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2e. Book 2 Toil and Trouble - Part 5: Breaking Away

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Part 5 – Breaking Away

Chapter 1
Lucas stood by the bed, watching Angel as she slept, once again on her stomach. He mused that she must be a restless sleeper, considering how the sheets were now tangled about her waist and she was lying in a different position to the one he’d last seen her in.
Now Lucas had a way to get off the planet. He smiled as he thought about his conversation with Galen; he’d played the Technomage like a fiddle. There was no doubt that Magic Man wouldn’t try anything stupid, and not only that, but Galen would also ensure that no one came after him and Angel for the next ten hours or so. Lucas had the Technomage exactly where he wanted him. He smiled coldly. He’d told Galen that he would give Angel to him once they arrived at their destination but that was a lie. Lucas Buck never gave up what he owned, and besides, she’d prove useful to him in the future. [Just like Selena,] he thought darkly.
His thoughts still on Angel, Lucas stood and looked down at her. There was one part of the plan that needed to be completed, but it was still too early for that. His design for Angel could only be carried out at the last moment before they were to meet with Galen. Lucas looked up at the clock on the wall. Five o’clock, which left him with several hours to kill. A slow, lazy smile crept across his lips and he began to undress. It was time to awaken Sleeping Beauty.
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Angel slowly came awake as she felt a hand stroking her back. She turned her head to the side and smiled contentedly as she saw Lucas lying beside her. He was leaning on his elbow, with his face resting on his hand. He gave her a sexy smile as he looked at her. "Hello, darlin’, have a nice nap?" he asked softly.
Angel nodded and tried to turn over so she could face him, but his hand pushed down on her back. Lucas whispered against her shoulder, "Lie still, Angel-face. I want you just like this." Her pulse accelerated at the seductive tone of his voice. She shifted her arms so she could rest her head on them, happy to do whatever Lucas wanted. She felt him leaning in to kiss her, working his way from her shoulder to her neck. Angel closed her eyes, savoring the feel of his mouth on her skin. All the time his hand traced patterns on her back, working its way down to her buttocks.
"You like that don’t you, darlin’?" Lucas whispered in her ear.
She opened her eyes, "Oh yes, Lucas."
Angel lay still as Lucas stroked, kissed, and caressed every inch of her back, his mouth and hands doing the most erotic things to her. Then his hand slipped between her legs, and into her. She whimpered into the pillow as Lucas slowly began to pleasure her. After a few moments, Angel felt him move to kneel between her spread legs. He pushed the pillow underneath her, raising her hips so that she was positioned as he wanted her. Then she felt him bite her shoulder roughly, causing her to lift up off the bed. As she did so, Lucas thrust forward, entering her hard and fast.
Angel cried out as he moved, her moans of pleasure stifled as she buried her face in the pillow. Lucas hammered into her over and over again, then bit down on the back of her neck, lifting her instantly to orgasm, taking him over the edge with her.
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Lucas raised his hands behind his head and leaned against the headboard. He glanced at the clock. It would soon be time. He closed his eyes, thinking about what he had to do. They would eat first—he’d sent Angel to fetch some fruit from her living room—and then he would have Angel again. He had to be as connected to her as he could possibly get, and that could only be achieved during sex. Two people couldn’t get closer to each other in body and mind than when they were fucking.
Wearing a red silk robe loosely wrapped around her, Angel returned with the bowl of fruit and Lucas spent an enjoyable few moments playing with his food and using it to play with Angel. It was amazing the things that could be done with a few plums and a banana. Those things had a thousand uses. Once playtime was over, Lucas was ready to take Angel to the place he needed her to be. He positioned her carefully on her back then thrust into her again, riding her hard, just as she liked it best.
Lucas could feel Angel was close to release; it was the perfect moment to do what was needed. As he kissed Angel, he tightened his hold on her face and began to move his mind deeper into hers, seeking out the telepathic link she had with her sisters. She tried to pull away but Lucas was holding her too tightly.
Lucas watched Angel closely as he moved deeper into her body, all the time reaching deeper into her mind. He could see she was in pain, but there was nothing that could be done about that. He could feel the tightening of her internal muscles and knew that she was close to release. Lucas found what he was searching for and thrust forcefully into her one more time, driving them both into an intense orgasm. At that moment, Lucas reached into Angel’s mind with a brutal twist and broke the link she had with her sisters.
Angel’s cry of pleasure as she climaxed turned into a terrible scream. "L...Lucas?" she managed to whisper weakly against his shoulder before she dropped abruptly into unconsciousness.
Lucas felt Angel go limp in his arms. He reached into her head again to make sure that he hadn’t caused any permanent damage and gave a cold smile when he found that her mind was still intact, except that now she was cut off from her sisters. It had worked. As Lucas gently lowered Angel’s head to the pillow, he moved out of her. Half lying on her, he looked into her face. He saw how pale she was, and for the first time, noticed that her nose was bleeding.
"Aw, hell!" Lucas cursed under his breath; he hadn’t expected that. He reached up and grabbed one of Angel’s silk scarves, which he held under her nose, removing it when he was satisfied that the bleeding had stopped. He frowned and reached to check her pulse, then smiled slowly when he found it strong and steady.
"You’re gonna be just fine, darlin’," Lucas whispered as he threw the scarf to the floor. He knew that later he would have to deal with hysteria when Angel found herself taken away from her home and cut off from her sisters. [Well, you’ll learn to deal with it,] thought Lucas coldly. He didn’t have a choice; he had to break her link. Not only so the sisters wouldn’t sense when he took her away, but also because isolated from her ‘family’, she would depend solely on him. Exactly how he wanted it; he could control her completely.
Lucas sighed and looked at the clock. [Perfect] It was time to catch up with Magic Man. He turned away from Angel and moved to where his clothes were lying, and as he dressed, looked at the naked and unconscious form lying on the bed.
He couldn’t very well carry her out naked. [Though I’d love to see the expression on Magic Man’s face if I did,] he thought, remembering the look on Galen’s face when he first saw Angel in Space Cadet’s bed. Lucas stood for a moment, thinking. He could dress her, but he didn’t really have the time to struggle with getting one of Angel’s skintight outfits on her. Lucas smiled as he saw the red silk of the robe that Angel had worn earlier to fetch their food from the living room. It was crushed beneath her and while he’d opened it to reveal her body during their rather pleasurable feast, he hadn’t completely removed it. [Perfect.] He would cover her up with that and take some clothes along for her to change into when she regained consciousness.
Lucas finished dressing and then moved over to the bed. Reaching across, he gently pulled the robe around Angel and deftly tied the belt, then straightened up and let his eyes roam over the room. They fell upon a carry-bag identical to the one she’d left down in the cellar. [That’ll do nicely,] he thought as he walked over to it.
He opened it and dumped the contents onto the floor, then noticed a regenerator and picked it up, looking at it closely. "Well now, I think I’ll just keep this; never know when it might come in handy," Lucas drawled to the unconscious Angel. He placed it in the pocket of his jacket and walked over to Angel’s wardrobe, where he grabbed a few items of clothing and a couple of pairs of shoes, stuffed them all into the bag, then closed it. [Good thing she never bothers with underwear.] Now all that was left was to get Angel out of the castle and meet up with Galen before she regained consciousness.
Slinging the bag over his shoulder, Lucas moved to the bed and slid his arms under Angel’s shoulders and legs. He lifted her into his arms with ease, then looked down at her, as her head fell against his shoulder. Satisfied that there was no chance of her waking yet, he moved toward the door and on into the living room. As he reached the outer door, Lucas let his mind search beyond, making sure that there was no one waiting to attack. He gave a cold, satisfied smile. Nothing. Magic Man had done his job, which meant there was no threat of Lucas running into anyone on his way to Galen’s ship. Moving forward, the door opened, seemingly of its own accord, and Lucas exited into the corridor heading quickly for the back entrance of the castle.
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Gideon lay in bed, his head propped on his arm, looking down at Deborah as she slept beside him. He’d never been a good sleeper and they’d got into the habit of leaving a light on in the living room and the door open. That way if he wanted to get up, he didn’t need the bedroom lights, and he didn’t fall over the bed in the dark. He still had a bruised toe from his first attempt to leave the room without disturbing his lover. It had the added advantage that there was just enough light for him to see his lover when he awoke.
Gideon had spent several contented hours just looking at Deborah sleeping. Despite his restlessness, he did sleep better when he was with her than when he was alone. At least he did when he didn’t have nightmares, and he’d only had one of those since he’d arrived on Eriadne. On the ship, he’d had them every night. Gideon tried to imagine convincing Earthforce that it would be good for the health and morale of the captain, and therefore his crew, if Deborah moved into his quarters permanently.
Then he thought about the width of the bunk there. Even before he’d gotten Deborah pregnant, it would have been a tight squeeze. [Why did I have to get involved with an Amazon? Why couldn’t I have gone for someone a bit smaller?] Gideon grinned at himself. He wouldn’t change a single thing about her. Considering how much she was likely to expand in the next few months, by the time she gave birth, there’d hardly be room for her in his bunk never mind him; he would have to sleep on the floor. Gideon cursed his own inability to fantasize without thinking of practicalities. If he was going to have fantasies about Deborah living in his quarters, why couldn’t he fantasize about a bigger bunk?
But bringing her to the Excalibur was nothing but a fantasy. Gideon knew that in just over a week he would have to leave Deborah again, and he didn’t know how he was going to do it. Every hour he spent with her made it more difficult to contemplate leaving her. Before he’d arrived on Eriadne for this second visit, Gideon had known that he liked and lusted after Deborah. She’d made him laugh and he’d enjoyed her company. But finding her pregnant with his child, and the time he’d spent with Deborah since had deepened those feelings. So what did he feel now? Gideon decided not to go there. Whatever he felt didn’t need a label. He would just enjoy the feeling, which was different to anything he’d felt for a woman before.
Gideon watched Deborah’s chest rise and fall as she breathed slowly and deeply. He smiled again as he realized that her breathing was nearly heavy enough to be called a snore. [And she complains about me snoring!] But the view of her breasts as they moved with each breath was much more interesting. Her pregnancy had changed their shape and size, but they were still beautiful and Gideon never tired of looking at them. Deborah slept in her usual untidy sprawl, [Sleeping in a bunk would soon cure her of that habit!] with the covers half fallen off her. [But it’s a habit I’d hate to cure. The view wouldn’t be nearly as good.] He pushed all thoughts of having to leave her out of his head and went over the events of the previous evening.
Galen had returned from Angel’s rooms with a face like thunder. He was obviously not happy with the outcome of his meeting with Lucas but had said little. Only that he’d seen Angel, she appeared unharmed, and that he had a plan for ridding them of Lucas, but it would take some time to work out the details. Galen had asked Gideon to give him overnight to work on it and suggested that they meet up at breakfast the following day.
Gideon had agreed reluctantly. He wasn’t happy about the idea of having Lucas running loose in the castle in the meantime and had suggested to Galen that they should post guards outside Angel’s rooms. Deborah’s experience of meeting Lucas in her rooms had made him wary. Galen had insisted that this was unnecessary. He’d claimed that Lucas had no intention of leaving Angel’s quarters, having achieved what he needed to, and knowing that he was much safer staying where he was.
Galen wouldn’t say why Lucas had been in Deborah’s rooms but had assured them that it had no impact on the rest of them. Galen’s whole attitude made Gideon uneasy. Something was going on that Galen wasn’t telling him about; the problem was in not knowing what. Was the Technomage trying to protect them from something? Gideon had to believe that Galen wouldn’t betray his trust. He’d had Galen’s promise on that after the incident at the Well of Forever, and it had held good so far. They were Galen’s only family now; he wouldn’t let them down.
Gideon had decided to give Galen the time he’d asked for, but if there were no signs of progress by breakfast tomorrow, [Well, today really, it must be close to dawn by now,] then he would go in and take Lucas out, using whatever force he had.
As he reached this decision, Gideon felt Deborah stir under his hand and found that, quite unconsciously, he’d started to fondle her breast as he lay thinking. He realized that her nipple had hardened under his touch and that he was arousing her even as she slept. He smiled as he thought that he’d never come across a woman who responded to his caresses as quickly and completely as she did.
Gideon reluctantly pulled his hand away. Deborah rolled toward him, her eyes still tightly closed, and whispered, "Don’t stop. That was nice." He smiled and slid onto his back, then pulled her to his side, laying her head on his shoulder, his arm around her. She lifted her leg and entwined it with his, pulling herself closer still. Her hand came to rest on his belly and she started to stroke the skin from his navel down.
Gideon slapped his hand on top of hers quickly and whispered back, "Stop it. Go back to sleep." Deborah turned her head into his shoulder to kiss it, and he could feel her mouth smiling as she did so.
She lifted her head to look up at him, and by the dim light, he could just see the grin on her face. "Too late. I’m awake now. You’d better finish what you started." Gideon could feel her fingers still moving under his, trying to work their way down to his groin. He grabbed her hand and pulled it back up to his chest, holding it tightly.
He tried to fend her off again. "It’s too early. It’s still dark. Go to sleep." But Gideon knew it was useless. He could already feel himself responding.
When they’d left Galen the night before, they’d come back to her rooms and made love, slowly stimulating each other to new heights of pleasure. Knowing that they had all night and with little danger of interruption, they’d found new ways to enjoy each other. Moving from one position to another, trying different things, lifting each other to the point of climax, then cooling each other down, they’d taken their time reaching their first orgasm, but when they finally came, it had been incredible. Gideon had never thought that such complete pleasure of mind, body, and spirit was possible. Even without Deborah’s orgasmic projections, he’d never felt so close to anyone, nor as mentally and physically complete, as he did at that moment, buried deep inside her. They’d fallen asleep soon after, completely exhausted but totally satisfied.
Now they started to make love again. Gideon tried to protest that it was too early, but Deborah carried on regardless, touching him, kissing him, sucking and licking him, until his resistance had crumbled and he’d entered her. As he moved inside her, Deborah’s face showed her enjoyment, her eyes closed and her lips parted. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips as Gideon continued to pleasure her. Then she frowned and whimpered, and he wondered if he’d hurt her. Deborah’s eyes opened and he could see puzzlement and fear in her face. He pulled out of her quickly and said, "What’s the matter? Deborah?"
She stared up at him and whispered, "It hurts. Oh God, make it stop!" She started to writhe in the bed, flinging her head backwards and forwards on the pillow, bringing her hands to her face. Gideon sat up and watched for a moment, not knowing what had happened or what to do. Deborah was screaming now, obviously in severe pain.
"Deborah! What’s going on? Where does it hurt?" He tried to grab her and hold her, but she was thrashing wildly, her legs kicking at him, her hands still gripping her head tightly.
"It’s in my head, it’s tearing, he’s breaking it! Oh God, stop him! Make him stop! He’ll kill her; he’ll kill us all! He can’t do this! It must stop! Please, make him stop! It hurts! Matthew, it hurts!" Deborah’s voice ran down with each gasped phrase and her movements stilled as she slipped into unconsciousness.
Gideon lifted her back off the bed toward him, screaming her name and shaking her. Deborah’s head rolled back on her neck and she lay limp in his arms. She was barely breathing and a trickle of blood ran from her nose to her mouth. Lowering her to the bed Gideon grabbed the sheet to wipe away the blood. At the same time, he leaned over to the bedside table and grabbed his commlink, frantically keying Raven’s call sign as he held the sheet to her nose.
Getting no answer, Gideon switched to Matheson’s sign. The call went through, but it wasn’t Matheson’s voice he could hear at first. There were sounds of motion and then he heard John in the distance saying, "What’s happened to her, Luke? What’s caused this?" Raven’s response was indecipherable.
Gideon yelled into his wristband. "John! Is Raven there? I need help here now! Deborah’s sick." More muffled noises came through, then Matheson’s voice.
"I’m sorry, Matthew, he can’t leave Lily. She just screamed and passed out. We don’t know why, but she’s hardly breathing and she’s bleeding from the nose." Gideon could hear the fear and concern in Matheson’s voice.
Gideon tried to control his own panic as he yelled back, "Deborah’s in the same state. Something’s going on here, John, but I need some help here NOW!" He heard Raven’s voice again in the background but couldn’t make out the words.
Matheson came back on. "Luke says to get her to the infirmary. We’re taking Lily there now." The line went dead and Gideon looked down at Deborah, lying almost lifeless on the bed beside him, her chest hardly moving. [Get her to the infirmary. How the hell do I do that?] He knew he couldn’t carry her that far; she was too heavy. He needed help if he was going to move her.
Gideon leaped out of the bed and rushed through to the living room, over to the comm unit and put a call through to the guard captain’s office, praying that they kept it manned throughout the night. His call was answered immediately and Nikarran himself was on duty. Gideon explained quickly what he needed; Nikarran nodded abruptly and cut the connection. Gideon raced back to the bedroom and checked Deborah, [Still breathing,] grabbed his jeans and pulled them on quickly, then snatched at the sheet that had fallen to the floor and wrapped it around her. Deborah was a dead weight and even rolling her into the sheet was an effort. Gideon doubted if he could have carried her as far as the door.
He heard the door to the living room opening and running footsteps behind him. Nikarran burst into the bedroom with two other Brakiri carrying a stretcher. Between them, they got Deborah onto it and set off for the infirmary, Gideon hardly noticing the cold pre-dawn air against his chest and the chilly stone floor under his bare feet as they ran.
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Something had awoken him. John surfaced from sleep, senses alert, and opened his eyes, trying to orient himself. [No, not Excalibur - Eriadne B. Lily's bed.] At that moment, the sound that had awakened him was repeated, slightly louder this time. It was a whimper.
He turned toward Lily, but couldn't see her clearly, so he quickly lit the candles by the bed. When he turned back to her, John could see that Lily was still sleeping, but writhing under the sheet, her face showing pain as she whimpered again. John reached out with his mind then flinched when he felt the pain in his head. "Lily? What's wrong?" He wanted to touch her, but at that moment, the pain increased abruptly, and just as abruptly, Lily sat up with a cry, eyes wide and full of pain, holding her head.
"Stop it, no! Don't do it! Please!" she shouted.
John had to put his shields back up because the pain was constantly increasing. He stared at Luke who’d been wakened by Lily's cry and was now sitting up on the other side of the bed, trying to pull her into his arms and calm her. "What is it, what happened?" Luke asked softly.
Lily shook him off, trembling violently, holding her head and repeating, "No! No! No!" Her voice became louder and shriller with every repetition.
John and Luke could only watch, unable to get through to her or do anything, let alone find out what was wrong with her. Suddenly, she jerked and let out an anguished cry. Despite his shields, John felt a wave of almost unbearable pain hit him, making him cry out, too. At the last moment, he caught Lily in his arms as she collapsed, with her nose bleeding.
Luke bent over her and checked her pulse, his face grim as he saw the pallor of Lily’s skin, all too evident, even in the candlelight. "Too weak, and she’s hardly breathing!"
At that moment John's commlink beeped. He reached under Lily's head with his left hand and pushed the button to take the call, still holding Lily and not daring to let go of her, while he asked Raven, "What's happened to her, Luke? What's caused this?"
"I don't know - she's in some kind of shock." Luke answered, his voice tense, and slipped his arms under Lily’s knees to get her feet higher than her head.
Gideon's voice came out of the commlink. "John! Is Raven there? I need help here now! Deborah’s sick."
John laid Lily down onto the bed, still holding her, afraid she wouldn't stay with them if he let go. He took one look at Luke and knew his answer to Gideon's request. "I'm sorry, Matthew, he can't leave Lily. She just screamed and passed out. We don't know why, but she's hardly breathing and she's bleeding from the nose."
Gideon's voice revealed the same anguish John and Luke felt when he answered, "Deborah's in the same state. Something's going on here, John, but I need some help here NOW!"
Luke frowned when he heard that. "Demon too?" He paused briefly, mind racing, then continued, "Tell him to get her to the infirmary, quick, we'll meet him there! I think we're in serious trouble."
John relayed the message and signed off, then quickly pulled on some pants, wrapped Lily in the blanket, scooped her up, and headed for the infirmary at a run, Luke following on his heels with his medical bag.
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Max's eyes flew open when he heard the scream. For a moment, he felt disoriented, but then realized that he was in the infirmary, in the bed Ilas had brought in for him after Raven had delivered Dureena’s dead baby. He sat up with a start. [Dureena?] But at the same moment, he realized that it was Dureena's voice he now heard calling out frantically.
"Ilas! Ilas, wake up!" She was holding Ilas, whose eyes were closed, her face even paler than usual, blood trickling from her nose.
Max was at their side immediately. "What happened?" Dureena stared up at him wide-eyed, still not fully out of the sedation, but awakening more with every second. Stammering slightly, she said, "She just started thrashing around and screaming and then she passed out!"
Max tried to think of something to do, to clamp down on the panic he felt, but he simply couldn't. One thought ran around in his head. [First Dureena's baby, and now...NO!]
Dureena screamed at him, "Don't stand there! Call Raven!"
Max automatically lifted his arm and keyed for Raven but received no reply.
"Try John." Dureena said.
When he did, he only got a busy signal. Max then tried calling Gideon but again got a busy signal. "Shit!" [What can I do now?!] He could feel the panic start to rise again.
Dureena yelled at him. "Go get Raven! NOW! I'll stay with Ilas!"
Max nodded and threw a last look at Ilas' sick-looking face before running out.
He’d crossed the main room and just as he went to open the door to the corridor, it was flung open from outside, nearly hitting him. Raven stormed in, followed by Matheson with an unconscious Lily in his arms, the looks on their faces just as grim as his must have been. [This can't be coincidence!] Max spun around on his heel and followed them to the bed where John laid Lily down gently while Raven rummaged through some equipment.
"What happened? Ilas screamed and passed out. Did Lily..."
Max was interrupted by guards storming in, carrying Demon on a stretcher, closely followed by Gideon.
"And Demon," Raven confirmed, already running a scanner over the tiny redhead, his expression softening a bit as he read the results. "Deeply unconscious, but stable. I’m getting some strange readings, but nothing life-threatening."
John, who'd sat down at Lily's side and held her hand in his, exhaled heavily. The guards and Gideon had moved Demon to the bed next to Lily's, and Raven scanned her, with the same results. Then he rushed into Dureena's room followed by Max. Dureena was sitting up in her bed, holding the unconscious Ilas in her arms, her eyes wide with fear. Max moved to sit on the bed, putting his arm around Dureena's shoulders in an effort to comfort her.
Ilas' scan produced the same results as her sisters’, with some more anomalies due to species differences, but nothing that seemed dangerous. "Just let her sleep. Her body will know when it's safe to wake up," Raven said in a soothing voice. Then he looked at Dureena closely. "You need more rest."
Dureena caught the implied threat and nodded reluctantly. "Don't worry, I'll lie still and hold Ilas, the way she’s held me since..." Her voice broke as the realization set in, and she leaned into Max' chest, the memory of her baby's death overwhelming her.
Raven stood and looked at Max before he left. "I'll be here if you need me."

 

Chapter 2
Lucas carried Angel out into the shadows of the plain below the castle. He knew that Galen’s ship was here somewhere, but in the dark the black ship was invisible. He stopped for a moment and readjusted his hold on Angel, then closed his eyes and focused on sensing Galen’s presence. [Got it.] He turned to his right, and as the night gradually lifted with the first pre-dawn light, he saw the outline of the ship ahead. As Lucas moved toward it, a light appeared in the belly of the ship as a ramp was lowered. [Damn him, he could have turned the light on sooner. He’s determined to make this difficult.] Lucas was half amused at Galen’s minor show of defiance. [Let him have his fun, as long as he does what I want.]
Galen appeared at the top of the ramp and watched Lucas approach. When he saw Angel lying unconscious in Lucas’ arms, he rushed down to join them. Lucas was getting a little tired of carrying Angel, so he held her out to Galen, saying, "You want her? You carry her for a while." Galen took her gently while Lucas watched, rotating his shoulders to ease some of the strain they’d been under. His lips curled into a patronizing smile as he saw the look of complete adoration on Galen’s face as he looked down at Angel and held her close to him. "Make the most of it, Magic Man. If she were awake she’d be trying to rip your balls off. She’s not exactly your number one fan, you know."
Galen looked up sharply and spoke. "What’s the matter with her? Why is she unconscious?"
Lucas laughed. "I had to carry out a little surgery. Let’s just say she’s in post-operative recovery."
Galen’s face turned to thunder. "What do you mean? What have you done to her? I swear if you’ve…"
Lucas interrupted him. "Don’t swear, Galen, it’s not nice in front of a lady." He grinned and continued, "Didn’t you know that these sisters were linked in their heads? They talk to each other with their minds and link together to become more powerful. Isn’t that combined power what you used to put me back in the Box? Well, how in hell did you think they’d react if I just waltzed out of here with Angel? They’d have known about it in an instant and been right on my tail. So I broke the link, and her sisters are going to be in the same state as Angel is now, which should keep your friends up at the castle occupied for a while. So let’s go, before they figure out what’s happenin’, shall we?"
His hand settled on Galen’s shoulder to turn and push him up the ramp. Feeling the implants in Galen’s back in the instant before the Technomage pulled away from his touch, Lucas grinned, "Bad case of acne you’ve got there, son."
Galen swept away, carrying Angel in his arms up the ramp. Lucas shifted the carry-bag on his shoulder, then turned for one last look up at the castle, now clearly visible in the dawn light.
Closing his eyes, Lucas sent out a thought to his son, [I’m coming for you, boy,] then turned and walked up the ramp into Galen’s ship.
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Gideon stood at the foot of the infirmary bed, looking down at Deborah. She was totally still and her face had no color. He could hardly detect the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed, but Raven insisted that she was breathing, just deeply unconscious. Lily and Ilas were in a similar condition, which couldn’t be coincidence. Gideon heard the door open behind him and turned to see the guard captain in the doorway, holding a pair of his boots and one of his shirts out toward him. Gideon nodded his thanks and pulled the boots and shirt on quickly.
Nikarran spoke, his voice low and gritty. "I thought you might want to join us. I’m taking some men to the Lady Angel’s rooms. I think that could be the source of this problem." He nodded toward Deborah’s motionless form.
Gideon nodded vehemently. "Damn right I’ll join you. And if Lucas isn’t behind this, then I’ll eat my… Well, I’ll think of something. Let’s go." With a last lingering glance at Deborah, Gideon left her room. He wondered briefly whether to ask John to join them, then realized that John was totally occupied with Lily, while Luke went from on to the other of the sisters, checking their condition. Deborah would be well cared for in his absence.
He and the guard captain trotted through the corridors until they came to a landing on the second floor, a short way from Angel’s rooms. Four Brakiri guards were waiting for them, each armed with a crossbow and a sword. Two of them carried spare weapons that were offered to Nikarran and Gideon. The guard captain took the weapons with practiced ease, while Gideon declined the sword and held the crossbow gingerly. One of the Brakiri loaded a bolt into the stock and wound the spring for him.
Nikarran watched, then said, "Just point it and pull the trigger." He showed Gideon where it was. "But remember, you have only one shot." Gideon nodded and moved forward toward Angel’s rooms. The Brakiri moved to intercept him. "No. My men lead the way; you’re with me at the back. It’s still possible that Lady Angel will knock us all out or freeze us as we approach and I have orders from the Lady Demon that you are to be safeguarded at all times."
This was news to Gideon, who’d had no idea that the guards had been given any orders about him or his crew, but he could see that the Brakiri wasn’t tolerating any arguments, so nodded his acquiescence. They moved down the corridor in pairs, with Gideon and the captain bringing up the rear. When they arrived at Angel’s rooms, Nikarran gestured for one guard to stand each side of the door, one standing upright, the other crouching low. A third stood facing the door, while the fourth guard, the guard captain and Gideon stood off to one side. At a nod from Nikarran, the third guard raised his foot and kicked the door hard, bursting it open. The guards stationed on either side of the door rushed into the room, one high, one low, their crossbows raised and ready. Gideon tried to move forward and found himself stopped by the Brakiri’s hand on his arm. "Wait," he ordered.
The other two guards had followed hard on the heels of the first and all four disappeared from Gideon’s view. He hated being a spectator and wanted desperately to be in the forefront of the fight, but Nikarran wasn’t budging an inch. One of the guards appeared in the doorway and waved them in. Gideon darted forward and now the guard captain released his arm. They entered Angel’s rooms together.
Again, Gideon was first hit by the overall impression of chaos. He couldn’t tell if the mess was the same as he’d seen there before, or if the guards had been searching. Two of them were prowling the room, tapping the walls expectantly. [What are they looking for?] It was obvious that they’d found no one present.
Gideon walked through to the bedroom, a place that brought back uncomfortable memories. The first thing that hit him was the smell. The room reeked of sex; Lucas had been busy. He couldn’t tell whether anything was missing, but the state of the bed spoke volumes about what had been happening there during the night. One of the guards handed a scarf to Nikarran, who held it up for Gideon’s inspection. At first he couldn’t see what they’d found, it just looked like a red scarf. Then he saw the darker red marks on it, almost dark enough to be called brown
. He realized that the marks were blood but was relieved that there wasn’t much to see. There were no other signs of blood in the room.
Gideon spoke aloud for the first time since they’d entered the rooms. "Looks like she may not have gone willingly but didn’t struggle too hard." The guard captain nodded. At that moment one of the guards found what they’d been looking for, and the secret door to Angel’s workshop opened. Two guards went in, then one reappeared and waved that all was clear. Gideon entered. His immediate feeling was of surprise; this place was tidy. Angel could keep things neat when she wanted to, after all. He looked around at the books and bottles and shook his head. [Magic?]
He turned to Nikarran and said, "Well, they’re gone. The question is, where?" They walked back through the bedroom into the living room and at that moment, heard a rumbling from outside the castle. Gideon strode to the window and saw Galen’s ship silhouetted against the rising sun, ascending rapidly. He looked back at the guard captain as he spoke through gritted teeth. "I think that could be the answer to my question."
________________________________________
Gideon walked back toward the infirmary, keying Galen’s call sign on his commlink, but receiving no response. Somehow, that didn’t surprise him. Galen had betrayed him once before and at that time he’d decided that Galen’s value to the mission outweighed the offence, but Galen had given his word then that he’d never betray Gideon’s trust again. Gideon had decided to give him another chance and had accepted his word.
Now, the Technomage had broken that word and betrayed the trust that Gideon had placed in him. Worse, he’d actively lied. He’d told Gideon that Lucas wouldn’t move from Angel’s rooms, prevented him from posting guards, and promised to meet Gideon at breakfast, when he’d already made plans to take Lucas off the planet. Gideon could only wonder at Galen’s reasons. He was sure they existed, but nothing could excuse Galen this time. As far as Gideon was concerned, if he ever saw the Technomage again in this lifetime, it would be too soon.
________________________________________
When Lily woke up, she whimpered and turned onto her side, curling up in a fetal position as much as possible with her swollen belly, and covered her head with her arms.
John and Luke, who’d been talking quietly just inside the door to her room, rushed to her side.
"What is it, Lily, how do you feel? Are you in pain?" Luke asked, sitting down on the bed beside her and stroking her hair. John squatted down and touched her arm, letting her know he was there.
"What did he do? Why did he take her away from us?" Lily's muffled voice emerged from under her arms and hair.
"Who, Lily? And what happened to you and your sisters?" John asked softly. He had to keep his shields at maximum to avoid feeling her pain.
When Lily finally lowered her arms and looked at him, then at Raven, they could see tears trickling from her red-rimmed eyes. Her lips were trembling, and her skin was still pale. "Lucas," she finally uttered, almost inaudibly, with shock, pain, and hatred giving her voice a strange sound. She squeezed her eyes shut, then said a little louder, "He broke the link." Her eyes opened and she looked at John. "He broke Angel's link! I can't feel her anymore; she's gone!" New tears emerged from Lily’s eyes as she squeezed them shut again, leaving John and Luke to stare at each other.
Lily was crying freely now. Luke gathered her up in his arms, and John sat down on her other side, both men holding her as she was wracked by sobs, giving whatever comfort they could.
________________________________________
Lily had finally calmed down and was lying on the bed, her headache slowly improving. John lay behind her, holding her gently, while Luke had gone to check on Demon and Ilas. Much worse than the pain in her head was the void where Angel's presence used to be. [If no one else will do it, I will kill him one day!] She felt her daughter kick and looked down at her belly, stroking it softly. [You’re right, I shouldn't think like this, but I can't help it.]
"Is everything all right?" John asked, having felt her gesture.
Lily smiled sadly. "They’re all right, Sweet-Face. Our daughter just reminded me that I should think of the good things I still have."
Luke returned, hands in his pants pockets, thinking hard. John and Lily sat up, and he joined them, taking Lily's right hand into his. He looked down at her slim, graceful fingers for a few seconds, then up into her eyes. "I’m staying."
Lily stared at him, feeling a smile spread on her lips as the meaning of Luke's words sank in.
"You mean...you won't come with us when we leave?" John asked.
Luke shook his head, his face set. "I can't leave them alone. I know I won't be able to do much if Lucas comes back, but I can at least help if there are any problems with the babies." He squeezed Lily's hand and smiled as he saw her beaming at him. "You'll probably get tired of me within a week..."
"Oh, never!" Lily said and threw her arms around him.
Luke held her and looked at John, who nodded, then frowned as something occurred to him. "What about your sister?"
Lily leaned back. "Yes, what about her?"
Luke sighed. "I'll have to call her. I should be able to make arrangements with Dr. Roberts, who's been taking my patients while I'm away. He's been busy, too, so I think he’ll be glad of another helping hand."
He stood. "I'll ask Gideon if I can use the comm equipment in Demon’s rooms."
________________________________________
Raven sat in front of the comm unit, waiting for Sara to answer his call. Finally, she appeared on the screen wearing a robe, her hair a mess. She was barely able to hide her yawn behind her hand. When she saw him, she came suddenly wide awake. "Luke! Is everything all right? I didn't expect to hear from you until you got back!"
Luke smiled, slightly embarrassed. "Well, yes, more or less, we're fine. Uh, sorry to call in the middle of the night. I didn't think about that." He took a deep breath, then continued, "My coming back is the reason I’ve called. I’ve decided it would be better to stay here until the babies are born."
Sara stared at him. "Babies? What babies? Whose babies?" Her voice trailed off as the realization sunk in. "Oh, are you going to be a father?" she asked and eyed him expectantly.
Luke beamed. "Among others. You'll be the auntie of a little girl. And a little boy, though only indirectly."
His sister looked puzzled for a moment then laughed. "Are you telling me Fire-Lily is expecting twins and one is yours and the other is Matheson’s?"
Luke shrugged. "Unlikely, but not impossible."
Sara stared at him a moment, then shook her head, grinning. "Well, congratulations to all three of you. How long will you stay?"
Luke sighed. "They--Lily and two of her sisters--are in their fifth month, so I'll have to stay here at least four more months and it might be longer before I can get a lift home." Before Sara could say anything, he went on, "Listen, I want you to contact Steve Roberts and ask if he could use your help, I'm sure he'll be happy to have you. Tell him I’ll keep paying your salary; he’ll be doing me a big favor."
Sara smiled warmly. "I’ll contact him, don't worry about me. You just make sure my nephew and niece are OK." She lowered her voice and added, "And let me know how you are from time to time, otherwise I'll think you died from exhaustion!"
He returned her smile. "I will. Thank you, little sister."
________________________________________
Gideon awoke to the feel of a hand gently stroking the back of his head. He looked up to see Deborah looking down at him, smiling sadly. He rolled off the bed, moving to where he could lean over and kiss her.
Gideon had stayed in Deborah’s room in the infirmary for the past twenty-four hours, only leaving to use the bathroom. He’d had food sent in so he could stay with her, watching and hoping that she’d come round. Raven had said that there was nothing more he could do, they just had to wait. Lily and Ilas had regained consciousness the previous evening and explained what had happened. The link with Angel had been broken, causing them great pain and confusion, and they knew that Deborah would be the worst affected. Angel was her blood sister and they were close, closer than they ever really let anyone see. Lily had refused to give him more details but had told him that Deborah would be devastated by the loss of her sister. So Gideon had stayed and waited, to be sure that he was there when she awoke.
Gideon had sat in a chair next to Deborah’s bed all day, just watching her breathe. After nightfall, he’d climbed onto her bed alongside her and rested his head on her shoulder. That way he could feel her breathing. It was a tight squeeze on the bed, but she hardly moved so there was just enough space. He’d fallen asleep eventually and not woken until he felt her touch.
He lifted his head from the kiss and touched Deborah’s cheek. It had a little more color than the previous day, but she was still pale and Gideon could see the pain in her face and eyes. He spoke as softly as he could. "How are you feeling? Are you still in pain?" She closed her eyes and nodded, then winced as the gesture increased the pain.
Gideon reached for some pills and a glass of water by the side of the bed. "Raven said that these would help, and not to worry, they won’t hurt the baby." He helped her sit up and take the pills, then drink. Lowering her carefully back to the pillow, he saw that she was watching him closely.
Deborah finally spoke. "She’s gone, Matthew." Her deep, sultry voice was barely a whisper and cracked slightly as she said his name.
He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. "I know. Galen took her and Lucas off planet. We don’t know where he’s taken them." Gideon watched as Deborah turned her head away from him, trying to hide her tears.
"I can’t feel her anymore. It’s like a piece of my soul has been ripped out." Gideon could almost feel the pain emanating from her. Was she projecting again? He didn’t think so; he’d have felt it much more if she were. He watched as Deborah pulled herself back under control and looked at him before whispering again. "But maybe this is for the best."
He looked down at her in stunned amazement. How could Deborah losing her sister like this ever be considered ‘for the best’? Gideon asked, "Why?"
Deborah looked straight into his eyes. "I don’t know what Lucas will do with her. I can hope that he won’t hurt her. I think he probably will, but I can hope." She paused and Gideon could see the effort her next words cost her. "But if she’d stayed, you would have arrested her and charged her with murder. If she’d been convicted, I know your penalty for that crime is death of personality. She would have been lost to me forever, and I could never have forgotten that you were the one responsible."
Gideon wanted desperately to deny what Deborah had said, but he couldn’t. If he were to keep his promise to Dureena, then that could well have been the outcome. Worse, it still could go that way. Just because Angel and Lucas were gone, it didn’t invalidate his promise. Gideon would have to go on looking for them, but he didn’t have to tell Deborah that now. He remained quiet while she continued. "This way, I’ll miss her every day, but I can hope that she’s well and I don’t have to blame you for losing her. But I do blame Galen. I know he’s your friend and he saved your life, but I never want to see him on this planet again."
Gideon leaned forward and kissed her again. "That’s one thing we can agree on." He watched as Deborah pushed herself into an upright position, the sheet falling to her waist. He grabbed the robe he’d had brought from her rooms and wrapped it around her shoulders, helping her get her arms into the sleeves.
She looked up at him and said, "I want to go back to my rooms. Will you help me?"
Gideon nodded. "Let me call Raven first. He just wants to check that none of this has hurt the baby." He knew that Deborah might protest about a checkup for her own sake, but she wouldn’t do anything to put the baby at risk. He watched as she lay back on the pillows and waited for Raven.
A few moments later, the doctor arrived and checked her over. He nodded to Deborah and told her that she was fit to leave, but to take it easy for a couple of days, as she needed to recover from the shock. Gideon helped her sit up and swing her legs around to the edge of the bed. She wobbled slightly as she stood, but Gideon put his arm around her waist and helped her to stand. He couldn’t help thinking of the day they’d met, when she’d done the same for him. The similarity hadn’t escaped Deborah, either. She looked round at him as he held her up, and smiled sadly as she said, "Take me back to Tara, Rhett."
Gideon kissed Deborah’s forehead and grinned back at her. "Well, frankly my dear, I do give a damn." They made their way back to her rooms.

 

Chapter 3
It was two days after Galen had taken Angel and Lucas away when Demon held Matthew’s hand as they emerged from the castle at sunset, with John, Luke and Lily walking with them, all following Ilas. Nikarran and a group of guards followed closely behind, everyone carrying fire-torches except Ilas and Lily. The shapeshifter carried a tiny body wrapped in a white shroud while Lily carried her drum. Only Max and Dureena were absent; Max had stayed with Dureena in the infirmary, where she was still recovering from giving birth to her dead child.
Ilas led the procession down the hill to the plain below, where a small pyre had been built from branches and logs, with a wooden platform resting on top. As the last rim of the sun dropped below the horizon, Demon watched as her youngest sister placed her tiny burden on the platform, then stepped back, reaching her hand out for the torch that Nikarran carried. He passed it to her with a respectful nod, then took a pace backwards. Demon watched, tears streaming down her face as Ilas used the torch to light the wood of the small funeral pyre.
The little shapeshifter then turned and nodded to the others gathered there, and each in turn pushed their torch into the growing fire. The flames leaped and danced in the dying light, casting strange shadows against the castle walls, the smoke drifting up into the darkening sky, briefly concealing the stars that were just beginning to appear. The only sound was the somber beat of Lily’s drum.
When the fire finally died down, Ilas turned and marched, alone and with great dignity, back into the castle to join her lovers. Demon buried her head into Matthew’s shoulder, weeping for her sisters, the one who had lost so much and the one who was lost to them all.

The following morning, Gideon led Deborah out onto the lawn in the castle forecourt, where Max and Ilas waited for them. Ilas was using her blue-haired, white-skinned look. Max was holding a small carved box which the captain knew held the ashes of their child. This time Lily had stayed behind, trying to comfort Dureena, where no real comfort could be given. John and Raven stood to one side, and again, Nikarran and his guards were in attendance. This time, they held baskets filled with small rocks and stones.
Holding Deborah’s hand tightly, Gideon followed Ilas and Max as they left the castle, John, Luke and Nikarran falling in behind them and the guards bringing up the rear. Ilas and Max led them away from the castle and along a footpath into a nearby grove. After a while, the ground began to rise, and a little while later they came out of the trees and started walking up the side of a steep hill. When they arrived at the summit, Gideon realized that they had a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.
The procession came to a halt and still holding Deborah’s hand tightly, Gideon watched as Max carefully placed the carved box on the ground, at the highest place on the hill. He stepped back and said something in a voice so cracked and broken that the captain couldn’t make it out. One of the guards moved forward and held out his basket and Max removed the rocks it contained one by one, placing them around and on top of the box. When he’d finished, Ilas stepped forward and another guard moved with her. She knelt and emptied the contents of the basket offered to her, again placing them around and over the wooden box. As she stood, she said, “Maileena,” clearly enough for them all to hear.
Ilas turned to look at the group that surrounded her. “That’s my murdered daughter’s name. Maileena. I want you all to remember that name, given to her by her mother and fathers, so everyone will know who her parents were. Max tells me that in one human language Maileena means ‘Dance’. Our baby will never dance in life, but yesterday her spirit rose with the flames into the night so in death she can dance with the stars.” The little shapeshifter’s voice cracked but she swallowed hard and went on, “We’re building this cairn to honor the customs of her mother’s people and to make sure we never forget. One day, I’ll bring her murderer to justice. I swear this on Maileena’s ashes.”
The shapeshifter stepped back into Max’s arms. Both grieving parents had tears streaming down their faces, but Gideon knew there were no words he could say that could relieve their pain. Only actions would help them now. Only catching Lucas Buck [And Angel] and making them pay for their crime would help.
Gideon moved forward and took a basket from one of the guards, then added the rocks to the growing pile, saying, “Maileena,” as he placed the last stone. Deborah, John, Luke and Nikarran each did the same. Then they followed Max and Ilas down the hill, returning to the castle. Gideon took his lover back to her rooms and held her when she finally released the iron control she’d maintained throughout the ceremony and broke down.

Gideon left the infirmary on his way back to Deborah’s room, having received his daily update on the work John and Luke had been doing to investigate the equipment that the Vorlons had left behind. Some of the things they’d found gave them all hope that once handed over to the Medbay on board Excalibur, some real progress toward a cure to the Drakh plague might be possible at last. This was the last such briefing Gideon would receive as it was the last day of his stay on Eriadne. The next day the Excalibur would arrive back in orbit and it would be time to leave.
For once, Deborah hadn’t joined him at the briefing. Usually she accompanied him everywhere, reluctant to be away from him for a moment, a feeling he shared, but she’d had a poor night’s sleep, [Still grieving for Angel,] and Gideon had insisted she stay in bed. So with mixed feelings of satisfaction at the progress that had been made, anticipation of returning to Deborah’s bed and dread at the prospect of returning to his ship so soon, Gideon walked alone down the corridor connecting the infirmary to the castle, with his hands in his pockets and his head down. [How am I going to leave her? How do I say goodbye to the mother of my son, not knowing when or if I’ll ever see her again?]
A hissing sound coming from a doorway to his left interrupted his brooding. The door was slightly ajar, but the room beyond was gloomy, so he couldn’t immediately identify the shape that stood blocking what little light came from inside.
Another hiss was followed by a low voice, whispering, “Captain. Can I talk to you?”
Gideon was surprised when he recognized the voice. What did Ilas want with him? He’d seen her and Max every day when he’d visited Dureena in the infirmary, ensuring that at least the little thief was comfortable, even if he had no words of comfort to give her or her partners. Ilas had hardly spoken to him during those visits, so why did she want to talk to him now?
Ilas pulled the door open a little wider and beckoned, so Gideon slipped past her into the room. The drapes were drawn across the windows, making it difficult to see, but as far as the captain could tell, it was some kind of sitting room, one of many in the castle that were never used. Ilas closed the door behind him, and he turned to look at her as she stood with her back against the door, still barely visible in the poor light.
“Can I do something for you, Ilas? Why all the secrecy?” Gideon asked.
“I need you to do something for me and Dureena, and I don’t want anyone else to know, especially not Max or my sisters. Will you help me?” The little shapeshifter looked up at him with a pleading expression in her red cat’s eyes. For once, she was wearing her own body, with lavender hair and the scar on her face livid against her golden skin.
Gideon frowned. “What is it you want me to do?”
Ilas reached behind her and pulled out a knife, the blade hidden by a sheath. She held it out to Gideon, who took it, examining it carefully. It looked like a knife that Dureena might have used, with a brown leather handle and a long narrow blade covered by the brown suede sheath. He went to draw the knife from its cover to examine the blade more closely but Ilas hissed, “Don’t! Don’t ever draw that knife until you intend to use it. The blade is coated with venom from one of the avians that nest in the hills. It’s a deadly poison and you don’t want to touch it.”
Gideon hastily pushed the knife back into the sheath, well aware of the toxicity of the venom on the blade. Deborah had described it to him a couple of days before when they’d left the castle together and he’d had a rather too close encounter with one of the avians. He held the knife guardedly and asked, “Why have you given me this? What am I supposed to do with it?”
Ilas took a step closer. “This is the message from Dureena, and I agree with every word she says, but Max wouldn’t approve.”
The shapeshifter took another step forward and Gideon could see her eyes becoming unfocussed as she concentrated on getting her message right. “Dureena says, ‘Captain, I trust you to fulfill your promise, but I want more. When you catch Lucas Buck I want you to scratch him with this knife. Just a scratch, a pinprick will be enough. Then I want you to watch him die. There’s no antidote, and his death will be excruciating. He will scream and writhe in pain, his sinews will stretch until his bones crack and I want you to watch every moment of his agony. Then I want you to come back and tell me every single detail.’”
Ilas’ eyes focused on Gideon again and she said, “That’s from both of us, Captain. If you catch up with Lucas before we do, this is what we need.” She hesitated a moment then went on, “But this next bit is just from me. You and Demon talk about justice, but that’s not what I want. I want revenge. I want payback for the hours of pain Dureena went through delivering our dead baby. Raven couldn’t cut the baby out of her because of some complications caused by Zanderi physiology that I don’t understand. So he had to induce labor and Dureena had to go through it all, knowing that our baby was dead inside her. I held her while she sweated and screamed but never cried. I held her through every contraction, then I watched as she held our baby in her arms. She cried then, Captain. She sobbed as she cradled our dead little girl in her arms, and so did Max. I don’t want justice for their pain and their tears, I want revenge.”
Gideon was deeply moved by Ilas’ words and looked down at the knife he was holding carefully between the tips of his forefinger and thumb. He didn’t want to get it any closer to his skin. After a moment’s thought he reached for a cushion that rested on a nearby chair, removed the cover, then folded it around the knife, making sure it was well wrapped. Then he looked at Ilas and said, “I’ll take the knife, but I can’t promise that I’ll use it.” He held up his hand as Ilas started to protest. “If Lucas surrenders and comes quietly, I can’t in good conscience kill him with this.” Gideon held up the bundle in his hand and went on, “That would make me a murderer, just like him, and I won’t do that.”
The captain looked closely at Ilas and watched as she reluctantly nodded her agreement, before continuing, “But if he puts up a fight, if he attacks me in any way—and I suspect he will—then I’ll use this to defend myself. And if Lucas gets cut in the process… Well, that would be his problem.”
A smile spread across Ilas’ face and she held out her hand. “I can live with that and I’ll make sure that Dureena accepts it, too. If you agree that only the three of us will ever know about this, we have a deal, Captain.”
Gideon took her hand and shook it firmly. “Deal.” He winked at her and said, “Let’s just hope Lucas puts up a fight.”
They left the room together, having checked that no one was in the corridor outside, and went their separate ways. When Gideon got back to Deborah’s room, he buried the bundle in the bottom of his bag and put it out of his mind. It was time to join Deborah in her bedroom so they could make the most of their last day together.

Lily stood in front of the mirror in her dressing room, torn between laughter and tears. While she was overjoyed that Luke was going to stay with her, the thought of losing John was devastating. Tonight was their last night before the Excalibur's shuttle would come to take him away from them, and both Luke and she had agreed that they would make it a special night for him.
She looked at her reflection in the mirror, a smile creeping onto her face as she imagined how John--and Luke--would react to her outfit. Lily wore a dancing costume, which followed her body's every curve without being uncomfortable or restraining, even in her present condition. When she swirled around, the skirt opened like a bell to reveal golden anklets on her tiny feet.
Lily stopped and stood so she could look at her profile, giggling at the unusual sight of her pregnant body in this costume. She lovingly stroked her belly. [You two are beautifully wrapped!] Finally she took one last deep breath, stretching her spine and taking on a dancer's stance, then gracefully stepped toward the door in her bare feet.
________________________________________
John and Luke were sitting on the edge of the lounging pit, talking quietly while they waited for Lily. Luke stopped in mid-sentence and smiled. John, who was sitting facing away from the dressing room door, turned and gasped when he saw Lily standing next to the bed. He could feel his heart beating faster as he let his eyes wander over her.
"Stunning," he heard Luke say, and could only nod in agreement. He thought he had never seen a more beautiful woman, and her pregnancy only seemed to increase her loveliness.
Lily smiled at them in a way that made his breath catch, then dropped a small curtsey before slowly and gracefully moving from behind the bed, her anklets tinkling. She moved her hand before the blank wall in a strange gesture, and a data crystal player appeared. Lily inserted the crystal she held and stepped into the middle of the room, standing in a regal pose. A lone flute began playing, and Lily moved her arms in rhythm with it from her shoulders to the tips of her fingers. Other instruments joined in and a woman started singing, her voice full of desire and longing, and Lily expressed those feelings in her every move.
Both men were captivated, never letting their eyes wander from her. While she danced, Lily slowly moved nearer then stopped before her lovers, leaning forward and framing their faces with elegant hand movements while looking at them longingly, lovingly, but never touching.
The voice and the instruments faded one after the other, until again only the flute was playing. With its last descending notes, Lily bent forward and softly pressed her lips onto John’s but retreated before he could react. Then he felt a blindfold being put over his eyes and tied at the back of his head.
"Don't worry," Lily whispered into his ear in a low, seductive voice, "Just relax and enjoy. Tonight's your night."
He felt her lips touch his again, then Luke's, and heard Lily's anklets tinkle as she walked away. John heard Luke's low voice say, "Come." He got up and was led toward the sound of Lily's anklets jingling. He was turned around, then felt Luke move behind him and take his arms, holding them behind his back so he couldn't move, yet careful not to hurt him.
"Relax, and don't make any sudden moves," Luke whispered.
John's senses were alert, but he tried to keep his shields up, not wanting to find out what his lovers had planned by picking up a stray thought. Suddenly, he felt cold metal touch his throat and gasped, realizing it must be Lily's dagger.
"Shhhh. You know I won't hurt you," Lily whispered, then added with a purr, "much."
John felt his pulse race as he remembered his first ‘close encounter’ with Lily and her dagger in the dungeon. Again he felt the dagger's tip slowly wander down his throat, then it moved, and after a moment, he felt the first button of his shirt being cut off, followed by the next, then the next, until all were gone. John couldn't help but lean back into Luke with every cut.
"Still don't trust me, Sweet-Face?" Lily softly chuckled as she leaned close to him, letting him feel her hard nipples press against his naked chest through the soft velvet of her dress, saying in a raw whisper, "But I think you like what I’m doing, don’t you?"
Lily’s hands slipped under the shirt, and she began tracing her lips and tongue along his right collarbone, drawing a soft moan from him, then she moved to his left side and gave it the same treatment. Her mouth wandered down and across his chest, pausing at each nipple to tease, suckle, and bite, making him shudder with pleasure.
John drew in his breath sharply when he felt Luke graze his teeth along his neck and shoulder. He was swollen and throbbing now, and he moaned when Lily's hips brushed his crotch. He heard her voice whispering, "Impatient?"
John gasped as he felt Lily's fingers gently stroke the bulge in his pants. "Please," he whispered.
John felt someone’s hands remove his pants then he was laid down on the bed. He could feel Lily’s tiny hands tying his wrists to the bedposts, while Luke spread his legs apart. Again his lovers kissed him, then he felt Lily straddle his hips, impaling herself on him and moving slowly, making him moan with pleasure. He felt the bed shift beneath his legs, and then a lubricated finger probing his anus, soon replaced by Luke's cock gently pushing inside him. John gasped. The double stimulation drove him further toward release.
As the pace increased, John felt Lily slam down onto him each time Luke thrust into his ass; her fingernails raked his chest, and he had no doubt he’d have a few scars to remind him of this night. Their rhythm increased again, and when Lily bent down and bit his left nipple, John came hard, feeling Luke explode inside him a moment later. After his two lovers collapsed onto him, ragged breathing and gasps were all that could be heard.
________________________________________
Gideon sat across the table from Deborah, watching her as he drank his wine. They’d decided to spend their last evening alone, having dinner on the terrace outside her rooms. The terrace was lit with candles and lamps again, as it had been the night of their dinner with Lily, John, and Luke, but this time the table had been kept just large enough for the two of them.
Deborah was wearing the same black velvet dress she’d worn when they’d eaten on the terrace before. Gideon hadn’t got the chance to take it off her that night but he was looking forward to correcting that omission. Deborah’s hair was loose around her shoulders, creating a cloud of gold that reflected the light from the candles and lamps; she’d never looked more beautiful to him.
Gideon thought back over the previous week as she’d recovered from the loss of her link to her sister. He knew the enormous effort it had cost Deborah to put aside her grief but she’d made the effort for him. He could still see the pain and sadness in her eyes when she thought he wasn’t looking, but she’d been determined that they should both enjoy the short time they had left.
Gideon’s sense of duty had made him put out a call for assistance after Lucas had left with Angel, but he’d been unable to contact the Excalibur to alert them to what had happened on Eriadne. His ship, and apparently every other Earthforce ship, was out of range of the equipment they’d installed in Deborah’s room. The only vessel likely to be within range was Galen’s, and he wasn’t answering. Gideon had tried to leave a message with the authorities on the only planet within range, Deneb IV, but he wasn’t convinced that he’d been taken seriously.
So, unable to do anything else, Gideon had spent the time with his lover. Deborah had stayed by Gideon’s side as he’d received reports from his crew on the progress they’d made; they’d walked, talked, eaten and slept together, never being apart for more than a few moments. He wished they could continue like this, but knew that within twenty-four hours he’d be gone, leaving her behind. All he’d have would be the pictures he’d taken of her every day of his visit.
Gideon had brought a holocamera with him and a couple of data crystals each with almost infinite capacity, to make sure he could capture Deborah in every mood and look, to take with him when he had to leave. He debated whether he could possibly capture the luminous glow from her hair on a crystal and concluded, regretfully, that he couldn’t.
Deborah watched him watching her and smiled as Gideon reached across the table for her hand, bringing it to his lips, then standing and pulling her to her feet. He moved to hold her tightly against him, saying, "Have you had enough to eat? Because I’m still betting that you don’t have a thing on under that dress and this time I’m determined to check it out myself."
She leaned forward to kiss him, then smiled. "You’d lose your bet, but we haven’t had dessert. Don’t you want ice cream?"
Gideon bent his head to kiss her neck and shoulder. "Maybe later. Right now I want to see why I’ve lost. What do you have on under that dress? I didn’t think you ever wore underwear. Hell, I didn’t even know you owned underwear!" His mouth worked its way back up her neck to her ear and he felt her shudder with pleasure at the touch of his tongue.
Deborah laughed softly as she spoke. "Well, it can get chilly out here at night, so I thought a pair of woolen knickers--you know, nice big, comfortable ones--would go well with this outfit."
Gideon started to laugh. "Now this I’ve got to see!" He pulled her through the French windows and on into the bedroom.
________________________________________
Demon followed where Matthew led and stood at the foot of the bed, smiling at him, as he came to a halt and turned, releasing her hand and pulling her into his arms again. He kissed her passionately and she felt his hands move to her back and start pulling on her dress zipper. Demon raised her hands to her breasts to hold the dress in place as Matthew reached the base of her spine and stepped back to look at her. He pushed her out to arms’ length, then spoke quietly, his voice rough with passion. "Let me see."
She took a further step away from him and let go of her dress, which slid to the ground, creating a pool of blackness at her feet. Demon watched as Matthew’s eyes raked her body, slowing at her breasts, the cleavage emphasized by a black satin, strapless bra, then moving down to her rounded belly and onto the tiny black lace panties that barely covered her curls. Finally she watched him smile as his eyes took in the black lace-topped stockings she’d worn for him. Demon kicked off her shoes and moved back into his arms, which came around her and clasped her tightly. He kissed her deeply, then pushed her out to arms’ length again, inspecting every inch of her, before looking into her eyes and asking, "Will you let me take a picture of you? I want to remember you like this."
Demon smiled and kissed him, replying, "Of course." While Matthew went for the holocamera, she laid herself on the bed, spreading her arms wide, her head on the pillows, her hair flowing around her, her back to the mattress but her legs held together, curled to one side. She watched as he took pictures, both becoming increasingly aroused. This was their last night together and Demon didn’t know how she was going to survive when he left.
She watched as Matthew returned to the bed and quickly removed his shoes and clothes. All Demon wanted was for him to take her, to make love to her, to be inside her. But before he did that, she wanted to tease him a little more.

Gideon had lifted one knee to the side of the bed when Deborah said, “Wait.” He froze in position and watched as she sat up, reaching behind her to release the clasps on her bra, freeing her breasts. He reached out his hand to touch them, but she whispered, “Not yet. Down boy,” and grinned at him. Lifting himself back to a standing position, Gideon watched as his lover lay back on the pillows, her golden hair spread around her. She slid her hand down her side and slipped her fingers under her panties. Tugging gently at the wisps of lace, Deborah said softly, “I want my knickers ripped off me tonight.”
Gideon grinned and leaned forward to oblige; with a quick tug on either side, the obstacle was soon removed. “Your wish is my command.” He then watched as Deborah rolled onto her left side, facing him. She lifted her left arm, so it covered her breasts, then moved her right leg until it concealed her pubic curls. Her eyes were sparkling with mischief as she whispered, “Now you can take your pictures.”
Hands shaking, Gideon lifted the holocamera and started to obey. The sight of Deborah’s long lean body, naked except for her black silk stockings with the lacy stretch tops, was exciting him unbearably. His anticipation grew as she slid her right hand between her legs. The captain wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take; he knew he was in danger of coming before he even got inside her. Taking a few last shots, his hands trembling so hard he could hardly hold the holocamera, Gideon watched as Deborah pleasured herself, her eyes closing and her mouth opening as she licked her lips, panting in ragged little breaths of arousal.
With a moan of pure lust, Gideon dropped the camera on the bed, then moved quickly to roll Deborah onto her back. He pushed her legs apart and positioned himself between them, starting to gently thrust into her, all the while thinking of icebergs and Pak’Ma’Ra. [Eilerson’s special vids have nothing on this!]
Gritting his teeth in his efforts to hold back, Gideon nearly lost control when Deborah lifted her long legs, wrapping them around his hips, the soft silk and scratchy lace rubbing against his buttocks as she drew him in deeper. When he finally felt her arching her back, her orgasm building, Gideon let go. They climaxed together, then fell into a tangled heap, panting as they recovered from their exertions.
Once he could breathe again, Gideon slid his hand down Deborah’s thigh, gently pulling at the stocking top, then releasing it. “From now on, you should wear these whenever we make love,” he whispered.
Deborah chuckled, sending pleasurable vibrations coursing through Gideon’s body. The deep, soft, sultry voice he loved so much said, “Your wish is my command, Captain.”

It was very early morning, [But I’d prefer to call it very late at night,] John thought, since this made the morning and inevitable separation from his lovers seem farther away. He lay on his side between Lily, who was facing him, and Luke, who had his arm wrapped around both of them. They had been making love for hours, taking catnaps, but soon a touch, a word, or a look would get them started again, until finally they were too exhausted to do anything but lie there in each other’s arms.
None of them spoke, so as not to disturb the feeling of belonging they shared in silence. But gradually, slowly, the realization crept over them that this really was their last night together, that John would leave soon, and none of them knew when he could come back.
Abruptly Lily sat up and stroked her bulging belly, looking down at it with a sad smile. Both men sat up, and John asked, "What is it, love?"
Lily looked at him for long seconds, her green eyes enormous and full of emotions, and sighed. "I wish I could send to you, share my feelings as I can with my sisters. Words are so clumsy."
John's eyes widened, and he turned to look at Luke then back at Lily. "But you can! We can merge--all three of us--if you’re willing to let me in."
He concentrated and focused on Lily first. She felt different to anyone else whose mind he’d ever touched. [This feels interesting. It must be because of the Vorlon enhancements.]
[[Am I different?]] Lily asked, her voice sounding clearly in his head.
[[No. You are unique,]] John replied, then added, [[I'll bring Luke in.]]
Luke's head twitched to the side slightly when John touched his mind, then he relaxed as he joined them.
Lily drew her lovers into her embrace, and they leaned their foreheads against hers, holding each other tightly in their circle. John heard Luke’s voice in his head, speaking to Lily. [[Don't cry,]] Luke's mind-voice, was even richer than his spoken voice.
[[I have to. I'm so happy, and so sad.]] Lily replied.
John sent, [[Don't be. I’ll call whenever I can, and I'll come back as soon as possible.]] Despite his words, John was on the verge of tears, and he felt Lily draw him into a mental hug, with Luke doing the same. He felt tears on his face, not sure if they were his own.
________________________________________
Gideon awoke to the sound of thunder and realized it was the shuttle descending from the Excalibur. The vacation was over. He looked down to where Deborah lay with her head on his shoulder and he felt the warm wetness of her tears as they settled on his skin. He tightened his arm around her and wondered how he could comfort her when he felt in such dire need of comfort himself. The thought of leaving her had been bad enough, now the time had come and the reality was unbearable.
He kissed the top of Deborah’s head and stroked her hair, trying not to think about how long it might be until he could do that again. She looked up at him, her eyes wide and overflowing, but she was desperately trying to smile at him. She whispered, "I keep telling myself that I should be glad for the time that we’ve had together and look forward to when you’ll come back, but it’s hard."
Gideon moved his free hand to hold hers where it rested on his chest and he squeezed it tightly. He kissed Deborah gently as a way to avoid speaking, and he felt her mouth open under his. Gentleness gave way to passion, and soon he was deep inside her again, lifting them both to a long, slow release of passion that left them breathless, but deeply satisfied. When they’d finished, he lay beside her and rested his hand on her belly. Gideon smiled at her as he felt his son move under his hand. "See? He’s kicking his father to say goodbye."
Deborah smiled back and rested her hand over his. "Hmm. Pity he has to kick his mother in the process. Tell you what, I’ve done the first half of this pregnancy thing, why don’t you take over now and you can do the second half. Nothing to worry about really, just a little thing called labor, you’ll hardly notice it."
Gideon laughed and kissed her. "I can see myself trying to explain that one to Earthforce. And unless Raven has some way of doing the transfer in the next hour, we’ll have to wait for the next one to try out that idea." He pushed back the bed covers and reluctantly got up, turning to look back at her as she lay naked on the bed.
Deborah was trying to smile as she looked up at him and spoke. "Next one? I’ll see how this one feels on his way out before I make any commitments, but when you come back…" Deborah’s voice cracked slightly and she swallowed before continuing, "we can have lots of fun practicing." She pulled herself up to join Gideon by the side of the bed and put her arms around his neck. "But we can practice a little more in the shower now if you like."
________________________________________
Lily walked between her lovers, holding their hands. They were the first to arrive; Lily stopped abruptly, trembling not just from her lack of sleep. "I can't go on."
The two men looked at her, love and concern in their eyes, and she could feel John merge with her and Luke.
[[Please. You know I can't stay, but I swear to you, Matthew, Max, and I will do whatever we can to get back before the birth of our children.]]
[[I know. But losing you again...]] Lily's eyes filled with tears, and she threw her arms around John, pressing her face against his chest, feeling Luke wrap his arms around them both. They didn't send any more, for all words had been said the night before. They shared their emotions and their company for as long as they could. Then Gideon and Demon arrived, and with a mental sigh, John retreated slowly, and moved out of their embrace.
For a moment, Lily feared she'd break down, but Luke held her--as much for his support as for hers. She squeezed his hand in acknowledgment and made an effort to smile at John. "We'll be waiting for you," she whispered, her voice raw from unshed tears.
John stepped back and nodded at them, then turned around and walked up the ramp, joining Max, who stood just inside the door, looking out at the ones they had to leave behind. Gideon almost ran up the ramp and past them without turning back, his face a mask. As the ramp was raised, John sent [[I love you,]] then the door closed, cutting him off from his lovers.
________________________________________
Ilas, Dureena, and Max arrived at the shuttle a short while after Lily, John, and Luke. They’d taken a detour through the orchard to steal a last few private moments. Both Max and Ilas were relieved that Dureena was going to stay on Eriadne. They knew that beneath that thin shell of calm, the wound of her baby's death was still raw, and they hoped that a few months in Ilas' company would help heal that wound.
Max was still in awe of Ilas' persuasive skills. During dinner the previous night in her rooms--Raven had allowed Dureena out of the infirmary the day before on condition that she wouldn't be left alone--Ilas had asked Dureena if she would like to stay with her, eyes full of hesitant hope. Dureena had looked up from her plate at Ilas, then to Max and back at Ilas, clearly suspecting they had planned something behind her back, and just as clearly not liking their protectiveness. But before she could say anything, Ilas had continued, "Please, I know Max has to leave, but you don't have a job to worry about just now, and the medics won't let you help on missions for a few months anyway, and Raven said you need some rest, which you can get here. But most of all, I'm afraid the Excalibur won't make it back in time for the birth of my baby, and I don't want to have it alone!" She'd paused, then added, "I don't want to be alone." Ilas had looked at Dureena so pleadingly that the Zanderi woman had been unable to refuse.
Now they were standing near Lily and Raven, who were holding Matheson silently, and Max found himself speechless, all the smart things he’d wanted to say gone from his mind.
Instead, Ilas said, "Don't worry, we'll be fine."
Max managed to flash his best smile. "Who said I was worried about you two? It’s me I feel sorry for." He tried his best to maintain a light note, but his voice failed at the end.
Ilas put her arms around him, tears in her eyes. "Send a message whenever you can."
He nodded as she let go of him and stood back. Then Dureena flung herself at Max, clinging to him for a second. She loosened her grip and whispered into his ear, "I'll take care of them both, I promise."
Max smiled at her thankfully as she stepped back to Ilas' side. He wrapped his arms around the two women for the last time, whispering to them, then quickly turned around, walking toward the shuttle and up the ramp. He couldn't help turning around at the top and looking down at Dureena and Ilas, wondering how he would survive the coming months alone, not knowing when he would see them again.
________________________________________
Matthew and Demon walked down to the shuttle, holding hands tightly. She used every ounce of control she possessed to keep smiling and to not break down. She had a pain in her stomach so intense that she could hardly breathe, but she did her best to ignore it, knowing that it was just the physical manifestation of her grief. Demon was determined that Matthew’s last sight of her would be a happy one, that she wouldn’t make it more difficult for him by getting hysterical, no matter how much she wanted to scream at him not to leave her. He had no choice in the matter and neither did she.
The others were gathered by the side of the shuttle, waiting quietly. Raven and Lily stood to one side, both holding Matheson tightly. Demon was happy for Lily and relieved for them all that Raven had decided to stay. His presence would be a comfort, even to the men who were leaving. Knowing that their women had access to a good doctor was reassuring.
Ilas stood with Max and Dureena. It was the first time that Dureena had left the castle since the death of her baby. She still looked pale and fragile, but her anger simmered just below the surface. Demon hadn’t dared speak to her, knowing that Dureena blamed Angel for her loss. Nothing Demon could say would convince Dureena that Angel couldn’t have known what would happen when she brought Lucas back.
Thinking of Angel made the pain in Demon’s stomach worse. She felt as if there were a hole in her mind and her soul where her sister’s presence had been ripped out, and she knew that the hole was about to widen when Matthew left. A wave of grief and loneliness swept over her, strong enough to make her stumble as her knees weakened. Matthew caught her and pulled her to him, looking closely at her, trying to see what she was feeling. Demon smiled and made an extra effort to sound normal. "If I start falling over now, heaven knows what I’ll be like when I can’t see my feet anymore." She knew that she wasn’t fooling him in the slightest but continued to make the effort.
They reached the foot of the ramp and Matthew turned to take Demon in his arms, holding her as tightly as he could without hurting her. His face was buried in her hair as he kissed her neck, then moved his head to kiss her mouth. Their last kiss was long and passionate, but eventually he lifted his head and looked into her eyes. "I wish I could promise to be back before he’s born, but I won’t make a promise I may not be able to keep." Demon nodded her understanding, unable to speak. Matthew continued, "But I’ll do everything I can to get here, and I’ll send a recorded message whenever I can, every day if I can. Will you do the same?" She nodded again as he carried on. "We’ll mostly be out of range so we can’t talk, but at least if I get your messages, I’ll know that you’re OK and be able to see you."
Demon was now struggling to hold back tears, the lump in her throat was nearly choking her as Matthew leaned his face back into her hair. His pressed his lips against her ear and whispered, "I love you,” then let go of her and turned abruptly, almost running up the ramp and into the shuttle, where Matheson and Max stood watching. Matthew didn’t turn or look back, but just disappeared inside as the ramp was raised and the door closed.
Luke and Lily walked over to where Demon stood, frozen to the spot, while Ilas and Dureena held each other tightly, both crying softly. Demon’s smile had faded and her face was locked into an impassive stare. Lily put her arm around her big sister’s waist and leaned her head against her arm. Demon felt Luke move to stand on her other side and his arm went around her shoulders as they watched the shuttle take off. As it grew smaller and finally vanished into the distance, Lily tried to comfort Demon as she had before.
"Let us help you, Demon. You don’t have to be alone. We’re here for you."
Demon made a supreme effort and spoke quietly. "I know you are, darling, and thank you, but right now I think I’d like a little time to myself." She turned and walked back to the castle alone, her back straight and her head high, tears streaming down her frozen face.

 

Epilogue
The door buzzer to Gideon’s office sounded. "Open."
He looked up to see Max entering the room. "Do you have a few minutes, Captain? I have something that might interest you."
Gideon gestured toward the chair on the other side of the desk. In the four days since they’d returned from Eriadne, the captain had lived mostly in his office and on the bridge, only returning to his quarters when he was too exhausted to stay awake any longer. Not that he wanted to sleep. Now he didn’t have Deborah at his side sleep brought the return of the nightmares in which he was trapped in the Box.
The captain knew that he was drowning himself in work as a way of forgetting how much he missed Deborah. His only source of solace was the holos he’d taken of her. Hundreds of them. But the best were definitely the last. When he’d looked at the shots he’d taken of Deborah in her bed, naked except for her stockings, most were blurred. Not surprising given how much his hands had been shaking when he took them. But there was one glorious holo, one shot in which her head was back, her eyes closed and her mouth slightly open, her hair spread around her on the pillow. And lower down, her arm had slipped slightly from where it covered her breasts, revealing just the glimpse of a nipple between her fingers. Lower still, Deborah’s hand disappeared between her stockinged thighs, but Gideon knew what she’d been doing and just the memory was enough to arouse him. Not that it did him much good when his only option now was to jerk off in his bunk.
As Max took his seat, Gideon realized that he hadn’t seen the xenoarcheologist once since their return to the Excalibur and assumed that Max had been doing the same as he had--working day and night to avoid thinking about what he’d lost. Leaving both Ilas and Dureena behind must have been difficult for him, especially after the loss of the baby. Gideon looked carefully at Max as he sat opposite and could see the shadows and lines around his eyes that betrayed his exhaustion. He decided to tackle the issue head on.
"You look tired, Mr. Eilerson. Are you working too hard?"
Max narrowed his eyes and stared back. "Well, that’s a bad case of the pot calling the kettle black, Captain. You look like shit yourself."
Gideon snorted. "Thanks, Max. I really needed to know that. What can I do for you?" He grabbed a coffee pot and poured coffee into two mugs, pushing one toward Max. "Maybe this will help us both stay awake until you’re done."
Max sipped at the ‘coffee’ and grimaced. "Not as good as the stuff they have on Eriadne, is it?" Gideon didn’t respond. He didn’t want to get into any conversation about Eriadne. It only started him thinking about Deborah. He watched as Max pulled himself upright in the chair and started to speak.
"You know I brought a lot of material back with me this time? Well, I’ve spent the last four days working on it, using the Medbay databanks. I’ve reached a preliminary conclusion, and you need to know about it." Gideon gestured for him to continue.
"OK, here’s the summary. I’ll give you the detail later if you want it. Up to around a thousand years ago Eriadne was inhabited by a Shadow slave race. They may have been Drakh, probably not, but they used a similar language to the Drakh. I think Eriadne was a manufacturing center, and they manufactured viruses."
Gideon sat up quickly. [Where’s Max going with this?]
"This next bit is guesswork but educated guesswork. I think the Vorlon destroyed the planetary population and most of the manufacturing centers in the last Shadow War a thousand years ago, then took over the planet for themselves. I have no idea what they used it for then, but eventually they built the castle and used it as a sort of training center for their abductees."
Gideon nodded. This fit the limited data they’d obtained from the castle.
Max carried on speaking. "The material I brought back from the ruins contained chemical formulae and diagrams of genetic material and viruses. These indicate that the Shadows had some kind of viral screen available to them, which prevented their slave races from becoming infected by the viruses they manufactured. Eriadne appears to have been one of the places where they made that viral screen."
Max paused and leaned forward, his arms resting on Gideon’s desk.
"I think we can use the information I’ve found and translated to do more work on the Technomage virus we discovered a couple of years ago. Galen helped Dr. Chambers turn that Technomage virus into a screen that protects for forty-eight hours. With the information I’ve discovered, I think we can make that screen permanent. We can stop people from becoming infected by the Drakh plague. It’s not a cure, but it’s a hell of a step in the right direction."