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James followed the same path Craig did through the church, on guard long before a whistling cool breeze brushed by and through him. He heard whispering ahead, so hurried to the end of the corridor. When he turned the corner he couldn't believe his eyes.
"Oooh," Jessie squealed, her eyes bugging. She shoved Craig harshly into the wall. "There he is. At least you made this easier."
"Unu," James said.
Craig panicked, he scrambled over to him making all sorts of whimpering sounds. "How, how?" he asked. His face turned red, so he tried to avoid eye contact with either of them. "Oh, I see it now."
James frowned at him, "you thought she was Jessie?" Craig instinctively yelped a no and shook his head. He tried backing off, and away only to be blocked by a warm energy shield like the one around the book.
"My, don't you look..." Unu purred while thinking of the word she wanted, "better. You think he'll mind if I took those before my shmookum devours you?" James or Craig had no clue what she meant until she pointed at her own eyes, then at James.
"Why?" Craig blurted out.
James briefly looked at him in contempt, "look, neither of us have what you want."
"Wrong," Unu sang mischievously.
James shook that off, "and you can't hold us here forever. We..." Craig meanwhile chewed his fingernails to the bone. "I won't make this easy for you."
"Ooph," Unu pretended to sound scared, but her eyes were flirtatious. "You're no pretender, are you handsome? You're right. Maybe I should take you, him for a refresher and grab my soul mate, then live magically ever after."
Craig stopped to look annoyed, "how the hell do you do it? It's not just Iinan that's the witch, right?"
James resisted glaring, or even looking at him for the moment. "There's nothing here for you, this planet's a wasteland."
Unu clicked her tongue as she wagged her finger, "oh, what a bad puppy. Stop trying to get it, you don't. Now sit still while I seek the most beautiful one among you." She pretended to look apologetic, "yes even you, Iinan Junior." She gave the two a wink, then disappeared within a whirl of blue smoke.
Craig gingerly felt in front of him, as he expected there was a shield there as well. He turned to James, catching him eyeing the ceiling. "What?" he wondered.
"No," James sighed, turning his head to fixate on the stony, uneven ground. He gave one of the rocks there a little nudge, dislodging it which flickered the shield. It rolled away to the other side. Craig groaned impatiently.
Morgan ran into the chapel, nearly slamming into a frozen on the spot Maji. Wigged at that, she moved around them, spotting Jessie standing at the altar, staring at the book.
"Jess? What are you doing?" Morgan stammered as she ran across.
Jessie meanwhile tried to pick up the book. No shield stopped her, the weight of it shocked her and did the job instead, dropping it back where it was. Doing so opened it a page. She looked around in a daze, eventually focusing on Morgan. "What, Morgan?" She tried to shake off the remaining fog, "I was going to contact James or Craig, then..."
Morgan stepped up to join her, eyeing the book. She glanced back at the frozen aliens. "This must be Iinan's book. These guys messed with it, maybe?"
"Then, where are our people?" Jessie questioned.
Screams, yelling and some phaser shots outside got their full attention. Morgan grabbed the book from the alter. "You think that's...?"
"Iinan," Jessie said with worry.
They hurried outside to find the ground littered with corpses, some rotted like previous victims but some looked eviscerated instead. Morgan yelped and scurried back a few steps, while Jessie looked a little sick and tried to avert her eyes.
The blue mist formed a few feet in front of them, revealing Unu looking displeased with her hands huffily on her hips. "Men these days, so rude! I only asked..." her eyes flickered to Jessie, they brightened up. "Ah ha, so she did come like I thought."
"You did this?" Jessie said, immediately uncomfortable at the strange mirror image.
Unu smiled while stepping over one of the bodies. "This, that, bit of it all. I had hoped my soulmate would have the same connection with Iinan's better half that we do." She pursued her lips, bending over to stare mockingly at her, "you felt he was in trouble, that's all I needed."
Her eyes slipped to the side, landing on Morgan. Her mood switched just as quickly as Kathryn's would when the coffee buzz wore off. "You!"
"Me," Morgan said in a bored tone.
Unu marched over, pointing a finger at her face. "You get your filthy claws of my belongings, you harlot." Morgan took a step back to give her enough room to aim her left fist, even with a conflicting glint in her eye. Still she swung, knocking Unu stumbling backwards. Despite that the witch howled with laughter. "Oh I see, it's like poetry and all. Nothing to worry about then."
"What?" Morgan hissed.
Unu stared directly into her eyes. Morgan and Jessie noticed her near black eyes, the irises glowing in the dark. "No matter, it's just a little..." One hand wave and the book vanished from Morgan, instantly reappearing in Unu's, "non inconvenience."
"Damn it, that's cheating," Morgan grumbled as she ran toward her. Unfazed, Unu created another shield with a mere blink which Morgan struck at full speed. The force of it threw her flying back at twice the strength, slamming into a nearby wall.
"That was cathartic," Unu chuckled, her eyes gleaming further on slow approach toward Jessie. "Now my little beauty, time to give me back what's mine."
The pair heard a lot of commotion approaching, they both glanced over to another building nearby in time to see James and Craig arrive on the scene.
"Jessie?" James said, stalling for a moment.
"No!" Jessie snapped to warn him, then pointed at Morgan's listless body. Craig almost leapt forward to get to her, but he got James' arm to the gut for his trouble.
"Tsk, men huh?" Unu said playfully to Jessie. She began to circle her, staring at her almost intimately. "Underestimating us, always their greatest mistake."
"Enough," Jessie groaned in disgust. "I thought you wanted to regenerate. What's stopping you?"
Unu cackled viciously, "call me hypocritical but we're a player missing." Her gaze darted to one side, "oh, were." Then the awayteam heard what she did, footsteps against stone from above and behind them. They all looked around to see Iinan peering down at them from a balcony, sneering.
"How... oh right, he teleports too," Craig stuttered.
Iinan chuckled darkly. "I have no need or interest for showmanship, boy." He locked eyes on James, he glared back. "I'm sensing a fight. A mere waste of all our time. I'll allow the boy and what's left of these bugs go unharmed, if you two come with us."
"Oh Niny, you know that wouldn't work on you," Unu teased him.
Iinan chuckled, "of course not. Beneath me they are. I feel that's still true. You're worth more than the kid and these vultures."
"What the hell are you droning on about?" James snapped.
"I see," Iinan said with a flinch. He shook his head in disappointment. "I see, no loss then. You give or we take. Those are your choices."
"Fine," James said to his amusement and the others horror, "you can take me."
"James," Jessie hissed in panic.
Iinan and Unu both laughed derisively together. Unu finished hers with a little oooh. "I don't think you understand, my blueness." She gestured to Morgan, "brains over brawn, any day."
"Oh I'm way ahead of you," James said, discreetly snatching the phaser Craig had. Iinan nor Unu still didn't react when they saw it, not until he pointed it at his own forehead, then they widened their eyes.
Jessie did as well, she pushed by Unu to try to get to him. "No, stop doing this!"
Iinan leapt down, landing between James and Jessie, stopping her in her tracks. He quickly grabbed her by the arm. Unu giggled as she transported besides James and grabbed the phaser.
Craig took that opportunity to hurry over to Morgan's side.
"Ooph, you're a tough one. I like a little roughness," Unu said with a twinkle in her eye.
James shuddered, yet kept his grip on the phaser. In the struggle it had felt like he was thwarting off Jessie until her comment, that helped him remind him she wasn't. In that split second he tossed her over his shoulder and got ready to fire again. Only Iinan had already countered by pressing a dagger to Jessie's throat.
"You've forfeited your right to choose," he snarled.
Unu peered up from the ground, gasping as if he insulted her. "Hey, hands off my goods."
"Don't worry, my love," Iinan sneered. "We'll each get our fair share."
Morgan groaned into consciousness. Relieved, Craig tried to help her sit up. "What's happening now?" she tiredly asked.
Craig squeaked back, "bad's happening."
Jessie struggled, the dagger pressed in deeper. Iinan then turned to her, speaking closely into her ear. "If you know what's good for him, you'll do as I say."
The stench of his breath was a horrible reminder that he was nothing but a corpse 24 hours ago. She recoiled from it, but had little room to turn away. "If you know what's good for you, you'll never breathe on me again." Iinan seemed dumbfounded, giving her the chance to stomp hard on his foot.
James took that as a cue to head over. Unu followed and tried to pull him back, it was as useless as keeping Neelix from chucking Leola Root in a pan. She tsked, stomping her foot. Another shield sprang up between James and Jessie.
Morgan was put off from going to their aid as well, what with her being stuck on James' side. Unu giggled like a little girl, passing through it like it wasn't there. Jessie glanced between her and Iinan, blocking her way no matter which way she went.
"He's heavy," Unu said in a childlike voice, "and mean."
Iinan smiled at her, "so we're not that dissimilar after all. Good, the self sacrifice routine was making me feel sick." He roughly took Jessie's arm again, the long nails clawed into her skin. "My soul's been tainted. How retched. I'll need time to recover."
"It's kinda hot," Unu said, cuing Iinan to glare at her, "in a totally change of pace kind of way."
"Enough," Iinan gagged. "Don't think you're free from us. Though I have a feeling you'll be volunteering to see us soon enough." He roughly jerked Jessie closer to him as a point.
James changed the setting on the phaser. Morgan snatched it from him before he could do anything else, then chuckled it over her shoulder.
"Let's go, we may as well get you prepared first," Iinan said directly to Jessie. She grimaced from his breath again.
Unu looked bemused for a moment. "Oh yes, lets. But you know me, I can't leave a scene without a flourish."
"Really? Fine, make it quick," Iinan groaned.
Unu walked around to face her reincarnation, staring into her eyes, transfixed. Jessie looked away in disgust. "Oh, don't flatter myself, silly. I was just going to give you a decent send off before we become one."
"What?" Jessie hissed.
Unu smiled over her shoulder towards the others, clicking her fingers a couple of times. "Got any last words for anyone?" She smirked back at Jessie, "it's a bit sad, I know, but who cares? You're gonna be bone and some leftovers in a few minutes either way."
Craig scoffed with quite a bit of offense, "what's so sad about last..." Iinan gestured at him, he instantly passed out.
"Well now, what if she had to say something to the boy?" Unu scolded.
Morgan rushed to check if Craig was still breathing. To her it looked like he'd only just fallen asleep.
"I doubt it, he's probably already heard it a million times," Iinan said in deadpan.
Jessie shook her head, firmly biting her lip. Unu watched her until her eyes accidentally drifted over to James for a second.
"Fine, don't jump to my strings. I'll just have to play with him instead, and oh, I have some ideas," Unu cackled.
"Morgan," Jessie abruptly said, surprising Morgan into looking up at her. "I'm sorry for snapping at you. You've been a good friend to him, and me. So I hope you keep doing so."
"Jess," Morgan stuttered, guilt bringing a lump to her throat.
When Jessie looked at James directly, he stood at the shield with a hand pressed very near it as if he were touching it. "You don't have to do this," he said.
Jessie smiled at him, "what would you do in my place?" James wavered a little, she saw his head briefly shake. "See. I'm sorry I was too much of an idiot, a coward for avoiding this but er..." she hesitated since everyone conscious was watching. "I've loved you since... forever, as long as I can remember. Please don't do anything rash, for me."
James looked on in shock as Unu laughed like a hyena would, Iinan merely smirked. "Oh perfect, just what I was after," Unu said before she spirited her, Iinan and Jessie away.
The shield vanished as well, making James stumble forward and keep going to where they all were standing before.
Morgan hurried ahead to make sure he didn't go any further. He stared in a daze, clenching his fist over and over. She eyed that, then him, "it's okay, keep calm."
"How? We don't know where they went," James mumbled.
"True but I think you realised the same thing I did with that phaser bit," Morgan said. James barely turned his head to look in her general direction. "They can't do anything without you. Unu said before, one less player. She had the chance to regenerate but didn't."
"Hmm," James didn't sound convinced.
Craig's groans and one last snore diverted Morgan's attention. He sat up in a hurry, "what did I miss?"
The inside of the Maji ship was eerily silent. The first room they entered from the airlock had been the scene of a slaughter, so the trio moved into another, finding only Arden tampering with a computer.
"Where is everyone?" Craig asked very quietly.
Arden dipped his chin and closed his eyes. "Dead, or frozen in time. I should've been with them, but..." he continued working.
"But?" Morgan said.
"I was trying to send a message to my colleagues to warn them. The sand storm is blocking all communications. I'll need to tell them in person," Arden said, getting up. That was when he noticed there were only three of them. "You didn't find her?"
Morgan winced, while James walked away, turning his back on everyone.
"That is strange. Why didn't they take him as well?" Arden asked.
"They couldn't," Morgan replied. "Look, I'd avoid bringing in more fodder. It's up to us four to stop them."
"How? We don't have any of the books, we still have something they want," Arden stuttered.
Morgan scoffed at him, "god, someone's glass is empty."
Craig allowed a discreet smile, "are we so sure we're in a stalemate? Jessie and all."
"Sure," Morgan sounded confident.
"But how? Their spells gave them many edges against even you," Craig felt bad for saying. "Why did they give up when they did?"
Morgan fidgeted slightly, her eyes kept drifting back towards where James paced. "They can't hurt him, we saw that already."
James kicked what looked like a crate, breaking it in to many pieces. "I could've done something, why didn't I?"
"No, you couldn't," Morgan sighed as she walked over to his side. "It's not your fault."
"Right," James said sarcastically, "so they need us both to regenerate, but they gave up and left. Where do they need to go to do it?"
Arden felt like that question was aimed at him. "I'm not sure. Their ritual requires more than a transfer of energy, skin, organs. They'll repair their broken souls, rendering them invincible."
"That's not helpful at all," James snipped back.
Craig looked on a little surprised, "isn't it? They'll expect you to follow Jessie to the grave, and literally. You're too obvious." James stared firmly at him. "They'll be somewhere easy for us to find."
"He's right," Morgan said. "And we can't fall for it."
"Excuse me?" James sounded offended.
The smile Morgan gave him looked more like a warning than anything else. "You go in there and they'll kill both of you. So you're out."
James' eyebrows flickered, his jaw dropped. "You're joking, right? I'm not staying here." Craig shook his head with his nose shrivelled up. "Just being in the vicinity won't kill us, or it would've already. I'm not going to do nothing."
"Oh give it a rest," Craig snapped to Morgan's surprise. "Jessie dies or gets hurt, captured and you get all mad, kill things when it's too late. We know your routine by now. Try a new tune for once and work with us."
Morgan winced as James moved around her to go to face Craig. "I assume you've got a plan then, or are you flapping around thinking anyone cares what you think?"
Craig's lips quivered but he was determined to stand his ground. "At least I'm not some suicidal moron who thinks he's the hero of the hour."
"Oh spare me," James groaned.
"News flash, you're not even close," Craig quickly said to cut him off. "Everything you do makes things worse, so if you really care about Jessie, you'll stay here and wait."
"Craig," Morgan pleaded and yet commanded at the same time.
James' eyes had narrowed, and even though Craig had watched him the whole time, it felt like he had moved in dangerously close. "Don't pretend you know me, or that I haven't heard a variation of that speech before..."
"Maybe take the hint then," Craig snapped.
James' jaw clenched. Morgan quickly stepped in between them before he did anything else.
"You know, you just don't want to admit it. You're only a burden to her. The sooner she sees that the better," Craig said.
Morgan guided him to one side and back, but James followed. She pushed her hand out in front of her to stop him. "This isn't helping Jessie, is it? We're wasting time," she scolded the both of them.
James nodded, "you're right."
Morgan didn't look so sure, she stayed on her guard until he turned his back on them again. Satisfied he was leaving things be, she turned slightly to address Craig. As if he sensed it, James swung back around to back hand Craig to the floor anyway.
"Oh for..." Morgan whined.
"Suddenly my headache's gone," James said, finally walking off.
Arden hung back, wondering if that was the time to interrupt. An um slipped out, making Morgan look at him. "If the younger one is correct, Iinan and Unu will have taken their sacrifice and lure to a place you've been, but not in an immediate vicinity."
"Why the latter?" Morgan asked.
"It'd be too obvious as a trap," James replied. Arden nodded.
"Right, so they expect us to barge in, so they can grab James and do the ritual. We can't do that, but..." Morgan said.
"Why not?" James looked on in annoyance. Morgan returned the favour. "They can't hurt me remember, they need me."
"They also know your general whereabouts," Morgan said.
James looked puzzled but still annoyed, "how do you figure? Iinan forced the ship to crash here. Unu was likely buried around here somewhere."
"No. We found the book here. Sure Iinan I'll give you, but Unu had us sussed," Morgan said. "She's been awake, probably as long as he has."
"Oh," James said with a flinch, "so she's the powerhouse of the two."
Morgan smiled as if it were obvious, "she'll also be distracted."
"Um might I interrupt?" Arden stammered. "You have no idea how you'll stop them for good. It's fine to leave Iinan's reincarnation here, but that's a stall at best. What we do need is a weapon we can wield against them."
Confused glances were exchanged, James' was more impatient than Morgan's.
"Not many know this, but it was necessary to protect the book of light," Arden said, hesitantly glancing in James' direction. "I know where it truly is hidden, and it's not here."
"Oh of course," Morgan complained.
Arden inhaled through his teeth, suddenly very nervous. "There's another problem."
Voyager entered orbit of the same planet under tight guard, sporting a couple of phaser burns to its hull, joining other damaged Maji ships in a higher orbit.
"Captain, might I remind you..." Tuvok said. Kathryn said no. Nevertheless he continued, "the Maji will take this move as an aggressive stance. They out number us..."
"They fired first, and second," Kathryn said grumpily, pointing over her shoulder at an unfortunate ensign sporting a bump on his head. Tuvok glanced across, eyeing another crewmember next to him attempting to fix a circular crack in one of the computers. "They're lucky they haven't killed anyone yet."
Chakotay laughed quietly, catching it in his throat. "They did."
Kathryn rolled her eyes, "anyone I give a crap about."
Meanwhile in one of the Holodecks, or what was left of it, a team of crewmembers were busy cleaning up the mess of charred wires and metal. One swept in a straight line without paying attention, until their brush snagged on something bigger. She glanced down to instantly be horrified at the sight of her brush tangled in a glittering heeled shoe with jagged catsuit edges coated in blood.
"Well she owed us two, I don't see the big deal," Kathryn said absentmindedly.
The Doctor hurried out of the turbolift next to Tuvok. He directed the hologram to the bumpy ensign. He groaned impatiently on his way over.
"Are we picking up our awayteam yet?" Chakotay asked.
Harry worked while pulling a few unsure faces. "I'm picking up human lifesigns."
"And that's bad?" Kathryn snapped.
"Yea...no," Harry cringed. "I've never seen anything like this. The entire planet is covered in storm clouds. It's blocking pretty much everything else. I can't even pinpoint their location, let alone beam them back."
Kathryn quickly got lost in thought. Chakotay watched on, worried. "Hmm, if only we had someway of tracking one of our people. Hmmmmm?" She eyed the Doctor accusingly.
It took him a minute to notice. When he did he scowled across, "I hardly think so. I've severed the connection and she's sleeping off her screaming, panic attacks."
Tom uneasily chuckled, "yeah that was weird. Emma's not easy to scare, but I thought that about Morgan too. I wonder what freaked her out that badly down there."
The Doctor rolled his eyes, "and I'm still uncertain how so few stray nanoprobes created the connection between them in the first place. Morgan does not have a functioning cortical node. I'd rather not."
"She does claim to hear thoughts, so..." Harry suggested. Tom's eyes bugged out fearfully.
Chakotay irritably sighed, "enough, it doesn't matter. Even if we could locate Morgan, the transporters won't work through that storm."
"Um er, I wouldn't recommend sending another shuttle down either," Tom stammered. "Morgan wouldn't read my thoughts, that's so silly."
"Yes it is, we hear your thoughts 24/7," Kathryn sniped.
Harry brightened up. "Oh, you may be onto something." Tom didn't look too impressed with him. "Not that. We might be able to use Emma's connection to Morgan without Emma having to suffer what she is."
The Doctor scoffed in disbelief. "Right. Their connection appears to be purely sensory. Next you'll be telling us you can cure Janeway's coffee addiction by giving her a coffee shop to run." Kathryn's eyes darted side to side.
Harry smiled far too smugly.
Inside the vast underground room decorated with stone artifacts, walled by dozens of ledges leading to higher floors, Jessie had been chained to a slab, while her kidnappers argued in whispers next to the lit torches.
"I could've taken him, easily. Wench made me sick," Iinan said.
Unu smiled coyly, "aaw, you mad he hurt your precious princess?"
"That isn't funny," Iinan grumbled. He strode over to where Jessie lay, leaving Unu to sulk. He leaned over her far too closely, folding his arms across the slab beside her arm. "Tell me something, is he all talk and no fight?"
Jessie turned her head away.
"I see you're as interesting as she is sane," Iinan said, gesturing his head towards Unu. "I hope my impression was off. He came from me, so he can't be so hopelessly naive and ohno, must save the damsel." He groaned in disgust. "Though it'll help me greatly. I'd much rather face myself in a showdown than some mongrel lapdog like your lover boy."
Jessie remained still, only clenching her eyes shut, determined not to give him the reaction he wanted.
"I think you'll find my power, confidence and my intellect much more appealing than him, don't you?" Iinan whispered near her ear. His hand crawled across her chin, cupping it, pulling her to face him.
"Oh leave her alone," Unu hissed.
Iinan stared at her with much amusement until he noticed her straight face. "Come now Unu, you know how much I need you."
"Need not want, huh?" Jessie muttered.
Iinan and Unu stared down at her, him furiously. "What?" he barked.
Jessie turned her head away again. "He doesn't care about you. Anyone can see that. Once this is done, he'll leave."
"Oh I see, playing a game are we?" Iinan teased through the anger. Unu meanwhile chewed the inside of her mouth, her head fallen sullenly. "It won't help you. I have no reason to part with her, just as you have no reason to think you're getting out alive."
"No, what was I thinking? You need her," Jessie said overdramatically. "Without her you're a blowhard, no talent wannabe. The only thing you're right about is you and James have nothing in common. You won't beat him, unlike you he has a soul."
Iinan trembled with rage, his hand raised as if to slap her. Unu grabbed his wrist long before it reached her. Instead he used his other hand to fire a blue energy blast at a nearby wall, destroying it.
"Don't let her get under you skin, Inny. That's my job," Unu purred.
"You and everyone," Iinan growled, pulling his arm back to walk away from them.
Craig nursed his swollen cheek with a cool flannel rolled up.
"You got a death wish or something?" Morgan grumbled from the other side of the room.
"Ah ha," Craig laughed, but his cheek hurt, so he winced instead. "So you admit he is a killer?"
"No, but I know you're full of crap and take it out on him," Morgan said.
"Huh?" Craig stammered.
Morgan rolled her eyes, "remember when we first met? You tried to bring him down but instead you made yourself look bad, so you doubled downer. You whine that he's not a good friend to you, when you've been the biggest prick since, ever."
"I wouldn't say biggest," Craig mumbled, fidgeting slightly.
"Accept it, he's like me and so it makes sense; the leap into action instinct," Morgan said. "Something I learned from him though is you can't always win like that. He's forgotten, clearly."
Craig nodded lightly to avoid making the pain worse, "yeah."
"And you, you're not like me and so you've got to stop trying to save me," Morgan scolded. "You think you're better, more rational than he is? Prove it."
"I..." Craig stuttered, "I don't get it."
"Yeah I know," Morgan sighed. "Now get up, we gotta go through with our plan."
Craig's eyes darted from side to side, "we have one?"
"Yes, that's why James is in a huff on the top deck," Morgan laughed. "He can't go, he knows it. He goes, she dies. He doesn't go, it betrays who he is. Poor boy's all confused."
"Good," Craig smiled through the painful reminder, "so what's the plan?"
"I don't like it," Craig said.
Morgan and Arden groaned. "Tough, it's better than his idea of destroying the whole town from orbit," Morgan said.
Arden looked more than a little sheepish, even guilty. "I wasn't entirely serious... more or a last resort, yes."
"Yeah yeah," Morgan chuckled.
The ship gently rocked, which relieved Arden for more reasons than one. "We're here," he said while scampering out of the room.
"We can't trust him," Craig whispered.
Morgan clicked her tongue on approach, "speak for yourself."
Arden returned with his arms full of rifles and his hand clenched. Morgan and Craig each got a rifle, then he revealed the small pins in his clenched hand. "They will light the way at a touch. If you need stealth, which we will, a tap will turn it off. We have no idea how far down we're going, so we must be prepared."
They each attached one of the pins on their chest.
"Lets do this," Morgan said, already running out.
Craig and Arden followed looking less than confident.
On opening the Delta Flyer even in the dead of night, James was hit by a heatwave on opening the door. He had to pull back first and wait a bit before chucking in a few bags. As soon as he walked inside he immediately started to unpack them, one of which contained a rectangular device an arm's length, which he attached to one of the consoles to his right.
While that was clicking away, a cable went into one of the panels. Lights weakly flickered on around the console the device was plugged into. He hurried over, rerouting the system to bring up the sensors. His target was the largest of the stone buildings in the city, only below it. It took a few minutes to map out the narrow corridor of stairs down. Once it got to a floor with many paths, it crashed and he had to start again.
The further down he had to scan, the longer it took.
Morgan snuck a peek at her tricorder right as it bleeped. At a much quicker speed, a map of the underground structure started to appear. A few taps brought it down to the third subterranean floor, three dots flickered in the middle of a long corridor. "Nice one, we're mapped. We must hurry. Arden?"
Arden peered over while Craig anxiously fidgeted.
"There appears to be two similarly sized altars here," he pointed at a far away room, then below where they were. The path to it seemed to stop just outside it. "It looks like we're going to have to dig our way through to that one."
"Lets try that first one then," Morgan said.
Deeper down Iinan inched his chin to the left and gazed up. A smile crept onto his face. "We have guests."
"Ooh," Unu laughed, brushing her hair back. "I was right Nany. What do you say?"
"I say we let them suffer a bit," Iinan sneered. His attention turned to the metal book sitting open on top of a stone slab.
Unu pursued her lips and narrowed her eyes. "Alright, I'll let you play this time. Next time though."
"Of course my dear," Iinan sneered. Without looking at it, he turned the pages. Once he stopped he looked down. Its contents made him chuckle. "A little unimaginative, but we got to start somewhere."
A musty damp smell intensified with every step as the team squeezed through a narrow tunnel. Craig ducked his head slightly to avoid scraping it on the ceiling.
The sound of water gushing in the distance brought Morgan's attention back to the tricorder. They weren't very far from their target, she could see the opening in the wall even with the limited light. She picked up the pace to enter a stuffy, damp chamber not much wider than the corridor. Craig was relieved he was able to walk straight again.
Morgan looked around, pointing the light wherever she faced. She assumed the room was a one they hadn't been to until she noticed one of the statues. A groggy memory of its beedy little eyes staring down at her came back to her, even though when she approached it the statue was shorter than her.
"No Iinan," Craig said, bringing her out of her head. He looked around. "No book yet. Is this the right place?"
Arden approached to have a look at the tricorder in Morgan's hand, then he peered slowly around at the numerous statues lined almost uniformly throughout the chamber. "This could be it. An assembly, a memorial to passed monarchs. The white book will be in the murdered king's shrine."
Morgan's skin crawled for a moment. Craig saw her shake it off. "You didn't mention the shrine part."
They all heard the sound of the water streaming getting louder, almost as if it was coming right for them, getting louder by the second. They all braced, thinking the worst until it seemingly passed by them. A sludge of water dropped into Craig's eye, quickly followed by a few more drips.
"Oh god, worst nightmare," Craig squeaked.
The ground beneath their feet trembled fiercely, they could barely stand still let alone walk. Instead they stopped to clutch the walls until it stopped. A few seconds later it did as if nothing happened.
Morgan sighed in relief. She took the first step onward only for the sand in front of her to burst upward. Only when it settled she saw bony, rotting fingers curl out of the new hole and grip the ground.
"What?" Craig stammered. The same thing happened all around them, Morgan jumped out of her skin everytime.
"My worst nightmare," she whimpered.
"He's awoken the dead," Arden said, astonished and disgusted. He raised his weapon at the closest hand which had turned into an arm and head. "They are his servants. Do not hesitant, they are not the people they were."
One of the corpses grabbed Morgan by the ankle. She screamed and kicked wildly in front. Its head went flying down the chamber until it smashed into the wall. The hand still kept a good hold of her.
"No problem," Craig tried to say lightly.
He and Morgan aimed their weapons to try and clear the path ahead of them while Arden focused on behind them. No matter how many they shot down or into pieces, another would quickly take its place.
Morgan ran forward away from the only door, shooting or simply pushing any in her way. Each time she had to touch one, her whole body shuddered in revulsion.
"Where are you going? That's a dead end!" Arden yelled after her.
"No it's not, I remember," Morgan mumbled when she reached the end of the chamber. She started pushing on different parts of the wall. Craig shrugged, and went to follow her, grabbing and pulling Arden with him. They arrived just in time for one push to trigger part of the wall to slide forward, revealing a steep sloped path down. "I came this way."
"When..." Craig started to ask when one of the corpses grabbed his arm. Morgan in turn grabbed his, taking the thing's arm out of the socket and pulling Craig through the new door. The slope being so steep knocked her out of balance, they slid down instead.
Arden readied to fire, until he noticed the door returning to normal. He slid through right before it closed. His foot slipped so he ended up on his backside all the way down.
Despite landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom, Craig laughed it off. "We have to do that again later," he said to a very unimpressed Morgan.
She was about to reply when Arden made his landing on top of him. A smirk spread across her face, "you first."
"Well maybe we should get started, pass the time," Iinan cackled. He turned, spotting Unu sitting on the slab next to Jessie's, talking away to their uninterested prisoner. "Unu, darling."
Unu huffed, "don't you know when you interrupt girl talk, there's a price to pay?"
"Only if you want to rot for eternity," Iinan hissed, eyes hardening. "Stop testing me, woman."
Jessie turned her head to stare across at him, her eyes wide with disbelief. It threw her to hear someone that looked like James to talk to someone he claimed to care about that way. The disbelief turned to anger when she noticed Unu act like she was used to and even enjoying it.
"Someone's forgotten his place, tut tut," Unu playfully scolded him. The next she directed toward Jessie, but kept her eye on Iinan, "how do we put up with these ego monsters?" Iinan ground his teeth. "Help me out, woman to woman. Or rather me to me, why do you love yours?"
Jessie stared up at the ceiling instead, determined to ignore her.
Unu clicked her tongue, hiding her annoyance. "And what about that other girl? Manipulative, boyish little shrew. He's too weak to handle both, hmm?"
"Unu," Iinan coldly said.
"Iinan," Unu mimicked him, then smiled mockingly. "Oh we're so similar, two of a kind. They forget who has the real power."
Iinan marched across to grab her arm and pull her off the slab. She responded by giving him a little static like shock from her fingertips. "See," she giggled. He growled and stomped back over to the book.
Jessie rolled her eyes. "Stop assuming James and I are the same as you two," she grumbled. Her fists clenched, the chains rattled lightly. "And I don't know why you're bringing Morgan into this, so just stop it."
"Ooooh," Unu pretended to sound hurt. "You still don't get it. I am you, it's me that is not you."
Jessie frowned, "what?"
"My soul is inside you, waiting to return home. You... well, you were barely your great grandparents twinkle when I lived. If anyone knows you better, it's me," Unu said, sporting a sly smile.
"Then what are you wasting time for?" Jessie snapped. "If you think James is Iinan as well, and look at that piece of shit..." Iinan's eyes drifted over to her, "then you'll both rot before anything happens."
Unu eyed her lover with sparkling eyes. He smiled back almost smugly.
"He'll come," he said. "My ambition, my power lingered behind to keep me here. Something as strong had to take its place for my reincarnations. I've counted stupidity, nauseating heroism, recklessness. Putting him out of his misery will give him the death he seeks."
His gaze drifted up towards one of the balconies overhead. There he, then Unu saw a figure pointing something at him. He was about to duck or repel with magic when a knife pierced its way through his cheek and to the floor. The figure then disappeared. Unu smiled as she followed the wall to the left, keeping her eyes locked upwards.
Iinan staggered up from the blow to check his face. Jessie could see already and had pulled away in disgust. Skin and muscle had been torn from his cheek, exposing the bone. The edges of the wound looked rotted and dry, with no sign of any blood.
"Perhaps I underestimated him," Iinan said. If anyone was looking at him, they'd see him grinding his jaw.
Jessie meanwhile discreetly shimmied one of her sweating, red raw wrists through the chain until it got stuck part of the way through her hand. "You have no idea," she muttered.
Iinan chuckled, "good, I love a challenge." He grabbed the book to take it to a different podium, all while flicking through the pages for something specific.
Unu reached underneath another balcony. Within a blink of an eye she was standing on it. She turned to peek around the entrance. As she expected James had his back behind the wall, grasping a rifle to his chest.
"Hi sweetness. Fancy a ride?" she purred.
James thought better of confronting her and ran off, only to be flung into and through the same wall, then over the balcony. Unu rematerialised on the ground level, a few inches from where he landed along with the rubble he'd brought with him.
"Good girl, lets get started," Iinan chuckled. He began to read aloud from the page he'd chosen.
"Here," Craig said as he stopped. Their path blocked by moist rocks and moss. He winced while doing another scan.
Morgan checked over her shoulder, then approached the blockade. "Is it?
Craig noticed Arden stare at him accusingly. He tripled checked his scans, "no, it's dry." He focused on Arden. "What, she's stronger than both of us together."
"No," Arden said bluntly as if Craig stated the obvious. Despite that he had to look twice at Morgan picking up one of the bigger rocks. "Why aren't they following us? I'm starting to worry that they only attacked us to chase us out of the correct room."
Morgan rolled her eyes. "Will you make up your mind?" she hissed over her shoulder. "Why else would they..." her face fell, "oh."
Craig nodded a little too much, "what did I tell you?"
James dodged out of the way of an electric bolt and retreated outside, leaving Unu growling with her hands on her hips.
Iinan noticed and groaned. "Would you stop it. You're not the one doing all the toying around."
"Hmph, you boys can be so cruel," Unu said, puffing her cheeks. Iinan pointed at the book so she reluctantly took his place.
"As usual I'll be the one to do the real work. You read your part," Iinan snarled as he exited.
Outside James clambered up some huge steps, all while readjusting the rifle. A sense of dread hit him from above. He heard them first, the horde of walking corpses straggling down toward him.
"Of course," James muttered as he double backed to take aim. Some were shot down, many were punched into pieces, but they kept coming and surrounded him.
Several ahead of him parted to let Iinan through while four held James back. Iinan sneered, "you took your time, fool. All of you. How hard is it?"
James' struggling inadvertently led him to elbowing one. Its shock at falling in half allowed him to shake off the other corpse on the same side and try to get away. Iinan literally shielded his escape route.
"Unu said you were different. Stating the obvious I suppose," he said on approach. He didn't stop until they were nose to nose, James averted his eyes from the rotten jaw wound. "Foolhardy. I knew that already, all I needed."
"We're not that different," James said.
Iinan's eyes flickered in surprise, "oh? Enlighten me, you seem to be the worst mirror im..." James used his minions hold on him to kick Iinan back with both legs, knocking him and some of his backup to the ground. The recoil from that bowled over the ones still holding onto him, one even lost his arm.
"We both talk way too much." James ran forward, through and around them, only to run right into Unu. So close she could wrap an arm straight around his neck.
"Can't we keep him?" she purred. Her other hand nestled his chin, "I always wanted a pet."
Iinan grumbled while he got up and headed over to them. "No, this is good. He's strong, that's far too useful to ignore."
Unu giggled as she transported James and her back to the chamber to join Jessie. She had been busy trying to pull her hand out of the restraints while no one was around, so froze at their appearance.
The transport had left James feeling disoriented, the room span. Unu took that chance to grab the metal book from the alter and smack him in the face. Jessie winced and tugged on her chains as he went down.
Ian approached with a malicious sneer, "double chain him, just in case."
The rest of the team entered a similar chamber to the last. Inside it housed a small room guarded by a vulture like statue which had Arden all excited. He ran over to open it, failing miserably.
Morgan and Craig caught up with him. "What's the matter?" Craig asked.
"The mechanism's jammed. Hasn't been in opened in thousands of years," Arden mumbled.
Morgan pointed to one side, "let me."
Arden did move but not to let her through. "We're five levels underground. This is already unstable. We must be careful."
Craig smirked briefly. "So no to the bomb?"
Arden stared in quiet dismay, at least at first. "Yes, at least until..."
Morgan meanwhile pushed the stone door, cracking it horizontally in two. It still remained standing in their way to her annoyance. She instead changed to pushing the top half.
"Wait!" Arden panicked, "ok fine, a bomb will do."
Craig blinked rapidly. "Really?"
Arden pointed to the crumbling ceiling above Morgan's head. "Without her, we can't use the book. We all die, agreed?"
"Oh thanks," Morgan grumbled whilst stepping out of the danger zone. She and Craig focused on a small bag he had brought hanging off his shoulder.
With the undead standing in a circular guard formation around the alter, Iinan and Unu stood at the podium with the book, uttering what sounded to Jessie like nonsense.
She watched James on the parallel slab, unmoving with his head turned away from her. She tried to call him awake, while at the same time continuing to fight against the metal cuffs around her wrist.
"To transfer the souls a connection has been made, a one we must unravel," Iinan said, eyeing Unu. She smiled coyly while he moved away towards their sacrifices.
"Untangle, dechain. Be free to rule for all eternity." He stroked the slab Jessie lay on, circling it, leering at her.
Meanwhile on a larger balcony a few stories high a large slab lifted slightly, then gingerly moved to one side. Morgan stuck her head out from the hole it left behind. Her body shook, she cringed in disgust. "Yup this is it. Gimme," she whispered downward.
The rest of her team made some strained, painful grunts while she reached down. With little effort she snatched the item they struggled to lift to her; another large metal book, this one a dirty white stained with sand.
Iinan crouched down, staring at Jessie's face, eyeing her like a piece of meat. The rotten jaw, the dark eyes would've been enough to distinguish him from James. But his aura, the sneering expression, everything about him repulsed her. She turned her head away as far as she could. He in turn grasped her skull and forced her to turn back.
Unu turned her own head away to not watch as he pressed his lips against Jessie's. She struggled with her eyes tightly shut. The dry, rough lips deteriorated as his chin and jaw did, she squealed in horror and disgust.
No one noticed the shifting on the slab beside her.
"Eeew, what the hell?" Morgan whispered with a massive grimace.
Only Arden had climbed out so far, Craig had managed to get stuck halfway. Arden abandoned him to hurry to Morgan's side, crouched behind the wall of the balcony, peering over it. "We must hurry. That was the Kiss of Death. Lets hope that was the first one."
"First?" Morgan recoiled.
Iinan retreated, leaving Jessie coughing, spluttering, unable to breathe properly. He chuckled darkly, "reminds me of our first kiss."
Unu blushed, "oh you." They walked up to one another, passing by to take each other's place. Only Unu went over to James to likely do the same thing to him.
Morgan turned away to grab the item she left on the ground. Arden watched her with some concern. At the same time Craig squeezed out at last, clinking his phaser against one of the rocks. They all winced.
Iinan glanced up in their general direction. His eyed narrowed, the skin left on his face tightened. He directed some of his minions to go.
Unu either didn't hear it, or didn't care to, as she leaned over towards James' face. His arm slipped out of the metal with ease, swiping her to one side away from him. Iinan swirled around, catching him ripping the ankle restraints off.
"Now?" Craig asked. Arden nodded while aiming his own weapon over the edge of the balcony. "Now." They started firing down towards the alter, hitting the minions and blocking Iinan from getting to James. Unfortunately it blocked him from getting to Jessie. He made a little annoyed grunt before targeting the walking dead first.
Jessie managed to slide her bruised, scraped hand out from one of the restraints. Unu noticed her, but was more interested in the balcony. She grabbed the knife Iinan had been struck with earlier and willed herself up there, appearing in front of Morgan. She slammed her foot down on the book to get her full attention.
"Damn," Morgan muttered, grabbing it and rolling to one side to avoid a stabbing. Craig and Arden looked back over their shoulders. Arden continued, but Craig hesitated. "Go, out of here," Morgan snapped mid scrambling to her feet.
Unu took a few swings at her, forcing her to duck. Craig then realised Unu was in the way of their only escape route. "How?" he stuttered.
Arden nudged him, pointing down at a lower balcony a few feet away.
"You kidding?" Craig stammered as the Maji leader started to climb down.
"Cover me," Arden ordered.
Iinan had a similar idea, only he grabbed any minion closest to him to take a phaser blast instead of him, all to get to James. He saw him coming though and turned to greet him.
"I'm about done with you," Iinan snarled, his voice distorted from the rot around his mouth. "You..."
James swung a fist at him while was still talking, destroying more of his face and forcing him to stumble back. Still he sneered. "You are strong. Not strong enough to beat me."
Morgan knocked Unu to the ground. The knife she held flew out of her hands. The teen quickly crouched to pick it up before Unu could recover. When she looked ahead to check on her, the witch was already rising to her feet with skin dripping off the bone.
"Oh... god..." Morgan shuddered and almost gagged at the same time. She backed off.
"Oh?" Unu sounded offended, she cocked her head to the side she was injured. The rotting skin peeling from her, Morgan had to avert her eye while continuing to walk backwards. "Is there a problem, is there something on my face?"
"No," Morgan said in between gulps of sickly breath. "No problem at all."
Unu grinned widely, knowing that her gradually exposing jaw would show that off perfectly and creepily well. "Poor little girl, you're so out of your depth here. What did you think you were going to do, stroll in here, read that... thing," she said eyeballing the light book with disgust, "and kill poor, dead us. We only want to live. What do you have against dead people?"
Morgan laughed to cover her nerves, still avoiding eye contact with her. "Nothing, that's really dumb. You're just, very Jessie lookalike but creepy acting and..." She reached the entrance to the balcony, only to be jumped by another of the corpses. She screamed hysterically as she tossed it over her shoulder, almost into Unu's face who ducked to avoid it. The minion flew over the balcony, crashing into pieces in between Arden and another attacker.
"Cute," Unu mockingly said, tip toeing toward Morgan. Her hand uncurled and stretched out toward her, hinting. "You can't read that. You're too alien, too ordinary, too lecherous."
"Really," Morgan said through slightly gritted teeth, briefly glancing down at the book in her hand. She raised it, holding it by the spine. "Okay fine, read this." Then she swung her hand as if it were empty, delivering a brutal backslap to Unu.
As soon as she was done, Morgan bolted for the entrance and down wherever the corridor lead her.
Another hit knocked Iinan into the empty slab and over it. The snarl he made sounded almost demonic with his rotting throat. With little left on his face, he no longer bared any resemblance to his opponent.
"Play time's over, boy," Iinan snarled, his eyes turned completely black while his hands began to burn.
"James!" Morgan yelled from a different balcony.
James looked up as she threw the knife down towards him. He hoped to catch it and dive out of the way of any attack, but a nasty ball of flame charged right for him, forcing him to only dodge.
Iinan gestured his hand once more, guiding the flame after his victim, chuckling darkly to himself. A presence behind him distracted him for a moment, he groaned irritably. "Unu, where have you been, we need to finish..." he spoke as he turned barely in time to see a fist flying for him.
"Eew, that was weird in so many ways," Jessie cringed while flapping her right hand around.
James waited for the fireball to pass over his head and into the wall before he looked up at her, only to be briefly dazzled by a wave of light emanating from one of the balconies. Iinan screamed agonisingly as it struck him, melting the rest of his skin away.
Arden lowered his weapon and gazed around at the remaining undead soldiers dropping where they stood. "How," he mumbled, turning to where he remembered Craig was.
He gasped and ran towards one of the entrances to the chamber. Before he reached it, Morgan stumbled out from it looking a little woozy. "Morgan? What happened?"
Morgan shook her head but it only made her feel dizzier. "I read the book," she answered, getting Arden's shocked attention. "Must've got the right passage, huh?"
"I don't..." Arden tried to say, only to be drowned out when the ground shook violently beneath their feet.
"What now?" Jessie tiredly complained.
Several hundred metres above their heads Voyager leveled off after a dive, grazing above the tallest building. Its shields fluctuating with a coating of dust resting over the majority of it, stirring up even more from the surface.
"Now?" Kathryn snarled through gritted teeth.
Harry wiped his brow, doing so he noticed something different. His sensors changed from a cloud of fuzz to a clear image of the underground with five lifesigns flashing clearly. "Um, sure? No problem," he stuttered and got to work.
At the other side of the bridge Tuvok saw something similar with the shields. With the smoke billowing from Kathryn, he chose not to say anything.
"They're..." Harry squeaked. He cleared his throat before continuing, "still too deep." Kathryn's shoulders twitched. "But they look like they're coming up, should be fine."
Everything was fine for a calm minute, at least until Tom saw something on his own station. "Hey, the storm's gone."
Tuvok and Harry cringed while Kathryn started to growl.
"Bridge to the Doctor."
The Doctor groaned, "why is it always when I'm busy?"
"Prepare for incoming possible patients, and an attitude readjustment," Kathryn's voice hissed.
Strangely the Doctor didn't look intimidated one bit. It might have had something to do with the bug eyed, unblinking Annika staring he assumed at him. Little did he know she was actually staring at the other occupied biobed.
"I might have a... clash if I do that," the Doctor said with some impatience. Annika's eyes pointed at him, he felt a little unnerved at that. "Perhaps you should tell the transporter room to do an exchange... to the H deck."
"Oh I see," Annika sniped. "What has the Janeway Brat done to get the royal treatment this time? Saving the galaxy?" her voice sounded smug and bitter at the same time.
"Shhh," the Doctor tried but it was too late, he could hear Kathryn's teeth grinding over the comm.
"Fine. But you and I are overdue a little talk," Kathryn's voice said dangerously.
Voyager lifted up its nose to head back up into the sky. The tall building only a short distance underneath them cracked and started to fall into itself.
By the time Voyager had reached the clouds all that was left of the city was a flattened sea of broken stone.
"Oops," Tom whispered when he realised, his eyes darted side to side.
"Oops?" Chakotay asked, raising an eyebrow.
Tom laughed very nervously, "loops. You know, it's so nice to be flying free, I'm gonna do some loops and..."
"Tom," Kathryn groaned, "if I wanted an overgrown toddler manning the helm, I'd have asked your son to drive. Though he'd probably be more mature. Just take us up in one piece."
"He'd probably be more mature," Tom mimicked her extremely quietly, hoping with his back to her she wouldn't notice.
She didn't, but Chakotay caught some of it so he smiled slyly.
Kathryn nodded more times than necessary while mumbling, "mmmhmm, yes. That's very nice, I look forward to your reports."
Morgan and Craig were confused, they eyed one another briefly then back at the Captain. "But we've just told you," Morgan said.
"Yes I know," Kathryn said with a friendly smile, "but I like to read horror novels before bed, and I didn't want to be spoilt. Excuse me." She walked off towards Arden waiting by the door, leaving her daughter speechless for once.
Craig chuckled to himself. "She either has the hugest amount of confidence in you so she wasn't worried. Or..."
"What or? I'm grounded for a month, she's never that overly nice. I'd get out before she decides to spank you," Morgan said.
Craig believed her and so hurried out of Sickbay the long, other way.
Morgan sighed as she glanced between her mother and the bemused Arden, then to her biobed neighbour currently engrossed in scratching an already sore-red hand. "So um," she said to stop her, "you're the one who was thinking about Harry's butt?"
"What? He's cute," Emma protested with her innocent smile. It didn't last, she cringed when she looked across at Morgan. "At least I don't kiss random guys, weirdo."
"Er what?" Morgan stuttered, "but you..."
A serious, almost annoyed look appeared on Emma's face as she shuffled off the biobed to her feet. "Nuh uh, don't blame that ick on me. I only wanted to pinch his butt. More importantly I didn't." She shrivelled up her nose in disgust, "Harry's not James."
Morgan could only watch silently at her walking around the two blocking the door, then out. "But," Morgan finally protested when she was gone. She hurried over to Kathryn. "Mum?"
"Oh you probably read my mind, good," Kathryn said with a beaming smile directed at her. "Mr Odour was just blabbing about something or another, a doohickey you took or something."
"The books," Arden muttered. "It's Arden."
Kathryn waved a hand near his face, "yes yes. Go get them and take him to the transporter room." Morgan nodded. "Then I want you straight home, understood."
Morgan sighed, "sure." Kathryn turned on her heel to leave. "Yeah, sorry about her."
"It's fine. I knew she wasn't listening when she said too bad to my apology about the damage my people did to her ship," Arden said.
"Really?" Morgan sounded surprised. "I figured she'd be a little pissed about that."
Meanwhile in the still intact Holodeck, Annika paced in her fake hospital room. "Oh got to roll the red carpet for that little snot, who cares about Annika. I'll show them some day. I'll get my own show, or at least a guest spot on someone else's and everyone will be like, ooh look, Seven's back and still as beautiful and useful as ever. That'll teach them."
What she didn't notice during her rambling and pacing was that she was no longer the sole occupant in the room. Her new roommate squeaked, then squealed as she nearly stepped on them again. It decided after the tenth time that it had enough, clawing its way through her boot. That eventually got her to stop.
"Hmm, what's..." she said with her lips curling into uncontrollable giggles, "that tickles." The laughter turned into painful grunts as a massive lump underneath her catsuit crawled up her leg.
Back in Sickbay Morgan shrugged off her confusion. "There's a Security team outside, they'll show you the way. I got something I need to be alone about for a second."
"No problem," Arden said, bowing his head briefly. "And Miss Morgan, many thanks to you. You should be proud of yourself today."
Morgan winced, "yeah, not really."
"Why not?" Arden sounded concerned. "I had my doubts that you'd be able to read the book, but you did."
"Unu knew. She said I was meddlesome," Morgan said uneasily. "Or she just didn't like me."
Arden chuckled, "perhaps you reminded her of someone." The glint in his eye made him look serious, Morgan frowned. "Whether it was told or not, your fate is linked with theirs. Perhaps that is the reason."
"Why, what, huh?" Morgan stammered.
"Never mind now, it's done. Goodbye and good luck," Arden said, turning to leave.
Morgan glanced towards the Doctor working in his lab, then at the two remaining patients. She went into the empty office full of thought.
James walked over to Jessie's biobed just as she climbed off it. She tried to smile at him but ended up staring down at her feet.
"So er, did you mean what you said?" James asked quietly.
"When, or what do you mean?" Jessie pretended to sound confused.
"You know, when you said that you, were in love with me," James replied even quieter than before.
"Oh... that," Jessie whispered, her cheeks started to betray her. "Well er, yeah I think I did," she said to her own annoyance. "Yes."
James leaned down and he kissed her briefly.
"What was that for?" Jessie asked.
"I thought it would be obvious," James said sheepishly.
"No it isn't, this isn't the first time you've done that," Jessie laughed gently.
"Well it's simple, I love you too," James said quietly.
Jessie smiled warmly. "That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
She then put her arms around his neck and she kissed him. He kissed her back as he put his arms around her.
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