by Mistress Sarah

Shakily, I had managed to control myself enough to go to my office. Today was a paperwork day, so I focused on clearing my desk. For hours, I concentrated and focused on wading through out my paperwork, while my mind was trying to stay away from that particular painful subject.No matter how hard I tried, the thoughts kept dancing back into my head.


Makam trusted him to be discrete, but she didn’t know about those goddamn data crystals. You were right in trusting O’Neill and Zbignewski, Madam Dragon, as you knew what made those men tick. But… EILERSON? What made you decide that you could trust Eilerson?What did you see in those damnable blue eyes of his that made your instincts decide you could confide in him?

Max, my porn watching, meddlesome sexual voyager, I really wanted to know…did you enjoy taking pictures of my exposed, battered body? Second thought, don’t answer that! I just don’t want to know THAT badly.

Savagely, I attacked the forms lying on my desk, trying to avoid focusing on that disturbing subject, knowing full well that I should be on the line, talking with Sheila right now. But why wasn't I?

Oh, I knew perfectly damn well why I wasn't calling her.She'd poke and she'd prod, and I'd avoid mentioning what had occurred last night. While I was tap dancing, trying not to share with her what happened between John and me, she'd trip me and I'd spill my guts.I needed time to reflect and focus on the change in our relationship. That's why I wasn't calling.Some things were best left private, and I didn't think that she needed to know that my XO and I had made love last night.


It certainly wasn't because I feared her possibly saying that the reason for my flashback was due to last night.

I think he finally knew. I had thought from his rather pointed dislike of me over the past few months that he had known that I had been there. But, something had clicked for him that had formerly lurked in his subconscious, and he suddenly KNEW. There had been a look of absolute loathing in Gideon’s eyes when he had looked at me, just before he bolted off the bullet car. For a moment, I had wondered if he was going to wait for the damn thing to stop, or was he just going to burrow his own exit?

Matthew Gideon had suddenly realized that I had been there during his post-rape exam, and he was disturbed by it.Damn it, Makam and Zbignewski had both told me that the odds of him ever realized that I had been there were pretty damn small.He had been heavily drugged, and I had been hiding behind a facemask and scrubs.I hadn't thought that Matthew would have recognized me like that, not without IPX sprawled on my chest like a brand.


I had been fully expecting to go on the away team when the short, pissy Kritika Makam had told me in no uncertain terms that I was staying on board.My original protests against going on the away team had been my usual grumbles of protest of being the lone, sane soul on this voyage of the dammed.I was a Xeno-Archeologist, and I wasn't completely use to the idea of working with people whose idea of diplomacy often included bombing something into submission. Or hitting them, as I noticed Gideon usually threatened to hit somebody at least once on every away mission. More often than not, the Brute was usually waving his fist in my general vicinity.

Secretly, I had been glad when Makam had shown up.She had managed to sum up quickly the fact that the Excalibur staff was one step away from group hysteria. She had settled them all down with a few pointed comments that they were EF personnel, and that they should act accordingly. I have never seen someone who managed to slap that many people inline that quickly with only a few words. “I’m in charge, now. Time to stop squawking!•

O'Keefe, who I had never liked, our former late, non-lamented XO had pretty much destroyed all of the systems on the ship by unleashing a computer virus into the system.We had pretty much lost everything except communications, life support and the engines. Remind me to thank her for that bit of compassion.

It had taken us a few hours to realize that Gideon had been kidnapped, as the second officer, what’s-her-face, had been trying to contact Gideon to advise him that O'Keefe had gone AWOL.That's when the systems started shutting down. I had been on the bridge, and I had seen that look of "Oh SHIT!" in her eyes. Racing to the computer console, I had begun inputting a search criterion for Gideon when we lost sensors.We were pretty much dead in space and our second in command, now Acting Captain wasn't up to the challenge.

"Put a damn page out for Galen," I had instructed her, trying to be helpful.

"I don't know how to get a hold of him. He just shows up." She admitted that to me softly.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so I was trying to fill the vacuum of command, by making suggestions to our increasingly flustered acting commander… captain? Lead Soprano? 1st Violin, 1st Chair? I guess the EF motto is `When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and SHOUT!'

"Send Dureena down to the planet, give her a few scanners and see if she can locate Gideon. We’ve got a good percentage of the crew down there on shore-leave, so they can search for him."


"CAN'T?" I growled at her, damning her for an idiot.

"We can't launch a shuttle. The bay doors..."

"What did that bitch O'Keefe do to the bay doors? Let me guess, we can't open them, can we? Shall I get a can opener, and we can cut our way out? If we start now, we might get them open before we die of old age."

She had ordered me off the bridge, and I had left quickly as I had a plan forming in my mind.I then ordered my IPX personnel to a group meeting.It had taken quite a few minutes to get us all together, as the damn bullet car was off-line, as was the majority of the elevators.I had outlined the problems to them, advised them it was their chance to show EF how smart they were, and to start working on solving the problems.My IPX crew had grumbled for the longest time about how dismissive the EF personnel were of them.A few pointed reminders of those types of comments had my team working at top efficiency.

Things broke down rapidly after that, as our acting Captain decided to completely ignore anything that came from a civilian. Chambers, Dureena and I hadn't been happy with that, so we had met in secret trying to figure out what the hell to do.We couldn't do a damn thing, which frustrated us more as O'Keefe apparently knew our skills better than we did. Anything we thought of trying, ended up with the roadway thoroughly barricaded.Try to get in contact with the personnel still on the planet, and you'd get Mozart on the comm. system. I like Mozart, but not quite that much.

"Where's GALEN?"That was the comment I kept hearing throughout the ship and especially from my fellow members of the "Kitchen Kabinet."

Where the hell was that damnable, gloating, mocking Mage?His pet Captain had been kidnapped and it would have been nice if Galen showed up to save his pet’s sorry little ass. No, instead he was making ME do it.

Then the Dyavaphrtivi had shown up, and Makam had quickly taken control of the ship. She had a familiar face with her, Lt. Commander John Matheson, who was being given temporary command of the Excalibur.I had been amazed that I was actually HAPPY to see him sitting in the Captain's chair of the Excalibur. The two of us had never really talked in his previous tour of the Excalibur as Gideon didn't really like me, and I had long thought Matheson was too much Gideon's man to ever do anything faintly resembling independent thinking. You’d look up “toady• and “flunky• in the dictionary, and you’d see John Matheson licking Gideon’s boots.

"Look who Makam decided to drop off. So, let me guess. Nobody else wanted the position." I had remarked dryly to him. "We've pretty much gone through the entire pool of currently available candidates for the position of XO. That's why you're back."

He had suddenly grinned at me, and spoke three words. "Shut up, Max."It was a familiar comment from Gideon, and I was amused that he was using the same wisecrack.It had been a way of Gideon to dismiss my comments when I hit too close to the truth.He'd tell me to shut up because I had disturbed his orderly, military view on a situation with cold, hard reality.

"So nice to know that our little boy's growing up. Too bad he's going to be a clone of Matthew Gideon." I spoke that loudly to Sarah Chambers, who actually smiled during our witty repartee. "I had hoped that the three of us had rubbed off on him as one Gideon is enough in the universe. Two of them may cause the universe to self-destruct." That earned a laugh from Dureena with a glare from Gideon’s clone, John Matheson.

I had returned to my quarters, grateful that the environmental controls were at last working properly.It had gotten pretty damn cold in spots and roasting in the others. O'Keefe had managed to make the entire crew's lives miserable with her computer virus running amuck throughout the system. I wanted to get some sleep before the away team left, as I would need to be extremely sharp and focused. But Makam had stopped me in the hallway to inform me that she needed to speak to me in private.She was short, and her crew cut plainly spoke of a no-nonsense outlook on life.

"Madam?I thought you were eight feet tall and breathed fire. That's the report that's going around on the Excalibur."Actually the joke was, anytime anyone was seen running away from the bridge, it was because Makam had threatened to have his or her tripes for a snack.

"I'm incognito right now. Sir, do you speak Sanskrit?" She was speaking to me softly in the language of her ancestors.

"Yes, Madam. I have a passing familiarity with it." I assured her quietly, in flawless Sanskrit. “Plus Bengali, Hindi and a few other languages.•

"Excellent, we need to talk and the walls have ears."

She sat down easily in Gideon's chair as though it was her ship. Matheson looked uncomfortable when he sat in the Captain's chair, but the few times Makam had sat on the bridge, she had acted as though the Excalibur was her ship. "Let's cut this to the chase, as I've got to go encourage the away team with a few threatening words in a bit. Just a reminder that they would be better off dead than failing me, you know, that sort of heartening, uplifting speech that Captains delight in giving their underlings. Bluntly, you're off the away team…"

"Madam!" I interrupted.

"Let me say this slowly, just in case you've got wax in your ears. You're. Not. Going.You've got a Zanin 2400Sz recorder and a Zanin 99AX Camera don't you?"

"Yes. But what's so..."

"You're the only person on these two damn ships that know how to use it the way I'm going to need it used. Therefore, you're not going anywhere, as I don't want you falling down and breaking something vital. Instead, you and I are going to bond while they're planet side.I'm going to need to make sure you understand completely the standards that I'm going to be enforcing. You're supposedly the super genius, so I'm sure you'll pick up rapidly what I want. Hurry along, Eilerson, I have a lot of things I need to do to get this ship running again."

Lord! Even Gideon wasn't this high handed! I began to protest and she overruled me with a rather blunt and succinct explanation.After listening to her for a few minutes, I had to agree that she was right. I was the only person that could operate those damn things the way she needed it operated. Lord, infrared shots in dark conditions. She was asking for a hell of a lot from me, but I could understand why she needed me.Kritika also politely threatened me with a fate worse than death if I so much as breathed a word to anyone about what I had to do. Hate to admit this, but I liked Makam as she had a few Machiavellian characteristics in her personality that reminded me of myself.

The away team returned to the ship, and had run him into Medbay pretty quickly. Makam was already there, and she had already managed to offend Sarah Chambers. The Excalibur's Doctor had already filed a protest against the `high-handed' way Makam was running things, and Makam, as the ranking senior office in this quadrant of space, had crumbled up the protest and tossed it into the trash. This was done right in front of Chambers, no less.God! I was so glad that Makam didn't work for me, as I'd either want to marry her or kill her. As it was, I was disappointed that she wasn't slightly taller as I'd offer to tango with her.

No doubt she’d want to lead though.

I was in Sarah’s office with O’Neill, Zbignewski, Makam and Chambers and they were arguing.

“He needs to go to the Operating Room right now, Captain!• Sarah was in rare form, and she was yelling at the diminutive woman in front of her.

“We do that, and we destroy the chain of evidence. Which means that those people are going to get away scot-free with what they did to him. Can you live with that, Chambers? Night after night, will you be able to sleep? Vladi! You just assured me he’s stable. I need thirty minutes to do a complete collection, think I can have it?•

“I want him in the OR yesterday, but yes, I think you can have thirty minutes.•

Sarah turned on Vladi as though he had personally betrayed her. “Great! You’re useless. I’m protesting.•

“Noted.• Makam said that dryly.

“Captain!• Sarah protested again, vainly.

“O’Neill. Your vote?• Kali gave her head of security a rather searching look.Was she uncertain, and looking for confirmation from her rather reticent Head of Security?

“Exam!• He spoke that strongly and assuredly as though it was the only correct choice and Kali nodded her head slightly. So… O’Neill apparently rarely spoke, but his succinct opinions carried significant weight for Kali if she was on the cusp of a situation. Fascinating.

“Zbignewski?• She was continuing the roll call, but I knew that the decision had been made when O’Neill had given his answer. This entire thing was for show, nothing more, a pretense at democracy in an autocratic society.

“Collect the evidence, quickly. Less than thirty minutes.•


“Do it or else I’ll have to hunt those bastards down myself.•

“Chambers, I know your viewpoint. So, after having looked at all the votes, it’s still my vote that is the only one that matters. Vladi, Tom, both of you get suited up. You’re doing the collection. St. John will maintain the chain of evidence in the Operating Room suite.•

“Captain. I disagree.• Sarah was getting in Makam’s face, and suddenly, O’Neill looked like he was going to jump Sarah. There was no doubt who the person was that owned that man’s loyalty.

“Doctor. The decision has been made, and the time for commenting on it has long since past. Perhaps Matthew allows his senior staff to speak far too freely for their own good. Doctor, you are dangerously close to insubordination right now, do… you… understand… me?•

There was no threat in her voice instead there was a promise of that she was going to space Chambers, if she kept dissenting. I just knew it! Open the bay doors, and out Chambers would sail, while O’Neill smiled. Or maybe, if Kali were feeling generous, Sarah would only end up in the brig with bread and water for a few weeks. O’Neill would do either in a heartbeat, and I felt like yelling at Chambers to shut up.Sarah! This isn’t Gideon you’re trying to bully.


“I knew you would, as you are a remarkably intelligent woman, Sarah.•

Sarah was a delightful sight as she was totally pissed, and not afraid to show it. Makam, you certainly bring out the best in everyone. By now, O’Neill was standing in between the two women, and he was staring Sarah down. It didn’t matter that Sarah was almost half a foot taller than he was, his attitude plainly said that the only way to get to Kali was through him. Don’t know about the rest of the people in the room, but I’m putting my credits on Tom as he had a dangerous look of a zealot in his eyes.

“I want to be in there during the exam.•That was softly spoken, but still an order, nevertheless.

I felt like telling Chambers that with Madam Makam, you do not insist on anything, as it will piss her off. No, when approaching the Hindu goddess Kali, it was best to approach her as a petitioner, begging for her intervention, or possibly as a devotee, covered in the blood of sacrifices. You don’t order her to do something, as it will just infuriate her.

"No. No. NO. I'm using my people for this, Doctor, as it will be easier for him if you're not involved."

"What about HIM?" Sarah pointed at me, and for a moment I was offended by the way she said "HIM." Her tone of voice was dismissive and disapproving of me as though I was a skid row addict searching the collection bins for food and drugs. I understood why my opinion hadn’t been asked for in that council Makam had just held. This was an Earth Force decision, and I was a civilian. Sarah had been only given the courtesy of voting as she was a doctor, and that was all.Lord, working with these EF personnel would easily whip my ego into shape.

"He's the only person that can work the damn camera. Do you really think I want to use him?" That was blunt, to the point, and it certainly stung my pride, but it shut Chambers up. Thank God, as Chambers was getting shrill. "Put Gideon in the decom room, and I'm going to talk to him. Dr. Eilerson? The recorder's running right? I need to ask him some questions."

"Yes. It will self adjust for lighting changes, but if you want close-ups or anything out of the ordinary you'll have to advise me, as I'm the only person that can work the damn thing." I quoted her comment back at her, and she flashed me a grin that said she noted it.

"Vlad! Tom! Scrubs and a face mask. You've done this before, just help Dr. Eilerson through it." She suddenly spoke softly to me in Sanskrit. "Keep breathing, I don't want you passing out. They've seen it before, and you haven't. Dr. Eilerson, do you have any questions?"

“Yes,• I remarked dryly, and in Standard. “When you killed the great demon Raktabija, was he just a little afternoon snack for you?• I grinned at her, and I waited for her reaction to that little comment. In the legends of the Hindu religion there was a time that Kali had been running amuck, getting things done in a rather drastic manner, slaying demons while the rest of the Gods had panicked and hid behind the celestial sofa. It was a rather pointed dig on her command style, so I smirked, waiting for her reaction.

“Oh my God.• I heard one of Makam’s senior officers moan.“He just didn’t call her Kali, did he?•

“Indirectly.• That was O’Neill who was entertained by my quip, as his stone-face had actually unbent into a quick grin.

Even Madam Makam was amused, I could tell, and then she growled at me. “Actually, I then had two IPX Xeno-archeologist Linguists for desert. And I’m still… hungry.•

“I’ll take that into advisement.•

She had gotten her statement from Gideon, and then she had brusquely ordered us into the room.It had been a horrifying experience for me, so I focused on angle, lighting and shutter speed.For the most part, I ignored the battered, naked man that they were examining, until Gideon had broken down and cried. He had wept softly as Gideon was obviously ashamed of his lack of emotional control and was hoping to hide his tears from us. Zbignewski and I had ignored his tears while Makam’s security officer spoke to Gideon. I was not exactly sure what he said, as he was whispering softly in our patient’s ear but I think he was trying to calm Gideon down.

My cantankerous and captious Captain’s identity was strongly based on his relationship with his crew and his ship and this incident had profoundly warped those bonds. For anyone, an attack like this would cause them to doubt their self-worth, but for someone whose self-esteem was so strongly based on having his crew’s respect… this incident could shatter him. And I suddenly knew that he felt he was precariously hanging onto his dignity and sanity by only his fingernails.

We had turned him on his side to document the injuries on his back and then Zbignewski had to finish checking him for DNA traces. Zbignewski was obviously not looking forward to this, as O’Neill had leaned over to speak with him quietly. It appeared that Tom was telling the younger man to buck up his courage and just get it over with so the two men had quickly positioned themselves for this portion of the exam.O'Neill was trying to be careful with Gideon, while he was supporting our patient’s leg on his shoulder, while the Doctor was collecting DNA samples. Gideon then began to weep uncontrollably and loudly at this final insult to his body.After all he had been through with regards to those bitches, I guess this part of the exam was the final straw for him.

Makam was trying to talk over his weeping as she was talking her way through the procedure while Vladi and Tom were collecting evidence. It was fascinating watching the two men, as Vladi got more and more sickened by what he was seeing, and O’Neill grew more furious by the moment. Unlike the men in the room, Kritika was maintaining her serene disposition, while she dryly-documented wounds type, condition and sizing. She would have fooled anyone who couldn’t see her eyes, as while her voice was calm and soothing, her eyes were promising eternal vengeance.

Still Gideon continued to weep, and O’Neill was too busy supporting his leg to talk to him. Vladi was busy doing a DNA collection; Madam Kali was busy recording so that left me as the only person able to try to calm Gideon. Gideon and I weren’t friends, and I didn’t like the man, but still, a few seconds of compassion might make this easier for him and for me.I could spare a few moments for him, so damning myself for being maudlin and sappy, I took a soft cloth from the camera case and wiped his tears away. For a brief moment, I thought of someone from my past that had wept like that when she had left, and I wished that I could have offered her this small comfort then.

The evidence collected, the three of us had carefully rolled him on his back."Captain.We're going to take you to surgery now.I'm going to give you something that will make you sleep and I can promise you no dreams whatsoever." Zbignewski was talking softly to Gideon, trying to offer him some sort of consolation.

Gideon just nodded his head, slightly.Thankfully, he had finally stopped bawling, and Tom touched Matthew’s forehead, telling him gently that the exam was finally over.

"When you wake up, you'll be planet side in a room with a view. You'll be able to see the sunrise and sunset."Vladi injected something into Gideon's IV, and soon the patient was sleeping soundly.

That's the last time I saw Gideon until he came back to the ship. I had tried briefly to see him right after he came out from surgery, but there was a line of visitors wrapped around the hallway. So, I had figured I wouldn't bother, after all, he'd never know I was there nor would he care.I had handed Makam the tapes and the film immediately after Gideon was wheeled out of the room. "What now?" I had asked her softly.

"We're going to develop the film.O'Neill and I will have to stay with you when you develop it, just to prove that there wasn't a break in the chain of evidence. All of us are going to have initial time and date on each photo. There are a few shots that I'll need enlarged. Then when that's over, you're out of this mess, until the trial."

We had been in the IPX dark room for almost five hours that day, while O'Neill and Makam discussed what security precautions they needed to take. Ok, Makam talked while O’Neill commented one or two words. They had worked together for a long time, as he was almost telepathic in predicting what she would need at a certain point. The two were both obviously out for blood, the blood thirsty Kali, and the taciturn O’Neill, and I didn't blame them. After what I had seen, I had the urge to break a few heads myself. Ah. Gideon and EF were rubbing off on me. Next thing you'd know, I'd have this urge to blow something up "real good."

So he hadn't known, but why the blatant hostility that he hurled at me on a daily basis?It had gone beyond our usual antagonist relationship, to active dislike, to moments when I KNEW that Gideon hated me.

Matthew was a different man when he came back, angrier and more likely to go from one emotional extreme to another. It was common knowledge on the ship that he signed out against medical advice, AMA, from the hospital, as Matthew simply wasn't mentally or physically healed enough to Captain our crew.For the first few months, he leaned heavily on John Matheson, and in turn, the crew used John Matheson as a sounding board.This injured Gideon was difficult to deal with at times, and subject to very black moods.

He delighted in mocking and dismissing anything I suggested, so I carefully began using the others to suggest my ideas. For some reason, Gideon appeared to delight in pouring out his anger on me. He hated me, with a passion that surprised me only because I could taste his fear in it.He just didn't loathe me- my carping and sarcastic Captain was notably apprehensive of me. Thinking that he'd snap out of it, I had ignored it, but it was more and more difficult to swallow my anger.How dare Gideon dismiss my ideas, completely, without giving them the courtesy of listening to them? I had to heed to him, daily, so why couldn't he? Damn it, he wouldn't listen to me, and I knew that my viewpoint had merits!

The only person that was capable of calming our raging Captain was his XO, so we used John unmercifully to snuff out the fires. I don’t think he slept more than twenty minutes at a time as the crew kept paging him to their location whenever Captain Ahab Gideon limped into their department.Gideon would start to growl,Matheson would show up, and defuse the situation, quickly and professionally.He would never obviously coddle Gideon, but instead he would discreetly cosset his Captain with a few mild words, and a suggestion or two.Matheson would agree with whatever Gideon had suggested, and then mildly comment that perhaps crewmember so and so, would be more than happy to fulfill that suggestion. Gideon would agree, and then the crew would fall over themselves trying to keep Gideon happy.

It was remarkable, as I think that being XO to that terrifying Kali had actually caused John to, pardon my vernacular, grow a set.Before, he was shy and retiring, and now he was willing to face Matthew down. At one of our staff meetings, Matheson actually managed to shut Matthew up, completely, with only a bemused expression on his face. Matthew had glared at him, while John had just smiled beatifically. It was a wonderful display of how to manage someone who was being stupidly obtuse about his physical limitations, until Matthew had given up in disgust. Sarah had smirked first, then Dureena and then I just had to grin also. Our little boy was growing up!Gideon, noticing our amusement, had decided that the entire meeting had turned into a three-ring circus, complete with clowns, elephants and tumblers so he had cancelled it halfway through the agenda.

Seriously, I had to give John Matheson a lot of credit for putting up with Gideon, as Gideon treated him horribly at times. Whenever Matthew got really abusive with me, I'd go to `ground' and hide in my quarters.But John Matheson couldn't do that, as he had decided that he needed to stand between the Captain and his crew, while Gideon raged and screamed. These confrontations in the ready room were sometimes so violent that John would wipe his face off, as though expecting that there would be blood dripping from his wounds.So the crew tried to help John out during this, knowing full well that he was the main reason Gideon was functioning at times.A few crewmembers were taking over some of his regular day to day assignments while Sarah and Dureena would talk to John. I didn’t offer to do either, I was a linguist, not a paper pusher, and certainly not a psychiatrist, though I had an advanced degree in Xeno-Psychology from some university or another. After a while, I just can’t keep my degrees straight anymore,because I have so many of them.

"What happened down there, Sarah?" Dureena had asked at one of the unofficial senior staff's meetings.When Gideon had been kidnapped, Dureena, Sarah and I had begun meeting informally to compare notes, and we had kept our meetings even after he had returned. Galen, by now, had been invited by one of the women, so he was there also.

"Can't say." Sarah was normally loquacious, but on this one subject she was rather quiet.

"MAX?" Dureena looked at me.

I just shook my head, as I had vowed not to say anything to anyone.Regardless of what the others may have thought of me, I did keep the few promises I made and I would eternally regret the one I had broken. By breaking it, I had protected her from me, but that was cold comfort in a lonely bed.

"He reminds me of someone I knew.Something happened to her, and she was hurt pretty badly.It took her a while to be able to trust anyone again, especially... men." Dureena sighed softly. "Is he talking to anyone, besides John?"

"Probably not. EF frowns on their heroes having feet of clay like the rest of us." I offered that comment sarcastically. "There's no one on board the ship that's qualified as a counselor, and EF is probably listening in on any of the conversations he's having with anyone. I doubt that he'd feel comfortable talking honestly to anyone, especially with Big Brother listening in."

"Don't worry. He is talking to someone, and EF can't really listen as they're having a bit of a problem. Lots of static, and feedback. They can't figure out what the problem is, as every other channel is crystal clear." That was Galen, who was inordinately proud of himself.

For a moment, my mind wandered from that conversation to another enigma that was puzzling me. John and Matthew's relationship had confused me. They had been apparently close friends, until that damn cave-in. Some thing had occurred between them; something that had managed to fracture their relationship as John Matheson had pretty much shut down after the cave-in.Both of the men had acted oddly after it, and then John had fled from the Excalibur, even though Gideon had been parroting something about John making a career decision. I might have believed it, if it wasn't for the fact that Gideon was apparently intent on mindlessly destroying any XO that came in to replace John. It's shameful to admit, but the crew picked up on it, and so we willingly tried to help break any XO that showed up. Out of respect for the good Captain, of course.

Now, John Matheson was back, and he and my Caustic Captain were tight as thieves. It was similar to how they had been before John had left, but yet different. I had watched them carefully, trying to figure out exactly what it was when I saw the two of them talking in the cafeteria late one night. Gideon had appeared pensive about something, and John had reached over to Gideon and touched his hand. A small gesture, lasting no more than a few seconds, that spoke a hundred thousand millions words, especially when the one that touched the other, is a Telepath. It spoke three words to someone that was looking to figure out what the hell was going on between Captain Ahab and Ishmael. The answer was so blindly obvious, that I couldn’t believe that I didn’t realize immediately when I saw it.

They were lovers.

And John was trying his hardest to keep Gideon sane and functioning.

Oh, my. John Matheson and Matthew Gideon.

Who topped who? Did you make him Salute when he came, Captain?

With a sudden jerk back to reality, I realized that my stop was coming up next.

We had a staff meeting, a short one in which we detailed where we were in reference to a Cure. Lots of promising leads, but nothing more. Damn it, for almost three years we had been searching for it, and my time was growing short.I had also received a detailed correspondence from EF during my paperwork and I had been advised that the trial date had been set up again, after numerous delays.We were to return to Mars in approximately a month so the trial could begin.

"Now. I am letting you know that most of you are being called in as witnesses. Dr. Chambers. Lt. Comdr. Matheson, Dureena Nafeel." I looked at each of them in their eyes when I spoke their name. Sarah's radiated compassion, John's spoke loudly of concern for me, and Dureena's were tinged with sorrow. Grabbing my courage, I looked at Max's blue eyes. "Mr. Eilerson." For a moment, our eyes had met, and I had quickly looked away as I couldn't look at his barren, ice blue eyes. There was no trace of anything faintly resembling emotion in those eyes, where others had souls- he had a bank account. HE HAD BEEN THERE. HE HAD SEEN WHAT THEY HAD DONE TO ME. Max lived for the almighty credit, and that was all. "I've sent the information to your quarters. Dismissed."

John stayed afterwards. I walked over to the sink, and I quickly washed my hands.

"You always do that after you talk to Eilerson. Why?" His voice was soft and full of caring for me.

"Do not." I dried my hands off and walked over to him.

"Do to." He said, turning to face me.Matheson was grinning at me, and I realized that his cheerfulness was a godsend to me.

Walking around him, I began stroking his hair, concentrating on how John found that simple action so erotic. "Do you really want to talk about Eilerson? We've got the conference room completely to ourselves, Lt. Comdr. Matheson." Leaning over, I began nibbling on his neck. "I have this incredible desire to have you sit on the conference table. I’ll be taking advantage of my XO while you're sitting at the very, very edge of the table. You're not going to be able to do a darn thing, except hold on for your life as you don't want to fall on your CO."

"Is that an order?"

"If you don't get on that table right now, it will be."

John's a good guy, and I didn't have to order him. I supported him carefully until he caught his breath after our little adventure, delighting in the fact that he was leaning on me for once. Mentally, I noted that perhaps the conference table wasn't the best place to try that particular stunt, but oh well, I was doing this for John, after all. He was young and extremely enthusiastic, so I was trying to keep him happy and entertained.

"Wow." Matheson whispered that in my ear as he kissed me softly on my ear.

"You like saying that a lot, don't you?" I teased the younger man. Inside, I was exultant, John had enjoyed it!

He laughed softly. "So, your quarters or mine tonight?"

"What for?" I continued to mock my younger lover. "Didn't last night satisfy you for the next millenium? I'm an old man, John, and I can't repeat that performance on a daily basis."

"Dinner, and I think you want to talk. Don't you? Then, maybe, if you're not feeling too old and decrepit, maybe... once?"

"Mine. But we can't do that too regularly. People will begin to notice that we're spending a lot of time together. It's bad enough that Sarah knows."

"Don't worry. I can always tell when the 'coast is clear' as I've been using my ability that way since you came back to the ship. I'll leave in a few minutes, after catching my breath, and making sure I don't look like a XO who's just been taken advantage of by his older, more experienced and rather lusty CO. Never did I ever think… of using the conference table to try that… out."

I laughed at him, and again marveled about how John Matheson always managed to cheer me up.

We were in Matthew's quarters, and we had just eaten dinner.Matthew was actually a pretty decent cook, and he had tried to make something he knew I liked. I had mentioned it in passing to him years ago, and he had remembered it when he cooked dinner. He had done a credible job of creating it, considering that he had to modify a few ingredients, and I appreciated his efforts.In our private moments together, Matthew always tried hard to let me know how deeply he appreciated me with little gestures like this.Since I knew that we couldn’t really go public with out relationship, I found myself prizing these brief, stolen moments.

"I know that Captain Gideon can't really show it, out there, but Matthew Gideon really is deeply grateful for the fact that you're put up with him all this time. You do realize that they're not the one and the same person, don't you?"It was a comment that he repeated often, so I would assure him that I understood.

"That was nice." I said that softly. The two of us were on the couch.I was lying with my head in his lap, and he was stroking my face. "So, you need to talk. I could tell that in the conference room. What happened? Do you have concerns about last night?"

"No." Answering that question slowly, he had stopped stroking my face. I made a soft sound of disappointment, and nipped at his fingers, reminding him that he was neglecting me, so he started caressing my face again. "You're like a cat. One of these days, I fully expect you to start purring."

"I thought I did last night."

He just continued to stroke my face, and I was enjoying those little tingles that were spreading through my body. In a few minutes, I'd want nothing more than to return tenfold what he had done to me in the conference room earlier today. It was a delightful idea but I couldn't lose track of the fact that something had bothering my Matthew.

"So, what's disturbing you?" Carefully I asked him, knowing that sometimes he would talk and sometimes he wouldn't. He didn't answer that question, so I prompted him softly. "The trial?"

"I'm not looking forward to it. Having to relive that entire incident over and over again."

He was unzipping my jacket while he answered me, and I knew he was going to try and change the subject just like he had in the conference room. What were we talking about before he decided to try out the conference table?Matthew had mentioned the upcoming trial, had looked at each crewmember when he told them that they'd be called in as a witness.Sarah. Dureena.. EILERSON? Matthew had looked at the other man briefly, and then had rather quickly looked away. The troops had marched out, and the first thing Matthew did was wash his hands. I had commented on how he always washed his hands after talking to EILERSON, and then Matthew had ordered me on the conference table. His hand began unloosening my belt, and then it slid slowly south.

"That's not it? Is it? Are you having problems with Eilerson?" Throwing that question at him, I was watching his face.SCORE. His hand stopped wandering, and I knew he was going to deny it. Did Matthew really think I didn't know him by now?

"No. Not at all." My lover suddenly sighed, and he helped me sit up. "You're tired as you had a long day."

"And I got no sleep last night. None at all as my lover kept waking me up all night long for a quickie. I’d just gotten to sleep and he’d want to play with me again and again." I threw that comment at him, and Matthew smiled at me.

"Then, I think it's time for you to go to bed. To SLEEP." Stressing that comment at me, he ignored my disappointed look. "Do you want to stay?" Pretending an indifference that didn't match the look in his eyes, Matt failed at trying to sound like he didn't care if I stayed or not. "You might sleep better in your own bed."

Turning to face him, I decided to push the issue with Matt. It had to be done carefully or else he'd completely shut down on me. I knew that first hand after all these months together. "Matthew. Please. What's your problem with Eilerson? Do you need me to talk to him? Politely? Or should I threaten him a few times? Or should I just break a kneecap?"

"No, it's not that." Matt suddenly looked a billion light years away. "I'm just exhausted. Last night, while absolutely incredible, was rather strenuous for both of us. So, early to bed, and maybe early to rise." He grinned at me. It was a seductive grin that promised that we'd probably both be late to work tomorrow.

We walked to his bedroom, got undressed and crawled into bed. Gideon was remarkably pensive after I had tried to discuss Eilerson, so I shouldn't have been surprised when he had a nightmare.

I was back in Hell. No doubt about it, and I tried to scream in protest but my mouth was gagged. Furiously, I tried to move my legs and arms, but they were tied down securely. My back was spasming from the way my body was positioned. Pretty soon, the pain would start and then they’d violate me over and over again. Oh God. No. No NO!!!

"Is our bad little boy scared?"

Oh God. I knew that voice. It was Brigid, the ringleader of those vestal virgins. She traced her finger down my face, delighting in scratching my face with her long nail.Reaching over, she licked the blood off my face.

"There. I've marked you. You're forever mine."

I shut down then, completely and totally.While my soul was shrieking with terror, my body was on autopilot. No, no more. She hurt me over and over again, while I pretended that it was happening to someone else. Teasing me, biting me, hurting me, I tried to keep my eyes firmly shut so as not to see the woman on top of me. It had taken me so long to unlearn what she trained me into believing andJohn had been the one to finally make me believe that in fact, pain and pleasure were not one and the same. But this dream was too realistic for me, as I felt myself responding to the pain she was inflicting.

No. NO. NO.

“So, tell me pet, do you like to be held down, ordered, abused and tied up? I’ve marked you, so that’s why you need to be mentally controlled and dominated to enjoy sex anymore. That’s why you’re sleeping with a Teep. You want him to dominate you and for him to own your soul. Don’t you?•

No. No! NO! I was screaming that in my soul. No, I trusted John with everything that I valued or at one time valued, in my life.My ship, my soul and my body.

“You are a liar. You want it, you need it, and you crave it. You can’t a real relationship with anyone… as you’re weak and disgusting. So, does your Teep lover top you? He probably knows exactly what you want and he probably craves the fact that you won’t even try to resist whatever he does to you. So, Bottom Boy… do you like being kept under this thumb? Or maybe… not his thumb, but under his dick?•

Her voice turned deeper, rougher. "I know you're ignoring me. I know you think you can pretend that I'm not here. It's not going to work." Pain shot through my shoulders, as she began pressing down on my elbows."Open your eyes. See me. I'm not going away, God damn you." Vainly I tried ignoring her, until she hit me hard. "Acknowledge me. I can feel your fear and I can even taste it. God fucking damn you." She struck me again."Open your eyes, and answer one little question, and I'll stop." She ripped the gag from my mouth so hard that I thought she had managed to dislocate my jaw. "OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES AND SEE ME!"

I opened my eyes to see brittle, ice blue eyes above me. It wasn't Brigid anymore. Instead, it was someone else. Larger, heavier than she was, this new tormentor scared the hell out of me, as he was far more intelligent that Brigid ever was. He’d exploit my weaknesses, and he’d destroy me for he had no soul.

Max Eilerson sneered at me, and asked me, "So Captain Boy-Toy, who's my little Pak'Ma'Ra?"

I scared the hell out of John, who was deeply asleep when I started howling like the living dead. For a few minutes, he was disorientated while I tried to stop shaking. My heart was racing, pounding in my chest, and for a moment I thought it would explode out of my chest.

Oh God, I can't handle this. No. I can't. Gasping for breath, I suddenly had to sit up. Eilerson? Eilerson was now in my nightmares, taunting me about my obvious fear of him. How much did he know? Did that damnable man know that I was uncomfortable around him? I had tried not to be blatant about it, but obviously he had known from the way I avoided him and his suggestions. Damn it. He was probably in his office right now, gloating and relishing in my fear of him. HE HAD BEEN THERE! HE HAD SEEN WHAT THEY DID TO ME.

"Matt? What happened?"

"Goddamn fucking nightmare." Deeply frightened, I was at my caustic best. John flinched from the acid in my voice, and I suddenly felt guilty. "Sorry. Scared. Vivid." God, I was reduced to one word answers right now and I was trying hard not to curl up into the fetal position. Not this. Not again.That dream had undone several months of therapy or perhaps, Brigid whispered in my head, I was just fooling myself that I could ever be completely cured.

I’ve marked your soul. No matter how hard you try to deny it, you’re tainted and you’ll corrupt everything you care about.

"Matt, come on, lie down, and roll over." He said that softly.I did so nervously, and he carefully began stroking my hair."Do we need to call Sheila?"

"No!" Did we always have to call her? I was a Goddamn starship Captain; did I always have to call my counselor when I had a bad dream? “No… it’s like 3 in the morning, Mars Time and I don’t want to wake her.•

"Ok. Though I think tomorrow morning you need to call her. Now. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere. Matt, be honest with me. Was it last night?"

"NO!" I tried to assure him that last night wasn't the reason. No, it was the smell of cologne that had reduced me to this state. "Sometimes, things can trigger a flashback, and I smelled something that reminded me of what happened. It wasn't last night." I hesitantly reached up to kiss his lips, and I mentally sent him the thought that I really wanted him to believe me.

Giving me an intense look, John then kissed me back. It was a gentle kiss of consolation that slowly led to John making love with me.

I knew my nerves were brittle, especially around Max, so I tried to avoid him. Rather skillfully, I put off talking to Sheila until all Hell broke loose. One would think that after all this time, I would have realized that was a rather stupid thing to do.

It was our first staff meeting since Gideon had mentioned the upcoming trial. We were about to embark on another boring away mission when I suddenly noticed rather vital to bring to his attention. The current spot we were landing in wasn't the best spot to land, but a smaller and more remote section of the plant promised more information as new intelligence had suggested that it had been the planetary capitol. Normally I got my reports in time to have planted the information with another staff member, but not so today.

"Any more comments?" Gideon had asked.

"I have one." I spoke quietly.

He ignored me. His eyes didn't even look in my direction.

Repeating myself, I spoke louder. Gideon looked around the table, and blatantly ignored me. I had put up with his little attempts at dismissing me for quite some time. Gideon was obviously not acting like himself, so I had tried my hardest not to take it personally. I had even played along with his little game for the longest time, but now I was getting pissed.How long did he think he could snub every damn idea I had? It was long past time to get over whatever the hell was bothering you, Gideon. Deal with it, Gideon, as I’m fucking tired of being your whipping boy.

I raised my hand. "Teacher!" I called out.

Gideon looked at me for a moment, and there was a look in his eyes that promised one day I'd end up murdered in a dark alley and that he’d be the one holding the bloody knife. By now, I think everyone in the damn room had realized that there was something brewing between Gideon and myself as even Matheson was looking concerned.Go ahead, little boy, go run to protect your Captain.

"TEACHER! I have something that I'd like to share with the class." Announcing that loudly, I saw Gideon's eyes darken.

"Class dismissed." Curtly, he ignored what I had to say.

"Damn it..." I stood up and Gideon scowled at me. Angrily, I approached his seat, and he stood up to face me.

Forcing his finger in my face, he warned me that I was the one who was behaving poorly. "I'll wash your mouth out with soap if you use that language again. Good manners never hurt anyone, keep this up, and I'll send you to your quarters with a note on your jacket saying that you were a bad boy."

"I know you're ignoring me. I know you think you can pretend that I'm not here. It's not going to work. "Growling that at him, I pushed his hand out of my face, twisting it away from me. Damn him. He suddenly looked at me with terror in his eyes, and I realized that John Matheson was trying to prevent us from coming to blows. My fists were tightly clenched, and I knew that the way Gideon was standing, he fully expected me to strike him."Open your eyes. See me. I'm not going away, God damn you!" I spit that at him.

"No. You're never going to go away. People like you never go away, you just lurk in the background, hanging to the rear on every issue in the hopes that you can pick the most profitable decision. You goddamn contractors feeding on other people's pain and misfortune to line your fucking pockets."

"Acknowledge me! Why are you so angry with me? I can feel your fear and I can even taste it. God fucking damn you. What the hell is your problem, Gideon? Every damn thing I've suggested to you, you've belittled, mocked or just ignored."

"I don't fucking fear you."

"Stop it, Max!" "Matt! ENOUGH!" "Come on, nerves are a little frayed here."

The three others in the room were still trying to pull the two of us apart. Their efforts weren't in unison, so the trio wasn't successful in pulling us apart.

"Open your eyes, and answer one little question, and I'll stop pushing." I wanted to know what the hell his problem was.

He just shook his head, trying to ignore me, which made me angrier.

"OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES AND SEE ME!" Roaring that at him, I suddenly caught the taste of fear. It was a bitter, sharp taste. "WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM WITH ME?"

"Calm down. Come on. I don't want to get security in to separate you two." John Matheson was still trying to get between the two of us, but for a wonder, he was facing Gideon as though he was wanted to protect ME.

"Yes, Max, calm down. Don't you have someplace to be? Some data crystals that you need to watch?" Matthew's voice taunted me with that little dig.

Complete silence. My vision was tinged red, and I suddenly hated Gideon. He always threw that in my face whenever he needed something, and now he had done the unthinkable. He had mentioned it in front of the senior staff. How fucking dare he! I pushed Matheson out of my way, actually touching the Telepath to shove him.

I got into his face, and I started talking to him in a low, controlled voice. "Oh. That's it. Mr. High and Mighty Starship Captain, looking down from his big Captain's chair, I am so tired of you throwing my peccadilloes in my face." We were eye to eye and I was backing him into a corner of the room. The three of them were still trying to separate us, but I was far too furious to even notice them. "What about you? You have a few things that other people might have problems with. But I don't comment on how your relationship with your Telepathic XO goes significantly beyond EF and PSI regulations."

At that comment, his face blanched, and he was about to hit me hard. I knew it to be the desperate attempt of a man deeply afraid and he would have nailed me right on the jaw. I've been hit a lot of times in my life, so I was waiting for the blow to fall. But Matheson had grabbed his arm in mid swing, and prevented the strike from landing. Then Sarah and Dureena were between us, pushing me away from Gideon.

"Go. Damn it. Go. NOW." John whispered at us intently."All of you."

Eilerson had backed me into the corner of the room while he had been raging at me and I had gotten terrified. For a brief moment, I remembered my captivity when I had tried to escape, and the cultists had caught me. There were sixteen of them, and one of me, so I hadn't fought knowing full well what the odds were. It was far better to wait until the odds were better. Now, the odds were one to one, as good as it ever was going to get, and I was going to hit my tormentor. That done, the guard unconscious, I would flee in the hopes of getting the hell out of out here. Flight or Fight my body screamed, and this time, I was going to fight like hell. I was a Goddamn Starship Captain, and I’d go down swinging.

I swung hard.

NO! DON'T HIT MAX! John screamed that in my mind. MATTHEW! DON'T FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!

MAX? I was going to hit Max?What was he doing here? Somehow, John had managed to grab my arm and prevented me from hitting Eilerson. Max was absolutely furious with me while Sarah and Dureena pulling him away from me. My God, Sarah and Dureena were looking at me, and they were deeply afraid of me.

No, it was a mistake.

I wouldn't have hit him; I'll swear to it.

I thought he was a guard.

Really, I did.

"Go. Damn it. Go. NOW. All of you." John quietly ordered.

"You are fucking Goddamn insane, Gideon. You fucking are." That was Max, whose cold voice sent chills down my spine. Maybe he was right, maybe I was.

Matthew had almost lost it with Eilerson. Luckily, I had managed to prevent Matt from hitting Max. If that blow had fallen, I would have had to make a difficult decision about Matthew. Either I would have ignored the incident or I would have removed him from command as being unfit for duty.

Ignoring the incident would have wrecked havoc on Eilerson and rightfully so. Looking back over the last three or four months, Matthew had been pushing Max's buttons repeatedly in the hopes of getting some sort of reaction from the linguist and now Max had exploded. For some reason, Eilerson had decided to ignore Matt's actions, until now. I didn't like to admit this, but Matthew had provoked Max repeatedly until today, when all hell had broken loose.

If I had to remove Matthew from duty, I doubted that our relationship would be able to survive that. What to do, what to say? Damn it, Matt, you had come so far in the last few months. There were moments when you were the irascible yet playful man that I first fell in love with, and now you were the deeply scared and wounded man that I feared would never heal. Back to square One, again. What had set you off?

Sinking into my chair, I realized that John hadn't left the conference room. He was leaning against the wall, watching me. Couldn't he just leave? I couldn't look at him and see the disappointment in his eyes that I knew would be there.

For easily an hour, he stood there, watching me, until I finally spoke up. "Don't worry. I'm calling Sheila as soon as I get to my quarters. You're also in command of the ship for the next seventy two hours."

Hoping that would be enough for now, I realized that John was shaking his head.

"I've asked you before what your problem with Eilerson is, and you've always avoided the issue. You can't anymore. What's the problem between you two? The past couple of weeks it's been very obvious. What caused this sudden change?"


"Makam ran the exam to collect the evidence right?" Speaking that softly, I couldn’t look at John.

"Absolutely. She didn't think that any of the Excalibur staff should be involved. Looking back, I know it was the right decision to make, but at the time, Sarah and I were rather angry about her opinion."

"I know that there were four people there. Makam. O’Neill and Zbignewski. I know I was drugged to the gills, but I couldn't miss Zbignewski or anything that BIG unless I was unconscious. There was a fourth person in the room. I think he was male, and he took all the pictures. For the longest time, I thought it was a member of her crew. But it wasn't, was it?" I had to look at him when I asked that question, and the look in his eyes answered my question.


"I finally realized who it was about two weeks ago. It was the day after you and I…• Waving my hands, I struggled to continue. "It was that damn cologne of his. Have you ever noticed it? It's musky, and... He was wearing it when they did the exam. Subconsciously, I think I've known for a while, but I just didn't want to admit it. I mean... it's really hard enough for me to deal with the fact that I was lying on the exam table, bruised and battered while Zbignewski examined me."


"But... it really gets me really upset when I realize that the guy taking the pictures was probably getting off on it. I mean, I've got to go to court, and they're going to display those pictures to everyone. And...The guy that took the pictures thinks porn is an art form."

"Do you really think that? Do you honestly believe that?"

"Mentally, no. Emotionally, spiritually, yes, I firmly believe it."

"Have you seen the pictures?"

"No. Sheila didn't think it would be a good idea."

"Matt. You better talk with Sarah, Dureena AND Max."

I went into my empty quarters, and I took several tranquilizers. Sheila could wait until tomorrow morning. Sarah had promised me a long time ago that these horse pills would put me so deep a sleep to be almost dreamless and I needed that now even though I hated the thought that I was taking them. I woke up quite a bit later with the headache to end all headaches when suddenly I saw that I had numerous messages from people. Three were flagged as important, one from IPX, the other from a law firm on Mars, and one from EF. I began to laugh when I figured that the lawsuit was probably from Max, for assault and battery, so I read that one first.

It was a Carbon copy of a note being sent to IPX, Earth Force, Eilerson and to myself from the lawyers representing Maximilian Eilerson, PHD, MS, BS yada yada yada. Reading further, I was suddenly stunned to realize that Max being a contract employee of EF and IPX had just gotten the hell off the Excalibur the only way he knew how. By forfeiting on his contract with IPX, he was no longer under contract to EF.

IPX had sent me a copy of the letter that they had sent to Eilerson's lawyers, in which they advised Max that due to him violating his employment contract, that he had forfeited his retirement plan and his health insurance. Then the letter got nasty, informing him that they were going to sue him for breach of contract, and that they'd do everything in their power to make sure that he'd never work again in his field.

I finished that note to read the note from EF.As Max was now an unemployed civilian, and wanted off the vessel, I was requested to drop him off at Mars for the trial. When the trial was completed, EF and Eilerson would go their separate ways.


I went to the Box, and I asked it one question. It was foolish question to ask, as I had already asked it this question, years ago, when I had first doubted the wisdom of having Eilerson on board.

"Will we succeed in our quest without Maximilian Eilerson."


{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}