Chapter 20
Many Meetings

The room where the banquet was being held was big. Fred and Sam sat next to Greg at the head of the table. Eric Ronald, the president, sat next to Fred, talking to Adrianna, who was on his other side. She had been overjoyed to see him, grabbing him in a bear hug and nearly killing him before he was rescued by President Ronald.

Now, Fred was watching the door. He didnÂ’t have long to wait. Soon, they opened, and a man stepped through them. He looked different than when Fred had first met him, but he still recognized him.

“Strider!” he called out and stood quickly, knocking his chair to the floor. Strider smiled and approached Fred.

“I might as well tell you…” He began, “That my name isn’t really strider. My name is Aaron Horn. You can call me Aaron.”

Fred shrugged. “Whatever.”

Strider… Aaron smiled. “I didn’t think you would be up so soon.”

“Neither did I,” Fred admitted. “I thought I was dead. The last thing I remember was the hill… and a little bit after.”

“What?” Aaron looked concerned.

“Some… some shooting,” Fred said, thinking hard. “There was a lot of shooting. It was like World War 3 out there! Then there was a fireball…” He paused, “and that’s all I remember.”

Greg came up behind him. “Well, don’t think about it! The answers will come in time. Aaron, why don’t you come sit with us?”

Aaron nodded and joined the others at the table. The eating and laughing resumed. But in a minute, it was all interrupted when the door flew violently open. Two burly security guards dragged Martin and Phil in. The two boys were sopping wet.

“Sir.” The two guards saluted to President Ronald, but only one was speaking. “These two were filling up water guns with water from the pool. Then they were taking them up to the second floor and shooting people that were coming down the street.”

President Ronald raised an eyebrow. “So?”

“It wouldn’t have been a problem, but they hit Senator Richards, who apparently wanted to boost his own status by coming to this party. We surprised them as they were filling up again, and they fell in the water.”

“We didn’t mean to shoot the Senator dude!” Phil protested.

President Ronald waved a hand. “Turn them loose. Senator Richards is so slimy, he needs a bath anyways.”

The entire group burst into laughter. The guards, scowling, turned Martin and Phil loose, who promptly ran over to the kitchen, probably to steal some food.

After the banquet was over, President Ronald placed a hand on Fred’s shoulder and guided him out. “There’s someone I want you to see.”

He led Fred through the building to a room around the middle of the building. President Ronald raised a hand and knocked three times on the door.

“I’m coming! I’m coming!” an irritated voice shouted from inside. “Can’t a body get some rest around here?”

The door opened, and Fred cried out in delight. “Bobby!”

Bobby peered at him through his glasses. “Fred? Is that you, boy?”

Fred threw himself at Bobby, grabbing him in a huge bear hug. “Uncle Bobby! I’ve missed you! Where have you been? Have you had any adventures since you left?”

“No, sir, I haven’t! This old body of mine won’t let me go on any adventures. Mostly I just travel with President Ronald here, doing odd jobs. Pay’s good.”

Fred stepped back and studied his uncle. “You look old.”

Bobby laughed. “Nice of you to point that out! I am old. Surely you’ve noticed by now.”

“I’ve noticed, Uncle Bobby.” Fred said with a laugh. “I’ve noticed.”

* * *

He stayed until midnight in BobbyÂ’s room, filling him in on all the news. He told him about his own adventure and about what was happening in Hobbiton when he left. Bobby, in turn, had told him about his new job with President Ronald.

Fred had finally gone to his own room, which was provided by the government. He had slept into the morning. He was still sleeping at about ten oÂ’clock, until the phone woke him. He fumbled around the bed for a moment before he found the table with the phone on it.


“Mr. Baggins?” a cool voice on the other end said.

“Yeah, that’s me. What?”

The voice didn’t seem to notice his rudeness at being woken up. “Ambassadors from a dozen nations are meeting today at three o’clock to discuss the Czaron problem. President Ronald wants you to attend.”

“Yeah. Yeah, sure, whatever. I’ll come.” Without waiting for the voice to thank him, he hung up the phone, dragged himself out of bed, and stumbled into the shower.

He was coming out of the shower when the phone rang again. He picked it up. “Hello?”

“Hey, Fred, old buddy, old pal.”

“Martin, what do you want?” Fred asked. Martin only started that way when he wanted something.

“I need you to bail us out of the police station. Phil and I got caught egging cars up near the arch, so we got hauled to the police station. The only reason they didn’t throw us in jail was that someone had seen the news about how brave we were.”

Fred groaned. “Yeah, right. I’ll be right over.”

“Thanks, old buddy, great and generous friend, oh wise-”

Fred hung up on him.

To Be ContinuedÂ…

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