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Interlude Thirtyfour point Two, Wanderer No More

The next morning, PC had awoken early. Her head was still a little achey from the night before, but she had some things she wanted to do outside the complex and thus had to get her in complex duties done. Among those duties were the processing of the various logs and records the complex made. She had arranged automation of most of it but she still had to manually check to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks.

After a little while of reading...a look of shock and concern rode her face. She heard a noise behind her, and noticed the Wanderer walking by.

"Wanderer, do you have a moment?" PC said.

"Certainly," he responded, "several moments, in fact."

PC called up on the screen several communication logs she had found attached to the Wanderer. Each of them involved extraterrestrial communication. She then wheeled around in her chair and looked straight at the Wanderer. "Explain, please." she said.

"Gladly, said the Wanderer approaching the console. "May I?" he extracted a small diskette and reassured PC with a wink, "Don't worry, it's clean." With a few keystrokes, after accessing the storage device, the screen flooded into a cosmic scene. "This is, or was, home for me and my people. You may recognize it as what you people named Io, the innermost of Jupiter's moons." The alien continued after sighing at a volcanic eruption on the surface, "it wasn't always like that, you know."

"Regardless, my people no longer live there for obvious reasons taking up the nomadic way of life around the universe." He brushed off his overcoat, "The Wanderer is not just a name, but a way of life for my kind." With a tilt of his hat, he struck a roguish pose and continued. "We are governed by a Council of sorts, a group of stodgy-old men that have been around since the creation, and destruction, of Io." The Wanderer began to wax poetically as if he was quoting some ancient edict, "...thrust from our homeland the Council thereby mandates exploration of the universe to further knowledge and experiences without interference...," adding in a whisper as an aside, "which I'm not good at, never have been."

The Wanderer pulled up the communication logs and split the screen to show the cosmic map of the known galaxy. Blips of light began to spring up on the map as log entries were displayed. "These are locations of my countrymen, or rather planetmen whose assignments are being adjusted." He snuck a peek at PC and clarified.

"My time here is done. I've been relocated, shipped-out, skeedaddled, transferred, sent-on-my-way. But!" he offered to soften the blow, "I could be reassigned to earth, in a couple of centuries or so, one never knows."

Done, the Wanderer sat down, "it hasn't been easy, knowing that this could come. I had hoped to tell everyone sooner, but with Flex's joyous occasion and all, I didn't want to put a damper on things, you understand."

Stunned, PC muttered. "Damn, we have become a revolving door." to no one in particular. "I think this is something you need to tell everyone." She looked at the was 8:30 AM. She began to contact the team, starting at the head.

"Got it!" Jim replied as he placed his Protectors Cell back in his back pocket. Not a moment to soon as Sarge rejoined him. Things had been busy as they'd been working on refurbishing one of the wings in the house. "Everything ok, Jim?" He asked in his good natured way. "Yeah, yeah. Nothing to worry about." Since it was likely that Sarge had heard him use the phone Jim decided to cover go for broke. I got a call from the, err boss. He err wants to see me." Sarge raised an eyebrow, he looked as curious as Jim felt. "Yeah, go figure! Well I'll finish up here and then meet up."

Jim still didn't like lying to the Sarge, but at least it was only a partial lie. From what PC had said over the phone, he had to wonder what was coming.

A little while later Flex stood ready at the Fortress, waiting to for the other to arrive.

One by one, they trickled in, made themselves both whatever beverage they preferred and comfortable. The second to last to arrive was the Mystic, whom PC had invited due to the nature of the business. When Sting arrived a few minutes late and the subject of several "slowpoke" jokes, the company was assembled.

Once everyone was settled and varied drinks were served, PC nodded to the Wanderer. "The floor is yours, my friend."

The Wanderer stood up and walked to the console, leaning against it casually. "You may be wondering why you have been called here. You're fired!" Oh how the Wanderer loved television! "But seriously...," he began somberly. Over the next fifteen minutes the Wanderer once again gave his presentation on Io and the brief history of his long-lived people. While he remained composed when telling PC earlier, the alien broke up when it came to informing the group of his reassignment. Part informational, part nostalgic the Wanderer mixed in some of his favorite times, sharing the Fortress, and the wonderful things he learned from a strange, yet enjoyable species. He removed his hat and goggles revealing himself as Simmon Marious, the reclusive philanthropist, and detailed about how I.O. Mining was a business started and maintained over a century ago by an extensive corporate structure. Marious, he explained, would be just a memory once he was gone but he hoped his ideals would continue.

In a tone of debriefing, the Wanderer broke down his future plans (or what he understood them to be) and tied up whatever loose ends he could. He had made arrangements for the Wander-No-More House to continue as part of a foundation placing Granny as overseer and asked Jim to keep an eye on things, because everyone needs a place to stay. Other ventures and Fortress duties would naturally pass along to The Protectors and their good work.

"As I told PC, I could end up back here," he said through tears, "However time is short, I am afraid."

As he listened intently to what the Wanderer had said, Flex found himself assailed by a series of powerful waves of emotion. He wasn't sure how he felt and found himself oscillating between anger and rebellion, wanting to tell the Wanderer to 'stuff his bosses' and sadness at the thought of his departure.

The thought that they would perhaps never see him again was perhaps hardest to bare of all. As he listened he also found himself many times wanting to interject, to speak but the words just wouldn't come out. Finally upon hearing the mention of Granny's name he managed to interject, "You, you will say goodbye to them won't you? You can't leave her without saying goodbye one last time!" Flex added almost as a statement. Granny was strong she would take things well - but right at that time Flex felt frail and vulnerable.

"Of course, I plan on addressing the entire House staff before I leave," affirmed the Wanderer.

Flex nodded, "They'll appreciate that. It'll give them a chance to thank you...before you go.!" Flex stopped before he said anything else he might regret.

"I don't know what to say," Defender said. "You have always been the heart and soul of this team. I've looked to you in times when I was unsure of myself. Your confidence and poise helped shape this group. And you have been my friend for a long time. I am going to miss you."

"And I will you, all of you," he said. "No matter how many times I have done this, it never gets easier. The Protectors are in very capable hands, as is Port Alexander and the earth for that matter. I am honored to have been a small part of establishing this team and hereby bequeath the keys to the Fortress to you," he joked.

Sting surveyed the situation and took a deep breath before speaking. "Wanderer, I would love to be able to say everything the way it has been said to this point, but if there's one thing I can't respect, it's disingenuity. However, I do respect you enough to come clean with you. There have been points in our tenure of working together that, to be honest, I flat out haven't trusted you. "

"Your unwillingness until now to reveal your secret identity, when the rest of the team had, has always had this hackle of suspicion raised in the back of my head, even though by that time I had reason to believe you were Marious, based on what happened at Marie's party between you and Max back on the MUSE case. I also couldn't fathom why you felt the need to lie about being in England during the same week I was in England investigating the Ripper Case. There was too much mystery, and for a long time, I harbored suspicion of you turning on us. I think in part it was that edginess that led to my overall edginess against the Queen. I'm heartened to know that all of that, apparently, was a misunderstanding, and I would like to, quite simply, ask your forgiveness. Your actions in service to our world have spoken volumes, and I should have chosen to listen a bit more to that."

"Not to worry," soothed the Wanderer, "there is always more than meets the eye. And I'm sure the Protector's will discover and rediscover that very adage time and again." The Wanderer paced around a bit, "I do hate long goodbyes. Tomorrow is a busy day of tying up loose ends and I have so much to do."

Last Updated 9 February 2004