It's almost done now.

Remind yourself of that as you sit in your cell, listening to the quiet hum of the ship around you. All the legwork, all the setup, all the calculated gambles have paid off; all the pieces are in place. There are only a few more steps to carry out and you'll be on your way home with your prize.

The next move isn't yours, so you wait.

Play it back out in your head while you're waiting. It's a simple plan compared to some of the Rube Goldberg machines you've constructed in the past, but it's not too late for something to go wrong. You can't afford to let yourself be distracted now. There's still a wild card out there.

(Your shoulder still aches a little; it was a good throw. In retrospect you probably held back a little too much at the start. He surprised you. At least the dazzled spots the flare left floating in your vision have finally faded.)

Don't risk talking to your hidden teammates. If someone overhears, it'll raise suspicion. Walk yourself through the steps instead, from here to the end.

(Don't think about the look on his face - still bleeding where you clocked him - the sudden rush of sick surprise that flooded into his expression with the gut-punch of recognition. Don't remember the horrified, involuntary whisper that escaped him, or the clipped, fiercely determined professionalism in the way that he finished reciting your rights to you. Don't think about the way that it stung even through the warmth of the pride that you felt. They're just distractions, and your work's not done yet.)

The next move is Chuck's, and you know without having to confirm that right about now he is preparing the Bouncing Boy for his part in the little drama that you're staging. In a few more minutes, he'll make the scene, and then you'll be out of here. You could probably count it down right to the mark.

But between then and now, there's one more confrontation to get through.

You can tell he's there before there's any other indication, just from the familiar, muted resonance of his mag-field. Steel yourself when you hear the voices calling out, before the door slides open. The cell couldn't have been designed better for this if you'd done it yourself; in this harsh lighting you probably look haggard without even trying.

(Don't think about how he must have been twisting inside since they escorted you away.)

Rokk? Don't stand to meet him when he steps cautiously through the open door. You could present yourself with a leader's confidence and even now he might respond, but you aren't going to play it that way this time. Stay sitting, with your hands cuffed in front of you. Keep yourself below him. Hang your head, drop your shoulders; look beaten. Don't look up until the door's slid closed behind him and cut off the view of the curious eyes watching from outside.

(Don't look at the flight ring, although its presence registers glaringly in the magnetic fields. Don't wonder why he put it on, just take it as a ploy to try to gain your confidence, and don't imagine that it could mean anything more.)

Make the first move while he's still hesitating; you've practically scripted the conversation out for yourself ahead of time, but that isn't going to make it easy. I figured you'd come. Make that connection between you - then sting him: This voluntary, or was it their idea? Draw the line, "us" and "them," and make it a barrier between you.

(Don't think about the position you're putting him in by drawing that line.)

I wanted to talk to you. Don't react when he responds to the barrier you create by removing one of his own, lifting his helmet off so that you can see his face clearly. Keep your expression stony and sullen. Grife, Rokk... what's going on?

(Don't let it take you back, although his voice in your memory is the voice of the Outpost, to the point that sometimes it was hard to remember that he wasn't lost with the rest of them. He wasn't swallowed up by the rift, just by the system, and he's not the kid you knew any more.)

I wanted to help, to make a difference. The galaxy's a bad place these days. School your voice, give it an edge of bitterness and hurt. Braal's a mess, Dyrk. You must have seen that. Drugs everywhere... gang-rule, law-breaking... Appeal to the part of him that you know aches for his world because he's here, because he walks among the things you're talking about every day, because it's also your world and it's in you, too.

Vigilantism carries a mandatory three. You can add another two for abuse of post-human abilities. You know that's going to get you sent to Takron-Galtos automatically? You'll stand trial there, not on Braal! Feigning shame gives you an excuse to avoid meeting his eyes, so that you don't have to see that ache reflected back at you, or how his frustrated anger isn't for you but for what he thinks is going to happen to you. Was it worth it, Rokk?

(Don't look, so you won't see the quiet confusion on his face asking you to make him understand.)

I hoped it was. I couldn't stand by and watch everything go to hell. Call it all up from inside you: the grief, the despair, the anger, everything you felt then and couldn't afford to let show. Use that, make it real. The Legion used to count for something. We were able to use our powers to make the United Planets dream real.

But there isn't a Legion any more. That dream died, and the best of us died with it. And for the survivors, what? An 'honorable discharge'? What is that?

The best deception is grounded in truth. He has to believe.

Meet his eyes now; make the connection. Don't you remember what it felt like? We mattered. We really did. Play on the memory of what he had and lost: the sense of belonging that kept him around for so long after, amidst the Legion but not entirely of it. Offer it back to him like an honor extended posthumously, too late to mean anything.

I remember, Rokk. That's why I put on this uniform. Stir up the old grief and the new one in him, but don't offer to share it; maintain the distance between you. Make him bear it alone.

(Hope that he'll forgive you later when he understands how you're using him now.)

Look, the female... was she Legion too? Don't answer his questions, but let him ask them, and from them learn how close they are to guessing what you're about. You knew this part would be that much dicier with him involved; he's a variable you can't entirely control, and for all your theatrics, he has the answers already in his hands. Where did you get the teleport? It seems like everyone's following the script so far, at least.

(Don't wonder whether he hasn't put the pieces together because he can't, or because he doesn't want to.)

Give me names and details, and it might go a little easier. He's good... not that you doubted. He has the kind of unaffected honesty that makes people want to believe. Be grateful that he doesn't think the way you do; he is straightforward, above reproach, and that's what makes him the perfect cover.

(Pretend you can't see that he stands so straight in order to bear up under the weight he's carrying.)

Sorry. Bow your head, avoid his eyes again. Let the silence stretch out between you, creating more and more distance. He is hoping that if he waits long enough, if the silence grows uncomfortable enough, you'll feel compelled to fill it by speaking again. It's a game of emotional chicken, and you're not playing fair.

Okay, Rokk. Give him no choice but to surrender; wait until you hear the defeat in his soft, deflated voice. I guess you don't know. The Legionnaires we lost came home a few days ago. They made it back to Earth.

(Watch him struggling to give you what scant hope he has.)

Is that so? Keep your voice dull, a rejection of what he's trying to offer you. Build up the wall between you, and shut him out.

(You could restore his hope by telling him the truth... but you won't.)

That's what it said on the link.

Destroy his image of you. Let him believe that you've really fallen this far.

Well... there's something.

Hurt him enough that maybe he won't try to follow you when you make your move.


(Don't think about what it'll do to him when he thinks that you're dead.)

Don't watch him leave; keep your head bowed and start thinking out the next steps. Start counting it down in your head, preparing yourself for the impact and the timing of everything that has to follow it. Remind yourself of everything you're accomplishing in this, and all the things that it'll make possible if you pull it off. Let him leave believing that you've failed him.

(Try not to feel like you're failing him.)