Destruction of a Telepath

by The Upholsterer

The death of all plans
Sequel/Series: This is part 6 of 6 in the Captain's Chair series.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to someone else except the story itself which is mine.
Warning: May cause a bit of sniffling

Rating: PG-13 (Adult language/situations)

Remember to read Captain's Chair, Lieutenant's Bed, Captain's Floor, Lieutenant's Ship, and Seduction of a Linguist first!

Captain Matthew Gideon was standing next to his Command Chair listening to a report from his first officer, Lieutenant John Matheson, when he heard the door to the bridge open. He turned his head casually, expecting to see one of his technicians returning from a break or someone coming early for the shift change. Instead, he saw a small dark woman he did not recognize. She was not wearing the Earthforce uniform but a tailored woman's suit of unrelieved black. She had tight bound brown hair and penetrating black eyes, in a face pinched and set in sober lines.

All this he noticed in the brief instant before John stepped around him and Gideon turned to ask John who the woman was. John's face was full of utter horror, "Mr. Jones, you're early--"

His words choked off and his head snapped back. John's whole body went rigid and his mouth opened in a silent cry of pain. Gideon's eyes flew back to the woman who was now smiling slightly, a smile which delighted in the destruction of others. The smile vanished and she spat, "That's obscene!"

Before his mind had even began to function, Gideon had reached into the side pocket of his chair and pulled out his PPG. He stepped between directly between the woman and John. "You have exactly as long as it takes for me to release this trigger to stop," his voice was deadly in the silent bridge and he pulled back the trigger on the PPG, the charging whine snapping the woman's eyes to him.

The woman gave a little toss of her head, and Gideon heard John crumple to the floor behind him. "It doesn't matter," she said with smug triumph, "I have all I need to know to destroy you both."

"Security! Get this creature off my bridge!" Gideon snarled, "And find out how the hell she got in here in the first place!"

The two bridge security personnel were already moving, and they grabbed her from both sides, pulling her arms behind her and placing a charged PPG against her neck.

"It will do you no good, Captain," she smiled her cold smile, "I will have you and your filthy little playmate courtmartialed and shot."

"Throw her in the deepest, darkest place on the ship," Gideon said coldly, "and if she tries to do anything funny, anything at all, blow her head off." The woman was roughly dragged off the bridge and Gideon could finally disengage his PPG and turn to John.

John was curled up in a tiny ball on the hard floor of the bridge, his eyes wide and blank, silent tears streaming down his face. He was shaking heavily. Gideon fell to the floor next to him. "Trauma team, now!"

He pulled John into his arms, but the Lieutenant didn't seem to notice him. His body was locked into a tight fetal circle. "John? John?" he asked urgently, trying to wipe away the tears.

No reaction, nothing. It was like John's mind was not on the bridge, but trapped far away in some private Hell.

"Johnnie!" he said more desperately, "Come back, I'm here! She's gone, I won't let her hurt you!" Tears continued to leak out of John's empty eyes. "Johnnie, please." He held John tight against his chest, fear making his heart pound so loud he could hardly hear his own voice. "Johnnie, Johnnie," he pleaded, "I love you, don't leave me, don't leave me ..."


"He's still unconscious."

In the medbay, Dr. Chamber's voice called Gideon out of the black haze he was in. He looked up at Sarah, and she flinched at the expression on his face.

"How is he?" Gideon forced himself to ask.

"In pain," she said quietly, placing her hand on his arm. "There doesn't seem to be any permanent neurological damage, but I won't be able to tell for sure until he comes around."

Gideon clenched his fists. "When will that be?"

"I don't know," she answered, "I'm sorry. He went into complete telepathic and mental shutdown, a purely instinctive reaction. He will come out of it slowly, and only when he feels safe."

"Rrrrrr!" Gideon grabbed the medical cart near his hands and sent it hurtling across the floor and smashing into the wall on the far side of the room. "I will kill her!"

"That will not help John," Sarah interrupted urgently. "We have to deal with this logically."

"Logically!" Gideon growled, "It is quite logical for me to go down to her cage and rip her limbs from her body!" He picked up a glass bottle and hurled it against the far wall. It crashed with a satisfying shatter and he picked up another.

"Captain, Matthew, please," Sarah's voice was calming, trying to reach him through his violent rage. "We need to think of John first."

"I am thinking of John!" he flung the second bottle after the first. "I can't stop thinking of John!"

"What John needs--" she put her hand on his arm as he reached for another bottle, "What John needs is to feel safe. That is not going to happen here, even if you would stop smashing things."

"What are saying?" He gripped the glass bottle in one white knuckled hand.

"I want you to take John to his quarters," Sarah said, "and stay with him. Convince him that it is safe to come back from wherever he fled to."

Gideon slowly released the bottle. "But it's not safe," he muttered at last.

"One step at a time, Matthew. First, help John. Then we think about what to do next."

"Alright," he shook himself, "Have him brought to his quarters and placed in his bed. I'll take it from there."

"Good," Sarah gave him a weak smile. "You will be much better medicine than anything I can give him. Let me know the moment he is conscious."

"Yes, doctor," Gideon turned and left the medbay, feeling old and scared


Two medbay techs helped Gideon take off John's uniform and put on the silk pants he slept in. It was a struggle to get him changed, since his arms and legs were stiff and bent and he fought against any attempt to straighten them. Finally changed, the techs pulled back the covers of John's bed and laid him in it. They looked at the Captain, looked at each other, and silently left the room.

As soon as the door to John's quarters closed, Gideon stripped out of his uniform and pulled on the old t-shirt and sweats he kept there. He crawled into bed next to John, and laid the covers over them both. He pulled John against himself, his back stiff against Gideon's stomach, and held him tightly.

"Johnnie, Johnnie, Johnnie," he murmured, "I love you, I love you. Come back to me."

He continued to speak quietly to John, his cheek against John's. He told John how much he loved him, and how empty his life would be without him. He told him how much the last few months had meant to him and how happy he had been. He carefully avoided mentioning Mr. Jones, but went on to talk about some silly dreams he had for their future. Using up all the words he could think to say on that topic, he went on to relate stories of their time together, both before and after they had become lovers. He found himself laughing a time or two as he chattered on about some of their more ludicrous adventures -- "remember the time when a huge hyperspace creature tried to mate with the Excalibur?"

His throat grew sore and his voice grew rough but he continued to talk. Some portion of his mind was reliving those tense few seconds on the bridge, trying to figure out what he could have done differently, protected John more. He also couldn't help thinking about how the news of his and John's affair must be spreading like a virus through the ship. His actions on the bridge, what he and Mr. Jones said, what was said in Medbay. Regret was futile. There was no way now to contain the damage. But if he could keep it on his ship--

"Computer, voice command," he said abruptly, his voice loud, "Cut off all communication channels out of the ship, except for emergency beacons and channels specifically approved by me. Allow all inbound communication to continue. Authorization Captain Matthew Gideon."

The computer paused, and Gideon feared his voice was too raw for identification.

"Acknowledged," it said at last.

Gideon dropped his head back onto the pillow and tried to remember what he had been talking to John about before he interrupted himself. Right, the time that they had gotten into a bar fight on Zebulon 3.

Eventually, Gideon ran out of stories, out of words. He had no idea how long he'd been lying here, talking and holding John's unresponsive body. His throat ached, his arms hurt from how tightly they were gripped around John's torso, his head pounded and his eyes stung from unshed tears. He longed for a drink of water.

"Johnnie, please," he murmured, "Come back to me. Come back, come back, come back, comeback, comebackcomebackcomeback ..." He repeated the same desperate phrase over and over again. He struggled against tiredness, emotional exhaustion and the lure of sleep. He must stay awake and be there for John if ... when he woke up. Despite his best efforts, he must have drifted off.

He came to himself with a jerk to find John's eyes open and looking at him.

"Hi Matt," John said weakly.

"Thank God," Gideon gathered John against himself tightly, kissing his forehead, "Don't you ever do that again!"

John tried to smile, but his eyes drooped and closed again.

"John!" he shook him gently, "Are you okay?"

"Just tired ..."

"Dr. Chambers told me to tell her as soon as you woke up. Please stay awake!"

"Tired ..." his voice trailed off and he was asleep. His body began slowly to relax from its rigid posture. His breathing grew deep and even.

Gideon bit his lip and reached over John's shoulder to grab his wrist communicator. "Gideon to Dr Chambers," he rasped out.

"Chambers here," Sarah responded instantly, "Is he awake?"

"He was for a moment, but he's asleep now. His muscles seem to have unlocked."

"Did he say anything?"

"He said, 'Hi Matt', and that he was tired."

Sarah let out a breath of relief. "Both good signs. He recognized you and was able to report on his own condition."

Gideon knew he sounded as ragged as he felt, "I tried to keep him awake, but ..."

"Let him sleep," Sarah said firmly, and Gideon was very grateful for the calm authority in her voice. "Let me know when he wakes up for more than a short moment."

"I will."

"And Matthew," Sarah said gently, "He needs you sharp and rested. You need to sleep too."

"Yes, doctor... Gideon out."

His hand opened and his communicator dropped to the bed and rolled onto the floor, but he didn't care. His head fell back to the pillow and he pulled the sleeping John as close as he could. "I love you, Johnnie," he said one last time, then allowed the dark comfort of sleep to claim him.


The staff room was holding a Council of War. Galen wasn't around and all of the other senior crew members had already known before today about John and his relationship, so he was grateful to not have to deal with that. He had endured enough surprise, distaste, suspicion, disbelief and every other unpredictable reaction from his crew as he had helped a still pale John through the halls on the way to this meeting. Max, Dureena, and Sarah had already come to their own terms with the fact that John and him were lovers, and were more interested in the current emergency.

Any thoughts of sympathy for Mr. Jones that anyone in the room still harbored were banished when Gideon read them the security report. The woman had telepathically subdued three shuttle crew, five security officers, and twelve other miscellaneous crew members on her way to the bridge. The security chief was frantically preparing a report for Gideon on how they could prevent something like this happening again, but that was of low interest to Gideon.

This "Mr. Jones" had definitely stepped over the bounds in her zeal to get to an unprepared John, and they could certainly get her recalled based on her actions, but then even if her report was discounted, they would just send another Mr. Jones. This had to stop here, now.

Dr. Chambers gave a brief medical report on John as Gideon rubbed at the headache between his eyebrows. He had thought a great deal about Mr. Jones's exclamation, "That's obscene!" He had decided that it wasn't related to the fact that he and John were both men, a fact that still bothered some people, or the fact that they had broken the age-old rule about personal relationships between commanders and subordinates. He believed her revulsion came from finding out the casual use that John had made of his telepathic powers for their own personal recreation. She didn't look like the person that would understand frivolous activities like going to the beach using a Sensory Net or their boring-meeting game.

Not even his worst fears about John's upcoming meeting with Mr. Jones had come close to this nightmare.

His eyes rested on John. He still looked so pale, but his jaw was set and he looked determined to ignore his lingering pain and exhaustion and contribute to the meeting.

Sighing, Gideon opened the discussion by turning to John. "Did you ... get anything from her, while she was ... ?"

"Very little, Captain," John said, his voice leeched of all its normal snap, "a few impressions, some images. Nothing I can really puzzle out."

"Try?" Gideon said gently, "Please, John, it may be important."

"Alright," John said, and closed his eyes.

Gideon watched John concentrate until someone cleared their throat. Sarah was looking at him sympathetically.

Uncomfortable, Gideon said quickly, "What do we know about this woman?"

"Not much," Max said, looking up from a report that John's second had prepared. "The Lieutenant needs to train his underlings better on how to dig up dirt. But ... real name, Lethia Clark. She's a P12 and was a high-ranking officer in Psi Corps. But her position as a government liaison isolated her from the rest of the Corps, and she managed to not only survive, but emerge looking like a telepath that EarthForce could trust. She's now in some special liaison position in the new system."

Gideon frowned, "Sounds like she's an important figure, what is she doing as a simple telepath watchdog?"

"She came for me," John said quietly. "I remember that now, she came looking for me. She believes that telepaths are 'wasted' in normal military. I can still feel her triumph as she found what she thought proved her right."

Gideon raked his hand through his hair, "Whoosh. Someone cheer me up and tell me how this could have possibly been worse."

"She could have just killed you both," Dureena said wryly.

"Okay, forget I asked." Gideon tiredly rubbed his eyes. Why did everyone in the universe have to be against the one damn good thing he had ever found?

Well, to be fair, not everyone. Both Sarah and Dureena were thrilled about his relationship with John, believing that they were meant for each other and rules be damned. But even for the people in this room, he wasn't sure what Max Eilerson thought about him and John. And what Max thought about the intense menage a trois that he had been seduced into three weeks ago in the storeroom. On the surface, he had been the same irritating arrogant Max, maybe even more so.

But twice in the last three weeks he had appeared at Gideon or John's door, looking disheveled and red-eyed, like he had just lost a battle with himself. Then he had merely walked into their quarters, exchanged looks with both John and Gideon, and began unbuttoning his shirt. And then they had two more sessions of mind-blowing, heart-pounding three-way sex. It wasn't the same as the tender loving with John that satisfied his soul, but God was it fun. Gideon had been thinking of pulling out the blindfolds and candles next time Max appeared. He hadn't decided yet who would be wearing the blindfold.

Then this happened, the death of all plans.

Gideon came back to himself and realized that an uncomfortable silence had stretched over the conference room. Time to forget about the personal things and get back to our real mission.

"Marrek's Retreat," Gideon said firmly. "When do we arrive?"

The tension in the room lessened slightly as they returned to normal business.

"Late tomorrow," John said.

Gideon chewed his lip and looked at Max. "Are you sure there is no other way? Especially considering ..." he nodded towards the pale John.

Max shook his head, "You know my advance scouts as well as I do. And they know us. If they could have thought of any other way to get us into the ruins than the one they proposed, they would have. Well, there's always the kill-half-the-population plan."

Gideon winced, "Not unless I have to. Are you sure that this site is worth it?"

"Who can say?" Max shrugged, "But the intel is very promising. We know that before the current bunch of loonies took over the planet, there were strong signs of a highly advanced culture. Not enough evidence for them to have started here, this was probably a colony planet. Local legend has always claimed that the race that lived here didn't die out, they left. And if I can make some tenuous and highly speculative connections, though I really need to study the evidence before I could reach such a conclusion--"

"We won't tell your college professor," Gideon said, "Go ahead and speculate."

Max smiled slightly, "I would speculate that this colony is connected to several more scattered throughout the known universe, each abandoned in the way this one was. It is almost as if the culture expanded outwards, then because of some event, contracted back together, probably back to their homeworld."

"And that event?"

"Again, highly speculative ..."

"Continue, Mr. Eilerson."

"The theory is that there was some sort of disease that decimated the race's population, and, once they had conquered the disease, they needed everyone to retreat back to their homeworld in order to create a viable population again. Unfortunately, their society also collapsed into barbarism and it was thousands of years before they gained space travel again."

Gideon's eyebrows raised. "This speculative race still exists?"

"Though they have no written evidence of their history, they have strong oral evidence which correlates with the theory. You and I know them as the Taten, though their own word for themselves loosely translates as 'The Survivors'."

Dr. Chambers sat up straight in her chair. "The Taten? Very primitive race I always thought, but they do have a biology fairly similar to the humanoid one. And you think that they might have been infected by the Plague? And found a cure?"

Max spread his hands. "The timing of the disease and the cultural iconography as evidenced in their oral traditions would suggest that to be a definite possibility, yes."

"Timing?" Sarah asked.

"A little over two thousand years ago, about the time in the cycle of the universe that the Shadow/Vorlon wars seemed to happen."

"And what do the Taten have to say? Why aren't we going to their homeworld?"

"Unfortunately, with their fall into barbarism, the Taten destroyed most of the historical evidence that we could investigate. The ruins on Marrek's Retreat are some of the best preserved examples of the ancient Tatens, if that's who they were."

Gideon nodded thoughtfully. "Well, it definitely sounds like a place worth investigating. But are you sure about this plan?"

"Marrek's Retreat is a very closed, structured society, built along the lines of Earth's ancient feudal societies. There are very few people allowed to move freely. Most strangers would be captured and thrown into the dungeon, if they don't draw and quarter you first."

"Isn't this a fairly recent colony? How did they fall into feudalism?

"They set it up that way. Something about returning to the stability of knowing your role in society."

"With this Marrek guy as king?"

"Well, yes," Max smirked, "Gotta admire that."

Gideon smiled faintly then sighed, "Alright, I want a meeting with everyone that can give me any scrap of information about that place in my office in ... two hours."

"Meanwhile," Gideon pushed his chair back and looked regretfully at John, "we need to talk to that monster down in Security."

John closed his eyes and nodded.


Taking a deep breath, Gideon stepped in to Security area. An EF guard in a starched uniform jumped to his feet. "Captain!"

"At ease, Gideon said, "Mr.-- "

"Dartin," John said under his breath.

"--Dartin," Gideon finished smoothly. "How is our prisoner?"

Ensign Dartin cleared his throat. "We were forced to mildly sedate her, Captain. She was ... uncooperative."

"I understand," Gideon said, "Can she have visitors?"

"I will check, sir." The guard stepped out of the room to confer with the colleague that was standing close guard. He returned, nodding. "She is awake sir, and restrained."

"Good," Gideon said grimly. He looked at Dartin, visually measuring the size and strength of the man. "How are your nerves?"


"Answer the question, Ensign."

"Steady, sir. If you need someone to watch your back, I'm your man."

"Excellent. Now we are going to walk into that room and you are going to dismiss the guard currently there. Then you are going to take out your PPG, charge it, and point it at the prisoner."


"Lt. Matheson and I will walk into the room then. I will talk to Mr. Jones and you will monitor my behavior, the Lieutenant's, and the prisoner's. If any one of us does something strange, like trying to release the prisoner, I want you to shoot her."

"The prisoner..."

"If one of us starts talking funny, shoot her. If you start getting a headache or feeling strange, shoot her. If Lt. Matheson starts looking like he's under mental attack, shoot her. If one of us scratches our head funny, shoot her. Got it?"

The Ensign swallowed, "Shoot to kill or injure, sir?"

"Use your discretion. But err on the side of sudden and deep unconsciousness."

"Yes, sir."

Gideon licked his lips and smoothed back his hair, then gestured for Dartin to go ahead of him. He wished that EF wasn't so damn stingy with the Teep sleepers or else he'd have the crazy bitch drugged to her manicured eyebrows.

Dartin went through the doorway and John placed his hand on Gideon's arm. "Matt, I can't protect you from her, she's too strong."

"I know. Can you at least tell if she is scanning me?"

"Probably, but I wouldn't be able to stop it."

"What about if she tries to control one of us?"

"Same. I'll know, but won't be able to do a damn thing about it."

"Good enough." Gideon reached down and gripped John's hand. "We will get through this." John nodded, but Gideon could tell he wasn't convinced.

When they walked into the holding area, they found Lethia Clark standing near the security field, watching them arrive. She seemed completely oblivious of Dartin who was standing in a classic shooter's pose with his PPG trained on her. Her hands were tied and restraining cuffs on her ankles, but her eyes were sparkling and her thin lips curved into a charictature of a smile. "Well, if it isn't the Mighty Captain and his little pervert."

Gideon's throat went dry, "Ms. Clark, can't we--"

"Don't even try to bargain with me," She interrupted him with sharp clipped tones, "I have already sent a report to my superiors, and to your superiors. Your guard was ... kind enough to allow me access to a communications console before you shut the system down."

"Damn," Gideon whispered.

"That's right, Captain, damned is what you are." "And you!" she turned towards John, her lip curling, "to take your talents and turn them into some ... amusement holosuite. It's obscene."

"Wait a minute," Gideon interrupted, "what John does on his own time is his own business."

Lethia gave a low harsh laugh, "Do you actually believe that, Captain?"

"Yes, I do. But obviously you don't."

"Not when it comes to the superior John Matheson, beacon to all telepaths who, for some ungodly reason, want to be in EarthForce."

"You can't hold his private life against him, he is the best Executive Officer I've ever seen. And his telepathy has come in handy a few times, saved lives even. He has only used his abilities on others when there was dire need."

John tensed beside him. "Matt, she's scanning you."

"Dartin?" Gideon said warningly.

She seemed oblivious to the threat of a charged gun. "What is this?" she asked sharply, her eyes narrowing, "Marrek's Retreat?"

John held up his hand towards Dartin. "She's stopped."

Gideon nodded and Dartin relaxed fractionally. "Oh, Marrek's Retreat," Gideon swallowed, " ... Let me explain. It's a tightly controlled society. The only people that are allowed to move about are travelling merchants, entertainers, and the occasional religious madman. We don't have the months it would take to set up a convincing cover as a merchant or an entertainer, so that leaves us with holy man. Being thought insane will cover any slip-ups we make but the local Lord where we need to search is a hardcase. We will have to convince him that I am truly 'touched by God'. That's where John comes in."

"By reading people's minds without their permission and sharing it with you."

"By convincing them I'm a seer. John is not really .. flamboyant enough to pull it off himself and the seer has to be me since John and I are already comfortable talking mind to mind."

"I know," she sneered. "Isn't that so convenient?"

"It's the best way to get access and see if there is really something there worth exploring."

"And what's the violation of a few minds?"

"Weighed against the probable deaths of hundreds if we go in with our guns blazing? I'll take that trade."

"I'm sure you would, Captain. You have about as much moral conscience as a bug, and besides, you're just a Normal." She turned on John, "But, Mr. Matheson, I would expect you to understand, to realize that this ... charade violates every sacred vow, every stricture you claim to hold dear. You were in the Corps, you should know better."

"I side with my Captain," John said firmly.

"You would," her lip curled, "You are the worst excuse for a P6 that I have ever met. To think that the Corps trusted you, to think that others of our people are looking up to you as some sort of example ... It turns my stomach."

"Thankfully you're not the person that makes that decision," Gideon said flatly, "Your report will be reviewed by people with cooler heads and more awareness of what Lt. Matheson offers to our mission."

"They will see exactly what I saw."

"Perhaps. Or perhaps they will realize that you came to the Excalibur with the agenda to destroy John. And your heavy-handed tactics to get to him show that you are obviously unbalanced. How many was it, twenty of my crew that you suborned to get to John while he was on duty? What about their rights to mental privacy?"

"Not the same at all, they are soldiers, not civilians."

"And that makes it all alright."

Lethia's mouth worked and she spat to one side. "I don't have to justify myself to you, Captain. I know where my priorities lie, and that is much higher than my genitals. John Matheson is a danger to all Telepaths and I know that the others will see it that way as well. And if they don't ..."

Lethia's eyes shifted past Gideon's right shoulder and he heard a slight sound behind him. Gideon instinctively spun to his right and saw Dartin's PPG move to aim directly at John.

"Down!" Gideon shouted, throwing his shoulder into Dartin. Dartin's PPG went off, the pulse reverberating in Gideon's ears.

"John?" he called out, grappling with the guard who was fighting with animal strength. "John, you okay?"

"Yes ..." John said through clenched teeth.

Holding tightly to Dartin's arms, Gideon turned his head enough to see that John was locked in a battle of minds with Lethia, a battle that John was quickly losing.

The door swung open and the other security guard rushed in. The guard pulled out his PPG and Lethia immediately took control of him as well. Instead of turning towards John, the guard leveled his gun at the security controls and blasted them to bits. The security field went down with a electronic squeal. Two more quick shots and the telepath was free of her restraints.

Dartin took advantage of Gideon's distraction and smacked him in the back of the head with the butt of his gun. Pain shot up his skill, but Dartin must have been fighting Lethia's control or else Gideon would have been unconscious on the floor.

Gideon didn't pause for an instant of sympathy for the enslaved guard but swung his right elbow and caught Dartin in the forehead. The guard stumbled back, releasing Gideon's other arm. Gideon kicked backward, his heel connecting with a crunch to Dartin's knee. He grabbed Dartin's arm and swung him around his shoulder, spinning the guard into the side of the cell wall. Dartin connected with a thud and slid to the floor. His PPG went skittering away into the cell, out of reach.

Gideon turned to look for it and saw the second guard was bringing his gun to bear on John's back. Lowering his head, Gideon charged towards the second guard, slamming into the man's chest with his head and shoulder. He pulled his legs underneath him and vaulted upwards, smashing his head into the other's chin. The guard's mouth clicked closed and his head snapped back. He staggered backwards. Gideon followed the guard's motion, seizing the hand with the gun and turning the wrist. He took one more step and slammed the man into the wall. The PPG came loose into his hands and he spun around.

He swung the PPG towards where John and Lethia were still struggling. Their gazes were fused together and her hands were in a death grip around his wrists. Gritting his teeth, Gideon tried to steady his hands. One quick shot to the back of the neck ... NO, dammit, we need her alive!

He aimed lower and pulled the trigger. Lethia didn't even cry out when the PPG pulse slammed into her left knee and her legs buckled underneath her. She pulled John down to his knees as she fell and their telepathic battle continued unabated. John's face was utterly pale and his lips were pulled back tightly over his teeth.

"Let him go," Gideon warned, his voice heavy with hate, "I will kill you." Lethia's only answer was a slight dismissive shake of her head. John was sweating heavily, his eyes mere slits of dark.

Aiming at Lethia's shoulder, Gideon pulled the trigger. At that exact instant, a revived Dartin grabbed Gideon's knees, causing him to stagger. The pulse ripped out of his gun, higher than he intended.

The shot seemed to move so slowly across the room that he felt he could almost reach out and pull it back.

He was raising his hand as the pulse met the side of Lethia's face. It splashed across her face with a ripple of light and color. Her head jerked with the blow and she slowly crumpled sideways. Lethia's grip on John's wrists loosened and John fell backwards.

Dartin instantly stopped struggling with Gideon and pulled his hands away, stark horror on his face. Gideon's eyes were riveted to a spot over Dartin's head. Lethia was lying on the floor where she fell. She was utterly still.

"NO!" Gideon shouted, dropping the gun.

"Captain, I'm so sorry--" Dartin began, but Gideon brushed by him. Falling to his knees on the hard floor by the fallen telepath, he searched in vain for a pulse. "Trauma team now!" he snapped at his wrist communicator. He frantically started CPR. "You are not going to die on me, you evil bitch. You are going to live and testify and tell people that John is doing a great job and --"

"Matt, Matt!" John was shaking him. "She's dead."

"No ...."

"Yes," John said softly. "I ... heard her die, in my head."

Gideon looked up into John's face. His lover's beautiful features were drawn with new lines of pain and exhaustion. "God ... I'm sorry."

"Captain?" Dartin said tentatively.

"Get the other guard and go to Medbay," Gideon replied without looking at him. "Get that knee looked at."

Dartin stood for a moment, then quietly turned to leave. At that instant, the door crashed open and a blur of EarthForce uniforms stormed the room, immediately relieving everyone of any weapons. The trauma team swiftly took control of the situation, pushing Gideon away from Lethia and examining her with various mysterious medical devices.

"What happened?" One tech snapped at Gideon.

"PPG shot to the face."

A tense silent moment as they worked on the still figure of the telepath. "I'm sorry, sir," the tech said at last. "There is nothing we can do. She died instantly."

They carried the body out and Gideon merely stayed where he was on his knees, and stared blankly after them.

"Matt, what are we going to do?" John asked, his voice shaking with shock.

Gideon didn't answer. He had nothing to say, no solace to offer.

What would he do? He knew what he would do. He would walk out that door and go to his office. There he would sit down at his desk and write out the terse but necessary request for a full investigation in the death of Lethia Clark, aka Mr. Jones. Then he would spend the last hours of his EarthForce career with his First Officer.


That night, neither John nor Gideon slept. They lay in the darkness and held each other. They didn't speak, they didn't need to. The enormity of what had happened lay upon them like a leaden blanket. They could only hold each other ... and pray.

It was still early in the morning when Gideon's comm buzzed. Gideon picked it up and, with a few curt words, found out what they had been dreading was already coming to pass. One General Lensford, among the top ranking EF officers, was requesting permission to board the Excalibur.


When General Lensford stepped out of his shuttle, Gideon recognized the type immediately and his heart sank. This was an old form General, probably in EF before he was out of diapers. Exactly the type that would be against telepaths in the military.

Gideon and John snapped to attention, along with the rest of his staff and everyone else in the area. "General Lensford," Gideon began, extending his hand, "It's an honor--"

"Bullshit," the General snapped. "You are as happy to see me here as I am to be here. I read Leth--Mr. Jones's preliminary report and I know about you and your playmate here, so don't try and hide it from me. What I want to know is what happened after that report. And how a top Psi Officer ended up dead."

Gideon blinked. "Sir, shouldn't we go somewhere more private?"

"Now, Captain!"

Gideon swallowed and began talking, forcing his voice into an even steady tone. He tried to give a succinct and unbiased report on the events of yesterday, but he found himself arguing for the validity of the steps he had taken. General Lensford paced up and down as Gideon talked.

After he finished, the General stopped pacing and stared off into the middle distance for a long silent moment. Shaking his head, he finally turned and glared at Gideon and John. "God knows I don't really care about the death of some Teep, even a so-called big deal Teep, but there have been serious breaches of regulations here. And for her to try and stop you investigating a great lead for the Cure like that ... That cannot happen again.

"Captain Gideon, I am going to deal with the problem by removing the problem. There will be no more Mr. Jones. No more teeps on Excalibur to distract you from finding the Cure. Not one."

John paled, and Gideon's heart plummeted further.

"Lieutenant Matheson will get to explain to an EarthForce inquiry board why his CO ended up killing Ms. Clark, and then I'll let him explain to his fellow Teeps. I'm sure they will find adequate punishment for this and your other ... infractions."

General Lensford turned to a security guard standing nearby. He gestured towards John, "Take that man into custody," he said coldly, "He will be returning to Mars with me."

The guard looked to Gideon.

"General--" Gideon began to protest.

The General whirled on him. "You!" he pointed at Gideon's face with a trembling finger. "I will deal with you next."

"But General!" Gideon said desperately, "Weren't you listening? We need him to get into Marrek's Retreat!"

"Find another way!" He turned to the guard. "Didn't you hear me, man! Snap to it!"

"Yes, sir!" The guard approached John apologetically. "If you would come with me, Lieutenant?"

John eyes flickered over to Gideon, stark panic hiding in the depths of his eyes. Gideon gave a tight nod. He would find a way to save John, he had to.

John held his hands out. The click of the wrist restraints reverberated like a shot in the silent landing bay.

The General nodded, spun on his heel, and walked smartly towards the door to the bay. "Do you know the paperwork this is going to cause?" His rough voice echoed back to them, "Is there any place in this goddamned boat where I can have a chair and some real coffee?"


Shortly thereafter, General Lensford had Gideon report to the conference room he had taken over as his office. Gideon stood at attention, his eyes over the General's shoulder.

"Matthew Gideon," the General began, "You are an absolute bastard, do you know that?"

Gideon stood silent, knowing the General didn't want a reply.

"You think that because some asinine idiot chose you to Captain this ship that you're untouchable? You think that you can ignore every rule that has held EarthForce together, held together every military in the history of the universe? Yes, you might have to bend a few rules to find the Cure. But fucking your goddamned First Officer? The only thing that cures is your goddamned libido."

"I would love to take your command away -- Hell, I'd love to have you courtmartialed and shot. But the damn media has made you out to be our Great goddamned Savior from the Plague. Your face is more recognized back home these days than the President of Earth Alliance. If I take you down, there will be rioting in the streets."

Gideon blinked, surprised by this news. What he was not surprised by was the venom in the Lensford's voice. Gideon had broken one of the most sacred laws of EF, and he was going to get away with it, at least for a while, because of the "goddamned public".

Gideon had to swallow hard a few times to avoid breaking into a huge grin. They were going to leave him his beautiful ship. Then the rest of reality slammed into him, causing him almost to cry out in despair. They were keeping him on the Excalibur, but they were going to take John away. Cruel, cruel fate ... And he had promised John that they would always be together ...

The General then started into a virulent harangue, calling Gideon all kinds of traitor and whore. He stood toe to toe with Gideon and poured out his frustrations into Gideon's face.

Gideon himself stood stiffly, the foul diatribe washing over him unnoticed. All he could think of was John. John's dreams shattered, his life ruined. And taken far far away, where Gideon could never reach him.

He had promised John that he would never abandon him. Another broken promise.

His heart seemed to crumble within him, flooding his body and soul with black poison. The failures of his life filled his head, pressing against his temples, and shuttering his eyes with a black haze. He hardly noticed when the General wound down and stopped.

When Lensford got no response, he turned and stomped out of the office. Gideon continued to stand at attention long after the door closed behind him.

His minded whirled and whirled until it finally came to a exhausted halt.

Nothing. There was nothing he could do. All cards had been dealt, all hands played. He had gambled with his soul and with John's soul and lost them both.


I will not cry. I will not cry. I will be strong and positive for John. I will not cry.

The General had ordered that Gideon was not to see John, but there wasn't one person on this ship who would dare stand in his way.

As he hurried down the hallways, people flattened themselves against the walls to get out of his way. His expression must have made the Grim Reaper seem like a pleasant fellow. He stalked into the room where they were holding John prisoner. John was sitting on the edge of a chair, his hands bound in front on him and his head bowed.

The guard took one look at Gideon and then stepped outside for some "fresh air". The guard closed the door quietly behind him.

Gideon stared down at John, and his resolutions crumbled. The ever-neat Lieutenant was rumpled and dirty. A large purple cruise was spreading across one cheek. A trickle of blood oozed from a cut along his cheekbone, about the place where a ring would have gashed the skin from a back-handed blow. He still hadn't looked up.


No response.

Gideon went down on his knees in front of John and tilted John's chin up. John's eyes were glazed and vacant.

Bile rose in Gideon's throat and he spit to one side. "The bastard has you on sleepers! He didn't even trust you to ..."

Gideon swallowed, desperately holding back tears. "Johnnie? Johnnie, please ... it's Matt."

John blinked, trying to focus on his face. "Matt?" he said queriously, "Something is wrong with my head."

"I know, Johnnie," Gideon sat down on the floor and gently pulled John down to sit in his lap. He rested his cheek against John's hair. "It's okay."

"My hands are stuck together," John complained, holding up his bound wrists. His voice sounded high and childlike.

"It's just a game," Gideon said soothingly, "It's just a game."

"Oh." John yawned and cuddled up against him. "I'm tired. Can we sleep in your bed tonight?"

Gideon stroked John's shoulder. "Yes, Johnnie, we'll sleep in my bed tonight," The words were forced out of his tight throat, forced to sound even and normal. A tear slid out of one eye and trailed down his face to land in John's hair.

He wanted to scream and rant and smash things. Lensford wasn't even allowing him to say goodbye properly.

"I love you, Johnnie," he said hoarsely.

"I know, Matt," John mumbled, on the edge of sleep, "I love you too ... Can we go to the beach again tomorrow?"

"Yes--" Gideon's voice broke, "Yes, Johnnie, tomorrow we'll go to the beach and eat peaches and peanut butter sandwiches."

"And make love?"

"Yes ... and make love ..."

"Good ..." John's eyes slid closed and his head rested against Gideon's. His breath softened and he was asleep.

Gideon sat on the cold floor, holding John tightly, silent tears streaming down his cheeks.

Too soon, the guard opened the door and he had to let John go.


Leaving his heart in the room with John, Gideon drifted down the hallway.

He felt empty, a great numbing void. Even his desire to scream and smash things had faded into a dull distant ache.

He eventually looked up and found himself at the door of his office. The door swung open and Gideon drifted inside. Out of habit, he sat down at his desk and stared vacantly in front of him. His eyes drifted down to find a lone data screen in the very center of his desk.


General Lensford stepped into Gideon's office, his voice still stiff with distaste. "I am leaving now, with Matheson. Any more infractions like this and I will take you down, Captain, Earth riots or not."

Slowly, Gideon raised his head and looked up at Lensford. He didn't stand. Gideon knew that he looked like Hell. That his hair was uncombed, his uniform disarrayed, his eyes too bright, almost feverish. His hands were trembling as they gripped the data screen he was holding too tightly.

He took the data screen and spun it across the desk towards the General. Lensford caught it reflexively but didn't look at it. "What is this?"

"Letters of Resignation, General. Exactly 226 of them."


"Yes, people other than me have been ..." Gideon's lips twisted into a mockery of a smile, "...won over by Lieutenant Matheson. Every one of those resignations has been tendered by military and civilian staff who believe that the mission is lost without Excalibur's current First Officer."

"That's preposterous," Lensford frowned, "I'll admit that his reviews have been excellent up till now but he's nothing that special ... How many resignations did you say?"

"Two hundred and twenty-six," Gideon repeated.

"Two hundred ... " Lensford sputtered, "but that's more than half of the ship's complement!"

"73.8 percent, to be precise," Gideon said with clipped tones, "That is if you include the civilian medical staff and IPX."

"This is ridiculous. I refuse to accept these resignations."

"Though I don't doubt that you'd be delighted to see me gone," Gideon continued flatly, "My resignation is at the top of the list. But it also includes every one of my senior staff, Dr. Chambers and most of her medical staff, and even a few of the IPX folks, including the lead scientist Max Eilerson."

The General slammed the data pad down on the desk. His voice was full of loathing. "These were obviously coerced. You pressured your crew to resign so that you could blackmail me into letting you keep your ... your playmate as your XO. It won't work."

Gideon tried to shrug casually, though his shoulders were tight with tension. "I was surprised as you, General. As soon as the news that Lt. Matheson was to be courtmartialed hit the crew, the resignations started pouring in. I guess people know who really runs things around here."

Lensford leaned over the desk, towering over Gideon. "I won't be blackmailed, you smug bastard. I will replace every single one of the crew on the Excalibur before I let you get away with this."

Gideon nodded, "Obviously you have plenty of time to find and train an entirely new crew, putting a good spin on it for the media, of course. Shouldn't take you more than a year to get the ship fully restaffed and back on its mission. What did you say the current death rate from the Plague is? And isn't it rising exponentially?"

"You bastard," Lensford's voice shook with anger. "My family is down there on Earth. And you are goddammnit going to find a cure for them before it's too late."

"Yes, sir," Gideon said quietly, "I am. But only if you leave me my crew. And my First Officer."

Lensford stared down at him, his eyes burning with hate. Gideon forced himself to meet the General's gaze with some appearance of calm.

"You won't always be protected by the goddamned media," Lensford ground out, "You won't always have your precious crew around you. And you can't always protect that goddamned Teep. I will destroy you, Matthew Gideon. You and Matheson are just as dangerous to EarthForce as the Plague is to Earth. There is a grave somewhere on some dead backwater planet that is waiting for you. And you will die there, alone and uncelebrated. As for Matheson, the Teeps wil take care of him for me sooner or later."

Lensford straightened up, his eyes still drilling into Gideon's. "Now I am going to leave this damned ship, before your own personal plague contaminates me too. Remember, Captain Gideon. You will die alone and no one in the universe will mourn you."

"I don't doubt it," Gideon replied softly.

The General stared at him for one more moment, his mouth working as if there was more he wanted to say. Finally, he turned and strode out of Gideon's office, the door barely sliding open in time for his exit.

Gideon took a shuddering breath. Then another. And another and another until he was laughing and crying at the same time.

Was it a victory? Maybe. At least a stay of execution. And that's all that he had ever asked for in his life, just a little more time, just one more hand of cards. Lensford believed what he said when he told Gideon that he would destroy him. And Gideon himself did not doubt that the Teeps would destroy John if they got him into their clutches.

But that was later. Now was ... now.

Now was the Excalibur and the mission and John.

Now was all that he could ask the Universe for.

Gideon's hand shook as he gripped his wrist communicator. He took two quick breaths then lifted the communicator to his lips.

"Gideon to Shuttle Bay 5."

"Shuttle Bay 5 here."

"Clear the General's shuttle for immediate departure, and make sure that it is only the General that leaves on it."

"Umm, yes Sir."

"Gideon out. Gideon to Security."

"Security, Ensign Jameson."

"Jameson, release Lt. Matheson immediately and get him down to MedBay."

A started pause, then "Yes, Sir!"

"Gideon out. Gideon to MedBay."

"Captain?" Sarah's voice was surprised.

"John will shortly be arriving. What can you do to reverse the effects of Teep sleepers?"

"Um, there are a few things but what--"

Gideon cut her off. "Do what you can for him. Gideon out."

He licked his dry lips and cleared his throat. "Computer, open a link to all internal speakers, authorization Matthew Gideon."

Two soft beeps told him that his voice was now travelling to all of the ears on the Excalibur. Even the General, who would not have had time to escape yet.

"This is Captain Gideon. I am happy to announce that we will not be needing a new First Officer, since the General has decided to let us keep Lt. Matheson."

Through his door, he could hear claps and cheers breaking out across the bridge and probably throughout the ship. Gideon grinned. "I also need to thank all 225 of you who submitted your resignations. Thank you. And to let you know that those resignations will be accidently jettisoned into space. If you really want to resign, you're gonna have to fill out the paperwork all over again."

Gideon's grin vanished, and his voice became deadly serious. "People, we have one goal here, to find the Cure. If anyone, including and maybe even especially your Captain or your First Officer, hinder the accomplishment of that goal, it is your duty to humanity to report that to the proper authority.

"I know that some of you feel that I have jeopardized our mission for my own personal pleasure, but I swear to you that nothing will get in the way of finding a Cure and saving the people on Earth who are depending on us. I would willingly walk out the nearest airlock then cause the death of one more person that didn't have to die. I hope that you believe that."

Gideon took a breath, the sound of his breathing echoing throughout the ship. "We have a mission, people. Let's get back to it. Gideon out."

He dropped his wrist, laid his head down on his desk, and let the trembling overcome him.


They sat on the couch in Gideon's quarters, John nestled against Gideon's side. John was still groggy from the sleepers, but he had a smile plastered on his face.

Dureena was sitting in a corner of the couch, her limber legs pulled up underneath her. She was also smiling as she ran an ever-present knife between her fingers. Across from them was Sarah Chambers, dressed in her most festive attire and sipping a glass of Excalibur's own brew. She wrinkled her nose but continued to drink the toxic beverage. Max was lounging in a chair near the doctor, and pretending that he had never been concerned.

Sarah and Dureena had been teasing Gideon and John by coming up with the silliest and most embarrasing ideas they could for a Sealing Ceremony. Max had also got into the act and was currently expounding to the room in general about some ancient culture's Lifemate Declaration customs. Gideon caught the phrases, "ritual ribbons" and "stomach drumming music".

Max said something and Sarah giggled, then covered her mouth in embarrassment at how drunk she sounded. Dureena broke out into one of the few real laughs Gideon had ever heard from her.

Scattered about the room was the rest of the senior staff, some of the medical crew, and anyone else who felt like celebrating the saving of the Captain and his lover. The room was full of music and laughter, more than slightly tinged with relief. Like at every post where Gideon had ever served, the ship was gradually reshaping itself around the new reality of him and John. The crew on long-range explorer vessels had to be especially adaptable to the vagaries of human interaction or they would not survive.

Gideon knew that there would be more than one transfer request on his desk in the morning by people who could not overlook his gross indiscretion, but he hoped there would only be a few. He had his own tremulous happiness, but he never let himself forget what his job was. The Excalibur needed every one of its skilled crew to find that damned cure. Even as they celebrated, the Excalibur was approaching Marrak's Retreat and the first survey team would be on its way within the hour.

Gideon and John's part in the plan wouldn't be for another day or so, after initial groundwork had been done. He planned to spend the entire time until then less than half a meter away from John.

He held John tightly to him and John returned his embrace. John tucked his head into Gideon's shoulder and Gideon heard the suspicious sound of snuffling. "Don't cry," Gideon whispered into John's ear.

"I'm not" John protested, "I'm just allergic to sleepers."

"Bullshit," Gideon said tenderly.

A soft sound and Galen stood in the doorway, looking about him with surprise. The Technomage eyes took in the general air of festivity then fastened on Gideon with his arms around John. His eyebrows shot upwards. The room became quiet as everyone turned to look at Galen.

The corner of Galen's lips twitched upwards. "Oh darn." He drawled in his smooth rich voice, "Did I get here at a good time?"

The Excalibur crew broke into laughter.

{Captain's Chair} {Lieutenant's Bed} {Captain's Floor} {Lieutenant's Ship} {Seduction of a Linguist} {Destruction of a Telepath}

Witches Familiars

{Mistress Sarah} {The Upholsterer}

{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}