by Jason A. Miller ©1998

Chapter 7: Everybody Wants To Rule The World

The party was in full swing now. The guests of honor, Callie and Jimmy sat at a small table, talking quietly but happily. Sandy was singing "Unbelievable", swinging her head enthusiastically, while Owen bopped along behind her from the safety of his keyboard. Couples were finally starting to dance.

Callie was doodling on a cocktail napkin, writing boys' and girls' names in two separate columns, and drawing lines between them as she and Jimmy tried to figure out who was dating who this evening. "All right," she said, pen held between her teeth. "There's me and you, that's one. Glory and J.T. would be two. Nancy set herself up with Neil --"

"Yeah, of all the things. Why *Neil*? It's not like he'd even acknowledge her." Jimmy leaned back in his chair, sipping on a fruity concoction provided by Jazz.

She lowered her voice and did her favorite Hal Holbrook impersonation. "Follow the money!" They both laughed.

"Sandy and Owen are supposed to be together tonight. Heaven knows what Nancy was thinking," Callie muttered.

"Not exactly heaven there, dear!"

Callie raised an eyebrow.

"Who else do we have?" asked Jimmy.

"Well, there's Saja. Have you heard who they set him up with?"

"I dunno... Sandy?"

"Not zo fast, Meezter Bond," she said, waggling her eyebrows furiously.

"So, you're the Doctor! I've heard quite a bit about you. I must say, this is a tremendous honor."

The Doctor looked up from where he was sitting. A pleasant-faced young fellow in a black suit looked back at him. Older than the rest of this crowd -- certainly long past his teenage years -- but he was standing with Jazz, so he'd most likely be trustworthy. The Doctor let his guard down.

"Oh, I assure you, none of it's true. It's all wretched propaganda, you know," he answered.

Barek looked at Jazz, and then across the room, at where Jimmy sat. "One of the pitfalls in living in a small town like this. Everyone knows everyone business. This, Doctor, is where the `in crowd' go to check each other out."

"I get the distinct impression," said the Doctor, and now he was amused, "that you don't belong here."

"That would make us the same."

"Indeed, indeed," said the Doctor airily. "Have a seat, please!"

Barek and Jazz sat down.

Chris and Roz sat far in the back of the room, as far from everyone else as they could get. A large crowd clustered around the front doors, but they couldn't tell what, or who, caused the commotion.

"This is such nonsense," said Roz. "We've been here nearly a week, but there's been no sign of these rogue agents since the day we arrived."

"Well. At least there's a party," answered her junior partner through a mouthful of hamburger.

"Exactly. I'm almost hoping that our troublemakers pop their heads in tonight, and get the ball rolling early."

Chris looked at his watch. "Within a couple of days. The Doctor promised."

Roz grumbled.

"Well. *I'm* gonna go enjoy myself. You sit here and eat hors d'ouevres or something," Chris said, as he left the table in search of a dance partner. The girl on-stage was rapping, and Chris felt the sudden urge to "boogie down" with the natives.

"I don't understand!"

"You never do, my dear Sydney. You never do!" Garrett might have been overseas for weeks, but he hadn't lost anything off of his attitude. That was the first thing Sydney noticed. And, she thought darkly, he was still together with Mila. Holding hands in public. Pitiful! Oh, how the mighty Booths had fallen. She had to recover her wits quickly and think of a barb.

"So, I see you've been kicked out of school already," she replied.

"Sydney!" interjected Mila, who was, of course, wearing a pink dress. "I didn't travel six times zones to hear you insult my boyfriend!"

Wow. Even Mila sounded different, and they all knew it.

"`Crossed six time zones'?" Sydney repeated. "My dear, you're turning into the Countess!"

That broke the ice, and the two girls laughed and hugged.

Garrett stepped back a pace, and scowled. So, Sydney realized. Maybe she still had some leverage against these two.

But what were they *doing* here?

Saja sat by himself, meditating cross-legged on a table top. A club waiter tried to place food on the table, but was frightened away when he saw that Saja wasn't moving.

Saja's "date" was standing by the door, ogling Garrett or something. It wasn't that Saja didn't like Sydney -- they'd always been reasonably good friends, and she always made it a point to dance with him at Swans Crossing parties. It was just that *Sandy* was supposed to be his date tonight. Even if the so-called "date committee" for this party hadn't known that. Well, at the very least, Glory hadn't known that.

Sandy was up on stage, singing someone else's words. A bunch of other ninth graders he didn't know, crowded the dance floor. Jimmy and Callie still sat alone, whispering and laughing. Callie was scribbling something on a napkin. She looked up from her work, and met Jimmy's eyes. They both laughed uproariously. Saja's blood started to boil (metaphorically, of course). This is not how he'd wanted things to turn out.

From her vantage-point up on stage, Sandy could see Mila looking at Garrett, and Garrett looking at Sydney. She couldn't stop singing to go greet them -- she wouldn't know what all the fuss was until this song was over, or until Owen got hungry and decided to take a food break.

She could also see Sydney looking across the room, at Saja. Shoot! She couldn't believe that Nancy had paired up Saja -- *her* Saja -- with someone else -- her *friend*. And even worse, Sydney's look was a longing one. Sydney was treating this like a date -- a date date -- and the meeker Sandy wouldn't stand a chance.

But Saja wasn't looking at Sydney, or at Garrett or Mila. He was looking straight at Callie, and his meaning was unmistakable.

Sandy's voice started to falter. This was never going to work.

Behind her, Owen -- *her* date for the evening -- kept on playing, unaware of all the by-play. Couldn't even realize how upset she was feeling. Couldn't even act like they were supposed to be together.

Edward spun Sophia around in an awkward circle. She glared at him, and he mumbled an apology. Technically, it wasn't his fault -- the music was terrible! Her younger brother's friend was doing the singing. She'd have to insult Bobby about that later, of course.

She looked over to where Jimmy sat. He seemed perfectly happy. He was even laughing. What was up with that? Not long ago, all she'd have to do was look at him a certain way, and he wouldn't pay attention to anyone else.

"Are you ready to get out of here yet, Edward?" she asked.

"I didn't realize you had such an interest in the local politics, Mr. Barek," said the Doctor.

"I met Margaret Rutledge at a fund-raising event sometime last month. We spoke briefly about her campaign, about her opponent."

"Opponent? What a ludicrous notion," the Doctor muttered.

"Huh?" Jazz asked.

"Oh, I think you'll find that, underneath it all, the candidates all run on the same issues. It's not as if there's not that much at stake here, really."

Jazz laughed. "Ha! Just a little bit cynical, aren't we, Scotland?"

"No no no," Barek protested. "The Doctor's one hundred percent right, again."

"I'm glad to see someone agrees with me!" the Doctor laughed, and removed his hat, leaning forward in his chair.

"All right, someone explain this to me like I'm a Swans High student, then," said Jazz, "because I now have positively no idea why you both are so interested in these elections. I mean, if there's nothing at stake."

The Doctor started to answer, but so did Barek, so the Doctor graciously deferred to the younger man. "Well," Barek said. "I love to follow the interplay, the by-play, between the candidates. Here we have two upstanding socialites, movers and shakers, who were once devoted friends. Very devoted friends. And now, they attack each other with words. Lie, cheat, steal, all in the name of maneuvering into a position where they can win their little election - until the next one rolls along."

"Their ends justifying the means," the Doctor added, darkly.

"Geez, if that's what you guys think of the Swans Crossing mayoral race, I'd hate to hear what you two think about the Presidential campaign!"

"Ah. I'm a Bush man, myself," said Barek, rubbing at a couple of frayed threads on the lapel of his coat.

"Interesting choice," said the Doctor. "From my vantage point, I'd say it's the other fellow whose chances are unimpeachable." But neither of them knew what he meant, since they weren't from the future, so he dropped the joke and settled for a mental chuckle.

Garrett and Mila walked arm in arm to the head table.

Sydney, Glory, Nancy, and a host of others, followed in their wake. The Countess and the Captain were already seated, and stood up as the Countess' daughter approached.

"Mila, my darling angel!" said the older woman. "It is so gratifying to have you back in Swans Crossing again. This town has grown on us, it has positively grown on us!"

Unseen, Captain Walker stood up and backed away from the table.

Garrett pulled out a chair for Mila, who sat down very carefully. Her entourage murmured amongst themselves, impressed.

Sydney hovered nervously behind Garrett's chair. "I still don't understand, Countess. I thought Mila had signed a six-month contract for that French soap opera."

"Robbers and swindlers!" moaned the Countess melodramatically, in her best drama-queen character. "That meddlesome fool of an agent couldn't even get my darling angel the leading role! It was all such a waste of time."

"Mama's right," said Mila. "My character was only on the show twice a week. She wasn't even the main character -- some scheming brunette got all the best scenes. It wasn't fair!"

"And as for the time slot," the Countess moaned again, clutching her elbows in evident pain. "Who expects French school children to watch a serial about other school students, at six in the morning, when they're still asleep? Oh, the sheer incompetence!"

"So that's why Mila's back," said Sydney. "But I don't understand what Garrett's doing here."

"Yes," added Glory. "I'm your own sister, and I haven't heard a word about this yet! Do Mom and Dad even know you're back?"

Garrett laughed, and Mila joined him.

It was the Countess who explained. "I threatened to take Jack Goldbrick to court over this disaster, this complete disaster! So, he became most accommodating. He promised to move Mila back home, *and* give her her own serial, and this time, they'd film it right here in town!"

"And," said Garrett, "Jack wants *me* to be the male lead."

J.T. ate, while Neil watched. The live music had stopped for the time being, and one of the Club staff had placed a boom box in front of Sandy's microphone. Something slow, not very danceable, played. Sandy stood with the gawking crowd at the Mila and Garrett table. Owen sat by himself at another table, eating.

"I'll never understand it," J.T. said ruefully, shaking his head. "You know, I really thought we'd seen the last of Glory's brother."

"Don't try to understand it, my friend," said Neil. "Once we've published our formula, all this will be behind us."

"No more Garrett?"

"No more parties!"

"Nothing ... except UB2B!" They both laughed, and high fived each other.

"Would you like some more canapes?" asked their waiter, who barely sounded English, and wore a really rotten toupee, to boot. J.T. snatched a handful of (cold) items off the tray, and the man retreated a few paces, just barely out of earshot.

The agent, whose code-name for this mission was still Kerim (a name from the wrong geographical region, but from the right spy-film genre), watched the two screwball kids eat the food. Was this all their research was? Talking about their absurdly-named formula, while slapping their forearms together? Americans...

He shook his head, and readjusted his wig. He had a communicator built into a pin on his lapel, and whispered into it.

"Recommend we advance our plan 24 hours. We must strike this weekend, while our subjects are still distracted."

He fidgeted with something in his ear, waiting for an answer.

"Excuse me for a moment," said Barek as he stood up abruptly, laying a consoling hand on Jazz's shoulder, and pointing his forefinger at the Doctor as he moved away. As if to say, I'll be right back.

With a deep sigh, the Captain lowered himself back into the submarine. He vigorously twisted the hatch, and locked the outside world away. His daughter would knock later in the evening when she wanted back inside, but he wasn't going to let anyone else in this evening.

He mopped his forehead with a handkerchief, and sunk down onto his stool. He grabbed a set of navigational charts off the table, and started mapping out circles on them with a compass. He was going to be very busy over the next few days. And besides, this was a good mind-clearing exercise, to wipe away the memories of the Countess and her unfortunately good-natured attempts to bring him into the party.

"I don't believe I actually went along with this," he said, speaking generally in the direction of the tank of nudibranchs on the bridge. He found it very soothing to talk to them, and they usually understood what he was trying to say, even if they couldn't answer him, for obvious reasons. "I don't wish to stay in this town a minute longer than necessary..."

But then, what would happen to Callie?

Sandy quickly grew bored of all the fawning over Garrett and Mila, so she struck up a side conversation with Glory.

"Your music has been gorgeous tonight!" said the younger girl. "You must really have wanted to make a good impression on Owen!"

"I didn't even know I was supposed to be here with Owen!" Sandy moaned.

"But you guys spend so much time together anyway! Nancy thought it'd be really cute if you guys got to see each other in a different light. Sometimes the very thing you're looking for, is the one thing you can't see."

"That's not the way I wanted it!" she said. "There are other people I want to see in a different light!"

"I don't get it," said Glory, confused. "Nancy said she spoke to you yesterday, and everything seemed fine."

Sandy shook her head, almost in tears. "Nancy never spoke to me about anything. If she'd asked me, she'd have known I already had a date! She ruined everything!"

Glory looked even more confused now. "But we both thought Sydney and Saja would make such a great couple! It would have been great for Saja to get his mind off of Callie -- he looked so dejected in school this week! Honestly, none of us knew about the two of you! I wish we had known!" She sighed.

"You really don't get it, do you?"

"I don't understand."

"Why did you have to trust her?" Sandy whispered, loudly. Nancy turned her head to glance at them, but was more interested in Sydney, Garrett, and Mila.

Glory wrapped her arms around Sandy, and leaned her chin on Sandy's shoulder, although this required some stretching. "Look, Sandy, there's got to be something we can do for you. What can I do to help Everyone's going to be happy tonight!"

Sydney must have heard that, since she turned around and laughed ironically. "Ha!"

Sandy might have said something, but not while Sydney was paying attention. She didn't want to ruin Sydney's evening too, since, for all she knew, Sydney had nothing to do with all this.

"Never mind," she sighed. "It's really time for me and Owen to get back on stage. Look, no-one's dancing anymore!" She walked away, staring at the ceiling.

Jimmy had taken off his bow-tie, claiming it was cutting off the food supply to his stomach, and now sat next to Garrett at the big table. Callie didn't think much of Glory's brother -- she loved Glory, but Garrett was creepier than some of the things she and her dad had fished out of the Orinoco. Still, Garrett was a good friend to Jimmy, so she wasn't going to say anything. So, she was alone for the moment, finally with a chance to stand back and reflect on all this. She still felt curiously detached -- this couldn't all be happening to her! Not six months ago, she and her dad had been in Ireland, visiting her mother's --

"Callie! You got a minute?"

Ugh. It was Barek. "I didn't expect to find you here, of all places," she said as he approached.

"Life isn't all tailpipes and engine blocks."

"You're still a few blocks out of your element, Barek."

"Do I take it to mean that you don't like my suit?"

"I'm not quite sure that it.. suits you." That was rather ham- handed, she thought, and he knew it. "So," she pressed on, "what's with the date, anyway?"

"I'll have you know that Jazz happens to be a fine young woman. You know, there are lots of nice things about living in Swans Crossing, and Jazz has been a most pleasant discovery."

"Yes. We all look out for her," Callie said.

"A devoted bunch. But you'll find that I can be just as devoted, once I get my hands on something."

"Well, maybe you'd just better keep your hands to yourself where Jazz is concerned, all right?"

Barek threw up his hands in protest. "Now, now, now, calm yourself down, that's not why I'm here."

"So what do you want?" she asked, losing patience again.

"You and I got off to a rough start at the bike shop, didn't we," Barek said.

"I guess you could put it that way."

"Well, I'm proposing a truce."

"A truce? After all this time?"

"A truce, in honor of you and young James' finally forming such a graceful couple."

"I'm not exactly sure how I'm supposed to take that, Barek."

"Aw, you're selling me short again. Why don't you take me at face value, and let's be friends?"

Saja still sat on the table-top, eyes closed, trying to summon up his concentration.

It was no good. He was trying to reach out to Callie, but she was out of his reach. That was for two reasons -- one, she didn't possess his Zen-like concentration and couldn't project herself onto the astral plans like he did, and two, she was with Jimmy now. They were a unit, a couple, a team, and Saja was just an extraneous component.

He opened his eyes. Sydney stood over him.

"Wake up, Bobby! Let's dance!"

Oh, wow -- he'd forgotten that he was supposed to be just Bobby tonight. But he'd been so thrown off when J.T. realized the truth about his feelings for Callie, that he'd slipped right back into Saja-mode. To say nothing of losing his date with Sandy, though there'd be time for that someday.

He took one more look at Callie. She was dancing -- Sandy was singing "Gotta Grow Up", and the Swans Crossing Line Dance brigade seemed to be in effect. So he let Sydney grab him by the arm, and joined them.

Before he reached the dance floor, he took his bandanna off, and tossed it onto the table.

Sandy finished the song. She'd sung it at Mila's birthday party -- it was her signature tune, really. But tonight, it felt hollow. Her "date", Owen, sat behind her, plugging away at the keyboard, not even interested in dancing with her. And Saja/Bobby and Sydney seemed so happy line-dancing on the floor below.

Oh, this wasn't right.

"All right, I'm gonna take five and go say hi to Mila," Owen told her. He stood up, and left the stage

That was her cue to leave. She set the microphone down across Owen's keyboard, placed an Escape Club CD in the boom-box, and left the room for a breather.

"Callie! How are you enjoying yourself?" It was the Doctor's friend Benny, standing over her shoulder as she filled up from the dessert tray.

"I feel a lot better than I did last weekend, that's for sure. But how are you doing?"

Benny yawned. "Eh. None of this is really my scene. I feel more comfortable teaching in that school of yours, to be honest."

"So what happens next?" Callie asked, lowering her voice to a whisper.

Bernice raised an eyebrow, and then led Callie away by the elbow. They stepped out into the now-deserted pool area.

"Whatever's going to happen, will happen tomorrow afternoon," said Benny. "At least, as closely as the Doctor can calculate. Or as closely as he's willing to tell us."

"Dangerous to know one's own future, as Saja would say, is that right? Is that why he can't tell us specifics?"

"You could say that," the older woman smiled.

"I haven't seen any of those bald men around, though," said Callie.

Benny said, "That's why we should be worried."

"Can't get too comfortable," Callie agreed, and then hurried back inside.

Sandy stepped out into the pool area, as Callie and the new substitute teacher stepped back into the main area of the club, heading for the ballroom. Summer was truly over -- the deck chairs were put away, and the pool was completely drained and empty. The bottom of the pool was filthy! A deflated water-chair and some sort of... rubber ducky? sat at the bottom.

She sat at the edge of the pool, feet dangling over the edge -- careful not to let her shoes fall to the bottom.

She felt a presence sit down next to her. It was Saja.


"Nah, it's back to Saja tonight."

There was an awkward silence.

"So," she said, grasping for words. "Are you enjoying the night with Sydney?"

"To be honest, it's not what I had planned."

She smiled gratefully at him. "It's not what any of us had planned, really." She leaned her head on his shoulder. He might have been surprised, but didn't say anything. "But at least we're here now, right? It can't be that bad."

"Yes. Far from the madding crowd."

"Just what I was thinking ... though I suppose you'd know that."

"Indeed," he said sagely. "Though there are some minds that even I cannot read."

"Really?" she asked.

He sighed, and hesitated. "I still never know what Callie's thinking." He looked at the doors leading back into the club, and then checked his watch.

She couldn't believe he'd just done that, in front of her! She surged with uncharacteristic anger, and lashed out at him. "Look. Why are you here?" she asked. "Are you here for me, or for Sydney -- or is this all about trying to get back at Callie, and make her jealous?"

Saja looked completely stunned. Good.

"I -- I -- I ... didn't think you..."

"So I *was* right!" she said. She knew something like this was bound to happen. "Am I your consolation prize? Second place? Or third, even worse?"

"Sandy, I -- I -- " he started. "Wait a minute, let's backtrack. What happened here? I thought --"

"Never mind, Saja. Go meditate for a while, or something." She stormed back inside.

When she retook the stage, the rest of her friends applauded (Saja hadn't followed her back inside). Owen handed her a folded-over piece of paper. Her name was written across the edge, in thick masculine scrawl.

"Mila's agent was here -- Jack Goldbrick. He left this for you."

"Really?" She started to open it. What could *this* possibly be about?

"Song! Song!" the audience clamored, so she stuffed the note into her jacket's pocket, and grabbed the microphone.

Jimmy and Callie stood alone in the center of the floor, surrounded by their schoolmates and a few grownies and parents, who were all applauding. She had to admit, the two of them did look terrific, especially Jimmy in his tux.

Well, if he was James Bond this evening, she may as well make their last dance a fun one. She whispered something to Owen, who glowered back and started playing John Barry swing. Not very well, but then again, that wasn't his style.

Sandy searched inside for her best Shirley Bassey voice, and cut loose into the microphone. For the first time all evening, she felt at peace.

"Goldfinger, he's the man, the man with the midas touch"

Barek used the cover of the final dance to approach one of the waiters. The short one, in the ill-fitting rug.

"A spider's touch"

The man nodded curtly at him.

Callie and Jimmy giggled madly, and he started to swing her around, exaggerating his movements as wildly as Sandy exaggerated her voice for the song.

"Such a cold finger, beckons you to enter his web of sin."

The waiter spoke to Barek. "Nightfall covers me, but you know the plans I'm making."

"But don't go in!"

The schoolchildren clapped along, in time to Owen's wild swing riffs on the keyboard.

Barek leered in recognition, and supplied the proper return code phrase. "Still over sea. Could it be the whole Earth opening wide?"

"Golden words he will pour in your ear. But his lies can't disguise what you fear."

Garrett and Mila had their arms around each other, swaying in time to the song, with everyone else. Sydney glared furiously at him, and looked around for Saja. He wasn't there.

"Where did Saja go?", she asked Nancy, who shook her head. Sydney left the room.

"For the golden girl knows when he's kissed her."

Sandy's voice faltered when she saw Sydney leave the room -- she must be trying to find Saja, and steal Sandy's date -- but then she remembered that she was going to enjoy herself and not worry about them, and sung bravely on.

Jimmy started accompanying the song, serenading Callie. She was laughing hard, too hard.

"It's the kiss of -- DEATH -- from Mister Goldfinger"

So he kissed her, in front of everyone else, and an appropriate smattering of "Woo-hoos!" could be heard from the likes of J.T. and Garrett and even Owen from up on stage.

"Do you know what has to be done next?" Barek asked.

"I am to wait until your commander's entourage has left, and instruct my comrades to move under the cover of their motorcade," answered the bald waiter.

"Good man," Barek said, fingering the frayed threads on his lapel.

"Pretty girls, beware of his heart of gold. This heart is cold. He loves only gold!" Owen performed another wild keyboard flourish, and everyone laughed. Even the Doctor tapped his umbrella against his chin, smiling faintly.

"It's him!" Roz whispered to Chris, as they sat alone at their table in the corner.

"What?" said Chris, distracted by the dance.

"That waiter! He just tugged at his hair, and it moved."

"A wig?"

"A Baldie. Let's *go*," she said, grabbing her partner by the arm.

"Only gold. He loves only gold. Only... gold!"

Owen finished the song. Jimmy and Callie moved together, and kissed again. From their circle of friends, they couldn't see the suspicious waiter sneak out the ballroom door, and they didn't see Chris and Roz follow him.

Barek rejoined Jazz on the dance floor.

"How're you holding up?" he asked.

"It's perfect! Nothing else could possibly go wrong." she said, and squeezed his hand.

He smiled. But if he was smiling at her, or at something else, it wasn't entirely clear.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Have been unable to locate any further episodes of this.