The Outsiders - Finale
An Earth - Final Conflict story by Tina Price
Preview: Boone and Da'an each struggle to win the right to continue their relationship, and along the way, learn more about each other.
!Content Warning!: This story has some adult themes presented. I would rate it PG13.
Disclaimer: Earth - Final Conflict and all characters therein are the property of the Tribune Entertainment Company.
Authors note: This story occurs sometime after the events which unfold in the episode, "Wrath of Achilles". My other stories, "Striving to Become" and "The Lesser of Two Evils" should be read first. This story is based upon my own idea of what is actually going on in the EFC universe. I am in no way receiving 'privileged information'. As always, advice, criticism and kudos are always welcomed. Please contact me at the above e-mail address.
By Tina Price
"Boone! It's about time you contacted me!" Lili managed to shake off her grogginess enough to sound put-out.
"Sorry about the time," he replied sheepishly. It was twelve-ish in Lili's time zone and his assistant usually tried to turn in at a reasonable hour. "I didn't get the full scoop until a short while ago," he continued. "The Taelons have been bringing humans up to their mother ship and lunar base."
"What?" Lili bolted upright in her bed. "Do you know what this means? We could find out more about the..."
"I know," he interrupted. "Listen...it looks like the European branch of the resistance might have gotten involved in this - with unforeseeable consequences. Do you know how to get in touch with Peter Barker?"
"Sure. How do you want him to contact you?"
"Have him arrange a meeting place and I'll be there." Boone hesitated a moment. "Have you checked in with Da'an?"
"Briefly via global. He's asked me to fill in for you while you're gone."
"Good. Stay close - I have a bad feeling about Zo'or."
"Yeah, you and just about everyone else."
"Gotta go. Get back to me as soon as you can."
The link went dead and Boone wasted no time in setting it aside and lying down on his bed. He was already making a mental list of everything he would need to do tomorrow. It was going to be a busy day.
Before drifting off, his thoughts turned towards Da'an. He hoped that his friend would watch his back. Oftentimes he seemed too laid-back for his own good.
made his way into the audience chamber just before seven a.m. Against his own
expectations, he had slept soundly and he now found himself itching to get down
to work - but first, he and his skrill were in need of a good breakfast..
As he rounded the entrance way to Kha'rha's main chamber, he found that Siobhan was already there. The Taelon and his sole implant were seated near the windows, apparently enjoying an intimate conversation. Boone couldn't help but smile at the sight they made - the Irish equivalents of himself and Da'an.
Apparently unaware that they had a visitor, Siobhan leaned against the Companion, and much to Boone's surprise, Kha'rha put an arm around her shoulders. The two of them had their heads close together, talking quietly.
Feeling like a peeping Tom, Boone decided to draw attention to himself.
He cleared his throat.
"Boone," Siobhan said, as she straightened up. She showed no sign of being self-conscious. "I'm glad you're up - I've been waiting on you before going to breakfast." As if to punctuate her sentence, her belly rumbled, drawing a smile out of Kha'rha.
"Greetings, Boone," the Companion added as he stood up. "I too, am glad to see you. My implant becomes...difficult when she is hungry." Siobhan shot him a look which further amused the tall alien. "Please enjoy your meal." He and Siobhan briefly clasped hands before Kha'rha nodded at Boone and turning, headed up the ramp which led to his private chambers.
"So, are you coming?"
Boone had been watching the Taelon's departure, but Siobhan's comment instantly regained his attention.
"Oh, you bet I am....and I have to warn you - breakfast is my favorite meal."
"Good." Beckette threw her head back and grinned. "I'm tired of having the locals betting on how much I'm gonna put away. Today they can, instead, bet on which of us will eat the most."
"Great..." Boone replied unenthusiastically as they exited the audience hall.
"Any luck getting up
with Barker?" Lili announced her arrival at Augur's hide-out with the
The techno-wizard turned away from his console long enough to look down his nose at her. "I love it when you bate me," he breathed.
"Well? What's the word?" Lili moved to stand close to Augur - very close. She could smell the soap from his late morning shower still lingering on his skin. He was still keeping late hours.
"Barker will meet Boone at the Fox and Hound Tavern on Kildaire Street around ten p.m." Augur leaned closer and grinned. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"Great!" Lili ignored the question, turned and made for the exit, her global already out. "I need to give him a buzz..."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Augur called as he followed. He hurried to stand next to Lili as she stopped in the doorway. "Speaking of taverns...Why don't we get together tonight? You owe me a beer at the very least for this and..."
"Augur..." Lili interrupted, sounding peeved.
"...and I have some information to pass on to you about Doors and company," Augur finished his sentence. He raised an eyebrow.
"You wouldn't be using this as an excuse to ask me out?" Lili matched Augur's raised eyebrow.
"Ask YOU out? Huh!" Off came the glasses. "You're the one buying the beer. Besides..." Augur grinned again. "You wouldn't be accepting just to hear about Doors...?"
Lili smiled - just before elbowing him in the ribs. "I'll be seeing you at the Flat Planet Cafe around nine then," she threw back over her shoulder as she turned and sauntered towards her car.
Augur rubbed his side and watched as she waved and drove off. "Mmmmhmmm," was all he could manage.
"Do you mind if I ask
you a personal question?" Boone mumbled around a mouth full of eggs.
Skrills demanded much in the way of their host's metabolism, which meant that
the implants who possessed them ate often and ate a lot. He and Siobhan had
been too busy eating to talk much, but now that he had nearly finished his
second plate, he was feeling chatty.
"Would that question be about me and Kha'rha?" Siobhan wiped her mouth with her napkin and reached for more toast.
Boone nodded before sipping his tea. They were seated in a booth at a local pub which served a fine breakfast. "I don't mean to pry, but I find myself in an awkward situation with Da'an and..."
Siobhan waved away his stammering explanation. "I understand," she said. "I suspected that you and she were bonding. Kha'rha told me about Da'an's plea to him to make use of you on this...case."
"Da'an's plea?" Boone looked troubled. "HE led me to believe that Kha'rha had approached HIM --not that we weren't hoping he would."
Siobhan laughed and set her teacup down on the table. "I see that you've become hung up on that male pronoun. Do I need to remind you that Da'an is truly neither male nor female?"
"I know that..."
"But you feel safer referring to your companion as 'he'?" Siobhan's eyebrow went up. "Since I'm probably the only other human on this planet in a position to offer you advice in this area, I feel obligated to do so." She planted both her elbows on the table and leaned towards him, dropping her voice down so that nobody else could overhear her. "I am no expert when it comes to Taelons. The best I can do is to tell you what I have surmised for myself or learned from Kha'rha."
"In the Taelon's world, there is no male or female. All Taleons are 'born' equal in this respect. They sometimes form strong pair-bonds with other Taelons, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Being so strongly linked through their commonality usually removes the need for such intimacy. When Taelons do form such a bond, it is because they have been drawn together by mutual respect and admiration. The attraction is purely emotional and cerebral. Sex has nothing to do with it because in their society, procreation has nothing to do with attraction or pleasure and therefore, does not result in long term bonding."
"I have known of your strong connection to Da'an for a while now because Kha'rha has surmised it, and it has led me to make an assumption. Both Kha'rha and Da'an are unusual in that they tend to disassociate themselves from the commonality - they like to think for themselves and form their own opinions. Perhaps this disassociation from their commonality leaves them lacking in some way and leads them to seek out a more intimate bond. It seems reasonable to assume that such a Taelon - cut off from his own kind by his appointment to earth - might turn to a human for this intimacy, provided that they respected and felt drawn to said human. Surely, of all the Companions stationed here, only Kha'rha and Da'an are capable of such respect. It is their voices which have spoken out to the Synod on our race's behalf."
Siobhan placed her hand atop Boone's. "Tell me something, William. Did Da'an single you out in any way? Did she pick you or were you recruited by Sandoval?"
"He chose me," Boone mumbled. He was enthralled by the information Siobhan was sharing with him.
"I thought so." Siobhan sipped more tea before continuing. "She felt drawn to you from the beginning. You impressed her in some way and since becoming HER implant, you've both formed a close friendship. More than that - she has actually begun 'the bonding' with you. Do you even know how unusual that is?"
"I think so. Only Da'an and Kha'rha have dared such a thing?"
"No, William. Only Da'an has dared to form such a bond with a human."
Boone had to force himself to close his mouth.
"That's right. It is rare for a Taelon to form a bond, even with one of their own. Da'an alone has formed such a bond with a human."
"But...what about you and Kha'rha?"
"We have a very close relationship, but he has not yet attempted such a bond with me. He feared and still fears the danger it would place me in. I am hopeful that if you and Da'an are able to survive the commonality's disapproval, that Kha'rha and I will follow suit. It is what I wish for."
"Da'an must have risked it because of the danger he knew I was already in..." Boone's voice trailed off as he pondered all which he had learned. After a few minutes he spoke up again. "Why do you keep referring to Da'an as 'she' when you just reprimanded me for referring to him as 'he'?"
Siobhan smiled. "A relationship between a human and a Taelon requires much in the way of sacrifice, although Taelons are not indifferent to human needs. If you decide to pursue this relationship, you will be expected to give up all intimate human contact. You and Da'an are still feeling your way around each other, but you will soon find - if you haven't already - that Taelon's are every bit as capable of feeling jealousy as humans are. In fact, they can be worse, for though such bonding is rare to their race, once formed such bonds become extremely precious to them. Taelons have been known to will themselves to die rather than face the imminent death of their 'loved one'. They are not capable of competing with another human as far as sexual intimacy goes and I do believe that they are quite capable of removing all rivals - imagined or otherwise, by whichever means they deem most appropriate."
"Believe me...I know this for a fact." Siobhan's eyes took on a momentary, haunted look, but in the next second she had shaken it off.
"Anyway, in answer to your question; Either out of a feeling of inadequacy in the area of human sexuality or because of a desire to help ease my sexual confusion, I have found that Kha'rha has slowly become more masculine. I think of him as 'he'. It is my assumption that Da'an may, even now, be making some physical adjustments in an effort to help accommodate your growing relationship."
Boone looked momentarily glassy-eyed. "Uh..." was all that he could manage.
"Think, Will. Is Da'an exactly the same as when you first met her?"
Boone's CVI kicked in, bringing back images of his first meeting with Da'an, followed rapidly by images of him on each succeeding meeting. "Oh my God..." Boone focused again on Siobhan. "He's shorter now by a few inches...and curvier around the derriere. His shoulders are not quite as massive..."
"You see?" Beckette leaned forward again. "It was inevitable that he would become more like a she - most especially when interacting with you. Da'an knows that her chances of winning you will be improved if you begin to think of her as being more female than male. Just remember that Da'an's nature will remain the same. She is not female or male and never will be."
"Be that as it may, I think I prefer to refer to him as 'he' - for now, anyway." Boone's face took on a troubled appearance.
"What is it?"
"Why would our companions need to win our allegiance? We're implants - We're compelled to respect and serve them."
Siobhan stared deep into her teacup and it was a while before she raised her eyes and spoke. "Kha'rha says that it is impossible for him to believe that any Taelon could respect a human being controlled by a motivational imperative."
The two of them stared at each other - Boone in shocked silence, Siobhan in nervous anticipation.
"Then...you are not..." Boone barely breathed.
"And neither are you," Siobhan replied.
Boone reached across the table and clasped her hand. "You just took a big chance in telling me this..."
"Let's just say that I've learned to trust Kha'rha's judgement. He felt sure that you had to have free will in order to do all the things you have. The Synod is so very impressed with you, and yet they don't seem to have any idea that you are as you are because they have not subjugated you."
"How did you bypass the imperative?"
"I was singled out by Kha'rha back when I was newly assigned to guard him. I was one of at least ten such humans working in the Taelon's embassy. When I he offered me the chance to become his implant, he took me aside, and in no uncertain terms, informed me of the drawbacks of such an undertaking." Siobhan's eyes became misty. "We were already friends at that point. He had to offer me the position first, or the Synod would have wondered why he had chosen another. He very subtly urged me to refuse the position, but I decided that, as I already thought the world of him, such subservience would really be no great chore."
"You went through with it anyway...and he had the motivational imperative deactivated?" Boone squeezed her hand.
"He did. After three days of seeing me like that, he felt he had no choice. He just couldn't bear it." Siobhan withdrew her hand and raised her teacup for a sip. "I assume that Da'an did the same for you?"
"In a round-about way..." Despite a growing trust in Beckette, Boone's knew his association with the resistance would need to be kept from from her. "Siobhan...I have another question"
She raised an eyebrow and gestured for him to continue.
"Da'an recently formed some sort of bond with Lili. If what you theorize about Taelon pair bonding is true, how could this be?"
Beckette's brows furrowed. "Are you certain that she formed a bond with Lili?"
Boone's CVI kicked in, bringing Da'an's and Lili's words back to him in perfect verbatim clarity;
[[ Lili sighed again. "It's really complicated, Will. I don't even know how to describe our relationship. It seems sexual in some ways, but it isn't. I don't even know if he considers me to be a close friend or something more!" ]]
[[ Da'an: "I have formed a bond of sorts with Captain Marquette, Boone. When she and I share our emotions, I am able to see much of her past experiences." ]]
[[ Da'an: "What I share with Lili is special to me... and it serves a very important purpose. What I have learned from said sharing has been unintentional...but useful." ]]
Boone relayed the key statements to Siobhan, who looked startled. "I suspect that Da'an is using Marquette as an information source, perhaps as a means of learning more about human females," she finally said. "What Lili has described to you is not a bond, per se, but a 'sharing' such as I and Kha'rha sometimes enjoy. It is a way in which to convey 'who you are' amongst Taelons. Think of it as forming a close friendship in the space of a minute rather than over the course of years. When it is over, the participants know each other's likes and dislikes, their needs, their desires...You get the picture."
Boone nodded. "What do you mean, 'he's using her to learn more about females?"
"If Da'an is forming a pair bond with you, she might have decided that it would be helpful to learn how to 'act' more female - in the interests of furthering your relationship. I find it strange that she has not yet 'shared' with you for some reason." Siobhan paused in thought for a moment. "Maybe she feels that there is something she needs to know - something which, if obtained from you, would place you in danger... If she can't get the information from you, Lili would be the next best source. She is your assistant after all, and...Hold on!" Beckette sat up straight and stared at Boone.
"You spend so much time with Lili, that perhaps Da'an wished to reassure herself that the two of you are not 'involved'. Remember what I said about Taelon jealousy. The only other explanation is that there was something about Lili which Da'an could not understand...some action on her part, or an unusual quirk which Da'an felt he had to fully comprehend..."
Boone gulped. Da'an had obviously connected Lili with the resistance, but he couldn't let Siobhan know this. As for the jealousy idea...he had to admit it was possible that Da'an had been checking, but it seemed more likely that he wished to spy on Doors without putting Boone in further danger.
"Perhaps he's using Lili to spy on me?"
"Well, that goes without question. I'm sure that the two of you probably don't have a lot of time together. It's only natural that she would wish to know what you are up to and if you are all right. Remember that if you were a Taelon, Da'an would know this automatically."
"Siobhan," he had to ask. "You imply that this 'sharing' allows an exchange of memory as well as of emotion. Exactly how deeply can a Taelon tap into a human's thoughts?"
"Depending on the depth of the sharing...they could know everything that you know."
It was as he had feared. Lili had just become the perfect double-agent - One who didn't even know they were passing along information to the other side.
"Why did Lili think that this new relationship with Da'an was sexual in some ways?" Boone asked, already surmising what the answer would be.
"Because the sharing has an unusual side effect in humans," Siobhan grinned. "It most definitely produces sexual gratification. Oh it can't compete with actually holding your lover close to you throughout the night...but it surely has its own merits..."
And there it was...The way in which Da'an would insure that his mole kept coming back with more information about the resistance - and Boone's part in it. Which meant that if Zo'or succeeded in his quest to delve into Da'an's memories, that Boone wasn't the only one at risk - Lili, the entire resistance and Da'an himself would be doomed.
It was time for him to go to work. He needed to wrap this up and get back to DC as soon as possible.
And why the hell hadn't Lili called him yet?
Sandoval was most definitely
not enjoying his time in New York.
Zo'or might be a Taelon, but standing or sitting by his side for hours on end while he was attending a United Nations session was...annoying to say the least. He felt like a lap dog on a leash.
Then there was the fact that he knew that sooner or later Zo'or would make a move against Da'an or Boone...or both. He was sworn to serve Taelon interests, but did this fit into that category? Da'an had specifically ordered him to serve Zo'or the same as he would have served him.
How he wished that Da'an hadn't made that request! His hands were now effectively tied - even if Zo'or asked him to do something which he knew would hurt Da'an.
He could only hope that Zo'or's first target was Boone...
Boone was about to enter the
Taelon medical facility just outside Dublin when his global beeped.
"Lili. It took you long enough..." He smirked. The only time it was safe to pull his assistant's chain was when he was standing on a different continent.
"Ha ha." Before she could say anything else, Boone interrupted.
"Hang on a sec." He turned towards Beckette. "Could I have a moment?"
"Course. I'll be in the lobby."
He stood on the front steps and watched as she ascended them and disappeared inside. "OK, what do you have for me?"
"Barker has agreed to meet you tonight at the Fox and Hound Tavern on Kildaire Street. Be there at ten pm."
"You'd better make the most of it. I had to agree to buy Augur a brew in exchange for his services."
Boone's eyebrow rose. "Look on the bright side, maybe Da'an will require you tonight."
"Maybe. You never know." Lili's face took on a mischievous look. "Oh, wouldn't that deflate Augur's ego..."
"Listen, Lili..." Boone wasn't sure how to broach the subject delicately. "I've been talking with Siobhan and I thought you should know..."
"It wouldn't be a good idea for you to 'share' with Da'an...at this time." Seeing that Lili was about to protest, he quickly overrode her and continued. "There is a very good possibility that the Da'an may be able to pick up information on your 'activities' during the exchange and chances of that happening increases with each 'sharing'. Do you understand?"
"Oh...my...God..." The pilot's eyes became huge. "He's using me?!"
"Whoa there! I don't believe that he shared with you to gain information about the resistance. I'm sure that the offer to share was made because he likes you, but couldn't understand you. Still, if he sensed your involvement, wouldn't he try to learn more?"
"Well, don't worry about it. I assure you that he's not gonna be sharing with me again anytime soon." Lili's face betrayed her. Though her words were decisive and strongly spoken, she looked crushed.
Boone felt a lump rising up in his own throat. He above all others, knew how Da'an could get to a person - how infectious his demeanor was - how someone who spent time with him, wanted to spend yet more time with him.
"Hey, I'm OK," she lied. "Call me if you need anything."
Boone stared at his global. She had cut the link. With a sigh, he closed it and started towards the Hospital entrance.
Lili threw her global onto
Boone's desk and leaned her head on her crossed arms. She should have
known...She had thought that she had finally met a person...creature...No! He
was a person. She thought she had finally met a person who had seemed to have
accepted her unconditionally, but now it had turned out that even Da'an had
something to gain by way of their new-found "friendship". The sharing
had been but a pretense at mutual friendship. The fact was that he had only
offered so that he could delve into her memories.
Be they memories of Boone, memories of her own life or memories of the resistance, it mattered not. Da'an had invaded her own private self. He had uncovered her dirty little secrets. He hadn't explained that he could. He had only mentioned what he would give to her...and for that, she didn't think that she would ever forgive him.
Her global beeped, startling her so that she jumped. With a sour look on her face, she activated it.
"Marquette," came her terse answer.
Da'an's image appeared on the small display. "Captain Marquette..." Seeing the look on her face, he paused. "Is there a problem?"
"No. No problem. What could possibly be a problem?"
Da'an tilted his head and looked at her sharply, making her skin crawl. Had the alien really gotten that good with reading human expressions and comprehending sarcasm, or was it only that he now knew her...too well?
There was a long silence, which Lili finally felt compelled to break.
"What can I do for you?" she asked.
"I will require your services later this afternoon. I am to speak at the Hayden Planetarium at seventeen hundred hours. Commander Boone had already finalized all the security arrangements before his departure so you need only worry about getting me there."
"And watching over you while you are there."
"That also." Da'an stared at her for a moment. "If you are free, perhaps you could arrange to arrive here early?"
"I'm sorry, Da'an, but Boone left me a long list of tasks which I am slowly wading through. I really can't get there any sooner than sixteen thirty."
Da'an actually looked disappointed - and wary. "I understand."
The global went dead and Lili let her breath out slowly. It was bad enough having the North American Companion call her now, of all times. Not having remembered to check Boone's itinerary this morning had only made things worse.
Either way, this was going to end up being a sticky situation.
She just knew it.
"Let me see if I
understand this," Boone said to Dr... Rory Dooley. The physician was no
mere doctor. He was a CVI working exclusively for the Taelon interest. Boone
walked to the nearest window and looked out. The atmosphere inside the building
"You helped some Taelon scientists modify the conventional CVI into one which allows the Taelons to selectively blank-out certain portions of the recipient's memory?"
"Essentially...yes." Dr... Dooley moved to stand next to Boone, while Siobhan remained seated in one of the office chairs.
"And you and the Taelons are able to bring these memories back anytime you want so that the recipient remembers everything?" Boone clenched his jaw.
"That is correct. Remember that these people are volunteers. They knew what we were going to do to their memory, but they believed that the chance to accompany the Companions to space more than made up for the temporary loss of their memories."
"They were not controlled in any other way? No motivational imperative?" Siobhan asked.
"No. Later on, after they were no longer required, their memory was to have been fully restored, along with an imperative which would have ensured that they remained silent with regard to their exploits."
"But couldn't someone, the resistance for example, have then tortured the information out of them?" Boone asked.
"Oh, nn-no-no!" Dr... Dooley shook his head. "The imperative is such that they would have rather borne any pain than risk destroying the Taleon's long term goals...along with the human race."
Boone was aghast and a look across the room towards Siobhan revealed her own troubled expression.
"Let's change the subject for a moment." The security chief moved towards a wall chart which showed a detailed diagram of a CVI-enhanced human brain. "Everything goes well - according to plan and expectations - for fourteen months. People who had spent four month rotations at the moon base or six month rotations on the Taelon mother ship, came back and had their memories of their travel blanked out. They were fine - no problems. Some of them made several such deployments with no side-effects. They knew where they had been, but couldn't remember anything else about it and they didn't mind this?"
"Not at all. They were proud of their involvement in this undertaking, although..."
"Although what?" Siobhan asked.
"It isn't the actual volunteers who have been complaining, but their families. Some of them have been very angry about the entire situation. We've attributed this to the fact that they cannot share in their loved one's exploits and therefore view the entire separation from them as unnecessary. Now that some of our volunteers are turning up with no long term memory, those family members have become violent."
Boone nodded. "OK. So now some of the volunteers turn up with this memory problem, and you and your colleagues examine them. You determine that their CVI's were tampered with. How?"
"Our Taelon imagining systems clearly show that some of these people's cyber-pathways have been mechanically disrupted. Here, let me show you." The doctor moved to his desk top and brought some pictures up on his computer. He pointed to the thin, interconnected lines which formed the CVI and then to some which had clearly been severed.
"How were they severed?" Boone asked.
"Looks like they used mechanical means. Probably wire-thin probes." Dr... Dooley shook his head. "I'll bet that they were just trying to make contact, and accidentally severed them. They have no idea just how frail the filaments are. It's hard to believe that anyone would be so reckless with another's life."
Boone met Siobhan's eyes behind the doctor's back. He was a fine one to talk!
"Can't you kill the old CVI and replace it with a new one?" he asked. "Dr... Belman, back in the states, has actually done this - successfully."
"We've tried it, with no improvement." Dooley looked like he was about to breakdown. "The current CVI controls access to their memories. If we remove it, the new CVI remains unable to restore the patient's memory." The doctor turned his back to the other two implants. When he spoke, his voice was barely audible. "This is all my fault! I should have realized that something like this might happen. If only I had been more careful..."
"I'm afraid that it's too late for blame-placing," Boone's voice was sympathetic. He realized that, as an implant, the physician would have done anything his masters wanted. "Right now we need to figure out how to prevent more of your 'volunteers' from ending up like this. Can you give me access to the patients' files?"
"Of course. Since all my patients were volunteers in this 'experiment', patient confidentiality does not apply."
Boone choked back a scathing comment. "Well then," he said sweetly. "We'll just collect a copy of those files and be on our way."
The physician looked embarrassed. He had picked up on Boone's patently phoney niceness, but it was apparent he had no idea what he had said wrong.
"Uh...It will only take me a moment," he replied as he seated himself at his desk and began tapping away at the keyboard.
Lili settled herself
into one of the rear shuttle seats next to Da'an. She had been surprised to
find that Lassiter would be piloting the craft on their journey to New York
"You are filling Boone's role as my head of security," Da'an had explained. "It is fitting that you remain by my side. Agent Lassiter shall pilot the craft and you shall have the opportunity to...enjoy the view."
Well, she hadn't been able to argue with that. Right after the shuttle lifted off, she glanced over at Da'an, who noted her look and gazed right back at her.
She quickly returned her eyes to the front of the shuttle, but she could still feel Da'an watching her.
"So, how long do we expect to remain in the big apple?" she asked, in an attempt to make polite conversation.
"We shall return before twenty-two hundred hours," the graceful alien replied with a slight smile. "Unless Zo'or insists that we remain to exchange...pleasantries with him."
"Ugh!" Lili said in a low voice which was punctuated with a shutter.
Her reaction drew a genuine smile from the companion. "It is nothing which we are not capable of handling," he replied before turning his own gaze towards the front shuttle displays.
Lili sincerely hoped that he was right.
After collecting all the
data from Dr... Dooley, Boone headed back for the embassy with Siobhan in tow.
It had been a simple matter to request a small office space and a Taelon
computer, as well as some time alone to go over the data.
Less than an hour later, Boone pushed himself away from the desk, leaned back in his chair, and sighed. He was pretty sure that he had figured it out.
Every one of the victims was a single male, aged 20 through 47 years. All of them had been recruited at the start of the project and had served three or more tours out in space. They had all been abducted sometime within the last month and all had turned up wandering aimlessly through the city.
They had one other crucial thing in common which was not in their medical files.
Using his security access codes - a big perk of his position as the head of Taelon security - Boone had called up the missing persons reports of the Dublin police force via his computer. His CVI had quickly allowed him to note that every victim had frequented one of two pubs; The Fox and Hound Tavern on Kildaire Street or the The Poitin Stil Pub and Restaurant on Naas Street.
Somehow the resistance had gained four crucial pieces of information about each of their abductees; who they were, that they were unmarried, when they would be returning to earth, and where they went to unwind. It didn't take an implant to figure out that the resistance had an operative somewhere in the Companion medical facility - someone with access to the volunteer's records - someone who must have been assigned to the project.
As to why only the two pubs had been staked out as good places to way-lay the victims - Boone guested that they were both located near the resistance H.Q. It was the only thing which fit. The liberation would want to make their abductees disappear as quickly as possible, without drawing attention to themselves.
Boone quickly deleted all the patient records on his disk. He didn't have much time to settle things. Sooner or later, Siobhan would want to examine the files herself. At least this would slow her down a bit.
From here on out, he was in a race against Siobhan. If she reached this stage in her own investigation, there would be precious little he could do for the resistance - the Taelons would be sure to direct the hostility brewing among the victim's families away from themselves and toward their enemies.
Boone cleaned off the desk and rising to his feet, glanced at his watch. As much as he hated to admit it, he would have to wait for his ten pm meeting with Barker before he had a clearer picture of what his course of action should be.
Lili was impressed. Da'an's
presentation at the Hayden Planetarium had been a crowd pleaser. Even she had
been enthralled by his description of other worlds and galaxies. The visuals,
courtesy of the Taelon's private archive, had been...heart-stopping in their
The only thing which had marred her enjoyment, had been Zo'or's presence in the front row. Even from her position in the center of the room near Da'an, and with the lights turned down to simulate night, she had been able to make out the other Taelon's superior smirk. Sandoval sat by his side
As the presentation ended, to a standing ovation, the only thing running through her mind was, "Please, oh please don't let him come over here!" But, of course, she knew that he would.
She had already broken her date with Augur with the explanation that duty called. He had taken it well, but insisted that she stop by his place when she got home - there were things they still needed to discuss. If she and Da'an could slease out of visiting with Zo'or, there was still a chance that she could get home early and have that little discussion with Augur at the Flat Planet. The idea of being alone with him at his place late at night unnerved her.
Lili moved to stand by Da'an's left side and motioned to him that it was time to leave. Boone's security plan had Da'an and any other Taelons in attendance, leaving the large Planetarium before the guests did. This prevented them from being trapped in the middle of a milling crowd.
As they started up the aisle, Sandoval and Zo'or fell into step behind them while security kept the crowds at bay. Within a few minutes they were standing within a private office, where they would remain until the place had cleared out. After that, she and Da'an would try to get back to DC.
Zo'or approached Da'an, causing both Lili and Sandoval to frown.
"I commend you upon your presentation," he smirked. "Of course, it is to be expected that the humans would be in awe of our knowledge."
"These human guests are all prominent members of the scientific community," Da'an responded. "Many of their theories have already predicted that which they have just witnessed. Even Quo'on admits that they have theorized events which even we have not yet witnessed, but which may in fact exist. I suggest that you speak of them with respect."
"Respect? You now caution me to speak of the humans with respect?" Zo'or sneered. "Surely you have fallen far."
"I remind you that you lost your brief appointment as North American Companion because you would not heed the warning which I gave you at Boone's request."
Sandoval literally did a double take at Da'an's statement. Up until now, he hadn't been exactly certain of why Da'an had warned Zo'or that he was walking into a trap. The question now burning in his mind was, 'how did Boone know this?'
Zo'or remained silent for a moment, apparently stunned by Da'an's reminder, but he recovered soon enough.
"You close your thoughts off from the commonality, making yourself alien to us and losing the trust of the Synod. Yet, you presume to present yourself as superior to us...more knowledgeable than us, and more deserving of the Synod's trust than myself." Zo'or leaned closer to Da'an. "You have lost the respect of nearly every Synod member," he hissed. "Your time as North American Companion quickly draws to an end. Only Quo'on's hesitation in this matter delays my assumption of your position."
As Da'an stood, rooted to the spot in shock, Zo'or reached out and captured his hands. "There is an alternative," he whispered, "Join with me. Together we can lead our race towards victory."
A mental and physical struggle quickly ensued, with Lili and Sandoval both having heard Zo'or's softly spoken words. They exchanged startled looks just before the implant made a move to separate the two aliens.
"NO!" Lili shouted, as she intercepted him. "This has been coming for a while. We have to let them settle it - either that, or keep playing out this same scene until they do."
"But...Da'an!" The depth of Sandoval's affection for his ex-companion was enough to assert itself, despite his order to serve Zo'or - something which was not lost on Lili.
She kept a hand on his arm and slowly backed them both away from the Taelons. "Trust him, Ron," she said softly. "We both know that he is far more clever than his opponent."
"But Da'an...is the more naive of the two..."
"Do not mistake kindness and an open mind for naivete," she snorted. "Believe me, he is not naive!"
The two of them watched with trepidation as the Taelons continued their mental struggle. By this time, their facades had dropped, revealing two luminescent blue beings who swayed to and fro, locked together in struggle.
Sandoval, who was acquainted with both in their true forms, had no trouble telling them apart, but Lili had lost track of who was who. Sensing her confusion, Sandoval clued her in.
"Zo'or is much younger than Da'an," he commented. "You'll note that he has something of a pinkish-red inner glow."
Noting this, Lili was able to tell them apart, and was even able to note a difference in their facial profiles. Still, it was impossible to tell which Taelon was winning, or indeed, if either was making any progress at all.
Two minutes later, Zo'or suddenly released Da'an's arms and pushed himself away. Both beings swayed unsteadily and could actually be heard gasping.
"You...." Zo'or gasped. "You've cut yourself off from the commonality!"
"I knew that you would not be able to tolerate a linkage to myself alone," Da'an gasped as he rapidly regained his human appearance. "With the linkage to your supporters severed, you are not able to overcome me. As predicted, you had to sever our link in order to re-join the commonality."
Zo'or drew himself up straight, assumed his human appearance and attempted to regain his dignity. "This despirate attempt on your part shall only serve to delay the inevitable. You would rather join with the human than with me? It is proof that you are insane!"
"You are mistaken," Da'an said in a low, strong tone. "it is merely proof of how much I have grown to respect Boone, even as I have come to despise you."
Zo'or actually stepped backward a pace in dismay before suddenly wheeling about and quitting the room.
With a last despirate look at Da'an, Sandoval turned and followed him.
Lili was instantly at Da'an's side. "Da'an...she began, are you al..."
"I will survive, Captain," came the terse response. Da'an shrugged her hands off his shoulders and moved a few steps away, where he stood, staring at the wall.
To Lili's eyes, he seemed to be almost in a state of shock. "You can always rejoin the commonality, right?" she asked.
"Perhaps...in time." He turned to look at her. "I must resolve this...problem with Zo'or and the Synod before then."
With a worried glance at the companion, Lili headed for the office door, which she opened. After a quick check up and down the hallway, she moved back toward Da'an, who was now staring at the ground.
"Come on, let's blow this joint," she said as she held a hand out to him.
With a grateful look, he took it. "Never have I felt so alone," he whispered. "I do not know how you humans can tolerate this...isolation."
"Every child eventually learns to sleep in his own bed...Don't worry, Da'an. You will grow accustomed to it."
"Perhaps that is to be feared most of all," he sighed as he allowed Lili to lead the way back to the shuttle.
As soon as they
arrived back at Zo'or's penthouse, which was an actual Taelon structure grown
atop an existing high rise on the East Side, Sandoval prepared himself for the
inevitable. Whenever something did not go according to plan, his new companion
tended to take it out on him.
Zo'or would be shocked to realize that Sandoval thought of him as a spoiled adolescent. Perhaps he was...with the Taelons it was hard to say.
He followed the companion into his audience chamber, a much smaller version of those found in the Taelon embassies. Zo'or seated himself in his chair and motioned him closer.
"Agent Sandoval," he began, in a softly spoken voice. "Knowing Da'an as I do, I am relatively certain that he gave you a final command of some sort. It is most likely that he commanded you to report back to him if I attempted to harm his precious human. Am I correct?"
Sandoval nodded and cursed inwardly.
"Tell me what he commanded."
Da'an remained silent and
withdrawn during the shuttle ride back to DC, which troubled Lili greatly. Her
anger towards him had long since been forgotten. Instead, she found herself
admiring his strength of character and resolve to do what he felt was right.
Just a month ago, she never would have believed any Taelon capable of
such...integrity. Now she realized that as with humans, there was potential for
both good and evil amongst the Taelons. Most thought together and acted
together, but where one could be convinced to to think for themselves, others
could as well...
After arriving at the embassy, she followed Da'an into the audience chamber. She had thought it over in the shuttle and decided that she could not leave him alone this night. She was staying.
Da'an settled himself within his chair and fixed his eyes upon his knees, while Lili stood nearby waiting to be acknowledged. Now and then the companion's eyes blinked rapidly, as though he were fighting back a strong emotion, but other than that, he remained as still as a statue.
Lili was about to ask him what he was feeling, when the the data stream suddenly came to life, projecting the Synod leader himself into the room. Even to Lili's human eyes, the blue being looked concerned.
"Why have you removed yourself from our commonality?" Quo'on asked, with a slight waver in his voice. "Have you so thoroughly embraced the human ways that you now seek to become alien to us?"
"I cannot allow Zo'or...or any other to access those thoughts which I intentionally keep from the commonality," Da'an answered without lifting his head.
"Please explain the reasoning behind this." There was silence in the room and Quo'on tried again. "Have I not allowed you leeway in your interactions with the humans? Have I not allowed you to remain the North American Companion, despite Zo'or's success in rallying other Synod members against you?"
Da'an raised his head and blinked. "You have been most...fair in your treatment of me," he finally responded.
"Then you have no need to fear explaining your motives." Quo'on held a hand out palm up.
"I believe that my growing bond with Boone may be the key to our success in winning the human's cooperation, without which both our races are doomed." Da'an stood and descended from the central platform. "Along with the bonding, I now owe my implant my support...my aid in preserving that which he considers to be essential to his well-being."
"I am in agreement with this reasoning." Quo'on gestured. "Please continue."
"A key human need, is that of privacy. As beings who have never shared their consciousness with their fellows, they have developed in such a way... that such a baring of themselves is unbearable. Boone has no choice but to reveal his true self to me as our bond strengthens...and yet he fights it. If we are to succeed in our bonding, I must ensure that his privacy is preserved outside our bond. I cannot allow Zo'or, or any other companion access to that portion of my mind which I have cut off from the common thoughts."
Da'an wandered toward the windows and stared out at the beauty of the illuminated monuments. "Zo'or has been relentless in his zeal to take my seat. He believes that the key to this is to discredit me to the Synod by revealing those thoughts which I have withheld."
"You are willing to face the aloneness of withdrawing from us rather than betray Boone?" Quo'on asked sharply.
"I would be unworthy of bonding with Boone...or any other if I behaved otherwise."
Lili had been following the conversation with intense interest, but as moved as she was by Da'an's explanation, she was even more amazed to see Quo'on's answering smile.
"Your reasoning pleases me greatly - as it always has. Although we have had our disagreements in the past, and are sure to do so in the future, in this I am your strongest supporter. I cannot afford to discount your belief that Boone is the key to our success, nor can I fault your loyalty to your chosen one. Tell me, will you rejoin the commonality once you have dealt with Zo'or?"
"I shall, however there will come a time when I may once again withdraw."
"When your bonding with William Boone has been completed? I understand this as well. He will require time to learn how to hide that which he does not wish revealed. You realize that he may never be proficient enough to do so?"
Da'an nodded. "If he cannot learn, I shall step down from my seat willingly."
"You shall retain your seat as North American Companion," Quo'on declared, "However, you must cope with your rival on your own. He has many supporters amongst the Synod and I cannot risk a schism."
"He shall be dealt with." Da'an made the Taelon gesture for leave-taking as Quo'on nodded and faded away.
In a flash, Lili was at the companion's side. "Well you may only have one supporter, but at least he's a powerful one," she commented.
"Until this moment, I believed him to be Zo'or's supporter, However, I now see that much pressure is being placed upon him by those who do support Zo'or." Da'an looked Lili in the eye. "Why do you remain, Captain? Your obligations for the evening have been fulfilled. You may now go."
"My...obligations remain. Will asked me to look after you for him. How could Iever face the big guy again if I ran out on you on this, your first night on your own?"
Da'an looked startled by her statement, but then looked down at the ground. "Yet, you have been angry with me of late. Will you tell me why?"
Lili shifted uncomfortably. "Uh...It has to do with what you just told Quo'on about privacy. Da'an, I don't like being used and I feel that you may have taken advantage of me during our 'sharing'. You did not explain to me that there was a possibility that you would...pick up my memories."
"I understand." Da'an reached for her hand, but Lili quickly withdrew it. The companion's eyes again lowered as though he were examining the ground. "I assumed that you understood that 'sharing' implied a giving on both our parts...I did not intentionally mislead you."
Lili slowly turned away so that her back was towards the companion. 'Damn him!' she thought. He had turned the tables on her with his more than acceptable explanation. It was almost impossible to remain angry with him, and yet, something still needed to be said.
Lili sighed heavily. "Da'an, I accept your explanation, but it does not change the fact that you are now in possession of information you were not meant to have..." She felt the companion's hand on her shoulder, gently entreating her to turn and face him. She did, and saw that his own, blue face was showing through his disguise. He seemed genuinely distressed.
"Then, Lili, you must trust me to keep your secrets, even as I keep Boone's."
Lili smiled, to spite herself and covered Da'an's hand with her own. "Your face needs fixing,"she joked. "And let me give you some advice...you really need to start referring to Boone as Will. - You've earned the right to use his familiar name."
Boone left the embassy
slightly after nine pm, with the excuse that he preferred to learn the terrain
on his own. He had joked about Beckette being too conspicuous and his humour
had served to deflect any suspicions she might have had.
"Besides," he had said, "You'd start telling people about the drinking incident from my last visit. I don't think I'd enjoy bringing that up again!"
When Siobhan had questioned him about his research that afternoon, he had somehow managed to put her off with some well chosen replies about needing more time and more information. He knew that he was unlikely to be able to put her off again - from now on he would end up having to share some of his information with her.
He really hoped that the meeting with Barker went well. Somehow, the maiming of the human volunteers had to stop.
He arrived at the Fox and Hound less than twenty minutes later, which afforded him the time to check the place out. Eventually, he had a seat at a table in the corner and ordered a local ale.
Boone was half way through his second pint when Barker sat down opposite him.
Lili pulled up in front of
Augur's place at zero five-thirty hours, turned the engine off and stared at
the warehouse he called home.
She had spent the entire night talking with Da'an, their conversations covering an incredible number of topics. She hadn't realized it before, but the companion was insatiable in his need to learn about the human species. He seemed to genuinely wish to know what it was to be human - to understand how we thought, how we interpreted things...in short, who we were and what we truly wished in life.
They had wandered through the garden and embassy during their discussions, almost as though Da'an feared to stay too long in one spot. Perhaps it had helped to keep his mind off his isolation.
Lili had finally left the embassy shortly before five, with Da'an insisting that he would be fine. She glanced around her and noted that Augur's, was the only other car in sight. Chances were good that she wasn't interrupting anything.
Flinging the door open, she stepped out and cautiously approached the entrance way. One never knew what kind of security measures Augur might have thought up.
The door was unlocked.
With a frown, Lili drew her gun and cautiously made her way inside. When she arrived at the entrance to his private quarters and found that the double doors were wide open, she really began to worry. At the sound of metallic banging, she dove through the door, rolled and came up ready to fire.
Augur gave her a wicked grin as he finished flipping the hash browns. "Just in time for breakfast," he laughed as began dividing the potatoes out between two plates.
Lili stood up as she clicked the safety back on and re-holstered her gun. She felt certain that her face was flaming red. "You knew that I would do this, didn't you?"
"MmmmHmmm." Augur brushed past her and placed the dishes on the table which, she realized, was elegantly set for two.
"What if I had just called you on your global from outside?" She casually sauntered over to the table and sat in the chair he indicated.
"No. You never would have done that. You had to come in here," he said as he sat down opposite her.
"What makes you say that?"
"You care about me too much not to risk your life on my behalf." Augur delivered the sentence with his elbows propped up on the table and his chin resting on his hands.
"Bat your eyelashes at me, and so help me I'll kick you...."
They both burst out laughing.
"I love it when you rescue me," he snickered.
Lili changed the subject. "So, You cook too?" It was more a statement than a question. She had looked over her meal and was impressed.
"Eggs Benedict, hash browns with onions, Blue Mountain coffee, orange juice...and a fresh fruit cup."He proudly indicated each item as he named it.
They spent the next half hour enjoying the meal and chatting about music, furnishings and what defined the "must have" car. Finally the conversation turned back towards the usual topic of the Liberation.
"So, what is it you needed to tell me about Doors?" Lili asked as she pushed herself away from the table and crossing her legs, sipped her coffee.
Augur admired her legs and then roused himself to answer. "Doors is in on the Irish Liberation's action," He mock-whispered as he leaned forward. "In fact, he's running the show."
"What?!" Lili nearly spat her coffee onto the floor. "That...S.O.B.! Did he tell you this?"
"Nah. I had to do some digging. I'm pretty sure that most of our people don't know about it."
"Why would he keep this to himself?" Lili was perplexed. "How exactly is he involved in it?"
"I don't know, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he helped them plan the whole thing out." Augur made a sour face.
"There must be some way to use this to our advantage..." Lili tapped her fingers on her cup and thought it over.
"Oh, there is a way," Augur grinned as he leaned closer. "First you have to get more information out of Boone..."
Boone had only just left the
Irish Resistance HQ when his global beeped. He quickly muted it and sprinted to
the safety of a shadowy doorway before answering.
"Yeah?" he asked in a low voice.
"You'll never guess who's involved in Barker's operation," Lili began.
"Doors," He answered without hesitation. "I know, Barker told me that this is actually his brainchild - so to speak." Boone grimaced at his unintentional pun. "He's got them messing with people's brains on the off chance that they may learn something about the project. The problem is that, so far, they haven't learned anything. They have, however, left quite a few people incapacitated for life."
"This time I say we use his arrogance against him," Lili nearly snarled.
"What did you have in mind?" Boone was all ears.
A short time later, he
entered the Taelon embassy. Deciding to take in the view from the audience
chamber windows before turning in for the night, Boone quickly moved up the
central corridor and was just about to enter the room, when he heard a foot
shuffle within. He froze and listened, but not hearing anything else, he
quietly, slowly, inched forward. Finally he was in a position to peer around the
wall into the chamber beyond. What he saw caused his mouth to drop open.
Kha'rha and Siobhan sat near the windows, their right hands clasped between them, while each had their left hand on the other's shoulder. The looks on their faces were blissful. Every so often, one or the other would twitch, but they otherwise remained still.
Boone silently withdrew. He had obviously caught the two lovebirds sharing. Entering his quarters, he dropped down on the bed and kicked his shoes off. His thoughts drifted towards his relationship with Da'an. In a way he envied Siobhan and wished for a deeper union with Da'an, but he truly didn't believe himself ready for such a relationship.
It had become clear to him that a deeper bonding such as Da'an seemed to be pursuing, was the Taelon equivalent of marriage - a permanent commitment. He owed it to the companion to go into such a relationship with no regrets or reservations - something he could not yet do.
Kate was still so much in his mind.
Boone felt himself beginning to drift off to sleep and forced himself awake. Lili had wanted him to call once he was back in his room. He fumbled his global off his belt and beeped her.
"I'm back..."he said when she answered.
"Then, give me the details about the situation. I've been waiting with baited breath!"
"Ew!" At the look she gave him, he shrugged and explained everything.
"They won't stop kidnapping these people? I can't believe this! I joined the Liberation, not the Gestapo!"
"You know Doors. He is quite willing to sacrifice people in his quest to expose the companions. He can't even see that, at the moment, he's become humanity's worse enemy."
"What are you going to do?"
"Tomorrow, we'll give Augur's plan a try." Boone looked grim. "I hope it works, because if it doesn't, I may have to let Siobhan know what's going on."
"Boone! You can't!" Lili's eyes were as large as saucers. "If you turn on the resistance, you know that you'll be a walking dead man!"
"Siobhan is going to figure it all out herself anyway and it won't take her long. One thing is certain...I cannot allow them to do this to any more people. It's no different than killing them. In fact, death would probably be preferable!"
"I understand. Hey, don't worry. Augur's plan will work. I know it!"
Boone didn't say anything, but it looked to him like she was trying to convince herself of that.
"How is Da'an holding up?" he finally asked. "I hope you didn't come down on him too hard."
"We've...patched things up," she answered. "Boone...Da'an's cut himself off from the commonality."
"What?" He sat bolt upright on his bed. "When? Why? Is he..."
Lili quickly interrupted his panicked questioning and filled him in on the events of the previous evening.
"He's holding up well at the moment," she finished. I'm going back over to keep him company in just a bit, so you'd better tell me when you're going to call Doors up."
"It'll be at three pm your time. I know he's always available then."
"Right! Belman swings by at that time." Lili suddenly brightened. "Keep your fingers crossed and I'll talk to you later." Without further adieu, she cut the link.
Boone put the global away and lay back down as his thoughts turned once more towards Da'an. He had to admit that he felt an overwhelming urgency to get back to the companion...
Sandoval paced the floor in
his upscale apartment, which was located a floor beneath Zo'or's 'grown'
penthouse. He had been up since well before daybreak, despite the fact that he
was not expected to report back to Zo'or until that afternoon.
It was bad enough that he had been forced to confess to Zo'or what Da'an's last request of him had been, but to have had the order so neatly by-passed...and to be commanded to do such a thing!!! It was almost to much!
"There has to be a way out of this!" he snarled, putting his left hand through the plaster of one wall.
Lili was back at the Talon
Embassy shortly after nine. A quick nap and a shower had done her a world of
good, but now, as she made her way from the hanger to the main audience
chamber, she found herself becoming a bundle of nerves.
If anything had happened to the companion while she was gone, Boone would never forgive her. Hell...she would never forgive herself! He had to be all right, after all, she was only gone a few hours and he had been adjusting nicely to life without the commonality!
Lili quickened her pace and turned the corner into the main chamber. She stopped so suddenly that her feet nearly went out from under her!
Da'an was prone in his chair, completely enveloped by a swirling cloud of blue energy. He was in his natural state.
"Da'an!" she yelled in a panic, sure that he had left his body as he had the one time he had nearly joined the void. She lunged towards his chair, even as the startled Taelon sat up and the glow faded away.
Da'an's eyes, even in their true state, seemed to be wide with confusion. In another few seconds, he had regained his human appearance and stood up.
"I am quite well, Captain," he reassured her as he stepped down and moved to her side. "I was merely resting."
"Sorry." Lili was mortified.
As though sensing her embarrassment, the companion gestured towards the windows. "Come, let us watch the traffic and give thanks that we are watching, and not participating in it."
Lili laughed. "Yeah, thank goodness for Taelon shuttles. After they had seated themselves, she spoke again. "So, uh...what was that energy cloud you were lying in?"
"My sustenance," he replied.
"I'm sorry I interrupted your breakfast."
It was the companion's turn to smile. "I am glad that you have returned. My thoughts have been on my missing implant all morning. I have felt his turmoil through our bond, and I can not help but worry at his worry."
Da'an turned his large, seemingly guileless eyes upon her. "Will you tell me what it is which troubles him so... and yourself? I feel that your anxiety and his are linked in some way..."
Lili stared at the Taelon, and for the first time noted the worry visible upon his face. Hardly daring to believe what she was about to do, Lili held her hand out to him palm first. Boone was about to take Doors down a notch or two, an event which would place them both at risk.
Some things were better communicated without words.
Da'an hesitated, apparently confused by her offer - not that she could blame him. Hadn't she come down on him just this morning, for having done this with her in the past?
"It's the only way I can safely communicate to you what you wish to know - at least while we're both sitting in this structure," she explained. "All I want, is for it to really be a sharing this time. I want you to show me your past...and I want this to be the last time we ever do this."
Slowly, the companion brought his hand up to meet Lili's. "It grieves me that we shall not have this opportunity again," he said. "However, I am most grateful for this chance to learn more. It shall be as you wish."
Boone joined Siobhan in
Kha'rha's audience chamber just before six a.m.
"Where's Kha'rha?" he asked when he realized that the companion was not present.
"He'll be in shortly. He has an announcement to make to us," Siobhan said as she glanced to the side and came to attention. "Here he is now."
Boone followed suit. Taelon announcements tended to make him nervous. He watched as Kha'rha seated himself in his chair and hoped that the news had nothing to do with the resistance.
"Good morning," the Taelon greeted them both after they had all saluted each other.
"Good morning," Siobhan practically chirped back.
Boone elected to nod his acknowledgement of the pleasantry. "I understand that you have some news to relate?" he prompted.
"Indeed. After careful consideration, I have decided to hold a news conference tomorrow afternoon," he informed them.
"I believe that this may be a risky undertaking in light of the anger being directed towards you by the victim's families," Boone replied. "Perhaps you should wait until we have more information with which to appease them?"
"It is to ease the anger and fear of the family members, that I have pursued this course. Siobhan has gathered enough information to at least implicate the Liberation. It is best that we make this alternate explanation of their loved one's mishaps to these families so that we may diffuse their anger towards us." Kha'rha spoke calmly, punctuating his sentences with graceful hand gestures which instantly brought Da'an to Boone's mind.
"When tomorrow?" Boone asked shortly, knowing that there would be no arguing with the Companion. He could get away with it with Da'an, but this was not HIS companion.
"It has been set for seventeen hundred hours at the medical facility auditorium." Before Boone could protest, Kha'rha spoke again. "The media has all ready been informed. Siobhan shall handle the security arrangements while you continue your sleuthing. I do expect you to be present, however."
Boone nodded, "Of course." This companion certainly knew how to forestall an argument, but Boone tried to reason with him. "You realize that you have not given your implant enough time to adequately cover all security contingencies?"
"I do not believe this to be a high risk situation. Any arrangements Siobhan makes are sure to be adequate." He made the gesture for leave-taking, which was also a dismissal.
Siobhan and Boone returned the gesture and quitted the room.
"Why are you so concerned?" she asked him as they moved down the corridor.
"Call it a feeling," he groused. "but, this is happening too quickly. Something's not right!"
"Things'll look better after breakfast," she grinned. "You just leave security to me. I want you to have something substantial to report back to Kha'rha with by the time that conference rolls around."
Sandoval presented himself
before Zo'or at the appointed hour and waited for the companion to acknowledge
Zo'or kept him waiting a good twenty minutes.
"Is all in readiness?" The Taelon finally asked him.
"Yes, Zo'or. You were correct in your prediction that Kha'rha would hold a news conference. He's scheduled it for tomorrow afternoon, at seventeen hundred his time."
"Of course he is holding a conference," Zo'or smirked. "My associates in the Synod suggested it to him - at my request."
"Of course," Sandoval echoed.
Lili had spent the rest of
the morning with Da'an. She had to admit that the companion seemed to be doing
well - in fact, it had quickly become business as usual at the Taelon Embassy.
She had sat near the windows and watched Da'an conduct business with quite a bit of interest. Now and then, her thoughts had drifted back to their sharing earlier that morning. She might not know the Taelon's motives in coming to Earth, but at least she now knew Da'an's motives in wishing to be here.
His reasons were good enough for her.
Right before she had left, he had dismissed Lassiter and taking one of her hands, wished her well in her next endeavor - her meeting with Doors.
On an impulse, she had hugged him and promised that she would let him know how it had turned out. She had been surprised to feel the Taelon return the embrace, and when she had quickly stepped back, embarrassed at her own presumption, he had spoken, putting her at ease.
"You have given me my first such embrace," he had said with a small smile. "It is an experience which I do believe I would wish to have again."
"Yeah...well, it's the rarity of the event which makes it so special," she had responded, smiling as well and with a mock military salute, she had left him.
Now, as she entered the Resistance stronghold, her thoughts turned towards the performance she was about to give. The future of her cause depended upon it.
Noting Augur surreptitiously giving her the thumbs up from his console in the corner, she had to fight back a smile. If this worked...she would owe him big-time - and she probably wouldn't even mind.
She took a seat at the large table in front of the main view screen and put her feet up on a chair.
She didn't have long to wait. Not two minutes later, Doors strode out of his office and came to a screeching halt at the sight of her.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked gruffly. "How did you get past security?"
"Oops! I must have forgotten to take care of those access locks!" Augur piped up from across the room.
"Augur! I ought to..." Before he could continue, Sahjit interrupted.
"Oh dear," he said. "I forgot to update the DNA analyzer in the elevator! How could I have been so careless?"
Doors looked like he was about to blow out a major blood vessel. "How dare you?" his voice boomed out. "I will not tolerate such insubordination in my organization!"
Lili was on her feet and in his face in a second. "Your organization?" she countered. By now every eye in the place was on the spectacle unfolding in the main chamber. It was time to get some people thinking. "Excuse me, Jonathan, but I thought that this was our organization. OUR - as in the human race's? Who the hell do you think you are, trying to kick me and Boone out because we disagree with some of your tactics? Perhaps you'd like to explain to our friends here exactly what you have been doing to your fellow human beings in Ireland?"
"I don't have to stand here and listen to this," he spat, as he headed for his office, but his strategic retreat was cut short by Boone's voice.
"I'm afraid that you do...or would you rather stay in your office while I fill the rest of OUR organization in on your little foray into cerebral experimentation?"
Doors spun around in shock to find Boone's global transmission up on the main view screen. Every eye in the place was shifting between Boone and Doors.
"Get him off the screen," Doors growled at Augur.
Before the high-tech wizard could respond, a different resistance member moved to block the controls. "Wait a minute," he confronted the millionaire. "Let's give him a chance to speak."
Before the ex-industrialist could even find his voice, Boone spoke again.
"OK people, as far as I'm concerned, this is still a democracy. Do you want to hear what I have to say or not?"
Boone, being greeted with a resounding chorus of affirmative responses, blew Door's scheme wide-open.
Boone closed his global and
let out a whoop of joy. "Yes! That's how we do it!" He fell back onto
the bed and relived the experience again, courtesy of his implant.
Things had gone downhill quickly for Doors once the rest of the organization had learned of the senseless waste of human lives. If the experimentation had ended after the first few failures, it might have been a different story, but...
Calls had quickly been made to the other resistance bases in the United States to communicate the discovery. Everyone had been in agreement about one thing. Doors currently wielded too much power. Something would have to be done to prevent this sort of thing from happening again in the future.
The Liberation was undergoing a big change. Within a few weeks time, it would be ruled by a committee made up of members from each major stronghold. Any and all major decisions would be made by them, after adequate discussion.
It had not yet been decided who, from their operation, would sit on the committee, but one thing was certain...Doors no longer ran the show.
The hour for the news
conference was rapidly approaching as Boone found himself gathering the last of
his data on a disc. With the European branch of the Liberation having called
off their operation to gather information from the implanted volunteers, there
was no need to expose the organization's weak points to the Taelons, but Boone
still had to give Siobhan something...
He had decided to expose the mole working in the Taelon Medical Facility, but not before having warned the resistance that he was doing so. By the time Kha'rha's people moved to detain him, he would be working with the Liberation in a different country altogether.
The disc contained every bit of information which incriminated the man and the resistance, as well as the hypothesis that the liberation had not succeeded in gathering any useful information - hence their continued experimentation. Since the Taelons were about to point the finger at the humans anyway, there really was no loss in making himself out to be a dutiful implant.
Hearing a sound in the office doorway, he turned. Siobhan was leaning on the wall.
"I thought you were all ready at the auditorium," he said, as he removed the finished disk from the computer and held it out to her.
Siobhan moved forward and took it from him. "We won't be leaving until the last minute," she answered as she turned the disc over in her hands. "Is this...?"
"My findings? Yes. It contains everything I was able to dig up."
"Good! I'll go review it now. There may be something here which Kha'rha can use at the conference..." She was about to quit the room when Boone's global chirped, drawing her attention.
He flipped it open and prayed that it wasn't one of his resistance friends. Just to be on the safe side, he turned so that Beckette could not see the screen.
It was Zo'or!
Boone quickly dropped his hand, and keeping Beckette out of range of the global's camera, he let her see the screen.
"Greeting Zo'or," he answered coolly. "What may I do for you?"
The Taelon smiled. "I was not sure that Kha'rha had informed you of Da'an's decision to quit the commonality."
"He has only cut himself off for the moment," Boone replied. "He'll be rejoining your commonality as soon as he's dealt with you."
"So then, you do know of these events," the Taelon responded with narrowed eyes. "You must realize that in removing himself from the commonality, he has all but abdicated his position as North American Companion. I hope to fill that chair and have Da'an recalled to the mother ship before you can return." He tilted his head and stared out of the corners of his eyes at Boone. "I seriously doubt that you and your companion will be bonding anytime in this incarnation, however, I have taken extra precautions to ensure that it never happens, " he hissed.
The global went dead.
Boone and Siobhan stared at each other in shock.
"That sounded like a threat against your life!" she exclaimed.
"Or against Da'an's!"he countered. Boone thought a moment. "It can't be a coincidence that he called right before the conference," he admitted. " I think you're right. I am the target!"
"Not to mention that Taelons do not kill each other," Beckette reminded him. "You'd best stay away from the conference."
"It might be that that was why he called - To try and get me somewhere alone." Boone guested. "If he wants me dead, sooner or later, he's going to make his move. I'd rather it was sooner. It's best that we proceed as planned."
Beckette nodded her agreement.
Lili arrived in Da'an's
audience chamber just before midnight to watch the news conference with him.
She was still elated by their victory down in Resistance HQ and her happy
attitude was not lost on the companion.
As she stepped up onto his footrest so that she could stand beside his chair, he spoke.
"I take it that all went well this afternoon?" the Taelon commented, more than a little interested in the outcome.
"Better even than that!" Lili leaned down so that her mouth was closer to the seated Companion's ear and whispered, "I'll tell you all about it after the news conference... "
"This is unexpected, but welcomed news," Da'an breathed. "For the last hour I have sensed much anger coming from my implant. I had assumed the worst."
Lili was confused. "Anger? I really don't know why he'd be angry." She shrugged. "Perhaps he doesn't like the the way Siobhan is handling the security details. He does tend to be a bit obsessive about his job."
The companion nodded with a satisfied smile on his face. With a graceful wave of his left arm, he opened a datastream to the local news channel which was broadcasting the conference.
Not two minutes later, Zo'or entered the room. Sandoval was not with him, and he seemed to be completely unaccompanied. For Zo'or, who always kept at least one bodyguard nearby, the solo entrance screamed 'trouble'. Da'an and Lili exchanged a brief look as the newly arrived Taelon approached Da'an's chair.
"What brings you to us at this hour?" Da'an asked calmly.
"I only wish to view the news conference with you," the younger Taelon smirked.
"And could you not have spared yourself the journey and watched it from the comfort of your own chair?" Zo'or's smile was sinister. "I would not deny myself the pleasure of watching your reaction to your implant's public appearance."
Da'an stared at him uneasily. "Where is Agent Sandoval?" he asked. "Have you taken him from me when you did not truly require his services?"
"He is nearby," Zo'or swivelled around for a better view of the data stream before continuing. "taking care of a few things for me."
Sandoval opened his global
and then closed it again. He paced back and forth in the garden before coming
to a halt before the fountain.
This place was one of Da'an's favorites and the Taelon often spent a great majority of his free time contemplating its beauty.
Sandoval stared at the bubbling water and sighed. He would not be serving Taelon interests if he allowed the farce to continue. Direct order or not, he needed to inform Quo'on of the events which were about to unfold.
He didn't give a damn about Boone, but if he allowed this to happen, he knew that Da'an would never take him back. Just the mere thought of remaining Zo'or's attache...
He flipped the global open again. He could do this! He had to do this!
Finally, with an extreme effort of willpower, he opened a channel directly to the top.
Boone took his place on the
left side of the auditorium's stage and waited for Kha'rha to make his
entrance. He glanced over toward Beckette, who stood next to the doors at the
opposite end. Flanked by guards, she waited to escort the companion in.
While he waited, Boone scanned the auditorium again. He really didn't like what he was seeing.
The press were set up just in front of the stage, their camera's strategically placed so that they would not obstruct the view of the rest of the audience. As usual, the reporters were talking amongst themselves and exchanging notes.
They were of little concern to him.
It was the large audience which had him on edge. There were at least four hundred people packed into the place and a vast majority of them were either related to or at least knew the victims of the Taelon project. The air was charged with emotional energy...with barely controlled anger and outrage. People's mouths were set in thin, compressed lines.
There was little doubt in his mind that they could easily overcome the pitiably small number of guards standing between them and the stage.
Boone spoke to Beckette via his headphone. "Tell Kha'rha to call it off. These people don't want explanations - They want blood."
"I know. I already tried," came the other implant's voice in his ear. "He is determined. Besides, if we try to shoo them all out at this point, you know there will be violence."
"Do the two men up on the stage have skrills?"
"Between them and us, we may have a chance of getting out of here in one piece."
Lili watched the data stream
as the Irish Companion made his appearance and was escorted to the podium by
Siobhan Beckette. The room seemed noisy and even the reporters were commenting
on the crowd's unrest.
She had to smile when a camera panned over to get a shot of Boone. He had become something of a celebrity with those reporters who covered Companion events and they couldn't resist pointing him out and giving a brief history to their audience.
"Boone really hates it when they do that," she commented to Da'an.
He was about to reply, when Zo'or suddenly spoke.
"You are fortunate that they have shown him to you this one last time," he said, almost under his voice.
Lili's mouth gaped open, not only from Zo'or's statement, but from the speed with which Da'an suddenly stood and lunged for the other Taelon. One moment he had been in his chair, the next he was standing beside Zo'or grasping his arm tightly with his left hand.
"What have you done?" Da'an's voice was low and shook with what Lili would have sworn was anger.
Zo'or attempted to withdraw, but could not break Da'an's grip. Two seconds later, he went limp and slid to his knees as Da'an finally released him.
The North American Companion spun towards Lili, his eyes large with panic. "I must summon Quo'on," he murmured in a daze.
"That will be unnecessary," came the Synod leaders voice, as he entered the audience chamber with Sandoval in tow.
Already in a state of shock, neither Da'an nor Lili were able to respond before their eyes were drawn to the data stream and the violence which was erupting at the news conference.
"I fear that we are too late to stop the events now unfolding in Dublin," Quo'on said as he moved to stand beside Da'an. "I believe, however, that we are not too late to stop this one," here he indicated the collapsed Zo'or, "from spreading his madness."
Da'an's eyes remained on the data stream, where Boone and Beckette struggled to hold back the crowd by stunning them with their skrill blasts. Somehow he managed to glance back toward Quo'on, who, amazingly enough, wore a human face. "I have wrested this one's secrets from him," he confessed. "It shames me to admit it, however, my implant's anger temporarily brought forth my own. I experienced an overwhelming need to learn the truth of his being...and to hurt him."
"We will talk of this later,"Quo'on said. "Tell me what you have learned.
"Zo'or has arranged this riot through use of Agent Sandoval. His intention was to cause William Boone's death in an effort to help clear the way to my title. He has also spread his malice through half the Synod. His supporters back his interests at the expense of our race's goals. They wish only personal power for themselves, not what is truly necessary for our race's continued survival."
"Agent Sandoval informed me of his part in this scheme. His concern for you and the rest of our interests proved enough to allow him to disobey Zo'or." Quo'on nodded at the implant, who bowed deeply to him. "He shall not be held accountable." The Synod leader's eyes turned toward Zo'or. "You are another matter entirely and shall accompany me back to the mother ship, where you shall remain restricted until this matter has been resolved."
They were all interrupted by the sound of a shot ringing out at what was once the conference. One of the implants on the stage fell, apparently shot in the chest. Screams broke out as some of those in the crowd panicked and began fighting their way toward the rear exits.
Off to the other side of the stage, the crowd surged forward, intent on cutting off Kha'rha's only means of escape.
With his only means of escape rapidly disappearing, Boone suddenly stood and fired a skrill shot through the back of the stage, obliterating the auditorium's back wall in a ten foot radius and leaving every curtain which was in the path of the blast with a matching circle dissolved in it. As he started to duck back down, another shot rang out.
Da'an flinched as he watched Boone go down. Lili was instantly by his side, gripping his arm.
"Is he?" she began, but Da'an shook his head, no.
In the data stream, they watched as Boone stood again and pushed the Irish Companion towards the new exit. Siobhan followed behind Kha'rha as Boone laid down some cover fire, but she was hit in the leg and went down.
To his credit, the Irish companion turned back and tried to help her, but she screamed something at Boone which the microphones could not pick up. Apparently it had been for him to save the companion, for he quickly grabbed the Taelon's arm and hauled him out of the auditorium after him.
The reporters ducked or ran, but continued covering the events unfolding at the auditorium long enough to show some of the crowd following the implant and companion out through the gaping hole.
Quo'on cut the data stream transmission off with a wave of his arm. "We will continue to monitor these events closely from out mother ship," he said. "It may be that we shall have to interfere directly in order to restore order in Dublin." He then motioned Sandoval to help Zo'or to his feet. "You shall help me escort him back to my shuttle," he commanded before turning back towards Da'an. "It is amazing to me to see how you have incapacitated him. Perhaps your continued association with Boone shall aid us in ways we had not dared dream of." Quo'on nodded with satisfaction. "Tomorrow you shall make yourself available to Ne'eg so that we may see how you have accomplished this."
Da'an inclined his head in respectful acknowledgement and brought a hand to his chest while the other was held palm upward in a gesture of leave-taking. The truth was that his thoughts were currently elsewhere, his mind seeking some emotion from Boone which would allow him to ascertain if his human friend was safe.
As soon as the others had departed, Lili pulled out her global, instantly capturing the Taelon's interest.
"Augur! Thank God I reached you....Yes! What do you know? What's happening over there?"
Augur looked grim. "Some of our operatives have reported that the crowd has Boone and Kha'rha pinned down in an alley. It doesn't look good..."
Lili slammed the global shut. "Dammit!" she shouted.
Boone guided Kha'rha down
the alley behind the auditorium and made a left. Their best chance of escape
would be to double back and re-enter the building so that their pursuers
exhausted themselves searching the streets and other structures.
They stayed against the building's wall as Boone inched forward and glanced around the front corner.
"Damn!" he said under his breath when he saw that some of the more enterprising people had already backtracked through the front entrance and were headed their way. "Come on," he whispered as he tugged on the Taelon, who seemed to be in a state of shock. "We've got to go - NOW!"
The two of them backtracked a short way and cut behind the rest of the medical facility. With the facility's increased security, Boone knew that getting the companion inside the structure would most likely be his best chance at ensuring the alien's safety. He didn't like the idea of leading the crowd's violence to a building housing ill patients, but it had now become his only alternative.
They were just climbing up the loading dock, when a few reporters and five members of the crowd spotted them. Instantly shouts of "There they are!" and "Get them!" were raised.
Another shot rang out, nearly clipping Boone's face. Boone fired his skrill at them as he and Kha'rha quickly ducked inside and made for the secure area of the building.
Upon reaching the security door, Boone quickly gave his name and placed his hand on the monitor.
"*IMPLANT - WILLIAM BOONE - ACCESS GRANTED*" came the computer-generated voice. Kha'rha merely spoke a line in Taelon. "*KHA'RHA - ACCESS GRANTED*" was returned.
The huge steel door swung open, passing them through as another bullet ricocheted off it.
Breathing a little easier, Boone slowed down, allowing Kha'rha a chance to catch his breath...or whatever it was that Taelons did.
They had almost gotten to the stairwell at the end of the corridor, when Boone heard the security computer speak again.
"*MAINTENANCE - JOSEPH CARVER - ACCESS GRANTED*"
"Shit!" was his only exclamation as he and the companion - who needed no prompting - ran for the stairs. They moved up a flight, entered the first floor of the structure, backtracked down the corridor which ran atop the one they had entered the stairwell through and took a turn down a lateral hallway.
Boone had a map of the building in his head, care of his CVI, and he was making for a first floor exit near the clinic's small emergency room, which would let him out of the building near the helicopter landing pad.
After a few more turns, they were there. Boone stopped to the side of the heavy door and peaked out. Kha'rha's shuttle was nowhere to be seen. He wasted no time in pulling out his global and calling the pilot.
"Where in the hell are you?" he asked as the pilot answered.
"Looking for you, along with half the people in the area!"
"Get back to the place you let us out - and you'd best not take very long about it!"
"On my way!"
Boone closed the global and moved the companion up against the wall, between himself and the exit door.
Less than thirty seconds later, the shuttle roared into view - and it was a good thing too, as their remaining pursuers suddenly turned the corner in the hallway behind them.
"Time to go!" Boone yelled, as he shoved Kha'rha out the exit ahead of him. The landing area was out the door and to the right, but to get there, they would have to cross the emergency entrance way into the clinic. Boone quickly scanned the area and determined that it was clear. They sprinted ahead and were just passing the other entrance way, when a woman carrying a child and with another child in tow, rounded the corner of the building ahead of them.
"Get back!" he shouted frantically, realizing too late that the parking area was next to the landing zone. As he sprinted towards the woman, intent on shielding her and the children from their pursuers, shots again rang out.
"No!" he screamed, as he blindly unleashed a skrill blast behind him. He dove for the woman and recovering the child she had dropped, turned and handed her off to Kha'rha.
Boone quickly shoved the other child down behind him and turning, vaporized the three pursuers. Only then did he notice Kha'rha shielding the other child with his own form...and the news helicopter hovering nearby which had captured the entire incident on video.
Grateful that they were still alive, he turned his attention towards the fallen woman. She was badly hurt, but still breathing.
He only hoped that Siobhan had survived as well.
Da'an and Lili watched as
the news coverage picked back up with a special announcement, which culminated
with the footage of Boone and Kha'rha's close encounter at the clinic being
Lili watched in amazement, as Boone all but threw the two year old girl to Kha'rha, who immediately turned his back to the shooters and shielded the girl with his own form. Boone, had of course protected the other child as well as the mother, but the sight of the child, with her arms around the companion's neck as he protected her had been...electrifying and uplifting.
Despite having started the evening under suspicion of having set in motion events leading to the maiming of dozens of men, Kha'rha was ending that same evening a hero.
So was William Boone.
The telecast seemed to go on and on, with more footage of the carnage rolling in, as well as updated casualty lists. It seemed that the footage of the Irish Companion saving the child could not be shown often enough.
Twenty minutes into it, Sandoval re-entered the audience chamber. "We've confirmed the media accounts," he reported. "Siobhan Beckette is alive. She had been saved by several of the reporters, amazingly enough, at great risk to their own lives. All in all there are twenty seven injured, including the mother of the two children, who is listed in serious, but stable condition."
"And Boone? How is he?" Da'an pressed.
"He was shot in the side. He lost some blood, but incredibly none of his internal organs were affected." At the obvious look of relief which crossed Da'an's face, Sandoval looked at his own feet. "Boone said to tell you that he'd call you as soon as he's helped mop up the mess over there."
"They let him out of the hospital?" Lili was incredulous. "The man's been shot!"
"The man is an implant, Captain," Sandoval replied. "And he is the only one capable of the task right now. All the others are far more seriously hurt."
Da'an's voice was calm, but the FBI Agent felt his stomach knot up. Now that the excitement was over, he would learn whether he would be welcomed back...or not.
"Da'an?" he responded, somehow managing to hide his nervousness.
"Were the three men killed by William Boone the same three paid to begin the riot and to kill him?"
"How is it that you arranged this when I had expressly ordered you to report to Quo'on immediately with any such information?"
"Your exact words had been that I was to serve Zo'or as I would serve you," Sandoval replied. "You also told me that if he should command me to do anything which would endanger Commander Boone's life, that I was not to actually carry through with the assignment, but rather, to report to Quo'on secretly and at the first opportunity and inform him of the command I you had given me. I was then to tell him what it is was that Zo'or has ordered me to do."
"Those are my own words. You have nearly precisely recited them back to me," Da'an stated, confusion evident on his face. "Why then did you wait so long to contact Quo'on? Why did you carry through with the order?"
Sandoval looked supremely embarrassed, even blushing furiously as he somehow managed to stammer out his explanation. "Zo'or asked me what your command had been. He then asked me whose implant I was and when I vowed my loyalty was to him, he informed me that Quo'on himself had already declared that no companion might interfere in matters between another companion and his implant. He commanded me to check and see if this was not so. I did."
A look of pity crossed Da'an's face. "And from that moment on, you were directly controlled by your implant." It was not a question.
Sandoval answered it anyway with an affirmative nod.
"I still find myself confused...and curious. How did you then overcome your motivational directive and contact Quo'on?"
Sandoval blushed brighter. "I..." he began and then had to swallow before trying again. "I could not allow anything to happen to Boone, not out of concern for him, but...."
Da'an tilted his head and waited patiently, as Lili looked away. She knew quite well why the human had been able to temporarily defeat the implant.
"I did it out of respect...and affection for you," Sandoval finally managed.
The companion closed his eyes and tilted his head, as he blushed blue. When he regained control of his form, he looked at his implant and smiled.
"I welcome you back, Agent Sandoval," he said. "Please resume your duties."
A rare smile crossed the implant's face. With a quick salute, he left the chamber.
Da'an turned toward Lili. "I have much to attend to," he said. "and I know that you grow weary. Please, take your leave and rest."
"Thank-you. Will you call me back tomorrow and let me know what's going on?"
Without further adieu, Lili headed for her shuttle. There was a certain techno-wizard whom she still had to thank..."
Apart from the days
following his wife's death, the three days which followed the riot had proved
to be the most trying three days of Boone's life. He attended to the dozens of
tasks Siobhan normally would have seen to, in addition to helping to clean up
the mess that the police were wading through. He had given his detailed account
of the events which led up to the riot to all the local authorities and even
acted as a go-between for Kha'rha and the Government.
To top everything off, his side was killing him!
He had also been present when Quo'on had informed the Irish Companion that the Irish Government was demanding full disclosure of the operation in which the volunteers had participated. Fortunately, Kha'rha's rescue of the human child, had gotten him back into the good graces of the people of his protectorate. The picture of him cradling the girl had been on the front page of nearly every world newspaper the following day. That, combined with the evidence Boone had turned over implicating the Liberation in the actual maiming of those volunteers, had made damage control an easy matter, according to the Synod leader.
Quo'on had then taken the time to thank Boone for his handling of the situation and had actually apologized to him for Zo'or's duplicity!
Boone hadn't let the honor go to his head - there was still much which was not being discussed around him, and he had the distinct impression that he wasn't going to like Quo'on's idea of damage control.
Tomorrow, he and the world would find out what the Taelon's project had been, and then he would finally go home. By the time he got back, Da'an would have heard the Synod's decision concerning Zo'or.
Personally, he hoped that they locked the little shit up in the same cell with Rho'ha.
It would feel good to be back home. As beautiful as Ireland was...he had had enough of it to last him a while. It was hard to believe that he hadn't even been gone a week!
It felt like he had been gone a month - like he hadn't seen Da'an in months.
He had called his Companion, as promised, the day after the incident. Da'an had seemed extremely concerned about his injury, something about which, he had reassured him. They had exchanged pleasantries and he had let Da'an know that he'd be back as soon as he could.
Since then, Boone had been too busy to call back.
His global suddenly beeped. It was Lili.
"Will! Where are you right now?" she asked.
"I'm in my room. I was about to turn in."
"Our little branch of the resistance has named its two representatives."
"Let me guess," he drawled, sounding bored. "One of them is Doors."
"Lili looked disappointed. "Yeah, well...you can't have everything. How'd you know?"
"You didn't think the Liberation would turn down the chance to spend his money, did you?"
"Good point." She suddenly brightened again. "You'll NEVER guess who the second representative is..."
The next day, Boone's worst
fears were realized.
The Taelons disclosed that they had but transferred the humans to the mother ship to gage their ability to adjust to long periods in space and to function as a community in such conditions. Secrecy was imperative, for they knew that if word got out, many more humans would want to participate, than they could possibly accommodate. They had not wished to promote bad feelings.
Every volunteer claimed that the Taelons had restored their memories and stated that they were telling the truth about the operation. Moreover, each of them had passed some very sophisticated lie-detector tests.
Sitting through the rest of the hearing had been torture for the security chief, who knew better than anyone, the Taelon's ability to implant false memories in their subjects.
Unless Da'an knew about the operation, it was unlikely that Boone or the rest of the world, would ever learn the truth of what had been going on.
Precisely one week after his
departure, William Boone re-entered the Taelon Embassy in Washington, DC.
"Welcome back, Will," Lili said, as she opened the shuttle shields.
"It's good to be back," he grinned as stepped down into the hanger, where Sandoval awaited him.
"Good to have you back," the other implant greeted as they shook hands. Boone was surprised to pick up a faint greeting in his mind. His skrill had greeted Sandoval's, no doubt.
"It's good to be back," he finally responded, as Ron smiled with amusement. "You know, I think your skrill likes my skrill." he continued as they began walking toward the main corridor.
"You have no idea..." the other implant laughed. Suddenly he stopped and became his usual, serious self. "Listen...how is Siobhan doing?"
"She was released from the hospital yesterday. She said to thank you for the card...and to tell you that she would be all right."
"Good," Sandoval replied. "You'd better hurry on in." He gestured toward the corridor. "He's waiting...impatiently."
With a grin, Boone turned away and began to stride quickly up the circular central ramp.
A minute later, he entered the audience chamber, where his companion waited semi-patiently near the windows. They wasted no time in moving toward each other.
Boone, realizing at the last possible second that he was about to embrace Da'an, suddenly stopped in a fit of uncertainty and almost offered instead, to shake his hand. Embarrassed by his own confusion. he froze.
Da'an was not offended. On the contrary, he actually seemed amused!
"Is it not acceptable?" he asked.
"It's...complicated..." was all Boone could manage.
"I understand your confusion," the companion said calmly, his eyes twinkling. "Yet, do not even male humans embrace after an absence?"
"They'd have to be very good friends, who had been separated a very long time," Boone dead panned, and was himself amused by the disappointed look he received.
"I have no words to convey the pleasure I feel at your safe return," the Companion continued. "Please, accompany me to my quarters. We have much which we must discuss."
Inexplicably pleased by the invitation, Boone followed the companion up the ramp to his private chamber.
Da'an opened the portal and signalled his implant to proceed him into the room.
Boone stepped inside and stared about him in wonder...and amazement. The chamber was a Taelon-grown structure, but the furnishings were strictly human. The large chamber housed a desk, an armoire, a small stereo, a cozy pair of oversized chairs, complete with a coffee table and area rug and a queen-sized bedroom set. The walls were full of niches which displayed artwork from around the world. There was even a large bookshelf, completely filled with some of the oldest volume's it had ever been Boone's pleasure to touch.
He completed a circuit of the room and stopped before Da'an, grinning from ear to ear.
"I like it very much," Boone laughed. "I never pictured your chambers looking like this, and yet, I now realize that I should have!" He actually chuckled as he took in the room again.
Da'an was also smiling. "I am amused, and pleased by your observations. How better to learn about other races than to live as they do?" He gestured at the room. "In truth, my room pleases me. I feel....at home here." He stared solemnly at Boone. "I never felt at home on the mother ship."
Boone nodded his understanding as Da'an indicated one of the chairs. "Please be comfortable," he invited.
"What is the verdict from the Synod?" the implant asked, unable to contain his need to know any longer.
"It was decided that Zo'or might keep his position as Representative to the United Nations, or remain a member of the Synod - but not both. Quo'on felt that this division between the two positions would help to prevent such power bases from forming in the future."
"Has Zo'or made his decision yet?"
"Strangely enough, he has chosen to remain here on Earth as our representative to the UN."
Boone grimaced. "It's not all that strange, Da'an. It's what I would have expected him to do under the circumstances."
The companion looked amazed. "Please explain," he invited.
"One of our religious myths involves Lucifer, who was once one of the most beautiful and influential of God's angels. Lucifer became convinced that he was God's superior in every way and attempted to overthrow his lord. In the end, he was vanquished and given a choice between serving God again or being banished for all time. His response was that 'It was better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven'."
Da'an blinked rapidly several times and stared at Boone in wonder. "How apt," he whispered as he shook his head. "You once told me that our two species shared a similar spirit. I have now come to believe this with every fiber of my being." Da'an blinked again and seemed to compose himself. "There is more to Zo'or's story. He is forbidden to step within this embassy without invitation. Furthermore, at all functions which require that we both be present, he is to defer to me."
"Lili told me that you somehow managed to attack him and that Quo'on ordered you to submit to some tests. Please tell me that you didn't let Ne'eg experiment on you as he did on Rho'ha."
"I thank you for your concern, however, it is unlikely that I would ever submit to such treatment. Ne'eg hypothesized that the anger I had been picking up from you prior to the riot was enough to ignite my own negative emotions to a degree not seen in a Taelon for millennia."
"In other words, you lost your temper," Boone chuckled.
"Remember the feeling the next time you want to lecture me about my temper."
Da'an looked at him from the corners of his eyes - a sure sign that he was annoyed.
"I have some news for you," Boone offered, hoping to cheer him.
It seemed to work.
"Indeed? What might it be? Please share it with me." The Taelon brightened noticeably.
"Doors is no longer the sole person in charge of the resistance. Each major division of the organization now has two representatives on a committee, whose responsibility it is to approve or reject proposals for actions to be taken against your people."
"Perhaps this will help to prevent loss of life in the future,"Da'an murmured. "Still, it troubles me that the Liberation works against us, with no basis to back their claims that we wish the human race harm..."
"We'd better not get into that now," the human cautioned, before continuing. "Doors is not completely out of the picture, though. He's one of the representatives to the largest division in this country."
"And who might the other representative be?"
The two of them stared at each other a moment.
"My new position ensures that I now have the power to counter Doors," Boone explained, as he began to see that Da'an was not pleased about the promotion.
"It also serves to complicate our relationship further," the companion countered.
'Perhaps it would be best to get slightly off the subject,' the security chief thought.
"Da'an, Lili tells me that you have not yet rejoined the commonality," he began. "With Zo'or no longer a significant problem, why have you delayed?"
"Despite our recent accomplishments, you and I are destined always to remain 'outsiders' to our own people - so long as we remain united in our common goal." The companion stood and walked towards his desk, which he leaned upon. "It is a difficult thing to realize that we, who work for the common good of our peoples, will never be accepted by them, because of it."
Boone stood and moved to stand behind him. "There will always be those individuals who welcome us," he said in a low, soothing tone. "Tell me what this has to do with you rejoining the commonality."
Da'an spun around to face Boone, momentarily surprising the implant with how much smaller he had become. "Do you believe that you and I can continue our friendship despite so many... impediments?"
"I believe that you and I hold the key to helping to solve the misunderstandings which are sure to come," Boone explained. "And I will gladly risk my life, time and again, if I feel that I am capable of making even the smallest difference in the outcome of this struggle."
Da'an seemed to be struck speechless for a while.When he spoke, his voice was soft, but determined.
"Tomorrow, or perhaps the day after, I shall rejoin the commonality, but for now I wish only to touch your thoughts. For now, there are no others - no danger of my people sharing in our experience. There is...and only shall be, you and myself."
Da'an offered his left hand, palm turned toward Boone.
Without any hesitation, Boone put his arm around the companion's shoulders, and drawing him closer, moved to meet his palm with his own.