This story takes place between 2 episodes of Outcasts. It doesn't really matter which two.
Disclaimer: I do not own Outcasts. Although, the rights will probably be quite cheap in a week or so...
It was a normal, boring day in the frontier town of Forthaven. President Richard Tate looked out over the city from his window, admiring the view - rows and rows of identical cargo containers as far as the eye could see. The sight always failed to take his breath away. He was proud of this city, proud of what they had achieved, with only the indomitable force of the human spirit to help them. From nothing, they had created civilisation, the last remnants of humanity. What had happened to Earth was a tragedy, everyone knew that - especially what had happened in Bogota - but they had endured.
More than endured - flourished. Yes, there had been tragedies. There had been the plague, the illegal executions, the unforeseen natural disasters, the band of angry super-clones plotting their destruction, all that. But the essential life-force, that which made them human, had seen them through. It had matured them, given them the tools...
Tate turned around to see his chief of security, Stella Isen, standing in the door, a look of confusion in her eyes. "What are you doing?"
"Just thinking. Thinking of this..." He gestured to the city. "What we've built. What we've gained..."
"No, I meant, why were you standing here just making a speech to yourself?"
Tate frowned. "Was I not just thinking that?"
"No, you were just ranting out loud."
"Oh." He shrugged. "Sorry. I've been trying to stop that. I'd just been mentioning that to my children last night." He shot her a look. "And I know my children are dead, but that doesn't mean I don't still see them. I wish I knew why that was. I know it's not supernatural, and I know I'm not going crazy."
"I know." Stella placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I don't believe in the supernatural either. And I certainly don't think you're crazy. But I believe you about your children. I know that doesn't make sense, but it's how I feel."
"I appreciate the support." Tate turned away. "Especially because I know Julius Berger is about to make a play for power."
"You're sure then."
Tate nodded curtly. "He's making all the right moves. Walking around, looking shifty, giving strange speeches to people in public places...it all fits."
"What will you do?"
"What can I do? Just bide my time...and wait for him to make his move." Tate clenched his fist. "His influence is growing...have you seen the crowds he gathers in the town? Sometimes it's up to seven...even nine people. It's incredible."
"I'll support you," said Stella. "You know that." She cleared her throat. "But there are other pressing matters we have to attend to at the moment."
"The continuing AC problem. I'm not sure if we can simply allow them to walk around outside the compound...they could strike at any moment."
"I know..." Tate sighed. "Let me think on it. I'll get back to you."
Stella nodded, and left his office, leaving him brooding by the window.
Elsewhere in the city, Fleur Morgan, the spunky, idealistic, incompetent PAS officer was confused. She was wracked with indecision and angst. Was everything she had believed in a lie? Was Forthaven a lie? Not the town itself - it was real enough. She meant, was it a lie metaphorically? Perhaps she should just run away and join up with the ACs. They at least seemed honest and straightforward. Well, except for the bit where they'd gone back on their deal and had tried to kill Jack and Cass, but their betrayal many years ago had hardened them, obviously.
And now, with Elijah having been shot by Jack, Rudy and the other ACs were now even more mistrustful of them. So was Fleur - she could NEVER trust Cass again. Not after he had betrayed her like that.
Oh, Fleur was so tortured! It wasn't easy being the audience identification figure! It meant that she had to have actual emotions, not just strange, contradictory actions like everyone else. What she needed was some happiness in her life, something like her old ex-boyfriend, Connery McGregor. She still regretted their break-up and his subsequent mysterious death, and thought of him every single waking moment. In fact, not a moment went past that she didn't think of him. True, she hadn't mentioned him before this point, but that didn't mean he wasn't important.
If only they could get over their differences, like Cass and his ex, whose name she had forgotten at this point. True, they hadn't seen her since, but Fleur knew that they were the best of friends now. Interrupting her thoughts came a familiar mockney voice.
"There you are! I've been looking everywhere for you!" It was Cass Cromwell, her fellow PAS officer - a changeable sort of man. He was wearing an angry expression. "Where you been, girl?"
"Just thinking," she said sullenly.
"Well, we don't got time to think, all right!"
"We HAVE to think!" she shouted, standing up suddenly. "Don't you understand! That's what makes us human! We have to question things, stand up for what we believe in, fight for what's right! Otherwise, we've lost our natures, and humanity should have just died on Earth. Just like all those people in Bogota."
The mention of Bogota caused Cass to calm down slightly. He was still quite annoyed though. "This is about Elijah, isn't it?"
"Well, tough! I did what I had to do, and you'll just have to accept it."
Fleur sneered at him. "I don't have to like it, though. Or trust you."
Cass stared at her. "We've still got a job to do. There's been a disturbance in the bar. We've got to go sort it."
"So lead on, then," said Fleur. "I'm still a PAS officer. But if you pull a stunt like that again..."
Cass nodded grimly, and they set off for the bar.
As they approached the bar, Fleur shook her head. "I don't know why we even keep this bar around. It only seems to incite fights."
Cass gave a jovial grin. "Oh, come on - if it wasn't for the promise of getting drunk every night, I don't think I could face a typical day." He gave Fleur a cheeky wink.
Fleur grinned. She did enjoy working with Cass - he was so much fun to be around! And he hardly ever went into psychotic rages or angst fits, which was a bonus. They walked into the bar to find Stella's daughter, Lily, standing behind the bar, looking at a pair of dangerous looking men nervously.
"Hello, hello," said Cass cheerfully. "Now, what's going on here?"
"These men," said Lily in her soft English accent. "They come in here, and start talking loudly about injustices, and revolution, and I tell them to be quiet, as they are upsetting my customers. But they...they just stare at me...scarily."
Fleur placed a comforting hand on Lily's shoulder. "It's okay," she said emotionally. "I know it's hard...but we'll sort this out."
Cass walked over to the men, a grin on his face. "So...what seems to be the problem here?"
"Nothing," said one man in a surly voice. He was tall, and brown haired. "Just talking."
"Is that illegal now?" asked the other. He was shorter, and blond. He was also very stoic.
"Not at all," said Cass brightly. "But you're talking about dangerous things. Going to have to take you in for questioning."
"And if we refuse?" asked the brown haired one.
"That wouldn't be wise," said Fleur, walking over to them. As she neared, she gasped. It couldn't be! But it was - her ex-fiancee, Connery McGregor. "Connery!" she gasped. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm having a drink," he said smoothly. Oh, that Scottish voice did make her so fuzzy inside!
"Ere, who's this geezer?" asked Cass, confused - not for the first time, either.
"It's my ex-fiancee," said Fleur, disbelievingly. "You remember, the one I mention all the time?"
Of course, thought Cass. Fleur certainly did mention him ALL the time. "But..." he said.
Fleur interrupted him. "But, Connery...I thought you were dead!"
Connery gave a mysterious grin. Here was the chance for a cool witticism, to confound Cass, and charm Fleur. Sadly, he couldn't think of one, and just said "Well, I'm not," in a pathetic voice.
"Now we've really go to take you in for questioning," said Cass, and Fleur agreed.
"Not a problem," said Connery. "You want Bernard here as well?" The two PAS officers nodded, and he stood up, beckoning to his companion. "So, lead on, then."
As they were talking, Stella walked into the bar. "Any problems here?" she asked.
The two other PAS officers shook their heads. "Just taking these two in for questioning," said Fleur.
"Carry on," said Stella, and the group walked out past her. After they left, Stella looked over to Lily, and took a deep breath. She walked over to the bar and sat down, trying to give a warm smile. That didn't really work, though.
Lily walked over gingerly. "What is it?"
"I was thinking..." Stella sighed. "Maybe we were too hasty in the past. You are my daughter after all...I've been thinking...maybe we need to give this another chance."
"What are you saying?"
"I think you should move back in." Stella looked down nervously. "I mean, only if you want to..."
Lily looked at her for a moment, then gave a small smile. "Okay," she said softly. "I would like that."
"Good." Stella stood up. "I've got to get back to work...but, I'll see you later on, okay?" Lily nodded, and Stella left the bar.
Cass sat down opposite the two prisoners in the security office. How he hated doing this! He wanted to be a man of peace, but time and again he was forced into this violent role - one that he didn't want to be, but also one that he found he was ideally suited for. That was the part that sickened him the most - his aptitude for violence. How could he possibly stop the dark part of his character from taking over?
"Are you all right?" asked Connery, leaning over the table, a concerned look on his face.
"Of course," said Cass, trying to hid his inner turmoil. "Why do you ask?"
"Because you haven't asked us any questions yet. You've just been sitting there looking tortured for five minutes."
"He does that," said Fleur dismissively. "You get used to that. So tell me...where have you been for the last two years?"
"Why, have you missed me?" asked Connery, raising his eyebrow in a rakish fashion.
Fleur giggled girlishly and lost her train of thought. Seeing this, Cass was even more depressed. How could he now reveal his secret love for Fleur, with Connery back in the picture? How could he hope to compete with him?
"Anyway," continued Connery. "I suppose you're wondering what we're doing back in Forthaven."
Oh yes, remembered Fleur. That HAD been why they'd taken them here. "Of course."
"We've heard things," said Connery. "From where I've been living. Things like illegal executions...power grabs...plagues...the lies that make up Forthaven coming to the surface."
"And where exactly is that?" asked Fleur, leaning forward keenly.
"Places you wouldn't believe," said Connery darkly. "There are places here on Carpathia where things are different...so very different." He paused dramatically. "I was with the ACs for a while...worked with them, gained their trust. Learned of the betrayal at Tate's hands."
Guilt knawed at Cass as Connery spoke. He was right - they had betrayed the ACs. But more than that...they had betrayed their ideals! They had to make it right, somehow.
"But then I left the ACs...and took with me my trusted companion here - Bernard." Connery placed his hand on his blonde companion's shoulder. "We travelled for many years...exploring Carpathia. And we found things...things you wouldn't believe...wouldn't understand."
"So you're an AC?" asked Fleur to Bernard. He nodded. Fleur should have known - he had the natural stoicism that came naturally to ACs. "What sort of things did you discover?"
"I can't tell you." Connery sat back in his chair. "I can only show you."
"Hold on." Cass' eyes narrowed. "So what are you suggesting? That we go out with you, and you show us these supposed wonders?"
"That's the plan." Connery glared at Cass. "Why? Scared?"
Cass glowered back. "You know what I think? I reckon you want us to get out in the open so your AC chums can pick us off. They've wanted revenge ever since I crossed them."
"Don't be silly." Fleur frowned at him. "Connery wouldn't do that."
"No, I wouldn't," agreed Connery.
"I wouldn't either," added Bernard.
"There, see?" Fleur smiled. "Can't you trust them now?"
Cass was distraught. They'd turned Fleur against him! Was there no-one he could trust now? In his anger and confusion, he lashed out and weakly punched Connery in the face.
"Ow! Balls! What did you do that for, you mockney git?" Connery put his hand to his face. "That hurts! I bet that's going to bruise, too."
"Cass!" Fleur was shocked. "What are you doing?" She got up and rushed around the table to check on him. "Connery, are you okay?"
"Fine, fine." Connery looked at his hand. "Ah, damn it. I think I've got a nosebleed now. Have you got a tissue?"
Cass looked down at his own hand. Some blood from Connery's nose was on it. He looked at Connery in horror, then to Bernard. Bernard simply stared back at him, stoically. Cass gave an inarticulate grunt of anguish and ran out of the room.
He quickly ran to President Richard Tate's office, and barged in. Tate was behind the desk, looking at some papers aimlessly. He looked up with mild surprise as Cass entered.
"Look at this!" screamed Cass, waving his hand in Tate's face. "Look at my hands! There's blood on them again! What have you turned me into? I wish I'd never started working for you...I'm a monster! A killer...someone who can never know love, or a normal life!"
Tate looked at him for a moment. "You're upset," he said evenly. "I'm concerned."
"You bloody well should be, mate!" yelled Cass, wandering around the office. "What have I become?" He put his face in his hands. "This is just like what happened on Earth...in Bogota!"
"Cass, listen to me," said Tate, standing up dramatically. "We've all had to do things that we regret. Difficult decisions have been made, yes. Regrettable actions have been carried out. We've all changed as a result of this, and sometimes it's easy to think that it's for the worst. But that's what makes us human. Our choices, our actions. We do these things, not to fight our humanity, but to embrace it. Do you understand me, Cass?"
"Yes." Cass calmed down. He felt like he wanted to applaud this moving speech, but didn't. "I understand. I'll go take care of this situation right now."
Tate sat back down. "Good. I'm sure you'll handle it as you see fit."
Cass gave a final nod and walked out of the office, passing Julius Berger as he did so. Julius gave him a significant look and walked in, stopping in front of Tate's desk.
Tate didn't look up. "What can I do for you, Julius?"
"I was just wondering," said Julius smoothly, "if I've been given any duties on the council yet."
"None have come up."
"And...can I meet the council?" Julius raised an eyebrow. "I hear about them a lot, but I never see them."
"You look in a mirror, don't you?" Tate shot him a look. "And you're on the council, so you see yourself, right?"
Julius was stymied by this amazing logic. "You're playing a dangerous game, Richard," he said with a hint of confused menace. "I just hope you can see it though to the final whistle."
"I'll see it though to extra time if I have to," said Tate firmly. "And penalties."
Julius glared at him for a moment, then turned and left. His mind was racing. He needed to accelerate his timetable and put his evil plan into motion. All he had to do was figure out what the plan actually was first, then he could begin!
Following his pep talk from Tate, Cass was now in a fairly jovial mood. Things would be fine now. All he had to do was go back to the brig, and tell Fleur and the others that by no means would they be going out to see these fictional 'wonders' in a forceful way. Then Fleur would see what a great guy he was, dump this Connery bloke and all would be good.
His good mood didn't last long, though. When he came back into the brig, it was empty. Fleur and the other two had done a runner while he'd been out.
"Bugger," he said, staring at the empty room. Turning around to go get help, he found himself face to face with Stella.
"Cass?" she said, confused. "Where is Fleur? Where are the prisoners?"
"Gone!" Cass grunted in anger. "They've played us like right fools! Slipping out while I was busy! Who knows what they're going to do to Fleur!"
Stella frowned. "The dark haired one seemed sort of familiar..."
"It's only Fleur's ex-husband, for God's sake!" Cass looked around in desperation. "They've got almost two minutes head start! They could be anywhere by now. We'll never find them."
"Don't worry about that," said Stella darkly. "You just leave that to me."
Elsewhere in Forthaven, lovable Irish stereotype Tipper Malone was engaging in his second favourite activity - broadcasting his radio show. His favourite activity - of course - was blarney, and his third was drinking heavily. He had a stereotype to live up to, after all.
In the middle of one of his irritating links, his door burst open, revealing Stella Isen, a stern look on her face. Well, sterner than normal, anyway. "Hello, Tipper," she said grimly.
"Stella?" Tipper frowned. "What do you want?"
"Your help." Stella walked in purposefully. "Some criminals have escaped, and they have a substantial head start. We need your maths expertise to help track them."
"I'm busy," said Tipper dismissively.
"Damn it, Tipper!" Stella leaned down and stared him in the eyes. "This is of vital importance! Do you understand what would happen if they got away? It could change literally everything! We need your help, and we need it now!"
Tipper looked at her with a wild look in his eyes. "I can't help you! I can't help anyone, not even my sisters! Don't you understand?"
Stella glared at him. Finally, she gave a curt nod and walked over to a picture of the sisters in question. "These sisters?" she asked quietly.
Tipper nodded, racked with angst.
Stella sighed and set fire to the picture. Tipper screamed and leapt up, but Stella held it out his reach. "I don't want to do this, Tipper! But you leave me no choice - we need to find those fugitives!"
"Anything!" yelled Tipper in anguish.
"All right then." Stella dropped the picture and stamped on it to put out the flames, completely tearing it to pieces in the process. Tipper howled and fell onto the ground, trying vainly to put it back together again.
"We don't have much time," said Stella firmly, dragging Tipper, now incoherently ranting, out of the room. "Let's get those sums done." She hated acting so tough. But it was necessary! She would do whatever it took to preserve the safety of Forthaven - even if it ruffled some feathers. Such were the tough choices she had to make on a daily basis.
After she had deposited the shattered Tipper at the base and forced him to track the fugitives, Stella, exhausted, returned to her home. Lily was there, bent over the stove. She looked up as Stella came in, giving a warm smile of welcome. "Hello," she said in her soft French accent.
"Lily." Stella flopped down in her chair. "We need to talk."
"Talk?" Lily frowned. "About what?"
"This." Stella gestured around the room. "You and I. It isn't working, is it?"
Lily walked over. "What are you saying?"
Stella sighed. "I think you should move out. I think we should live separately from now on."
Lily nodded. "I understand," she said sadly, and left, leaving Stella alone in the flat.
Cass eagerly checked his gun. He was feeling pretty upbeat about things again, now that they knew where the fugitives were. Using Tipper's incredible mathematical knowledge, he had deduced that in the two minute head start that the fugitives had, they would have progressed to about twenty feet outside the camp. So, Cass was organizing an expedition to find them.
Accompanying him on the trip were Jack, the leader of the XPs, and Jack's trusted lieutenant, Timmy - the man Jack trusted and respected above all others. Cass knew him well too, and they had a mutual respect, sharpened by the many, many times they had interacted before now.
"So," announced Cass brightly. "Ready to trek out into the wilderness to find some bad boys, eh?"
"Ready when you are," said Jack, with a grin.
As they started out on their long, long trek, they were not to know that they were being watched. They were being watched by Rudy, leader of the ACs, who had sneaked into the camp to observe things, and to bide time until he could exact his revenge on Cass and the rest of Forthaven.
He was watching the team from his preferred hiding place - right out in the middle of a deserted street, behind no cover at all. No-one could possibly spot him here, and they didn't. He decided to follow this team, and exact his revenge at a convenient time.
Rudy began to follow them, passing by Tate on his way out. "Hello, Rudy," said Tate amiably, and Rudy nodded in acknowledgement as he followed the team, staying 'hidden' as he did so.
By now, Fleur, Connery, and the AC were almost 100 feet outside the settlement, and Fleur was beginning to tire. "How much further do we have to go before we see these 'wonders', Connery?" she asked wearily.
Connery gave her a cocky grin. "You always were whiny."
"Cautious, more like." Fleur looked back towards Forthaven. "I'm concerned. I'm taking an awful big risk by doing this, you know. Acting outside of my jurisdiction, illegally freeing criminals...I could get into a lot of trouble for this."
"I doubt it," said Bernard mysteriously. "Not with Tate. Not with how much he..." He tailed off as Connery shushed him.
Fleur frowned. "What do you mean?"
Connery gave that grin again. "Never mind. All will become clear at some point in the indeterminate future." He paused, then his face fell. "Fleur...what happened? What happened...to US?"
Fleur turned away, her face anguished. "Things changed. After we learned what had happened on Earth...in Bogota...I changed. I HAD to. There was no more room in my life for you...I had to be strong."
Connery enveloped her in his arms. "I know. But I needed you to be strong too...strong for US."
Fleur turned and gazed into his eyes. "I had to make a choice!"
"And I wanted you to choose me!" Connery closed his eyes. "Damn it, Fleur. I'm sorry. I know I sound desperate...but losing you...it was more than I could bear."
"Me too," whispered Fleur. "I've wondered...whether I made the right decision every single night since then."
Connery met her gaze. "I just have to know..." he said emotionally. "If you had to make the choice all over again...would you pick me this time?"
Fleur dithered for a bit, weighing up the question in her mind. "...Maybe?" she said hesitantly.
"Good enough for me!" said Connery, and they started furiously making out.
Back in Forthaven, Stella was restless. She was concerned about both Cass and Fleur, who had been gone for almost fifteen minutes now. How could she have allowed Fleur to slip out from under her nose? She felt really bad about it. On the other hand, people did make mistakes from time to time. It was how they corrected those mistakes that defined them.
Filled with purpose, she walked to Tipper's place. When she got there, she found Lily, trying to clean it up, while Tipper moaned incoherently in the background. Lily blinked in surprise as she entered.
"What do you want?" asked Lily in her soft South African accent.
"I've been thinking again," said Stella. "I may have been a bit hasty before."
"In what way?"
Stella attempted to give a warm smile. It didn't really work. "You're my daughter. We should give the living together thing another chance. What do you say?"
"I don't know." Lily looked over to Tipper. "Can you manage without me?" Tipper just cried softly to himself. Lily turned back to Stella. "All right then. I'll get my stuff and move back in."
Stella smiled. This was definitely going to work out this time.
After a long trek, lasting almost twenty full minutes, Cass set his bag down. "Okay," he said angrily. "I know we haven't found the fugitives yet, but it's late. We need to bed down for the night. Anyone got a problem with that?"
"I think we should keep going," said Jack firmly.
"Really?" Cass got all up in his face. "You challenging my authority, Jack?"
"We're outside the city, Cass," sneered Jack. "You've got no authority! I'm in charge here."
Cass was furious. "Listen! We've got to work together here. I know Fleur. I'm the best chance we have of finding them. So you just need to leave that attitude behind, all right?"
"Yeah." Jack shook his head at Cass. "You know Fleur so well that you let her sneak out with two fugitives. Great job, there."
Cass glowered. "Look mate, I'm about to..."
"I'm actually a bit tired myself," said Timmy placatingly. "Maybe we should rest. You know, we don't want to be too tired when we reach them."
Both Cass and Jack calmed down. It was a good thing Timmy was there. He did know the best way to sort out their differences. It was probably because he knew them both so well.
Cass nodded, and set down his bag. Suddenly, as he was doing that, he tripped over and fell down a big pit! He landed roughly, spraining his knee quite badly. How had he not seen that big pit?
"Cass?" It was Jack at the top of the pit. "You okay down there?"
"I'm alive," he said with a cough. "Feel like a right prat, though. How did we not see that?"
"Hold on, we'll get you out."
"No time!" Cass was insistent. "If we delay, we could lose Fleur and the others! You have to leave me down here! Forget me - the mission's all that matters!"
"No way, man." Jack was equally forceful. "Not leaving any men behind, not even PAS officers." There was a brief pause, then a rope was dropped down. Cass grabbed it and climbed up. As he reached the top, he took Jack's outstretched hand and clambered out.
"Thanks," he said, after a moment to catch his breath. "I guess you're not too bad after all."
"Good to hear it." Jack looked around. "Let's bunk down for the night."
After the three had set up a basic camp, and gone to sleep, Rudy walked over to them. They did not hear him, and did not stir. Rudy felt excited, in a stoic sort of way. At last, he could have his revenge on Cass.
He walked over to Cass, and prepared to strangle the life out of him. But, before he could do so, he heard something coming from Cass' mouth. He paused, trying to make out the faint words.
"I...like...dogs..." mumbled Cass in his sleep, oblivious to the danger around him.
Rudy knew now that he could not carry out his revenge at this time. Cass liked dogs. Rudy also liked dogs. He could not bring himself to kill another dog lover! Cass had once again saved himself by muttering something in his sleep. Luckily, he hadn't expressed a preference for cats or anything.
No, Rudy thought, Cass would live for another day. But he would have that revenge - and soon! Rudy made a silent promise to himself, then left the camp, leaving three sleeping figures - who would never know how close to death they had been.
Fleur and the other two continued their trek. "We've been walking for almost an hour now," said Fleur wearily. "I'm beginning to think there aren't any wonders to see."
"Don't be so sure," said Connery mysteriously. "This planet has secrets and wonders that you would not believe. And you will see them soon."
"I don't know about that!" It was Cass. He and the two XPs appeared over a ridge nearby. "This guy's leading you on a wild goose chase, Fleur - surely you can see that?"
"What's the harm in checking?" asked Fleur. "Look, Cass - can't we just follow him...see where it goes?"
Cass was distraught! Fleur had fallen under Connery's spell once more! How could he ever hope to compete with him? Fleur was lost to him now - all that remained was his duty. A duty he was going to carry out, no matter what.
Jack and Timmy raised their guns. "Hands behind your heads, okay?" said Jack.
"We're not hurting anyone," pointed out Connery. "All we want to do is show you the secrets of this place. Surely we can work something out?"
"Here's a deal," said Cass in an anguished tone. "You surrender now, and I'll guarantee your safety. Otherwise, I can't help you."
"Guarantee it?" Fleur frowned at Cass. "Like you promised Elijah?"
"This is different." Cass was aghast that Fleur would not believe him. Did she not know him at all? "No harm will come to them - you have my word."
Fleur looked at him intently for a moment. Then she nodded. "I believe you. Connery, Bernard - surrender, please - I don't want anything to happen to you."
Connery and Bernard exchanged a look, then both agreed. Connery went to drop his gun on the ground, as did Bernard. Suddenly, Cass saw the look in Connery's eyes. He KNEW that look.
"He's going for his gun!" yelled Cass. "Take them out."
Fleur screamed in protest, but to no avail, shots rang out, people fell, and the sky was filled with the smell of death. When the smoke cleared, Jack, Cass, and Fleur were okay, but Bernard, Timmy, and Connery were down.
"Timmy!" yelled Jack, rushing to his comrade's side. But it was too late. He was dead.
Fleur did the same with Bernard, but he was gone too. She rushed over to Connery, who was still barely alive. "Connery!" she wailed. "I've just got you back, only to lose you again! Why?"
Connery coughed up blood. "I know...it's the worst luck. Well..." He gave a sickly cough. "I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes."
Fleur stood up and glared at Cass. "How could you? I trusted you, and you betrayed me! AGAIN!"
Cass glowered. "I did what I had to do! If you don't like it, tough!"
"I can't ever trust you again!" Fleur wailed. She turned back to Connery, to see if he was still alive - but he was gone. There was no sign of him in any direction, nor any blood from the wounds. Cass walked over as she was looking around.
"What is it?" asked Cass.
"Connery!" Fleur continued to search the area. "He's gone! He's just...vanished."
"Maybe..." Cass looked around the mysterious landscape. "Maybe he was never here to begin with..."
With that, the two PAS officers stared at each other.
Back in Tate's office, he and Stella listened to Cass and Fleur's story. Once it had finished, they exchanged a look. "A strange tale," said Tate thoughtfully. "But he was definitely here. We all saw him."
"And then to vanish without trace?" Stella pursed her lips. "Very odd."
"I think this planet is trying to tell us something," said Fleur, still upset over recent events.
"I think so too." Tate turned around in his chair, and stared out of his window. "And maybe...maybe we're not listening the right way. Maybe we've gotten so caught up in trying to survive, we've forgotten that survival isn't enough. We have to retain our humanity - more than ever now. Because we're probably the last of humanity...because we're on an alien world...we have to be more human than ever now. Maybe that's what the planet is trying to tell us. Maybe an alien...can know what it is to be human. And maybe that alien can teach us. Can help up to regain what we've lost."
Everyone felt a lot better after that inspiring speech. Fleur and Cass walked out of the office, leaving Tate and Stella behind.
"I've got to go too," said Stella. "Got something to do."
"Before you do..." Tate sighed. "How are the XPs?"
"As well as can be expected. Timmy was the most popular one. But...I think they'll be okay. In time."
"In time." Tate nodded. "I suppose...if we as a species can get over what happened on Earth - in Bogota - then we can learn to let out loved ones go."
"Yes," agreed Stella. "And that's exactly what I'm going to do now."
Lily was busying herself around Stella's flat when her mother returned home, a glum look on her face. Well, more glum than normal, anyway. "What is it?" asked Lily in her soft Australian accent.
Stella sat down. "We need to talk."
"I've learned something today. About letting go of loved ones." Stella looked over at her daughter. "So I need to let you go, too. So I need you to move out. Right now."
Lily nodded, and went to pack her stuff again. It was the right thing to do.
Stella gave a long sigh. These hard decisions never got any easier.
Fleur stood at the entrance to Forthaven, looking out at the distant spot - almost half a mile away - where Connery had met his second untimely end. Or had he? Fleur didn't think she would ever really know. She did know one thing, though. Cass had seriously messed up this time.
As if on cue, Cass' voice rang out in her ears. "Deep in thought, huh?"
"Everything's changed," muttered Fleur. "Things can never be the same ever again. Not after this. Not now."
"We don't have time for deep thoughts, okay? We got a job to do!"
"Go away," said Fleur fiercely. "You shouldn't have given the order to open fire. You betrayed us."
"I did what I had to do," said Cass roughly. "I swore an oath to protect this city, and that's what I'll keep doing. You need to remember that."
"I can never trust you again," said Fleur sadly. "Our friendship lies in pieces."
"Right." Cass thought about this for a moment. "I'm thirsty. You want to go grab a drink or something?"
Fleur shrugged. "Okay then."
As the two PAS officers set off towards the bar, further questions still remained. What was Julius Berger's evil plan? What was up with the apparitions? Was the planet really trying to tell them something? And most importantly, did anyone still care?