Lani looked at him sleeping. On the floor on a rug, the big lunk. He'd point blank balked at sharing the bed. This was proving to be quite a challenge. Not something she'd ever experienced before. But he was so innocent and helplessly naive that she felt rather maternal about him. She'd have to stop him getting locked up and gelded with his crazy ideas and behavior, though. And, she thought, practically, he might actually be quite useful at some things. She wasn't one of those immoral cows that made money out of their men, making them work while claiming the income and sitting on their broad behinds, but… he did say that he liked fixing things. At least he could save her money, to make up for feeding him.

            A laughable bid put in as a sour joke with the others in the station, saying that if she got him, she'd teach him how to behave, had backfired in her face. Maybe, she thought, as she looked at him breathing slowly and rhythmically, his big chest rising and falling easily, for once she'd done the right thing, out of malice.

            It was going to be rather nice, finding out. She was still smiling when sleep took her.


            Her waking was not peaceful.

            A crash… and then "There he is! Kill him!"

            The sound of breaking things, and yells. The sound of flesh being struck. Lani lunged out of her bedroom and plunged into her small lounge. Right at her door, Howard was down, being viciously attacked by three of her fellow officers.

            Lani used her velocity to kick one over him, and a straight arm to knock the turning one so hard into the wall, that the picture above her fell down. The corner of it hit her head and picture-glass sprayed.

            Lani stood over her fallen man, hands at the ready. "What in hell are you playing at?" she demanded of the sole standing officer.

            "L..Lani?" the nightstick tip dropped along with her jaw.

            "Who the hell did you think it was, Madeline? The matriarch? This is my house, damn it! You know that. Why are you beating him up? What the hell is going on here?"

            Captain Madeline Rodgers looked in horror at the smashed door, the broken chair, the picture, and her colleague, looking very ready to kill someone, standing over the man she'd just hit. "We… we have been hunting for you. You're m…missing."

            Howard groaned and tried to sit up. Slumped again.

            "We thought we were rescuing you," said Lieutenant Rubia, from where she sat against the wall amongst the glass-shards. Lani was already on her knees, checking for a pulse, making sure his airway was open.

            "Where did you get that idiotic idea?" she snapped. "Get me my first aid kit from the cupboard in the hall, Madeline, instead of standing there like an idiot."

            "Your scoot was reported wrecked, by one of the harvester crews," explained the Captain. "She said there was lots of blood on the scene—and you didn't call in. Major Nalzac assumed… Well, we've been searching the upper levels for you. We thought he might have carried you off to the runaways in the dead sections. Then early this morning we got a report in that someone had seen a large unaccompanied male near here. We stalked the place and heard a male speak, so we hit the place hard and fast. He's big and we didn't take any chances. I'm sorry."

            "The scoot broke down. Axle broke. I cut my head in the accident and Howard carried me home. He's big but he's just a baby, and the gentlest thing alive, damn you, Madeline." Lani realized that she was crying, but right now she didn't care. "We'd better get him to hospital. And if he dies I'll kill all three of you."

            Howard sat up. Saw her and saw Madeline—still with her night-stick. He staggered to his feet, and Lani found herself pushed back by a ham-like hand. "Get out the back, lass," he said, muzzily. "I'll hold them off."

            "Don't be an idiot, Howard," said Lani pulling him towards the chair. "Sit down before you fall down."

            "They're attacking you…"

            "It was a mistake. Now sit down before I attack you. And I'm a lot more dangerous than these clowns." It sounded tough, but her chin wobbled slightly as she said it, looking at her lunkhead. He was big, but barely able to stand right now. She pulled him down into a chair.

            "He just threatened us," said Madeline, with an edge in her voice.

            Maybe calling her a clown had not been so bright. Captain Rodgers had a high opinion of herself. "He's concussed," said Lani. "He tried to protect me, and he can't even protect himself. Now will you fetch the first aid-kit and call an ambulance?"

            "No," said Rodgers. "You can do it yourself. And I'm going to charge him with threatening to assault officers. Come on, girls. Let's get out of here."

            The other two had picked themselves up, and followed their Captain out of the kicked-in door. Looking at their backs, Lani knew that she would have a problem there. The three of them had broken a whole lot of procedural rules. The only way out was to claim hot pursuit…

            Howard might or might not need medical help, but unless she did something pretty sharply he'd need legal help. She picked up the communicator and called the station. Get it in fast, before they did. "Captain LaGarda here. I need to report a breaking and entry and an assault on the person of my man."

            "Lani, there is a search out on you!" said the desk officer.

            "I'm home," Lani said. "I had a scoot accident last night, but I'm fine otherwise. You can't say the same about my man. I have just had my home broken into and my man attacked. I'll need an ambulance."

            "Requested. Any idea by whom?" asked the Desk-Officer.

            "I can provide positive ID on the three, yes. Looks like a bit of blood on the glass they broke and I have one nightstick. I'm afraid this is going to be an ICD affair, Sarah. It was Captain Rodgers, Lieutenant Rubia and CO Lewis. Howard was just making my morning coffee when they broke in and attacked him."

            There was a silence from the other end of the communicator. Then the desk-officer asked: "Where are they now?"

            "They left when I told them they were under arrest," said Lani, lying smoothly. "I was trying to do emergency first aid on their victim so I couldn't stop them."

            It was contestable. But it was a long way better than leaving Howard accused—as he no doubt would be—of fleeing arrest and running into her home. The problem was that there were three of them, and one of her. Howard, as a minor in the eyes of the court, could not provide the same quality of testimony. In the meantime she'd better check on him. And spill a mug of coffee on the floor. She put the communicator down and looked at him.

            Howard smiled weakly up at her. "I didn't know what do, Lani. I was in the kitchen trying make breakfast."

            "Hush." Then she thought. "Who did you speak to? They say they heard you speak?" another witness would resolve the matter.

            "Myself. God. I was praying for guidance."

            Religion. She'd read about it. If anyone had been listening, they weren't going to let her into the witness stand to testify.