TITLE: Twilight

AUTHOR: Kevin Schultz

AUTHOR'S EMAIL: davros72@earthlink.net

FEEDBACK: Yes, please

PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: I'm fine with it, just let me know where it'll be,

that's all I ask.

CATEGORY: Adventure, General

RATING/WARNINGS: PG (for some action-violence, perhaps some strong language)

MAIN CHARACTERS: Rebecca, Jules, Phileas, Passepartout

DISCLAIMER: SAJV and characters copyright Talisman/Promark/etc. No

infringement is intended.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Marielle Passepartout created by Moonhart, and used with kind permission. Also, thanks to Moon for incredible input and valuable suggestions, mostly on the Marielle parts, but also in general and in other specific areas as well. Moon, you're the best! :-)

DEDICATION: To Francesca Hunt, Michael Praed, Michel Courtemanche, and Chris Demetral, without whose brilliant portrayals of Rebecca, Phileas, Passepartout, and Jules the show would not be loved nearly as much as it is. Thank you for a magical season of brilliance that we will always treasure!

*************

The fierce Northern England winds whipped and howled around the exterior of the small cabin. Rain lashed against the walls and the windows. Inside, the dark of night was held at bay by the small fire crackling in the hearth. An old man slouched in a stiff-backed chair, and gazed intently at the dwindling flames of the fire. He shivered as the warmth of the flames began to fade away and the wind from the bitter cold outside penetrated the house.

The man leaned forward, grabbed a poker from its nearby stand, and prodded the remaining logs of the fire. Falling into a different position, the wood sparked and crackled once more as the flames caught them and blossomed. Satisfied with his handiwork, the grim-faced old man tossed aside the poker and slid back in his chair, stroking his grey moustache. The man's hair, cut short and close to his scalp, was also greying. In fact, it was totally grey. Not a trace of its former blackness remained.

Blackness did remain, however, in the man's foul mood. He wasn't quite sure why he was so irritated. It had developed and grown stronger in the last few days. Granted, he was usually in a poor mood in general, but something was gnawing at him more than was usual. And what was more, he had no idea what that something was, which only served as a further catalyst to his increased irritation.

He harrumphed in frustration, and closed his weary eyes. Ever since his wife had passed away three years ago, he was seldom happy. Carlotta had been his soul, his everything. When she was gone, she took with her his very reason for existing.

No. That wasn't quite true. She had claimed a vast majority of it, but something still remained for him to soldier on. He thought of that reason now, and his lips hinted at a smile, a very wistful smile. That grin soon turned to a sad frown as he remembered the last time he had spoken with that person. It was two years ago, and they had parted on very bad terms. Words had been exchanged, words that he dearly wished he could take back, but he could not. If he had not been so proud, perhaps... if English gentlemanly custom were not what it currently was, perhaps... perhaps things might have been different.

A powerful word, "perhaps". Perhaps things should have been different. Perhaps he should have damned the consequences and faced things head-on. Perhaps.

But no. He had remained the reserved, honorable, "proper" English gentleman he had always been.

The old man sighed, and slouched down further in his uncomfortable chair. The fire had warmed the place up somewhat, which was a good thing. He looked around, eyeing everything in the room. Decently fancy, and yet not extravagant. Not a crowded room by any means, but not bare. Enough for one lone person to take care of easily with a minimum of effort. Which was all that the man was capable of nowadays. Old age and his generally poor attitude prevented much more than the minimum of maintenance.

The light cast by the fire flickered, its glow throwing jumping shadows about the room. The old man pondered things for a short while, and then decided perhaps it was best to get prepared for bed. He groaned as he stood up from his chair, grabbed his walking stick, and carefully made his way across the room, heading for his bedroom.

A sudden pounding interrupted his walk. He stopped, swaying slightly but, thanks to his trusty walking stick, managed to keep his balance. He frowned. Hardly anyone knew where he was. So who on Earth could it be? Couldn't he just be left in peace, for Heaven's sake?

The man sighed. Apparently not, he thought, as the pounding resumed with increased urgency. He turned and shuffled towards the main door.

"Settle down," he called out, "I'm on my way!"

He reached the door, and paused as he grasped the handle. "Who is it?" he asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

"It's me, let me in," a voice answered desperately through the thick wooden door. "This rain will be the death of me!"

The old man's heart skipped a beat. Good Lord, he thought. Could it truly be...? He twisted the handle, and pulled the heavy door open.

A man bustled quickly inside, trailing cold rainwater as he entered. The old man hurried to close his door before too much of the rain could get blown inside by the harsh Northern England winds. He turned to face the newcomer.

Another grey-haired man smiled back at him through a thick white beard. A twinkle in the visitor's eyes hinted at the youth still playing within his soul. The bearded man chuckled, and embraced the other man.

After the hug, the two separated, the older man smiling wearily at his guest. "Good Lord, it is you. Jules Verne. How the devil are you?"

The visitor's smile broadened, then faltered slightly as he took in the old man's current state. "I'm doing considerably better than you look, Phileas Fogg."

**********

Phileas harrumphed grumpily, and beckoned for Jules to take a seat near the fire. Jules pulled over a sturdy chair, placed it next to Phileas', and eased himself down. Phileas sat down as well. The two rested for a short time, neither saying a word to the other.

Eventually Jules broke the awkward silence. "Fogg, I, um... I don't mean to be rude, but... well, you seem... old."

Phileas raised a wispy grey eyebrow at his friend. "Indeed? I should think that having attained the not-inconsiderable age of 72, one might be allowed the privilege of not caring one jot about one's appearance."

Jules pursed his lips and cast his eyes down towards the floor. "I'm sorry, Fogg. I just mean... you seem tired, worn out. Morseo than usual."

Phileas leaned back in his chair. He fingered his walking stick, which he still clutched like an old friend. He reflected for several moments, and finally replied with a momentous sigh, "I am, Verne."

Jules returned his gaze to Phileas. "It's not like you, Fogg, to not care about yourself anymore."

Phileas pushed himself up from his chair, trembling with the effort and the anger building within him. "Damn it, how the hell would you know? You haven't written, you haven't visited in God knows how long..."

Jules folded his hands. "I was just here a little over a month ago, Fogg," he said quietly, sadly.

Phileas' rage subsided somewhat. Oh, no, Phileas thought to himself. It hasn't gone away. Damn it! He turned to Jules and straightened his back as best he could. "My apologies, Verne. It seems my... turns have come back to plague me."

"And with them yet another reason for you to return to Shillingworth Magna, Fogg. The finest help in the world is available to you there. Out here... there's nothing here, Fogg, there's no one around for miles. I still think you'd be better off nearer London, my friend."

Strolling away from the fireplace, Phileas headed for a nearby table, and leaned on it to steady himself. "I know that, Jules. I just can't bear the thought of... being back there. After..." His voice died away to nothing.

Jules nodded sympathetically. "Carlotta."

"Yes," Phileas hissed. Another awkward pause followed. Phileas turned and shuffled over to Jules. He glared down at the younger man. "Can we not speak of that? Please?"

Jules looked up at his old friend, and looked deep into Phileas' eyes. He saw the pain etched into the weary, lined face, and knew that he could not refuse the request. "As you wish."

Phileas nodded, satisfied. "Thank you. Now, what brings you here tonight?" A smile drifted onto his face. "Did Passepartout invent another wild contraption that he wishes to foist upon the world?" He saw the look on Jules' face, the reaction to the name. "What is it, Verne? What's wrong?"

Jules stood up, his back creaking slightly as he did so. "I'm afraid it's Passepartout. He's gone missing."

Phileas blinked. "What? Missing?"

"Marielle thinks he was kidnapped."

"Does she indeed? And what do you think, Verne?"

"I don't know, Fogg. All I know is what Marielle told me. They went to bed one evening, happy and content. The next morning, she awoke, and he was gone. The front door had been broken open, and several of his inventions were also missing. The police refuse to do anything. They're of the opinion that Passepartout simply ran away with a mistress."

"Oh, for heaven's sake!" Phileas scoffed. "How absurd! This is Passepartout we're talking about! He's no philanderer. How dare they assume such things about him!"

"I feel the same way, Phileas. But the fact remains, he is missing. Marielle contacted me a few days ago, imploring me to find him. I promised her that I would do whatever I could to get him back."

"Ah, excellent. And what have you done so far?"

Jules chuckled slightly. "I came here for you."

Phileas paused, taken aback by the simple statement. "Why me?"

"Why you?" Jules asked, surprised. "Fogg, you more than anyone would know where best to search for him. You were closer to him than anyone, except for his wife. And..." Jules tailed off, a guilty smile slipping onto his face.

"... And? And what, Verne?"

"And I wouldn't dream of embarking upon an adventure without Phileas Fogg."

Phileas felt a surge of pride well up inside himself. A tiny tear formed in the corner of one eye, but proudly refused to fall. "Yes," he said softly. "Well. I must say, I am deeply honored, Jules Verne."

"Are you with me, Fogg?" Jules stuck out his hand. Phileas looked at it and grasped it firmly.

"I am indeed, sir!" Phileas replied enthusiastically. "I may be getting on a bit in years, but I am just as eager as you seem to be to take up the charge once more."

"Excellent. Thank you, Fogg!" Jules' grin stretched from ear to ear.

Phileas started to head for the door, then paused. "Perhaps we should begin in the morning. I must confess I am dead tired, Verne."

Breathing a sigh of relief, Jules replied, "As am I, Fogg."

"I'll prepare the guest room for you. Might I ask, where do you propose we begin our investigation?"

Jules looked around, avoiding Phileas' eyes. "Um... well, first I think we need to get the Aurora..."

Phileas froze, and set his jaw. "No."

Jules turned to Phileas, pleading with his friend. "We must, it's the quickest way we have to cover as much ground as we're going to need to cover."

"No."

"I know it means contacting--"

"I know damn well what it means!" Phileas growled.

"Fogg, we have no choice!" Jules thundered back at Phileas. "Damn it, I don't care what the hell went on between the two of you, but this is about Passepartout! Anything else shouldn't matter! We owe it to him, several times over!"

Phileas shuffled away from Jules, his walking stick bowing from the increased pressure of Phileas' angry walk. "I said no, and that is final!"

Jules rushed towards Phileas, and grabbed him by the lapels. He spun and shoved Phileas up against the wall. "And I said, I don't care! We have to contact her in order to get the Aurora. There's no avoiding it, Fogg! You're going to have to swallow that ridiculous English pride of yours and deal with it! We are going, and *that*... that, my friend, *is* final." He released Phileas, who dropped down the few inches he had been held above the floor by Jules. Phileas balanced himself with his walking stick as he landed.

Phileas watched as Jules barged past him on the way to the guest room. "I'll make up my own damn room," Jules grumbled. He turned a corner, entered the second bedroom, and slammed the door.

Phileas stood quietly for several minutes. Hundreds of thoughts whispered through his tired brain, all clamoring for attention. Eventually, after much consideration, he came to a decision. He shuffled towards the guest room, and meekly knocked on the door. He heard a muffled voice growl something.

"I believe there's a 9:18 to London that we should be able to catch tomorrow from the station in town," Phileas said quietly. "I'll see you in the morning." With that, Phileas made his way to his own room, and closed the door. He began searching for the essential items he would need to pack.

*****

The train ride to London the next morning was very quiet. Neither Jules nor Phileas spoke much. For the most part, the pair simply sat in their seats and contemplated the scenery through the window as the train chugged on. Eventually reaching their destination, they disembarked, caught a carriage, and proceeded to the Headquarters of the British Secret Service.

Upon arrival at the building, they were stopped at the entrance by a tall, strong, powerfully-built guard. "And 'ave you lot got an appointment?" the burly man asked, his voice tinged with menace.

Jules smiled indulgently at the towering figure. "No, we don't, actually. We're here to see Director Howard. We're, um... we're old friends."

The guard stared implacably back at Jules, and glanced quickly at Phileas, who remained mute. Eyes flicking back to Jules, the guard continued. "Well, we'll just see about that, won't we?" The guard called over to another guard who stood nearby. "Oi, Harry!" The other man, Harry, rushed over, trembling. "Run off to the Director, see if we're to let two gentlemen in, named..." With that, he turned back to Jules and Phileas. Jules hurriedly provided their names. "...Named Jules Verne and Phileas Fogg. And make it snappy, will ye?" Harry nodded, and scampered off.

The big guard turned back to Jules and Phileas and folded his arms. "And now we wait an' see if you're on the level," the tall man said, smiling evenly at the two old gentlemen. He frowned for a second. "Hmm... Verne. Fogg. Kinda rings a bell, don't they?" He scratched his head, then shrugged, giving up.

Jules thrust his hands into his trouser pockets as they waited. Phileas, meanwhile, simply leaned on his walking stick and glared at his shoes.

A few moments later, Harry rushed up to the big guard and whispered in the larger man's ear. The big guard's eyes widened slightly, and Jules detected a hint of a frown, as if the man was disappointed by the news brought to him by Harry.

"Well, well, well," the guard said as Harry slipped away back to his post. "It seems you are, in fact, welcome. Come right in, gents," he continued, as he gestured exaggeratedly to let Jules and Phileas inside.

The two old men made their way further inside the Headquarters, eventually reaching the Director's office, still in the same old place that it had always been. The Director's assistant sat at a desk just outside the office. The friendly-looking young man smiled at the two gentlemen as they approached. "Ah, Monsieur Verne, and Mister Fogg! How pleasant it is to see you both again! The Director is expecting you, you may go right in."

Jules nodded and smiled at the assistant. "Thank you, Henry."

Phileas narrowed his eyes as he examined Henry. "Who is that?" he whispered to Jules.

Jules tugged at Phileas' sleeve to coax him along. "It's Agent Henry Diamond, don't you remember him, Fogg? He saved my life a few years ago, during that nasty business with the Giant Rat of Sri Lanka."

Phileas shook his head. "Never seen him before in my life," he muttered grumpily.

"Come on, Fogg," Jules said as he dragged Phileas into the office and closed the door. He looked across the room, and huge smile leapt onto his face. "Director Howard! Always a pleasure to see you!"

Rebecca Howard rose from the chair behind her elegant mahogany desk, and flung her arms wide as she hurried over to her guests. "Oh, Jules! It's wonderful to see you again!" She hugged Jules. They parted, and Rebecca looked over at Phileas, who had shifted his gaze to his shoes once more.

"Phileas," Rebecca said quietly, a hint of tension in her voice.

Phileas raised his head, and looked at Rebecca. Yes, he thought... good old Rebecca. The same strong, determined look on her face. Her red hair streaked in several places with bright white. The same glint in her blue-grey eyes. "Rebecca," he answered just as quietly. And just as quickly, he looked down at the floor, again leaning on his walking stick for support, the guilt weighing uncomfortably heavy upon his shoulders.

Rebecca pursed her lips, and turned back to Jules. "What brings you here, Jules?" And, she added with her eyes as best she could, what the devil is Phileas doing here as well?

Rebecca turned and strolled over to sit down at her desk as Jules recounted the tale. After helping Phileas into a chair, Jules sat down as well. He related how Passepartout's wife had sought him out, imploring him to find her missing husband. He told Rebecca of his journey to collect Phileas, and their subsequent journey to London. He left out the part about their brief but tense argument of the previous night, but apart from that omission, he told Rebecca everything he knew.

Upon hearing the story, Rebecca nodded thoughtfully. "I see..." she mused. "Let me guess. You're here to request the use of the Aurora, am I right?"

Jules chuckled and scratched at his scraggly white beard. "You know me so well, Rebecca."

Rebecca smiled, her eyes twinkling. "I try, Jules, I try. It's my business to know all sorts of things about all sorts of people. Speaking of which, how is your lovely wife Honorine?"

"Oh, she's doing splendidly, thank you for asking," Jules said, grinning enthusiastically. "Although she keeps nagging at me to shave my beard. She says it's too scratchy."

"Hmmm," Rebecca said, forcing back a grin. "I'll bet she does. And your children?"

Jules laughed. "They are well, and they are most definitely Vernes! Still getting into trouble, as always. And how are you doing, Rebecca?" Jules asked.

Rebecca rolled her eyes, picked up a file folder, and waved it at Jules. "You see this? This is what my job has become. Moving papers. Shifting documents. Assigning tasks. Reading reports. Utter boredom!" She slapped the folder back down onto the surface of her desk, causing several other papers to scatter.

"Boredom?" Jules said, perplexed. "I thought this was what you always wanted."

"Are you mad?" Rebecca said. "If I had known the job would keep me from doing any sort of fieldwork whatsoever, I'd've never taken it in the first place. I think I'm losing my figure from all this inactivity."

"That could never happen, Rebecca," Jules said, his eyes sparkling.

Rebecca guffawed. "You flatterer! Remember that damn catsuit I used to wear? I swear it would never fit me now. The corset alone would have to be made of steel to keep everything properly in place!"

Jules laughed along with her. "What does your husband Alexander think?"

"Oh, he still claims I'm the most beautiful woman in all of England. I tell him his work must be affecting his judgment. Head of Scotland Yard is so much more an active position. I'm getting very jealous of him nowadays."

"I believe it," Jules chuckled. "And how is little Emma?"

"Little?! Good grief, Jules, it can't have been *that* long since you've seen her! I swear, my daughter is twice the agent I ever was. You should see some of the outfits she's designed for herself. And those gadgets she comes up with! She wants to set up her own branch of the Service just for designing and creating her devices. She's thinking of calling it 'Q Branch', for her fiance, Quinn. I told her I'd think about it."

"Ah, yes, I'd forgotten Emma was now the pride of the British Secret Service," Jules said. He smiled wistfully. "Good Lord, to be that young again..."

"Indeed," Rebecca added.

"Indeed," Phileas whispered.

There followed a moment of very awkward silence, as no one knew quite how to continue.

"About the Aurora," Jules ventured quietly, after the pause.

"Ah, yes," Rebecca said, returning to a business-like manner. "Let me just check..." She rifled through some papers on her desk, and grabbed at a sheet. "Not currently on assignment, neither is it scheduled for any time in the next three weeks, although that could change. Right, well, it seems it's about to get a new assignment. Congratulations, Jules."

"Thank you, Rebecca, this will help us a great deal," Jules replied.

"On one condition," Rebecca added, writing a few notes on her paper.

"Oh?" Jules asked, although he had a pretty good idea what that condition would be.

"I must accompany you."

"But Rebecca--"

Rebecca stood up and leaned over her desk towards Jules. "Don't you 'But Rebecca' me! I love Passepartout as much as either of you two, and don't you dare think about leaving me behind! I couldn't bear it if you two were off on another adventure, and I was left behind to... to sign more bloody pencil requisitions!" Her eyes bore deep into Jules' as she stared at him, daring him to refuse.

"Don't be silly, Rebecca, you can't come along," Phileas said sternly.

Rebecca looked at him. "And why the hell not?"

Phileas looked back at her. "You know perfectly well why not, Rebecca. You are with child, for heaven's sake, that's why. We don't want to risk you losing your first child, do we?"

Rebecca slowly sat back down, and folded her hands in her lap. "Phileas," she said gently. "My daughter is already grown up. Her name is Emma. Don't you remember her?"

Phileas stared at Rebecca and blinked. He shut his eyes and shook his head fiercely. "Damn it!" he hissed. "Damn it to hell!" He gripped the amrs of his chair, his walking stick clattering to the floor. He took a deep breath, and slowly let it out. "Yes, of course, I'm sorry, Rebecca."

Jules leaned over and patted Phileas' hand. "It's all right, Fogg. Don't worry about it."

Phileas looked up at Jules. "Thank you," he said gratefully. "I'm fine now. It's just another of my 'funny turns' again." He turned to Rebecca, and his mood frosted over once more. "You can come along," he told her matter-of-factly.

"I don't need your permission, Phileas," she replied just as coolly. "I'm coming whether you like it or not."

"Fine," Phileas said as he bent over to pick up his walking stick. He stood up and headed for the door. "Come along, Jules," he called back.

Jules stood up. "Shall we meet you at the Aurora?" he asked Rebecca as he joined Phileas.

Lifting herself from her chair, Rebecca paused, and tilted her head to one side. "Yes," she said. "And I think I might just bring someone else along, if it's all the same to you."

"Who, Emma?" Jules said, his eyes twinkling at the thought of seeing Rebecca's young daughter again.

"No," Rebecca said, shaking her head. "I've got someone else in mind entirely..."

*****

Rebecca Howard knocked confidently on the rough wooden door in front of her. She looked around, examining the hallway she was standing in. It was quite modest, nothing too out of the ordinary. Rather plain, in fact. Several doors were spaced evenly along either side of the hall leading from the stairwell.

After a moment, the door she had knocked on creaked open slightly. A pair of wide, curious eyes peeked out through the gap. The eyes widened as they fixed upon the woman standing politely outside. The door was pulled open further, and the tall man revealed within the flat said shyly, "Miss Fogg!" His brilliant, happy smile contrasted with the dark, simple clothing in which he was dressed.

Rebecca smiled gently, and bowed her head in affirmation. "Actually, Ian, I'm no longer a Miss, and while I shall always be a Fogg at heart, I am actually a Howard now, through marriage."

"I know," Ian replied. "I just feel better calling you 'Miss Fogg'."

"Well, how about we compromise, and you call me 'Miss Rebecca'. How does that sound?"

Ian smiled. "Very nice."

"How are you today, Ian?" Rebecca asked.

Ian shrugged, and ran a hand through his ragged, curly brown locks. "Oh, I'm doing rather well, thank you, Miss Rebecca. Um... how are you?" His hands clasped and unclasped, as if he was nervous in her presence.

Rebecca paused, lifted her eyes to the ceiling, and then spoke frankly. "A bit tired, to tell the truth, but otherwise I am well."

Ian blinked, then winced. "I'm forgetting my manners, please, do come in."

Rebecca strolled into Ian's flat as her host stood aside to let her in. Closing the door behind her, Ian began to scurry around his place, dusting and hurriedly straightening the scant few items he had. A lone, potted plant sat shyly in one corner. A door leading from the main room to an adjacent room was open, allowing a view of a simple bed and a dresser. "Please forgive the mess, I was not expecting visitors." He stood up from his fussing, and said matter-of-factly, "I never have guests, come to think of it."

Rebecca smiled kindly, replying, "That's quite all right, you don't need to make a fuss just because of me."

Ian suddenly dashed into his small kitchen area. "May I offer you something to eat? Something to drink?"

Rebecca shook her head. "No, thank you. Please, just sit with me a moment."

Ian froze, his hand in the midst of reaching for a drinking glass. "Um... all right, if you insist." He withdrew his hand from midair, and walked nervously into the main living room area of his flat. He gestured for Rebecca to sit on a comfortable-looking couch that appeared to have almost never been sat on. Once she had taken her seat, Ian grabbed the chair next to the couch and stood behind it, holding the chair's backrest. He smiled shyly at Rebecca.

"I'm afraid this isn't a social call, Ian," Rebecca said.

"Oh," Ian commented, his voice tinged with nervous relief.

"I'm actually here to request your assistance."

Albert blinked once, then blinked again. "Really?" he asked in a very small, somewhat frightened voice.

"Really," Rebecca confirmed, smiling as gently as she could. "I'm hesitant to ask, but... how are your particular 'talents' at present?"

Ian looked down and started scratching his hands. "Oh. Well, as far as I know... I'm still... gifted, if that's what you're asking."

Rebecca paused, then said, "Ian, please look at me." Ian he lifted his gaze from the floor to look into her eyes. "Ian," she said. "I need you for a mission. One of my friends has gone missing. We believe he may have been kidnapped. We need your special skills to help us track him down."

Ian took a deep breath, his heart racing. He could feel his blood pumping furiously through his body and his heart, rushing as the old fears and emotions came thundering back to him. "Oh," he said simply, his body beginning to quiver.

"Ian. Ian, please, you can do this, you know you can. You've conquered your fears, you've conquered Them. Remember? We defeated the League of Darkness, they no longer have any sort of control over you. Now you can use what they did to you, your 'internal adjustments', for good instead of evil. Please, Ian."

Ian shut his eyes. He pushed the air out of his lungs, and blinked his eyes open again. He became still, calm, steady. Staring into Rebecca's eyes, Ian smiled. "Thank you, Rebecca. I would be delighted to help you in your hour of need."

Smiling gratefully, Rebecca replied, "Thank you, Ian. I'm so proud of you." She stood up, and moved towards the door. "Let me fill you in on the details as we walk, how does that sound?"

"That sounds lovely, Miss Rebecca," Ian said, smiling.

"Shall we go?"

Turning around to survey his apartment, Ian raised a finger. "Just a moment. Let me collect one or two things first..."

*****

Jules and Phileas made their way to the secure landing area of the airship Aurora. The craft was just visible through the tall fence that ringed the area's perimeter. A small cluster of guards stood sentry at the entrance to the dirigible's special holding area. The guards looked at each other as the two old men approached them.

One of the guards stepped forward. "Mister Fogg? Monsieur Verne?" he said.

Jules nodded.

"Welcome," the guard continued. "The messenger just arrived. We've been informed of your assignment to the Aurora. If you'd care to sign in, please." He hurried over to a small wooden hut, grabbed a leather-bound ledger, and rushed back to Jules and Phileas, proffering a pen. Jules scrawled his name in the space indicated by the guard, and handed the pen to Phileas, who likewise signed his own name.

"Excellent, thank you, gentlemen," the guard said, snapping the ledger shut. He tucked the book under his arm, and saluted. "Let me just say it is an honor to have both of you gentlemen back in action."

Phileas frowned, perplexed. Nevertheless, he returned the salute. "Thank you, Agent..."

The guard smiled. "Crossland, sir, Michael Crossland."

"Well done, Agent Crossland. Now, if we may be allowed to pass..."

Crossland nodded. "Of course, sir." He hurried over to the other guards, and together they unlocked the gates to the landing area, and hauled open the door. After the two men had gone through, the guards closed the door once more. Crossland turned to his fellow guards. "I can't believe it, can you?"

A tall, lanky guard laughed. "I thought they were dead!"

"As if, Perkins!" Crossland replied.

"What was with that salute, anyway, Crossland?" Perkins asked, teasing. "It's not like they're actually in the Service."

"Well..." Crossland struggled to explain. "It just felt like the right thing to do." He turned and looked through an observation panel on the fence, watching as Jules and Phileas approached the Aurora. "Living legends..." Crossland said quietly.

*****

Phileas stopped as he got near the Aurora. He craned his head to look up at the vast balloon attached to the gondola of the airship. "My God," he breathed. "It's almost as if nothing has changed."

"I know," Jules agreed. "They've treated her well."

"Rebecca would have made damn sure of that," Phileas said.

Jules glanced at his friend. "She would at that." He paused, then turned to face Phileas. "Are you going to talk to her? Properly, I mean?"

Phileas' face tightened, and he started walking determinedly towards the entrance to the Aurora. "None of your damn business, Verne," he grumbled grumpily.

"I know it's not, Fogg," Jules said as he hurried after Phileas. "But if we're all going to work together, you two are going to have to get along. I'll be damned if I'm going to endure this mission with the two of you either not speaking to one another or constantly tossing cruel barbs at each other. Whatever you need to do, do it as soon as she gets back."

Phileas harrumphed dismissively as he reached the Aurora's door and yanked it open.

Jules reached out, clasping Phileas on the shoulder. Phileas turned towards his friend. Jules narrowed his eyes and growled, "Damn it, Fogg. You *will* do it."

Phileas looked back at Jules. Then, gazing down, he sighed heavily. "I suppose you're right, Verne. Very well, I shall try. But if she--"

"Don't worry about Rebecca," Jules interrupted. "Just do what *you* need to do."

Phileas looked up at his friend. He cracked a lop-sided smile. "Fine." He turned and headed into the Aurora, a slightly happier Jules Verne at his heels.

As he entered the dirigible, a flood of emotions surged back into Jules' being. He noticed he was having a slight difficulty breathing, but it cleared rather quickly. Perhaps that was due to his age and his recent exertions, but he rather doubted it. He watched as Phileas took a quick look around and almost immediately headed down the hallway. Jules wandered around the large main cabin, drinking in all of the memories and feelings from the past. So many adventures...

"Mind if we join you?"

Jules turned at the sound of Rebecca's voice. He found her standing in the doorway of the entrance. "Not at all, come in, please, Rebecca," he said with a smile, a smile that broadened as he saw who followed Rebecca inside. "Ian!" he cried, rushing over and shaking the tall man's hand enthusiastically. "So good to see you again, how are you?"

Ian grinned meekly in response. "I am doing well, thank you, Monsieur Verne. I am saddened to hear about Passepartout. I promise I will do all I can to help you get him back."

"Thank you," Jules said.

Ian and Rebecca moved further into the cabin, and Rebecca closed the door. Ian looked around in wonder. "I never dreamed that I would get to be inside the Aurora," he breathed, overwhelmed with awe. "All those times I watched from far away... it seemed all I was destined for. Watching."

Jules nodded. "But not anymore. Let me show you around."

Ian followed Jules to the front of the main cabin, and they stood next to the steering globe. "Ah, yes," Ian said. "This is what you use to pilot the ship, correct? I almost think I could control her myself, from all those times I watched Passepartout fly her so masterfully."

Rebecca followed at a distance. "We might just take you up on that, Ian. By the way, Jules, where is Phileas?"

Jules nodded back towards the hallway. "Lying down in his old bedroom."

"Ah. Well, perhaps it can wait." Rebecca strolled past the two men and stood before the railing at the main windows. She looked out and appeared to contemplate the grounds of the Aurora's landing area.

Ian noticed Jules staring at Rebecca. He backed away, and said quietly, "I think I'll just take a little walk around, by myself. See if I can recognize anything, or... something." He turned and headed down the hallway leading towards the rear of the craft.

Jules walked forward and stood next to Rebecca at the railing. The two old friends stood quietly with each other for a few moments.

"Ian looks well," Jules said. "He still looks like he's only about 35 or so."

"Mmm. Those enhancements again, it seems. He appears to age at a significantly slower rate than the rest of us."

Jules nodded, understanding. "Is he... I mean, with you, and his...obsession with you?" He stumbled to an awkward halt.

Rebecca smiled and glanced over at her friend. "Yes. That's all in the past. He's a much better man, now. Almost normal."

"As if there's any such thing."

They both chuckled, and Rebecca leaned her head on Jules' shoulder. "Don't worry," she told him.

"And what about Phileas?" Jules said.

Rebecca lifted her head from his shoulder and her face tightened. "What about him?"

"You know exactly what I mean, Rebecca," Jules said, his voice soft yet firm. "This business between the two of you has got to stop. I know you and Phileas well enough to realize that this rift between you is killing both of you. What Phileas said was wrong. He knows it, too. But his damned English pride prevents him from rectifying the situation. And you... Well, you're too stubborn to do a damned thing about it yourself. It's ridiculous!"

Rebecca's head whipped round, and her eyes bored into Jules'. "How dare you! How dare you push your way into a private family matter!"

"I dare because I love you both too much to see this silliness, this stupidity, stand between the two of you! I'm tired of it. Do something, say something. Whatever! But do it, and do it today. Because none of us are getting any younger."

Rebecca turned away, frowning yet saying nothing.

"Passepartout needs us," Jules went on. "If for no other reason, for our friend Passepartout. But, damn it, Rebecca... you need to make this right. Don't let things stay the way they are until... well, until it's too late."

Rebecca's shoulders sagged. The responsibility, the pressures, and simple old age... they were all wearing her down at the moment. She considered everything Jules had said, and weighed it against her feelings. Her love for Phileas made her stop, and really make up her mind that she truly needed to heal the wounds, seal up the rift between them. Like Jules had said, if for no other reason because Passepartout needed them to all work together as a team once more. But more than that, she realized, she loved Phileas too much to continue to hold such an intense grudge, especially considering how little time might be left to them. Not to mention Phileas' deteriorating condition.

After a moment, she turned back to face Jules, a single tear rolling slowly down her cheek. "I know, Jules. I'm tired of this, too." She looked over her shoulder at the hallway behind them. "I'll... I'll do what I can, that's all I can promise. I can't make any promises on his behalf."

"Well, that's certainly true enough."

Rebecca smiled briefly and playfully slapped Jules on his arm. "Oh, shut up, Jules," she chuckled. She wiped away the tear. "Thank you," she added. "You are indeed a wonderful friend."

Jules blushed. "You're welcome," he replied, turning to look out the large windows once more.

Rebecca turned from the window, about to head for the hallway. She pulled up short as she saw Phileas standing at the threshold of the main cabin. He stood silently, leaning on his walking stick.

"Ah, Phileas, there you are," Rebecca said, forcing a smile. "Ummm... I--"

"I couldn't help but overhear," Phileas said, interrupting her. He spun about, and shuffled away from her, heading for his room. Rebecca hurried after him, leaving Jules to remain at the window.

Rebecca caught up with Phileas at his door. He had stopped, and turned to face her as she approached.

Staring intently at her eyes, Phileas said softly, "I'm... I'm sorry." Almost as if he was ashamed, he looked away from her, and began to turn and head into his room.

Rebecca reached out and clutched at Phileas' arm, holding him from walking away. "Phileas," she said softly.

Phileas turned to her, his face stoically impassive. "Yes, cousin?"

Rebecca pursed her lips. "Phileas, I can understand your reluctance to make amends. You said what you felt was necessary, and you've stood by your convictions. I'm proud of you for that, oddly enough. But for better or for worse, Alexander and I are husband and wife. No matter what your feelings for me might be, or mine for you for that matter, the fact remains that we are not together. We were never meant to be. And for you to say those things about my husband, much less in front of our friends and family--"

"I know," Phileas said, interrupting her once again. "And my feelings have remained unchanged. However... it would be remiss of me to continute to bear ill will towards yourself and your husband any longer, especially since I am partially at fault for--"

"Partially?"

"Partially," Phileas repeated firmly. "But know this... I am sorry as well."

Rebecca reached for his free hand, and clutched it in both of hers. "Phileas," she said quietly. "I forgive you. I shall always wish you had never said what you did, but I do forgive you. And I am willing to set that all aside. And like Jules said... Passepartout needs us."

Phileas nodded. "Passepartout. Yes. Passepartout. And Rebecca, I... forgive you as well. You were only behaving as you had the right to behave in response to my callousness."

Rebecca swallowed, her emotions churning within her. "Thank you, Phileas."

Phileas nodded.

"So... are we..." Rebecca began.

"Yes. We are." Phileas made to move away. Rebecca, however, pulled him close and hugged him tightly. After a moment, Rebecca started to giggle. "What?" Phileas said as they broke from their embrace.

"Your moustache tickles," Rebecca said, grinning cheekily.

Phileas drew himself up to his proudest height, and spun about, heading into his bedroom. "I'm quite fond of it, Rebecca, and don't you dare suggest I remove it. I'm going to take a short rest now, thank you very much."

Rebecca continued to giggle as she turned and walked towards the front of the airship.

She reached the main cabin and found Jules at the control sphere. After a moment, Ian emerged from the hallway and joined them. Jules looked over at Rebecca as she quietly moved towards the table, and Ian proceeded to the main windows.

"How is he?" Jules asked, nodding his head towards the hallway.

Rebecca groaned slightly as she sat down. "Oh, the same as ever."

"Rebecca..." Jules said sternly.

"I know what you meant," Rebecca continued. "Phileas and I are... well, we're going to be fine."

Jules smiled fondly at Rebecca. "Thank you."

"Thank you, Jules, for helping to make it happen."

Jules shrugged his shoulders humbly. "I do what I do out of love for you both, you know that."

"Yes I do," Rebecca confirmed.

"Will Phileas be joining us any time soon?"

Rebecca shook her head. "He's just gone to have a lie-down for the time being. I think all this activity is wearing him down somewhat."

Smiling back at her, Jules chuckled. "I think we're all feeling our ages."

Rebecca grimaced in agreement. "Except Ian."

Ian looked back at the pair at the mention of his name. "I may not feel the years, but I will admit the accumulation of experience does wear one down somewhat."

"I would imagine so," Rebecca agreed.

"Shall we get underway?" Jules asked, nervously touching the control sphere as he raised his eyebrows at Rebecca, who nodded. "Right," Jules continued. "Destination, Paris, France." He began working the instruments, pulling some levers, pressing a few switches. Altering the position of the large blue globe in front of him, Jules confidently commanded the airship, lifting her gracefully into the sky, and steering her away from her berth. He aimed the craft towards their destination and locked off the controls, setting it on automatic. With a wheezing cough, Jules shuffled over to the table and took a chair next to Rebecca, plopping himself wearily down. "I could use a little siesta."

Ian walked over and stood with them. "So... we are heading for the Passepartout residence, correct?"

"You are correct," Rebecca answered. "Investigation to begin forthwith. We shall examine the scene of the crime, as it were. Using all our resources, perhaps we can find some clue. Something the kidnappers may have left behind that will lead us to them."

"We know Passepartout is missing," Ian mused, "there were signs of a break-in at his home. Broken window, door forced open. Anything else?"

Jules shook his head. "Not that we know of. All I know is what I saw when I visited Marielle, that and what she told me. Which, unfortunately, is not very much, her having been asleep at the time of the kidnapping."

Rebecca pursed her lips, frowning slightly. "Why is it still called a 'kidnapping', even when it deals with a full-grown adult? Seems a bit odd, doesn't it?"

"Hmmm..." Jules pondered. "Perhaps because 'adultnapping' sounds rather silly?"

"Well, it certainly does at that," Rebecca agreed, smiling. "What else could we call it?" She looked over at Jules, and saw that he had nodded off, his head falling gently to his chest as he slumped in his chair. She looked up at Ian. "I guess he really did need that little siesta after all."

"Yes," Ian replied, a smile drifting across his face.

*****

Marielle Passepartout almost jumped from her chair when she heard the knocking on her door. She stood up, ready to move towards it in her present nervous state, but was intercepted by the Passepartout's young maid, Jacqueline.

"Madame Passepartout, please, I will answer it," Jacqueline said quickly, reaching for the door handle. She opened the door, and smiled broadly as she saw who was waiting to come in. "Monsieur Verne! Monsieur Fogg! Madame Howard! And..." Her voice trailed off as she spotted Ian at the back of the little group.

"Good evening, Jacqueline," Jules said, smiling sweetly back at the pretty blonde maid. "This is our good friend, Ian."

Jacqueline nodded politely at Ian as he followed the others into the foyer. "Monsieur Ian," she greeted him.

"Oh, thank heavens!" Marielle enthused as she rushed over to greet her guests. "Come in, come in! Thank you, Jacqueline, that will be all for now."

Jacqueline curtsied and scurried off.

Marielle ushered her guests into the sitting room, and motioned for them all to have a seat. Rebecca took a comfortable chair near the fireplace as Jules and Phileas shared a sofa next to Marielle's chair. Ian, however, remained standing.

"Please, won't you be seated, Monsieur Ian?" Marielle asked, motioning towards a vacant chair.

Ian smiled at Marielle. "No, thank you, Madame Passepartout," he replied kindly. "I prefer to stand. I am still... uncomfortable when I am not standing. But I am working at it."

Phileas surveyed the room, craning his head around as he examined his surroundings. A look of confusion crossed his features. "Mrs. Passepartout, why on Earth do you still insist upon living in such simple surroundings?" Phileas asked, the indignant amazement apparent in his voice. "I know for a fact that you and your husband could live in a much more elegant domicile than this simple place, with a variety of servants, instead of only young Jacqueline."

Marielle smiled indulgently at Phileas, ignoring what might be perceived as blatant rudeness on his part, were it not for the fact that she knew of his deteriorating mental condition. "Monsieur Fogg, it is all right. We live this way because we choose to, not because we are lacking money. You remember that, don't you?"

Phileas scratched at his moustache.

Marielle continued. "My husband, your friend, Passepartout, has done quite well for himself. He is a good provider. So good, in fact, that many have benefited from his inventions and even more from his generosity. You helped him with the design of the children's hospital. You must recall that?"

Phileas nodded, still not quite sure. However, he folded his arms and leaned back to ease his tired frame up against the sofa's backrest. "Very well. If you say so."

"Madame Passepartout," Rebecca said gently, turning everyone's attention to the business at hand, "please. What exactly happened that night? The night that Passepartout disappeared."

"Not just disappeared, Madame Howard," Marielle replied, "he was kidnapped. I know it. I can feel it in every fiber of my being. We are too close, Jean and I, for me to be mistaken about something like that." She pursed her lips, and her hands started to tremble.

Phileas reached out and grasped Marielle's hand. "We believe you, Mrs. Passepartout. Just tell us everything that you know."

Marielle looked into Phileas' eyes. She smiled as she felt herself calming. "Very well. I'm afraid that there is very little to tell, in fact. We retired for the evening, Jean and I. Everything had been closed and locked, we always make sure of that. We went to sleep. And then, when I awoke the next morning, I found that Jean was gone. He was missing. And I found that the door had been forced open. And... well, that's really about all that I know." She looked around at the others. "I'm sorry, I know it is not a lot to proceed with."

"And you heard nothing at all that night?" Phileas asked.

"I'm afraid not," Marielle responded sadly. She cast her eyes downward. "I am afraid that I am a very sound sleeper. Also, occasionally Jean will be struck by some wild idea in the middle of the night, and so he will get up and work on whatever bolted into his brain." She looked up and smiled. "He can be rather impulsive."

Rebecca spoke up. "Might not Jacqueline have been roused?"

Marielle shook her head. "Jacqueline does not have lodgings with us. We usually do not require her serivces after we finish our last meal of the day. Hence, that night she was at her home."

Jules looked over at Ian, who had started to look around the room. "Is it all right if our friend Ian looks around?" Jules asked Marielle, who subsequently nodded.

"I promise I will be extremely careful, Madame Passepartout," Ian said somewhat distractedly as he narrowed his eyes. He walked quietly back to the entrance, and peered closely at the door. Specifically, he looked at the rough wood of the door itself, and its surrounding frame. He pressed his hands against the door, feeling the texture, applying pressure at certain points.

Rebecca watched Ian for a moment, as did the others. Then she turned to Marielle. "He's an extremely gifted investigator, Madame Passepartout, but his methods may appear... rather unusual."

Marielle cocked her head, lifting her eyebrows inquisitively.

Rebecca pursed her lips, considering how best to explain a complicated story. "Well, you see, Ian has had some... modifications made to his person. He was, in fact, once a member of the League of Darkness."

Marielle's eyes widened, a quizzical and somewhat fearful look entering them.

"I know," Rebecca continued, noticing Marielle's expression, "but there is no need to be concerned. Ian is a changed man... in more ways than one, come to think of it. The League had converted him to be one of their Observers, and they performed many technical and biological modifications on him. However, at some point, he began to malfunction. The League cast him out, and gave up on him. After being ejected, Ian lapsed back upon an old programmed order held within his modified brain. In fact, what that program was turned out to be to watch me. He became my personal Observer. For the most part, he simply observed. After a time, some connections formed in his brain, and he began to break his programming. In fact, he apparently assisted us on a number of occasions, mostly without our knowing anything about it. Eventually, we joined together, and, working with some scientists, we were able to break most of the 'evil' programming in his mind and revert him to a mostly normal person. However, several of his 'enhancements' remained, and he's been a valuable asset. But he's awfully shy, and doesn't like to be amongst large groups of people. He prefers to remain in the background, as it were." Rebecca paused, then smiled a quick smile. "I'm sorry, that turned out to be a bit longer than I expected it to be."

Marielle smiled back reassuringly. "Do not worry, Madame Howard. I understand. Jean has told me on several occasions of the mysterious Observer. But he never told me he his name."

"Well, Ian only picked out his name a few years ago," Rebecca explained. "This was well after our time together."

"Ah, I see."

The group turned to watch Ian as he continued investigating the door. Ian reached into a pocket on his coat and produced a small knife whose blade he slipped in between the door panels near the floor. After working at it for a few minutes, Ian finally pulled out a tiny, white object. Holding it aloft, he pulled the object close to his right eye. "Hmmm..." he pondered. He shut his eyes and was still for a moment. Then his eyes popped open once more. "Feather. Bird. Two-barred crossbill."

Ian spun about, his nose sniffing the air intently. He threw himself onto the ground and began sniffing at the floor. He crawled around, starting near the front door, but eventually working his way further into the house. After several moments spent smelling the floor, Ian pushed himself back up to his feet and moved to join the others. He smiled at the people watching him, and blushed slightly as he saw Rebecca's eyes fixed on him. He held out the white feather. Rebecca took it from him.

"I think," Ian announced, "that I have an idea of where we need to go."

Marielle stood up, clutching her hands together. "Are you certain?" she asked, incredulously.

With an amiable smile, Ian asnwered her. "Indeed, Madame Passepartout. The bird feather was near enough to make a decent guess, but the aroma on the floor has made it an almost one hundred percent certainty. Well, as near as."

Phileas narrowed his eyes. "Would you be so good as to elucidate, please, Ian?"

Ian nodded. "The bird feather is from a rare species, the two-barred crossbill, which is just about unique to a specific location. Then I noticed the particular aroma from the soil left behind by the kidnapper's shoes."

Jules looked over at Rebecca. "Does soil have a smell?" he whispered to her. She hissed at him to be quiet.

"This particular clay-like soil is again almost unique to one specific place," Ian explained. "We need to head to the Orkneys. In particular, the island of North Ronaldsay."

*****

The Aurora was once more underway. Now heading north, the craft was rushing forward with as much speed as was possible without pushing beyond its capabilites. Inside the ship, Ian stood at the controls, while Jules, Rebecca and Phileas sat around the table in the main cabin, conferring about their mission.

"All right," Rebecca was saying, "we reach the island. Then what?"

"We get Ian to search the island as we do a flyover, Rebecca, what else?" Phileas replied, frowning.

"There's no need to get in a huff about it, Phileas," Rebecca grumbled.

"I wasn't--" Phileas began.

"Enough!" Jules slammed his hand down onto the table between the cousins. "I thought we all agreed to behave. Now let's keep to that promise, all right?" He looked back and forth between them. Rebecca and Phileas humbly apologized to Jules.

Ian called back from the controls. "The flyover does sound like a logical approach, in my opinion," he offered.

Jules leaned back in his chair, smiling and scratching his bristly beard. "And I agree. Ian's abilities will help us narrow down our search area much quicker than if we had to split up and search on foot."

Rebecca thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. Yes, I think we can do that." She stood up and walked over to Ian, placing a gentle hand upon his shoulder as he flew the Aurora. "I understand how difficult it must be for you to use your... skills in order to assist us. How uncomfortable it must be to utilize the enhancements the League performed upon you. I just want you to know how much it means to us. How much it means to me." She smiled as Ian glanced at her hand on his shoulder and looked into Rebecca's eyes. He smiled back.

"Thank you, Rebecca," Ian said. "It is indeed uncomfortable. But, yes, I do know how much it means to you all. I owe all of you so much for what you have done for me. Which is why I am so glad to be able to help you find Passepartout."

Rebecca squeezed his shoulder comfortingly, then rejoined Jules and Phileas at the table.

Jules, meanwhile, had retrieved a detailed map of northern Scotland, and had unrolled it on the tabletop. He and Phileas were peering at it intently, pointing out various places of interest. Rebecca cleared her throat as she approached them, and the two men hurriedly narrowed their focus to the island of North Ronaldsay.

"Do you see here, Verne?" Phileas said as he gestured at the map. "Here it is, right at the tip of the Orkney Islands."

"I believe the islands' inhabitants prefer to call it simply 'Orkney'," Rebecca interjected.

"They can call it whatever the devil they like," Phileas replied. "I shall call it whatever *I* like."

"Fogg, look here," Jules said, drawing their attention back to the map. "It's not a very large island, and mostly level ground. Plenty of beaches."

"Hmmm... It would have pleasant summers, perhaps, but most likely some very frigid winters, I would assume."

Rebecca pointedly cleared her throat once more. "We are *supposed* to be planning a rescue, gentlemen. If you'd care to postpone your holiday planning for another time...?"

Jules and Phileas glanced up at her, guilty looks on both their faces. "Sorry," Phileas replied, "you're right, of course, Rebecca." He nodded solemnly. "Passepartout, yes. Quantrill and his men must surely be up to no good now, with poor Passepartout unhappily in their posession as well..." He trailed off as he noted the saddened looks on his friends' faces. "I've said something again, haven't I?"

Rebecca nodded, turning away to surreptitiously wipe a moist tear from the corner of her eye. "It's all right, Phileas, don't concern yourself."

Jules clasped Phileas on the shoulder. "It was much more brief this time. And you recognized that it happened. That's encouraging."

Phileas shrugged off Jules' hand and thrust himself up out of his chair, tipping the map onto the floor in the process. "Damn it, it shouldn't be happening at all!" he thundered as he stormed off, heading for his room. Hearing his door slam shut, Rebecca and Jules looked at each other.

"Well, it *was* more brief this time," Jules said quietly, feeling somewhat encouraged.

"I know, Jules," Rebecca agreed. "But like he said, it shouldn't be happening. Not to him. Not ever."

Jules stood up and walked over to Rebecca. He placed both hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. "It's not fair, I agree. But it *is* happening, and we *will* deal with it. Just be thankful that he's still with us at all." He pulled her close and gave her a warm, friendly embrace, which she returned gratefully.

*****

In his quarters, Phileas threw himself down onto his bed. His bones ached in protest at his sudden rush from the main cabin, but he ignored the pain. Instead, he pushed himself into a sitting position, his back against the headboard of his bed, and folded his arms. How dare this... this *sickness* attack him! He was Phileas Fogg, for goodness' sake! He was above such things.

Or so he had thought.

He sighed, and shut his eyes, sliding down on the bed and resting his head on his pillows. It was too much for him right now. His friend and former valet Passepartout was missing, possibly in grave danger, and he felt helpless. The attacks always came without warning, and he never knew when they happened. Whatever form the attack came in, whatever situation or time he thought he was in, it always felt so real to him. So accurate. He could not tell the difference between his lapses and reality. Which made it so dangerous, and so frustrating.

Phileas took a deep breath, summoning up a hidden reserve of strength from somewhere within himself. Clenching his fists, he opened his eyes, vowing quietly to himself, "I will *not* allow another of these infernal 'attacks' to consume me. Not until Passepartout is safe!" He sighed, shut his eyes again, and unclenched his fists.

"Please, God," he added softly.

*****

The morning sun was just cresting over the horizon as the Aurora approached the coast of North Ronaldsay Island. As the airship gently slowed its speed, the sun's golden beams touched the windows of the gondola. The dawn's early light shone through Rebecca's window, and she blinked her eyes open, rubbing the sleep from them as she sat up in her bed. She had just had a wonderful dream involving herself and her husband Alexander, and felt refreshed and excited, ready for the new day.

Jules noticed the light shining through his window, and shut his eyes, rolling over in his bed, turning away from the light. He wished it wasn't so early, he was too old to get up at dawn anymore. He hunched down under his covers, blotting out the light as best he could.

In his room, Phileas opened his eyes and shaded them from the direct sunlight which now shone through his window. He struggled out of bed, sighing as he faced yet another day of aches and pains. Then another thought gripped him. Passepartout. Renewed, he began to get himself ready.

Ian, meanwhile, was maneuvering the Aurora into a slow glide along the coastline, heading north along the western shore of the island. He checked his pocketwatch, and set the controls to automatic. Turning, he headed down the main corridor. "Everybody up, new day's dawning!" he called out cheerfully. He chuckled as something large and heavy thumped against Jules' door from within. "I've even got breakfast prepared."

"I take back that shoe, Ian, sorry," said a muffled voice from Jules' room.

Ian shook his head, smiling as the clarion call of breakfast caused his friends to ready themselves somewhat more quickly.

*****

A short time later, after breakfast had been consumed, the plan had been settled upon. Jules would pilot the Aurora while Ian stood station at the front of the craft, observing the ground as only he could, using all of his biological enhancements courtesy of the League of Darkness.

Ian smiled faintly as a small flock of birds flapped past the main window. "Two-barred crossbill, I was right," he said triumphantly.

"We never doubted you for a second," Jules responded.

"Thank you, my friend," Ian said as he scanned the fields below the Aurora.

Phileas, seated in a comfortable chair nearby, turned a page in his newspaper. He frowned, and turned back to the front page. "This is ridiculous, this newspaper is four weeks out of date!" he groused.

Rebecca looked over at him from where she stood near Jules. "What do you expect, Phileas? We were lucky Kirkwall had any newspapers at all, seeing as it is such a remote village."

Phileas sighed as he tossed the newspaper aside. "I suppose. You're right, of course, Rebecca. As usual." He smiled absently as he looked out the main window.

Rebecca followed his gaze, noting the sun-dappled fields of grass, the nearby roaring coastline, and the brilliant blue cloudless sky. "It is very pretty here, I must say."

Jules nodded.

"Not as pretty as my Rebecca," said a quiet voice. There was an awkward moment of silence, eventually broken by Ian. "I'm sorry," he said guiltily. "That was me, wasn't it?"

"It's all right, Ian," Rebecca said comfortingly.

"It's very difficult to shake off some of the old programming," Ian explained quietly.

"I know," Rebecca replied. "I understand, it's all right, really."

Ian nonetheless guiltily thrust his hands into his pockets and focussed his concentration completely on his observation of the island.

Jules glanced at Rebecca, raising a doubting eyebrow.

Rebecca nodded, and whispered to Jules, 'Everything's fine, trust me."

"If you say so," Jules replied. He returned his attention to the Aurora's controls.

Phileas, meanwhile, harrumphed indignantly. Everyone else pointedly ignored him.

*****

Several hours later, after scanning the vast majority of the small island, Ian finally turned to his companions. "I think I can say with relative certainty where Passepartout is."

The three friends rushed over to Ian. "Really?" Rebecca said, her eyebrows leaping up in surprise. "Where?"

"Down there," Ian said, pointing out the window.

The others leaned forward and attempted to look down to where Ian was pointing. They saw a rocky shoreline, leading to a small hill and from there the fields of the islands beyond.

Phileas looked over at Ian. "Down there, you say?"

Ian nodded.

"Are you quite sure?" Phileas asked, doubt creeping into his voice.

Ian nodded again. "Yes, I am sure. After observing 97 percent of this island, noting everything that I could possibly scan, I have discovered a myriad of footpaths and traces of trails that lead to that area right down there. There are other paths, of course, but most of those lead to somewhere obvious. A village or a dockside, for example. These paths, however, lead to this beach, and then disappear."

"Well, perhaps a boat arrives regularly here for something," Rebecca proposed.

"Then why do the paths lead away from the beach and the fields and into that rocky mound over there, instead of down to the water's edge?" Ian pointed at a pile of large rocks and boulders which sat a short distance from the edge of the sea and formed a sort of border between the shore and the hill leading to the grassy fields.

Jules gazed at the mound of rocks. "A secret entrance, perhaps?"

"Perhaps," Ian said, nodding again. "However, for some reason I am unsure of, my scans refuse to penetrate the earth any deeper than the surface."

"Is that true of the entire island, or just this area?" Phileas asked.

"Only this area," Ian confirmed.

They all looked at one another, resolve etched in their lined faces.

"Right," Rebecca said firmly.

"Time for action," Jules replied.

"Indeed," Phileas answered.

"Perhaps we should make another plan?" Ian asked conversationally.

The other three paused.

"Damn it, I'm getting too old for planning," Phileas moaned. He shuffled over to his chair and eased his body down into it.

"Ian," Rebecca said determinedly, "you remain on board the Aurora, keep her flying, and keep a lookout for anyone approaching this area, or anything unsual at all. Meanwhile, the rest of us will go down and investigate that rocky area you've discovered."

"Sounds good to me," Jules said.

"Agreed," Ian said. "I'll get the winch ready."

"I'll get us some weapons," Rebecca announced as she headed towards her room.

"I'll get some supplies," Jules decided as he headed towards the hallway.

"I'll get a bit of rest while you're doing all that," Phileas said, and he promptly nodded off, snoring gently.

*****

Jules and Rebecca helped Phileas step off of the winch platform onto the rocky beach. Phileas impatiently shrugged off their attempts to assist him, instead preferring to use only his trusty walking stick. The little group moved towards the mound of rocks that Ian had indicated was the destination of the majority of the pathways he had tracked with his senses.

Jules shifted the backpack he carried on his shoulders to make his burden slightly more comfortable. Rebecca, meanwhile, made sure her weapons were ready and easily accessible.

The three friends approached the mound, walking right up to the largest of the boulders. Phileas poked at it with his walking stick. To his and the others' surprise, a hollow-sounding thump echoed out of the rocks. Phileas stumbled backwards slightly in shock.

"We certainly weren't expecting *that*," Rebecca said, frowning.

Jules approached the rock, holding his hands out in front of him. Apprehensively, he touched the boulder, pressing against it. It remained firm, but it did sway back slightly from his touch. Jules braced himself, and pushed harder. The boulder responded by rolling back into the gently sloping hillside it and the other rocks were resting against.

"Well, don't just stand there, give me a hand!" Jules called back as he struggled with the rock. Phileas and Rebecca joined him and threw their weight against the large boulder. Their combined efforts pushed it further and further back, until it was finally as far back inside the hillside as it would go, revealing...

"A dark tunnel," Jules said, excitedly.

Phileas and Rebecca looked at one another. "Almost as bad as a dark alley," Rebecca said with a smirk.

"Thank God for that," Phileas chuckled. "Otherwise Verne would most likely be unconscious by now."

Jules folded his arms and looked angrily at his two friends. "Will you please, once and for all, drop the 'Jules should never go down dark alleys' nonsense! It was a phase I was going through! I was young, I was foolish. Well, I'm certainly not young anymore, and I pray I'm not nearly as foolish as I once was. And you're quite right, it's not an alley this time. So drop it, all right?"

Rebecca and Phileas struggled to hide their smiles as they agreed to let it go.

"Good," Jules said, pleased. "Thank you. Now, do either of you have a torch?"

"You do," Phileas said, pointing at Jules, "in that backpack of supplies you gathered, remember?"

Jules' face fell slightly. "Oh," he said. "Yes. You're right."

"It seems I'm not the only one suffering from old age," Phileas smiled, delighted.

Rebecca finally lost her control and burst out laughing. "Oh good Lord," she struggled to say through her laughter. "We'd better get in there quickly before you two are at each other's throats."

Jules, having unpacked a torch, reslung his backpack onto his shoulders, and nodded his agreement with Rebecca. "Let there be light," he declared as he lit his torch, and gestured for the others to follow him.

Phileas, Rebecca and Jules crept deeper and deeper into the cavern revealed by the shifted boulder. They moved forward, noting that the tunnel seemed to be sloping downwards as they kept going.

"I wonder how deep this cavern gets," Jules wondered aloud.

"Oh, for God's sake, Verne," Phileas grumbled in exasperation, "not every cave leads to the bloody center of the Earth!"

Rebecca giggled, and playfully slapped Phileas on the arm. "Oh, Phileas, don't you know when he's teasing you?"

Jules glanced back at Phileas, his eyes twinkling. Phileas smiled wearily and chuckled. "Well done, Verne, you had me with that one."

"Sorry, Fogg," Jules grinned. "Sometimes I just can't help myself."

The group continued their trek. Eventually they heard a sound from up ahead, and the three of them all halted together. Rebecca held up a hand, indicating that Jules and Phileas should remain back as she crept forward to investigate.

Rebecca slipped quietly towards the source of the sound, a deep rumbling growl. She approached a turn in the cavern, and peeked around the corner. She did a double-take as she saw what was producing the noise. Looking back at her friends, she gestured for them to join her. Rebecca held up a finger to her lips, and led them quietly around the corner.

Silently, the three intruders crept past the snoring figure of what was apparently supposed to be a guard. The man, who appeared to be around fifty years of age, was sitting on a stool, his head leaning against the wall, his mouth hanging open.

Rebecca made it past the snoring guard, as did Jules. Phileas, however, was not as lucky. Creeping his way forward, Phileas stumbled slightly on the uneven rock floor, his walking stick clattering noisily to the ground.

The guard's eyes snapped open, focussing on the form of Phileas in front of him. "What the--" the guard said sleepily. He stood up hurriedly, tipping over his small stool.

Phileas attempted to back away from the roused guard. He moved backwards, and tripped awkwardly over his walking stick. His legs flew out from underneath him, striking the guard's shins. The guard doubled over in pain.

Rebecca, meanwhile, had glided into the fray, and promptly thumped the guard on his back. The guard grunted, and swiftly fell to the ground, unconscious.

Jules reached out, offering his hand to Phileas. Accepting the proffered hand, Phileas heaved himself up from the ground, retrieving his handy walking stick. "Thank you, Rebecca, thank you, Verne."

Rebecca turned to her cousin, frowning. "Let's try to be a bit more careful from now on, shall we?"

Phileas rolled his eyes. "For heaven's sake, Rebecca, it was an accident. I'm not exactly as spry as I once was. I'm lucky I didn't break anything." He paused, patting himself down, testing his limbs. "No, nothing broken, thank goodness."

Rebecca turned and resumed her path further into the tunnel. "Thank goodness for that," she said. Jules and Phileas moved to follow her.

Finally, the group reached a roughly-hewn wooden door set into the end of the tunnel. Light emanated from the cracks around the door's frame, enough to allow Jules to douse his torch. Rebecca reached out, and carefully pulled the door open. The three figures slipped through the door and shut it behind them.

They had reached some sort of storage chamber. What appeared to be thousands of gadgets and contraptions of different sizes and shapes covered almost every inch of the place. The floors, the woodens shelves lining the walls, the tables and desks scattered throughout the chamber... every surface in the place had some sort of object dumped on it. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason as to the items' placements.

"Good grief," Phileas breathed as he looked at the immense treasure trove of trinkets.

"I think we're on the right track," Rebecca said. "Passepartout would almost feel right at home here."

"Yes," Jules replied. "He's been tinkering with inventions ever since we knew him. And even before that."

"It's what has made him successful," Phileas added. "All of those bloody inventions of his. He's made a mint off of them."

"And all without flaunting his wealth," Rebecca said, agreeing. "He just wouldn't be our Passepartout if he did."

"Quite," Phileas said. "Modesty is his middle name."

"Actually," a voice cried out angrily through the chamber, "I don't think it is!"

The three adventurers whirled about, trying to locate the source of the voice. They could see no one in the room. There was, however, a slightly ajar door across the room from the entrance they had just passed through.

"Who's there?" Jules shouted. "Show yourself!"

"Why?" the voice called back.

Failing to come up with a better answer, Jules replied, "Because I said so!"

"Oh, very well," the mysterious voice said grumpily. "Have it your way."

The door opposite them opened fully, and a small figure walked into the chamber. Rebecca pulled a pistol from her dress as the figure approached them. The strange man stopped and threw up his hands. "Don't shoot!" he said hurriedly. "I'm unarmed, I promise you." He looked at Phileas, Jules and Rebecca as they, in turn, examined him.

The stranger appeared to be approximately sixty years old, with a shock of unruly white hair, and a thick white beard to complement it. A large pair of thick glasses perched on top of the man's nose. He wore a rough, brown coat and a pair of fingerless gloves. His black trousers were spotted with dirt, dust, and other unidentified elements.

"What are you doing here?" the man asked insistently. "How did you find me?"

Phileas circled the man, while Rebecca covered him with her gun. He looked the little man up and down. Then, to everyone's surprise, Phileas threw down his walking stick, grabbed the stranger's lapels, and lifted him an inch off the ground. "Where is he?" Phileas demanded, enraged. Then, just as suddenly, Phileas let the man go, doubling over and attempting to catch his breath. Jules rushed over to help.

The stranger collected himself, brushing down his ragged coat. Looking over at Rebecca and her gun, which was still trained on him, he said quietly, "I assume you mean Jean Passepartout."

"You would be correct," Rebecca replied frostily. "Answer the question."

"I will take you to him," the man replied, his shoulders slumping in defeat. He turned, and led the three friends through the rear door of the storage chamber. "I imagine you are wondering who I am," he continued as they walked.

"The thought had crossed our minds," Phileas agreed, still angry, yet recovering from his exertions.

"I am Professor Milo Dirennius," the short man declared proudly. "As you have probably guessed from my storage room behind us, I am an inventor. Unfortunately, I am a completely unsuccessful inventor, as a matter of fact."

Jules looked back the way they had come, the door to the storage chamber disappearing as they turned a corner in the corridor. "Completely? There must be thousands of inventions back there. Surely something must have worked."

Professor Dirennius laughed harshly. "You would think, wouldn't you? I've tried putting all types of things together, for practical purposes. Sometimes for impractical purposes. Yet nothing ever works. Nothing! At least, nothing works the way I want it to work. So when I kept hearing of the tremendous success of one particular inventor... Well, I suppose I just got mad. And somewhat jealous."

"Let me guess," Rebecca said. "Jean Passepartout."

The small professor nodded. "Yes. I kept hearing his name, reading it in the newspapers. 'Passepartout Invents This', and 'Passepartout Invents That'. Every month for years and years, or so it seemed to me, at least. Finally, after all these years, I read that he had retired. At last, no more attention-grabbing inventions from that annoying man. Yet I kept going. I had hoped that now there was a void in the invention market, I would be the next in line. The heir apparent, you might say. But no. I was still infuriatingly unsuccessful."

"So now you've kidnapped Passepartout," Phileas growled. "And you want him to invent for you, so you can take the credit. Am I right?"

Professor Dirennius nodded. "Yes. Is it that obvious?"

Jules rolled his eyes. "Well, of course it is! The most famous inventor of our time goes missing. Then suddenly you start having better luck than you'd been having in the past. Your inventions are starting to become successful. What would people think? Missing Passepartout, Professor Dirennius suddenly successful... Perhaps Dirennius has kidnapped Passepartout? How does that sound? Too obvious for you?"

"Well," Dirennius reflected as he dug in his pockets and withdrew a ring of keys, "now that you put it that way, it does seem rather ridiculously transparent."

Dirennius stopped in front of a wooden door. He inserted his key and unlocked it. "He's in here," he said quietly as the door swung open.

Rebecca shoved the professor inside, following him closely. Phileas and Jules hurried in after them. They found themselves inside a rather small holding cell, with a humble bed in one corner, a sink and a bucket in another corner, and, sitting in a comfortable wooden chair, book on his lap, head nodding on his chest, snoring as if he was dead to the world... was Jean Passepartout. His grey hair was neatly cut, and his clean-shaven face was lined with the effects of aging. Despite these differences, it was still clearly Passepartout.

"Passepartout!" Phileas cried out with delight.

Passepartout snored once, snorted, and blinked his eyes open. His book fell to the floor. He looked over at the doorway, saw who was there, and jumped out of his seat. The height that his jump reached belied the fact that he was nearly seventy years old. His eyes wide with joy, his mouth breaking out into a huge grin, he yelped, "Master!" Quickly correcting himself, he continued, "Phileas Fogg! Rebecca Howard! Jules Verne! I am so happy to see you all!" He rushed over to join his old friends.

The three rescuers converged upon Passepartout and consumed him in one of the greatest group hugs the world had ever seen. They held onto each other for what seemed like a millennium, saying nothing, just revelling in the bliss of being together once again.

Eventually they did pull apart. The four friends looked at each other, their joy clearly evident on all their faces.

"How are you?" Rebecca asked gently.

"I am actually very well," Passepartout explained. "Professor Dirennius has treated me surprisingly well, considering he kidnapped me." He shot a black look at the little man, who sat down dejectedly on the cell's bed. "And considering I've not helped him one little bit in his ridiculous scheme to become the world's second-greatest inventor."

"Good for you, Passepartout," Phileas said, smiling fondly at his old friend. "I'm proud of you."

Passepartout grinned, and Jules clapped him on the shoulder. "So am I, Passepartout."

"We all are," Rebecca added. "Now let's get out of here."

"That sounds very good to me," Passepartout agreed.

The four friends turned to leave. Rebecca lingered back for a moment, and faced Professor Dirennius. "Come on, get up," she ordered him. "You're coming with us."

Dirennius sighed, and stood up. "Very well," he said. Rebecca gestured for him to leave the cell. He exited behind Phileas, Jules and Passepartout, following them as they made their way down the hall towards the storage chamber and the exit.

Before they reached the storage chamber, the professor paused in front of another door. He turned to Rebecca and nodded in the direction of the door. "May I just retrieve my journal before I go? It's right in here, on my desk."

Rebecca considered kicking him in the shins to keep him moving, then relented and nodded. "Fine. But be quick about it."

The professor ambled into what appeared to be his office. There was indeed a desk, and, as he had said, there was a leather-bound book sitting on top of the desk. Dirennius approached his desk, and reached out to his journal. He paused, and pressed his hands firmly upon its cover. "I couldn't bear to leave without it," he explained. Collecting the volume into his arms, he rejoined Rebecca in the hallway. "Let's go," he said sadly.

The group headed towards the storage chamber once more. As they reached the doorway leading to the chamber, Professor Dirennius turned to face Rebecca. "I think perhaps it's best if we hurry things along," he said, quickly consulting his pocketwatch.

"Why is that?" Rebecca said, her eyes narrowing.

"Um..." the professor said, hesitating. "I set a self-destruct mechanism into motion back there, when I picked up my journal."

"You what?" Phileas hissed angrily at the little man.

"Sorry, perhaps I should have mentioned that earlier," Professor Dirennius said, a guilty smile etched on his face.

Rebecca prodded him in the back with her gun. "Get moving!" she yelled at him.

The entire group broke out into a sad version of a run. Phileas and his walking stick shuffled through the discarded and failed trinkets of the storage chamber, while Jules and Passepartout followed close behind, all three of them already wheezing from the effort. Dirennius and Rebecca brought up the rear. They eventually reached the doorway leading from the storage chamber into the stone corridor beyond.

Phileas scrabbled at the door handle clumsily.

"Come on, come on!" Rebecca hurried him.

"I'm doing it, Rebecca," Phileas grumbled, irritated, finally opening the door.

The group rushed down the corridor. They eventually reached the unconscious guard, who received a swift kick in the legs from Professor Dirennius. "Laszlo, get your ass out of here, it's set to explode!" the professor shouted as his guard blearily struggled to awaken.

With the confused addition of Laszlo the guard, the group rushed on and on, eventually seeing light at the end of the stone tunnel. As they hurried towards it, a deafening boom and a thundering roar echoed from behind them. They glanced back to see a flicker of firelight rounding a corner. Then they were all running at full pelt as they saw a massive fireball roiling down the corridor towards them.

After what seemed an eternity, they reached the rocky beach. Scattering once they were into the open air, they threw themselves away from the opening to the cavern. Hurling themselves onto the ground, they covered their heads as the flames from the explosion blasted out from the corridor's opening. Eventually the fire subsided.

Rebecca lifted her head and struggled to her feet. She looked around and found Phileas. She helped him to stand, and saw Jules helping Passepartout a short distance away. Whirling around, she noticed also that Professor Dirennius and Laszlo were gone.

"Damn it!" Rebecca fumed. "He's gotten away!" She began climbing the gentle slope of the rocky beach, and crested the top of the rise, desperate to reach the Aurora and search for the escaped villains. Instead, she nearly fell over as she stumbled across the prone figures of the professor and his guard as they lay on the ground, struggling underneath a large heavy rope net. Rebecca looked up at the Aurora, and saw a happy Ian waving down at her. Rebecca took a deep, relieved breath, chuckled, and waved gratefully back.

Jules, Phileas and Passepartout caught up with her, all three struggling to catch their breath.

Rebecca turned to her friends. "All wrapped up in a neat little package, wouldn't you say?" she smiled.

*****

The Aurora was sailing south once more. Professor Dirennius and Laszlo were safely bound up and stowed away in one of the spare rooms. The others were all relaxing in the main cabin, with Ian dutifully manning the controls.

Passepartout shuffled nervously on one side of the cabin, glancing every so often at Ian.

Rebecca, finally fed up, hissed at Passepartout, "Oh, for heaven's sake, Passepartout, he's doing fine!"

Passepartout smiled somewhat nervously at her. "I know, Rebecca, but... if he would only tilt the left lever there just slightly forw--"

"Passepartout!" Rebecca growled, her eyes telling him to drop it, now. He did.

Instead, Passepartout ambled over to Phileas, who was seated in a comfortable chair and reading the newspaper he had shown such displeasure at earlier in the journey. Every so often Phileas could be heard to grumble about something he read in the paper.

Approaching carefully, Passepartout smiled kindly at Phileas. "How have you been, Phileas?" he asked amiably.

Phileas looked up at Passepartout over the top of his newspaper. "How have I been?" Phileas repeated. "You don't want to know." With that, he proceeded to continue reading.

Passepartout's face fell slightly, but he went on. "Yes, I do. You are my friend. I care about you."

Phileas lowered his newspaper. "Well, if you *must* know, I'm not doing all that well, thank you very much. My little 'episodes' have become more frequent and more irritating. I just want them to stop."

There was an awkward pause, as Passepartout thought of a way to answer his friend. "Perhaps there is a different way to deal with this."

Phileas cocked an eyebrow at Passepartout. "Oh?"

"Yes. Shillingworth Magna. They know you there, they can take care of you."

Phileas stood up, grabbing for his walking stick, his newspaper pages scattering to the floor. "I do not wish to be 'cared for' as if I was some invalid, Passepartout!" he seethed. "Now, kindly make me my afternoon tea, and then we shall track down this 'Jules Verne' and see what his intentions towards the Queen might be."

Everyone in the cabin froze. Passepartout looked at Phileas, who stared back at him. "I am no longer your valet, Phileas," he said gently and quietly.

"What?" Phileas said, affronted. "Don't be absurd, Passepartout. And kindly address me as 'Master' when you are speaking to me. At least *try* to show a modicum of civility, would you? And where is my damn tea?"

Jules approached the two men carefully. "Fogg," he began.

"Verne!" Phileas growled. "At last! What the devil are you doing, threatening the Queen of England with your insidious Mole? How dare you!" He made to grab for Jules, but found his arms restricted by Passepartout.

"Phileas, please," Passepartout said gently as he struggled to calm his friend. "This has already happened. This happened a very long time ago. Jules is our friend now." He turned Phileas around, and they faced each other. Phileas' face began to fall, tears welling in his tired eyes. Suddenly, Phileas clutched at Passepartout and pulled him close, enveloping him in a desparate, frightened bear hug.

"Help me," Phileas whispered, earnestly, desperately. He clung to Passepartout as if his former valet were a lifeline. "Help me, please. Take me home..." Phileas' voice drifted off, as the tears rolled quietly down his cheeks.

Passepartout patted his former master on the back, hugging him close. "I will, my friend. I will." He turned to glance at Rebecca and Jules, then began walking Phileas towards his room.

After Phileas and Passepartout had left the cabin, Jules walked slowly over to Rebecca, who had witnessed the entire scene in silence. She looked at Jules, and closed her eyes, tears falling from her face.

"God, it pains me to see him like this," she said. She stood up from her chair, and hugged Jules close.

"I know," Jules said. "Me, too."

"We have to take him home," Rebecca continued, brushing away the tears from her face.

"And we will," Jules agreed. "I think even he has come to realize that now."

Rebecca nodded. She turned to Ian, who had politely remained out of the way throughout. "Ian, set a course for Shillingworth Magna, please."

"Understood," Ian said softly. He reached up to his right eye and swept away a droplet of something that had formed in its corner. Then he adjusted the controls.

Jules turned to Rebecca. "I think we need to stop off at some point before we get back. We need to send word. Make sure everything is ready for when we get back."

Rebecca nodded again. "Of course. What was I thinking? Ian, find the nearest large city, somewhere likely to have a telegraph office."

*****

The Aurora approached the stately grounds of Shillingworth Magna, the Fogg estate. Ian located the landing area, and gently set the airship down. He turned from the controls, and found himself facing a smiling Rebecca.

"Thank you, Ian," she said gently. "Well done."

Ian smiled humbly in response and bowed slightly.

Rebecca turned, and saw Phileas being helped down the hallway by Passepartout. Jules followed the two of them into the main cabin.

"Right," Rebecca announced. "I think we're ready to disembark."

"Passepartout," Phileas said as he gently disengaged himself from his friend. "Thank you, I'll be all right." He straightened himself proudly and faced the door leading to the outside. Head held high, he boldly walked over to it, not even bothering to use his walking stick, and opened it. Stepping out and onto the grounds of his estate, he found himself in front of a number of faces, some familiar, others not. He spotted one in particular and strode purposefully over to the familiar figure.

"Ah, Williams, there you are," he said. "Good man." He smiled at Williams and announce, not only to his man, but to the rest of the people gathered around the lawn, "I am home."

"Yes, sir," Williams said, his face solemn. "Very good, sir. If you would care to follow me, sir?" He gestured for Phileas to accompany him.

"Of course," Phileas said. He made to move off, then paused. He turned, looked back at the Aurora, and saw Rebecca, Passepartout, and Jules. He smiled lovingly at them all, and nodded. With a jaunty salute, he waved at them, turned back to Williams, and headed towards the manor house. A number of dark-coated figures detached themselves from the group gathered around the newly-arrived Aurora. One of the figures caught Passepartout's eyes and nodded at him. Receiving an acknowledging nod from Passepartout, the man turned to join his fellows as the little group followed Phileas inside the manor.

Another figure stepped out of the gathered group, and rushed towards Passepartout. "Jean!" the woman shouted gleefully.

Passepartout's eyes widened, and his heart melted as he saw who it was who was running at him. "Marie!" he cried back joyfully. The pair threw themselves at one another, embracing each other. "I have missed you so much, my love," Passepartout whispered in his wife's ear.

"As did I, Jean, as did I," Marie whispered happily back.

Meanwhile, a tall, elegant-looking man snuck up to Rebecca and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Welcome back, my sweet," the man said gently.

Rebecca looked up at the newcomer, and smiled. "Thank you for coming, Alexander," she said. The two of them kissed.

"Uncle Jules!" an excited voice cried out. A figure pushed its way to the front of the collected crowd. A thin, lithe young woman hurried up to Jules, grinning from ear to ear. She threw herself at him.

"Emma!" Jules chuckled. "Little Emma Howard, how are you?"

Emma hugged Jules tightly. "Better, now that everyone is back safe and sound," she said happily. "I'm going to have to talk to Mother about leaving me behind again. Oh, and Quinn is here, too."

"So I noticed," Jules said as he waved over to the tall man laughing at Emma's enthusiasm.

Rebecca and Alexander broke off their kiss. Alexander looked Rebecca up and down. "You look rather well," he said.

"Thank you very much," Rebecca teased, pretending to be insulted as she ruffled her husband's silver hair.

"You know what I mean," Alexander teased back.

"I know." She leaned her weary head upon his sturdy shoulder. She sighed. "Will he be all right?"

Alexander rubbed her arms and held her close. "He's got some of the finest doctors and experts in the whole of England here. He'll be... well, he'll be comfortable."

Rebecca shut her eyes. "I do hope so."

Nearby, Passepartout and Marielle still clung to each other.

"Jean?" Marielle whispered.

"Yes, my precious?"

"Let's go home..."

**********