam held them there, though. {Something important. Something important, very important. We wish to make contact with you, as soon as possible.}

The first five stared at each other in confusion. Some of them ached to answer her, to talk to a living person. Sam's remembered nerves were on edge as he shunted away the main force of the call. The youngest of them all, the boy from the submarine, confronted Sam eagerly. "Us? They wanna talk to us?"

The pilot nodded, "Surely, it MUST be us!"

Sam Pierce shook his head, cold fear tugging at him. "No! Not us." For he knew -- felt -- where the call was directed. The whispering voice of the darkness heralded its arrival. The ghosts stepped aside as it made its way through their ranks. Through fishermen, firemen, women in gowns with low necklines, warriors and assorted general ghosts it came, making for the footbridge.

Sapphire shivered in the chair. "It's heard us, Steel. It's heard us. It's coming to us." Steel paced nervously near her. "It's stopped!"


Sapphire's brow furrowed as she concentrated. "It -- it's stopped somewhere!"

"Now?" Steel came to her side. "In the time we're in?"

"No. In its own time. Almost, it's... it's the footbridge, it's on the footbridge! That's the between point! That's the halfway point!" Sapphire followed the darkness, watching through blurry mental eyes as it plowed down an empty staircase. "It's moving again!"

Steel stepped to the stairs and looked alertly at her. "Still in its own time?"

She shook her head. "No. It's crossed over. Into ours." The darkness, not visible just now, tumbled its way out the booking hall door onto the platform. It tossed leaves and paper aside as it passed, heading for the buffet door. "It's coming, Steel."

Sapphire abruptly stood up. {Be careful, Steel,} and sank back into the chair.

Tully had been dozing, when the soft whispering sound woke him. He stared nervously around. Briefly he considered going into the reception area to see if that was where it was coming from, but he knew it wasn't. The noise came from the platform. As though hit by a high wind the buffet doors slammed open. An invisible presence hurtled toward Tully who screamed once and fell aside.

Steel looked around as the doors to the buffet opened. In a moment they slammed shut again. Without volition his feet took him further up the stairs. He spoke arrogantly to the darkness, wondering where it was. "I sent for you. I want to talk to you." There was no reaction anywhere. Steel nervously came to the floor. "Let's talk, shall we? I have something of importance I want to discuss with you. A deal. Well a... a transaction." He walked over to where Sapphire sat, trying to keep an eye on the whole room at the same time. "So where are you? I can't very well discuss something of importance if I can't see you, can I? You're here. I know you're here. So why not show yourself?" Steel found the continued silence and absence of response fraying on his nerves. He started to pace. "We've seen you before, seen you as the darkness. So let's see you now. Here, on the stairs if you like. Neutral ground!" His voice was as sincere as it ever got, which meant not very much at all. "No? All right, we'll... forget the whole thing. I'm in no mood to play cat and mouse. As far as I'm concerned you're not here! You've gone! You never arrived!" He stalked toward the door, shaking his head like an annoyed cat. "The deal is OFF! Come on, Sapphire. It's not here, it's not interested, so let's go, let's not waste our time." Sapphire didn't move. Steel hesitated at the door, then came back. "Sapphire! Wake up, it's time to go." She still didn't move. Nervously Steel snapped his fingers. "I said wake up! It's not here. It's not interested. If it is it's... not interested. Come on."

Sapphire spoke suddenly, her voice like glacial ice. "It's here."

"What?" Steel jumped, startled.

"I said it's here."

Steel looked around but there was nothing. Doubtful, he asked her, "Where?"

"Here." She opened her eyes. Both of her eyes were pitch black, the entire eyeballs filled with thick blackness. Steel gasped, taking an inadvertent step back. The darkness had cut him off from her. "Don't play games with it. It's inside my head, it's inside my brain. And I can't see you because it has my eyes. It's watching you and listening to you through my eyes." Her head angled toward him where he stood behind her. The darkness was speaking in third person, letting him know how much control it had taken. "So please don't try to trick it. It could take my eyes. And my mind. It could snuff out my mind as easily as you could snuff out a candle."

For a moment the darkness released Sapphire. She was nearly in a panic what with having her mind cruelly invaded. "Steel..! I can't see you...!"

"I'm here..!" he whispered. Then he said firmly, "I understand what's been said."

The darkness took complete control again, cold dead tones falling from Sapphire's lips as she sat stiffly. It wasn't accustomed to holding a body. "Good because you asked for it to come."

"I did, yes."

"Well it's here so ask your questions."

"I don't have any questions; just a proposal. ONE proposal."

Steel could sense puzzlement. "What is it?"

"The darkness thrives on resentment. Am I right?"

"That's right, yes."

Steel nodded to himself. "It's parasitic. Resentment is... food and drink to it. Blood and tissue. Right again?"

Sapphire's head jerked angrily. "These are questions -- "

"No they're not. They're statements, they're facts. Am I right or not?" he demanded coldly.

It sniffed. "You're right to a degree."

"To a degree...." Steel paced away. The darkness turned slightly, trying to locate him but it was unaccustomed to having eyes and could not see him. Steel slipped a hand into his pocket, bringing out Tully's cross. He dangled it and enticed the darkness. "I have something to offer! An original... source of resentment. A real reason for resentment. It's an offer, but it can't be bought cheaply."

"Describe the offer."

"Sorry, no." Steel flipped the cross in his hands.

The darkness curled Sapphire's lips in frustration. The game wasn't as fun when its toys did not play. It spoke sickly sweet. "Please, Steel, do as it says!"

Steel was having none of that. He controlled his anger at the tactic and made himself sound bored. "And tell it not to try that. It's either you negotiating, or IT."

Oh, this game was getting less fun by the moment! "All right," it growled, facing forward again.

Steel came close. "Now, what about my offer?"

"It's not interested." The darkness was determined not to be.


"No, it already has its own source of resentment. It's happy enough with that."

Steel stepped into its field of vision, dangling something small from his hands. The darkness peered at it, but whatever it was there was no comprehension of it. "Then it has poor judgement, doesn't it?" Steel lifted the cross to eye level and studied it. "Or blind faith. I mean what has it got? The spirit of some kid of a soldier, who died at the wrong time when his war was over? The ghosts of three young men who were trapped in a submarine they didn't belong in?" The darkness closed Sapphire's eyes, trying to scan her mind for what Steel was leading up to. "... Some lost soul of a pilot who risked his life flying a death-trap because no one would let him fly with them! I mean you -- you call that resentment?!"

The darkness pouted, it disliked being sneered at. "There are others. Many of them."

"Yes? I expect they're all third-rate grievances as well." He walked to the other side of the room and sat down in a shadowy corner where the dark had no hope of seeing him.

It looked around, then said sweetly, "Steel..?"


The darkness snarled and snapped, "Please don't make it angry, Steel!"

"By telling it the truth?"

"Please...." For a moment it fell silent. Steel eyed Sapphire's body from his refuge. Finally it said timidly, "I can't see you, Steel. Come back to me?" It held out her arms invitingly. "Where are you?"

"I'm here."

The body turned like it was on a spring, arms held out stiffly towards him. "Please take my hands. Please, Steel. I'm frightened."

He knew, knew without any question that this was the darkness speaking. He also knew he wasn't going to get anywhere if he did not give it some ground to feel it had. He started to go there, then hesitated. Tully's cross gave the old man courage. Well, why not? He slipped it on. Steel steadied himself, then crossed the room tentatively. He raised his hands and reluctantly slid them into Sapphire's. Her fingers clamped around his and a rush of brilliant pain sliced up his arms. He choked back a cry as his knees buckled until he knelt beside the chair. The darkness dragged him close, holding him helpless, eyes wide with pain.

"Thank you."

Steel struggled to speak against the pain. "Tell it Sapphire! Tell it... what I'm offering could... give it enough negative energy, enough resentment to last for -- " The darkness doubled its charge and Steel gasped out the rest of his sentence. "F-f-f-five hundred years maybe even a thousand years!"

"It wants to know."

"And I'm prepared to tell it but not here, not twelve days out of time! Tell it to take us back, all three of us back to where we were and I -- " he choked on the pain, "-I'll explain the nature of my offer!" He was losing the struggle, beginning to black out.

"Every last detail of it!"

Steel twisted away, "Yes! But only if it... takes us back!"

It considered as he began to slump in its hold. "It will take you back -- "

"No! No good! All three of us, or none of us!"

The darkness decided it could make that one concession. "It agrees." But for good measure it sent a strong shock up his arms.

He choked before he could answer. "Good! W-when do we go back?"

"Soon. It will go back. It will meet us where we were."

The sharp pain snapped away, leaving Steel trembling so badly he almost failed to catch Sapphire as her body slumped forward. He eased her into a sitting position, taking in the pale, clammy skin and weak breathing. His voice shook. "Sapphire..!" The bright blue-black eyes shot open and they stared at each other in relief. Sapphire hugged Steel tight and automatically soothed jagged nerve endings that still remembered pain. Steel tightened his hold and broadcast thankful relief to her and an underlying message somewhere along the line of "I was terrified I'd lose you."

A creaking sound brought their attention back to the present. The darkness had opened the buffet doors and gone out them. Steel started for them, pausing briefly to take off Tully's cross. He went in and set it back on the table. Tully looked up from where he trembled in a seat.

"You said it had gone!" he accused.

Steel shrugged. "It has." He put his head out the doors again and summoned Sapphire. "This way."

He was still hiding something from her and it made her uneasy. "Does it matter where we are when it takes us back?"

"Yes. I want it to be on the footbridge." His recent session with the darkness had not improved his temperament any. Steel stalked back into the buffet. "On your feet, Mr. Tully." Tully huddled in the chair, ignoring Steel. A palm came down square in his back and the older man found himself dragged to his feet. "We don't have much time," he was informed coldly.

"But I -- I saw it something came through here!" he snatched up his cross.

"I asked you to rest."

"But I saw!"

Steel rushed him toward the doors. "Did you get some rest?"

"Not really, no!" Tully rallied angrily.

"Fine." He hauled Tully out onto the platform.

Sapphire demanded behind them, "Why the footbridge?"

"What?" Steel asked her.

"I said why the footbridge?"

Steel's innocent surprise did not reassure her. He was up to something. "You said it was a half-way point, a between-point!"

"For anything that wants to CROSS time, yes."

"Well we're crossing time, aren't we?"

Tully exploded, "We're what?!"

Steel propelled Tully across the platform, hearing Sapphire behind him, "No Steel!" He rushed Tully into the booking hall and shut the door behind them, turning to head for the stairs and walking straight into Sapphire, who had simply teleported in. "No, Steel. We are being TAKEN back." Her eyes accused him of endangering them on a whim.

Steel narrowed his eyes at her. "That's what I don't like, not being responsible for my OWN actions." He tried to shove past her, but she didn't let him. Impatiently he said, "Could we hurry, please?"

"*I* negotiated this deal, remember?" she responded angrily.

Steel let the stunned Tully go and glared fiercely at his partner, who met him with equal fierceness. "The deal still stands. Except for one amendment clause." He stepped past her and went upstairs to the footbridge. Checking the hole he had made long ago that still provided a clear view of the platform, he shrugged with satisfaction and came back down to his two fellow prisoners.

"I've already warned you about the darkness, Steel! You can't play tricks with it!"

"I realize that," Steel said coolly.

Tully asked, "Could I -- would someone mind telling me what -- "

Steel turned. "YES! I'll tell you." He stood beside Tully and tried to explain. "We're going back twelve days. Well, not exactly twelve. Eleven. It means that you will lose one day of your life, you can afford that."

Tully gaped at him. "One day? One -- "

Sapphire interrupted Tully, her eyes fixed on her partner. "Steel," she began.

"It's easy," he said calmly.


"For YOU!"

Steel had the distinct feeling that after this mission he would be treated to a full string of words he had never heard Sapphire use before. "Easy?! What I did just now was not EASY, that was dangerous!"

"Exactly. That's why I want to be one day ahead of the darkness." Sapphire looked away from him stubbornly. He asked hopefully, "You can HOLD time for a day, can't you?"

"Yes," she finally admitted.

"Well then." That settled, Steel grabbed Tully again and started dragging him up the stairs. As he dragged, he chatted. "While we're being taken back twelve days, we'll jump off at eleven!"

"Jump off?" the bewildered man asked.

"Mr. Tully, if you're in an elevator and the button has been pushed and there's somebody on the ground floor you're not sure of, what do you do?"

"You get off on the floor above."

Steel prompted, "And you...?"

"Y-you walk the rest."

"Right!" Outside the light began fading to black as time reversed. Steel turned quickly to his partner. "You must do it, Sapphire!" She stared at him silently and he tried to reassure her. "I won't trick it anymore I promise!" At her continued hesitation he urged, "It's only one day, out of twelve!"

Sapphire joined them reluctantly. She eyed Steel warily but turned to Tully. "Mr. Tully?" She took his hand and led him onto the footbridge saying, "It'll be all right, Mr. Tully."

"You promise?" he asked timidly.

"I promise."

Tully sighed. "If I could be of any -- "

Steel reached out to Tully abruptly. "Take my hand." The two led him to the center of the footbridge and joined hands with each other as well. Tully was silently relieved, he had been feeling suspiciously like a sacrificial lamb.

They formed a triangle and huddled together. Sapphire began her countdown, allowing Tully to hear it. {Stillness,} she announced as time took a breath before dragging itself back a day. {Mark... eleven.} As night returned and became day again she counted off. {Ten. Nine. Eight.} The candle appeared in the buffet beside Tully's sandwich. {Seven.}} Tully's bag disappeared from the floor to reappear on the table. {Six. Five.} The sandwich disappeared, returning to its box. {Four.} The candle was lighted, Tully's bag moved to another table. {Three. Two.} The lamps lighted around the whole station.

Steel interrupted softly. [Now, Sapphire. Now.] She locked on and time stumbled to a halt around them. They stood in the dark, eyes darting nervously around.

"One day?" Steel asked.

Sapphire took a breath. "Twenty-two point seven-three-six hours."

They ignored Tully's shocked look. "Well that's close enough." Steel looked out the hole at the platform, then stepped back and gestured Tully forward. "Look...." A long line of ghosts stood on the platform. More were appearing every second. Sapphire looked too, and shook her head.

A day earlier the darkness rushed across the platform and entered the reception area. It stopped, confused. Where were they?

Sam lifted his head warily. Something was different, he could feel it. He cautiously followed the trail, entering the reception area and looking around. Suddenly what he was feeling came clearly from the booking hall.

The three living people came cautiously down the stairs. Steel looked around at the older man. "Tully!" When Tully joined him, he said urgently, "Go back up on the footbridge. Wait there!"

"Wait there?"

"Yes. Exactly where we were before. And keep watch."

Ah! "The platform!"

"Yes, go!" Steel urged.

Tully started up but asked hopefully, "You still need me then?"

Steel gave him the strangest wide-eyed look and touched his shoulder. "Oh yes. We need you."

"Oh!" Delighted, Tully hurried to his post.

Steel stared after him for a long moment, clenching his fist unconsciously. He turned slowly and joined Sapphire at the bottom of the stairs. They started for the door when Sapphire sensed the soldier. "Steel!"

Sam Pierce stepped out of the shadows. He eyed the two blonde living people uncertainly, but held onto his dignity. "And we thought you'd gone!"

Steel sniffed arrogantly. "Us? No. But we will leave, unlike you. You'll never go. You'll never leave this place!" He and Sapphire stood firmly, unshakable together.

Sam moved forward challenging Steel. "Oh, we're goin'!"


"Soon!" Steel snorted and paced by the ghost. "We're all here now! We'll be goin' soon!"

Steel stopped and looked at Pierce. "Where? Exactly WHERE will you be going?"

The soldier looked smugly over his shoulder at Steel. "We're goin' to live again!" Steel rolled his eyes in disbelief.

"We are!" Sam defended himself.

"And that's what it's told you?"

"Yes!" Sam said cheerfully.

"To live WHERE? How? To live your own lives, again?"

Sam snorted, "No!"

Steel tossed his head in mock amazement. "NEW lives! Is that what it's promised you!"

"In a way, yes!" Pierce eyed Steel warily, not liking the gleam in the man's eye.

"Tell him, Sapphire."

Unable to prevent himself, Sam looked at the lovely woman.

She stepped close to him. "It can't be done. It can't be done because of the nature of the power that is using you. It thrives on the resentment of the DEAD."

Steel drove the dagger in coldly. "So what use would YOU be to it alive?"

Sapphire continued, her voice gentle and sad. "Once the others have arrived, it'll start at the beginning again, with you."

He struggled for doubt. "Me."

"Yes you. You will arrive here again, alone, and you will start to wait for the others. It's like a loop, like a circle. It is feeding on YOU, therefore it cannot let you go."

"Forever and ever, Pierce!" Steel interjected. "You'll never see those green fields, or those hot summer days. Forever and ever, the same motions, the same actions, the same cycle over and o -- "

Sam had begun to shake his head all through this, and now he interrupted harshly. "Oh, no...." denying their words with his heart.

Steel started to pace. "And when they pull this place down, and build something new, you'll still be here! Walking up and down, whistling your song, waiting! Forever and ever!" The blond man stalked into the waiting room, wondering how much longer they had.

Sam tried to ignore the tears gathering in his eyes. "Can't be like that! We were promised!" he called past Sapphire.

"Sorry!" the cheerless voice called back.

His breath catching, heart hurting, Sam managed to say, "We were! I mean I'd rather...." He trailed off and met Sapphire's kind eyes.

Steel appeared in the doorway. "What?" he asked, coming over.

The soldier answered him faintly, "I'd rather go back, go back for good an' all! Well we ALL would!" He looked from one to the other, begging them to show one hint that what they were saying was not true. They gave no such sign and he backed away from them, trembling. "No. No. Not this place! Not for always! No!!"

"I can make sure," Steel said firmly.


"That you go back."

Hope tangled his throat, Sam had a responsibility to the others whom he had called into this mess. "All of us?"


Sam remembered how Sapphire had helped Steel escape the trap they set with the pilot's death. He also remembered how they had overwhelmed Steel after the seance. "But it won't let us...."

Steel smiled a quick, dangerous smile. "Oh it will. You leave it to ME." The blond held out his hand. Pierce eyed it, remembering the last time Steel had done that. Then he took it and realized in shock that somehow Steel was making it so that they could actually touch. He shook it firmly, a promise made that would be kept.

A whispering came from outside and the doors slammed open. Pierce vanished quickly with a silent, it's-up-to-you-now, to Steel. Steel dropped his hand and looked for the darkness. Behind him Sapphire suddenly stiffened. She covered her face and staggered jerkingly toward him. The sound of her footsteps alerted Steel and he turned. "Sapphire!" He reached for her only to draw back with a horrified gasp as she dropped her hands.

Her face was gone, replaced by raw and twisted flesh with no mouth, nose or eyes. The flesh looked swollen and bruised. Steel backed nearly halfway across the booking hall before he regained control of himself and held his ground. The darkness propelled Sapphire's body after him until it was bare inches away. Steel spoke through clenched teeth, his knees threatened to give away under him. "It's all right!! There are no tricks, the deal still stands!" His eyes were riveted to her face, he wondered if she felt any pain or if she was unconscious in there. "The transaction... your negotiable goods are here, on the platform, we've brought ours with us!" He couldn't take it anymore and backed up a few steps from the scent of burned flesh. She followed. "For exchange of... all of your dead we give you... one of the living. Someone who is due to die in approximately five years time!" His thighs came up against a table and he wished he had something like Tully's cross to give him courage as the dark propelled Sapphire's invaded body forward. "Time of death is... not estimated, it is -- it is KNOWN! This is recorded!! Take him now and you will have the resentment I promised you!" Steel quelled his panic and managed to take a step forward. He stumbled back though as she came closer. "Not from him! He doesn't matter, but from time itself, you will have damaged time! Perhaps even future history! And that could cause havoc, in high places!" She stopped moving. Steel edged away, his teeth chattering. "Is it a deal? Your ghosts who remain dead... for one living subject who isn't due to die... for approximately five years..?" There was no response. "Well?" Harshly he demanded, "Well?!"

The darkness released her so suddenly that Steel almost let her fall before he caught her. Sapphire raised her head, knowing now why he had hidden his decision from her. "Not Tully!" she pleaded.

"Yes." His throat closed as he said it.

"But I promised..."

He closed his eyes, stricken with self-loathing. "It has to be." Sapphire pulled away from him and Steel moved quickly to look out onto the platform. It was dark out there, yes, but empty. "It's gone! They've all gone!" The guilt vanished in the face of victory. Steel joined Sapphire where she stood, chin in hand. "Now for OUR part of the deal."

Sapphire looked up the stairs. Steel followed her eyes and found himself staring at Tully, who stood on the landing. Sapphire bowed her head and walked out, sending a quiet pulse back of, you-chose-this-course-it's-all-yours.

Steel drew himself up and gazed at Tully. The older man stared back for a long moment, wondering why Sapphire had left like that. "Steel..?" he ventured hesitantly.

Steel opened his mouth, shut it, then finally said, "Yes?"

"I wondered how we were doing."

The young man nodded slowly, blinking. "We're doing fine." Steel found he was having trouble speaking. He could not explain it to Tully, that the darkness would take the force of Tully's lifetime of resentment to represent the resentment of time and powerful beings on other worlds. The darkness had a sense of vanity Steel had appealed to. He blinked again and licked his lips. "You just... wait up there. Where I told you to wait."

"Right," said Tully, trusting.

That trust stabbed through Steel, worse than the darkness, for that had been a foreign pain forced on him. He started to speak, felt his throat close again but managed, "We'll be leaving soon."

"Do I need to collect my things?"

Steel shuddered. "We'll let you know," he said softly.

Tully frowned, trying to read Steel's mood. Granted, one evening in the young man's company was not enough to understand anyone, much less this mercurial fellow, but something was definitely wrong. By now Steel should have shouted or simply snapped his impatience at Tully. From above Tully heard suddenly the soft whispering that heralded the darkness' approach. He broke out in a light sweat, words he had said earlier passing through his mine. A promise to the devil. Well it was a payment, perhaps, for abandoning them. He looked down at Steel and mustered a smile. "Winning are we?"

This time the shudder that passed through Steel was strong enough to be seen. Somehow it made Tully feel better. "Yes," the younger man answered.

Steel watched Tully mount the stairs, feeling sick to the heart and fighting it with all his might. I don't sleep, I don't cry, he told himself. He is only a human, really. Neither statement helped the moment Tully's horrified death-scream cut the air. Steel stood frozen a moment longer before turning and stepping heavily out onto the platform.

Sapphire stood there, her eyes closed in tight grief.

"They have all gone," he said, silently asking her to confirm it.

"Yes." She turned away from him.

"You sense nothing anymore?"

"No. There's only that." Among the dead plants in the flowerpot at her feet stood out one live one. A plant with two violet bell-shaped blooms, a wild-flower of simple, piercing beauty. "That's all that's left." Sapphire knelt and touched the blooms gently. "It's a Pasque flower." She picked one bloom and stood back up, cradling it in her fingers, tracing the line of its petals. "They only bloom at Eastertide."

Steel felt his throat close again. "But it's late October."

"I know. I think you said it once."

He frowned. "I said what once?"

She caressed the bloom. "There must be something wrong with a ghost that has feelings." With that Sapphire sniffed the bloom, and abruptly turned away from Steel, vanishing as she did so.

Steel raised an eyebrow. A bit melodramatic, partner. He sighed to himself and crossed the platform, and in relief that they had successfully completed their assignment, leaped into the air, vanishing at the height of his jump.

Pack up your troubles in your old Kit bag
and smile, smile, smile.
While you've a Lucifer to light your fag,
smile boys that's the style!
What's the use of worrying,
it never was worthwhile,
so pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
and smile, smile, smile.

Back to Sapphire & Steel .