The Uninvited - Part 1
An Earth - Final Conflict story by Tina Price
(TinaP@prodigy.net)

Preview: It is a sad day for the closely-knit band of Washington resistance fighters, as they come together to mourn the passing of a friend, but it is also a time of learning for one who is new to this custom.

Disclaimer: Earth - Final Conflict, all characters and images therein are the property of the Tribune Entertainment Company. Several characters appearing in this story are my own creation. Any similarity with anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.

Authors note: This story takes place immediately after the episode entitled, "Destruction". My other stories should be read first. This story is based upon my own idea of what is happening 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.


The Uninvited
Part 1

By Tina Price

"Jonathan, remember what you promised us," Lili warned, as she helped the Liberation leader with his tie. "When Boone shows up with his guest, you're NOT to start a confrontation."
Doors rolled his eyes. "I'll mind my manners at the ceremony," he rumbled. "I know Sahjit would want it that way, but I'm not about to pass up the opportunity to ask our friend some important questions afterwards."
"Just remember that the only reason we're able to have a traditional ceremony is because 'our guest' took care of things with the local authorities - at some risk to himself. If word gets back to Zo'or about it, he could be facing serious censure. The least you can do is to be civil!"
"Oh, I'll be civil all right - but that doesn't mean I won't be making my position clear. He may be Boone's friend...and he may have weaseled his way into yours and Augur's good graces as well, but that doesn't automatically put him in the 'right'." Doors shrugged his jacket on. "Nor does it mean that I'm about to welcome him into our group with open arms. If he wants a place with us, he's going to have to prove himself, and it's going to take a hell of a lot to do that, in light of who and what he is!"
Lili opened her mouth to snap at him, but he held up a forefinger in front of her face.
"I know you don't think it's fair, Lili, but that's the way it is. We cannot afford to trust him too easily!" Without giving her a chance to respond, he turned and headed out into the conference area where the rest of the Liberation group was gathered.
Fighting down the urge to throw something, Lili picked up the extra woman's coat she had brought along and followed.
"OK people!" Doors addressed the group. "Our limos have arrived - It's time to head up to the church."
Four at a time, they took the lift up to the church's basement, and from there moved into the Main vestibule.
By the time Lili made her way into the church, everyone was heading outside to the waiting limos. Doors, already wearing his wig and false beard - the only way he could appear in public these days - offered his arm to Dr.. Juliette Belman and together they fell into step behind the others.
Augur stood by the door and offered her his arm as she drew even with him.
"Are we riding together?" she asked as she took it.
"I assumed so," he said as he leaned his head closer to her ear. "...but, if you had other plans..."
"Like riding alone with Doors? Get real!"
"Belman's with him."
"Yeah, but she doesn't count - she's his mistress for goodness sake!"
"So, you're saying that you only welcome my company because at heart you're terrified of our boss?" Augur actually stuck his bottom lip out in a pout.
"You know that's not true," Lili whispered as she squeezed his arm. "I've never been afraid of our boss!"
Augur frowned.
"...and I have a thing for smart men..." She added.
Augur did a double-take before breaking into a grin and leading her to Doors' limo.
Five minutes later, seven black limos pulled away from the church, headed for the Hindu Temple where Sahjit was laid out.
It was a sight that made many on the street stop and stare, guessing that the procession was to honor a person of some importance or high social standing.
Staring out her tinted window at the bystanders, Lili wished she could set them straight. Sahjit had indeed been someone of great importance - a hero, whose deeds would never be known by the general public he had fought to protect.

"The coast is clear," Boone announced outside Da'an's private quarters. He had just walked up the central core and was confident that they wouldn't encounter anyone in the next few minutes. Dupree was standing watch at the front entrance, and he wouldn't pose any sort of problem.
When the companion stepped out into the corridor, the implant gaped.
Once again, his Taelon friend was disguised as a human female - a woman he had previously named Dana Dessierre. The illusion had him dressed in a simple, tailored, black dress and wearing black hose and high heels.
The Companion's altered appearance was enough to rattle even Boone, who had seen him like this once before.
"Are we ready?" Boone finally asked as Dana stared at him expectantly.
Da'an nodded. "Am I appropriately attired?" he asked.
"You bet." Boone realized he was still gaping at his friend and mentally shook himself. "It's still hard to believe that this is all a hologram," he commented, as he felt Dana's arm. Sure enough, the companion's usual mesh outfit could be felt, although he appeared to be wearing a wool blend dress.
Boone himself, was wearing a black suit and a black overcoat. He had a warm wool scarf around his neck.
"I hope Lili remembered to bring that coat - it's turned cold and blustery out there."
"I will survive without it," his friend assured him. "Now, I am anxious to walk, unknown, among your people..."
"I take it that you've ensured that you won't be missed?"
"As per your recommendation, Agent Sandoval is in Great Britain, overseeing the impending visit by Kha'rha and Agent Beckett." Dana smiled in a way which brought an answering smile to his implant's face. "As for Zo'or, he will be tied up in New York for the rest of the day."
Deeply disturbed by the effect his friend was having on him, Boone merely nodded and silently accompanied the disguised Companion out to a waiting taxi cab. Once inside, he leaned back into his corner of the rear seat and watched in amusement as Dana attempted to take in all of the passing scenery. 'How different it must be for him...her, to see this world from the point of view of its native inhabitants, rather than from the lofty heights of a shuttle or the embassy itself,' he thought.
The rest of the trip was spent in silence, with Boone content to simply sit and watch his companion's enjoyment of the ride.

Some of the limos were still pulling up to the curb in front of the Temple where they would bid Sahjit farewell, when Lili saw Boone's cab pull up. She quickly gave Augur's arm a tug in order to draw his attention to their otherworldly guest's arrival. Determined to surround Da'an before Doors could confront him, they started over. Fortunately, only a select few mourners had been informed of their guest's true identity - making an ugly scene unlikely.
Boone had just finished helping Da'an out of the cab when they arrived.
"Glad you could make it....Dana," Lili greeted as she handed the coat over to the woman. She couldn't help but stare in amazement at the illusion in front of her.
"I too, am saddened by Dr.. Jinnah's passage," the companion replied as Boone helped her shrug into the coat. "Although I did not know him well personally..." Here she lowered her voice. "...I knew much about him from Boone's memories." The would-be woman paused as though deep in thought before speaking again in her soft voice. "I thank you for sharing this private time in your lives with me, that I might better understand human grief."
Lili and Augur nodded their understanding, but before they could say anything, Boone interrupted.
"We'd best be moving along," the tall security chief prompted. "Everyone's already inside."
Together, the four of them entered the building, stopping to remove their coats in the foyer, next to the coat room.
"What is the purpose behind donning a coat, if one is going to remove it so quickly?" Dana had asked, causing Lili to stifle a laugh.
"I wasn't thinking," the embarrassed implant replied. "It was just one of those ingrained actions - You see a woman out in the cold holding her coat...and you help her into it..."
"I see..." Dana's expression showed that she clearly didn't.
Together, the four of them entered the Temple.
Sahjit was laid out in splendor, with his family and Rayna in attendance. Their friend's body smelled of fragrant sandalwood and was decorated with flowers and garlands. His face, so serene in death, was sprinkled with a fine powdering of gold dust, as were parts of his hair.
As they moved to gather about Sahjit with the others, Boone noted the semi-hostile stare that Doors was directing toward Da'an and intentionally offered the companion his arm. Apparently familiar with the gesture, or perhaps imitating Lili, whose own hand was still on Augur's arm, the disguised Taelon took the offered limb and looked pointedly back at the flabbergasted millionaire.
Belman nodded at them, as she stifled an amused look.
An absolute hush fell over the gathering as the Temple's spiritual leader, Sunjab Soni, moved to take his place at the head of the casket and began his blessing.

Da'an kept his head lowered as did most of those around him, but he also glanced furtively at these humans, who had gathered to wish their friend farewell.
The look of grief was everywhere around him. He had no trouble recognizing it, for he himself was still capable of the emotion
Some of the women were sobbing openly, while others merely dabbed at their eyes. Lili, herself, cried silently as her tears fell to the floor beneath her bent head. Now and then a man would wipe away tears which he didn't wish the others to see. Boone himself made no such attempt to hide the few tears which slowly ran down his face and dripped onto his collar. Some, like Augur, stood stoically, but the tightness around his mouth, along with the twitch in the muscles of his jaw, were enough to give him away.
The Companion took all of it in, and yet, he still found such intense suffering difficult to fathom. Grieving for the death of an entire species, and most especially of one's own race, was something he could understand. To grieve so for an individual...was beyond him. Without individual death, there was no evolution - no life.
Each individual had to make the journey into the void. It was a part of life itself. Did these beings not believe that they would one day be rejoined with those who went into the void before them? Did not most human religions teach about a life beyond death?
Perhaps humans were so affected by death because of their own, very short life spans. ...Perhaps it was the inevitability of their own passage which they truly mourned?
As he pondered these things, Mr.. Soni led some purificatory scriptural chants, joined by Sahjit's family and Rayna. Once a few last rituals had been completed, he stepped aside and allowed Rayna Armitrage to take his place. Boone had mentioned that she had bravely volunteered to give the eulogy, despite the mental anguish such a task placed upon one who was already grieving. She had been Sahjit's true love, and he hers, but fate had constantly conspired to keep them apart.
Rayna dried her eyes, and in a strong, determined voice, began to talk about the Sahjit she knew and loved.
Beside Da'an, Boone tensed and stared directly ahead as though at nothing. In that instant - as Boone's CVI kicked in and brought back the memories of his beloved wife's death - the emotions and images flowed through their bond and into the companion as well.
Suddenly, Da'an was William Boone...

His head was killing him!
Leaning his forehead against the cool file cabinet beside his desk, William Boone rubbed the back of his neck. He had been putting in a lot of overtime into the attempt to uncover who had been behind the attempted assassination of the North American Companion several days ago. Although the Companion's people had not put any pressure on the department to solve the case - in fact, they claimed that their own personnel were looking into it - Boone's sense of justice demanded that he do everything he could to prevent a reoccurrence. Nobody was going to try such a thing in his town without him doing his best to bring them in!
"Here, Chief," came the voice of Linda Treymore, the junior-most member of his staff.
He turned to find her holding out a bottle of Ibuprophen. "Thanks," he sighed, as he took it from her. Downing four caplets with his cold coffee, he stood and handed the bottle back to her.
"I'm gonna call it a night," he announced. "Call me if Bob comes back with any useful information."
"You bet." Linda smiled and returned to her desk.
Throwing a few things into a briefcase, Boone headed down the hallway towards the elevators. Katie would be home by now cooking dinner. By the time they had eaten, his headache would most likely have eased off and she and he...
Boone's half-formed smile vanished as the elevator doors opened, spilling out a haggard-looking Robert Morovsky. He and Bob had a long history together, having started out as partners on the bad side of town.
One look at Bob's face was enough for him to know that something tragic had occurred.
"What is it?" Boone asked grimly. As he noticed the other cops pointedly heading down the hall in the opposite direction, while glancing back over their shoulders, his stomach began turning circles.
Bob threw an arm around his shoulders and steered him back towards his office. "It's not good, Will," his friend admitted. Best we went into your office."
As they entered, Bob pulled him down, to sit on the couch next to him. He seemed at a loss for words.
"Kate?" Boone's voice sounded small and strained even to his ears.
Tears actually began to well in Morovsky's eyes. "God, Will! I'm so sorry!"
For a moment it was as though the whole world had ceased to exist. There was no sound, no color, no motion. All that existed was the incomprehensible knowledge that the best part of his life was suddenly gone....
He didn't come back to reality until Bob began shaking him by the shoulders, and even then, all he could do was stare at him in confusion for what seemed like an eternity.
"How?" he croaked.
"She lost control of the vehicle and it apparently exploded..."
"Where is she? I have to see her!" He jumped to his feet and started for the door.
Bob quickly caught him by the arm. "Will!"
Boone struggled to free himself. "It's not true! It can't be true! I just saw her!" Suddenly calm, he looked his friend in the eye. "I have to know for sure...I won't believe it until I see her..."
"You don't want to do that," his friend tried to sooth him. "We have a positive ID. You don't want to see her like this, Will."
A veteran, who had spent his share of time in morgues, Boone was adamant about the visit and nothing Bob could say would dissuade him from it.
The next thing he could recall, he was standing next to an open morgue drawer, staring at the sheet-covered form which lay upon it. Morovsky stood silently at his side, his eyes pleading with his friend not to go through with it.
With a flick, and before he lost his nerve, Boone uncovered the upper torso.
His eyes took in the chared flesh, the few clumps of unburnt hair which were the exact color as Kate's, the teeth protruding from retracted lips, one of which had the familiar, endearing chip... He looked down at the undamaged left hand. Although the rings had been removed, the cut she had suffered while pulling a nail from the deck the day before was instantly recognizable.
"NO!...NOooo....." He fell to his knees as the truth finally burned itself into his mind - the realization that there was no hope - that this was indeed what remained of his mate.
Bob helped him up and hugged him as he sobbed.
There were odd, disjointed memories of his friend somehow getting him home. Bob had stayed the night - sleeping out on the couch and never realizing that Boone slept not at all. It had been days before he finally slept, dropping into a deep, comatose state and dreaming dreams of Kate...
The funeral had been almost surreal - as though he were on the outside, looking in at a scene other people were playing out.
He remembered standing next to the freshly closed grave and staring at the flowers for hours after most everyone else had left. Bob had been there still - a shadow in the background, silently standing guard over his friend.
...Then there were the hours, days...weeks of emptiness. Even with everything which had happened to him after agreeing to serve both the Companions and the Liberation, the large, empty spot in his heart had threatened to overwhelm him. Very little phased him during that time - he was an emotional wreck at home and a cold, unemotional thinker at work.
It was probably the only thing which had allowed him to successfully carry on the charade which was his new life. He had no qualms about test driving his new CVI - reading book after book during his free time and testing the limits of his new mental abilities during the day. It had certainly made him seem a true implant... Even his new watchdog, Lili, had looked at him as though he were some sort of alien at first.
Even now, nearly a year later, Boone missed Katie. He missed her when he awoke to find himself alone in the bed they had shared. He missed her when he came home to an empty house. He missed receiving personal phone calls during the day...
Oh, hell...he just missed her. Although he no longer actively looked for her, her absence was still keenly felt.
If it hadn't been for his intense curiosity with regard to the Taelon's agenda....If he hadn't begun what had started out as an unusual and very oblique friendship with Da'an...
Da'an and Doors. Companions and Liberation. Secrets and yet more secrets.
These were what motivated him these days...

As suddenly as it had begun, the CVI induced introspection ended.
Da'an looked at Boone's profile and saw him blink as he returned to the here and now. Suddenly aware of the pain his implant kept hidden, he gave Boone's arm a small squeeze of reassurance.
Perhaps realizing that he had been found out, Boone quickly turned his attention back to Rayna, who was finishing up her eulogy.
Looked about him, Da'an finally began to comprehend the sadness he saw. These mourners...they were grieving for themselves. They were grieving for their aloneness, not for the deceased. They had no commonality - no linkage of the mind to sustain them through this transitory time.
Unlike Taelons, who could always feel their fellows through the mental link they all shared, a human's friends and family, when not physically present, lived only in their memories. Separation from their loved ones was endured only because of the promise of seeing them again. Once that promise was gone, all that remained was memory...and a large, empty void.
Turning his attention back toward Rayna, Da'an listened carefully to her words, determined to cultivate further understanding.

With the ceremony over, the guests milled about the temple. One by one, they talked with the Jinnah's, expressing their condolences and wishing them well. Rayna, who had already been surrounded and supported by her friends in the days since her 'rebirth' and Sahjit's death, was embraced by nearly everyone and reminded that she was a part of their family.
Eventually, Boone and Dana made their way over to her. Without a word, the tall security chief opened his arms to her and she instantly stepped into his embrace.
"Thank-you, Will," she sniffed as she held on tightly. "If it weren't for you...for all the risks you took for us..."
"Hush," he said, as he lifted her chin and met her eyes. "I only did what any of you would have done for me."
"That's the point," she replied, as she wiped her tears away with a finger. "Very few people would have done what you did. You're the only one capable of standing up to Jonathan. Despite the way things turned out, I want you to know that I'll always be there for you if you need me. I don't care what Doors says - I'm on YOUR side."
Boone released her as she stepped back a pace and the look of pity on his face was tempered by admiration for her strength of character. "I'm glad you've chosen to remain with us," he said. "If there is anything you need, please, please don't hesitate to ask."
"I won't, because, unlike so many who have told me that today, I know you mean it." Rayna finally turned towards the woman standing next to them. "I want to thank you, too," she told the Companion. "Everyone told me how you saved Sahjit from Zo'or and then turned around and saved Will and Lili. I want you to know that I trust you." She held her hand out to the Taelon.
Da'an reached out hesitantly to take it, but as their fingers brushed, they both flinched and withdrew their hands.
"I am sorry," the Taelon said, in a barely audible tone. "You and I cannot touch. Our forms are incompatible."
Rayna looked at Boone, who leaned closer to Dana. "Are you saying that touching her is dangerous for you?"
"The probe belongs to our most deadly enemy. Any replicant which it manufactures, is designed to be anathema to us. It makes it very difficult for an unsuspecting member of my race to survive an encounter with one."
Boone instantly straightened up and stared at Rayna in shock. Da'an had just come right out and told them a way in which Taelons might be destroyed. From the way Rayna pointedly looked across the room at Doors, he knew she had grasped the significance of the statement as well.
"I think we'll keep this to ourselves...for now," he commented, as Doors himself approached.
Rayna nodded her agreement.
"Well, who do we have here?" Doors walked around Dana, giving her a critical once-over. "Decided to come on out and visit the natives, eh?"
Boone stepped forward and loomed over the industrialist in an intimidating manner.
"Back off, Commander," Doors hissed under his breath. "I'm not about to cause a scene - I just have a few things I need to say to our guest."
Da'an's human guise assumed a defiant posture, and he did not retreat or back down when Doors stuck his face only inches from his own.
"First off," Doors rumbled. "I don't trust your people. I know they're here with no good intentions, and I will do everything in my power to expose their hidden agenda and rid this planet of them." Here he straightened up and moved a step away. "Be that as it may, I have to acknowledge the fact that you rescued Boone and Marquette...at some risk to yourself, and you did get Sahjit away from Zo'or - even though you had another motive to do so." Doors checked his wig with one hand. "Perhaps, in time, we'll be able to work together towards a common goal, but I think you know that until the truth is out, that such a joint venture cannot occur."
At first Da'an and Doors simply stared at each other, until it seemed that the uncomfortable silence would end their impromptu meeting. As Doors began to turn, intent on moving away, the Companion spoke.
"I...understand your position," he admitted. "...however, you must remember that governments do not always act in the best interests of their people."
Boone blinked twice when he heard the Companion speak his own words verbatim.
"The Synod does not speak for all Taelons with its actions. There are many among my people who oppose what is occurring here," Da'an continued. "Before you strike out blindly at us, you must remember that you may be destroying your own supporters, and shifting the balance in the Commonality for the worse. If you strike out at us, take care to strike only at those who are your enemy." Da'an laid a hand upon Boone's shoulder. "Listen to Boone in this. let him be your conscience, for he wants what we both want."
"And what, pray-tell, is that?" Doors tried to sound unimpressed, but Boone could see that Da'an had struck a chord.
"Life," Da'an responded. "Life for both our peoples."
With an incredulous look upon his face, Doors turned and moved back toward his lady friend.
Rayna actually smiled at the pseudo-woman next to her. "I believe you've actually managed to rattle him." She turned to include Boone. "Please excuse me. I must speak with a few more people."
"Of course," Boone nodded.
Together, he and Dana watched her wander off towards Lili and Augur.
"Boone," Da'an's voice had an urgent tone to it.
"Hmmm?"
"Did you not make the observation that Jonathan Doors is much changed from what he once was?"
Boone nodded. "Yes. He's almost robotic nowadays."
"Dr.. Belman is now his mate?"
"Not exactly," the implant replied with an amused expression. "More like his illicit lover."
"I believe that I know why Mr.. Doors has changed," Da'an replied, giving him a sideways look. As Boone opened his mouth to ask the predicted next question, the Companion waved a hand. "This is not the place to have such a discussion," he replied. "We will talk of it later."
Before Boone could say anything, Lili appeared beside them.
"Everyone's starting to leave," she observed.
"Will we not be present at his pyre?" Dana asked.
"The family will accompany Sahjit's body to the crematorium. They'll be taking his ashes back to Great Britain with them later this week," Boone explained.
"We're all meeting at the Underground later," Lili continued, turning to face Boone. "Can I count on you to be there?"
"What is this 'underground'?" Dana asked, tilting her head.
"It's a bar and restaurant where some of us gather together," Boone explained. "It was Sahjit's favorite place - apart from HQ, that is." As Dana digested the information, Boone turned back to Lili. "When are we meeting? I need to get 'Dana' here, home first."
"We decided on eighteen hundred hours - so that we could get some dinner first."
Boone turned towards his friend, intent on asking him if being returned to the embassy before then was acceptable, but before he could say anything, the Companion spoke.
"I would be appreciative of the opportunity to accompany you to the Underground," he announced, turning his large eyes upon the tall implant.
"Isn't that a little risky?" Boone asked. "The chances of you being missed..."
"William, I may not leave my earthly prison again for many months, if at all. Would you deny me this opportunity to be among your friends?"
Boone smiled. "Of course not." Turning back to Lili, he spoke again. "We'll both be there."
"You two are going to have three hours to kill," she pointed out. "What'll you do?"
Boone glanced at Dana. "We'll think of something."
"Need a ride?"
"Could you drop us off at my place? I need to change and swing by the office."
"That's not a problem. Why don't you call a cab while I tell Augur that I need to run a few errands?"
"Will do....Where exactly did you leave the shuttle?"
"It's behind the church - in the Rectory yard"
Boone watched as she moved away and removing his global from his jacket, quickly called a taxi. He closed the global and placing a hand on Da'an's back, steered him towards the coat room. "Come on Dana," he laughed. "We have a taxi to catch."
Lili made a quick explanation to Augur and took her leave of the Jinnah's. As she turned and started towards the coat room, she saw Boone place his hand on Dana's back and shepherd her in the same direction. Coming to a stop and putting her hands on her hips, she watched them wander off.
"This ought to be an interesting evening..." she sighed.

A short time later the three of them approached the hidden shuttle. The rectory yard was circled with a high privacy fence and many tall, old trees. Those who lived or worked nearby probably believed the priests who lived there to be on very good terms with the Taelons, but the shuttle's presence was otherwise unknown to passersby.
"Listen, Lili...I need to talk with Da'an for a minute..." Boone said, as they entered the yard.
"Not a problem. I'll go ready the shuttle." She quickly headed off..
Boone led Da'an over to the fence, next to a statue of St. Frances. After a moment's hesitation, the implant moved to stand before his companion. He had been thinking about his friend's words at the Temple and was pretty sure that he knew what the was about to hear.
"Doors is an implant, isn't he?" he asked.
"He is."
"My God! I should have realized this myself! Everything pointed to it!" Boone ran a hand through his wavy, auburn hair. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"When Mr.. Doors turned up alive and leading an organized liberation movement, I knew that his CVI had been replaced," Da'an admitted. "Recently, I surmised that one of his people had altered the replacement implant so that he, like yourself, had free will."
"But he doesn't?"
Da'an looked at him obliquely, giving the impression that he was ashamed of something. "Mr.. Doors volunteered to be the first human implanted with a CVI, however, he was not made aware of the motivational imperative which would accompany his newly heightened abilities..."
Boone grasped his friend's arm, horrified once again by the cruelty the Taelons were capable of. "Did you know? Did you keep this from him?" his voice shook with outrage.
Da'an pulled his arm away. "I was not in favor of withholding such information!" he replied indignantly. "Up until his implantation, Jonathan was a cooperative and friendly ally." The companion walked a few steps away and turned his back to the implant. "I had no choice but to honor the Synod's decision in the matter."
Boone sighed and approaching his friend, placed his hands on his shoulders. Da'an allowed the contact.
"I'm sorry," he said, contritely. "I know you oppose the imperatives...It's only that I still get so upset at the thought of such...slavery!"
Da'an turned around to face him. "Doors' implant would have begun to break down at the time that his death was staged," he offered. "At the time, we did not know that the CVI's would have a maximum functionality of three years."
"So, he somehow was set free long enough to hook up with Belman and some old associates and stage his own death," Boone added. "The CVI allowed him to do what James Pike later did - appear clinically dead!"
Da'an nodded. "Now that I know it was Dr.. Belman who re-engineered your CVI, I assume that Jonathan was her first such attempt at the procedure." He looked down at the ground and blinked rapidly several times, giving the impression that he was upset. Finally he met Boone's eyes once more. "Until today, I assumed that she had disabled his imperative. Now, I can only assume that her anti-viral program was still in its crude, experimental stage. She was able to re-implant him, however..."
"She wasn't able to over-ride the imperative," Boone added. "All she could do was change it?"
Da'an nodded. "You never received an imperative, so replacing your CVI with another non-imperative version would prove simplicity itself. Once an imperative is implanted, disabling it along with the rest of the CVI...is very difficult." The Companion blinked rapidly. "I assume that she reprogramed Doors' own imperative so that he was motivated to fight my race and restore the Earth to it's people."
"The poor bastard..." Boone's jaw set. "Augur! She had to have had Augur's help!" He stared at his friend. "He's known all this time and kept it to himself!"
Da'an touched Boone's shoulder. "Come, Lili will be wondering what we discuss."
"Da'an...Doors wasn't given a CVI which included the reasons behind the Companion's arrival here on Earth, was he? Does he know anything at all about it? Is there something he's been withholding from us?"
"He was our first implant, but he was a volunteer - not one of our chosen operatives. We felt it unwise to risk so much so quickly."
A very pale-looking Boone fell into step behind the Companion.
"That must really stick in his craw..." the security chief muttered.
"Boone...I would not give this information away just yet. It may be best if Doors does not suspect that you know of his predicament."
"I'll keep that in mind," he said in a distracted tone as they approached the shuttle. Inside, he could see Lili watching them curiously.

"OK, what's wrong?" Lili's voice brought Boone back to the here and now. They were in transit to his home and she had apparently engaged the auto-pilot, since she was now swiveled around to face him.
"Huh?"
"You and Da'an have been sitting back there ignoring everything I've said," she huffed. "Are you going to tell me what this is all about?"
Boone glanced over at Da'an, who was watching him from the corner of his eyes, through lowered lids.
"It's nothing Lili, really," he lied. "Just something I need to work out for myself."
"In that case, I'll be meeting you at your office at five thirty," she huffed, turning back to her display.

Ten minutes later, Boone unlocked the front door of his home and followed Da'an inside. Digging his keys, global, wallet and ID out of his pockets, he placed them upon the table next to the doorway.
Noting that Da'an was watched him with interest, he smiled.
"I'll only be a few minutes," he remarked. "Please feel free to roam around."
Da'an watched as his friend moved through the living room and turned down a hallway. As soon as he heard the bedroom door close behind the implant, he himself entered the living room and moved out into a sun room at the rear of the house. There, he found a plant stand holding no less than ten potted flowering plants. From his extensive study of the flora of this planet, he knew them to be various species of orchid.
They were beautiful.
Turning of his holographic disguise and reaching out a hand, he gently touched one of the delicate petals. William had taken exceptional care of them since his wife's death. Nurturing such fastidious plants was no mean feat, and his implant had, no doubt, dedicated much time to the task.
There were several books on the shelf near the wicker furnishings, all of them about growing and caring for orchids. Crossing the room, Da'an plucked one from its spot and opening it, browsed the pages.
"Find anything of interest?" Boone asked from the doorway. He had changed into brown slacks and a green shirt and was in the middle of knotting his tie.
Da'an closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. "...Your orchids are beautiful," he commented.
Boone moved closer. "Thanks. They were my wife's. I think she would have wanted me to give them away if I wasn't willing or able to care for them myself."
"You still grieve for her," the Companion stated. "I felt it very strongly at the Temple."
Boone looked startled. "It amazes me how much you can pick up through our link," he finally said.
"We were in contact with each other...and you were broadcasting quite loudly," Da'an explained, and then hesitated before again speaking. "William..."
Boone raised an eyebrow and waited.
"Will you ever let her go?"
The human's face clouded over. "What do you mean?"
"You must eventually allow her to rest," the Taelon said, as he took hold of Boone's hand. "Let go of your memories and live again - I believe it is what she would have wished."
"That's kind of difficult to do when I possess a CVI which brings it all back in perfect clarity," he snapped. "My situation is a complete nightmare!" The anger passed almost as quickly as it had materialized. Boone squeezed Da'an's hand gently. "Perhaps one day..." he offered, withdrawing his hand. Noting the sad look upon his friend's face, he gestured towards the living room. "Come on. Let's get going," he urged.
"William, you know that I..."
"I know," Boone interrupted him. "I know you care." Taking pity on the Companion, who was beginning to look like he was wilting, he sighed and gently ran the backs of his fingers down Da'an's cool cheek. "I care, too. Just...stay as you are. Be my friend. Don't give up on me, alright?" Bringing his face down closer to Da'an's, he smiled.
With a small smile, Da'an inclined his head. "Never would I do that," he assured, as he reactivated his device.
"Good. Now let's get over to the office. We'll take my car - I'll give you a nice tour of the city along the way."

An hour later, Boone sat at his desk sipping a cup of coffee he had picked up along the way, and finishing his paperwork. Now and then he would pause to glance across the office at his Taelon guest.
Having been to Boone's office on more than one occasion, Da'an was already familiar with most of the surroundings. He had taken two turns around the room and come to a stop before the large virtual glass windows
. He seemed almost to have fallen into a trance before them, so content was he to simply stand and watch the traffic below.
"Enjoying that view, are we?" Boone finally asked.
Da'an turned just enough to be able to glance back at him. "It...is refreshing in its unfamiliarity," he offered.
"I see," Boone replied as he put his feet up on the desk and leaned back with his hands behind his neck. "I always wondered how you could tolerate spending most of your days and nights in the embassy. Now I see that you only just tolerate it."
"I have been told that my penchant for exploration is a character flaw," the Companion smirked. "Most of my people find such restriction to be no great burden."
"I remember you telling me that you disliked the mother ship...and you WERE in an awfully good mood after spending a day in the mountains with Lili..."
"Not an ideal outing, perhaps...but an outing none the less."
Boone smiled. "Maybe we can arrange for you to have a few days out each month," he offered, as he returned to his computer screen. A second ticked by and he glanced up to see his friend smiling.
Though he said nothing, Da'an seemed tremendously pleased by his suggestion.
Turning back to his paperwork, Boone allowed himself a small smile as well, unaccountably happy at the small joy he had brought his friend.
Not twenty minutes later, he pushed himself away from the desk and stood up, catching the Taelon's attention. He looked at his watch. It was five fifteen, nearly time for Lili to make an entrance.
"You have finished your work?" Da'an inquired, as he moved to stand next to the tall security chief.
"Yep - all caught up," he answered, as he began tossing his things in his briefcase. Just then the sound of the com system caught his attention. His friend, Morovsky appeared on the screen.
"Good! You ARE back!" the Police Chief exclaimed.
"What's wrong?"
"I have a major mystery on my hands and was wondering if you wanted to lend us the use of those enhanced abilities of yours...Besides, it's one of your old 'projects'."
Boone flinched when he heard his friend use that term. He had been labelled a do-gooder during his early years on the force because of the people he had personally attempted to help. It was a habit he still engaged in and he still resented it when his old peers referred to those people as his projects.
"Who is it?" he finally asked, in a tired manner.
"Susan McNally," Morovsky answered. "She was found dead in an alley yesterday. I just received the coroner's initial report. Believe me - it's a fascinating one."
Boone slammed one of his books down on the table. "I'll be right in," he replied, before cutting the link. When he looked up, Da'an was standing close to him. "Listen, if you like, I can have Lili come and bring you home...or to the party. I'm sure she wouldn't mind."
"Your duties include watching out for my well-being, do they not?" Da'an tilted his head as if challenging his implant to try and get rid of him.
"Point taken." Boone immediately called Lili and told her that he would be late. "I'll call when we're ready," he added.
"OK, but don't keep everyone waiting too long. The party just wouldn't be the same without your stories."
He snorted. "As I recall, you've always got a few good ones to tell as well."
"Yeah, but I just don't have the same style!" She cut the link.
Noting the interested look being turned on him by Da'an, he cleared his throat. "Come on," he grumbled as he led the way out.

It was less than a ten minute ride to the police station. Boone parked the car and began to sprint up the front steps before he remembered that his companion was less agile. Stopping on the fifth step, he waited for Da'an to draw even with him.
"Sorry," he muttered at the annoyed look he received.
Once inside, they took the elevator up three floors and Boone quickly led the way into the office which had once been his.
"Ok, Bob," he greeted his friend, as he threw his coat on the old couch and turned to help Dana with her own. "Let's have it."
Bob was staring at the disguised Companion. "Don't tell me that YOU have a DATE?"
"You know better than that." Boone's tone was low and serious.
"Let me guess...Bodyguard assignment?"
"You could say that," the security chief replied as he glanced at Da'an.
"Hope she has a strong stomach." Bob passed over the case file.
Boone and Da'an exchanged looks. "...I don't think that will be a problem," Boone muttered. Opening the file, he began scanning over its contents as only an implant - or a Taelon - could. Da'an read it over his arm.
Susan had been found in the alley behind a dumpster the previous afternoon. She had been fully clothed, with her untouched purse by her side. There had been no apparent cause of death when she was first examined at the scene. Little in the way of evidence had been found.
The forensics report listed some strange, membranous bits of material taken from her hair. They still had not been identified, although they were in fact, organic.
The coroner's report included the laboratory results for tests conducted upon the victim's vitreous humour, blood and cerebral spinal fluid.
The victim had been in good health and pregnant at or within two weeks of her death. Her red blood cell count, platelet count and coagulation tests were all consistent with a condition called DIC, or disseminated intravascular coagulation. It appeared that a massive hemorrhage had triggered the episode, in which the body's blood clotting mechanism goes berserk. Clots begin forming in the body's blood vessels, rather than at the sight of the bleed. As the clotting progresses, causing tissue and organ damage, all the clotting factors are used up - making the hemorrhage itself worse.
Only prompt, early treatment could have prevented Susan's death, and even then, it would have been touch and go.
The autopsy findings were startling.
Susan's uterus had been removed, and yet there was no evidence of a surgical incision anywhere on her. Her abdomen had been filled with blood and she had apparently also bled vaginally, and yet the tissues at the site of the missing organ, though raw, showed clear signs that they had already begun to healed over.
Examination of her ovaries had confirmed that she had been pregnant within twenty four hours of her death.
Boone's gaze shifted over to Da'an. The Taelon stared back.
"Can I see Susan's personal file?" Boone asked.
Morovsky immediately handed it over.
When Boone had first met Susan, she had been caught shoplifting. The mother of two small children, and with a husband who had recently left her for another women, she was a basket case. Worse than that - she had no appreciable income. After months on welfare, she had developed a craving for some new clothes, and unfortunately attempted to lift them from a local department store, where she had been caught.
Boone had been the officer who showed up at the store. Seeing how inconsolable she had been, he had taken pity on her. Although he did indeed take her down to the station, he worked out a deal for her with the store and they agreed not to prosecute, so long as she never returned.
Two months later, Morovsky had brought her in for a second shoplifting offense, and this time she had been prosecuted and ordered to undergo group counseling for a year. During that time, Boone often stopped by to see how she and the kids were getting along and to offer encouragement.
Unfortunately, Susan's troubles hadn't ended there. Her husband filed for divorce, and despite the fact that he hadn't helped to support her or the children in over twenty months, he was awarded full custody of both children on the basis of her criminal record . She began calling her ex at all hours of the day and night and had mailed threatening notes to his girlfriend. The behavior had escalated to trespassing and finally to breaking and entering.
Within two months, the ex-husband had obtained a restraining order, which she promptly violated, landing her in jail. By the time she was released, the ex had moved away - to Great Britain.
It was at this point in time that Boone lost track of her.
Susan's file showed that she had continued her downward spiral, eventually landing herself in a mental hospital, where she had remained until just three weeks ago, when she had been transferred to...
"Oh, my God..." Boone breathed. "She was transferred to The Vandewater Institute!"
Da'an leaned close and whispered. "Seal the file. The case is now our business..."
Boone looked uneasily up at Morovsky. "Bob, I'm very sorry about this, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to confiscate these records. This has just become Companion business."

A half an hour later, Boone unlocked the car door for Da'an and walking around to his side, got behind the wheel. With a sigh, he gripped the steering wheel and leaned his head against his hands.
Bob had been understandably upset with him and the two of them had exchanged some heated words with Bob finally flinging the rest of the paperwork at him.
"You were supposed to help me out with this, Will, not commandeer the case!" he had accused.
"Look, I'm head of Taelon security. I'm only doing my job," he had grimaced at the his own words.
"Couldn't you have just left that at your office for once?"
"Bob...I'm an implant now - you know that. I really don't have the luxury of choice anymore."
His words must have hit a chord, because his friend had turned a pitying look on him. "I'm sorry, Will," he had said softly. "Sometimes you seem so much like your old self that I forget..."
Without a word, he had gathered everything up and moved to another office to make the few phone calls necessary to ensure that the case was officially transferred to him.
Lifting his head from the wheel, he started the car and turned to the companion next to him. Da'an was watching him as though he had no idea what to do or say next.
"It seems that we've stumbled onto yet another victim of Zo'or's 'project'," he stated.
"So it would seem. However, I require further proof before I may bring this before the Synod," the Taelon cautioned. "We must determine how and when she left the Vandewater Institute."
"And whether or not she was the only patient 'tampered' with." Boone stared at his friend. "Da'an...it might be best to allow Bob to work on this after all. The project is eventually going to be exposed. Better that it be now, before there are more tests and more abused humans."
The alien turned a forbidding look upon him. "Such a suggestion cannot be entertained at this point. Our entire purpose in being here - our very existence - would be jeopardized if the human populous learned of this now."
"What will the human populous' reaction be if they find out a year from now. Think of how many more lives will be lost or ruined!" Boone tried appealing to his companion.
Da'an turned away and stared out the front window. When he spoke, his voice was distant and chilly.
"Do as I have asked of you," was his only response.
With a stoney look on his face, Boone threw the car into drive and roared out. After hanging a right onto a main thoroughfare, he pulled out his global and flipped it open. A moment later, Lili's face appeared on the screen.
"What's wrong?" she asked, alarmed by the look on his face.
"Nothing," he sighed. "We're on the way back to the office. Why don't you meet us there?"
"Be there in ten." Lili signed off.
Boone drove the rest of the way to his office in silence. Although Da'an's refusal to acquiesce had hurt, he knew that it wasn't anything personal. It was simply the Companion's nature to take the safest course and withdraw when undecided about an issue. He knew better than attempt arguing his position - Da'an was not above stubbornness. The Taelon would remember what he had said and eventually get back to him on it.

As soon as they had re-entered his office, Boone sat at his desk and began dredging up information from his computer. As Chief of Security and Interspecies Relations for the Taelon's, he had instant access to nearly any official documentation - including those of the Vandewater Institute. It took him less than three minutes to print out several pages of relevant information.
"Here you go," he said, handing them over to Da'an, who had been sitting silently in a chair on the other side of the desk. As the Companion accepted the pages and looked them over, Boone summarized. "There were two other arrivals at the Institute the day that Susan was admitted. Both of them were women. Both of them were transferred from other mental institutions. All three of them arrived together, via a transport van leased by a company named Health-Go-Round. They were heavily sedated."
Boone leaned back and rubbed the bridge of his nose and his temples - he had another headache.
"The really interesting part of this, is that all three women were discharged early on the day that Susan was found dead," he continued. "All three were supposedly transferred out by the same transport company." Boone rubbed his neck.
"Have you been able to procure any information about the transport company?"
"No." Boone continued rubbing his temples. "I'll have to get Augur to check into it tomorrow." He watched as Da'an placed the papers down next to his briefcase and rose to his feet. Walking around the desk, he came to a stop beside him.
Without a word, the Companion reached out and gently placed a hand on either side of Boone's head. Immediately, the security chief's headache vanished and he felt himself relaxing as a warm sense of tranquility settle over him.
"I don't know what you're doing," he sighed. "...but I'll give you until tomorrow to stop it..." Looking upward, he saw that there was a rare, tender look upon the Taelon's face.
"You are not sleeping enough," the disguised alien chided.
"Can't," was his one-word answer. He was too content to say more.
"Later, we will..." Before Da'an could complete the sentence, Lili arrived via the lift from the shuttle pad. Da'an immediately broke the contact and stepped back, as Boone sat up and gathered his things together.
"Is everything Ok?" The shuttle pilot asked as she gave Boone a strange look.
"Lili, if I hear you ask me that one more time today..." Boone threatened as he gathered up the coats and started for the lift with Da'an right behind him.
"You'll what?" she challenged.
"I won't buy you a drink." The closing lift door blocked out anything else which might have been said.

As the three of them entered 'The Underground', there came a chorus of voices shouting, "Boone's here!" and "Hey Will finally made it!"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm here already..." Boone tried to calm Jimmy, one of the techs. He had obviously had a few too many and was literally trying to yank Boone's coat off him.
"Is this the reason your late?" Jimmy asked as he looked Dana up and down. "Wow! It's a wonder you even showed up!"
Boone could feel his face turning red. A glance at Da'an showed that the companion actually looked pleased by the backward compliment he had received.
"Jimmy," Boone laughed. "You'd better quit while you're ahead Get back in there and have some coffee, will ya?"
Patting Boone on the back, Jimmy headed off toward the rest rooms.
Lili stopped laughing long enough to point towards the bar. "The gang's moved over there," she snickered.
"I'll join them later," he responded. "Right now I need to get something to eat or my skrill's going to leave me."
"Mind if I join you? I haven't actually eaten yet either."
"The more, the merrier." Boone leaned closer. "Think you can convince Augur to join us later? I really need him to look at something."
Lili glanced towards the bar, just as Augur himself moved into line of sight. He was obviously looking to see if she was back yet. "He'll be right over," she answered as she waved for him to join them.
After being seated by the hostess at a large corner table, Boone handed an index card with Health-Go-Round written on it over to Augur.
"What's this?" the techno wizard asked, as the waitress arrived.
"A transportation company which I need you to research for me." Boone looked over the menu, intent on inhaling a thick steak.
"What do you need to know?"
"Everything."
"What can I get for you tonight, Will? Lili? Augur?" their waitress asked.
"I'll have a spinach salad," Lili chirped.
"I already ate," Augur answered, "but I wouldn't mind a small side salad. Vinaigrette dressing."
Boone was all set to order his steak when he noticed Da'an looking at a fellow diner's roast beef with a mild expression of disgust.
"Will?" the waitress prompted.
"I think I'll have the Maki assortment with a salad on the side," he quickly amended.
"What kind of dressing?"
"Ginger, please."
"Anything to drink?"
"I'll have a pint of Newcastle." He leaned toward Da'an. "You want anything?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
"No...thank you," Dana whispered.
"Dana here would like the steamed vegetable plate and a pint of Newcastle," he told the waitress, as Da'an stiffened in surprise.
"Kay! I'll get right on that." The waitress hustled off. She had always treated them well...but then again, they had always tipped her well.
"Boone." Da'an whispered. "You know that I am incapable of eating..."
"It's only to keep up appearances," the implant answered with a smile. "Your portion is actually going to go towards appeasing my skrill."

Da'an felt very fortunate to be allowed to share in the social customs of the humans he had come to know, deriving a very real satisfaction in the knowledge that the last Taelon to do such a thing had been his parent, Ma'el.
Boone had eaten and chatted around the dinner table with his friends, careful to include Da'an in most conversations. The implant had obviously been very hungry, as he had quickly finished his food and the plate which had been set before his Companion. Afterward, they had lingered at the table, talking quietly about Sahjit until the conversation had finally dissolved into a morose silence.
Finally, they had stood and made their way to the bar area.
Da'an had been impressed with the number of people who had immediately greeted his implant, and he quickly realized that it had more to do with the human's personality than with his rank in the organized Liberation. These people truly liked and respected the large security chief.
The rest of the evening had flown by as Da'an observed the humans drinking, talking and playing.
At one point Boone had been called upon by Lili to tell them all a story about one of his adventures during the S-I war. He had seemed almost embarrassed, but with everyone raising their voices to demand his story, he had finally stood before the bar and told his tale.
Da'an had found himself captivated along with the rest of the humans as Boone told a story which was at once amusing, sad and cautionary. Afterwards, the bartender had bought the storyteller a pint and the others had applauded and cheered the self-conscious implant.
Augur had gone to the bar to tell a story of his own. Seated next to Lili, Da'an had clearly heard two women at the table behind them discussing Boone.
"Jeannie..." had come the first voice. "Close your mouth and sit up. You're practically drooling!"
"I can't help it," Jeannie had answered. "He's really something!"
"Hmmm. He is an awfully nice guy, but a bit too rugged-looking for my taste..."
"Are you crazy, Doris? He's got it all! Looks, build AND brains! Not to mention the awfully-nice-guy part!"
Doris had snorted. "Forget it. His wife died less than a year ago - He won't so much as look at you...Besides, he's a Taelon implant."
"I've heard that the Taelons did something to him," Jeannie had admitted in a lower tone of voice. "Augur told Darla that he's no long capable of any strong emotion....What a shame..." she had sighed.
Da'an had blinked and glanced quickly behind him. These women were clearly not members of the liberation, he had thought. They must be frequent patrons of the Underground.
"Hmmm. I'm not so sure that Augur was entirely right," Doris had responded. "After all, Boone did bring a date with him."
"What?!" Jeannie had sat up straight and looked around the room. "I thought you said that he was still missing his wife!"
"I suppose that she could be his sister..."
"Where is she?" Jeannie had hissed.
Just then Boone had returned to their table along with Augur and Da'an had felt an unreasonable smugness at the huffing he heard behind him.
Later on, while Boone was teaching him how to play darts, he had overheard several people discussing him and speculating upon whether or not he and Boone had an attachment. Indeed they did - but not in any terms the others would understand...
Boone himself didn't yet acknowledge the strength of their growing bond, however, Da'an knew the day was coming when he would need to confront the truth...

It was well past one in the morning when Boone led the now, undisguised Da'an, up the corridor to his chamber.
"Please stay a while," the Companion asked, as he gestured for his implant to proceed him into the room. After they had both entered, he closed the door behind him and moved towards the wing chairs. Gesturing for his friend to take one, he seated himself in the other.
"I wish to thank you for allowing me to experience a most illuminating day," the Companion began. "I have learned much about what it is to be human."
Boone leaned forward. "You haven't really learned all that much," he corrected.
Da'an looked surprised. "I have learned a great deal about grief...and about how humans gather with their friends. These are things which Taelons do not comprehend. They hold no place in our society."
"Perhaps you have made a good start, then," Boone relented.
Da'an studied his implant's haggard-looking face for a moment, unhappy with what he was noticing.
"Boone, you cannot sleep?"
"I rarely get even two hours a night," he sighed. "It began after I received the CVI, and it's continually gotten worse since then. I was wondering if it was my skrill, since I've never dreamt with it."
Da'an held out his hand. "Please, allow me to commune with it."
With a raised eyebrow, Boone rolled up his sleeve and held his arm out to his companion, who gently placed his hand upon the back of Condor's abdomen. Condor lit up brightly, hissing almost subliminally as he also made his displeasure known to his host mentally. Boone turned a shade paler at the anger being directed his way.
Da'an quickly withdrew his hand. "Your skrill is but a small part of the problem," he responded, in a shaken tone. "As you are aware, they retain a dislike for my kind...and your skrill retains far more sentience than I am comfortable with. Our bond displeases it."
Boone looked floored. Bringing his arm up before him, he eyed his skrill, which was placid once more. "Opinionated are we?" Rolling his sleeve down again, he turned his attention back to his friend.
"What's causing the 'large' part of my problem?" he asked, afraid of the answer he would receive.
Da'an gave him a sad look. "You, yourself, are the problem," he said quietly.
"Me?"
The Taelon nodded. "You fear confronting what has... and is happening to you," he explained. "Even as your subconscious mind attempts to work through the quandary by way of your dreams, you refuse to succumb to them."
"I don't regret..." he began, but was interrupted.
"You regret what your life has become." Da'an touched his arm. "You regret decisions made - decisions which cost you...much..."
Boone stared at him in horror. "Are you saying that I'm seriously messed up... That I need a psychiatrist?"
"No...I am saying that you need to face your fears - and that I am willing to help in this." Seeing the doubtful look on the tired implant's face, Da'an explained. "Share your dreams with me - through our link... and the peace of mind you felt with me while we were in your office, shall be yours again."
"Yeah, but at what cost?" the leery security chief asked.
Da'an seemed surprised that Boone hadn't guessed. "The truth is the cost," he answered. "...and I will be there to help you find it."
There was a moment's silence.
"Perhaps later, Da'an." Boone sighed and breaking contact with his friend, leaned back in his chair again. "Tell me something...Will you provide Dr.. Belman with the means to remove Doors' motivational imperative?"
Da'an stood, blushing with what appeared to be confusion, and faced Boone's chair. "That, I will not do."
"Why not? It seems that without his single-minded devotion to destroying your people, that you'd be better off."
"You are incorrect in your supposition, Boone," the companion chided. "It would be best for Doors, but worse for my people." Seeing Boone's questioning look, he clarified. "The best thing which can be said about Door's imperative...is that it smothers his creativity."
They stared at each other for a minute, as Boone digested the explanation.
"I see..." he answered, wide-eyed. Forcing himself to rise to his feet, he inclined his head ever so slightly and started for the door. "I need to get going on that investigation," he said. "I'll be back when I have more to tell you."
Da'an nodded and watched as his friend exited, a troubled look upon his face...

Boone had the on-call shuttle pilot fly him back to his office. Ever since Katie's death, he had spent as little time home as possible, shunning the place and instead living out of his office. He did return now and then to sleep for a short while and get cleaned up, but he was also known to catch a few hours sleep in his favorite office chair, and the floor below his office had a small gym complete with shower room.
He had to face it - if it weren't for the care Katie's orchids required, he probably wouldn't go home again. Da'an was right - he had a problem, and he would have to deal with it sooner or later. For now, he preferred not to think about it. He had other, more important things to take care of first....and he wasn't sure that he wished his Companion to help him.
That feeling of bliss...of utter tranquility...when Da'an had eased his headache...The sensation was as addictive as any drug, and he was not convinced that any human was meant to experience it for long periods of time. He both yearned for, and feared a closer bonding with the American Companion. There was still so very much to work out...and he wasn't sure that he wished to share the totality of himself - his mind - with another being. In sharing his dreams, he would be exposing all his insecurities and fears and doubts...
And then there was the question of what he would receive in return. Would he be privy to Da'an's secrets? Did the Taelon have any psychological problems, or was that strictly a human failing? He had already picked up much of the Companion's talent for understatement...
Boone sighed. He was being foolish. There was no doubt in his mind that he and Da'an could teach each other so very much! Their bonding was right, and inevitable, but that didn't mean that he couldn't fear the unknown.
Finally making a decision, he promised himself that as soon as he had all his evidence and had turned it over to Da'an, he would ask the Companion to help him with his sleep disorder...
Boone punched a novel up on his computer display and began to read...

Preferring to drive the distance from DC to the Vandewater Institute, rather than taking a shuttle, Boone pulled into the parking lot just before ten the following morning.
Flashing his badge at the guard near the front door, he made his way directly to the records department, where he barged right in and demanded access to their computer. At first it looked like the manager was going to cause a scene, but her superior had shown up and urged her to cooperate with the 'American Companion's implant'.
Within ten minutes, Boone had the names of two other female patient's who had been admitted AND discharged at the same time as Susan. Their names were Melissa Locklear and Karen Tiener. Pulling their charts, he scanned them quickly, amazing the women who watched him.
They, like Susan, had been transported to and from the Institute by a Health-Go-Round van. They had both also had positive pregnancy tests upon their admission, but unlike Susan, both had been transferred back to their original facilities upon discharge. Melissa had been sent back to Donner Dix Hospital in Maryland, while Karen had been sent back to the Augustus Mental Health Clinic in DC.
Collecting the charts, Boone rose to his feet and declared them confiscated in the name of companion business. Within seconds of exiting the front doors, he had Lili on his global screen and was filling her in on what he had discovered.
"I need for you to go check on Karen," he directed, as he got in his car. "I'm on my way to Maryland to see Ms.. Locklear."
"What am I supposed to do when I see her?" Lili asked.
"See if she can tell you anything at all about her 'transfer'. Feel out the situation - If you think she's in danger, get Da'an to authorize her removal to our custody."
"OK. I'll call as soon as I know something." Lili cut the link.
Boone threw the car in gear and roared off.
He had a bad feeling about this...

End Part One