The Three Graces

by Mistress Sarah

Summary: Ending of Karma
Disclaimer: These are not my characters. They are owned, copyrighted and created by far wiser people than me. I have attempted to bring them back to life for a short time, attempting to ease that gaping hole in my heart where B5/Crusade once was.
Note: John Matheson; Matthew Gideon. NC-17. m/m. Angst.
Archiving: SW and WWOMB archive
Rating: R

Matthew was here, and he had spoken to me. Least I think he had. Being heavily drugged, I was groggy, but I thought he was here? I wasn't that sure, as maybe it was a hallucination, especially since the world was at a 125-degree tilt. I really was hoping that it was a mirage of some sort, until I felt someone slide something on my finger. Rubbing it with my thumb, I realized it was a metal ring. Blearily, I had tried to concentrate on his voice, and sound of his voice was soft and soothing. There were lights in my eyes, and I just shut my eyes, focusing on what he was saying to me.

[Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Don't blame yourself for what's going to happen. Tell Sheila I finally understand what she was trying to tell me. You've been a good friend, John, better that I ever deserved.]

What? He was here? Somewhere, deep within me, I felt something tear. Matthew. He was now a captive. No doubt... he had agreed to the swap, so he could get me out.

"Matthew?" I had whispered. Everything was still spinning, and I felt ill.


Trying to concentrate, I opened my eyes, ignoring the fact that everything was at an angle, and I saw Matthew. He gave me a brief smile, and he flashed a gesture at me rather quickly. "Love you" was what it said. I was becoming more aware of the situation, and I suddenly realized that the only other time Matt had ever told me that he loved me, was when he thought he was going to die.

Not again, Matt! This was getting rather tiresome; that the only time you admitted that you loved me when were you thought you were going to check out permanently. Damn it. I suddenly felt like I was in the grips of near hysteria as I had the urge to laugh wildly. All I could think of was that if the two of us ever got the hell out of here, I'd march him out to Sheila in double-time, so he could work on that little problem of his. That thought was so asinine an idea that I had to bite my lip to prevent myself from cackling uncontrollably.

You know, Matt, I've heard that there are some couples don't need to face death before the one partner admits that he loves the other one. It had taken me some time before I could easily admit to him that I loved him, and he'd hug me tightly, while I'd sense a mixture of several deep emotions from him in response. I'd imagine that what I was sensing was actually Matt's love, combined with a few other emotions, and I'd force myself to be happy with that. Matt, it would be so much easier if you could say it once in a while.

Trust me.

"Prep the messenger, and then dump him out on the streets somewhere. Maybe in front of the Earth Force headquarters, if you can do it without being caught."

I felt strong arms grabbing me, pulling me into an upright position and there were voices telling me where the hostage exchange was going to take place. For a final moment, my vision stabilized, and suddenly everyone was standing where he or she was supposed to be, on the ground, rather than the walls. I looked into Matthew's hazel eyes, and I realized that he was at peace with his decision. He knew that he wasn't getting out of this mess, and that he was OK with that. What had he told me? 'I've got a way out' which meant he had something up his sleeve... oh my God, Matt. You were planning on dying here, but you were going to do it in your own way.

Then they blindfolded me, injected me with another drug, and I knew no more.

Coming to, I realized that I was cold. I was also tied up rather neatly with a gag in my mouth. I struggled for a bit, especially when I began wondering if Mars had rats also. Trying to be quiet, as not to bring attention to myself, I knew that there was... someone... or someones... watching me struggle. I couldn't sense them really.... But somehow I knew that they were getting a great deal of amusement of watching me flop around like a fish on dry land.

"This is really fucking odd, don't you think, boys?"

I flinched when I heard a voice casually remark that, and I thought that yes... perhaps it was a bit odd seeing something gagged and tied up in the middle of a deserted street in Mars. The voice was low and imperious, and I was suddenly rather nervous about being restrained while that voice commented. Who knows what he'd do? Trying to move my arms, I realized that I while I couldn't move my arms, I could still rub Matthew's ring with my thumb. I hadn't lost it during my travels, so I tried to be optimistic, that perhaps I could one day give it back to him. I couldn't really do that if I was tied up like a Christmas Present. Moaning, I tried to tell the guy to stop being a smart-ass and help me out. Time to roll the dice, and I hoped that I hadn't gone from the frying pan into the inferno.

"I have to agree with you on that." That was a voice that sounded familiar. "You were always a smart one."

"Aye. But dontcha think that we should untie the poor lad? Looking a might uncomfortable now, aen't he? What with his arms tied up to his feet like that." That third male voice was without the doubt using the worse fake Irish accent I had ever heard.

"Nì hea! You would know, as you were the last one of us in that particular position. Gods above, if you're going to mock my accent all these long years, at least try to get it correct." Second voice again, and it sounded really familiar and... yet&...very long suffering... as though he was getting really tired of the third guy making fun of his accent. It was an odd accent, as it was obviously Irish, but it had hints of... what the best I could describe was as... an Asian overlay.

"Aye. Finn Mac Cumhail. As your loyal follower, Cumhail, I will not mock the way you butcher Standard."

Cumhail? There was only one guy that I knew that threw that name around, as most people didn't know that it was an Irish warrior-bard of the early second or third century. I hadn't known it myself until someone on the Dya had explained the joke to me. Now, the accent of the second man was making sense, as though he was someone for who Gaelic was his mother tongue, and that he had spent many years conversing with someone for who Standard was not her native language. Maybe it wasn't that bad being found by these particular men, as I trusted them to untie me. They WOULD untie me, though they might mock me for the next millenium or so.

"I bet Cumhail didn't get all this lip from the Fiannas. I'll have to look it up when I have time. But first, I have to teach you how to get yourself untied. A mere babe could have gotten untied from those knots in half the time it took you. Didn't you pay attention when I showed your group of rookies in basic training? Don't you worry, lad, next class I'm teaching, you'll be front and center."

"Enough. Do you think you two old men could stop your verbal wordplay, and possibly get him untied sometime this millennia? Michael? Tom? Do I need to remind you of the obvious, all the time? Lord, I'm glad you two trained me before your minds started slipping this bad." It was the first voice again, and I could tell that he was amused by their behavior.

That earned a sputter of protest from the other two voices, and I suddenly had this urge to grin.

"I'd love to, but I'm currently knifeless thanks to that lousy, rotten..."

Michael ST. JOHN? Thomas O'NEILL? It had to be, as Nì hea meant NO in Gaelic and Mike always called O'Neill, Cumhail. It was a long-standing joke between the two of them.

It was one of the favorite jokes among the crew of the Dyavaprthivi to hopelessly mangle words in Russian, Hindi, Sanskrit, Gaelic and a few other languages into something known as the Dyavababble. Just about everyone on the ship was a child of the colonies, and every language known to humanity was spoken among its crew making for some interesting moments when someone forgot a particular term in Standard and used Dyavababble instead. Everyone had enjoyed practicing Dyavababble, especially when you were trying to impersonate the head of security. Tom was as Irish as a wolfhound, and on the rare occasions when he got really pissed off, the sounds of Eire were heard throughout the ship.

Zbignewski had done a rip-roaring impersonation of Tom one night at dinner, twisting his Dyavababble into a horrendous mixture of Gaelic and Russian words. "Go n-ithe an Bhadhbh do bhall fearga." Our table had been almost in hysterics, especially when we realized what it translated into. One look at another person sitting at the table would cause everyone to start to laugh again, until we realized that O'Neill had been staring at us, obviously puzzled by our behavior. We quickly settled down, as he was looking rather reproachful at what we were saying.

"Gentlemen. Ladies." O'Neill was rather concerned about Vladi's sanity, but he was far too polite to actually come out and say it. "Doctor? Is there a particular reason why you're shouting that particular curse in the cafeteria? Do you really think that the War Goddess is going to hear it, and come down to dine on your enemy's bullocks? I don't think that's what they're serving tonight." He then looked doubtfully at the slop on his plate. "Then again, they might be serving Drakh's bullocks tonight."

Now they were discussing KNIVES. Hello!?!?! I'd really like to get untied, please? Stop the banter, boys. I've heard Tom and Warlock telling their tall tales before. Mike would take a short story and twist it into an incredible tale while Tom dryly commented on key sections. It could take HOURS for them to finally get to the point and decide to untie me. Whoever this third male was, obviously Tom knew him well enough to for Tom to feel comfortable enough to be facetious.

Tom never let his guard down, but apparently, Kritika had managed to get past all the barriers somehow. When Vladimir had gleefully admitted that Makam and O'Neill were married, I had been completely stunned. O'NEILL? I had kept repeating that while Vladi laughed.

"Amazing, isn't it? He probably treated her as another mountain to be conquered."

Now O'Neill was standing next to me in a deserted Martian street, and I felt like laughing again. Maybe we could get Gideon the hell out of this damn mess... AGAIN.

That is, if they ever stopped chewing the fat long enough to untie me.

That flashed through my mind while the voice continued a running commentary on Matthew's parentage, or lack of it.

"Michael..." That stern voice was warning Michael that while he while he was laughing at Mike's rather crude commentary, he was rapidly losing patience with him.

"Don't worry. I have plenty of knives. I might even lend you one or two of them if you promise not to lose them." O'Neill was not going to let Warlock live down whatever happened to him.

Their verbal sparring continued, but rather expertly, my bonds were cut, and soon, I was able to remove the blindfold from my eyes.

"Who are you?" I asked that to the third man who was watching me intently. He looked familiar, but I wasn't sure if it WAS who I thought it was. I thought that I had seen a picture of him on Makam's office wall, and I was still unsure about the resemblance. Neither of the three wore anything that looked anything a bit like military standard issue. Instead, if I didn't know two of them, I'd assume that I had fallen in with an even rougher crowd that the one I had left. All of them were in dark clothes, and there was a bulk about them that plainly said that they were wearing body armor. None of them looked happy, maybe since it was after one in the morning local time.

"We're the three fucking graces. Nice to meet you, Lt. Comdr. Matheson, I presume?" He was only a little bit older than I was, but he carried himself like a Starship Captain.

I nodded my head, and remembered how St. John was now whimsically calling the senior officers on the Euphrosyne, the three graces. They were named Alga, Splendor, Euphrosyne, Mirth, and Thalia, which meant Good Cheer. In this case they were someone I believed might be my infamous predecessor on the Dya, Gabe Matrando, O'Neill and St. John, who wasn't looking very cheerful with a black eye.

Rubbing my hands, I pretend that I was trying to get the feeling back into them. Instead, I was carefully turned Gideon's ring, so that only the band was showing. Perhaps the other men would think it was merely a metal band of some sort. I was probably being a bit over sentimental, but for now it was my only link with Matthew. If anything... happened with Matthew, I wanted to keep the ring, instead of having to give it up for evidence.

[Keep it, in remembrance of me.] He had said and I would.

"Who are you?" I asked to the stern, dark skinned man who was carefully trying to help me stand.

"Call me Alga." He growled that at me.

"Tom?" I questioned him, hoping that he'd at least give me a straight answer.

"Captain Gabriel Matrando of the EF Euphrosyne."

"It's an honor, sir. You were a tough act to follow on the Dya." Dryly I admitted that, as Matrando had been an impossible yardstick to measure myself against. Anything I did, I was informed that Matrando could have done it better, faster, and with less aggravation for poor Madam Dragon. Gabriel Matrando had never been in a bar fight, and if he had, he would have stopped it with merely a warning look.

O'Neill barked a laugh and suddenly Gabe smiled. "Don't tell me that the Dragon Lady fed that shit to you also. She had me in Goddamn knots for my first six months as her XO, as 'Jakob' did everything better and faster that I was. Jakob did this, and Jakob did that, and he parted the Red Sea with nary a drop of sweat on his brow. I wanted to fucking kill him."

"I feel so... sorry for both of you, as I had to hear about you two all the damn time. Matrando did this, and Matheson did that." That was Warlock, who had been acting XO for Makam twice, once after Matrando had left, and the next time was after I had left. "Sometimes it was 'Well Gabe, John and Jakob....'"

O'Neill laughed, and we all turned to look at him. He flashed the three of us a whimsical grin, and then quickly assured us that it was "Nothing. It was nothing."

"God. It was bad enough being her XO, can you imagine being married to her for eighty five years?" Matrando stage whispered that to Michael, and the three former Executive Officers of the Dragon Lady all laughed. "I'd rather take a vow of celibacy and join the Church of Elvis. Though I don't look good in leather and sequins."

Tom wasn't happy with that comment. "Matrando, twenty years."

"It just seems like a hell of a lot longer." That was Warlock who earned a disapproving glare from O'Neill.

"Thank you, and it's been absolutely fucking wonderful. Hopefully you'll never get married, as you'll drive your partner absolutely crazy."

"I think you've been... insulted." That was Matrando, who was grinning.

"Nì Hea, Lad. I've been complimented." Warlock spoke softly in his fake Irish brogue while O'Neill sighed.

"Stop it, with the accent or I'll demonstrate the proper way to throw an Executive Officer through a window. Unlike what happened on Babylon 5, you won't have a bevy of beauties waiting to carry you off to Valhalla."

"Me wife likes me accent and me crooked nose." Matrando threw that out softly, and I had to laugh. They were ALL nuts.

The men turned serious, and began walking rapidly toward a parked shuttle. I was still feeling rather woozy, and I wasn't able to keep up with them. O'Neill then returned to where I was, and carefully allowed me to lean on him, so I could keep up. Cautiously, I made sure that I wasn't making skin-to-skin contact with the older man. While my ability was just about nil right now, I didn't want to accidentally scan him.

"How'd you find me?" I asked him that while trying to concentrate on putting one foot after the other.

"Lucky guess. Ask St. John." Gabe rumbled that at St. John who was looking innocent.

"Part of my colorful past. When I was a wee bairn on the street of my piece of shit home world, I used to scavenge anything I could find off the bodies that were dumped. Sometimes they were alive, sometimes they weren't. That's all I'll say." St. John was actually being rather serious with that comment, and I suddenly realized that Michael was a man of many secrets. Makam had told me that, but I hadn't believed it until now.

"Captain." Now to inform Gabe of what had happened. Gabe wanted to get the hell out of the area where I had been dumped, as he was looking for a possible ambush.

"Call me Gabe, for now. I'm incognito, and no doubt facing a court martial in my near future, especially after springing St. John from the hospital."

"I don't think we should go to HQ." Admitting that softly, as I had tried to think of possible alternatives, but I simply didn't know whom the hell I could trust anymore.

"Actually, we're not. The cultists fucking knew that Gideon couldn't keep his mouth shut about them kidnapping you, so EF has the hostages rounded up and waiting to be delivered. All we've been waiting for is for you to be found so you would tell us where to drop them. We were told to have the hostages ready for drop off in about thirty minutes from now, all we've been waiting is for you to tell us where to go. Lochley and the rest of the EF are searching way over there... but..." Matrando looked at Michael, wondering how far to tease him.

"I've dumped enough bodies in my time to know where people look first. No one would look here, so that's where you would be."

"So, the question is where is the hostage exchange going to take place? I hope we have enough time to join the party before they pack up the bar." He snapped that at me, like Gideon would have, and I found myself answering.

Mumbling a location to him, I noticed that Gabe was listening intently. He then paged Elizabeth Lochley, informing her that the little lost sheep had been found, and where the coordinates for the drop off were. She began asking him why I wasn't being taken to HQ, when Matrando suddenly broke the transmission after advising her that I'd be at the meeting along with the three of them. I gave him a stunned look as the sheer audacity of doing that. No doubt, Lochley would be fuming mad.

"St. John's done some finagling with some electrons. HQ can't locate us with our comlinks except if we transmit for more than a couple of minutes or so. But I'm still want all transmission kept as short as possible. For all purposes, we're ghosts right now so they can't tell us to take you two walking wounded back to HQ." The young Captain explained it to me quickly. "I'm going after Gideon myself, so that I can have a friendly conversation between two officers on why beating up my crew is NOT a good thing. If there's anything that needed to be done, if Matthew had asked politely, I'm sure Michael would have agreed to it."

Gabe looked rather fierce when he said that so I quickly looked at Michael's black eye. That combined with O'Neill's comment about Michael being tied up suddenly made me wonder what the hell had happened in the brief time I was captive? Matthew was obviously not well liked with this group of men at the moment, and I suddenly had a sinking feeling. Matthew! Couldn't you EVER behave? I get kidnapped and you start knocking out EF personnel!

"Gideon misbehaved while on the Excalibur for a brief stop, knocked Mike up, and then tied him up. He thought it was the only way to get away from EF long to make contact with your captors." O'Neill spoke softly as not to bring up a rather painful subject. "He's swapped his identity with St. John's so right now, St. John is Captain Gideon. He's been having a lot of fun with getting even with Gideon for sucker punching him by using Gideon's credit. He's ordered a bunch of cigars, and a few other odds and ends to be sent to his quarters. Mike's even ordered a whole collection of rather expensive knives to make Gideon regret stealing his. Mike's even given me a few things, as thanks from 'Gideon' for saving his stinking life the first time. It's rather infantile way of paying back Gideon, but we've were also hoping to get some good out of it. Unfortunately, both you and Gideon's command codes were deleted the minute EF found out you were kidnapped, so right now all we can do is buy stuff from the Home Shopping Hour on ISN."

"Don't forget, he sent a very nice present when "he" found out you were married. It's a really nice sectional couch that I'm sure you and Makam will like for your retirement." St. John laughed in amusement.

A COUCH? He had bought them A COUCH?

"Complete with matching chairs, end tables and a very nice coffee table." Tom's voice fairly dripped in amusement. "Glad 'Gideon' managed to match the colors in the room, as Kritika would be unhappy if it clashed with the décor."

Oh, that's good. I was worried that you didn't get any chairs with it. Nothing worse than a sectional couch without the matching end tables, I've always thought. The only thing worse would be if it didn't match the decor.

"Have to do it. Do you have any idea how much fucking paperwork I'm going to have to fill out because of this?" That was Warlock, who hated paperwork. Knowing Michael, the paperwork was probably already lost somewhere or else he'd make Matthew fill it out.

"I wanted to use Gideon's people to rescue Gideon, and that way, my people don't get involved. Lochley's going to have to use her own people for this right now." Matrando looked at Mike wryly. "So far as HQ will ever know, my crew wasn't mixed up in this mess at all, with the exception of "Powder puff" Michael who managed to locate you. Fortunately "Powder Puff" contacted me, and I contacted Lochley." Matrando's voice plainly foretold that Gideon was going to have to do a lot of fast-talking.

Michael AKA "Powder Puff" heard that comment, and he wasn't happy. Snarling at Gabe, Mike wasn't acting completely like himself, as I could see that Mike wasn't feeling very hale. "See if 'Gideon' is ordering another goddamn thing for you! You're not getting any more cigars!"

"Just allow me the chance to talk to Gideon when it's all over and done with, and I'll be happy. And keep those transmissions shorts, so they can't locate us. I don't want them telling us that we're not allowed to the dance." Apparently Matrando wasn't thoroughly disapproving of what Mike was doing, and in fact, I think he was secretly amused. But he couldn't say so officially, especially with me around, so he was staying out of it.

"Spoilsport! Tom? Think the Old Lady would like anything from you? Perhaps there's something you'd like to give the little wifey." St. John was in rare form right now, and he was enjoying spending Gideon's credits a little bit too much.

"Little wifey?" Matrando and I mouthed that at each other.

"That you've always wanted to get for her, but couldn't afford it, living on a NCO's salary? After all, Mrs. O'Neill..." Mike was on a roll, and he was obviously trying to get a rise out of Tom, who was imperturbably ignoring him.

"Mrs. O'NEILL?" Gabe and I just flinched at that comment.

"Deserves the very best. I'm also thinking that maybe he should send something to Dags and Zbignewski for their upcoming marriage? Vladimir spent a lot of time putting all the little pieces of Humpty Dumpty Gideon back together again, and he's probably going to be pissed to find out that Gideon's been cultists-napped again. Violates the five year, thirty million light year warrantee on replaced body parts. So... I'm thinking that a simple gift... that's tasteful, classy, and yet terribly expensive is in order. I've pretty much spent his next five paychecks... but his credit is still good. Apparently, he never buys a damn thing."

'Hmmm... how about I think on it for a few minutes?" O'Neill murmured that softly. "There's been a few things that I would have like to have gotten for her over the years that I've known that she would have liked and I've regretted that I couldn't get for her."

"THOMAS CAMERON KILLIAN O'NEILL!" I was absolutely startled with his rather bloodthirsty attitude. He was the one person I thought would stay on the straight and narrow, and would not condone what Mike was doing. First a couch, with matching accessories... and now he was thinking of getting more.

"Lad. If Makam gets involved somehow, he'll be wishing that Mike spending all his money were the worse thing that happened to him. I vow it on Patrick's grave. Being married to her for twenty years means that I know that she's really pissed off that she's retired right now as Lochley was pretty intense about her not being invited to the fun. I'm hoping that she's staying out of this, but I doubt it. No doubt she'll be there at the hostage exchange if she can figure out the location. If she is, then I'll kill Gideon myself."

It was then that I realized that Thomas was wearing his wedding ring on his ring finger of his right hand. He had always worn something on that finger, and I was surprised that he wasn't wearing it on his left hand. Noting my puzzled look, Tom decided to explain.

"When Nayika..." That was the Hindi term for beloved, I remembered from my sessions of Dyavababble, just like Cameron was... Gaelic for 'crooked nose'. "Wears hers, she wears it on her left hand. It is a Hindu tradition symbolizing the heart has been completed between us. Word of advice, don't ever get married in a Hindu ceremony, as one of the traditions is that the female members of the bride's family spend most of the wedding trying to pull the groom's nose. My nose was straight before her aunt got a hold of it." He laughed slightly. "At least I managed to grab her sari and made her pay a fine. They also try to steal your shoes, and I ended up having to pay to get them back. Not to mention that all her male relatives tried to attack me so I'd prove that I was worthy of the warrior caste, and then after St. John and I beat them all to pulp, they kept yanking my ears during the wedding ceremony. I haven't been beaten up that badly since boot camp."

I was amazed. O'Neill and I were actually having a conversation. The older man laughed again, softly, as I must have looked startled.

"Now, now. I do talk. I just wait until I have something important to say, unlike like those two boys ahead of us, who let every thought God gave them come tripping off their tongue. That's how come I always win when I play poker with them."

John was long gone, sent on his way to be the broker of a hostage exchange. Thirty-six adult colonists, plus six babies to be traded for one broken-down Starship Captain. I didn't have the heart to tell O'Keefe that there was no way in hell that the brains in HQ would agree to the exchange. At least, John was the hell out of here, so I could die knowing that I had gotten him out.

I wondered if the religious orders were right, that the soul was eternal, and was not capable of being destroyed. Heck, maybe Makam was right, and we were all reborn again. Hey! Maybe next time, I'd meet up with the reincarnated John Matheson again, and I wouldn't screw things up so goddamn well.

Showtime! Twenty minutes. There was a nudge in my back, and I realized that my captors wanted to take me to the rendezvous spot. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming desire not to die. I had come so far, and had so much left unfinished. Please, I really don't want to die. Not like this, not with the cultists.

The four of us managed to get pretty close to the place where the hostages would be exchanged, and we got out. From somewhere, O'Neill had scrounged up body armor to fit me, and I quickly put it on. I was adjusting the fit of the thing when Tom suddenly spoke up. After his jocularity in the streets, he had suddenly turned pensive and quiet as though a mental switch had been turn off. He appeared to be preparing himself spiritually for the ordeal ahead, while Gabe and Mike had verbally sparred for most of the trip. Each of us has our different ways of preparing ourselves for battle, each no better and no worse than the others.

"Mike. Claddagh ring. With an emerald? His green eyes blazed with amusement. "Size 5."

"Like it. How about... Sergeant Major stripes surrounding a star-shaped stone, rather than a crown and heart?" Matrando threw that out, and Mike suddenly flashed a smile. The impromptu design matched O'Neill's insignia on his uniform perfectly.

"Kritika means star in Sanskrit, so it's appropriate." Tom admitted that quietly.

"Now... what metal? Platinum. Definitely platinum for a high class lady, right, boys?" Without waiting for a response, Mike quickly punched in an order, using Matthew's credit. That done, Warlock smirked. "Will be delivered to Eilerson's later tomorrow. Unless... you'd like to give it to her?"

"Deliver. Something might happen. Want her to know that this old jar-head's final thoughts were of her."

That macabre thought suddenly brought Matrando and St. John back down to Mars. This wasn't a picnic we were waltzing off to, but instead, a military action with the strong potential something could go wrong. The silence continued to build until Matrando broke the utter stillness. "We should go introduce ourselves to Lochley. See what's going on." Matrando murmured softly. "Offer our assistance. You two guys up to playing?"

Mike and I both assured him that we'd like to join in the fun and that we were both feeling quite well. I was lying, and so was St. John, as he was rubbing his head surreptitiously. Gabe grinned like a schoolboy, and he threw me a PPG rifle.

"Shall we go then?"

It was quiet, too damn quiet. There was a stillness in the air that was almost suffocating.

"Something's odd. Doesn't feel right. Thinking it's a trap or that something's going wrong. Not sure what." Tom appeared to be in another world, quietly talking to himself.

"O'Neill, you sure you're not a Teep? You're almost psychic sometimes..." Gabe suddenly looked at me and flushed. "Sorry. When Tom starts acting like that, it's time to listen to his sixth sense. Lock and load, boys. Our late arrival might make a difference, so I'm thinking stealth mode might be a very good idea. Where the hell are Lochley's guards? Where the hell is everybody?"

I was still somewhat drugged, so I couldn't sense anything. Grasping, fumbling, I thought for a moment that I felt... something, but I wasn't sure.

"That's the warehouse. No guards on the roof, none on the streets. Gabe..." St. John was peering through binoculars, and he was shaking his head. "Looks like everyone pulled back quickly, like a strategic retreat of some type. What's going on here? We're only a few minutes late, yet... this place is ..."

"Agreed. You two street rats find a way in. I'm thinking that we shouldn't bother saying hello to Lochley."

The rescue team was dying in front of me and I could do nothing but watch. I was kneeling on the floor, with a PPG gun to my ear, and I was watching the blood of one of the injured team stain the floor. PFC Marshall deserved a better death that what he was facing, but I could do nothing. My fear of dying had fled, to be replaced by a feeling of anger. Bitterly cold rage was filling my soul to the brim, as there had been traitors in the Earth Force personnel that had been sent.

"We told you NO guns. No rifles. And you brought the fucking Marines." O'Keefe wasn't happy but life's a bitch, Jennie.

What had happened? I was being brought in when suddenly there was the sound of a firefight. Somebody had pulled their trigger, and then everyone was firing. Unfucking believable. By the time, cool rational thought returned, too many people lay on the floor, both EF and cultists. PFC Marshall was looking at me and I felt his silent plea. 'Save me, I'm only nineteen years old, and I don't want to die.'

"Your people shot first." Lochley was absolutely furious, but she was managing to hide her anger almost as well as well as she was hiding herself. Where the hell was she? Her voice was echoing through out the room so I had no idea where she might be.

"We should kill him." O'Keefe pulled my hair so I was forced to look up. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw four people creeping into position. They weren't wearing Earth Force attire, but I suddenly sensed somehow that John Matheson had arrived with reinforcements. I looked away from them quickly, not wanting anyone to see me looking in that direction. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the four late arrivals sneak into a position that was in the middle of the no man's land in front of me. They were sneaky, using the factory equipment and the darkness to hide the fact that they were creeping in.

"Do that, and we'll fire."

"Fuck. What the hell happened? It's a cluster fuck out there." Gabe sighed and shook his head. We were hiding behind a massive conveyer belt that had been partially dissembled.

"Obviously, there are more cultists who had infiltrated EF than we expected." I admitted that softly, while trying to keep an eye on Gideon. He looked furious, and I didn't blame him at all. There was a wounded marine lying directly in front of him, and an agitated Matthew was plainly wishing that he could do something. There were also a few more wounded lying closer to the cultists' side.

"Those are people out there, dying because they were trying to rescue your Captain, Lt. Commander Matheson. What do you want us to do?" That was O'Neill who was looking like Death Incarnate. "Clean death? Or should we try to rescue them?"

Matt never left anyone behind, and like hell would I start doing that. "We'll need to get them out."

Elizabeth and O'Keefe.... Wasn't she DEAD, were exchanging threats, and the room temperature rose another ten degrees.

"She's gonna piss her off if she keeps mouthing off. Then people will start shooting, and then even more people dead. Goddamn it. That's not the way to get those kids out alive. To hell with Gideon, he's one man. There are too many wounded kids out there that need help." O'Neill was obviously remembering a similar incident in his past, as his voice was raw. "Have to do this. Owe them that much as I swore on their bodies that I wouldn't let it happen again."

Suddenly he raised his voice while Matrando shook his head in disbelief. "I wouldn't suggest that. Do that, and you lose your hostage. He's your bargaining chip in all this. You want your people, and we want him. Killing him is not an option unless you have another hostage." O'Neill began taking off his body armor, as though he had a plan that didn't involve him wearing it.

Elizabeth suddenly swore a blue streak, and I wondered if she knew who the hell had just proceeded to play holy hell with the chain of command.

"He's right. Use them as hostages." O'Keefe pointed at the dying crew in front of Matthew. There was a sudden movement, and a few cultists... wearing... EF uniforms moved to drag off their hostages. I knew there were cultists in EF, but still the sight of seeing the traitors wearing the uniform I respected was a painful sight. Elizabeth wouldn't order her troops to shoot as she was planning something that didn't involve everyone dying. Please, Elizabeth. You are doing that, right now? Put the finger off the trigger.

"Excuse me? I don't think that's a great idea. I have a suggestion. Wounded prisoners don't make the best hostages. They don't move quickly, and they have a tendency of dying occasionally. If they die, you know EF will track you down." Gabe suddenly spoke up, and O'Neill gave him a thumb up gesture. They were playing a dangerous game, trying to manipulate the cultists.

"Right now, worse comes to worse, you get jail time, if you get caught. Anybody dies, and you get caught, you're going to get brain wiped."

O'Neill threw that comment out, and Jenn suddenly thought HARD. I could almost see the squeaky wheels in motion as she thought that problem out.

"You fucking volunteering to be a hostage?" She snarled that.

"Yes. I am." O'Neill yelled that, while Gabe seconded it.

"No. I'm volunteering." "No. I am." St. John and I both tried to override their decisions. I was going to rescue them as they were wounded because of my Captain, so I was the only acceptable candidate, not O'Neill and certainly not Matrando.

"No boys, both of you have to stay behind. Both of you two are injured, and might not survive this. Besides Matheson, with Gideon captured, you need to keep an eye on your crew. Loosing the Captain and the XO wouldn't be a good thing. That's another reason why you're staying behind Mike. Keep an eye on my crew, it's been a honor being their Captain." Matrando whispered that while ignoring both of our protests.

"Get up. I only need one of you as a hostage. Just in case something happens to this one, that way I have security. Any tricks, and I'll shoot the other one." O'Keefe was losing her patience what with the four of us arguing over who was going to be the hostage.

The two of them got up, and suddenly I heard O'Neill. "You can't volunteer to be a hostage, Matrando. You know you have a bad ankle and you'll just bog us down, while you're limping."

"I don't have a bad ankle." That was Matrando, who was removing his helmet.

"Now you do, laddie." With a sudden yell, O'Neill, in a graceful sidekick hit the other man's right ankle. It was a solid hit, and I heard the snap of bones breaking when Matrando fell like a tree. Tom spoke loudly, over Matrando's threats of his imminent court martial, his questionable parentage and other assorted curses. "You have a wife and kids. Like hell I was going to let you be a hostage.Besides, do you really think I'm going to let St. John run the crew? He'd probably have them paint the hull polka-dotted with stripes. Come on, lad. Nuair a thiocas an bás ní imeoidh sé folamh. Accept it, as I have done many years ago."

"That translates to 'When death will come, she won't go away empty'. He always says that whenever he's going on an away mission where it's doubtful he'll be coming back. Oh damn it to hell, Tom; you were planning this since you found out that Gideon was captured. What am I going to tell Makam?" That was Michael who looked devastated.

O'Neill began marching, while carefully removing assorted weapons from his various hiding spots before he reached the cultists' side. Then, Jenn and Liz spelt out a retreat.

Score: One new EF hostage, one old EF hostage, and we still had the cultists as prisoners. Thirty-seven wounded EF personnel and six cultists wounded plus one very angry Starship captain with a badly fractured ankle and no dead.

So far.

We arrived somewhat after all the excitement had happened. Galen was good, but he couldn't completely break the laws of psychics. My dome was located an hour from where the site of the exchange was to take place, but Galen had managed to get us there in fifteen minutes. I didn't like what I saw. Wounded everywhere, and I suddenly saw John Matheson, who was sitting on the ground next to two other men. I recognized one from the rather livid bruise on his face, and the other man I did not know.

"There he is." I pointed him out to our group, and we walked over to him.

He looked startled to see us, and suddenly Elizabeth Lochley was marching over to us. She was in a pissy mood and she was about to start yelling about us being here, when suddenly Makam went into an attack mode. The best defensive is an offense, I've discovered over the years.

"What the fuck is going on here. Where's Gideon?" She snarled at that at Lochley. "Didn't you get him out?"

"They still have him."

"Fuck. Gabe. What happened to you? What's going on? Where's O'Neill? I don't see him."

"Kritika..." Gabe's voice was full of an emotion that I wasn't expecting to hear. Regret? Grief? What the hell happened?

"Don't 'Kritika' me. Where the hell is O'Neill? You know, short guy, crew cut, nose has been broken a few times? Doesn't say a lot? You remember him, don't you? He trained you, so I think you know what he looks like. Rumor has it that he's your head of Security."

"Kritika." That was St. John who didn't look very well. "There was..."

"Cut the shit. It's sounding too close to 'We regret to inform you....' And I hear the sound of medals being awarded. He's alive isn't he?" Her voice was suddenly tonal, and I realized that her control was slipping slightly.

"As far as I know." Gabe spoke that softly.

"As far as you know. Either he is, or he isn't. Which means he's not here since you're not sure what his status is, and you'd never were one to give me incorrect information. Where is he, Michael? He's with Gideon, isn't he? Damn fool has decided to do something heroic, hasn't he?"

"There was a problem and it appears that the cultists have infiltrated Earth Force. During the hostage exchange, things got... hairy, as the traitors proceeded to start shooting. There was a group of Marines that got caught in the crossfire. They were kids, Kritika, barely in their late teens, pushed through training because of the Plague, and they got hurt. The cult was going to use them as hostages. It would have killed them... as the kids were critically injured. You know O'Neill's only soft spot is for greenhorns, because of what happened on that training mission. I think he was thinking that he owed a debt to those trainees that never came back."

"And O'Neill did a hostage exchange?" Kritika interrupted his report.

"Actually, he and I were going to do a hostage exchange, until the bastard broke my ankle." Gabe snarled that and suddenly Sarah realized that someone needed her Florence Nightingale act. Expertly she began palpating his leg, and Matrando cried out in pain.

"He did a really good job on it." Sarah admitted that to John Matheson.

"No, Tom wouldn't let you do a hostage exchange, you've got a wife and kids, Gabe."

"Thank you for the reminder. I never would have remembered that if you hadn't told me." His voice was crisp, and then he gasped again while Sarah was playing around with his ankle. "Would you really mind...NOT DOING THAT?"

Ah! Hypothesis: the only way you got to be a Starship captain was by being cranky. For proof, see Gideon, Makam, Lee, Matrando and Lochley. I guess I can safely say that since I am sweetness and light, incarnate, that's why I was never in any danger of becoming a Starship Captain during my short 'career' in EF. Thanks to Gideon, another career alternative has been closed to me. Thank you EVER so much, mon Capitan!

"So, what's happening? What are we doing to get those two boys out?" Lee growled.

Elizabeth Lochley jumped in. "WE are doing nothing. You're retired, and you're not going to get involved. EF on the other hand..."

"Elizabeth. You'd fuck up a wet dream, do you know that?"

Silence descended quickly after Kritika's rather venomous comment as Kritika's scorn for Elizabeth and her ineptitude was apparent to one and all. The two women stared at each other, and I was tempted to yell, "Cat Fight!"

Makam was furious, Lochley wasn't happy, and Matrando realized that he was a wounded man lying in a no-man's-land between the two battling harpies. At any other time, it would be amusing to see a Starship captain scooting along on his butt trying to escape a firefight, while Sarah was holding onto his ankle but we didn't have time for this!

Damn it, Gideon. This new founded morality you've instilled in me, made my life a heck of a lot more boring. Any other time I would have been gloating to watch EF personnel in a battle of personalities, but damn it, they... WE... had two hostages that we were hoping to get back alive. Perhaps I had to be the voice of sanity in this mess. Somebody better be recording this, as Gideon was going to need proof that I was the lone reasonable one in this mess.

"Come on. We don't need this. What's Earth Force doing to get them out?" I interrupted the fight that was about to bubble over.

Lochley looked away from Makam for a moment, glanced at me, and then looked away from both of us. Not a good look. Not at all, and it dawned on the group standing here what she didn't want to say.

"Go ahead, and say it Elizabeth. EF has decided to cut their losses on this. No hostage exchange, and the men are as good as dead, aren't they?" John Matheson spoke that in a voice that sounded dead.

"They're debating and they're going to get back to me. HQs not happy. The upper echelons have decided to get involved, and I'm not sure what they're going to decide."

"So while we're waiting for the Admirals and the Generals to decide what they want to do, those cultists could kill Matthew and O'Neill." Sarah spoke up from where she was repairing Matrando's ankle.

"Yes." Lochley answered softly. "I'm sorry. I am."

But her apologies landed on deaf ears, as Kritika suddenly turned to John. She was grasping at straws and by the look on her face; she knew it.

"Can you hear Gideon?"


"That means..." She asked me softly.

"No, I can't hear Tom. I couldn't even be sure that I was hearing Tom, as I've never touched his mind. We rarely spoke on the Dya, after all, except occasionally." I bit my tongue before I mentioned the fact that the most we had ever spoken had been a few short hours ago, on the way to this situation.

She sighed and rubbed her hand through her short hair. "Let's get out of here. Sarah! Can Gabe walk on that ankle yet?"

"Yes." Gabe answered, as he proceeded to stand on it, rather gingerly.

"Let's get out of here, so we can mourn our dead." Kritika spit that at Lochley, the acid in her voice dripping on the floor where it hissed and cracked the tiles. "In peace. No fucking guards and no fucking shuttles to follow us home. Do you think that you can give us that much compassion?"

Lochley didn't say anything, so I guess she was letting us go unattended. The group of us decided to cram into Max's shuttle when Gabe suddenly pulled something out of his pocket. Makam suddenly glared at him, while Gabe was shaking his head. "He didn't need to break my ankle."

"Well?" Makam snapped.

"We got the locator device. Tracking. It's weak. He threw it at me with a few of his knives, and I didn't catch it. It's damaged, but working barely."

"Good for Tom. He's always got something up his sleeve... Galen can strengthen it, and help us follow it as Galen has something to prove in all this. Galen failed Matthew last time and I know he wouldn't want to mess it up again. You must be tired of failing those that depend on you, Galen. It must eat away at your soul, Mage. I'm sure that you'll put every possible effort you can into salvaging this situation. Am I correct, Galen?" Her voice was ice and I was stunned at her boldness. Kritika had managed to push all of Galen's buttons, as the Technomage was dangerously angry.

"So, Galen, not very nice when someone does that to you? Is it?" That was Dureena who was giving Galen a glare. It was something between the two of them as Galen gave her a penetrating look. The Technomage appeared to think about what Dureena had said, and he nodded his head. Point to Dureena but the match went to Kritika.

"You are correct, Dureena. I will not fail this time, Madam."

Makam was amused at our startled looks that we were exchanging after this crazy exchange. "Come on, do you think that I'm going to go home, change into a white sari, and jump on O'Neill's funeral pyre? Suttee is not an option for me right now." I think I was the only one that heard her say... "Not now...but maybe later."

I fell again, and he grabbed me to pull me back onto my feet. Damn it, it was the third time I had fallen in the tunnel, and he was as surefooted as if he was on a sidewalk. Not surprising, I guess, as after all he liked to climb mountains in his spare time. It was my own stupidity that caused me to trip, as I shouldn't have been trying to see what time it was. It was only six hours since I had taken my way out, meaning that I had forty odd hours before I exited stage left, and I was wondering how much worse it was going to get.

Foolish me. After my first capture, I had thought that nothing could be worse than that. Wrong. The fates had decided to teach me a lesson in how much worse could things get. I had finally come to terms with who and what this new Matthew Gideon was, and before I had time to explain things to John, I found myself a hostage again. He wasn't supposed to be used as bait to lure me into this trap, but I hadn't gone to Headquarters like I had been scheduled to do so. No, instead, I had been interviewed in the comfort of Max's summer cottage, as Mal thought it would be the compassionate thing to do.

That random act of kindness had led the cult to kidnap John instead, hoping to get me to agree to a trade. It had worked, but in the process, Earth Force Marines had been injured, possibly killed, and there was a new, silent hostage with me.


I had promised someone, a lifetime ago, that one day I'd look the man up, exchange a few pleasantries, and then I'd profusely thank him for keeping my dignity intact during the worse few days of my life. Apparently, Tom had a few things in similarity with his...WIFE. Go, ahead, keep saying it, Matthew, you actually might believe it if you repeat it enough. Hmmm.... I wonder who won the fights between the two of them?

Kritika had a tendency of being overprotective as though refusing to believe that her children had grown up and didn't need to be taken care of anymore. Look, mom! All grown up, out on my own...and yes... I'm completely surrounded by cultists! So apparently Daddy O'Neill had the same streak in him as he obviously had decided that I needed his help. AGAIN!

Once again, I found myself indebted to him. Sometimes... I get really tired of admitting how much I owed some people. Especially this rather stern man next to me. When he agreed to be a hostage, I think my little friends in the cult nearly peed their pants. Especially when he nonchalantly walked across the no man's land and proceeded to throw assorted weapons of mass destruction toward the EF side, a few knives, a cord of some sort and a few other odds and ends. The old Marine had marched over to where I was first, then calmly saluted me, and waited for me to acknowledge him. Trust a goddamn Marine to follow protocols even with a PPG rifle in his face.

"Sergeant Major!" My salute wasn't quite as crisp as his, as I had a PPG rifle in one ear, but I still tried.

Pleasantries exchanged, O'Neill did a parade turn that would have had a few former Drill Instructors of mine swooning in awe at its precision. Then he marched to where O'Keefe was, double-time, and bellowed his name, rank and serial number like the drill sergeant he was. You could have heard him on a parade field, as his voice echoed throughout the warehouse.

"Sergeant Major Thomas O'Neill! Serial # is...."

Putting his hands on his head, he stood there, plainly waiting to be searched, until they found one of the EF Traitors to do it. O'Neill had stared them down, with an expression of absolute revulsion on his lined face. The young man was going to take O'Neill's necklace and the medallion also, but O'Neill managed to dissuade him of that idea with an amused look.

While they were searching O'Neill, my mind began focusing on oddest thoughts. O'Neill had a life-like dragon tattoo on one shoulder, while St. John had a three headed one on his leg, and even Vladi had one emblazoned on his upper arm.

Did you think that Makam had some sort of pinning ceremony with her senior officers? Everyone got drunk, and then she branded them, marking them as her personal property? IF ... I mean... WHEN I got out of this mess, I was going to have to thoroughly check John Matheson's body one day, just to make sure that he didn't have her logo somewhere.

He was MINE, Kritika, not yours.

Jenn wasn't happy, I think, as O'Neill was intimidating most of the cultists. The ones in Earth Force were the ones that were mainly shying away from the older man, as his face was like thunder. Motioning for the guards to move him to where I was, O'Neill caught her gesture, and proceeded to march over to where I was while the guards ran to keep up.

He was playing the cultists like fools, and I wanted to warn him that wasn't a really great idea as I had the scars to prove it. I was told to stand up, and so I did, and at last, I was able to talk to O'Neill.

"O'Neill. I'm sorry."

"Don't worry. When we get out of here, you'll get the bills for rescuing you." For some reason, that jest really seemed to amuse him and I wondered why. "From all of us. Hope you get a raise soon, lad, else you might be a little short."

Then we were brusquely told to follow the cult as they left the building. The EF personnel were withdrawing out also. We were at a impasse, and no one was quite sure what was going to happen next.

So we walked in near darkness, while the guards kept prodding us with rifles. The Sergeant Major kept shielding me from the worse of the blows that the disgusted cultists were aiming toward me. I was their punching bag, as things had gone terribly, terribly wrong and who else to blame? Nobody except the hostage. They'd aim for me, and he'd push me out of the way or worse to my pride, he'd take the blows silently by quickly moving in front of me. He was bleeding from numerous lacerations that they had inflicted on him, but still Tom refused to give them the satisfaction of saying one damn thing. Instead, he ignored them, smiling a slight smile, and I began to realize that the old Marine was really intimidating the hell out of our little friends.

God save me from the fricking Marines, please? Or perhaps, knowing who he was married to, perhaps I should say 'Kali! Save me from your devotee!' I was getting better, as I could almost think of that idea without my mind imploding. Kritika Makam had successfully hidden a torrid, lurid, blazing and no doubt passionate affair with her reserved head of security for years.

I tripped again, and once again, I felt his strong arms yank me back into position before I fell flat on my face in the tunnels. There's nothing like a Marine to keep your ego fully under control, and I wondered how O'Neill would have probably deflated Max's hubris with merely a single green-eyed glance of contempt. Because, in all my years in Earth Force, I know for a fact that there isn't anything more arrogant, haughtier, and more prideful than a NCO in the Marine Corps, especially one that has THAT many stripes. Not even Galen could match it, especially when the NCO was thinking on how he is constantly rescuing a certain Starship Captain's sorry little ass. He wouldn't come out and say it, directly. That would be unbelievably rude, and the Marines are many things, but ill mannered is not one of them. No, it was in the certain quirk of his lips, a glint in his eyes that plainly said... "Here comes the Much-abused Marine to save Captain Spaceboy... AGAIN."

Let's not focus too much on that thought, as I'm really sure the silent man behind me really wasn't THAT thrilled with me right now. No doubt he was happily planning on retiring, until I had gotten myself cult-napped again. Stumbling when I stepped in a hole, I surely would have landed hard on the floor except for the fact O'Neill nearly pulled my shoulder out of the socket trying to prevent me from going BOOM. Oh! Hello! Tom! I had a rotator cuff reconstruction done a few months ago. You might remember it? You found me hanging like a wall decoration? I'd really prefer if you didn't pull quite that hard on that one shoulder. The Sergeant Major yanked a little too hard, and I suddenly gasped when a quick flare of pain raced down my shoulder into my fingers. Shit.

"Sorry, Lad."

God. Let me rephrase what I just said. There's nothing worse for a Starship Captain than a paternal Marine NCO who's feeling protective. You're not that much older than I am, Tom.


Maybe, just maybe, being married to that particular CO has aged you, but I'm not saying that to her face. I'm a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them.

"Sorry." I mumbled to him.

He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "Don't worry, that's what we Marines do. Constantly picking up Starship Captains when they're about to fall flat on their face but do it in such a way that your ego isn't affected too badly."

I guess it could be worse? He could be belting out the Marine Hymn right now, as I've yet to meet a jarhead who could actually sing that particular song on key. No, knowing what little I know of O'Neill, he'd probably be able to sing it.

Concentrating on that thought, I nearly tripped in a hole, and the Marine grabbed me again, before I even became unsteady. His hands had me in a vice like grip, and I tried not to gasp out in pain.

"Don't worry. We're now in the man made tunnels so the floor will be smoother."

Then he began rattling off a marching cadence. God, I hated this particular marching cadence even though it was slightly different than the one I had learned at the Academy. I hated the first verse as all I could think of the fact that there was one woman who probably knew by now that Tom wasn't coming back.

Somewhere there's a woman
She's crying for her man
He's an Earth Force Marine
He does the best he can

Don't cry for me
I don't need your sympathy
'Cause I'm an Earth Force Marine
And that's all I want to be

Somewhere there's a woman
Flag folded in her hands
Her man was an Earth Force Marine
And he died for his land

One day she got a letter
And this is how it read:
"We regret to inform you
That your marine's lyin' dead"

By the third verse, I was chanting it along with him, just changing it slightly to "Starship Captain."

Galen, Kritika and Dureena were busy working on a plan with a few helpful suggestions from Ivo. Meanwhile Michael, Gabe and I were under the ministrations of Sarah, and while my Telepathic ability was still null and void, at least my headache was gone. I was going to join the group to add my input, when suddenly Max grabbed me by my arm. Great. I get rid of my headache, and then it is back a few minutes later larger than life.

"Yes, Mr. Eilerson?" I hoped that I was able to keep my dread of whatever he was going to suggest out of my voice.

"Lt. Commander. Are you truly aware of what's going on here? That there's been a change in the playing field?"

"Max. What are you talking about?" GOD! My headache was back, right between the eyes.

"We've got two differing agendas here. Originally, it was to get Gideon out. Now, there's been a complication. Your friends... want to get O'Neill out, and if it comes down to getting Gideon or O'Neill out, who are you going to decide to rescue?"

"Max." I wasn't in the mood for him to split hairs.

"Listen to me. Look at those people, honestly. If Matrando decides to rescue O'Neill, we're going to lose him and that other guy. If that happens, and our team splits up, which side is Makam going to chose to go with? Who is Lee going to follow? When it was just Gideon as a hostage, we had two goals. Get us out alive, and get Gideon out alive. Now... there's a third goal, and how does it rate to the others? Is it #1, #2 or #3 in the list of their priorities. Look at them, honestly. If the choice comes down to rescuing O'Neill or Gideon, St. John is going to go all out to rescue O'Neill. We lose him, and we'll probably lose Matrando as he's apparently here to kill Gideon for what our favorite Captain has done to his crew."

Rubbing my head, I felt my headache increasing. Shit. He was right, as always, but like hell I was going to tell him that. "I can't force them to do anything. If Matrando and St. John decide to save O'Neill, then we'll have to carry on without them. Same with Lee and Matrando... We've got on our team, a Technomage, a Thief, a Doctor, A Telepath and a world-renowned linguist. Who else would we need?"

"The Marines. A few tanks, assorted other paraphernalia." Darkly, he commented. "Shall I continue?"

"Shut up, Max."

{PAGE 2}

{Characters} {Introduction} {1 None So Blind} {2 Kshatriya} {3 Bingo, the Invisible Fish, and Starship Captain} {4 Because Warlocks Can't FLY} {5 Prayaschitta} {6 Let the Captain Have Some Dignity} {7 Epiphany} {8 Biases} {9 Moksha} {10 The Three Graces}

Witches Familiars

{Mistress Sarah}

{The Main Gate} {HomePage} {Wytches World} {We are Family} {A Little Artistic Licence} {No, we don't mean "A"riadne} {Our Home Is Our Castle} {The Witches' Diary} {Witches Familiars} {The Gateway} {Webrings}