by Mistress Sarah

Eilerson, Chambers, Dureena, John and myself were in the same shuttlecraft that landed on Mars. My stomach was in knots as I was tensing up for what I knew was going to be a horrific experience. My nice, quiet criminal trial had suddenly turned into a full-blown media extravaganza. I had turned on ISN before we left the Excalibur and I saw a picture of me on the damn screen.

We were going to the Hotel Marriott-Hilton after we landed at the airfield. Getting out of the shuttlecraft, I wasn’t expecting the media barrage, though I should have been. They were shouting questions at me from every corner and suddenly I felt trapped.

"Gideon! Captain Gideon! What is your mental status after all you’ve been through?" "Sir! What’s your reaction to the news that the average age of your attackers is 19 years old?" "Has this incident distracted you from the Quest to find a CURE?" "MATTHEW! Over here!" The questions were coming from everywhere, and the lights were blinding in my eyes. Had to escape. Had to flee! TIME TO RUN! I felt someone throw something over my face, and I was being pushed somewhere. There were large hands against my body, and the person was not being very gentle.

I struggled against the hands, and I felt someone else join in restraining me. NO! I mentally screamed. NOT AGAIN! NOT AGAIN!

CALM DOWN. CALM DOWN. DON’T FIGHT HIM. THE DRIVER’S TRYING TO GET YOU INTO THE LIMO. STOP FIGHTING HIM AND HE’LL LEAD YOU. THE BLANKET IS TO COVER YOUR FACE FROM THE PRESS. CALM DOWN. John was screaming that mentally at me, so I relaxed and allowed the driver to push me into the limo.

Quietness descended while I was removing the blanket from my head, and I felt the car shake as the rest of my crew piled in with me. There was a click as the doors locked, and suddenly the limo took up speed.

"Hello, Matthew." The voice was cool and amused, and I knew that voice intimately for she was one of my voices of sanity in this mess.

"Sheila?" What the hell was she doing here? She was sitting next to me and John was on my other side. Max was sitting across from her, with Dureena and Sarah sitting next to him. Max was looking out the window, purposely ignoring me, and I hoped he kept staring out the window for the entire ride.

"The media’s are like a bunch of feeding piranhas right now, so the plan’s been changed. Why don’t you have something to drink?" The limo took a hard turn, and suddenly Sheila looked amused. "On second thoughts, let’s not. I think the driver’s trying to aim for the paparazzi."

"What’s going on? What’s happening?" I was annoyed, and wondering what the hell was going on. The limo swerved again, and Matheson nearly ended up in my lap. On any other occasion, that would have been delightful, I’m sure, but not now, as I was too damn pissed. Things were out of control again, and I wanted to know who the hell was running things. This wasn’t the way Elizabeth would run things, as she was too damn anal.

Things were being run wildly, quickly, and on the spur of the moment. It had to be someone who had enough experience to think on their feet, with a quirky flair for the dramatics, and self-assured enough to go with their instincts when the situation changed. Damn it, it sounded like the initials KM were involved somehow.

Oh GOD! Would I never be free of that woman?

"We’ve made a few changes. Now, why don’t you relax?" Sheila smiled reassuringly at me, and I felt like telling her that the counselor voice and smile weren’t working.

"Don’t tell me to relax. What the hell is going on here?"

"Temper, temper, Matthew." She said disapprovingly. Then, Sheila gave me a sweet smile as she hit me with a hypo. Not even Sarah was as fast with a hypo as Sheila was. "Nighty night, Matt. You look like you haven’t slept in the last week."

"You bitch. What was in that ... hypo?" My voice was foggy and suddenly I felt sleepy. Waves and waves of drowsiness were crashing over me, and I wondered how strong that stuff was she had given me.

"Pleasant dreams, Matthew. John, when was the last time he’s slept for more than a nap? He looks like hell."

"Six nights ago, since then, he’s been riding the bullet car every night. Then he catnaps for an hour or so, and then he’s back on the bullet car."

I was gradually waking up, and I realized that my head was on John Matheson’s shoulder. Even in my sleep, I had apparently decided he was the only one to trust in the damn limo. So, I kept my head where it was, and I pretended that I was still taking a siesta. John was being so still, trying not to jar me, and I was amazed by how much that single small gesture signified. My loyal XO, as always, was trying to protect and support me during my trials and tribulations. What the hell had I ever done for him that made John decide our relationship was worth daily facing my never-ending pain?

Really, I’d like to know but I vowed that I would try even HARDER to keep John happy.

"Ok. That was the update on what’s happening right now in reference to the trial. I figured Gideon hadn’t been sharing it with you, as I noticed that he’s a little taciturn on the sharing of information. Now that you’ve listened to me talk for a few hours, how are things with you all? Max, I hear you’ve been drafted?" Sheila’s tone was light.

"Don’t ask. You’re having the pleasure of looking at the oldest draftee in the annals of military history." Max’s voice was acerbic.

"Dureena?" Sheila wisely refrained from commenting on THAT, but I knew damn well what she thought of it. Not happy at all, even though she didn’t say anything, I knew she thought I should just apologize to Eilerson. APOLOGIZE to EILERSON?!?! EXPLAIN TO HIM THAT I WAS HAVING A FLASHBACK?!?! I think not, Sheila.

"It’s been exhausting, and I want this over with. I’ve been in court too many times to enjoy this."

Poor Dureena, this was going to be hard on her, too.

"Sarah?" Sheila was obviously quizzing everyone in the car.

"This will be rough for him." Sarah spoke that softly.

"How about you? I’m not exclusively his counselor, Sarah, remember? I can unfold my couch for any of you."

Damn it, Sheila was always trying to drum up business. First, she had roped John into talking to her, and now she was trying to get a group therapy session going. Did you offer them a group discount? Maybe we could all go out for a retreat of some sort, bang on drums, wear mud on our face, climb ropes, and other fun stuff like that.

"Might be hard in this limo. It’s rather cramped." Max spoke whimsically.

"Tired." Sarah whispered.

"Do you three still have this stupid idea in your heads that you let him down?"

There was a silence so profound that it suddenly made me realize that Dureena, Chambers... and even Eilerson felt that they had failed me. John had yelled that at me one night long ago, and I had tried to assure them that they hadn’t. I had thought that they’d believed me, but my entirely too loyal crew still believed in their souls that they had failed me. Even... Eilerson thought he had, so that meant that Galen probably believed it, too. No wonder the Technomage wasn’t around that often anymore.

"Well that certainly answers that question loud and clear without the need for anything to be said. John?"

"Shhh, he’s sleeping." He whispered that softly, trying not to wake me.

"No, he’s not. He’s been awake for the last few minutes, as he can’t fake a good sleep worth a damn. Matthew, you’re incorrigible, do you know that?" Her tone was acerbic, and I knew the jig was up.

"Where are we?" I spoke that softly, as I regretfully moved my head from John’s shoulder. Hope that wasn’t too uncomfortable with my hard head on your shoulder. I thought that loudly at John while I tried to move my stiff neck. "Sorry about borrowing your shoulder there for a pillow, Lt. Commander. Whatever Sheila put in her hypo really threw me for a loop."

No. It was rather nice, actually.

"No problem, Captain. Though next time, maybe Sheila can warn me, so I can bring a pillow." John’s voice was drier than the Sahara, and Sheila laughed.

"A few minutes from where you are going to be staying. The Hotel is obviously out, as even Lochley has agreed that security has been totally compromised. ISN’s got the entire hotel staff bribed."

"So where are we?" I asked that softly.

"Excuse me, Mr. Eilerson?" The darkened visor separating the driver from the passengers was still closed... but the rumbling voice of the driver sounded awfully familiar. I knew the driver rather well, after having had a discussion with him regarding the ethics of pepper spray on a day a lifetime ago on Babylon 5.

IVO LEE? IVO’s driving the limo? Last thing I heard he’d retired and was going to start slaying dragons or something like that. I knew EF had thrown him on a committee or two, but what the hell was he doing driving a limo? "How to evade the Press with a full-sized limo" was not a military committee with which I was familiar.

Stupid question, as this entire thing screamed two words. No doubt, like I had thought earlier, that damnable Kritika Makam was involved in this, right up to her crew cut. Madam? Did someone forget that she was retired? Which meant that one stayed home and took up knitting, playing card games and learning how to line dance? Kritika, didn’t you want to learn how to play the sitar or something?

"They’re requesting your security clearance so we can enter the dome."

"Welcome to my humble abode. Maison d’ Eilerson. It’s located in a rather exclusive domed community." Max’s voice was muffled as he was punching in his security codes into his computer. "I hope you’ll all behave or else the neighbors will complain. So no naked sunbathing in the yard, ok?"

I ignored Eilerson’s quips as my mind was screaming... IVO LEE. IVO LEE? The man who had his command staff on their hands and knees scrubbing the DarkStar after that damn riot? "Lee. Where the hell did you learn to drive?" I spoke that to the driver, and I was rewarded with a deep laugh.

"At the academy, when I had violated curfew and the MPs were after me. Just like you did."

"I hope you don’t have any pepper spray."

"Of course, he doesn’t, Captain Gideon. I’m the one who’s carrying it." That was another male who spoke, and suddenly John Matheson grinned. "It’s not a good idea to have your chauffeur throwing pepper spray while he’s trying to drive. Really, Captain what an idea. I think I better give you a brush up on the latest in security measures."

"Michael St. JOHN?" John suddenly laughed in delight.

For a moment, I was jealous as John appeared as gleeful as a kid being given a really big present at Christmas. Hey! St. John’s a nice enough guy, but let’s not forget about me, ok, John? Obviously, Kritika wasn’t a problem, but I’d keep an eye on Mike. It wasn’t that I was worried, but John was impressionable and St. John was a rogue.

"The one and only, John."

Ivo Lee calmly parked the limo in Max’s homeport, and he then gallantly carried Sheila to her waiting 'chair. The rest of us had piled out of the car except for St. John who had decided to wait in the limo. Sheila was laughing while Ivo was trying to carry her, and he was getting annoyed.

"I’m going to drop you if you don’t stop squirming." That threat earned more laughter while I ignored the scene. Instead, I was staring at the grass. There was GRASS, FLOWERS and even TREES! I had always thought that Max had money, but I didn’t realize that he had enough to live in a domed community with large patches of green.

"Come along now, you need to get settled in." Max spoke loudly as though he was Mother Goose trying to shoo a group of goslings into the water across a busy intersection. "Come along, John."

But John wasn’t moving, so I walked over to him. Matheson appeared down so I wanted to find out why. "What’s the problem?" I queried him carefully.

"St. John won’t get out of the limo. I’d like to introduce the two of you."

"How come?" I questioned.

"Says he doesn’t want you to feel uncomfortable."

"Oh." St. John had been on the rescue team, and he was waiting in the limo so as not to upset me. John had described the older man as a card shark somewhat indifferent to rank of any sort, unless he decided you were worthy of his hard-earned respect, and possessing a wicked sense of humor. John really seemed disappointed that St. John wouldn’t leave the limo, so I decided that I’d make the effort to meet the man. It was for John, after all, as the two of them were friends. Certainly it wasn’t because I wanted to check out the possible competition. "How about I invite him?"

John grinned. "I think that might work."

I am Lt. Michael St. John, XO of the EF cruiser Dyavaphrtivi, and you are on the EF Excalibur. His calm voice repeated that in my mind, and suddenly, I felt that I was back on my ship for the first time... since what had happened. His had been the voice of calm reassurance that I still remembered clearly. Nervously, I walked over to the limo, and I knocked on the window. Making a motion for him to step out of the limo, I stepped back and waited for him.

The door swung open, and he stepped out. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I don’t think I was quite anticipating him to be carrying a PPG rifle. Nonchalantly, he put the safety on, and then he expertly swung it over his shoulder. I was surprised when he then saluted me. With John’s mentions of his personality quirks, I was expecting a handshake perhaps, or a jest. Instead, Michael was offering me a sign of respect as though acknowledging that I had somehow earned it from him. I returned it smartly as there was no doubt that he had certainly earned mine.

"SIR! I am Lt. Commander Michael St. John, XO of the EF cruiser Euphrosyne." His voice was firm, but I could see that his hazel eyes were full of amusement. John was right; Mike apparently didn’t take too many things seriously, including meeting a Captain whose sorry ass he had helped save. I decided that I’d like to remind him of his manners.

"I remember your voice, but this is the first time I can see you clearly. Thankfully, I see that you’re not clad only in your boxers, as Eilerson’s neighbors would complain. I trust that you were fully clothed when we met earlier, as it would thoroughly shatter my reputation if you were in your briefs." Dryly, I commented on Mike’s tendency to do his duty half-naked.

Mike remained stoically silent, but I could see that there was a definite glint in his eyes, as he realized that I knew all about the stunt he had pulled on John.

"At ease, Lt. Commander, I can’t believe that they named a cruiser after the Greek Grace of mirth. It just shows that despite what most people think, somebody in EF has a sense of humor."

Mike flashed a quick grin while I heard Max yelling in the background. Poor Mother Goose was still trying to round everyone up, and keep a strategic eye on Dureena. Hope you locked the silverware up, Eilerson! Not that it would help, but at least your insurance company might actually pay!


"I think you can call me Matthew, Michael. Or should I call you... Warlock? Never mind, what’s your question?"

"As you’re probably aware, the team from the Dyavaphrtivi that helped rescue you has been called as witnesses. With the exceptions of the rather cruel and extremely immense, Vlad the Impaler, who helped with your rehabilitation..." Mike paused, judging my reaction to what he was saying. "And the lovely Dagmar Andersen... who was visiting her soon to be espoused Doctor...."

"Spit it out, Mike." That was John who was smirking. "You usually shoot straight and to the point, so why are you beating around the bush with flowery words?"

"You haven’t met the highly decorated, much esteemed Sgt. Major Thomas O’Neill. I think he’d like that as he and Madam Dragon were the ones that planned your rescue mission. He’s in orbit right now, with the rest of the mirthful crew of the Euphrosyne. I believe that he’ll be quite vexed that the rest of us have met you, and that he hasn’t. It’s not a good thing, I’ve found over the years, to have your head of Security mad at you. Never know when he or she might remember it at an inopportune moment. Especially since the old dog is actually going to retire in a few months, Tom might have this urge to do something drastic to me before he hangs up his PPG rifle for the final time."

Amazing, Michael actually appeared to have a great deal of respect for the Sergeant Major, almost as much as he appeared to have for Makam. Hmmm... all I remembered about O’Neill was a few fragments of memories, a soft voice trying to calm me down while I panicked, and his rather crooked nose. Maybe I should meet him... but this time... I’d be fully clothed.

"Absolutely, I’d like that very much." To my amazement, I found myself quite sincere in my desire to meet the final member of my rescue team from the Dya.

Ivo was returning to the limo, and Michael was getting back into the car. He had roguishly saluted me again, and then I had told him he was dismissed.

"Mike?" I spoke softly.


"Thank you."

"You did a good job with Mike. He realized that you were uneasy meeting him." John was fairly beaming with pride over how I had handled Michael.

"Was it THAT obvious?" I looked at John and sighed. "You’d think by now that I’d be able to hide it better."

"Mike’s rather observant and I’m sure that Dags mentioned to him that when you met her, it was rather... emotionally upsetting for you. That’s probably why Tom is still in orbit, instead of riding shotgun. Poor Sgt. Major O’Neill, he’s always concerned about maintaining the dignity and upholding the honor of any senior office in his vicinity. You’d think after thirty odd years he’d have gotten out of the habit. One would also hope that after all this time, the man would speak more than a few words every three or four months. I hope that this is the month when he actually talks."

So apparently even...John respected O’Neill. Hmmm... maybe I should be more worried about O’Neill rather than St. John, but St. John reminded me too much of myself.

"What’s the story with O’Neill? That rapscallion St. John appears to actually have some sort of hero worship going on with the man?" I pretended indifference, but I was really curious. Time to check out the competition, Matt.

"Is minic a bhris beál duine a shrón." John quoted.

"Pardon me? I’m not familiar with..." I was startled, when the hell did he have time to pick up a second language?

"Gaelic. ’ It's often that a person's mouth broke his nose," he translated. "And we all know that Tom’s nose is extremely crooked."

"Like a road map." I admitted.

"It’s was a running joke on the Dya as Tom doesn’t talk a lot. The only time he talks is whenever Makam’s ordering him to do her dirty work or he’s running a training class. I had merely dismissed his reserved nature as merely being the quiet of someone uncomfortable around Telepaths."

"Some people are, John." Trying to ease the sting of my words, I gave him a slight smile.

"No, I was wrong. It didn’t matter that I was a 'Path as Tom has this tendency to measure and weigh each word he used. He’s awful careful not to reveal too much of himself to anyone. O’Neill has a dry, razor wit that he shared only with a select few whom he trusted implicitly. I had only heard him joke with the 'true’ senior staff such St. John, a few of the NCOs in Security, and Makam." John smiled slightly. "He never joked with me, as I was a young 'un, in spite of the rank I hold."


"Really. I never got the feeling that I knew Tom at all. He’s got this façade he shows the world, and most people just dismiss him as a humorless, stern man with a multitude of stripes emblazoned on his arms. I know he prefers it that way, but it’s not the real man. O’Neill always keeps his guard up; and he refuses to let it down, unless you pass some mysterious criteria that he keeps firmly locked in his soul."

"You should have seen him at the staff meetings. He’d sit in the back, and when it was his turn to give the security report, Tom would pass out copies of his report, and make St. John read them. O’Neill always said that Mike needed the practice. Tom was always polite, presentable, respectable, but he’d rather be with his ropes, climbing his mountains than in a staff meeting. You probably don’t remember how nervous you were when we were taking you out of the temple in the Stokes basket, do you?"

"I thought I was going to fall five hundred feet."

"He kept talking to you the entire way down, and he kept telling you tall tales about my mishaps on the Dya. Every stinking one of them, he commented on and embellished. Apparently St. John’s sense of humor has rubbed off on him. Tommy really went out of his way to try to calm you down, by giving you something to focus on besides that descent. Tom is far from being uncompassionate. It’s got to do with an "Incident" on a training mission, early on in his career that had went wrong."

"Look. We don’t need to mention it." Incidents. I hated that term, especially the way the military used it. Incidents were dry, clinical terms that usually described some horrific event that had people wounded, dead or permanently injured.

"No. If you ask him about it, he’ll talk to you about it. But Tom turns into a completely different person as he completely shuts down his emotions when he talks about it . Makam had made me sit in a few classes with him, and there I learned his only rule in life. Always have a way out. The Marines may not be able to get your sorry ass out, so always.... ALWAYS... have a way out at hand. He used what happened to him as an example to always have an escape route planned."

"What happened was that a brief training mission turned into a firefight of massive proportions. Tom hadn’t been in charge, but he had ended up being the lone survivor of squadron that was attacked by raiders. The experience really warped him as by the time the Hermes rescued him, he was completely shell-shocked, as he had been on that planet for almost six months by himself. I’ve seen his records; they plainly say that Tom wouldn’t talk more than a word or two at a time. But his old Captain grabbed him, as they were going to medically discharge O’Neill as being unsuitable for the military. He wanted to give Tom another chance in spite of the fact that Tom was literally mute, and the rest is history."

"He’s one of the most highly decorated NCOs ever. Secretly, he’s rather intimidating, especially when Tom’s in full dress uniform. All those medals and ribbons are rather noticeable, that damn sword of his, and the way he carries himself, it’s like... God himself is standing there, looking you over. Matt, you really may not be up to meeting with him just yet."

"God. It disturbing enough to meet Dags, as she vaguely looks like... Brigid... one of them. Good thing that... Vladi was there, or else I probably would have tried to get the hell out of the hospital bed and crawl away on my broken limbs."

Maybe, I’ll pass on meeting O’Neill just yet.

"I like her, and she’ll settle Zhivago down when they get married. Nice place Max has got here. You know, he mentioned the last time he was here for any length of time was three years ago."

"I missed that." I remarked.

"You were asleep and drooling on my jacket, right about then. Least you weren’t snoring, I swear Matt, you’d wake the dead." He was jesting with me, slipping back into our familiar pattern of teasing, allowing me the chance to try to compose my thoughts.

"Least, I don’t take up all the bed."

Max’s little shack spoke volumes about my current crewmember. It fairly stank of money, class prejudice and high culture, and there were even the stereotypical old family retainers anxiously waiting at the door. Showoff that he was, Max spoke to them both in French at length, while I grew annoyed. After everything that happened, I wanted a quick vibe shower and bed, as tomorrow was a day full of appointments.

"Madeleine and Pierre, these are Matthew Gideon, John Matheson, Dureena Nafeel and Sarah Chambers. Dureena is our resident sneak thief, so I hope you counted everything, like I instructed you to?"

Dureena sniffed in disgust at that comment, while Max gave her an obviously insincere innocent look. Madeleine looked horrified at the riff raff who Max was letting into HER house, and had nearly passed out when Max had commented on Dureena’s special skill. Bravely, she took Sarah, Dureena and John to their quarters... I mean... rooms, and I stood in the hallway with Max.

"Max. Max. Max. That wasn’t nice."

I recognized that amused voice, and nodded a hello to Makam. She had just walked into the hallway from a room off the side.

"I know, but it’s one of my few joys in life, Kritika. So, Star-bright, I think we managed to ditch the press as Lee drives like a mad man. Pierre, I’m going to my library, as I need to make numerous phone calls to assorted lawyers. Were there any messages?"

Pierre handed over a stack of messages. Max read through them, tossing out each and every one. "I’ll have to make some calls. Pierre, in a while, you’re to collect Gideon from the clutches of our little star over there, and show him to his suite."

Pierre nodded, and the two men walked off.

"Star-bright?" I was curious, as Makam had actually smiled both times Eilerson had used the term star.

"Max is only the second person to ever translate my name correctly. The other person is a rather remarkable individual who impressed me terribly when he actually figured out what it meant, as he had taken the trouble to learn Sanskrit. Now, you and I have got to talk, Matthew. Your refusal to talk to the lawyers is giving them heartburn, so I assured them that you wanted to talk to them in private. So the head guy is in there, and you’re going in, Captain." Her tone was brusque.

"That’s pretty Goddamn high handed of you, Makam."

"Louder, son, my pair of admiral’s eagles didn’t quite hear that last comment, Captain Gideon. Since they’re made out of gold, they’re hard of hearing. You were saying... Captain? That you’d be delighted to talk to the lawyers?"

She ignored my complete lack of enthusiasm for that idea, and Makam motioned for me to follow her. I stopped, as I had a question that I had been dying to ask her for some time.

"ADMIRAL? Can I ask how the hell you became an admiral when you retired? Isn’t that a rather substantial jump in rank?" I waited for her reaction to that. "Besides, Gold Eagles aren’t an Admiral’s Insignia that I’m familiar with."

"Never said it was an EF rank, now did I?" Kali gave me a brief smile, and then she motioned for me to keep moving.

"You’re impersonating an Admiral? They’re gonna send you to Leavenworth for that!"

"No. I’m am a Rear Admiral. My old crew of the Ramses helped settle a civil war on some planet or another, and we all were made honorary members of their military system. St. John is actually a Captain, and O’Neill’s a commissioned officer. Mike thinks that it’s hysterically funny, because Tom didn’t think it was much of a promotion for him. You know how some NCOs are rather sensitive about rank." She smirked slightly, obviously amused by O’Neill’s peccadilloes.

Maybe, I’ll pass on meeting Tom just yet. He sounds like a male version of Kritika, and I don’t think I’m mentally strong enough to deal with two of her just yet. One of her gives me fits as it is.

"Now... Captain, move it." She ordered.

"You’re having too much fun at my expense." I snapped that at the little Napoleon in front of me.

"What do you mean by that?" The older lady asked me sharply.

"That little espionage act at the airfield."

"We couldn’t assure your safety at the hotels. There have been numerous death threats, assorted crack pots, and not to mention half the damn fleet is here, instead of searching for a Cure." Makam snorted in disgust. "And more are arriving daily. By tomorrow we should have three quarters of the entire fleet here with the rest listening in. Reckless. I don’t like it, but HQ isn’t listening to me."

"Why?" The FLEET was circling Mars? I had noticed the unusually high number of EF ships in orbit around Mars when we had entered the atmosphere, but I hadn’t gone too far into reasoning why. Shit. THE FLEET WAS HERE! That means... EVERYONE in EF was going to know.

"Because like it or not, EF is a family, even if most of us think that you’re a black sheep. And when one of our own has been hurt, we turn protective. This wasn’t supposed to come to trial, you know. This was going to be settled nicely, with the defendants pleading guilty as hell, but it didn’t work. The lunatics want to embarrass you and EF."

"What about the media?"

"There was a leak, and some of the pictures got out. They’re going to be on ISN tonight and in the papers tomorrow. Mark my words, Matt, I think there’s a leak somewhere in EF, so be careful who you trust."

I winced, and Makam carefully squeezed my shoulder. Makam was assertive and bitchy, but she also was rather compassionate at times.

"So now EF wants to skip the trial, put them on a one way trip to Earth, so they can have a nice long lingering death. Matthew, it’s time to stop hiding, you know that. I’m the one that ran the investigation, and I’ve done a lot of work on this case. Now, we just need to discuss strategy with you and the lawyers tomorrow, so it is essential that you are functioning and coherent when you finally meet them all. I’ve got copies of the pictures so you’ll know what’s being presented as exhibits. Mal’s an ex-EF space lawyer."

"Let me guess, he’s a friend of yours?"

"Captain Gideon, in a long and illustrious career such as my own, you meet all sorts of important people and riffraff. The important thing is being able to befriend those who can be useful acquaintances, and ignoring the rest."

I grimaced again, and she motioned for me to sit.

"We’re going over each and every one of those pictures, before you leave this room. Now, sit, damn it."

"Malcolm Ayers, EF retired, Esquire." He was a dark, stocky man who shook my hand a little too strongly. I winced slightly, and he loosened his death grip on my hand. I tried to secretly wiggle my fingers to make sure he didn’t break anything with his grip. Come on, Malcolm. Didn’t you read my medical records and perhaps see the fact that I’ve had seven reconstructive surgeries on both my hands? "I’m the lead lawyer on this case, so sit down. I’ve read the reports, and I need to go over a few things with you. Sit down, Captain."

"That means put your ass in a chair, Matthew." Kritika hissed that at me.

"Lovely woman, delightful manners." I dryly remarked to Malcolm.

Malcolm laughed softly then turned somber. "I understand that you haven’t seen the pictures yet. Apparently... Dr. Eilerson took a large number of photos, so..."

"Just show them to me, so I know which ones are being used."

"Later. First, I need to ask a few questions. What happened?" His voice firmly advised me that it was time to sit down and talk.

"I was drugged, attacked, raped, crucified and left for dead, hanging on a circle. Then a rowdy group of Avenging Angels came in and saved my life. That’s what I did on my summer vacation." My tone was acidic, and Malcolm looked as though I had hit him square between the eyes with a 2X4.

"Matthew!" Kritika hissed. "We’re trying to convict these people, remember. A little more details might be helpful especially if we want to get them on more than assault charges. Attempted murder is one of the ones I’m gunning for plus a few more."

So, I spoke while Ayers questioned me over and over again. I found that I was speaking in the third person about what happened to me, and that I remembered everything that they had done to me. Malcolm scribbled down numerous points while I spoke, and then he’d ask me a few questions regarding something I thought was totally inane. Answering that asinine question led to a few more in-depth questions as Mal was evidently trying to fool me into revealing more than I had ever intended.

I spoke haltingly at first then I grew more and more talkative, practically spilling my soul in front of this stranger. John had kept trying to get me to talk about the upcoming trial, but I had refused, not wanting to cause him more distress. I kept talking and talking, until I heard a clock softly chime in the background. Startled, I looked at it, and realized that I had been talking for almost three hours.

"Ok. You’re going to meet the rest of your lawyers tomorrow. Now, let me show you what pictures we’re going to put on the exhibit stand."

I had learned how to shut my emotions off during my stay at "Camp Shangri-La" so I ignored the troubling feelings that were at the back of my mind. Instead, I focused on being cool and dispassionate, as though I was looking at someone else’s body. It was over an hour before Makam was done with those damnable pictures and me.

Max was talented, I had to admit, as he had done an impressive job with detailing exactly what had happened to me. By focusing on the differing aspects of light and darkness in the exam room, Max had produced pictures of amazing clarity. There were numerous shots of multiple lacerations, burns, bites and abrasions. My God, that was actually my body? I would have thought that the person in those pictures was dead, except for the fact that I had lived through that ordeal.

I was tightly wound, as I viewed the pictures, wondering what the next one would look like. For the longest time, I’d a waking nightmare where I would wake up to find pictures of my private parts on the front page of the Universe Today. Now, it had occurred, and I wanted nothing more than to have John wake me from that nightmare.

One of the men, I was betting that it was O’Neill, had managed to shield my genitalia from being seen in most of the shots. Whoever the Supreme Being of the Universe might be, I’d like to sincerely thank you for having O’Neill present. Tom had tried to keep the proceedings as dignified as possible, for all of us, like Sheila had promised. He had even blocked my face from being seen in a few of the shots.

Maybe I should nominate Tommy for a medal of some sort, as that would probably embarrass the hell out of him. That was a rather amusing though useless idea, as apparently old O’Neill was one of the most heavily decorated NCOs in the annuals of military history, and I didn’t think there was a medal or honor that he hadn’t received. From good conduct to awards for his marksmanship up to THREE, count 'em, THREE Medals of Honor, with a fourth one pending, O’Neill had them all, plus a few from 'alien’ governments. I’d nominate him for a couple more, just to see if he could carry the weight of all those medals and pins without collapsing. Alvin York had nothing on you, O’Neill!

Then Mal showed me the pictures of how the crew had found me and I nearly lost my composure and my lunch. That was my body, hanging there... crowned with thorns... I tasted bile in my mouth, and I wanted to get the hell out of the room. Enough, already. ENOUGH. I don’t want to play anymore, today.

"Enough, Mal. He’s exhausted. It’s been a long day and those pictures aren’t shots of his vacation on Disney Planet." Kritika’s voice was compassionate.

"Of course, Madam." Mal then apologized to me for the length of our interview, and reminded me that he’d like to see me tomorrow.

By the time I was free to leave the room, I was shaking. Steadying my nerves, I carefully shook hands with both Ayers and Makam, and nodded my head that I would see them tomorrow. Damn it. I heard Makam reminding me that Sheila was in the house, but I just had to leave the room and quickly.

"Show me to my quarters, Pierre." I ordered the old man brusquely, just wanting the chance to get into the vibe shower.

John was sitting in my suite, and Pierre left quickly after dropping me off.

"You look like hell. Get undressed, I’ve got a hot bath for you."

"Water?" That was a rather stupid question, if Max could afford trees and a lawn, obviously he could have a water bath.

"Water." He promised.

"I need to scrub. I feel filthy." I began undressing as I walked toward the bathroom. John was following after me, picking up various pieces of my clothing and putting them on a chair. The bathtub was HUGE. "That’s not a bathtub. That’s a goddamn pool."

"It’s enough for six people, it looks like. Do you want me to...?"


I was climbing down into the sunken bathtub when I realized John had actually asked if he could stay. I had hoped that he would be leaving, instead, he was stripping. Ignoring that for just a moment, I sank into the tub. I closed my eyes, and I concentrated on feeling the warm water. The water was not so hot as to be scalding, but warm enough to loosen the kinks in my neck and my back.

"Don’t splash." I spoke softly, as I opened my eyes to locate the soap. Upon finding it, I began aggressively scrubbing my skin, trying to wash away the taint that I was feeling.

John settled next to me, and took the soap from my hands. "You’re going to scrub yourself raw if you do that. Here, let me do it. I’ll wash you."

Nodding, I sank deep in the tub, so that only my shoulders and face were above water. John straddled me carefully, and began gently cleaning my face, and I tried to relax further.

"Close your eyes." He ordered me quietly. Slowly, and carefully, John washed my face, and then carefully, he rinsed me off.

"There, you didn’t drown, now did you?" His voice was soft, and I felt him kiss me softly.


His hands continued to soap me, and I felt my tense muscles loosening further as I was quite happy to rest in the hot water. John was a tease, as he focused intently on each of my nipples, making sure that each one of them was thoroughly clean. He played with them for a bit, and I suddenly opened my eyes.

"Careful, you might get a surprise, if you keep this up."

"No... I just want to wash you, completely. Sit up, this is getting awkward now."

"Hard, too." I whispered that softly while he continued soaping and washing my body while I grew steadily more and more aroused. He spent almost too much time on my chest and arms while my body was hoping that he’d rush to a really good spot, then he could take his time soaping and lathering it. Originally, I had wanted to be alone, but now I wanted John to seduce me, so I could feel...normal.

Ok, so I rushed him a bit, and that’s what caused the wipe out. One minute, we had started kissing gently, then wildly, and the next minute I was drowning. John or I had slipped, and then my lover landed squarely on top of me. The damnable bathtub that had seemed like a Mecca of hospitality was now going to kill me. It was almost laughable, that while I was struggling to break the surface, John was the reason why I couldn’t breath. He had saved my life and my sanity, and now his body was pinning me to the bottom of the tub.

Finally, I managed to get my head above water, and I began inhaling deeply. Oxygen is a wonderful thing; I’ve noticed that through the years. "I thought I was going to die." I spit that out, while John was still slipping around. "You know, that maneuver may work in the data crystals, but I think there should be a law informing people of the possible risks of drowning." Hooking the drain with my toes, I opened it to let the water out. "I think I’ll stay dirty for a bit longer."

John looked mortified, so I had to chuckle, which suddenly turned into a belly laugh. He looked even more embarrassed, so I laughed even harder which to my horror, suddenly turned into tears.

I let him cry, as he had a tendency of bottling up his emotions until they exploded from him in one form or another. Times like this, when Matthew was on his roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows, I’d try to let him work it out on his own as Matthew couldn’t lean on me forever. When he stopped, he rubbed his eyes, and I could tell that he was embarrassed at what he deemed a display of weakness. "Eilerson’s going to be really upset about the floor. There’s water everywhere..." Matt said that shakily.

"It’s not Max, it’s Madeleine and Pierre who are going to have a collective attack of apoplexy. Don’t get out just yet, the floor’s probably slippery, so I’m going to lay some towels down to get the worse of it up." Warning him, I got out of the tub, and I began wiping the floor up. "It’s not that bad, actually. So, get up. I have a towel for you."

I wrapped Matt in a large towel when he got out of the tub, and I began drying him off carefully. He looked so bedraggled, with his wet hair in his eyes that I had to laugh.

"What’s so funny?" His voice was soft, but for a moment, my lover had sounded like he was afraid that I was laughing at him. Never at him, I’d never laugh at Matt.

"You look like you’ve been caught in a monsoon, Matt."

John and I managed to clean the mess up that we had made with a little effort, and I was throwing the last wet towel into the hamper when I caught sight of my image in the mirror. Normally, I use a mirror just to check to make sure that I’m moderately ship shape and presentable. It’s important that your hair looks neat especially when you’re a Starship Captain. That was one of the first lessons I learned from Kritika, a lifetime ago on Babylon 5.

The second lesson was once Makam decided you needed her protection, she’d keep safeguarding you, even after you thought you could handle things on your own.

There I was, in the full mirror. Deliberately, I had avoided ever looking at my nude body since my return to the Excalibur. Not that I had ever stood in front of a mirror and preened like a peacock, but I had been comfortable shaving in the buff. I had tried that once when I first came back, my shirt and jacket neatly hanging on a hanger, while I started to shave.

I had nearly cut my jugular when I suddenly focused on the scars on my body, rather than keeping an eye on where my razor was. I was absolutely repulsed by my appearance as my body was laced with burn marks and assorted scars, and I suddenly realized that my hands were shaking very badly. That very day, I had taken to wearing my jacket sleeves a little bit longer, so I could hide the scars that crisscrossed my wrists.

Ever since then I had shaved fully dressed, and I had been extremely careful about displaying my body. I flatly refused to have anyone else in the room to do my physicals besides Sarah, as I just didn’t want them to stare. Rounds and rounds of plastic surgery had improved my appearance significantly, but I still had conspicuous scarring.

Whenever John and I had been intimate, I had tried to hide the worse of the scars from him by using darkness or blankets as a shield. It’s hard to see disfigurements in the dark or when a sheet covers them. It was a pathetic attempt at keeping my battered self-esteem intact, but I didn’t want him to be repulsed by my appearance. Having John touch me, on that first night, had been a terrifying thought for me, as he would be able to SEE them. John never commented on them, and he was gentle when he massaged me, being very careful about touching the fragile, sensitive skin grafts.

I couldn’t look at that burn mark on my chest for long, so I shivered. Patchwork quilt, that’s what I was, and I suddenly wanted to go to bed where I could hide in the darkness, and underneath blankets.

"You ok?" His tone was soothing.

"Yes." Speaking that with a false cheer, I obviously failed in fooling Matheson. Sometimes it was damnably difficult to have a Telepath as a lover. He reached out and held my hand, and brought it to his lips. Gently, John kissed the scars on my wrist and my hand.

"What are you doing?" I asked him softly.

"I want to say something... but I’m not sure... how to say it. I don’t want to upset you."

"You could never upset me, believe me. Go ahead, and speak freely."

John took a deep breath, and I motioned for him to continue. He then asked me a question that I’d never thought I’d hear from him. It was a simple three-word sentence that shocked me to my core, as I never expected to hear it from him.

"Are you happy?"

That was it? That’s what had John stressed out? I was missing something, so I had to ask him. "Happy? With what? My room? My job? The repair work on my body? Am I happy... with what?" I just couldn’t figure out how to answer that question correctly.

"Us." John spoke that softly.

"John..." Underneath that self-assured façade, lurked a young man that had been deeply hurt by life, his peers and a rather careless insensitive brute by the name of Matthew Gideon. What made him an excellent Executive Officer was the fact that he noticed the small things and remembered them. If I asked for something, he’d know that I would need this, that and a few other things momentarily. So he’d have them ready for me, as he knew my personality quirks. It spoke of our long acquaintance, and it also screamed of the fact that John was far too damn observant for the likes of me. What signals had I been transmitting that had triggered this period of self-doubt?

"I can sense... that... you’re not... happy. You try to hide it, but you can’t. I can sense it here when you let me touch your mind." He tentatively touched my forehead. "That you’re distressed here." Carefully, he put his hand on my chest. "Over our relationship. Do you regret getting involved?"

I just looked at him in horror. What had brought this on?

John then tried to continue with what he was saying, "Bluntly, do you enjoy it when we make love together? Honestly? Is there any type of enjoyment in it for you?"

John...was having performance anxieties? Damn it, Matt, it was time to be gentle with your 'Path as he was feeling inexperienced again. Touching his face with my hand, I forced him to look in my eyes while I tried to speak to him. "News flash. I do enjoy making love with you and frankly, you excite me, and delight me."

"Is there something that I should be doing... that would ... give you more... satisfaction... when we made love? Is there a position you’d like to try... or something that you’d like me to do?"

His earnestness in his voice surprised me, and I suddenly hoped that I wasn’t going to fumble the ball. It was going to be difficult for me to be eloquent, but I was going to give it my best shot. Speaking intensely, I tried to assure John that I wasn’t unhappy with his style. "Never have I been unhappy with your skill, your technique or anything else. I do enjoy it and you. I do."

"You do, and you don’t, Matthew." His voice was tinged with a multitude of emotions. Grief, sadness, and compassion.

"I do, why don’t you believe me? What makes you think that I don’t? I know... that I’m still uncomfortable with trying some of the more exotic things... with you, but... be patient with me. It’ll just take a little more time. John, what did I do to make you think this? Was it something I said? Or thought?" That had been my biggest fear that he might pick up a random thought, and focus on it. My Telepath was entirely too sensitive to the nuances and shadings of things I deemed unimportant.

"It’s because you never really get any pleasure from us being together. I can feel that you’re always worried if I’m happy, if I enjoyed it enough, what you should do differently next time and you always remember how our first time went wrong. You’re worried that Jones might pick something up, or someone on the ship might notice. Our relationship has given you a whole mess of new things to trouble you about, and I wish I knew what to do to change it for you."

"John... You’re... wrong. Believe me. I don’t regret getting involved with you. I am... extremely... happy, I’m just a little too emotionally scarred to admit it easily."

"It’s not that Matthew. Even when we were doing our homework from Sheila, and I was... trying to gratify you, you didn’t get pleasure from it."

"I DID!" That shout came from the depths of my soul, and why was he shaking his head at me? Didn’t he believe me?

"You were always focusing on... how... you were worried about me. That I was trying so hard to be patient with you, and that you just wanted to give me an absolutely incredible time. That each time, we did our ... assignments together, you were hoping that would be the night that you’d 'pass’ the sectional final so you could focus on me the next time. Matthew, I’ve tried so hard to have you enjoy this experience with me, but you haven’t really. Don’t you trust me?"

"I trust you. I trust you like no one else in this universe."

"Then trust me enough to make love with the lights on, our eyes wide open, and our minds touching. Stop worrying about both your physical scars and my perceived emotional ones and let that final barrier down. Matthew, for once, do nothing but enjoy. Stop focusing on me for once, and please concentrate on yourself. I’m a big boy, and I won’t be upset if we focus on your enjoyment exclusively. Seriously, I’d like that as I really want to...feel your mind and know that... the only thing you have on your mind... is your own desire. That the focus of your universe has come down to only one thing..."


"You’re just trying so hard not to hurt me that you’re suffocating me, Matthew. I feel like I’m not..."


"Matthew, let me finish. I feel like if I try harder, a new technique or a commando raid, that you might actually... let yourself enjoy... because you’d finally believe that I’m adult enough, strong enough to be involved with you."

"John..." I found myself totally speechless, wishing for something witty to say but apparently, all I could do was say his name. Repeatedly.

"What you’re saying here." John touched my lips with his hand. "Doesn’t match what you’re saying here." His fingers gently brushed my forehead.

I grabbed his fingers with my hand, and I wished I knew what to say to tell him he was wrong. John just shook his head sadly at my wordlessness.

"Matthew." He raised my hand to his lips, and he began kissing my fingers.

"Was that the reason you nearly drowned me just now?" I tried to keep my tone light, but John didn’t hear the fact that I was teasing him. He dropped my hand as if he had been burned, and I sighed when he walked away from me. My younger lover had suddenly looked humiliated, and suddenly I knew what the reason was behind his abortive seduction attempt in the tub. "Hey. Come on, don’t look like that."

"Was kind of hoping... that if it worked... you’d be surprised enough to let your guard down. That... maybe... you would actually... and I would... have been able...to actually sense that you were happy... I want to, so badly, Matthew. You’ve been mired in this melancholy of yours for so long, that I’d was hoping... that one day, you’d be back to being the old Matt."

"I’ll never be the old Matt." That thought had frightened me during my physical rehabilitation that I would never back to being the old Matthew Gideon. Now, months later, my fear was simple. Who the hell was I?

"You don’t know how much I miss him."

"Probably as much as I do." I just didn’t know what to say after that, so I just walked over to John. Grabbing his hand, I tried to let him know emotionally what I felt. "Listen to me. You know... that I don’t have much luck with long term relationships. Honestly, this is the most serious relationship I’ve had in years... decades even. Don’t blame me if I’m nervous that I’ll screw this up somehow. It would be very... upsetting to me, if I hurt you accidentally. After everything that has happened to me, it’s easier for me to focus on your needs as... I owe you. My life... and my sanity."

"Perhaps, truthfully, I did make a mistake getting involved with you..." Admitting that carefully, I saw that the young man next to me remained unexpressive, but I could tell that he wasn’t as unaffected as he was pretending to be. No doubt, Matheson had taken what I just said, and was mentally whipping himself with it.

"Then I’ll go." He spoke that softly. "Thank you... for being honest with me. I was wondering, and I thought you might feel that way. We’ll talk after the trial about whether I should transfer off the ship."

"John... will you let me finish, damn it? I probably shouldn’t have gotten involved with you while I was still recovering. Physically, I’m up to par but emotionally I’m not healed. That incident with Eilerson proved it, and... seeing the pictures brought that home to me, loud and clear. It’s not fair to you to be involved with someone who’s still not sure who the hell he is anymore. Who am I? What do I want? Sheila keeps pounding those questions in my head, and I just can’t think of the answers I know that she wants me to say."

"If you don’t know who you truly are, then how can you ever be happy, Matthew?"

"Maybe... it’s my doom. Maybe my karma is such that I’ll never truly be content with anything. Did you ever hear of 'The Wanderer’? It’s an old poem in which someone has lost everything in his life, his liege lord, his family... just everything. So he decides to escape from the ruins of his life, and he stows away on a ship. When he wakes up later that night, he is just overwhelmed by the desolation of the surrounding sea and the loneliness of his life. The final line has always affected me as during the darkest parts of my life, I can’t help but remember it."

I quoted it softly. "All this life is labor and sorrow,
Doom of destiny darkens o'er earth."

The young man next to me was being entirely too quiet again. I had learned through our years together that when he was that reticent, he was thinking deeply about a situation.

God, John, don’t walk out that door, I don’t think I could handle it. Not now.

"Understand... that it’s not easy for me to say this, but if you leave, I don’t think... I’ll be able... to handle this alone." Ripping that secret from the part of my heart where I had carefully hidden it, I offered it to John Matheson, who said... nothing.

John wasn’t answering me, so I whispered in his ear. "Let’s try it again, except this time in a nice, dry bed, but please, not tonight, I’m not really up to it. Next time, I’ll try to be the most selfish, demanding and inconsiderate lover that the universe has ever seen. It’ll be all about me, me, and me and to hell with you. I’ll be ordering you about like you were an ensign again, with your sole mission in life to seduce me repeatedly."

John didn’t comment, and suddenly I felt old and enervated.

"You know, I am deeply sorry."

"About what?" John returned from wherever he had been with his thoughts, and he appeared puzzled by my statement.

"That my problems are causing you to doubt yourself. It’s not your fault, John, and I wish I could convince you of it. They’re all...mine. I’m so tired, I need to go to bed."

Pierre or Madeleine had given me an emperor-sized bed.

"I’m located down the hall, and the ladies are in the other wing. Max and the staff are in the main section of the house. Would you like me to stay with you tonight?" John paused for just a moment to gauge my reaction to his offer, and then decided to explain it further. "Platonically, of course."


John motioned for me to lie down in the bed, and I did so. The sheets were soft, and I realized that there was something to be said for sleeping in a bed this large. I started to laugh, which annoyed John.

"What’s so funny?" His voice was tart, which made me laugh harder.

"Least I don’t have to worry about you pushing me out of the bed."

John was sleeping, and I just couldn’t get to sleep. Watching the clock got annoying after a while, so I decided to go exploring. Maybe I could find the library, and I could read until I got sleepy. Regretfully, I decided to let John sleep alone in the bed, hoping that when I came back, there would still be a space for me. "You must be part cat, as I’ve never had anyone take up the majority of an emperor sized bed before. Stop sprawling in your sleep, John, or I’ll really have to teach you some manners."

Off to the library I went, thinking that I could read until I was sleepy. No doubt Eilerson was enough of an intelligentsia that he had real books made out of real paper. I could spend several hours devouring his books in peace and quiet. That was a dumb idea, as Max was busy reading in the library, so I quickly turned to leave.

"Stay. I was just leaving anyway." It was an obvious lie, as he had paperwork strewn about the place. Noticing that I was quirking my eyebrow at him, Max suddenly smirked at me. "Ok, I wasn’t. But there’s enough room in here for the two of us. What do you want to read? Military history is over there." He pointed to somewhere over his shoulder. "Space law is over that away, and all my information on the Morris-Snyder Act is right on the table."

"The Morris-Snyder Act?" I picked up a book that was on the table, and I flipped through the pages. Shit, Eilerson had done some research on the codes that I had glibly thrown at him and he was angling for his pound of flesh. No doubt it would be a pound of flesh that was near and dear to my heart.

"Yes. EF code 0134 section 94a-B paragraph 6 is specifically dealt with in this chapter in this book over here. The Supreme Court has a rather different interpretation on that particular section of the law than you do. The Morris-Snyder Act as it is also known, deals with..."

I winced.

"Garbage scows that are found derelict in space. Really, did you honestly think I wouldn’t look it up?"

"No. I was hoping that you’d be so pissed that you wouldn’t think of looking it up for a bit."

"And IPX hasn’t officially acted on my resignation requests yet as apparently they’ve been lost. REPEATEDLY. I keep sending them off, and they keep losing them. So, I think I know why. Deeming me a necessary evil, for the good of the Cure, you won’t let me quit. Sit down, Gideon. You and I obviously need to talk about what’s eating you up inside."

"I’m not having any problems." Damn it, there I was, trying to ignore the obvious. Sheila should be here right now, yelling at me to be a real man and talk with Eilerson. Real men talked. Real men were in touch with their emotions. Bull-fucking shit, Sheila. Real men cowered in fear that one day that they’d have to reveal too much of theirs deepest feelings.

"Oh. Right, I forget it’s normal Policy and Procedure for EF Captains to pummel a contractor in the meeting room. That’s covered under EF Code 0134 section 94a-B paragraph 6 line C."

We both sat in the library, and Max waited for me to say something. So, finally I did.

"I am still waiting for an answer on 'Why?’, Max. No smart answers, no reminders about what a brain guy you are, just a simple answer to my question. Why did you quit IPX?"

"I’m an old man, and I’m rather tired of digging in dirt, mud and gravel. So, I figured a nice job in a sedate university is more my style. I mean, I can seduce a few underage co-eds now and then, and develop the reputation for being even more of a reprobate." His tone was acidic, and he stood up, slamming the book shut. "Good enough for you, Captain?"

"No. It’s not. You can make your reputation when we find the Cure..." Damn it, wasn’t that what he wanted? Maximilian Eilerson, Noble Prizewinner?

"I already have a reputation, Captain, both academic and otherwise. Or do you fail to remember your little comment in the meeting room? Perhaps I should send you to Sarah or one of the other people in the room that were there. No doubt they can remind you exactly what my reputation on the Excalibur is."

"Is that why you quit? You’re that upset over my comment in the meeting? I don’t have a problem admitting that I shouldn’t have said it, and I will... apologize for saying it." That stuck in my throat, but I had to deal with Eilerson, and get him back on the team. There were billions of lives depending on Eilerson’s ability. If he wanted me to grovel, I’d cringe, cower and implore him to get back to the Excalibur. "I’ll call a meeting right now, and say it in front of as many people as you deem necessary to salve your pride. I’ll buy a commercial during prime time on ISN."

"It’s not that. Not at all."

"Then what is it, man? I’ll crawl on the floor if it will get you back on the Excalibur. Damn it, we’re counting on your damn skills to help find that Cure, and you’re walking off in fit of pique. Do you want me to humiliate myself, I will. Name your price, Eilerson. What will it be? ISN? A full page color ad in the Universe Today?"

"You just continue to amaze me, Captain. Do you know that? I quit because the Captain of the good ship Excalibur is afraid of me." He leaned in my direction, and laughed mockingly when I drew back from him. It was a reflexive action, which I did whenever anyone got to close to me, not just Eilerson. He had invaded my personal space that’s all. I wasn’t afraid of him... Not at all.

"You look at me, and you think of them. You dismiss me as being no better than they are. You put me on trial day after day, without the benefit of witnesses, evidence and jury. You sit as the judge, and then you condemn me as guilty. GUILTY. Every goddamn day. Maximilian Eilerson, Guilty. GUILTY. GUILTY." His voice was rising, as he grew angrier. "I do not condone RAPE. Sure, I don't mind seeing the high and mighty Matthew Gideon knocked down a few pegs, especially when I'm the one who's done it, but I don't get my jollies from what I saw that day in the exam room. Role playing between consenting adults, I enjoy, as walking on the wild side can be quite exhilarating. The key word is CONSENTING."

"I quit because of you and your fears about me, and I am getting my pants sued off because of you and your fears. Are you happy, Captain? Is that a good enough reason for why?"

Stunned, I couldn't answer him for a few minutes. "It's adequate, I suppose."

"Now, kindly, talk to whomever it was at IPX that you spoke with, and have them locate my missing resignations. There should be at least six of them filed with them by now."

Then the damnable Eilerson walked out of the library.

{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}