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There were no telephones. Without electricity or batteries, there were no televisions or computers or radio. No means of mass communication. And yet the news spread throughout Milhaven like a wild fire, starting small but fanned into a raging conflagration by shock and outrage and grief. Daniel's forces had decimated the small town of Ridgeway, the newest addition to Thunder Mountain's fledgling Alliance. Its citizens murdered or enslaved, destined for the forced labor camps that built Daniel's cities in the East. Nor had Daniel's forces stopped there, moving to the neighboring town of Innsmouth, lead by Daniel's chief lieutenant, the cold and ruthless Sims. Fear was his chief weapon but not his most effective tool.

"Poor Jeremiah," said Frank, the editor/reporter/printer of Milhaven's small newspaper looking genuinely grieved. "It's hit him pretty hard."

Mister Smith offered no response. He sat quietly on the tailgate of the supply truck, melancholy eyes watching the house across the street.

Frank took the liberty of sitting down beside him, glancing briefly at Smith's bandaged arm, held immobile against his chest by a makeshift sling. "Kurdy says you saw what happened."

Across the street, a heavy set man with a grizzled beard mounted the steps to the house. Like two dozen townsfolk before him, he did not knock. Instead, he set a small basket of fruit among the flowers and other tokens of remembrance and appreciation. Anonymous condolences to Jeremiah. Farewells to Libby.

Frank shifted a bit uncomfortably next to the silent Smith, torn between genuine concern, curiosity, and the need to be a reporter. "Kurdy said you were there when Libby . . . when she . . . died."

Mister Smith closed his eyes against the threat of hot tears. Not tears of grief or mourning, but of anger and frustration. And heartache.

How had Sims known to attack Ridgeway within hours of its joining the Western Alliance? How had Sims known that Innsmouth was teetering on the brink of indecision? That a show of force now would break the town's resolve and frighten it away from the Alliance's doorstep?

Only Mister Smith knew the truth of Sims' greatest weapon. Unwittingly, he had stumbled upon the secret of Sims' most subtle and effective tool.

Libby.

The same woman who had saved Jeremiah's life in Valhalla Sector. Who shared his bed and his home and his love. The woman he worshiped. Sweet, beautiful, innocent Libby. A spy for Daniel, reporting daily to Sims. Offering up towns like Ridgeway and Innsmouth to the slaughter without the slightest regret.

Misunderstanding Smith's expression, Frank placed a sympathetic hand on the man's good shoulder. "I know you thought the world of her. We all did."

Clenching the fist of his unbound hand, Mister Smith stood suddenly and pulled away. He alone knew the truth of Libby's betrayal. Not only of Jeremiah but of the entire Alliance. He alone had seen the Libby he thought he knew turn into someone cold and murderous and alien.

And only he knew the truth of her death. It weighed heavily upon his heart and his mind, a darkness of the soul that threatened to consume him.

"I’m sorry," Frank apologized to Smith's back. "Kurdy said you did your best to save her. I know you tried –"

"No. You don't," he interrupted, his voice wretched. "You don't know." And you wouldn't believe me, even if I told you. Nobody would.

Because he was not Libby, beautiful and vibrant and loved by everyone she met. He was simply Mister Smith. Pariah.

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July 2006

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