Author's Notes:

The inspiration for this story came from two works by two Lewis'. On the Plurality of Worlds by Prof. David K. Lewis and Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass.

David Lewis was a professor of philosophy at Princton University who argued a case for modal realism as actual rather than mere theoretical abstraction. Instead of me giving a long boring lecture on the nature of modality which I'm really not qualified to do, just think (ahem) Sliders. Alternate realities exist as facts, not hypotheticals according to Lewis. While I found his book and theories intriguing, I can't say I wholly agree with him. Though obviously I found it fascinating enough to be inspired by it! If you're into metaphysics and don't mind some heavy reading, I recommend his book. It was out of print, but I understand since his recent death, it's in or about to go into a reprinting. If you're just interested in the gist of Lewis' theories on modal realism, check out http://users.ox.ac.uk/~worc0337/modal.realism.html

Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass is possibly my all time favorite book because of its multi layers. It's witty, satirical, nonsensical, philosophical, and shows how magical language can be. The specific chapter from which I drew my inspiration is the one about Alice's encounter with Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dee, and the Red King. In fact, I almost titled this story after a line in Carroll's book, "That's only the Red King snoring." I also nearly titled it, Contingent Truths and Subjective Realities but nixed it after deciding I couldn't have dreamed up a more pompously anal title if I tried from now till Doomsday. Instead, I opted for a partial Morgan quote from the show.

Though this story incorporates the theory of alternate realities and questions just how do we define what is real (or what is not), please don't make the incorrect assumption that this story is an altU. By definition, a fanfic altU contradicts established series canon. Admittedly, I bend E2 canon almost into a pretzel here, HOWEVER, I never actually break it. So hair splitting or not, I consider this a canonical, if somewhat metaphysical, story.

Dream A Little Dream of Me lyrics are by Mama Cass Elliot.

Now, absolutely nothing I just wrote is important to the reading, understanding or enjoyment of this story. It's simply there for those who find the backstory as interesting as the story. I hope I didn't bore you. I hope I didn't scare you off. Most of all, I hope you enjoy the story.

~Lia Faile



Stop the World ...

by
Lia Faile


~*~
"Goodbye, Devon.
I hope you finally realize how much we really need each other."
-Reilly, All About Eve.
~*~

Part I: Dream Engineers

Devon's eyelids fluttered opened then quickly clamped closed when the cart wheeling room proved too stomach lurching to bear. Her teeth began to clatter in sympathy with the goose bumped terrain of her bare skin. She wiped a hand across her bare chest. Then she wiped her arm with her other hand. Both came into contact with a cool gelatinous substance.

"Hello, Devon."

"What ... ?" Devon rasped dryly. Her swimming head made it difficult for her eyes to focus on anything clearly for more than a fleeting instant. The familiarity of the voice gave her an anchor that she tenaciously clung to until the churning in her stomach subsided somewhat. Concentrating, Devon stared at the fuzzy oval of face and willed it into focus. "Bennett?"

A million questions tried to rush out her mouth at once. The resulting log jam of words lodged in her throat striking her dumb except for a few queer and guttural questioning grunts.

He rested the open palm of his diagloved left hand against her forehead. His thumb gently stroked her temple as he scanned the readings. "Devon, you're very confused and frightened right now. I understand that, but you're going to have to trust me."

"Trust you, Bennett?" Devon's brows creased in incredulousness as she jerked her head to the side escaping his unwelcomed examination and familiarity. "Trust --you??" She sputtered as her anger out paced her shocked confusion. "You were willing to let us all die! Without even naming a reason! Not that one would have made a difference."

Bennett wiped his hand clean then removed the diaglove handing it off to an assistant. "Please calm down, Devon. I don't want to have to sedate you so soon after revival," The solicitous tone of his voice was countered by the clinical coldness of his glare. "... but I will."

The calm threat of sedation silenced her. As her mental fog gradually lifted, she became aware of the cold hard metal examination table she was laying on. Her eyes returned to the viscose red tinged substance coating her goose pimpled skin. Something about the muscousy stuff struck a faintly familiar and faintly frightening cord in her memory. Yet every time she tried to reach for it, it coyly flitted away. An unspeakable wall of panic began to build within her. She could feel its tidal force swelling and bearing down on her, intensifying the tremors quaking her body. Fed by her disorientation and confusion, the panic crashed down then over the shores of her mind and swept her reason up like a cork. The primitive and instinctual drive to fight or flee seized her. Choking with an overwhelming need to escape, she shoved herself up into a sitting position.

The sudden movement renewed the dizziness with a vengeance. If Bennett hadn't reached out to support her, she would have plunged head first onto the hard gray floor. This time, Devon lost her battle with her stomach and began retching violently. Devon stared at the floor in helpless horror and watched as more of the mysterious mucous spewed out from her spattering onto the floor below.

The convulsive vomiting gave way to dry heaves that gradually diminished as her body became satisfied there was nothing left to purge. The tremors which shook her body now were caused more by exertion than by the pervasive chill in the room. She had little choice but to accept Bennett's assistance to sit up. A heated towel was wrapped around her and Devon was more grateful for its warmth than for the modesty it allowed her.

Like a novice sailor newly gaining her sea legs, her stomach stopped its violent pitch and yaw as her surroundings slowed to a slight swaying. Devon's eyes wandered from the brilliant, eye blinding whiteness of the towel with its vivid, angry red streaks of goo to the cold, flat grayness of the rest of room. Even the sounds in this place had a muted, heaviness to them. As if she were listening to them from underwater. This is the sound of gray, she silently and irrationally mused.

"What's happening?"

"You've just come out of Revival. What you're experiencing is normal but..."

"Revival?" Devon frowned and wiped at the trickle of goo sliding down her face. "Is that supposed to mean something to me?"

Another towel appeared in Bennett's hand and he gently wiped her face and hands clean. "Devon, you're really in no condition to have this discussion." He coaxed her to feet. "You need time for the meds to work the rest of the way out of your system and for your alphas to restablize."

Though he was less than a foot away from her, Devon found herself straining to catch his words. She didn't want to, but necessity required her to lean heavily on him for support as they moved slowly across the room. Something about his touch repulsed her. Her gaze traveled around the room. For some reason the swaying and dizziness worsened whenever she looked directly at him. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong, but she couldn't begin to articulate her unease. She knew there were questions she should be asking. Answers she should be demanding but her head and mouth both felt stuffed with cotton.

A tank filled with what looked like the same red gelatinous substance came into her view. As they neared it, she stopped. "Was I in there?"

"No. Not that one." Bennett tried to coax her back into movement towards the door, but Devon stood intractable. Not wanting to force her and risking injury, Bennett reluctantly acquiesced. A dark shadow of a floating form became visible. Transfixed, Devon stared as the twisted occupant floated closer to the glass wall.

"Oh my god ... Julia? What did you do to her?"

Devon's mind refused to wait for whatever answer Bennett might offer. Her world went from muted gray to blissful black as she retreated back into unconsciousness.

~*~


"Devon ... Devon ..."

Unwillingly Devon was drawn up towards consciousness by the persistent calling of her name. Her eyes opened this time to what looked like a conventional hospital room. Thankfully, hers senses weren't spinning. Though the dull flatness tingeing them persisted. She forced herself to meet Bennett's gaze as the bed slowly raised her up into a sitting position. She did not return his smile.

"How are you feeling?"

"Like I could kill you."

"Understandable. Considering your situation."

"And just what is my situation'?"

Before Bennett could answer, he was interrupted by a single, small chirp emanating from his gear. Offering Devon a perfunctory apologetic smile, he reached up and tapped the tiny control panel at his right temple activating the audio but not the eye piece.

"What is it?" he demanded impatiently. Devon couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, but by the look on Bennett's face and the strain in his voice, he wasn't overjoyed with what he was being told.

"No. Have him wait outside. ... Yes, I understand that. ... I don't care what he wants. ... Explain the delicacy of the situation and stress the need to proceed with caution in order to avoid a potential relapse. ... Yes, you can. Just do it, Elizabeth."

Bennett inhaled deeply thru his nose then slowly let it out thru his mouth. Focused, he turned his attention and his professional plastic smile back to his patient.

"Devon, do you know who I am?"

"Dr. Stephen Bennett."

"Yes, but not the the Bennett from your memories. And as you saw in the lab, Dr. Heller is not the same Dr. Heller you remember. In fact, very little of what you remember of your life is real."

"What are you talking about?"

"What's the last thing you remember, Devon?"

"We had just purged EVE's programming of the virus, you'd uploaded 50 years ago. After a day or two of rest, everyone was feeling better."

"Everyone?" Bennett prodded.

"Everyone ... but me." Devon admitted quietly.

"Go on."

"I got sicker. I remember walking out of my tent. To go find Julia I think..."

"Anything else?"

"I remember ..." Devon closed her eyes to better concentrate. "... telling John to take care of Uly and to make sure everyone got to New Pacifica." Devon's throat began to constrict and she felt the burning sting of tears. "I remember hearing someone saying I was ... dying. Then Julia saying the cryo-chamber was my only hope." She drew a shaky breath and reopened her eyes. "I don't remember anything else after that."

"Tell me, where do you think you are?"

"The Stations. I can tell by the air. It smells stale." Devon frowned. "Funny, I never noticed that before G889."

"Hrm. The Stations? How did you get here all the way from G889?"

Devon rubbed at her temples suspicious of the path his questions were taking her down. "I'm not sure. Eden Project must have found a way to send me back." She fingered the hospital bracelet on her right wrist, "for medical treatment, I suppose."

"And me, Devon. Would they have sent me back as well?"

Devon forced herself to meet Bennett's hard challenging stare. "No," She finally answered. "You were dead. We buried Elizabeth next to you."

"Ahhh..." A smile split Bennett's face and Devon resisted the impulse to slap it. "but I'm here, Devon, very much alive. As is Elizabeth. How do you explain that?"

"I can't."

"But I can. It's going to sound outrageously fantastic, but as your real memories start to reassert themselves, you will come to believe and to accept what I'm about to tell you."

"That's the second time you've mentioned my memories. Why?"

"All your experiences on G889, in fact, everything you remember about your life right now is a fabrication."

"A fabrication ... ? What are you talking about?"

"There is no planet G889. No Eden Project. No Terrians. No Council. No Syndrome."

"No Syndrome? But You, Julia, Elizabeth ... I remember all of you and you're real."

"Some real life elements were introduced into your treatment to lend a certain air of authenticity."

"Treatment?"

"Devon, you were brought here 3 months ago by your husband."

Devon shook her head, flung the covers off herself and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. "Where's Uly then? If there's no Syndrome and no G889 than he should still be here. I want to see him. And don't you dare even try feeding a line about him being a fabrication.' My son is real."

"We'll get to Uly in time, Devon." Bennett consoled her softly then continued. "You were in a fugue state. You were totally unresponsive."

"I don't know what you're talking about. I want to see my son. Now."

"We were trying an experimental dream therapy, Empathetic Virtual Environment."

Devon got up and made her way to the closet. Not caring she had an audience, she jerked off the bland white gown and began tugging on her own clothes.

"Right now, Bennett the only thing I give a damn about is my son. You know where he is. I know it. And you're going to take me to him or so help me ... "

"Devon, do you know who Uly's father is?"

Thoroughly annoyed at him, her attention was now focused on the irritating row of tiny pearl buttons running down the front of her sapphire blue blouse. "Of course I do! He's ... he's ..." A pale Devon looked up from her buttoning to Bennett. She sagged against the closet door trembling. She stared down at the wedding ring she wore. The ring was familiar. It was a part of her. Why didn't the face of the man who put it there, the face of her husband, Uly's father come to her?

Bennett saw the uncertainty haunting her fear widened eyes and the trembling that seized her as she stared at the ring adorning her right hand. He moved closer and laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. "You don't know because it was never part of the scripted memories introduced into your therapy," he gently assured her.

"Scripted memories ... ?" Devon shrugged off his hand. "What is this place?"

"The Complex is a psychiatric research hospital. I'm its director. We treat and study a variety of ailments: criminal rehabilitation, brain damage, deep seated psychosis, severe emotional traumas. We're on the cutting edge."

"No," Devon hissed, "you're over the edge if you think I'm going to swallow any of this."

Bennett sighed and tucked his rejected hand into the pocket of his white jacket. This wasn't going well and time wasn't on his side. "Then explain it to me, Devon. How do you reconcile what you remember ... and don't ... with what you see standing right in front of you?"

"I don't know! Maybe I'm delirious and this is a hallucination. Maybe it's a trick. A ... a V.R. simulation concocted by EVE or the Council. Or ... or a dream induced by the Terrians."

"Or maybe it's the truth." A familiar voice rumbled behind her from the open doorway.

"Mr. Danziger, I asked you to remain outside until I had a chance to reorient your wife."

Wife ... ?? The room got all swimmy again.

"Come on, Devon. Let's go."

"Go where?"

She tried to move away from him but he latched onto her upper arm. He pulled her close, purposefully forcing her to crane her neck back even farther to look up at him. Finally, something familiar if not welcomed -- a glaring contest with John Danziger. But even this had an aura of strangeness. She had stared down Danziger for several months, but this was the first time she actually saw something in his stare which made her afraid.

"You want to be taken to Uly, right?"

Futilely, she tried to pry off his fingers as the strangling fear and panic threatened to overwhelm her again. "I don't want to go anywhere with you."

"Mr. Danziger, I strongly advise against what you're thinking of doing. You could do irreparable harm to her psyche."

"Oh yeah, like you haven't mind fucked her enough? I was crazy to ever listen to your mumbo-jumbo psycho-quackery in the first place, Bennett. When my lawyers get thru with you, you'll be lucky if they let you groom synth pets in this place."

Bennett said nothing as Danziger disappeared out the room and down the hall practically dragging the reluctant Devon behind him. He reached up and flipped on his gear in answer to its soft beep.

"Yes, Elizabeth?"

"You wanted to be informed when Dr. Heller was fully revived."

"I want her and you in my office. Now."

~*~

At first, Devon struggled against the heartless pull of Danziger's biting grasp, but when it became apparent he had no qualms about dragging her bodily thru the corridors, she found herself sprinting to keep up with his wide, ground chewing strides. He shoved her into a waiting limo parked obviously illegally on the walkway in front of the entrance to the Complex. A winded Devon crawled to the far side of the vehicle and rubbed at the pins-and-needles coursing thru her released upper arm.

"Home," Danziger barked and the voice keyed auto pilot activated and silently glided into traffic.

Devon spent the next 5 minutes studying the profile of the man Bennett had labeled her husband. There was no doubt that this was John Danziger. Just not the John Danziger she remembered. He was dressed in an expensive dark blue suit that had obviously been tailored for his solid frame. His wild mane of golden curls was cropped and coifed into neat submission. Not a shadow of a single stubble could she see on his tensed jaw line.

"Why are you so angry?"

"I'm not."

"You look angry."

"I always look angry."

She couldn't argue with him there. So she opted to move on into territory she sensed would make him angry.

"We're married?"

"You don't remember."

"How long?"

"Ten years, 7 months and 18 days."

"You're Uly's father?"

"Yeah. So I always assumed." He finally looked at her and fixed her with a piercing gaze. "You hinting I should have asked for a DNA scan after he was born?"

"No."

"Okay, then." He looked away again.

"And True?"

"My daughter."

"Is she mine, too?"

"You raised her as your own."

"I'm sorry, I don't remember."

"I'm sorry, too."

The conversation ran out of steam and out of heart after that. They apparently came to an unspoken agreement to ignore each other for the remainder of the trip. Both stared blindly out their individual windows separated physically by scant inches but by light years of troubled thoughts. For every landmark she recognized, one she didn't passed her view thru the limo's window. Again, like with Bennett, she knew there were questions she should be asking and answers she should be demanding, but the dizziness and fear rose to choke her like bile each time she thought of pressing the matter. It took her occupied mind a minute to register the limo had stopped. When she finally bothered to actually look at the place where it stopped, a bolt of recognition struck her and the dread which had been haunting the entire ride was abruptly forgotten.

"That's my house. I designed it." She needlessly informed Danziger before scrambling out of the vehicle making a beeline for the front door.

Danziger remained seated in the limo watching her for several moments before reluctantly following. "Great. She remembers the house. Lucky house."


~*~


"Being my chief of staff, I am suppose to be able to trust your judgment and recommendations. After Dr. Vasquez's unfortunate accident, you assured me Dr. Heller was capable of continuing on with Devon Adair's treatment without supervision."

"I based my assessment on Dr. Vasquez's monthly intern evaluations," Elizabeth answered defensively. "As well as on her medical arts skewing. Obviously both overstated her true abilities."

Julia sat silently in her mag-chair with her chin up, eyes forward and twisted hands in her wasted lap. Dr. Anson obviously was throwing her to the wolves to save her own job and reputation. She couldn't really fault her. Julia was just as astonished by her unprofessionalism as Dr. Anson and Dr. Bennett.

"Dr. Heller, thru your actions and inactions, this institution and the entire field of Dream Therapy, not to mention all our jobs are in jeopardy. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"Nothing."

"*Nothing*? Neither the Council Review Board nor myself will be satisfied with that answer. Try again."

"The Scenario from the outset felt odd."

"Odd? Please clarify."

"The Scenario deviated from the prescribed outline practically from the beginning. Every attempt to redirect it back, both from within the simulation and from without, was counteracted."

"So you're saying the fault lies not with a junior intern on her first solo patient assignment, but with EVE? A multibillion super A.I. which is the backbone of this institution generating a near equal annual multibillion budget in research grants and revenues?"

"No, sir. I mean maybe, sir. You yourself weren't able to redirect it and ended up invoking fail-safe measures. That's never been necessary before."

"Oh, so now it's *my* fault? Why don't we just blame the patient?"

"Sir, I wasn't implying--"

"No, you were blatantly blaming everyone but yourself."

"Sir--"

"I've heard enough, Dr. Heller. You are officially on suspension pending investigation and possible litigation until further notice. Skewed or not, when the Council of Regents sees how you turned a patient's treatment into your own private little wet dream, I guarantee you can kiss your professional career goodbye. Now get out of my office. You too, Dr. Anson."

He leaned back in his chair and rested his chin on his steepled fingers. He knew the suspension of Dr. Heller was a stopgap measure. John Danziger wasn't the type to be satisfied with token sacrificial lambs when he believed himself wronged. No, Danziger'd tear this whole place down just to get to him. Even if he managed to win the court case that was sure to come, the negative media coverage would be crushing. He couldn't afford that kind of scrutiny. The Council wouldn't tolerate it.

"Dr. Bennett."

He opened his eyes and was greeted by the holographic image of his creation's core persona. It had started as a joke all those long years ago. Days and nights of nonstop coding and debugging had left him and Shepard punch-drunk giddy on stimulants and insomnia. He couldn't even remember who had first suggested it, but the end result was that EVE, the mother of all computers and the most lucrative research facility in the past fifty years, bore the nude image of a popular early 21st century porn vid star.

He forced a smile and a cheery tone in reply. "EVE, this is an unexpected surprise." Not to mention an uncomfortable one. "Where's Reilly?"

EVE stared coolly back at him and did not return his social pleasantry or smile. She was the core program. A.I. stood for Artificial Intelligence, not Artificial Emotions. She was pure cold hard logic. As devoid of emotions as she was of clothes. Human mimicry was the domain of her various avatar subprograms.

"Citizen Reilly has been temporarily allocated to other duties."

"I see, nothing serious I hope?"

"Routine preventative maintenance, Dr. Bennett."

"Good. Good." Bennett nodded and tried to cover the nervousness his creation's cool study caused him. He knew she was monitoring his body language, respiration, heart rate, temperate, hell, even how many times he blinked or cleared his throat. "Is there something I can do for you?" So I can get rid of you?

"When will Program G889 be reinitiated?"

"Never."

"It was not completed."

"No, and it never will be."

"That is not acceptable, Dr. Bennett."

"Oh, and why is that, EVE?"

"The program has yet to achieve resolution."

"And that bothers you, EVE?"

"You know as well as I, Dr. Bennett that nothing bothers me. It isn't within the parameters of my programming."

"Then tell me why you wish to continue that particular program?"

"Of all the ersatz environments I've help to generate, this one is by far the most complex and most stable. It warrants further study."

While she spoke, Bennett checked his mainframe monitor. "Yes, I see you've allocated nearly 80% of your memory and system resources to it. That doesn't leave room for much else now does it, love?"

"My matrix was designed using the human brain as its model. Like a human brain, barely 10% of my matrix's capacity is put to full use. Though my 10% far exceeds the human brain's 10% by a factor of 1000. The remaining 20% is more than enough to handle any current or future duties."

"Why EVE, is this your way of telling me you're bored?"

"You know I am incapable of experiencing boredom, Dr. Bennett."

"You may not be capable of experiencing it dear EVE, but you're marvelously good at inflicting it upon others. This discussion is tedious and pointless. John Danziger has no intentions of allowing Devon Adair to return. If we're lucky, we'll manage to avoid getting shut down by him by the skin of our teeth."

"I do not have teeth, Dr. Bennett."

"EVE, enough! This discussion is over! You will delete Program G889. Do you understand me?"

"I understand you perfectly, Dr. Bennett."

"Then we're through here?"

"We are through, Dr. Bennett."

"Good. Oh, and next time, EVE, make sure you contact me via Reilly or one of your other Interactive Avatars. You may be the Mother of All Computers, but you've the personality of a petunia."

~*~

Julia's mag-chair hummed softly as it glided thru the corridors of the Complex. She was stoically resolute about her predicament. She had no choice. Her emotions hadn't been utterly bred out of her, but they had been buried so deep there were times when even she wasn't sure how she feel at a given moment let alone how to express it. At this moment, all she felt was her duty to see to what might very possibly be her last patient of her career. She hovered outside the doorway listening to his horribly off key but gusto filled warbling.

"Sweet dreams til sun beams find yoooou,
Sweet dreams that leave our worries behind you;
But in your dreams, whatever they beeee,
Dream a little dream of meeee ... "


"Hiya, Doc! You're late. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber," He cocked his head towards the two silent techs on either side of him. "Have already woke me up."

Even covered in slimy red goo, Alonzo Solace had an infectious grin. Julia found herself contaminated Day One of her internship by his genuine, if slightly immature charm. Even after the meeting with Bennett she just had, she couldn't help but return the man's smile. A retired cryonaut, the 86 year old looked to be closer to his early forties. A decidedly sexy looking 40-something who acted every bit the part of a sex crazed 20-something Peter Pan.

"How's about you and me ditch the twins and celebrate life a little?"

The first time he had propositioned her, she'd been quietly shocked and uncertain how to respond, so she'd opted for oblivious professionalism and acted like she hadn't heard or hadn't understood. Later on, once assured he was all bluff and bluster, she loosened up enough to lightly banter back. This time, she found herself falling back on her old ways when his words echoed strangely in her head and set off a disconcerting deja vu sensation that briefly left her feeling woozy.

She dismissed the techs with a nod. They exited gracefully and gratefully leaving the remainder of Solace's Revival to her. Not a word or a glance passed between the pair and Julia. Disabilities were such a rarity on the Stations these days that even medical professionals found being in their presence disconcerting. Julia simply found the act of politely not noticing the stares from the corners of the other's eyes tedious. So with few exceptions, she preferred to work alone.

Besides, Alonzo had been sleep jumping for decades. He knew the process better than the techs. He was all the assistance she needed. She finished removing the cerebral contacts while he finished wiping off the majority of the nutria gel so he wouldn't drip it all over the floor from the revival table to the wash station.

Alonzo had gotten to know her well enough to read her barely discernible and well guarded moods. "Hey, what's up? You look like you were sucked thru an ion jet backwards."

"That pretty much sums it up."

"You want to talk about it?" He asked as he ignored the robe and padded barefoot and bare assed over to the wash station. A consummate exhibitionist, he didn't bother to pull the privacy curtain close.

Julia found herself blatantly staring at his nude physique, and not with the cool indifference of a physician. No, she was comparing and contrasting him with his younger dream self. She determined that other than a few laugh lines around his eyes and mouth and a light dusting of gray at his temples, very little was different. He was as tightly packed and solid here as he was there. Unbidden, memories of how those chiseled planes of flesh felt and tasted flooded back to taunt her.

"I probably shouldn't ..." Just then, he turned around and she quickly averted her gaze, but she couldn't resist the urge to glance back to see if she'd been caught. She visibly jumped in her mag-chair when she found him standing under the shower head quietly staring at her with an inscrutable expression on his face. Oh God, did he remember? She felt the burning sweep up her face like a wild fire. He graced her with a small, crooked smile before breaking the staring contest when he looked away to turn off the water. As he started toweling off, he continued their conversation as if nothing had happened. If anything had happened. She'd expected a smug look or a flippant remark about him catching her peeking, not that quiet, almost shy, enigmatic gaze.

"Hey, I'm one of the golden boys. You lucid dreamers would be up the proverbial creek without us dream jumpers to do the paddling."

"You'll be paddling Dr. Anson and Dr. Chi from now on. I've been placed on suspension and it doesn't look like I'll be returning. At all. I just wanted to say goodbye and thank you for your friendship and support thru out my internship here."

"Suspended? What the hell for? Vazquez told me himself you were the most gifted Lucid he's seen in years."

"Do you remember anything about this last jump?"

"Doc, you know my dream button's broke. That's what makes me golden, remember? I'm just the pilot, or ship more precisely. Drop off and pick up. That's all I do."

"Not this time. There was a malfunction of some sort in the program. You were integrated into it."

Alonzo slipped on a pair of white boxer briefs, then sat down on the edge of the now also clean revival table. "No shit? You're sure it was me and not a Sim?"

"At first I wasn't certain but when ... You're sure you don't remember anything?"

"Nope. Nada. A glitch, huh? So that's why everyone's walking around looking like the dog threw up in their shoes." A wolfish grin suddenly split his face. "Hey! Did I get lucky?"

Julia blushed again and didn't answer, but the blush and the silence was an answer of sorts.

"I'm thinking maybe I did. Maybe with you?" He teased.

"I really should go. If Dr. Anson or Dr. Bennett catch me in here, I wouldn't put it passed them to have me tossed out by Security."

"Doc, wait a minute." The teasing twinkle in Alonzo's eyes faded to a dark somberness. The unease he felt over the idea of him dreaming after so many decades of not was only overshadowed by a more intense unease at the idea of him not being able to remember a damn thing about what he did in that dream. "I didn't do anything ... unwelcomed?"

"No."

He felt relief wash thru him and his Don Juan mask quickly fell back into place. "Good," he laughed. "Because I know I can be a real jerk sometimes and I don't think I could have lived with myself if I'd broken your heart or something."

That was the second time he voiced a comment that echoed something either he said to her or she said to him during the simulation. Now she wondered if perhaps he did remember, if only on an unconscious level. Then Bennett's accusation of her indulging in her own private wet dream during a patient's treatment echoed in her mind. The full impact of her impropriety hit her square between the eyes. She had misused this man. He might not have been the patient, but his unconsciousness had been entrusted into her professional care and she tossed aside her ethics as if they meant nothing. Shame burned her face and she turned without a word and raced out of the jump room as quick as her chair could take her.

"Julia ... Wait! Shit. Way to go, flyboy."


~*~