"I don't think you should touch it yet," Triona said with some concern as she glanced at the readings coming from the tricorder in her hand.
Methos drew back from the alien artifact. "Why not? You've pretty much established that whatever powered it is long since dead."
She chewed at her lower lip, scanning the ancient alien device one more time. "Maybe… probably," she amended. Looking back up, she shook her head. "It isn't entirely dead. I'm getting some very confusing readings. Almost negligible, but there."
"It's probably just residual radiation," he countered. "After all, it's over five-hundred-thousand years old. It would have absorbed a fair amount in that time." She nodded uncertainly as Methos continued, "The translation I did indicated this was nothing more than a device to record and archive this culture's history. A culture that's been dead for hundreds of thousands of years!"
Triona smiled a little at the enthusiasm in her husband's voice. Finding this planet had been his pet project for the last two decades, and he was so close to the end now. But it was her job to curb his enthusiasm with scientific caution. "And what if your translation was wrong?" she asked as gently as she could.
"Do you have reason to think it was?" he asked a little stiffly.
"No. No, of course not. I'm sorry, I guess my past experience with an ancient alien device just makes me a little paranoid. I'd really prefer to avoid a repeat performance!" Considering her last encounter had resulted in her reliving the life of a slave in Pompeii just before Vesuvius erupted, that was an understatement.
"Okay, point taken." Smiling, he came closer, leaning down to kiss her. "And I'm sorry for being so touchy."
Running a hand through his short hair, she kissed him back. "Apology accepted."
"Making up is one of my favourite things," he murmured, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close.
"Uh huh." Scanner forgotten at her side, Triona slipped her hands under his shirt, pressing cool palms against the warmth of his back, leaning into his kiss as his hands tangled into her long hair. Sighing regretfully, she pulled away.
"What? You have something better to do?" he asked impishly, running his thumb across her lips.
"No, but you do." Pointing to the alien artifact, she said, "It'll be dawn in a few hours, which means I have to spend the day in the shelter of the shuttle. So if we want to do this today…?"
"Right!" Picking up her tricorder, he handed it to her, dropping a kiss on the top of her head. "One more scan, and then we see what we can discover from our silent friend over there."
Methos was practically rubbing his hands in anticipation, and despite herself, Triona found his enthusiasm infectious. "Fine, but if it blows up, I expect groveling for the next several centuries!"
"Deal!" he agreed. "But it won't, so I get to say 'I told you so' frequently."
Triona just laughed, walking around the shoulder high device, paying close attention to the readings from her tricorder. For a mysterious alien artifact, it didn't look like much. In fact, more than anything else, it reminded her of the modern art sculptures that had been so popular in the lobbies of office buildings in the latter part of the twentieth century on Earth. It resembled titanium formed into multiple triangles, fitted together like a puzzle. It seemed to absorb the light around them as opposed to reflecting it. And on its nearly black base of the same metal, was writing in the long lost language that Methos had spent the last twenty years translating.
The readings hadn't changed, and while she wasn't entirely happy with the result, she had no good reason, other than her own fear, not to continue. "I guess you get your wish," she told Methos. "I'll keep scanning as you work. But promise me that if I think something's not right, you'll get away from that thing if I ask?"
"Cross my heart." He grinned, doing just that.
"Doofus," she muttered, rolling her eyes.
"Hey, I heard that!"
"The truth hurts!" she shot back, amused.
"You," he pointed at her with one long finger, "are the most disrespectful wife I have ever had."
"Really? Is there some sort of prize?" She quirked one eyebrow, hand on her hip.
His eyes slowly and deliberately ran down her body and then back up again, and her heart skipped a beat. "I guess you'll find out later," he promised in a voice that was like cool syrup.
She took a slightly shaky breath. "If you keep this up, you can forget that damn thing till tonight," she said, making a promise of her own, waving her free hand at the artifact.
Smirking, he replied, "I'll make it up to you."
"You're damned right you will! Now stop distracting me with carnal thoughts and get on with it!"
"Getting on with it, ma'am!" was his cheeky reply. Once again, he approached the object, this time placing his left hand on the symbol at the top of the plinth, the other hand over a raised rectangle on the triangle to his left. According to his translation, that should open the device.
Triona eyed the readings intently. There was a small fluctuation, barely registered, but it was there. "Methos," she began. After that, it all happened so quickly, she only had time to scream his name before the flash point of the energy wave hit, throwing her against the sheer rock wall behind her. A moment of searing pain as bones broke on impact, then nothing as unconsciousness claimed her.
Greedily, Triona sucked air into her lungs. Hazily she recalled an explosion, hitting the cliff face, then nothing. Must have killed me, she thought absently. Then memory and pain came rushing back. Methos. The device. The energy wave. Groaning, she tried to stand, but her legs wouldn't work. Then the emptiness crashed over her; her blood bond with Methos was gone, and the shock of that realization competed with the pain that throbbed across ever nerve in her body. Where was he? She reached out with her mind, but she couldn't feel even a trace of his presence. No, there had to be an explanation! He wasn't dead. He couldn't be dead.
All the ways an Immortal could permanently die in the 24th century flew across her thoughts, and the fear began to turn into panic. She was breathing too fast, her heart pummeling at her chest, the sound of it deafening to her own ears. Think, think, she ordered herself, striving for calm. The alien device had reactivated, but she hadn't been burned. So the explosion had been some sort of energy pulse; not anything that would have disintegrated human flesh. Methos would have survived, just like she had. The answer was there; she just had to heal enough to find it.
Finally, feeling had begun to come back to her legs in agonizing pulses, and she thought that just maybe, this time, she could get to her feet. Rolling over, she sat up, pushing back the dizziness and nausea that washed over her. You can do this, she told herself sternly. He needs you! One breath, then another, as she felt her body healing and along with it, control of her fear. A control that was shattered as the presence of another Immortal jangled across her senses. Was that why Methos had disappeared from her mental perception? No, no, no! Old nightmares threatened to overwhelm her and she fought back the dark memories they brought.
Without conscious thought, she reached for the phaser on her belt, crying in frustration as her fingers refused to cooperate. Then she heard footsteps in the gravel behind. She waited for the words she knew must come: "There can be only one". But there was only silence and a sharp pain that exploded against the back of her skull. Once more, she was dragged into the cold embrace of unconsciousness.
Consciousness drifted back slowly, like rain sliding down glass. No death this time, no straining for breath to feed starved lungs as memory and feeling scattered across perception before coalescing into something you could hold onto. Something to pull you from the darkness of death's greedy grasp. Bits of memory, like raindrops, fell with no order, her brain struggling to make sense of them all.
Triona was still alone. That memory was uppermost. Methos was gone. Where, she didn't know, but finding him overrode all other concerns. She moved a little closer to full awareness; on her side, gravel pressing into her face, her head throbbing as if a thousand hammers battered against her skull. At the edge of the part of her that was vampire, she could feel the sun's approach. Not dawn yet, but soon. So no more than a few hours had passed since the alien device had roared back to life.
Then, the presence of another Immortal assaulting her senses pulled the droplets of memory into a tidal wave that slammed into her, leaving her momentarily stunned. Struggling to sit up, she realized she was bound hand and foot, the ropes around her wrists and arms pulling her shoulders back painfully. Then rough hands were grabbing her arms, pulling her up, and she cried out despite herself at the pain.
"So, Sleeping Beauty finally wakes," a voice she would know anywhere said. A hand pushed her long hair from her eyes and she focused on the face of the man that crouched in front of her. Cold fingers of shock crawled up her spine. One hand slid around, tangling her hair into his fist, pulling sharply to force her head up to meet his eyes. "Where have you brought me to, witch?" Methos demanded.