Into the Game
by Pam and Del

This series is a sequel to Recalled to Life

 

PROLOGUE

Ireland, 1803

 

Rory was five minutes late.

No, Archie corrected himself grimly after another glance at his watch, Rory
was almost *ten* minutes late.

*I'll give him five more minutes. Then I'll have to go on alone.*

They had tried to prepare for various contingencies, but in the end, no one
could predict what would happen once the game was in play. At least Rory
could think on his feet--if he was unable to make the rendezvous, he would
find some other way to pass the information along.

Information. Archie frowned to himself as he waited in the shadows. How
deeply had the French involved themselves in Robert Emmet's plans--and how
could they be stopped? During the last five months of observation, spent in
the company of other agents, Archie had come to realize that the bitter
hostility between England and Ireland would not be easily resolved, even with
Kilcarron's resources and ingenuity.

But that would not be their responsibility, fortunately. *Our part of the
job is only to stop the French involvement in this uprising--before it even
starts.*

OUR part of the job. *Dear God--I'm thinking like a spy.*

A year ago, that would have seemed impossible . . .

*****

PART ONE

Scotland, 1802

 

*Give me your word on all conditions. . .*

Archie Kennedy jerked awake with a faint shiver. Across from him, in the
closed carriage, Doctor Latour looked up, his eyes narrowed in concern as he
studied his erstwhile patient. On the far side of Latour sat Nicholas
Crawford, Earl of Kilcarron, Archie's new and somewhat involuntary employer.
He did not appear to notice Archie's unease, but Archie knew better by now;
he had learned, painfully, not to expect that Kilcarron was unaware of
anything.

Archie pressed his fingers cautiously against his forehead, trying to push
back the headache that had plagued him since the early morning. The carriage
was slowing--was that what had awakened him?

Slowing . . . and stopped. The door swung open and he saw a stone-paved
courtyard. Kilcarron descended first, then Latour.

The steps seemed a very long way down. The taut band of pain behind Archie's
eyes clenched even more tightly. He climbed down very slowly, leaning
against the side of the coach for support, feeling the stiffness of the long
journey in his knees.

Then he was out of the coach and his legs collapsed beneath him.

He fell against Latour, who went down with him just in time to keep his head
from striking the flagstones. He felt the doctor's hands on his forehead and
throat, then heard the older man begin to curse.

Everything *hurt* very suddenly--he discovered he was struggling to breathe
again, fighting away the urge to cough. From behind, hands pulled at his
shoulders until he could be propped upright, the air suddenly easier to find.

Crawford was snapping orders out somewhere; Archie couldn't concentrate long
enough to make out the words. Latour was still swearing steadily in back of
him. Then he was being lifted, lying on something hard and flat, and
moved--carried?--from the courtyard and indoors.

Hallways. . . doors . . . the band of pain in his head pulled tighter now.
Latour's voice again, then a cup.

"Now drink."

Someone else had said that, very long ago . . . he had even less choice now
than he had had then. He obeyed the voice--he thought it was Latour's.

And a great wall of darkness rose up and hit him.

*****

". . . told you I was concerned about a relapse. Fever, infection--if we're
very, very lucky, he *won't* start bleeding again."

An inaudible response.

"And then there are the other symptoms. Nerves, sleeplessness--and a general
excess of Crawford of Kilcarron!"

"He's my agent." Crawford, distinguishable this time.

"He's my *patient*! And he's under quarantine in the infirmary from this
moment: in bed at least two days for complete rest and no contact with you!"

"I need him working."

"You'll get him when he's ready to work. Not when he's half-dead, which is a
slight improvement over the three-quarters dead where you made me start with
him." Latour's tone sharpened. "Or is there an urgent reason that you need
him?"

"That's not your affair, doctor!"

"Then there's no hurry about it." An almost conversational tone now. "What
*are* your plans for him?"

"He's to go to Carmichael's division."

"Hm." A pause. "I haven't seen Carmichael all day."

"He'll be back at the end of the week. I want your patient up by then."

"I'm not promising you anything."

"I'll give you your two days, doctor. Make the best use of them that *he*
can."

The sound of departing footsteps. Archie lay with his eyes closed, breathing
evenly. He heard Latour approaching, then felt the doctor's baleful presence
at his bedside.

"I know exactly how long those drugs last, so don't try to fool me."

Trapped. Archie opened his eyes, met the doctor's basilisk stare.

"And why did you not inform me that you were feeling ill again?"

Archie found only one possible response. "In front of *him*?"

Latour swore again, felt for the pulse in Archie's wrist with one hand, and
pulled back the blanket with the other. "A grandparent of my acquaintance
used to say that beating was not only beneficial to the young, but sometimes
eminently desirable. You're lucky you still need to be in that bed."

The furious words echoed the stormcloud on the physician's face but both were
at variance with the light, careful hands that were undoing the bandages to
check Archie's wound.

"For that matter, you're still lucky to be alive at all." The probing hands
unexpectedly pressed down on a spot that made Archie's body jerk with raw
pain, and an audible gasp escaped him before he could prevent it.

Latour froze, and drew his hands back. Archie felt his face burning and
turned his head away, mortified, but also deeply shaken by the sudden, brief
agony. Fighting for composure, he lay with his eyes tightly shut, biting
down on his lower lip, feeling the tremors from the purely physical pain
still running through his body.

Latour gave him a few minutes, then resumed, just as gently but even more
slowly this time. Opening his eyes, Archie struggled to control his
breathing again, starting very shallowly until he could reestablish a kind of
rhythm. Latour's fingers found the tender spot again, and Archie froze.

"Here?" Latour inquired, and his patient nodded. "I see. This side didn't
heal quite as quickly as the rest of the wound--the damage must have gone
deeper. But not enough to be dangerous now," he finished reassuringly. "You
may have aggravated it when you fell."

Archie exhaled shakily and closed his eyes again, trying to collect himself.
He heard Latour walk away from the bedside and return.

"Drink this, it's for the pain."

Archie opened his eyes and obeyed without protest.

"When did the headache start?" Latour asked.

His patient stared at him. "How did you know about the headache?"

"While you were sedated. You weren't completely unconscious all that time,
you know."

Archie sighed. "It lasted most of the day, I think. I don't remember exactly
when it started."

"Is it still troubling you now?"

Archie shook his head. Latour's eyes were thoughtful. "Well," he said
slowly, as if to himself, then walked away from the bed again.

He was holding another draught when he returned.

"What's that?" Archie asked, warily eying the glass.

"A sedative. You need to rest, and I'm damned if I'm going to let you fret
yourself into another fever."

"Not --"Archie began, and encountered the basilisk stare again.

"Patients who make themselves worse," Latour said sternly, "have no business
balking at the medicines given them by their physicians." He relented
slightly at Archie's pleading look. "I give you my word it's not laudanum.
Now drink."

With the doctor's inexorable gaze on him, Archie obeyed.

*****

*****

Despite his unwillingness to sleep further, Archie found he awoke the next
morning feeling restored and blessedly clear-headed. Upon Latour's
examination, he reluctantly admitted that the wound still ached. With that
evidence, the doctor promptly denied permission for his patient even to
attempt getting out of bed. Occupying one of the chairs in the sparsely
furnished room was likewise forbidden to Archie in his present condition.
Latour did, however, allow soup, bread, soap, water, a razor, a mirror, a
clean nightshirt, and two of the French grammar books they had been studying
on the ship.

"You may sit up in bed if you like," Latour declared, with the air of one
making major concessions, "but then you're to rest all this afternoon. You
may get up tomorrow if there is no more tenderness to your injury."

"And is *he* coming back tomorrow?" Archie tried not to sound as nervous as
he felt.

"I don't know," Latour said flatly."There are aspects of your training that
could be undertaken beginning tomorrow." He considered his patient's
expression and frowned. "However, if you continue to brood or engage in any
other deleterious activity I shall rescind our agreement with regard to your
medications."

After some vigorous argument, Archie had been allowed to forego sedatives--at
least during the daytime. Smothering a sigh, he refrained from further
protest and looked down at the books in his lap. Latour, apparently
satisfied with his patient's level of permitted activity, left the infirmary
on some undisclosed business.

Archie left the books untouched, stared unseeing out the window. What kind
of training, he thought, could make one into a spy?

*****
Indefatigable, 1797

 

"The cannon are here . . . and here." In his cabin, Pellew ticked off the
gun emplacements on the map. "There are three approaches: south, southeast,
and due west. A force of four hundred should be adequate to secure the
fortress from any direction. *However*," the deep voice sharpened, became
crisp.

"There will be times in the realities of our work when an endeavor must be
completed with what can only be described as less than ideal resources.
Therefore, gentlemen, as an exercise in strategy," he paused, assessing his
two listeners, keen dark eyes making contact first with the young, attentive
blue ones.

"Mr. Kennedy, plan an attack upon the fort from the southern direction with a
force of three hundred and fifty." Pellew's eyes left Archie's, moved on to
the dark, alert presence just beyond Kennedy's right shoulder.

"Mr. Hornblower, you will plan an approach from the southeast. The initial
terrain is easier, but the distance from the shore will be greater; also, I
can assign you a company of only two hundred and seventy- five."
Hornblower's slight nod acknowledged the conditions. "Very well, gentlemen,
you have a week." It was a dismissal, he slid the map across the table for
them to pick up.

Outside the door their eyes met.

"Where do we start?" Kennedy asked.

Hornblower tilted his head thoughtfully. "I wonder if it was a real campaign
. . .and if the island was ever taken."

*****

"The fortress? Oh, the island position!" Lieutenant Bracegirdle nodded.
"Yes, that was an actual campaign." He glanced upward, consulting with the
empty air for dates and numbers. "Yes. That one was taken about eighteen
years ago, I believe. From the direction of due west, with a force of . . .
no, it was more than that . . .a complement of three hundred and twenty five."

"Mmm." Archie didn't know which of them made that sound. The numbers were
close to his allotment of troops, still significantly more than Horatio's.

They went back to their cabin to look at the map.

*****

*"His life is the price for yours."*

The memory jolted Archie back to the present. Briefly, he regretted winning
the argument with Latour about the sedatives. Leaning back against the
pillows, he forced himself to relax, take several calming breaths.

*I gave my word.* Grimly, he reached for the topmost book, opened the cov
er, and began to read.

 

END PART ONE