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

Preview: It's a race against time as Boone struggles to save Human-Taelon relations...as well as Da'an's reputation!

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.

Thanks: To Sally, who first thought up the concept of a Taelon wearing...I'm sorry, I won't give it away, but thanks Sally! I'm still laughing...

Authors note: This story takes place immediately after the episode entitled, "Destruction". It is the last in a three part series. 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'. A friendly warning: I have taken steps to protect my stories. As always, advice, criticism and kudos are always welcomed. Please contact me at the above e-mail address.


The Uninvited

Finale

Boone boarded shuttle number two and was about to automatically greet the pilot, when his eye was drawn to a passenger in the rear.
It was a Taelon!
One he had never met before - and in its natural state, to boot! His greeting died in his throat, as he moved into the seat beside the otherworldly visitor. As the shuttle lurched forward, the two of them stared at each other.
"Excuse me," Boone began, politely. "Are you by any chance my assistant?"
The Taelon thought about it for a moment and responded in very poorly pronounced english, "Esss. I um or astant."
"When did you learn english?"
"Estaday."
Boone smiled. "A last minute assignment? Sorry to hear that," he responded in perfect Taelon.
The Taelon's eyes widened.
"What's your name?" the implant asked, as they made the leap into interdimension.
"I apologize. My name is Dro'vha," the Taelon said, bowing from the waist and making the gesture of greeting. "I have heard that you learned our language, but I did not expect such...proficiency. I am honored to have the chance to work with you."
Boone returned the greeting. "Just learned English yesterday, eh?" At Dro'vha's nod, he nodded his understanding. "We'll have to work on your pronunciation."
"Tank-ooo."

"What do you mean, he's been reassigned?" Doors paced the length of his office and scowled.
"You haven't answered my question yet!" Lili reminded him. "Why did you give the go ahead? I never called - I didn't even let you know when they would be meeting. Have you been spying on me?" She positioned herself right in front of him, forcing him to stop in his tracks.
Doors stared her in the eye. "We weren't there," he admitted.
"What?" Her eyes widened in disbelief.
"It wasn't us. Someone else got the film."
"But who could have know about the warehouse...and the meeting?" She moved over to a chair and sat as she pondered.
"It seems to me that only four other people could have tipped off the press and we already know that it wasn't Boone."
"Yeah, and Sandoval would never do anything which would jeopardize the Taelon agenda...unless he was ordered to do so by a Taelon..." Lili stood up again. "We know Da'an didn't do it - not after his plea to Boone. It had to have been Zo'or!" Suddenly she gripped Doors' arm. "My God! Zo'or...he said that he knew that the project would be shut down. He acted as though he were making a threat..."
"So we know who most likely put this whole thing in motion. Where's Boone?"
"I don't know."
Doors rounded on her. "What do you mean, you don't know? You're his control!"
Lili looked at the ground. "When he reported back to the embassy, I thought I was going to be the one shuttling him to his new office, but Sandoval ordered me to move his things to another shuttle. The pilot came out and took them. I wasn't able to get a look at the display."
"Was anyone else inside?" Doors asked.
"I couldn't tell. The lights are pretty dim on that side of the shuttle bay and the pilot had the windows activated." Lili pointed to the envelope on Doors' desk. "Maybe you'd better read the letter he told me to give you now?"
With a sour look, the industrialist moved to the desk and tore the envelope. He quickly scanned the contents and lowering it, stared at Lili.
"What is it?" Lili felt her stomach knot up.
"Boone is laying the blame for this at our feet. He thinks we're responsible for exposing the project, which has resulted in a loss of Da'an's trust and respect...as well as his position. He's not sure where they're sending him, but he doesn't want us to contact him - not until he's put everything in perspective." He turned and plopped down in his desk chair with a brooding expression on his face. "He says when he comes back - IF he comes back - that he will no longer share information with us unless he's sure that it won't lead to this kind of insanity."
Lili blinked and swallowed. "What are you going to do?" she asked nervously. "I...I won't kill him - even if he defects. He thinks we did this, and we almost did. He's sure that it's about to lead to a catastrophic disaster, Jonathan. He told us it might and we ignored him! The fault is ours!"
"Keep your shirt on," Doors growled, as he sat up straighter. "Even if he leaves us, I doubt he'd expose us. Taking him out is no longer feasible - not when the North American Companion himself knows so much..." He flung the letter on the floor. "Here's what we're going to do," the billionaire said. "Gather our key members together in the conference room. We need to figure out why Da'an is certain that this information will prove disastrous to us all. We need to know why Zo'or would be so willing to expose the project - given his involvement in it - What does he stand to gain? Finally, we need to find Boone. He needs to know the truth. I suggest that you drop in on Da'an and see if he's willing to tell you anything. Before you go, I want you to see that everyone's here and working on this!" He stood up and shrugged on his jacket.
"Where are you going?"
"To see Julianna. She may have heard something, or she may be able to find something out."

It was well past five when Lili tentatively made her way to Da'an's audience chamber. She found the Companion seated before the windows, staring out at the lights of the monuments. Uncertain of her welcome, she stopped near his chair and waited to be acknowledged.
She didn't have to wait long. Less than thirty seconds ticked by before he turned to face her.
"I was waiting for you," he said simply, as he rose to his feet. "Come. there is something which we must do."
With a lifeless shuffle, the Taelon passed her and headed for the central corridor without waiting to see if she would follow.
She was at a loss as to what to say, and so she simply followed and remained silent, certain that Da'an would speak when he was ready.
The Taelon led her to her own shuttle, but once they were both seated, Lili had to prompt him for directions.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
Da'an seemed to rouse himself. "Boone's abode, Captain," he replied. "The Commander will have need of his personal effects. I believe he would rather have us retrieve them...than a stranger..."
With a nod, Lili put the shuttle into motion. Da'an was acting exactly like someone who had suffered a great personal loss, which confused her no end. If Boone's absence grieved him so, why had he sent him away? He wasn't acting as though he blamed Boone for what had happened...
Unable to think of any way to begin a conversation, she remained silent, waiting for the right time to speak.
They quickly arrived at their destination. Lili led the way to the door and digging the spare key out of her pocket, unlocked it. Stepping back, she allowed the companion to precede her inside.
Da'an made his way straight through the living room, down the hallway and into Boone's bed room as she followed. The Companion looked around, as though unsure of what to do next. Finally he looked at her.
"I require your knowledge," he said, softly. "Please help me to select those items which William will want."
Lili walked to the closet, opened the doors and looked around for a moment before hauling a suitcase down from the top shelf. She placed it on the bed and opened it, removing the folded up garment bag which was inside. "His suits and shirts are hanging in the closet," she said, as she pointed toward it. "Why don't you pick out five of each, while I start retrieving his under things..."
Da'an nodded and moved to the closet as Lili opened Boone's dresser. She rummaged around the neatly arranged drawers and came up with his undershirts, briefs and socks, which she placed neatly in the suitcase. She also packed the books which were on his night stands, figuring that he had still been reading them and might want them. Then she sat on the bed and watched Da'an.
The companion had already pulled five shirts out of the closet and laid them on the bed beside the suitcase. Lili was impressed to see that he had selected those which she knew to be Boone's favorites. He now stood before the closet surveying the suits. After a few moments, he reached in and selecting two suits, turned and handed them to Lili. As he went about picking three more, she placed the first two in the garment bag, impressed by the selection.
"We should have let you pick his clothes everyday. You have good taste," she said drily.
Da'an shot her a sad look, and handing her the last three suits, turned and left the room.
Lili quickly finished packing the suits and shirts. Then, she entered the bathroom and gathering all his toiletries, literally threw them in the suitcase along with his ties and went to find Da'an.
She found him in the sun room admiring Boone's orchids. He spoke as she moved to stand beside him.
"I wish to take these back to the embassy," he said with more enthusiasm than he had so far shown. "Would you see to it?"
"Sure." Lili broke out two plant trays and transferred the plants to them. "Da'an..." she began, tentatively. "What happened wasn't Boone's fault. He asked us all not to proceed with our plan and Doors assured him that we wouldn't."
Da'an fixed her with an impatient look. "I know that Boone did not betray me," he replied, as though she should have known it as well.
"Do you think it was me?" she asked, afraid of the answer she would receive.
"William believed that it was, however...I do not see this in you." Da'an reassured her. "It was Doors, was it not?"
"No! We - the organization - had nothing to do with it! It was someone else, most likely Zo'or himself!"
The Companion blushed and twisted his head in an unsettling manner. Finally he spoke, "He is lost to us, I fear," he whispered. "...for he has become the very image of the liar himself..."
Lili shook her head. "Da'an. If you knew Boone wasn't at fault, you should have told him so," she said. "Boone thought that you sent him away because you blamed him."
The Companion's eyes widened, but then he regained his composure. "It matters not," he answered. "Boone's unique talents are required elsewhere now...and it would no longer be wise for him to be associated with me..."
"Why? What's going to happen to you?" Seeing that the Taelon was about to ignore her, she changed the subject. "Da'an... Where IS Boone?" she finally got up the courage to ask.
"He serves Quo'on upon the mother ship," the companion replied, as he bent down and lifted a pot which contained a particularly beautiful plant. "I shall carry this one myself," he stated, before heading out to the shuttle.
"Great..." Lili breathed, as she realized that she was expected to carry everything else.

Boone arrived aboard the mothership after a flight which lasted a mere five minutes. Like a child lost in a candy store, he followed Dro'vha through corridors which were different than those he had walked through with Da'an. This area of the ship seemed to be more of a social area, with many more Taelons moving about and interacting. At one point, Dro'vha led him through a large area which seemed to be a commons of some sort. Taelons stood about in groups, speaking softly to each other, or merely touching hands.
As he passed by each group, they became quiet and turned to stare at him. The looks he received were not hostile, but rather, curious and once or twice he could have sworn he felt an alien mind attempting to engage his own.
Unable to resist himself, he spoke to one Taelon in the last group they passed. Stopping briefly before the curious alien, he lifted his hands in the Taelon greeting.
"I am Commander William Boone, new attaché to Quo'on," he said in flawless Eunoia. "It pleases me to be allowed the honor of serving aboard your ship."
His voice had carried throughout the common area and as he moved on, he was satisfied to see quite a few Taelon mouths hanging open in utter amazement...
Turning to face Dro'vha, he was leased to see a slight smile upon his assistant's face. "So, where are we going?" he asked.
The assistant struggled with his words. "We ur in theeee dip-low-mat-tick arrrria. I um to shhhow ooo ooorrrrroooom."
If it weren't for his CVI, Boone didn't think he would ever have been able to understand what was said. "My room is in the diplomatic section?"
"Eeesss. Eeeat eeesss Da'an'sss rrrrooom." Dro'vha rounded another corner and turned to give him an encouraging smile before continuing along his way.
In the interests of understanding, Boone switched back to the Taelon language. "I'm to have Da'an's old room?"
"No. You are to have his present room. As one of our upper echelon diplomats, Da'an is always entitled to his own room. He asked that we put you there so that you might be comfortable."
"The other available rooms aren't comfortable?"
"Commander Boone....They are small and cramped and have no room to spare for a human style bed or the hygienic facilities which you will require. Da'an made it very clear that you were to be given his room. He felt sure that you would not mind this..." Dro'vha suddenly stopped and turned to face him. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No. Of course not. I'm just surprised that he made the offer..."
"Why? Did you not serve him well?" He leaned close and whispered, "I have heard that you and he are bonding..."
Boone actually felt embarrassed. Taelons as gossips? Now that he thought about it, any species that shared thoughts through a commonality of the mind would probably be the ultimate gossips... "I fear that we did not part on the best terms," he sighed.
Dro'vha gave him a strange, measuring look. "Oooorrrroooom eeessss rrrrite orrounnn eeerrrr," he slurred as he turned and led the way.
By the time Boone had followed him around the corner, Dro'vha had come to a stop before a large doorway. He motioned Boone to approach."Shhrrrannnd...." Apparently frustrated by his inability to speak english, he switched back to Eunoia. "Stand here," he said, motioning to a place right before the recessed doorway, and slightly beneath the overhanging corridor wall. When Boone was in the correct position, the Taelon assistant activated a small control panel on the wall.
A pale blue-green light, reminiscent of a laser light show creation, scanned Boone's form. As the light blinked off, the doorway seemed to flash the way Taelon virtual glass did when an authorized person passed through it. At the gesture his assistant gave him, Boone moved forward, passing through the barrier so that he was now inside his living quarters.
Dro'vha entered behind Boone and stared about the room, apparently as in awe of it as the human was.
The room was large and followed the usual Taelon conventions, with high, sloping ceilings and organic looking walls. The walls held niches which were filled with items - artwork and artifacts from another world or worlds. The largest wall had a viewing port set in it - a huge window which arched overhead along a curved wall of the giant ship. The view literally took Boone's breath away...
He found himself moving forward and pressing his hands against the glass-like substance. Before him was the moon, its dark side clearly visible, with the lights of the Taelon-built base forming a star-like pattern over its surface. On the other side of the moon's horizon, a blue marble could be seen - the earth. Despite all the satellite and shuttle pictures, the real time view of the planet brought a lump to Boone's throat.
It was so beautiful...and so small in the darkness which surrounded it...
"Da'an seems to have one of the best views aboard the ship," his assistant said from right beside him.
Boone merely nodded.
"There is a storage area which has been turned into a...batttrrroooom. You will find a sleeping mat and other necessary items there. Da'an is sending up your other essentials. They should arrive sometime this cycle."
"What is my agenda today?" the implant asked, as he finally tore his eyes away from the view port.
"Quo'on wants you to watch the earth broadcasts and see if you can help him find a way to appease the earth governments. We do not wish our association with your people to come to an end...for reasons you well know." Dro'vha looked down for a moment before continuing. "Quo'on would also like for you to learn your way about this section of the ship. Most of the diplomats are aware of your presence and should prove helpful. I myself shall return with your evening meal and explain your duties, once you have had a chance to...become comfortable."
"Thank you," Boone answered, still overwhelmed by everything which was happening. "Once we've gone over everything, I'll show you how to pronounce words containing the 'Y' sound."
The Taelon nodded and bowed slightly, but remained standing before Boone until he realized that his assistant was waiting to be dismissed. He quickly made the proper gesture and watched as Dro'vha withdrew.
For a few minutes, Boone wandered about the room, deeply appreciative of Da'an's collection of personal items. It seemed obvious to him, from things which the North American Companion had lovingly collected, that he had a deep respect and appreciation for life in all its myriad forms. He surmised that staring at the items and trying to make sense of them, or daydreaming about their home worlds would easily fill his spare hours.
He eventually made his way to the revised storage room and was amazed at how normal the bathroom appeared. It contained a free-standing sink, a toilet and a step-in shower. Opening the floor length storage compartment, he pulled out what appeared to be a rolled up, queen-sized japanese futon. He carried it into the other room and setting it down before the window, unrolled it.
The futon was already made up with form fitted sheets and a light blanket. In the center was a pillow. Boone placed it at the head of the futon - next to the window, and dimming the lights, lay down.
The stars were clearly visible in the window which arched over him. With a sigh of wonder at the view, he brought his arms up under his pillow...and encountered something within the case.
Jack-knifing upright, he made a gesture before the nearby electronic eye which caused the lights to come back up.
In his hands he held an envelope.
When he realized who had to have sent it, he set about tearing it open with such gusto that he fumbled it and dropped it twice before he was able to pull the contents out. The letter was written in a flawlessly elegant script which he instantly recognized as Da'an's.
The Companion was one of the very few Taelons who had learned to write manually and he was proud of the fact that he had trained his nearly useless, almost vestigial fingers to accomplish the fine task.
The note was short;

Boone,

I believe that it will not be long before

you know the truth of my shame concerning

the project.

I ask only that you serve Quo'on well and

do your best to avert the disaster which may

yet befall us.

I regret that fate has separated us, but I

believe that you are meant for greater things.

You should not have to bare the blame for

my own mistakes.

-Da'an

Boone stared at the letter and then reread it. A sudden chill made his hair stand on end.
"The news!" he said, aloud, as he opened a data stream and called up CNN.
He had only been watching ten minutes when the news network came back to the latest Taelon news.
"And repeating our top headline," the anchor woman spoke, "Our North American Companion, Da'an, has been implicated in the recently revealed hybrid experimentation project. With more about the story, here's Lyman Trent:"
A blond, windblown and damp reporter was shown live on a blustery street. "Thank you, Lisa," he said, trying his best to ignore the weather. "I'm standing on the street outside the Taelon U.N. Representative's building, here in Manhattan, where Zo'or shocked the gathering news crews by giving an impromptu statement. Let's roll that footage back for you now..."
The video showed a hounded Zo'or being shepherded into his building by several of Sandoval's top guards. News people were thrusting their microphones in the Taelon's face and asking his involvement in the project. One particular reporter was heard to say, "Excuse me, Zo'or, but from the tape released earlier today, it would seem that you had a great deal to do with the experimentation which was allegedly conducted on human women. How do you feel, knowing that this could end your career here on earth?"
Zo'or suddenly whirled about and pushed his own guard out of the way so that he might confront the reporter.
"I was merely overseeing the project," he sneered at her. "because its actual overseer was too busy to do so himself."
"And who is the project overseer?" she asked, amazed that he would respond in such a satisfying manner.
"I thought that would be obvious...Who else but your own North American Companion, Da'an?" As people gasped and chattered among themselves and a flurry of new questions emerged, Zo'or excused himself and finally allowed his guards to usher him into the relative safety of the building.
Once again, Lyman Trent appeared on the screen.
Still in a state of disbelief, Boone allowed himself to fall backward onto his futon with a smack.
This was incredible...unbelievable....That Da'an would prove to be the project overseer? It didn't make sense. He hated the project!
Boone lay there for a moment in utter confusion, until something dawned on him...Zo'or had admitted that he knew the project would be terminated...and there was something else...
Since when did Zo'or use the front door of his NYC residence? He flew in on the shuttle...he didn't EVER take the limo which was at his disposal.
Boone sat up as everything began to come together - Perhaps it was Zo'or who had exposed the project, rather than the Liberation...He was just the type of person to risk damage to his people's agenda - if it would ensure Da'an's ruination.
Passing a hand before the sensor, he turned the lights back down and falling once more onto his back, crossed his arms under his head.
In the dark he lay, thinking of ways in which to save his friend...to save them all...

Lili made it back to Resistance HQ just after sunset and entered a subdued, lackluster meeting area.
"What's wrong?" she asked Augur, who was draped over a chair watching the monitor with everyone else.
He pulled out a seat for her, making sure to position it right next to his own. "Wait a minute and you'll find out," he said, as she sat down.
She didn't have to wait long before the channel repeated the top news.
"Oh my...." her voice trailed off as she sprang to her feet.
"Exactly!" Augur agreed as he stood beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder."I guess we all now know why Zo'or would have reason to want to expose the project..." Seeing that she was still watching the monitor with a sickly look on her face, he rubbed her back. "Lili..."
She turned to look at him.
"Did you find out where Boone is?"
She nodded distractedly. "He's serving Quo'on aboard the mother ship," she managed.
Doors, who had been seated with the rest of them, watching Lili's reaction, came to his feet. "Hats off to that Taelon friend of yours - he's a canny one for sure..."
"What?" Lili barely registered what he was saying.
"He obviously made sure that Boone was sent where he could do the most good," Doors explained. "If we can get some information to Joshua, we may stand a chance of smoothing things over between our peoples."
"Since when do you want to protect Taelon interests?" she challenged him with an incredulous look upon her face.
He gave her a sour look. "The Taelons have suffered a major blow - everyone will now be questioning their motives. The people of this world won't be so accepting of them in the future. That does NOT mean that I want the Taelons to panic and pull out all the stops now!" He calmed himself and looked around the table. "We need to clear Da'an - he's an asset we can't afford to lose. In order to do that, we'll have to contact both Boone and Joshua..."
"I'll see about Joshua," Augur said, when Lili failed to volunteer.
"I'm going back to the embassy," Lili said, firmly. "He's all by himself in there..."
As she started off, Doors called after her. "While you're at it, see if there's some way he can put us in touch with your ex-boss!"

By the time Lili arrived back at the embassy, police had it cordoned off in an effort to control the unruly crowd which had gathered. Parking her car along a street a block away, Lili felt her hair raising up on the back of her neck as she emerged and heard some of the things being shouted.
Quite a few people in the crowd literally wanted Da'an's skin!
Nervous about the prospect of entering that mass of people and being recognized, she none-the-less squared her shoulders and waded on in. Making tactical use of her elbows, she finally emerged near the barriers and discreetly flashed her badge at one of the cops, who then escorted her to the front door.
She was met inside by Sandoval.
"Has the whole world gone insane?!" she asked him as she brushed off her jacket.
"Have you only just now noticed?" he snorted.
Lili rolled her eyes. "How's Da'an handling this?" she asked, allowing her worry to show.
Amazingly, the handsome Asian attaché looked upset. "I don't think he's handling it well," he admitted. "He's been in his room for the past hour..."
"Have you checked in on him?"
Sandoval looked startled. "He asked me not to disturb him..."
"Did it ever occur to you that it might make him feel better if you did check on him, regardless?" she asked, incredulously.
Sandoval Put on a long-suffering look. "Captain, you seem to forget that Da'an is an alien being. You cannot go attributing human emotions and feelings to him..."
Lili was already in motion, moving briskly up the central corridor, conscience of the FBI Agent's eyes on her back. Turning into the main audience chamber, she swiveled, started up the ramp which led to the Companion's chambers and stopped before his doorway. Now came the tricky part - was it locked or open?
She held her hand out before the portal as Da'an had once shown her and watched with satisfaction as the doorway retracted, allowing her entry.
Lili found Da'an sitting among some pillows which he had tossed upon his rug. His legs were crossed, his elbows resting lightly upon them. The Companion's head was bowed, a single light source glowing dimly above it, throwing his features into shadow.
For some reason she could not explain, his demeanor immediately made her sure that he was experiencing a very deep sorrow. Without even thinking, she moved beside him and dropping to her knees, wrapped him in an embrace.
To her amazement, the Taelon's own arms twined instantly and tightly about her as well, pulling her closer so that he could rest his head on her shoulder. She was certain that she felt him shudder...
Was this the being she had hated only a few months ago?
"It'll be all right," she whispered as she gently rocked him. "Boone will make sure of it..."
They remained like that for many minutes before Da'an gently pushed himself away, still keeping his hands on her shoulders. Their faces remained close and the Companion's phosphorescent blue eyes glowed softly in the dark, making it impossible for her to look away.
"I am...relieved that you returned safely," he said softly. He tilted his head and shifted his eyes away briefly before once again meeting hers. "I fear that my time on your planet draws to a close..." his voice seemed to fail and it was several seconds before he was able to continue in a broken whisper, "I am grateful for your company, for the thought of leaving in such...disgrace is..."
Lili gripped his shoulder. "The truth will come out Da'an," she said, trying to reassure him. "You weren't really overseeing the project...were you?"
Da'an looked at her sharply. "Captain, what makes you think I wasn't?"
She gaped at him. "You hate the project!"
"One truth does not preclude the other," he whispered, again looking miserable.
Realizing that she had cheered him only to plunge back into despair, she tried again. "William won't let us down. He's about as big a boy scout as you'll ever find."
"Boy scout?" At least the companion's pain had turned to confusion.
"You know - goody two-shoes, do-gooder..." Seeing that the Taelon still wasn't 'getting it', she laughed. "Boone's about as moral as they come. Have you ever seen the play, "Man of LaMancha?"
Da'an nodded that he hadn't.
"I love that play, but ever since I met Boone, I always imagine him singing several of the lines in the song, "The Impossible Dream." She could tell by Da'an's face that she had distracted him, for he was listening in fascination.
"Please, recite the lines," he entreated.
She smiled. "OK, as long as I don't have to sing them...It goes like this: To fight for the right, without question or pause...To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause...And I know, if I'll only be true to this glorious quest...That my heart will lie peaceful and calm, when I'm laid to my rest..." Lili stopped and smiled as she saw the small smile on the Companion's face.
"It is much like his spirit," Da'an admitted. "I will be sure to read it."
"I'll even lend you the CD if you'd like," she offered.
The two of them sat in silence for a time before Da'an slowly stood up and wandered to the window. After a few minutes, Lili rose and joined him there.
"How did this happen?" she asked softly. "How did you end up in charge of the project?"
Da'an dropped his eyes. "The project first started over in the U.K. When it became apparent that it was feasible, that human females might nurture hybrid infants during the critical first three weeks of development, the project was moved to North America, where the portal technology was first being introduced. Since it was now within my jurisdiction, I was made responsible." He looked directly at her as though he expected her to reject him. "I could not turn down the responsibility without seriously jeopardizing my position as the regional Companion, so I relegated a great deal of the responsibility to Zo'or, in the hopes that it would keep him occupied. As it was, I did all I could to discredit the experiment..."
"How?" Inwardly, Lili was relieved to hear what had actually happened.
"I helped several humans to escape..."
"Before impregnation?"
"Mostly, however several were helped to escape afterward." Seeing the shocked look on Lili's face, he continued. "They were fully informed of the truth concerning the infants they carried and they were given new identities so that they might raise them safely, in anonymity."
"Somewhere out there...there are women with human/Taelon children?" she gasped.
He nodded. "It is my hope that the children, raised by their human parents, will one day bridge the gap between our peoples."
"The ones being raised by your people won't, eh?"
Da'an looked at her as though she had taken leave of her senses. "They will, no doubt be taught that they are superior in every way to 'mere humans'."
"You saved those women," Lili said. "Won't any of them be willing to speak in your defense?"
"I fear not." Da'an gave her a pitying look. "To do so would be to place their lives and their children's' lives in peril. In any event, such testimony, though it may save my...reputation amongst your people, will surely condemn me before my own."
The two of them turned and stared dejectedly out the window at the gathering crowd.

Back aboard the mother ship, Boone was busy running through every possible course of action in his head, when Dro'vha returned with a shuttle pilot. The pilot didn't seem to mind the large suitcase and garment bag he was carrying - he was too busy staring at everything around him.
"You can leave it over there," Boone said, as he motioned toward an uncluttered area of the room.
The pilot did as he was told and moved to stand beside Dro'vha, who held a bag out to Boone. Quickly rising to his feet, the implant took the offered bag and looked inside.
"Mmmm, burgers," he said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
"Eeees dere anading elsssss ooooo rrrreekire?" Dro'vha asked.
"It took Boone a moment to work that one out. "I need to contact some people on earth," he admitted. "How can I do that?"
"The data stream system contains a manual console which may be used to interface with your globals. It was my idea to provide it for you," the Taelon proudly added.
Boone nodded. "Then, I'm all set for now."
As soon as Dro'vha withdrew with the pilot, Boone moved to the console and after a few seconds study, activated it. After a brief pause, he was rewarded with a data stream image of Lili.
Da'an was standing beside her and they appeared to be before the windows in his chamber. On the sill behind them was Boone's favorite orchid - the one he had given to his wife on the evening he had proposed to her.
Da'an had retrieved it and was caring for it...
He knew then that Da'an didn't blame him for the exposure of the project.
He knew that he was missed.
Finding it hard to stifle a smile and relieved beyond belief, Boone nodded to them. "Lili, what can you tell me?" he asked.
"I never led the..." It was as far as she got before he held up his hand and interrupted her.
"I know you didn't betray us, Lili. It had to have been Zo'or." Boone sighed deeply. "I should have figured it out sooner...Forgive me?"
"There's nothing to forgive, Will. It was so perfectly staged that I almost believed that I HAD done it!"
He smiled his appreciation. "Now then, what else can you tell me?"
Lili glanced at the Companion, who seemingly had eyes only for Boone. "Da'an was forced to oversee the project, as it was to be carried out in his protectorate. He let Zo'or run the show while he tried to discredit it by helping some of the women to escape."
Boone's hair stood on end. "Da'an, is this a secure transmission?" he asked, terrified that Lili may have ruined the Taelon.
Lili blanched as the implication hit her, but Da'an laid a hand comfortingly on her shoulder.
"All transmissions which originate from the ship are secure," he assured them.
Boone blew his breath out. "Is there anything else you want to tell me?" he asked his Taelon friend. At Da'an's small, negative nod, he addressed Lili. "I think I can get us out of this," he said. "Tell Doors to sit tight. If I need anything I'll let him know."
"You bet," she chirped.
"Get Augur to check out the warehouse. The sound quality was too good to have come from a distance - there had to have been a device in the office. Maybe we can conclusively tie it to Zo'or. Also...I'm having trouble with the reporters getting so close to the facility - in a chopper yet! Time to do some serious nosing around in that area."
"We'll get right on it!"
"I'll call back every night around this time. Try to be here with Da'an, OK?" She nodded her understanding and he turned his attention to the Taelon, who was listening to the conversation, but had dropped his eyes to the floor.
"Da'an..." The alien looked up and their eyes met. He switched to Eunoia and spoke quickly to his friend before cutting the link.
"What was that all about?" Lili asked, as she turned to look at the Companion.
He had an infinitesimally small smile on his face and was blushing blue.
Realizing that Boone had meant his words to be private, she sighed and kept herself from asking for a translation.
Some things were probably better left unknown...

Boone cut the link, glad that he had gotten up the nerve to say what he had to Da'an.
"I understand why you sent me away," had been his words. "but, you need to know that I am intent on returning...even if I have to save Taelon butt - or kick it - to do so."
Mentally shaking himself, Quo'on's new attaché focused on what Lili had told him about Da'an's involvement in the project. If the Companion had helped women to escape, how had he done so without bringing suspicion down on himself? Were any of the women he rescued already pregnant? If so, had they had the children? Were they healthy? My God! He'd give his skrill to see what one looked like...
Once again he chastised himself for drifting away from the task at hand. He was hungry and that, along with his skrill's mental complaints, were making it very hard to concentrate. Reaching over, he brought a burger out of the paper bag and unwrapped it...just as a very soft chime suddenly announced a visitor
Dro'vha entered. "We have received a summons from Quo'on," he informed.
Boone nodded. "Let me get this burger down first or I won't be able to think straight." He quickly bit into the beef patty sandwich as Dro'vha looked on in a sort of sick fascination.

Less than fifteen minutes later, Boone was ushered into the Synod leader's audience chamber only to find that Zo'or was already standing before Quo'on. Both Taelons shot him an annoyed glance at his tardiness.
"Boone," Quo'on spoke softly in his not unpleasant voice. "When you attend me, you shall stand here..." He gestured to a spot close to the left of his chair.
With a respectful bow, Boone immediately moved to the indicated location.
"Zo'or," Quo'on began. "We are extremely displeased by your lack of restraint with regard to the press."
"I was wrong to have given so much away," the crafty one responded, as he bowed his head. "I was but trying to save my reputation...and did not think of the consequences of my words..."
Quo'on literally glared at Zo'or. "You shall remain aboard until I have reflected upon this situation and decided how best to curb your predilection for complicating matters."
"But...Quo'on!"
The Synod leader unexpectedly rose to his feet, his form lighting up as he lost his patience.
With a quick bow, the intimidated U.N. Representative quit the room in a hurry.
Boone remained silent and at attention besides Quo'on, as the high ranking Taelon once again assumed his seat. After a few minutes, and unsure as to whether or not he had been dismissed, Boone spoke.
"Permission to speak?" he asked. At the Synod leader's nod, he continued. "I have begun my own investigation into what exactly occurred at the warehouse and though I have no proof yet....I strongly suspect that Zo'or himself will be proven the one to have exposed us."
Quo'on gave a very human-like sigh. "I fear that you are correct. It is the primary reason that I have taken pains to remove Zo'or from any access to the press. I would just as soon not have him in close proximity to the Synod members, but it is the best possible solution at this point."
"You realize that we cannot allow Da'an's reputation to be destroyed. He is the most popular of all the companions. The people trust him, love him...If he is not cleared of the ugly rumors now flying, humans will never trust another Taelon again."
From the look on Quo'on's face, Boone knew he had stated a scenario which had not occurred to the Synod or its leader. Da'an was now so knowledgeable of the human race, that Boone was amazed to be in such close proximity to one who was still so ignorant. That ignorance might eventually prove useful...
"The Synod has already decreed that should it become necessary to place blame, that Da'an should be sacrificed. Zo'or is still popular enough among his former peers that the majority would not consider offering him up...However, in light of your warning, I shall make this danger known to the council. It may be that they will now revise their decision."
"Can you overturn their decision?" Boone asked, hopefully.
"In this case, I cannot. The decision bears too much impact upon the future of our species."
"Please allow me the chance to investigate this matter further," the implant urged, looking up at the Synod leader with a measuring expression. "And allow me to be your voice...to speak with Joshua Doors, and if possible, President Thompson. I believe that I can at least minimize the damage to the Taelon reputation."
Quo'on gave Boone a measuring look of his own. "I will consider it," he finally said, as he initiated a parting gesture.
Bowing slightly, Boone returned the gesture and left the audience chamber.

Jonathan Doors leaned back in his chair and placed both feet up on his desk. It was only zero two forty hours, but he had been up all evening watching the news and waiting to hear anything which might help him decide his course of action.
That 'anything' had come only moments ago, as the Taelons had announced the temporary recall of Zo'or to the mothership. Da'an was to shoulder the U.N. responsibilities and the Taelons had been quick to point out that he had been the Companion to hold that position until quite recently. It seemed that they were making some effort to show their support of Da'an and Doors was certain that Boone had something to do with that decision.
Da'an...Hard to believe that he was actually considering helping a being who belonged to the race who had taken away his life. Since his implantation, he had lost so much... His son, his wife, his company...his very personality! He spent his days and nights trying to act like the person he had once been, but the finer emotions - joy, love, hope - were beyond him now. He lived only with regret, hate and a very dull sense of what he was missing.
He hated the Taelons for what they had done to him and now planned on doing to the rest of the human race. he regretted...
He regretted not having heeded the veiled warning Da'an had given him when he had volunteered for the CVI implantation. The Companion had been trying to tell him that he should not do so, that he would lose much more than he would gain...but his ambition had made it easy to convince himself that he had misinterpreted the warning...
For a long time since his release from the original motivational imperative, he had hated Da'an...hated him more than anything or anybody because he needed that hatred in order to live. He also hated the Taelon because it made it easier to forget that he was an individual who had risked himself in trying to warn a stupid, prideful human... So long as he could keep from thinking of the Taelons as individuals, some good, some bad, he could hate them unconditionally, which made his job so much easier...
Now, as he took another sip of the scotch he had been nursing, he knew that he could no longer lay the blame for his state at Da'an's feet. It was his own fault he was like this... he owed the Companion a great deal more than he had been willing to admit, for in addition to his warning about the CVI, Da'an had made it easy for him to fake his own death.
At the time, he and Julianna had thought that things had gone far better than they would have expected, but it wasn't until he had announced that he still lived and Da'an had been removed from his chair that he had realized that the Companion had not followed protocol in ensuring that he was indeed deceased. He was only now coming to terms with the truth of his escape...
Da'an had let him go.
Knocking back the rest of his scotch, he slammed the glass down on the desk and rose to his feet.
He owed the Companion far too much and he was unwilling to remain indebted to him.
He had no choice but to pay off his debt...

Boone spent the better part of the 'night' roaming the corridors of diplomatic section of the mothership. Without a CVI he doubted that he would ever have found his way back to his quarters, but, as it was, he was able to generate an accurate 3D map of the sector in his head.
Several times during his wanderings, he had passed by two or more Taelons sitting in alcoves, silently communing with each through touch. Sometimes he passed one or two who were talking together in hushed tones. Not quite sure of the welcome he would receive, he had hurried on his way, unwilling to interrupt them and feeling that it was perhaps best that he learn his way about first anyway.
By the time zero three thirty hours, EST approached, he had the layout of the sector completely memorized. Tired, hungry and foot sore, he returned to his quarters, ate and flopped down in his bed. Within the minute, he was asleep.
It seemed that he had only just drifted off when the feel of a gentle hand stroking his brow woke him up. Alarmed, he sat up quickly, even as he brought his skrill arm to bear on the intruder. In the dark room, he could make out nothing more than a dim outline, kneeling on the mattress to his left, care of the glow being cast by his angry skrill and a pair of softly fluorescing blue eyes.
His visitor was most definitely a Taelon.
"Ssshhh, Boone," it murmured soothingly in a voice he knew well and loved.
"Da'an?" he asked, as his skrill relaxed. "What are you doing here?"
"I have... missed you," the Companion confessed. "I had hoped that we might commune...and perhaps solve the problem you have been experiencing with regard to sleep..."
Boone dropped back down flat on the futon and reached out to grasp the companion's right hand. Resting his head in the crook of his other arm, he crossed his ankles and stared up through the window.
"Thank you for allowing me the use of your room," he said. "Quite a view you have here..."
Da'an looked up and the starlight briefly illuminated his features. "I knew that you would enjoy it," he smiled."...Boone?"
The implant stared back at the Companion, aware that he was asking permission. "OK," he whispered. "I could really use some sleep. Let's do it!"
Da'an lay down by his side while still clinging to his hand.
Boone instantly began to dream.
He parked his car in the driveway and walked up to the house, hardly able to contain his excitement at the news he had to tell his wife. Suddenly he stopped before the front door, forcing his hand away from the doorknob.
"No!" he said aloud, as he found himself once again beginning the dream he could not, would not face again.
Someone took his hand and turning, he saw Da'an standing next to him.
"She will not see me Boone," he assured. "Please proceed."
With a gulp, Boone turned the knob and entered. "Katie!" he called.
"I'm in the sun room," she answered.
By the time he reached the threshold, she was putting away her gloves and gardening supplies. She turned, and meeting him in the doorway, melted into his arms. He held her tightly, not wanting the sweet moment to end, and yet knowing it wasn't real. His eyes met Da'an's over the top of Kate's head.
The Companion stared back at him with a sympathetic look.
He and Kate had their discussion of his refusal of Da'an's offer to become his implant, with Katie teasingly reminding him of his stubborn streak. He promised to reconsider his decision and suddenly everything shifted, with him finding himself standing on a street corner.
Da'an looked about them in confusion. "Why are we here, Boone?"
He could not answer, so terrified was he of what was to happen.
Noting his implant's terror, the Taelon tried again. "William?"
Boone reached out and gripped Da'an's hand as a Katie's Land Rover approached at a high rate of speed with another car in pursuit.
"No." he breathed as they drew closer.
"NO!" He broke into a run, pulling Da'an behind him as the vehicles passed them. At the next intersection, Kate lost control of her Rover and skidded sideways into the curb as the other car came to a screeching stop facing her. Before she could even get her door open, the Rover exploded, showering the street with metal shrapnel.
"NNOOoooo!" Boone screamed as Katie died in front of him, her last look one of such utter terror, that it turned his legs to jelly. He fell to his knees only yards away from her assailant's car as his Companion stood beside him, equally horrified by the sight.
The car's driver rose slightly and turned.
Judson Corr fixed him with a triumphant grin before roaring off into the night.
Even though he knew it was but a dream, Boone could not stop himself from grasping Da'an as the Companion knelt beside him. He buried his head against the Taelon's shoulder and sobbed as his companion held him close and amazingly, whispered encouragement near his ear.
"It is only a dream Boone," he murmured. "Face it this once. Understand it, and you need never have it again..."
"It's my fault she died," he choked out. "If only..."
Before he could complete the sentence or Da'an could respond, the scene changed again. He found himself standing before the Da'an of the past and his attaché, Ronald Sandoval. Once again he played out his acceptance of the Companion's offer, but in this reality Sandoval came right out and told him that, had he accepted earlier, his wife would still be alive.
He pulled his service revolver, determined to wipe the satisfied smirk off the agent's face once and for all, even as Sandoval raised his arm, skrill glowing brightly...
"Stop!" the real Da'an yelled, somehow influencing his implant's dream. Both his dream self and Sandoval turned to look directly at him in shock as the dream ended.
Boone sat bolt upright on his futon and struggled to calm his racing heart and fast breathing. Da'an sat up next to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"You are not responsible for your mate's death, William," Da'an soothed. "You know that had you accepted my offer at the first, that Sandoval might have still had her killed."
He shuddered, but was still unable to speak.
"Deep down, you still blame yourself and hate Sandoval, even though intellectually you know this cannot be. Sandoval was not in control of his actions at the time and you could not have guessed that he would do such a thing. You could not have stopped him."
Da'an rubbed his shoulder. "It is the conflict between your mind and your heart which has caused your sleeplessness..."
Boone nodded dumbly. It was true that he knew he could not have predicted the FBI agent's course of action, but he still felt responsible...
"If the fault belongs anywhere, Boone, it is with me," Da'an reasoned. "I believe that as soon as I sought to recruit you, Katherine's fate was sealed. I set in motion the events which led to her death. You were merely an innocent bystander in the tragedy."
"I don't blame you," he breathed, as he reached up to pat the hand the Companion had on his shoulder."I want you to know that."
"Then you must not blame yourself either. Katherine wouldn't."
Boone awoke to an empty room. In confusion, he waved the lights on and looked around, but there was no sign that the North American Companion had ever been there.
It finally dawned on him that Da'an had never physically left the Earth, but that he had indeed visited him. Somehow their minds had bridged the space between them. It had happened before, but never had it been so real... To have dreamed that he dreamed...was in itself, amazing.
As he sat back down on the mattress in a daze, he all but heard his friend chastising him...
"Go to sleep, William," he seemed to urge without words.
With a sigh of contentment, he did just that.

Lili landed her shuttle several blocks from Augur's place in the very early hours before dawn and walked quickly towards the old warehouse he called both home and office. He hated it when she brought the shuttle - even when she did her best to be discreet, but the shuttle had proved to be her only means of leaving the embassy and avoiding the crowd which was still gathered outside.
She had taken her leave of the devastated American Companion less than ten minutes ago...
Had it really been that long?
Unable to resist the impulse to mother the Taelon - who was for some reason looking less forlorn, but very tired, she had suddenly rubbed his head and given him a peck on the cheek.
"You won't be leaving us," she had said. "...because we won't let them take you away."
The startled alien had covered his cheek with a hand and stared at her with something akin to awe as she had turned and left him.
The thought of what she had dared caused her to smile and then laugh softly. She had definitely given the companion something besides his sorrows to think about...
"Augur!" she yelled, as she finally entered the warehouse. "Come out, come out wherever you are!"
The techno-wizard poked his head out of the entrance to his living quarters, looked around and finally emerged. "What are you in such a good mood for?" he asked.
"Am I?" She raised an eyebrow. "Let's just say that I finally one-upped Boone at something..." As Augur crossed his arms and gave her a measuring look, she changed the subject. "Did you turn up anything on your outing?"
"Nada! They've got too much security on that warehouse now." He motioned her inside and followed. "It would take an implant to get in there now, and since our favorite one is stuck off world..."
Lili plopped down in a chair and sighed. "Any luck at the news station?"
"We did manage to get inside with the federal badges I created..." he said, as he moved to stand behind her and began massaging her shoulders.
"And?" She asked, as she melted.
"And...it turns out that the FBI were already all over the place. We had to beat a hasty retreat before we were found out! I had no wish to end up spending time on a federal charge!" Augur left off his massaging and sank into the chair next to her.
Lili wilted. "So we have nothing..." she huffed.
"Doors is contacting Joshua. Perhaps he's heard something useful... Would you like some breakfast??"

Boone was awakened by the soft chime of the doorway and groped groggily for his watch.
It was nearly nine in the morning!
He had slept a full five hours!
Stumbling out of bed, he laughed with joy at the clearness of his mind. The constant fatigue was gone, replaced with a renewed determination to straighten out what was fast becoming an interspecies time bomb so that he might get back to the planet which had birthed him.
He made his way to the computer terminal and unlocked the door, allowing Dro'vha entrance to his quarters.
The Taelon bowed. "Boone, please watch and let me know your opinion of my efforts..." he began.
"Whoa!" He gave his assistant a startled once over. "Stayed up working on your english last night, did you?" he asked.
The Taelon beamed. "Yes. I took the time to study more of the earth transmissions known as television. I believe that my knowledge of the basics of your native tongue are complete. I have also memorized the dictionary and encyclopedia..."
"Your english is very good," he praised him "What was it you wished to show me?"
"Oh! First, please take this breakfast..."
Dro'vha handed him a bag, which he placed on the table beside him. When his eyes returned to the Taelon, he was amazed to see him forming a human face.
His assistant's face was long, along the lines of Da'an's, but with smaller, tip-tilted almond eyes and a mouth which formed a natural smile. His face matched his personality, which was to say that it radiated an approachable friendliness.
"It looks good," he assured the Taelon. "I like it."
Dro'vha bowed slightly. "May I remain while you eat and ready yourself?"
"Of course," he replied, as he opened the bag and pulled out a croissant sandwich. "Have you heard anything from Quo'on?"
His assistant sank into a small chair. "I have not," he answered, watching in fascination as Boone began to devour the food.
"I hope he gets back soon with regard to the request I made..." Boone said, sinking into another chair and all but inhaling his breakfast.

Despite his tardiness, Quo'on meandered slowly down a main corridor, in no great rush to reach his destination.
It was the time of day when the Synod members went about, among their fellow Taelons, communing directly with those whom they spoke for. Today they were to meet in the main commons area of the engineering caste.
As he walked, the Synod leader mulled over his last meeting with Da'an's chosen one. He had been giving William Boone's request serious consideration, most especially since the Synod had reversed their previous decision regarding Da'an all on the basis of the human's warning. They were well acquainted with his track record to date...
By the time he arrived at the appointed location, the other Synod members were each surrounded by dozens of engineers, mentally sharing their views on important topics.
He started forward, even as some of the stray engineers spotted him and moved in his direction. As they began to surround him, he noticed with some surprise that four Synod members were joined in the outer fringes of a commune circle to his left. Suddenly suspicious about the strange formation, he shook free of the gathering engineers and approached the other circle.
Seeing their leader appear before them, the errant Synod members moved away from the circle, allowing him to push his way through to the center, revealing Zo'or.
The banished U.N. Representative managed to look both triumphant and fearful when discovered.
"Report directly to the labor sector of the ship," Quo'on commanded. "There you shall remain until sent for."
A look of profound shock crossed Zo'or's face at the severity of his punishment. "You cannot..." he began as other Synod members broke off from their circles and watched.
Quo'on interrupted him. "I assure you that I can," he said before continuing in a louder tone of voice. "The impartiality of the Synod is to be protected at all costs. It is my duty to see that this is so. Since a time before memory the Synod has not been so compromised, however, your actions lately... and most particularly here...have changed that." He pointed to a group of engineers. "See to it that he is removed as I have ordered."
Zo'or was quickly escorted out.
"Any Synod member found conferring with that one will be exiled to a different sector until a replacement might be found," he decreed. "Now return to your duties."
He watched as they did just that and moved into a circle as well.
Zo'or, it seemed, was pushing for Da'an's removal. Could it be long before he attempted the same with regard to the Synod leader?
His course of action had been decided for him... He would drop Boone's leash and allow him to sniff out his prey...

Boone was about to leave his quarters with Dro'vha when the data stream kicked on, revealing Quo'on.
"I have considered your request," he announced. "You have permission to conduct your investigation with our full support. All Taelon resources are at your disposal."
"What of the discussions with President Thompson? Do I have permission to meet with him?"
"It shall be arranged. Joshua Doors is to meet with me at thirteen hundred earth hours. Make certain that you are present."
"How can I get a ride back to earth?"
"You have an assistant. Have him take you." Without a further word, Quo'on deactivated the data stream.
Boone turned to smile at Dro'vha. "Let's go," he said, as he pointed his thumb over his shoulder at the doorway. "There's a warehouse we need to check out."

Joshua Doors read and reread the letter in his hands before he folded it neatly and placed it back in his suit pocket. Rising from his chair, he moved to the office windows and peered out between the slats of the venetian blinds.
His father had finally sent him a personal letter of sorts and related an incredible tale.
It was almost too much to believe... and yet it explained so much...

The sudden chirping of her global nearly caused Lili to drop her cup of coffee.
Quickly lowering her cup, she answered the page, amazed to find Boone on the other end. He appeared to be in a shuttle.
"Boone! Where are you?" She elbowed Augur as he tried to stick his head in front of her to get a look.
Her ex-boss smiled. "I'm on my way back to the FBI warehouse where this mess all began." He squinted at the display. "Visiting with Augur early today?"
"Hey, I made her breakfast, which is more than you ever did for her..." Augur looked down his nose at him before Lili pushed him out of the way again.
"What can I do to help?" she asked.
"I'm going to need for you to meet me at the embassy later, but I'll give you a call first."
"Good hunting, Will."
With a nod, the implant cut the transmission.
Lili quickly downed the rest of her coffee.
"You're not running off?" Augur asked. "Stay a while!"
"And do what? We've been chatting over breakfast for two hours."
"Stay. I'll show you my idea of a good time." At the offended look she shot him, he quickly explained. "...making money, Lili. Making money!"
"I really need to check in with Jonathan," she said as she stood up and put her coat on. "Go ahead and take care of your... 'business'. I'll see you later." She patted him on the back as she passed behind his chair. "Thanks for the food."
"It was my pleasure," he whispered when she was already out of earshot.

As soon as Dro'vha landed the shuttle in the warehouse parking area, Boone opened the bag he had brought along and started handing items over to the Taelon. Among the items he passed him were a small computer notepad, an electronic camera, a tape recorder and an evidence kit. He stuffed the bulky bag under a seat and looking up, realized that there was no way his assistant could carry all the items. Taking back everything but the notepad, he stuffed them in his various jacket and pants pockets.
"We'll get you a carrying devise of some sort later," he assured the overwhelmed Taelon.
"What do I do with this device?" Dro'vha asked as he turned the notepad over in his hands.
Boone showed him how to use it. "If I tell you to make a note of something, make sure you enter the information."
"But...you have total recall...Why would you require this device?"
"I can give it to someone else later on and have them take over this portion of the investigation if necessary," he explained, with a sigh.
"I understand..."
Boone exited the shuttle as his assistant followed behind him. They gained instant access to the facility and Boone suspected that Quo'on had already arranged their visit, as the guards never once questioned their presence.
He led the way to the office where the key conversation had been recorded and began searching for a sound device with a hand held detector. Despite the fact that he and his assistant turned the room upside down in their search, they turned up nothing until Boone, on a hunch, passed the detector over the window itself.
It lit up like a christmas tree.
Motioning the Taelon to follow him, he exited the building and made his way to the outside of the window in question. Passing the scanner over the panes, he was able to locate the hidden device. Retrieving a pocket knife from his pocket, he scraped away the caulking and exposed the small bug.
"Get a picture or two of that, will you?" he asked his assistant. He then stood back and watched with surprise as the Taelon examined the camera, removed the lens and snapped what would, no doubt, turn out to be perfect pictures.
"Seeing the look on Boone's face, Dro'vha explained. "I have watched many human commercials, many of which feature cameras."
With a shake of his head, Boone collected the bug with his evidence kit.
"I believe we're done here," he told Dro'vha. "I need for you to fly us back to my old office."
The two of them moved quickly back towards the shuttle.

Da'an stood before his audience chamber windows and stared dejectedly down at the garden. How he longed to escape the confines of the embassy and lose himself in its living haven, but it was no longer a place of safety. Not with the human crowds which continued to grow in number around his domicile.
He had so far refused to grant any of the media an interview and the paparazzi, sniffing out some expensive photo ops, had also descended upon the Taelon structure. The virtual glass windows had all been adjusted so that the interior was no longer visible from outside.
With a very human sigh, he returned to and seated himself in his audience chair. There would be no meetings today, but he had few enough places within the structure in which to find solitude. The chair was as good a place as any in which to daydream...
Once Lili had fallen asleep in his chamber, he had visited Boone, determined to put an end to his sleeplessness. It at least was the one thing he could do to aid his friend during these difficult times.
Although he had wished to have been physically present during the undertaking, his loneliness...his need for Boone... had been great enough to drive him into reaching out for him with his mind. The feat was difficult, for despite the connection they had formed, Boone was still a human being and their pair bonding not yet completed, not to mention the large distance which had yawned between their physical forms. The task had drained him to the point that he had spent the better part of the morning hours after Lili's departure recharging in his energy stream.
Still, it had proven to be a rewarding experience.
Had he not offered William his support and comforted him during the trying ordeal? Had his friend not clung to him, proving his need for him? Had he not learned more about the wonderful yet alien nature of his implant?
Da'an shifted slightly in his chair as his thoughts drifted momentarily to Lili. She had stayed with him until just before dawn and taken her leave with a kiss...
How strangely appealing that human gesture had been! The burst of emotion which had accompanied the contact... had been delightful...
He only hoped that Lili had not fixated upon him as humans tended to do...
Even as his thoughts again strayed back to Boone, he suddenly felt his friend's presence nearby and felt a shuttle re-entering normal space.
It was only with the greatest effort of will that he remained in his chair and waited...

After stopping by his old office and using his new computer access codes to investigate both the bug and the mystery helicopter which the phony news crew had used, Boone had walked Dro'vha downtown and bought his assistant a gift of sorts.
The Taelon had taken in the sights and excitedly asked questions the entire time, stopping only to admire the gift he had received, which would help him in his assigned task as Boone's assistant.
Feeling that he could use some caffeine, Boone had stopped at a coffee shop and nursed a cup at a table near the window as he mentally organized the facts he had gathered.
For his part, Dro'vha had observed the humans around him, who were in turn staring at him in amazement.
Finally finishing both his coffee and his mental calisthenics, Boone had been shocked at the size of the crowd which was forming outside on the sidewalk.
"Come on," he had urged the Taelon, as he steered him towards the back of the shop.
They had taken the back door into an alley and quickly backtracked to the office and the waiting shuttle.
"Let's get back to the DC embassy," he had suggested as Dro'vha took his place in the pilot's seat.
Once the shuttle 'jumped', it was only five minutes before they re-entered normal space, ready to land in the embassy shuttle bay.
For the first time, Boone was mentally able to sense Da'an's presence nearby. It wasn't just a feeling that the Taelon was near, but a strong, absolute certainty as powerful as if he had actually seen him standing before him.
With it came the knowledge that Da'an had sensed him as well and was awaiting him with barely suppressed impatience.
As he exited the shuttle, he noticed the smile which lit Dro'vha's face and realized that his silent communion with Da'an had not gone unnoticed. He actually felt his face coloring slightly with embarrassment.
"I shall wait here for a time," Dro'vha offered, looking amused by his discomfort.
With a nod at his assistant, he hurried on his way and was soon entering the audience chamber. Falling into his accustomed routine, he moved to stand directly before the Companion and bowed slightly as he greeted him with the appropriate hand gesture.
Without hesitation, Da'an leaned forward and extended his hand to his friend. As Boone grasped the offered hand, Da'an pulled him forward until he stepped up onto the platform next to the chair. The Companion continued to clasp his hand as he spoke.
"Your visit has made this day bearable, but I am confused." Da'an tilted his head. "How is it that you are not standing beside Quo'on?"
"I've gained permission to investigate this situation myself," he explained. "I need to meet with Lili in order to give her some information which needs to be passed along. I figured this was as good a place as any to do so and that you could entertain my assistant...you know, keep him out of the way?"
"It would be my pleasure," the Companion assured him.
"Da'an...I especially wanted to thank you for what you did for me. I..."
Da'an interrupted him. "Your joy upon awakening this morning was all the thanks I require." He squeezed Boone's hand briefly before dropping it.
Clearing his throat, Boone got down to business, after all they couldn't just stare at each other all day...
"With your permission, I'll go ahead and call Lili."
Da'an nodded and stepped down from the platform. "In that case, I shall greet Dro'vha and offer him a tour," he said over his shoulder.
"Do you know Dro'vha from your time aboard the mother ship?" Boone found himself asking.
"It is he who helped me to save some of the human women," the Companion answered the amazed Implant, before turning and leaving the room.

Dro'vha sensed that his old acquaintance was approaching the shuttle bay and moved to greet him at the threshold.
"It pleases me that you have had the opportunity to visit me at last," the North American Companion said as they exchanged greetings.
"As I am pleased to be here," he answered, falling into step beside his host.
Da'an stopped short, looking at his waist strangely and it took him a moment to remember that he wore the gift William Boone had given him.
"What is this device?" Da'an asked as he walked a circle about his visitor.
"It is a 'fanny pack'," he explained. "A small carrying device so that I may transport those items which could prove useful to the investigation. William boone purchased it for me," he said proudly. "See how it bears the symbol of his home town?"
Da'an came to a stop in front of him and fixed him with a measuring look which he wasn't able to decipher before they again began their trip through the central corridor.
"Do you enjoy his company?" the Companion asked.
"Yes. I find him fascinating. He allowed me to remain in his quarters as he readied himself for the day. It is amazing the rituals humans need to perform before they feel ready to begin their day..." Dro'vha blathered. "I most enjoy watching him devour his food..."
"I am sure that it is all amazing to you," Da'an interrupted. "however, I was most interested in whether you 'liked' HIM."
Realizing that he had somehow displeased his fellow Taelon, Dro'vha tried his best to give a truthful reply. "I do not know him," he said. "I feel that I never can. Despite his obvious ability to commune with you, I cannot gain such access to his thoughts..."
Da'an stopped again. "You cannot sense his thoughts, despite your awareness of his linkage to me?" he asked with a puzzled look upon his face.
"I knew that you reached out to him when we arrived," he explained. "and his reaction made it clear that he heard you, but I was not able to sense his thoughts - only your own."
"This is an interesting bit of information..." Da'an mused he began walking again. "I wonder if he may intentionally be shielding his thoughts..."
"I believe, from his reaction to my awareness of the event, that he did think that I had heard him," he responded. "He is not shielding himself...intentionally."
"Come. Allow me to show you the embassy," Da'an offered, changing the subject and suddenly appearing to be in a much better mood.

"Augur, where's Doors?" Lili asked, as she all but burst into the Liberation HQ conference area.
"Whoa, Lili. Take it easy! He's..." Augur began.
"I'm right here." Jonathan Doors stood in the doorway of his office. "What have you got?"
Lili removed Boone's pocket notepad from her jacket. "Boone's been given top level clearance by Quo'on. He was able to use it to pull up the flight plan of Sandoval's shuttle when he was supposedly pursuing the news helicopter."
"Let me guess. It doesn't make sense," Doors rasped.
"Bingo. It shows him landing the shuttle right smack in the middle of said pursuit." She handed the note pad over to Augur. "I just met Boone at the embassy. He wants us to follow Sandoval's route and see what we can turn up."
"I volunteer." Augur actually raised his hand.
"OK Augur. Go with her and see what you can find." Doors placed his hands on his hips. "I've already had the TV station turned upside down and verified that they only own two copters. They were both elsewhere that day."
"So we may be looking for a hidden helicopter," Augur said. "Sounds like fun."
"Be careful," the billionaire warned. "The FBI may be involved..."
"I know! Come on Lili, let's go." Hooking a hand around her arm, Augur pulled her towards the elevators.
She shook free and straightened her jacket. "Keep your shirt on," she snapped. "and let me do the driving."
"You can drive me anywhere..." he sassed as the elevator doors closed behind him.

Joshua Doors was escorted into Quo'on's presence at precisely thirteen hundred hours, Eastern Standard Time to find that his father had been correct. William Boone was in attendance.
He found himself giving the tall man a once over, both fascinated and intimidated by the truth which had been revealed to him - Namely that the title 'implant' was much more of a description than a rank. The man had alien hardware in his brain! Hardware which had rendered the already intelligent man he had been into a genius with freakish mental abilities.
But more intimidating even than that, was the truth that William Boone was the only implant known to possess free will - the only one to have escaped a fiendishly hidden CVI subprogram known only as a 'motivational imperative'.
Here he stood, alongside the Taelons he had begun to understand, pretending to work for them as their loyal, obedient lap dog, when he was in fact, the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing. He was a mole working for the liberation.
He had admired the man's convictions and talents when they had worked the Rho'ha case from opposite benches, but now...he could not help but feel in awe of him - of the difficult situation he was in - and how very well he handled it.
Boone raised an eyebrow, indicating that he knew he was being given the once over.
Doors cleared his throat and greeted the Synod leader. "Quo'on." He bowed slightly.
"Mr.. Doors."
"I believe you know we have a serious problem, so I'll save the long speeches. What the President wants to know is, would you perhaps want to start by explaining yourself?"
Quo'on indicated the implant beside him. "William Boone has been briefed on this matter," he informed his guest. "It is our desire that he be allowed to speak directly with President Thompson. Given the delicate nature of this incident, it is our belief that he may better communicate our position as he is of your own species."
He gave Boone another measuring look. He had been prepared for the request. "I'll bring your request before the President," he said, as he turned back to the Synod leader. "but I suggest that you be prepared to make full disclosure of your little genetics experiment..."
"We shall endeavor to cooperate."
"Very well." Doors rubbed his head. "It would seem that I came all this way only to conclude our business within a minute's time," he said, wryly.
"William Boone shall show you about, if that is your desire," Quo'on offered.
He looked at Boone. "I think I'd like that," was his simple answer as the implant moved to his side and took leave of his Taelon master.
He found himself being led out into the corridor, where another Taelon - one wearing a human facade...and a fanny pack - waited.
"Dro'vha," Boone addressed the alien. "I'm going to show Mr.. Doors back to his shuttle. I'll contact you later."
The Taelon bowed slightly and wandered off.
"Well well well, he remarked. "You've come a long way in a short time...having a Taelon assistant and all."
"Yeah, about 367,000 miles!" Boone laughed, causing Doors to laugh as well.
A silence sprang up between them as they wandered slowly in the direction of the shuttle bay, with Joshua uncertain how best to bring up a difficult subject. Seeing that Commander Boone was apparently content to let the silent stretch on, he decided to broach a topic which was close to both of them.
"You know," he said softly. "I didn't think you could do anything to top your defense of Rho'ha, but I have to admit that living here on the Taelon mother ship may qualify."
Boone looked sharply at him. "I would have done anything I could to save that Taelon," he said. "His trial was a mockery..."
"He got a fair trial, same as anybody else," he replied. "By the way...I'm sorry to hear that he passed on."
The tall red head halted suddenly in his tracks and turned on him. "Save me the false sentiment," he said, harshly. "You're the one who was pushing for the death sentence!" The implant looked furious. "You have no idea of what he went through - of how he was set up! You still see things in terms of black or white, Junior! The world isn't like that - most especially not now!"
"Ok, ok. Hold on a second," He held his hands up and tried to mollify the ex-cop. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to open this can of worms. I was just trying to start a conversation."
Boone remained silent and stared at him unblinkingly, his face still stern.
"I know that we can't talk here, so let me just say that I'm on your side this time. I've received some confidential information from a... family member."
"What has he told you?" Boone's eyes narrowed.
"Enough so that I know how important it is that this situation between our respective bosses be smoothed over."
The implant nodded, his sharp eyes taking in Joshua's face and missing nothing. "When you bring my request before the President, convince him to have FBI director Ford present when we meet. The man is in possession of some information which could prove useful..."
"You got it." he replied, as they turned down another corridor.

"OK, we're coming up on the coordinates," Lili said, as she slowed the shuttle and brought it down lower. The clouds parted, revealing run down buildings and a large junkyard.
"Please tell me that your landing zone is NOT in the junkyard," Augur pleaded.
"Sorry. It is."
The techno-wizard sighed deeply as the shuttle touched down. "Talk about your proverbial needle in a haystack. How in the hell are we ever going to find anything in this place?"
Lili shrugged off her restraints and hopped out of the craft. With her hands on her hips, she stood outside surveying her surroundings. "I suggest that we split up and start searching," she said, as Augur moved to stand beside her.
"Bad idea, Lili. There could be dogs, rats...or worse..."
She gave him an incredulous look, prompting him to shrug his shoulders. "You're not afraid, are you?"
"Me?" he laughed. "I've got the means to protect myself from any vermin we may encounter. I was just trying to look out for you."
Lili pulled her gun and thumbed the safety off before raising an eyebrow at him. "Maybe you'd better just look out for yourself, after all, it's what you do best isn't it?" Even as the words slipped out, she knew how hurtful they sounded. Augur looked as though he had been slapped.
"Hey, I didn't..." she started to say, but it was too late... With a look down his nose at her, he turned his back and stalked off towards the east. "Damn it!" she hissed.
A minute later, she started moving in the opposite direction through thirty foot high stacks of smashed cars and other assorted metal junk. As she searched, she thought about all the times she had managed to say just the wrong thing to Augur. They were most definitely falling into an unhealthy pattern...
It seemed that they teased each other, got friendly, started getting close...and she would insult him. Then the cycle would start all over again... She knew she was trying to keep him at arms length - The problem was, that she didn't know why. She liked him, she found him attractive and she admired him - in most respects, anyway.
Why did she keep backing away?
Maybe she didn't, or couldn't trust him...after all, he had plenty of women fawning over him. He probably wasn't interested in anything meaningful... Then again, it could just be that she wasn't ready to let anyone get that close to her...
"Hey, Lili!"
Augur's voice on her global made her jump. She quickly fumbled it off her belt. "What have you got?" She asked. She couldn't see him because it was an audio only transmission. He didn't have a global of his own and was using his wrist unit.
"I've got a hunch that I'm on the right track. Meet me at the large dump truck near the office."
"On my way." She stuck the device back in her belt and after pausing to get her bearings, turned and headed back toward the shack that she had seen upon their approach to the yard.
A few minutes later she arrived at the designated spot to find Augur swinging his legs into the top of the truck.
"Hey!" she shouted, getting his attention. "You should let me do that. You wouldn't want to ruin your expensive shirt."
"Funny," he dead panned, just before disappearing inside.
There was some rummaging around and the sound of him throwing some metal out of the way. "You might want to take a look at this!" he called out only a few minutes later.
By the time she got to the top, he was squatting down before a heavy piece of junk - an engine, from what she could see - with a small flashlight held between his teeth. As he shone the light on the object, he quickly typed into his wrist unit.
Lili let her eyes wander around the dim interior, trying to make sense of the parts which were mostly hidden in the shadows cast by the truck's sides. "Well?" she asked as Augur finished what he was doing and stood up.
In answer, he turned his flashlight towards one corner of the pile, where it illuminated part of a helicopter tail rotor.
"It's been painted black," he said. "but I scraped some paint off what used to be the sides and found the news station logo." He held up a digital camera. "I made sure to get a picture of it. I also located the engine block and got the serial number, as well as several more photos of it." He stashed away his equipment and began climbing up to her. "Let's get put of here. I can't wait to trace this number!"

"This is WRZT's Ten o'Clock News with your host, Lisa Stepp."
"Good evening." The pert news anchor greeted. "I'm Lisa Stepp. Leading tonight's top headlines... President Thompson will be meeting tomorrow with new Taelon representative, William Boone, who you may remember defended Taelon scientist Rho'ha two months ago.
It seems that the Companions, intent on clearing up what they term a 'cultural misunderstanding', have decided that their human implant is better able to understand the nuances of human interactions and therefore ideally suited to explaining the situation.
According to the Taelon Synod leader, Quo'on, 'the Taelons look forward to clearing up this tragic misunderstanding and winning back the support of their human friends'.
When asked about Da'an's involvement, William Boone stepped forward and said the following:
"The truth will out. Of that, you can be certain, but anyone who truly knows Da'an, knows that he would never be involved in anything which would harm humans - physically or mentally. I worked for our North American Companion for some time and I can tell you that a grave injustice is being done here. He is deeply wounded by the rumors which have begun circulating and the loss of his freedom caused by those who gather outside his embassy. We ask everyone to remain calm and not to believe everything which is being said. Wait for the facts and then reach your own conclusions."
The anchor woman reappeared on the screen. "Once again, that was William Boone, current spokesperson for the Companions. In a related story, Companion support has dropped a record twenty percent since the scandal erupted, with our latest poll showing only sixty percent believing that the Companion's gifts are completely altruistic. Fifteen percent now believe that there is a hidden agenda behind those gifts, with twenty percent of the population surveyed remaining undecided..."
Joshua Doors turned his television off and leaned back in his chair with a pensive look on his face. Under normal circumstances, the poll results would have made his father a very happy man. It spoke volumes that he was actually considering the benefits of a government cover up.
The Companions had to be more of a danger than even he had begun to suspect.

Jonathan Doors greeted his two returning operatives with considerably more interest than he usually displayed.
"Well?" he questioned them as Lili removed her jacket. "What did you...."
"Augur found the copter - repainted and disassembled - in the back of a dump truck!" she interrupted, enthusiastically. "He was able to trace the engine serial number back to the make and manufacturer. It's a model used most often by the FBI."
"Figures," Doors mumbled. "After all, Boone's trace of the bug from the warehouse office led back to them as well..."
"And Sandoval IS still active in the organization," Augur chimed in.
"I've already given Will the information," Lili added. "but what is he going to do with it? I mean...how the heck is he gonna pull a rabbit out of a hat this time and end the project as well as save Da'an?"
"Don't worry. With the right kind of help, he'll get the job done...He always has, hasn't he?" Doors said, surprising them with his optimistic praise.
"Whoa, my friend," Augur said, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I think you'd better lay off the scotch for a while..."
"Jonathan...What's with the new attitude?" Lili asked. "You haven't acted so...human in months."
With a sour look on his face, the billionaire turned away and entered his office. "Smart alacks..." he grumbled as the door slammed behind him.


Boone awoke with a start, certain that someone had knelt down on the futon next to him. As he made a swipe to his left, intent on knocking his unknown visitor onto his back, an incredible weight came down on his chest, slamming him flat. Panicking as the weight increased, he tried to bring his skrill to bear on his assailant, when a second crushing weight trapped his arm, causing Condor to squeal indignantly in his mind at the same time that he sensed a sudden flood of concern from Da'an.
He struggled for a moment before forcing himself to relax and take in his surroundings. Two blue eyes glowed softly above his own face.
His attacker was a Taelon! A strong one...
"Well, Boone," came a taunting voice he knew well. "Have you yet guessed my identity? Allow me to... shed some light on your dilemma..." With an unseen wave, Zo'or brought up the lights.
To Boone's amazement, the Taelon himself was kneeling on his right arm and leaning upon his chest with his left hand. He had somehow become incredibly heavy!
"How....?" he gasped. He was fighting to draw air into his lungs and rapidly tiring...as black spots danced before his eyes. Only Da'an's projected alarm enabled him to hang on to consciousness.
"You see?" Zo'or sneered. "You know next to nothing about my kind. Was it not your own Einstein, who postulated that there was a direct link between energy and mass? We ARE energy and we are capable of gathering it from the universe around us, taming it and harnessing it as we see fit. You have already noted that we may 'grow' human-like facades, assuming a form which has mass. The more energy we harness, the more mass we may generate. This ability which we possess, drains us rapidly and may be used for short periods of time only, yet serves a myriad of purposes. A most useful talent, wouldn't you say?" He stared at the implant's slowly purpling face and realizing that Boone could no longer answer, eased up somewhat on the pressure.
"Let me guess," the implant wheezed, as he tried to catch his breath. "You've grown tired of me interfering and you've decided to crush me to death, right here in my quarters....while I'm under the protection of the Synod leader..."
Zo'or looked as though he had been slapped.
The pressure on Boone's chest and arm decreased until Zo'or suddenly pushed away and sat back on his heels. "I am not here to end your miserable existence," he hissed. "Fate itself will take care of that."
Boone sat up and rubbed his chest. Already a series of dark bruises were appearing in the shape of the Taelon's hand print. "Are you trying to tell me that you woke me up so that we can talk?"
Zo'or blinked. "I came here to warn you..."
He stared at the Taelon in disbelief.
"I have heard of your impending meeting with President Thompson." Zo'or's face took on a sly look. "You must know that regardless of the outcome of your efforts, that you will lose something."
He glared at the ex-U.N. Representative. "Speaking of losing something...I hear that you were demoted AND transferred to a different sector of the ship. Kind of hard to spread malicious thoughts among those who are too busy working to listen, isn't it??" He smiled.
Zo'or sneered again and rose to his feet. "Just remember that, should you save Da'an by convincing your government to cover up our indiscretion, the project will continue..." He smiled evilly. "And should you expose the project and convince your government to take action against us...Da'an will be lost to you. Either way, I will win."
Boone watched as the Taelon fairly sauntered out of the room, aware that Zo'or had pretty much summed up his dilemma.
Still rubbing his chest and groaning at the grating sensation in his recently wounded side, he glanced at the clock he had unpacked. It was only two a.m. As he struggled to his feet, the door flew open, admitting Dro'vha.
"What has happened?" he asked. "Da'an urged me most urgently to check on your well-being.
Not wanting word of the confrontation to reach Quo'on, Boone waved the Taelon off as he caught his breath. "It's nothing," he lied. "A bad dream only..."
Dro'vha gave him a strange look. "Then why was Zo'or departing your quarters?" he asked.
"Listen." He placed a hand on his assistant's shoulder. "I can't afford to let Zo'or think that he can frighten me off. It would be best if we kept this to ourselves..."
The Taelon didn't look completely convinced, but he nodded his agreement. "You had best inform Da'an that all is well," he suggested. "He is most...upset."
"I will," he promised as Dro'vha slowly made his way out the door.
Reaching for the shirt he had left on a chair, he started to put it on, realized before buttoning it that he wouldn't be able to hide the truth of the injury from his friend, and left it open instead.
He called up a data stream and Da'an's worried image was immediately before him.
"How badly are you hurt?" the Companion asked.
"I think that one of my damaged ribs has been fractured again, but it's not that bad..."
"Where is Zo'or now?"
"Most likely heading back to the labor sector - where he was recently relegated to by Quo'on," he replied.
Da'an's eyes went wide and he looked as though he were suppressing a smile.
"You know...it might have been nice if I had known you guys could manipulate your mass," Boone commented.
"It is not something which I would have thought important to relate," the Companion explained.
Boone sighed. "Sorry. Anyway, I'm OK. No lasting harm done," he reassured his friend. Something suddenly occurred to him. "Da'an...why is it that you had to contact Dro'vha and tell him I was in trouble? Why didn't he 'hear' me himself?"
"I am not certain why, however, while visiting my embassy earlier, Dro'vha assured me that although he could tell that we were communicating, he was only able to sense my thoughts. Yours were but a jumble which he could not comprehend."
"Even though he understands english?"
"Even so." Da'an tilted his head and became pensive. "Several weeks ago, when angered, you were able to project your rage through our link and overwhelm Zo'or, which argues that you can be heard through the commonality if you so desire. It would take some...experimentation to determine if your thoughts are naturally shielded from all Taelons save myself." Da'an frowned as he straightened up. "and at the moment, experimentation is a concept I would just as soon avoid."
Boone snorted. "I understand."
He paused, unsure of what else to say, but Da'an saved him the trouble of making conversation.
"Pleasant dreams, William," the Companion wished as he cut the data stream off.
Suddenly wide awake and nervous about his upcoming meeting with the President, Boone dug a book out of his suitcase, and plopping down on his bed, began to read.



The following day came too soon for the sleepless implant. He had only gotten two hours sleep when Dro'vha woke him with breakfast. Boone sleepily made his way over to the small table he dined at and sat down heavily as the Taelon assistant placed a styrofoam cup of coffee and several breakfast croissants in front of him. He immediately dug-in and slowly came awake enough to note the absorbed fascination on Dro'vha's face.
"You really enjoy seeing me eat, don't you?" he mumbled as he lifted his coffee for a sip.
The Taelon nodded, his gaze never leaving Boone's mouth. "I often wonder what it would be like..." he admitted.
"I probably shouldn't be saying this...but it's great," he smirked. Seeing the almost lustful expression which briefly crossed his assistant's face, he felt badly about teasing him. "Are you the only Taelon with this kind of fetish?" he asked.
"There are many of us who wonder about aspects of human life," Dro'vha admitted.
Boone remembered Da'an telling him that he would give up much to be able to smell the flowers which bloomed in his garden and a plan began to form in his mind - a wonderful, exciting plan...but one which could never be made reality if he didn't do his job and settle things between the Companions and the U.S. government...
He quickly choked down his food, drank his coffee and headed for the shower as Dro'vha cleaned up the mess and laid out all the things he would require during his meeting.
It was shortly after zero nine hundred hours when the shuttle emerged from interdimension into a dreary, cold Washington day. It started to pour before they even made it to the shuttle bay.
Boone still had an hour before the meeting and planned on spending it with Da'an. If he was unsuccessful, their time together would be short indeed, and he was not about to waste a moment of it. As he exited the shuttle, he found Sandoval's assistant waiting for him.
"Lassiter. What brings you here?" he asked, imagining that he was about to be told that Sandoval was too busy to meet him himself.
The blond FBI agent and Taelon operative handed him a sealed folder. "Sir, I believe that this may aid you during your meeting," he said. "I suggest that you take time to inspect it before you leave here...and do not under any circumstances allow Agent Sandoval to know you possess it!"
"What is this?" he asked as he tucked it under an arm, but Lassiter was already boarding shuttle two, which quickly took off for parts unknown.
Suddenly desperately needing to know what Lassiter had given him, he headed for the nearest available office and hoped that Da'an would forgive him his tardiness...


At precisely ten o'clock, EST, Boone was led into the oval office. Not forgetting whom he represented, he gave a small bow and the Taelon hand gesture used when greeting or taking leave.
"Mr.. President," he said. "It is an honor to be able to discuss this matter with you personally and I thank you for the opportunity."
Thompson shook his hand and sat down behind his desk. "Well, Mr.. Boone, your explanations of the situation had best be good..."
"Oh, I assure you that they are," he replied, nodding to the two people behind the commander in chief. Joshua Doors stood off to the President's left, FBI director Shelton Ford to his right. Two secret service agents were stationed near the door.
"Mr.. President," he continued. Before I can fully explain the situation, I need to be certain that you are aware of certain...Taelon facts of life." Thompson raised an eyebrow and he continued. "Because of the nature of what I am about to reveal, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to ask Director Ford and the SS agents behind me to step outside for a minute.
"Sir, this constitutes a breach of security which is unacceptable," Ford counseled. "At least require one Secret Service agent to remain."
"Shelton, you know very well that if our guest chose to use his skrill that we would have little chance of leaving this office alive. We already discussed this when I was contemplating having this meeting." Thompson turned toward the door. "You two wait outside with Director Ford," he ordered. With a sour look on his face, Ford exited the room.
As soon as the doors closed behind the departing men, Thompson waved for Boone to speak.
"Sir, are you aware of the Taelon's use of something called a CVI?" he asked.
"Of course. It's been explained to me that the Taelons offer it to their chosen protectors as a gift of the highest sort. It rewires the brain, increasing intelligence and granting its recipient total recall," the President recited.
"Oh it does that all right," he confirmed. "However, it also happens to contain a secret program - an imperative which forces its recipient to serve the Taelons before anyone or anything else."
Thompson sat up straighter and leaned forward with a look of disbelief on his face.
"Taelon implants are Taelon slaves and fanatics of the highest order," he continued. "They will do anything they are commanded to do without hesitation, even if that command includes killing their loved ones." Boone paced slowly before the President's desk as he continued. "I think you can see the benefits of such an arrangement from the Taelon's point of view. They are able to trust their implants implicitly with information which, if it leaked out, could severely compromise their agenda."
"So, you're telling me that I can't trust you," Thompson said, clearly trying to figure Boone's reasoning in telling him this.
"Actually, you can. When Da'an chose me to be his next implant, I was approached by the liberation with an offer which I couldn't refuse." he stopped and placed his hands on Thompson's desk, leaning forward as he spoke. "They told me about the motivational imperative and offered to see to it that I received a CVI which contained a deactivated MI. In return, I was to shuttle to them information I learned about my Taelon masters." Seeing the full implication of his position reflecting in the President's expression, he continued. "I have free will, but it is a very difficult thing to keep my true nature hidden from the Taelons. I HAD to send Ford and the others from the room..."
"Good God!" Thompson interrupted him and stood up. "What have you learned? Why are they here?"
Boone took his hands off the desk and straightened up. "They're here for several different reasons, Mr.. President, but I've only been able to piece together a part of the puzzle. I'll come back to that in a minute..." he moved around the desk so that he was standing next to the president. "First off, Da'an knows that I have free will. Despite the fact that all Taelons are joined together psychically in what they refer to as their commonality, he has gone out of his way - even to the point of risking his position - to protect my secret and therefore, my life. Because he figured out my secret, he had shared with me information I might otherwise never have received, but...he has also withheld that information which he believes would be destructive to humanity and his race if it became known. He is perhaps our greatest asset in understanding the Taelons and learning their secrets. If he is removed from his position, WE will have lost in more ways than one."
Thompson indicated Doors. "I take it that he was allowed to remain because his father filled him in on your status?"
"Only just recently," Joshua admitted. "but this news about Da'an is new to me."
"He has an understanding and sympathy for humanity which would never allow him to oversee an experiment like the one he is alleged to have run. The truth is that there are other Taelons who feel that their people are pursuing the wrong course with regards to us. Da'an actually helped to save some women by helping them to escape. He did this with the aid of another human-sympathizer." He handed Thompson a disk. "On this disk are the testimonies of several of the women he saved. You must not allow Ford or anyone else to hear of Da'an's actions or my status, because, if the Taelons find out about either...Da'an and I are both history."
Thompson pocketed the disc. "What can you tell me about their agenda?"
"That would be agendas..." Boone sighed and looked out the window. "There is a third alien species out there..." He gestured out the window, towards the sky. "...somewhere. I don't know their name or any specifics other than that they are the mortal enemies of the Taelons. Da'an and the others fear them and believe that unless they unite with us in some way, that both our species will be destroyed..."
"Do you have anything to back up this information?" The President stared out the window as well, his face grim.
"Less than a year ago there were three confirmed instances of alien signals being detected by our monitors. Da'an himself confirmed that they were not Taelon in origin." He turned to look directly at Thompson. "Those transmissions were given off by a probe sent here by the other alien species. I know. I saw it. Da'an himself took control of the device, which I know for a fact killed at least a dozen people. It was removed to a Taelon facility in the Soviet Union, where it was later destroyed."
While he had been talking, Joshua Doors had moved to stand on his other side. Now, as Boone glanced at him, he could see that the influential lawyer had gone white. "Where does the alleged genetic experimentation tie in to this?" he asked.
"I don't know," Boone admitted. "It seems that they're trying to transfigure themselves - change themselves into a form which is closer to our own...This seemed to be a first step in altering the next generation of Taelons."
"They have to acknowledge that they have no right to interfere with human beings in this way. They have to be made to recognize that actions such as these will result in their expulsion from our planet..." Thompson spat indignantly.
"Who's going make them leave?" Boone pointed out. "Let's face it - they're staying for as long as THEY want to stay. What we need to do, is to find ways of controlling them without making them think that they have to force us into complying with their more insidious short term goals." His face took on a troubled look. "Da'an believes - truly believes - that their long term goals are our salvation. He just differs in how best to achieve those goals."
"And how would he achieve them?" Doors asked.
"He's in favor of full disclosure, because he believes that we are intelligent enough to understand and face what must be done..."
"So, what do you suggest I do about this situation?" Thompson asked, as he sank back down in his chair.
"We have to smooth things over," the Implant replied. "I hate the idea of deception, but in this case it may become necessary to keep the specifics from the public. If you can do that, and restore Da'an's tarnished image, I'll fix things up with Quo'on..."
The President snorted. "That's all fine and well, but I need more than your word...I need leverage to convince the task force to follow that course of action."
Boone smiled a smile which made the hair on Doors' neck stand on end.
"I've got everything you need right here with me," Quo'on's spokesperson replied, as he opened up his briefcase and removing
the folders which Lassiter had given him, threw them down on the desk.
Thompson put his glasses on and opening it, began to read. After scanning the first page, he stared up at Boone in shock. "Do you realize the full implication of these documents?" he asked, as he stared at Boone over the tops of his glasses.
"Of course." he answered with a nod. "It means that you'll be spending the next few weeks straightening out the mess in your own back yard. Sorry about that. By the way...those are copies. Rest assured that the originals are in a safe location...on the Taelon mothership. Please make sure that your...associates understand that should anything strange happen to me - or you..."
"Yes yes yes," Thompson wave him off. "I understand completely. It looks like you're going to get your way in this matter. This is more than enough to force the others into seeing things our way." He stood up and extended a hand to the Taelon representative. "You'll be contacted within the next twenty four hours and informed of the official outcome," he said, as they shook. "Thank you for your unique... insight."
"It has been my pleasure," he replied. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity."
Thompson turned toward Doors. "Joshua, will you please send Ford back in here as you escort Commander Boone out?"
With a nod, the curious attorney did as he was asked and then walked out to the shuttle with the President's departing guest. As they drew even with the Taelon vehicle, he spoke. "Am I ever going to learn what you gave him?" he asked.
Boone gave him a sympathetic look. "That's up to the President to decide," he said, as he glanced at his watch. "I need to get back and brief Quo'on..."
"Just out of curiosity...What are you going to tell him?"
"I don't know, but I'll think of something," He rubbed his sore ribs and grimaced as he boarded the shuttle.

Boone arrived back at the DC embassy intent on finally speaking with Da'an, only to find Quo'on waiting with the North American Companion in the audience chamber.
"Boone," he greeted, even before the implant had recovered enough to make the proper hand gestures. "What is the outcome of your meeting?"
"We will be officially informed of the outcome tomorrow," he answered. "...however, I believe that I can assure you that the entire scandal will be covered up and Da'an cleared of any wrong-doing."
Quo'on and Da'an exchanged looks, with both of them appearing startled by the announcement.
"How is it that you accomplished this feat?" the Synod leader asked suspiciously.
"I explained to the President that, should the details of the experiment be exposed, Da'an would be left to shoulder the responsibility and we would lose him as our Companion..."
Both Taelons blushed blue.
"Your leader would do such a thing in order to retain his current Companion?" Quo'on asked, clearly amazed by the concept.
Boone noticed a small smile appear on Da'an's face. "He would," he answered firmly. "but he will also insist upon close supervision of human transportation after this to help ensure that such experimentation does not continue. I fear that should the Taelons be caught taking such advantage of humans in the future, it will result in a complete failure to negotiate. Our two species will perhaps be brought to the brink of war."
Quo'on's face reformed, complete with a displeased expression. "I will negotiate directly with your President with regard to the surveillance he seeks to impose. The Synod will be most displeased by this restriction."
"Perhaps it would be best to concede this point rather than risk the ruination of all which Boone has so far accomplished..." Da'an counseled. "Although the humans may not be capable of inflicting physical damage on our people...they are more than capable of resisting us, thus disrupting our agenda and leaving us...vulnerable during the final confrontation."
Quo'on moved to stand beside Da'an and quickly grasped his hand. The two conferred silently and Boone suspected a sort of sibling disagreement was being settled.
Finally Quo'on withdrew and shot Da'an what appeared to be a put-out look before addressing Boone. "Very well. I shall relay Thompson's terms to the Synod once they have been officially made," he announced. "Boone. You have done well, You may remain on your planet until the formal announcement has been made. Dro'vha will meet you here afterwards in order to return you to the mother ship."
"Thank you," he said with a small bow as his new master left the chamber.
He and Da'an smiled at each other.

'"Have we heard anything yet?" Augur asked, as he entered the liberation's underground facility. It was shortly after noon and he had arrived carrying five large pizzas from the favored pizzeria down the street.
Lili quickly moved in to help him with his burden. "Nothing yet," she answered as she helped him place the boxes on the table and started looking in them.
With most of the key personnel gathering in HQ to wait for news, Augur had become claustrophobic and volunteered to make a food run. Noting upon his return that every seat had filled up during his absence, he put on a displeased expression and tried to roust Aaron out of his favorite seat.
"Augur," Lili called out, interrupting his verbal battle with the communications expert. "Where are the three extra cheese and two veggie pizzas?"
"Oh," he shrugged, giving up on the chair. "I ran into a friend. He should be down in a second..."
Just then, the elevator doors parted, and Boone stepped out with the remaining pies.
"Boone! William! Will!" Everyone yelled simultaneously as Lili quickly took the pizzas and dumped them on the table. Before anyone could pull him away, she had thrown her arms around his neck and jumped up to plant a big kiss full on his mouth. Boone's arms came around her automatically as he gave her an equally big hug.
"I missed you!" she said near his ear.
"Does this mean I'm forgiven for having thought..." He didn't get any further before she kissed him again. "...I guess that's a yes..." he whispered, started and pleased by the attention. Seeing Augur glaring at him from across the room, he laughed and waded into the crowd of resistance fighters who had become his family.
Doors quickly broke up the reunion by wading into the crowd after him and calling for some order.
"Well? Don't keep us waiting," he groused as things quieted down.
"I won't know officially until tomorrow, and mind you, there's still the specifics to work out...." The Liberation's key player announced, drawing out the suspense. "...but..."
"Get on with it!" Lili and Augur shouted simultaneously, drawing a laugh all the way around.
"We did it," Boone laughed. "We really did it. The government will be forced to cover up the Taelon experimentation, while taking steps to ensure that it doesn't happen again - something Quo'on knows to expect. Da'an's name will be cleared as well and our government be facing some...restructuring..."
"The government?" Augur approached Boone. "Where do they come in?"
"Sorry folks," the implant announced to the gathered members. "Some things will have to remain behind closed doors..." He gestured to the pizzas. "Go ahead and start the celebration while I'm debriefed."
The last sentence generated several crude comments around the room as a laughing William Boone pointed to the instigators and shouted, "Hey! Watch it!" before snatching up a pizza box and disappearing into the office with Doors, Augur and Lili. Once there, he settled into a chair and began his explanation as he inhaled his pizza.
"I really didn't have the leverage I knew the President needed," he said. "but I had hoped that tying the FBI in with the phony news crew and threatening to publicly reveal that they've followed Sandoval's exploits through the years, even going out of their way to help him in his quest to serve the Taelons, would be enough to help win Ford's cooperation." He paused to chew another bite of pizza.
"What changed?" Lili asked.
"Believe it or not, Lassiter handed over documentation which....even now I can scarcely believe." He put the food down and stared at her. "I knew that Sandoval wanted us to find both the bug and the copter, Lili. He would NEVER be so careless as to have left such evidence lying about for us to find otherwise! Why would he want us to find them?"
"That's a good question," Augur mused. "Why WOULD he want you to trace them back to his old friends, the FBI?"
"Sandoval setting up the FBI?" Lili shook her head. "That IS crazy!"
"Ah, but what if he was doing it because they were about to learn something ominous?" Boone asked.
"Now you've really lost me, Will." Lili sat back in her chair and crossed her arms in front of her.
Augur leaned forward. "I'm betting that everything was answered by the documentation, right?"
"Right..." Boone nodded. "Lassiter had proof you wouldn't believe! It documented that the Taelons had some help staging their little experiments - help from...the CIA."
Lili sat bolt upright. "WHAT?!"
"Oh yeah...They helped cover up the delays in the portal systems and squashed rumors about women disappearing for upwards of eighteen hours and they did it all because they had a deal worked out with Zo'or." Boone stared at Doors and knew from the look on his face that this was old news to him.
"Zo'or again? Man - that Taelon sure gets around," Augur said in disgust.
"In return for their assistance, the Central Intelligence Agency was guaranteed all the information necessary for generating their own CVI's...complete with programmable motivational imperatives," the implant announced, stunning two of his listeners. "Sandoval wanted me to force the FBI to back off because they were getting close to learning the truth."
Boone turned his attention to Doors. "You already knew all this - I can tell - So explain to me the final part of the puzzle..." he asked the secret implant.
"Lassiter gave you the information for two reasons," Doors announced. "Firstly, he is not an implant and still has the ability to make his own decisions...and secondly, because I ordered him to."
Lili came to her feet. "Lassiter is resistance?!"
"What is the world coming to?" Augur quipped.
"Does Lassiter know about me?" Boone asked the billionaire.
"No. It's safer if he still believes you're just an implant who's doing his best to save his Taelon masters' butts." Doors stood up and moved to the side table to pour himself a drink.
"Jonathan, why would you go to such lengths to help the Taelons cover their tracks?" Boone asked.
In reply, Doors removed a sealed letter from his breast pocket and handed to him. "Give this to Da'an when you see him," he said, as he opened the door and left the room.


The following morning, Boone called Lili to shuttle him from his house back to the DC embassy. He had promised Da'an that he would be there when the official announcement was made.
Less than an hour ago, he had received a call from Joshua Doors, informing him of the task force's outcome and telling him when to expect the formal announcement.
Now, as Lili landed the shuttle in the street before his house, he stepped outside into what was promising to be a beautiful spring day. The sky was blue, the sun warm and birds were chirping all around.
"Good morning," Lili chirped, as he boarded the shuttle.
"Yes. It is a good morning," he smiled. "In fact, it's a wonderful morning!"
"I haven't seen you in this kind of good mood in months." Lili smiled as she commanded her craft to lift off.
"I haven't had a situation go from being so bad to so good in months..." he replied.
They completed the rest of the journey in silence, but as she landed them in the shuttle bay, Lili spoke.
"Do you mind if I come in?" she asked hopefully.
He gave her a put-out look. "You were with him most of last night, teaching him how to play canasta!"
"I spent exactly five minutes reading him the rules," she corrected. "He spent the rest of the time whupping me...Hey! How did you know that I was here? Did he tell you?"
"Not in words." He decided to warn her. "Lili, I think you ought to know that my bond with Da'an has progressed to the point that if I think about him, I can generally tell exactly where he is and what he's doing."
Her mouth hung open for a moment. "Can he sense the same about you?" she finally asked him.
"When I'm near, yes," he answered. "Zo'or gave me a scare on the mother ship the other night and Da'an knew what was going on, despite the large distance between us at the time.
"So..he knows that we're talking about him right now?"
He laughed. "No. I've recently discovered that with very little effort, I can apparently block him from 'reading' me." He rose out of his seat and placed a hand on her shoulder as he got ready to disembark. "If everything goes well and I'm returned to Da'an's service, I'd like for you to do something for me."
"Will...all you ever need to do is ask me," she said with a fond smile.
He handed her a folded piece of paper. "I wrote it all down. I'll let you know when to get it set up..."
She accepted the paper and gave him a mock salute. "Yes Commander!"
Giving her a pat on the shoulder, he entered the shuttle bay and made his way toward the central corridor.

"This is a WRZT Special Report with your host, Lisa Stepp."
Boone was standing on Da'an's right side, as he sat in his audience chair. As regular programming was interrupted by the upcoming announcement, he placed his left hand on the Companion's right shoulder and gave it a small squeeze.
Da'an shot him a quick, anxious look before returning his gaze to the data stream.
"Good evening." The pert news anchor greeted. "I'm Lisa Stepp and we are interrupting your regularly scheduled program to bring you the latest update in the Taelon Experiment scandal. Here now, live in front of the white house, is Lyman Trent..."
"Thank you, Lisa. As our viewers can see behind me, a podium has been set up outside the White House and the President is about to make a formal announcement."
"Wait a minute..Here he comes now..."
A voice could be heard calling out in the background, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States..."
President Darrell Thompson moved up to the microphone, surrounded by secret service agents, FBI Director Shelton Ford and CIA Director John Dixon.
"I have just come from a formal meeting of the Taelon Misdeeds Task Force with the following news," the President announced, producing a document, which he proceeded to read. "We have concluded during our investigation that the Taelons did not knowingly violate any human rights during the course of their project, that the project involved simply scanning certain segments of the human population for the purpose of gathering information to complete a human geonome, and that North American Companion, Da'an can not in any way be held accountable for the project. Furthermore, the tape which was aired featuring what appeared to be incriminating evidence against the Taelons, has been carefully analyzed and found to be doctored in such a way as to make an innocent conversation sound sinister."
Thompson lowered the document and looked directly at the cameras. "We have reached an agreement with the Taelon Synod, in which any further gathering of information concerning human being shall be carefully monitored by world governments to ensure that such a misunderstanding does not occur again in the future. We also extend to Da'an, our deepest apologies for the rumors which have sprung up, tarnishing his well earned reputation for being one of the worlds most beloved Companions. He has in every way come through these trying few weeks with the grace and dignity we have come to expect from him..."

Da'an waved off the data stream as the reporters began asking questions. Slowly he stood, and as though in slow motion, turned to face his implant. His eyes were large and expressive, 'the windows to the soul' Boone thought, as the companion lifted them to meet his gaze. They communicated a thankfulness which took the implant's breath away.
Without warning, Da'an stepped forward, wrapping his arms around Boone's torso and laying his cheek against his chest. Shocked, surprised and pleased by the contact, he hugged him back.
"Thank you," Da'an said aloud, although they both knew the verbal thanks was unnecessary.
He tightened his grip on the Companion for a moment before releasing him and stepping away, unnerved by how much the hug meant to him. Placing his hands on the Taelon's shoulders, he smiled at him. "We still have much left to do if we're to prevent the Synod from finding some other way to continue the project," he cautioned.
"We will..."
They were interrupted by Quo'on's appearance via data stream.
"I have finished monitoring the earth broadcasts," he said to the implant. "Your actions have pleased the Synod greatly. You are now to return to our vessel. Dro'vha awaits you within the shuttle bay."
Quo'on's image faded away.
Boone sighed and bowed slightly to Da'an. "My current master beckons," he quipped. "With any luck, we'll carry on this conversation later...
"I see no reason why Quo'on would not return you to me now that the current situation has been resolved," the Companion said, offering up some encouragement.
Unable to help himself, Boone ran a hand over his friend's smooth head before stepping off the platform and heading for the shuttle bay. Once there, he quickly boarded his shuttle and shrugged on his restraints.
"Congratulations, William," his latest Taelon friend greeted, as he initiated the shuttle's voyage.
"Thanks," he replied. "Is there any place I need to be?"
"Yes. Quo'on expects us both to meet him in his audience room upon our return."
"Any idea why?"
"Zo'or has been summoned as well...I know nothing further."

Lili entered Augur's warehouse shortly after seeing the news broadcasts and made her way directly towards his living quarters. She had stopped by HQ after having dropped Boone off at the embassy, expecting to see the techno-wizard there, but nobody had laid eyes on him since late the night before. She figured that he had been up late taking care of his finances.
"Augur! It's me!" she called out as she let herself in. The first thing she noticed, was the unmistakable odor of breakfast. Moving into the small apartment, had only just noted the table set for two, when she was scooped up and twirled around. "Hey!" she shouted, even as Augur was already putting her down."
"I knew you would stop by to share the good news with me!" he crowed.
Not quite able to keep the smile off her face, she indicated the table. "Is that why you made me breakfast?"
"Of course. This is a celebration!" he laughed.
"Can I ask you something?" Her face became very serious.
Augur looked tense. "Go on..."
"Will you go out dancing with me tonight?"
Augur's face completely transformed as her words sank in. "You're asking me out?" he grinned.
"MmmmHmmm."
He picked her up and spun her around again. "What a glorious day this has turned out to be!" he exclaimed just before he set her down again. "...maybe I'm still dreaming..." he mused. "Prove to me that I'm awake."
Grabbing his head, she kissed him. It was meant to have been a kiss like the one she had given Boone, but somehow it deepened and went on far longer than she had intended... When the finally parted, they stared at each other, both slightly out of breath.
"I said to prove to me that I was awake..." he whispered. "This has got to be a dream..."
Lili quickly regained her composure. "Yeah - a dream in which we both decide to sit down and eat breakfast," she teased, unwilling to allow the tender moment to last.
Augur pulled a chair out for her and then served up breakfast, but the sarcastic, egotistical facade seemed to be gone.
Over breakfast she actually got to know the real person better.


Boone and Dro'vha entered Quo'on's presence to find him and Zo'or patiently awaiting them.
"Boone, I wished you to be present so that you might bear witness to this," the Synod leader announced as Zo'or kept his eyes turned towards the floor.
The implant took his position at Quo'on's side as the high-ranking Taelon spoke.
"Zo'or is hereby relieved of his stewardship of the genetics project," he formally announced. "Dro'vha is now to assume that position while we debate whether the project should be continued."
Dro'vha stared at Boone, apparently completely surprised by the appointment. "If it is the Synod's wish..." he began.
"The Synod has appointed you to this position on the basis of Da'an's recommendations," Quo'on explained before turning back to Zo'or. "You are reinstated as our representative to the United Nations for the time being, however, you are to make no public announcements or comments without first clearing them with us."
"I require an implant," the devious Taelon said.
"You may re-enlist Agent Sandoval's aid," Quo'on offered. "Commander Boone, you may remain as my attaché or return to serve Da'an. I leave the decision up to you..."
"With all due respect," Boone replied, with a slight bow. "My place is at Da'an's side, however much I may have valued our association."
Quo'on smiled. "I expected no less from you. "You are reinstated as head of Taelon Security and Interspecies Relations and are now officially Da'an's Attaché. As such, you are expected to take up residence within our North American embassy..."
"Your generous offer has made me...very happy," he admitted, drawing smiles from Quo'on and Dro'vha, while at the same time eliciting a sneer from Zo'or.
"Very well, you may gather your things and depart. Zo'or - you shall remain so that we may discuss your previous actions in the commons."
Zo'or's sneer quickly faded, replaced by a look of dread.

Boone had Dro'vha fly him back to his house, where he removed his bags from the shuttle and stashed them in his living room, near the front door. Now that the time had come to bid his new friend good-bye, he found the chore much more difficult than he would otherwise have imagined. He had truly come to like the quirky Taelon, even in the short while he had known him.
As he watched, Dro'vha unsnapped his fanny pack, which was now empty, save for a few pens and trinkets he had collected, and held it out to him.
"No," he laughed, as he realized what was happening. "That's my gift to you. It's yours to keep."
"I thank you for your company," the Taelon said in a low tone. "I have truly enjoyed our time together..."
"I'll miss you, too," he admitted. "But that doesn't mean you can't visit me when you wish and our schedules allow. I'll even take you out to big restaurant where you can watch dozens of humans eating..."
The Taelon smiled broadly and bowing with a formal hand gesture, took his leave.
Boone walked to the front window and watched as the shuttle took off and jumped to interdimension, before popping open his global and contacting Lili. It had been nine hours since he had contacted her to put his little plan into motion...
"Will!" she exclaimed as she answered. "Are you back?"
"Uhhh huh," he affirmed. "Were you able to set everything up without him knowing?"
"Yup! I got Lassiter to help me by misplacing some of Sandoval's possessions. He was so busy trying to figure out where in New York they ended up, that he wasn't present while I was moving things."
"So, they already made him move all his stuff out, hmmm?" Boone actually felt badly for the man and made a mental note to have lunch with him one day soon.
"He was very upset, Will! I've never seen him like that..." She looked pained. "Zo'or treats him like a dog! For a minute, I thought he was going to cry..."
Boone swallowed. "We have to do something for him - I know that - but it's so hard to decide what can be done. Sandoval's an uncommonly proud man and he'd hate us if we interfered..." He sighed. "I'll talk to Da'an. Maybe something can be arranged to lighten his burden... In the meantime, what say you pick me up around twenty hundred? I take it that Da'an will be back by then?"
"His meetings with the President, his council and the task force should be concluded by then," she confirmed. "I'll drop him off and then swing by to get you. See you then!" She cut the transmission.
Boone picked up his keys and headed for his car.
He had something he had to pick up...

By twenty twenty five, Boone, with Lili's help, had finished carting the last of his things up to his new quarters next to Da'an's. He had been aware of the Companion's impatience at the time it was taking, but had been determined to get the task out of the way first so that it wouldn't ruin his evening later.
Bidding Lili a good night, he made his way down to the audience chamber, where his Companion paced restlessly before the windows. Da'an approached when he entered and met him half way across the room.
"Hey," he greeted him as he took his hands. "I've only been gone a few days..."
"Ah, but it might have been the beginning of a permanent separation," the Companion replied as he blushed brightly, his relief at Boone's return communicating itself to his Implant through their linked hands.
"Well, I'm back now and we're living under the same roof, so I'd say that things worked out fairly well for us," he replied.
Da'an nodded and allowed his Implant to lead him back to the window seats.
Reaching into his pocket, Boone brought out the letter he had been given. "Jonathan Doors asked me to deliver this to you," he related, as he handed it over.
Da'an opened it and scanned the contents before passing it over to Boone. "Please feel free to read it," he offered with a satisfied look upon his face.
He did just that:

Old friend,

            I owe a debt that I can never repay.

I want you to know I've finally come to

 terms with my condition.  I no longer blame

you for it.  You tried to warn me.  It's my own

fault that I wouldn't listen...

            I also know that you let me go that

day I faked my  death.  I hope that what I've

done here and now has helped in some

small way to pay the debt I owe you.

I see now that Boone was right. We

are in this thing together.

                        -D

"Well," Boone commented, as he refolded the paper. "It would seem that your kindness to Doors all those months ago came back to you tenfold."
"I am well acquainted with the human phrase, 'what goes around, comes around'," the Companion said. "We too have a similar saying..." Seeing his friend's obvious interest, he continued. "We are all joined - linked - in an endless circle of life and death."
Boone actually reacted physically, jumping slightly as he heard the words.
"What is it which disturbs you?" Da'an asked.
"Nothing...except that I heard those very words from a human woman...just before she died. They were the last she ever spoke..."
"Katya Petrenko?"
He nodded.
"Then... some of my parent's spirit was passed down along with his gift, for it was one of his favorite sayings..."
They sat together for some time, silently musing over the strangeness of fate before Boone suddenly yawned.
"You are fatigued," Da'an noted. "and I know that you were unable to sleep much the last few nights." He stood and gestured him to do the same. "Come, I shall walk you to your new residence."
He walked beside his friend until they arrived at the door to the room which had been Sandoval's and was now his own. "I am tired," he admitted, but I have something I wish to give you first..."
"A gift?" The companion looked both surprised and pleased. "What is the occasion?"
Boone led the way to the higher chamber, stopping outside Da'an's room. "The gift is simply to show that I cherish your friendship," he explained. "I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could give a member of a race who already has so much...and something you told me a while back gave me the key."
He held out his hand, palm outwards.
"Take my hand, Da'an," he encouraged the Companion. "Share with me... now that our bond has joined us so closely to each other."
With a look of wonder on his face, Da'an joined hands with his Implant, even as Boone opened the door to his chamber and led him inside.
His mouth hung open as he saw that everywhere, the room was decorated with flowers. Day lilies near the window, roses on the desk, hydrangeas near the bookcase...they were everywhere! "Boone..." he began to speak but stopped suddenly.
He sensed something...
It was sweet? Soothing? Relaxing? ....It was....
'SMELL', Boone's mind prompted him.
He turned to stare at his human friend in amazement and awe.
"I smell them..." he whispered. "I smell them through you!"
Boone sniffed deeply, a sappy look on his face at the childlike wonder which seemed to transfix his friend. He tugged his friend over to the orchids, pointing out a new one which sat on the window sill. "This orchid is my other gift to you, for having cared for all the others," he said as he bent toward the deep purple petals and inhaled their aroma. A sideways glance at the companion showed him that he had closed his eyes, a look of pure bliss on face.
"This is..." Da'an began, as he lost control of his human disguise and reverted back to his true form. "...the most wonderful thing I have experienced since my arrival on your planet." His voice shook slightly as he continued. "Please...may we experience the scents of the others as well? I shall commit them to memory so that I might remember them again whenever I see such beauty..."
"Da'an," he smiled, feeling choked up at the joy his Companion was radiating to him through their sharing. "I promise you that when your garden blooms, that we shall walk in it together and you shall experience it as I do..."

FIN