B'dak paced the length of his quarters on Moya. The fulfillment of his plans to rid Qaran of off-worlders and their insipid influence was at hand. In less than two arns he would set them in motion and in so doing, secure his place in his people's history. But time seemed to crawl as he waited. Waited for the moment he could leave this ship and its crew behind. Waited for the moment he could shake the dust of their ways, their influence from his clothing. Would that moment never arrive? And what if they decided not to let him go to Qaran before them? What if they decided to disregard his advice? What if more than just the three he needed to bring his plan to fruition came to the planet?
Will this never be over? Blessed Porimma give me patience. I want only to serve you. I want only to do your will and drive the off-worlders from Qaran. Their influence has brought so much destruction to our world. It must be eradicated.
Unable to contain himself any longer, he began to pack his things in anticipation of his return home. When he had left Qaran in search of the occupants of this Leviathan he had never dreamed they would play into his plans to perfectly. He considered it to be a portent of success that everything had worked out so well.
"Zhaan, D'Argo, we will be arriving at Qaran in just over one arn. Prefect B'dak is preparing his shuttle to leave." Pilot said as they walked into Command in answer to his summons.
"Pilot, you did not need us to come all the way to Command to tell us that." D'Argo groused.
"I wanted to speak with you alone." Pilot replied.
"What about Pilot?" Zhaan asked, stepping toward the clamshell viewer.
"I do not fully trust Prefect B'dak. I fear he has a personal agenda of which we are unaware. I do not believe we should allow him to precede us to the planet."
"What do you propose we do, lock him in his quarters?" D'Argo asked, his voice laced heavily with sarcasm.
"Pilot, he has done nothing other than try to help us." Zhaan added. "What has made you doubt his intentions?"
"He has made several unauthorized transmissions, all of them directed at his ship which has remained in close formation with us since his arrival."
"Pilot, your concern is admirable, but your fears are unfounded. Prefect B'dak told us he has been in contact with his people to make arrangements for our arrival. You have nothing to worry about." Zhaan said as she turned away from the view screen.
Chiana approached Rygel's quarters. For the first time since she had joined the rag-tag group of fugitives aboard Moya, she felt awkward about approaching him. His determination to accompany John and Aeryn to the planet had shocked everyone. Usually he was out to save his own hide in any way possible, but he had shown a side of himself that they had never expected to see.
She paused outside of his door, unsure of what she should say. She peered through the closed lattice gate, hoping to find Rygel asleep so that she could slip away without having to talk with him. Coward. You came to talk with him for a reason. You can't back down now.
"Rygel?" She said softly, part of her hoping he wouldn't respond.
"What do you want?" He snapped.
"I want to talk with you about what you're doing. Can I come in?"
"You won't talk me out of this." He said as he hovered over to the control pad. He swept his little hand across the sensor then backed away as the door swept open. "What do you want Chiana? Are you here to lay claim to my things?"
"You know you're walking into a trap, don't you?" She snapped angrily.
"And I suppose you're going to tell me you are concerned about my welfare."
Chiana opened her mouth to respond, but snapped it shut as it dawned on her that she was concerned about him. Whoa, when did that happen? She sat down heavily at the small table in the center of his room and stared at the floor.
"Yeah Ryge," she said softly, "I am concerned about you." She looked up to find the Hynerian staring at her.
"I know. Surprised me too." She joked, hoping to break the tension between them. "You do realize you're walking into a trap?" she asked again.
"Then why are you doing it? Why not stay here? Insist these priests or whatever that he says can help John and Aeryn come here?"
"First, I doubt B'dak or his people would agree. And, I'm doing it because it's the right thing to do."
She stared at him, unsure of what to say. This strength of character was so unlike the sniveling, self-centered Rygel she had come to know. Perhaps before his imprisonment he had been a good ruler.
"Don't look at me like that," he snapped. "I know I can be selfish, but I have been known to do the right thing on occasion. Crichton once told me that doing the right thing should start at the beginning of the day, not after I'm caught. Well, I got caught doing something selfish again and it's the least I can do to make it right."
"But, if you know it's a trap ... "
"That's to my advantage." He interrupted. "B'dak doesn't know that I know it's a trap. And he's not going to. I'm counting on you Chiana. You're going to have to convince Zhaan and D'Argo that B'dak isn't trustworthy. No," he continued forcefully as she started to protest, "I don't know how you're going to do it, but you're persuasive. You can do it."
She was taken aback. Rygel had never expressed any confidence in her abilities before. Yet now, he was putting his very life in her hands. His life as well as John's and Aeryn's. What if I fail?
"But Rygel ... " she began. She stopped, trying to control the uncertainty that made her voice waver. Closing her eyes, she swallowed hard then continued, "What if they don't believe me? What if I can't convince them? You could all be imprisoned or ... or ... "
"Or killed." Rygel finished for her. He piloted his throne sled across the room until he hovered close beside her. He reached his tiny hand out and laid it on her shoulder. "Chiana, I know you're afraid. I am too. But I know you will do everything you can to stop it from coming to that."
Chiana looked up at Rygel a thin smile spreading across her face. He never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think he's the most selfish person I've ever met, he does something like this.
Aeryn padded through the darkened corridor toward John's quarters. She was restless, unable to sleep, knowing that they were nearing Qaran. Ever since he had caught her following him through the corridors earlier she'd felt she could trust him. He'd had every right to be angry with her, but he hadn't been. He'd actually welcomed her company. He's not like anyone I've ever met before. I hope what they've told us is the truth. I'd hate to see his spirit destroyed by the trainers.
She paused outside of his door, uncertain what to do next. Though John had welcomed her company before she wasn't sure how he would react to her invading the sleep cycle. And she didn't want to appear weak or frightened. Especially not to him. Why does his opinion mean so much to me? Suddenly overcome with indecision, she stepped back into the shadows intending to return to her quarters.
"You know it's not polite to stand outside of someone's quarters like that." John said softly. She could tell even without seeing his face that he was grinning at her.
"Are you laughing at me John Crichton?" she asked, trying her best to sound angry.
"Never." he replied startling her by his nearness. He swept his hand past the door control and the grate swung open. "Why aren't you sleeping?"
"Why aren't you?"
"Too nervous I guess. What about you?"
"Me too. I'm a little afraid about what's going to happen when we get to Qaran." She paused as she followed him into his quarters. They sat side by side on John's bed, which showed no signs of having been slept in. She stared at her feet, unsure of what to say.
"You? Afraid? I find that hard to believe."
She turned her head, looking up into his sparkling blue eyes. He was smiling at her warmly and she felt her indecision melt away. "I hide it well, but I'm afraid ... a lot. My training instructor says that controlled fear keeps our reactions sharp."
"Even when it keeps you from sleeping?" he teased.
"If you can't be serious ... " she mumbled angrily.
"I'm sorry Aeryn," he apologized softly, "sometimes I don't know when to quit. Makes my little sisters angry too. So what's on your mind?"
"I ... I'm ... uh ... I'm unsure about what's going to happen when we reach this planet. Prefect B'dak makes everything sound so easy, like everyone will welcome us with open arms. But ... " she hesitated, fearful of making accusations without proof.
"But you don't trust him." John finished for her. She nodded.
They sat in silence for a while. Finally, John turned to her and broke the silence. "Neither do I. There's something about him that doesn't ring true."
"Then what are we going to do? Do we blindly follow him to the planet? Shouldn't we say something?"
"Do you honestly think they'd take us seriously?" John asked in return; his voice tinged with bitterness. "They've ignored us and treated us as if we're foolish children. No, I think we need to keep our doubts to ourselves. Keep our eyes open and be prepared for whatever comes our way."
She looked at him intently; studying him. There was something about him ... something that inspired confidence. Aeryn realized, as she looked at him that somehow he had adapted to everything the day had thrown at him. This one's a survivor.
Command and Control aboard the Qaran cruiser bustled with activity. As they neared their homeworld there were arrangements to be made and B'rin was pulled in several different directions as he tried to coordinate everyone's actions.
The last of the arrangements he could take care of from the cruiser were finished and he retired to his private quarters to contact the movement's liaison in the Qanesset. B'rin had found that he needed to make regular contact with the man to keep him focussed. When they had first approached him about assisting them with their plans he had pledged his devotion. But when push came to shove he had wavered. B'rin didn't trust the man, but they needed his influence if they were to bring the Qanesset into line.
As he keyed in the last of the contact symbols, the holo imager shimmered to life. While waiting for his contact to acknowledge the message, he double-checked his to-do list. His mentor, Prefect B'dak, had placed a great deal of responsibility in his young hands and he was determined not to disappoint him.
"Brother B'rin, I had not expected to hear from you again so soon. Is there a problem?"
B'rin studied the other man's face. He seemed far too eager as he inquired about problems. This one cannot be trusted. If things go badly, he will turn on us. But, he is necessary. For now.
"No Prefect," B'rin replied deferentially, forcing his mistrust of the man out of his voice. "There are no problems. Our plans are progressing as anticipated. Prefect B'dak will be leaving the alien ship in less than a quarter arn. Have you spoken to the others as I requested?"
"Of course I have!" The older man snapped. "I said I would. I don't need some young pup checking up on me as if I can't be trusted."
"Forgive me Prefect." B'rin replied calmly, hoping to placate the man. "I do not mean to insult your integrity. It is just that the future of our world is riding on the next few days." He paused, examining the other man's face. "Prefect D'ral, if all goes as we anticipate, your place in our people's history will be secured. We must all do our part if the holy war is to succeed."
"I understand that Brother." D'ral replied. "Please forgive my anger. Tensions are running high in the Qanesset. This may not be the right time for so bold a move. And some may question the use of children - even alien children - for such a cause."
"There is no better time. The goddess Porimma has delivered these aliens, including the children, into our hands. We must be prepared to follow her without question."
"Of course we will follow the goddess." D'ral replied, bowing his head reverently. He glanced at something out of the imager's range then turned back to B'rin. "I must go, the Qanesset is reconvening. I will continue to speak for our cause. If you speak with Prefect B'dak before his return, tell him to waste no time in coming to the Qanesset. His presence here is essential."
"Thank you Prefect D'ral. I will pass along your message. May the goddess guide you."
"And you," the older man replied as he broke the communication link.
B'rin leaned back in his chair, considering D'ral's words. He was surprised that D'ral had been bold enough to voice his concerns about B'dak's plan. He had found that men as opportunistic as he did not have the courage of their convictions. Perhaps he isn't as untrustworthy as I had thought.
Zhaan hurried through the corridor. B'dak was planning to leave in less than a quarter arn and she hoped to speak with him before he departed. As she walked toward the docking bay she couldn't get Pilot's words out of her mind. She had dismissed his suspicions without further consideration, but now she wasn't so certain. Over the past two days he had helped her as she had sought a solution to the condition that had affected John and Aeryn, and for that she was grateful. But he had also withheld information. Information that could have helped them find a solution sooner.
She swept into the docking bay to find that B'dak had moved his ship from its berth to a launch position. Could he be planning to leave without further contact? Approaching the small transport, she could hear him talking to someone. Not wanting to appear as if she were eavesdropping, she cleared her throat loudly before ascending the gangway.
B'dak met her at the portal, blocking her entrance. "Pa'u Zhaan, I am surprised to see you here. I would have thought you would be preparing John and Aeryn for their trip to Qaran."
"I wanted to speak with you before you leave."
He placed his hand around her shoulder and steered her smoothly away from his ship and back toward the corridor. "My dear Zhaan, I would not have left without speaking with you. It was not necessary for you to come down here. Come, let us find the others and go over the arrangements I have just finalized for their arrival."
A short time later, D'Argo, Chiana, Rygel and Zhaan were gathered in the Center Chamber awaiting B'dak. He had sent Zhaan ahead while he stopped by his quarters to gather the last of his belongings.
"Shouldn't John and Aeryn be here too? This affects them the most directly." Chiana asked, breaking the thick silence that had overtaken them.
Zhaan sighed deeply and looked at her as if reluctant to start an old argument again. "Chiana, we've been over this. They are merely children now. Much of this would be too complex for them to understand."
"You underestimate them Zhaan. You too, D'Argo." she replied boldly. "I've seen the way you treat them. You ignore them ... talk about them as if they're not there ... don't include them in decisions that directly affect them. I've spent time with them. Can you say the same? Do you even know what they're like as children?"
"Chiana ... " D'Argo growled in protest only to be interrupted as Chiana leapt to her feet her eyes blazing with anger.
"No D'Argo! You're the worst of all. You totally ignored them in the infirmary yesterday and then when they disappeared you were angry with them. Then you shirked your responsibility again by having me show them around. Have you spent any time with them? Do you know that they are both curious, trusting and very intelligent? They could easily understand what is going to happen to them, but you are too selfish to believe it!"
Her blood raging, she turned to Zhaan and continued, "And you Zhaan! You're no better. Other than the short time you have spent examining them, you haven't spent any time with them either. You've been so wrapped up in finding a cure you haven't taken the time to get to know them as they are now. I'm ashamed of you both."
She glared at the targets of her anger then turned and stalked out of the chamber. She stopped just outside of the door and whirled around to face them. "I'm going to get John and Aeryn," she declared. "They have every right to be here."
Chiana stormed toward the crew quarters. As she rounded one of the curves in Moya's seemingly endless corridors, she came upon B'dak as he hurried to the Center Chamber. Chiana stopped, glaring at the Qaran Prefect. "What are you up to B'dak?" she blurted out, her anger still in full bloom.
"Pardon me? Did I miss something?" He asked, a stunned look spreading across his face. What does she know? How could she know?
"Never mind." Chiana snapped and hurried away leaving B'dak to stare after her.
A short time later Chiana stood outside of Aeryn's empty quarters. Great. She's not here. Where the frell is she?
Frustrated, she hurried down the corridor toward John's quarters. As she drew closer she heard giggling and realized that Aeryn must have come to his quarters sometime during the sleep cycle.
"No, no, no ... paper covers rock. I win again." John said, laughing aloud.
"You're making this up Crichton. How can paper beat rock if scissors beats paper and rock beats scissors? It makes no sense."
"It's not supposed to make sense Aeryn. It's just a game. Something to pass the time. Don't you have anything like that where you come from?"
"There is little time for recreation aboard a training vessel John. We are either in training or we are resting in preparation for the next training exercise."
"You mean you never get to just be kids? You never get to play?"
"Play? What's that?"
"You're kidding right? You don't know what play is?"
The earnest expression on her face as she shook her head made his heart ache. He hadn't really believed that their cultures were that different until now.
"Play is what we were just doing. It's what we did yesterday when we were exploring the ship."
Listening from the corridor, Chiana had felt her heart go out to her as Aeryn had spoken of her life aboard the training vessel. No wonder she's so cold sometimes. The Peacekeepers were so busy teaching her to be a soldier, they never taught her how to be a person. She swept away the tears that had filled her eyes and swallowed hard to push back the anger that flared at the injustice of the Peacekeeper system.
"Okay you two," she said, forcing a smile on her face and keeping her voice light, "what are you up to in here? Why aren't you asleep?"
Two pairs of eyes turned to look at her and she had to chuckle at their expressions. They both looked as though they'd been caught doing something they shouldn't have done. "Hey, it's okay, I'm only teasing." She quickly reassured them. "Prefect B'dak is getting ready to leave and I thought you should be there to hear what he has to say before he goes."
The trio hurried to the Center Chamber with mixed emotions. John and Aeryn seemed to be excited, but nervous about what they would learn and Chiana was hoping that they had taken her advice to heart and waited. Her heart sank as they walked through the door. Only Rygel and a couple of DRDs remained.
"What? They couldn't wait a few microts?" Chiana sputtered angrily.
"I tried to stop them Chiana, but they wouldn't listen." Rygel explained. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault, Ryge. At least you tried." Chiana replied. She turned to find that John and Aeryn had moved across the chamber to stand beside the view port.
"I told you they'd ignore us. They treat us like we aren't even here most of the time." John whispered, leaning close to Aeryn. "And when they do notice us, they act like we're in the way."
"So what do you want to do now?" Aeryn asked, turning to look at him. "Should we talk to Chiana and Rygel?"
"Talk to us about what?" Chiana asked, coming to stand behind them.
They whirled around, surprised at her nearness. "We ... uh ... we ... that is ... " John sputtered until Chiana interrupted him.
"You don't trust B'dak do you?"
Almost in unison, their eyes grew wide and they shook their heads. John finally spoke, "No, there's something fishy about him."
"What does an aquatic animal have to do with this Crichton?" Rygel asked.
"It's just an expression. It means something isn't right about him. He's up to something."
"Well why didn't you just say that?" Rygel snapped.
"Excuse me for interrupting ... " Pilot's voice came over the comms before John could reply. "I did not mean to intrude, but I too, have had suspicions about Prefect B'dak."
As soon as the small shuttle settled to the floor of the docking bay aboard the Qaran cruiser the hatch opened and B'dak stepped through. He stopped at the top of the gangway, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Porimma be praised! I am free of the aliens' influence! I must undergo the cleansing ritual soon.
He opened his eyes and smiled wearily at B'rin who waited patiently a short distance from the shuttle. He was pleased that the young novitiate had not interrupted his brief prayer of thanks. B'rin approached as he descended the gangway, smiling broadly.
"Welcome back Prefect. We are accelerating away from the Leviathan and anticipate arrival on Qaran within half an arn."
"Excellent." B'dak replied, falling in step beside his protege. "Are the arrangements proceeding according to plan?"
"Yes sir. Everything has been taken care of. I have taken the liberty of arranging for a chamber to be available for the cleansing ritual if you care to partake before we arrive at homeworld."
B'dak stopped and B'rin turned to look at him, wondering if he had overstepped his position. "Forgive me Prefect," he said quickly, bowing his head submissively, "I did not mean to imply ... "
"It's alright B'rin." B'dak interrupted and laid his hand gently on the other man's shoulder. "I did not take offense. I was merely surprised because I was wishing that could be arranged before we return at home. I never dreamed you would have been so thoughtful." He smiled at the younger man and continued, "I believe I will take advantage of your thoughtfulness. I feel the need to remove that brood's filth from my soul."
B'rin relaxed and gestured for B'dak to follow him. "It must have been nearly unbearable to be surrounded by them for so long."
"Our blessed Porimma kept me safe, though at times the temptations were hard to resist." He replied as the memory of Chiana's offer flashed through his mind. "They are an eclectic group."
"That's why I don't trust B'dak." Chiana said looking from Pilot to Aeryn to John. After Pilot's revelation that he had qualms about B'dak's honesty she, Aeryn, John and Rygel had gathered in Pilot's den to compare notes. For John and Aeryn, it was mostly a feeling that they were being deceived, a sense that B'dak was hiding something from them. Rygel and Chiana had each shared what they had learned over the days that B'dak had been aboard, but it still wasn't enough to make a firm case against the man. At least not until Pilot spoke.
"I have had misgivings about Prefect B'dak since his arrival aboard Moya. There was something that seemed wrong about him." Pilot paused, ducking his massive head as if he were embarrassed.
"Go on Pilot," Rygel encouraged.
"I had the DRDs keep him under surveillance." He blurted out in a rush.
A broad grin spread across Chiana's face. "Clever Pilot. Very clever."
"You all seem to forget that the DRDs are Moya's and, by extension, my eyes and ears. I was anticipating the same reaction from him."
"Do you invade our privacy often Pilot?" Rygel sputtered as what Pilot had said registered with him.
"Dominar Rygel, I do not invade your privacy." Pilot replied, his voice reflecting the hurt that Rygel's accusation had caused, "You are all part of Moya's crew ... part of our ... " he hesitated, wondering if he should say what had come to his mind.
"Go on Pilot." Aeryn said softly; surprised at the emotions this large creature engendered in her.
"You are ... family. I would not spy on any of you." Pilot said, his voice barely above a whisper.
"Thank you Pilot." Aeryn said, reaching out to lay her tiny hand on his massive claw. He turned to look at her and the briefest of smiles flashed across her face. "Go on, tell us what you discovered."
"Essentially the same things that Chiana and Rygel have learned. From what the DRDs managed to overhear, it would appear that Prefect B'dak is trying to foment a rebellion on his planet. He spoke of ridding Qaran of all off worlders and their influence."
"I think I understood what you just said and I have one question." John asked hopping down from Pilot's console to stand beside him. "What does that have to do with us?"
"Well, as far as I could deduce, he is planning to use you as the catalysts to start the holy war."
"Okay, big guy. Wanna put that in terms I can understand?"
"I'm sorry Commander Crichton, I forget you do not have your usual understanding. Let me rephrase ... it sounded as if he was planning to make ... " Pilot paused as if looking for the right word. "I believe the term you have used in the past is 'poster child.'"
John cocked his head at Pilot, then looked from Rygel to Chiana to Aeryn. "Lemme get this straight. Prefect B'dak is planning to make us poster children for his holy war against off worlders?"
"So it would seem Commander." Pilot replied, studying Crichton's reaction. He found it strange to deal with John and Aeryn in this form. In his mind, they were the man and woman that he had come to count as friends, but they appeared to be so different, so vulnerable. He felt a deep urge to protect them, though he knew there was little he could do beyond warning them about what he had learned.
It was silent in Pilot's den for some time as each of them considered what they had learned. Finally, Aeryn looked up at Chiana and Rygel, a look of determination on her face. "So, what do we do now?"
B'rin hesitated just outside of the chamber he had set aside for the cleansing ritual. He knew that the Prefect had probably completed the ritual, but he was still reluctant to intrude. While he respected his mentor immensely, he also feared him. When he dared to look him directly in the eye, he saw coldness, a hardness there that frightened him. He knew, without a doubt, that Prefect B'dak was not a man to be crossed.
He inhaled deeply and steeled himself for B'dak's displeasure at his imminent intrusion. Quickly, before his determination waned, he pressed the access control and the door slid open with a soft whoosh. The interior of the room was bathed in the soft glow of candlelight. B'dak knelt in the center of the room, his eyes closed and his mouth moving soundlessly in supplication to the goddess Porimma.
B'rin cleared his throat as he stepped into the room. "Prefect, forgive me for intruding," he said quietly.
B'dak didn't respond and B'rin began to think that he hadn't heard him. Just as he opened his mouth to speak again, B'dak stirred. Without opening his eyes, he snarled "What do you want?"
"You asked me let you know when we were within two trandeqs of the planet. We will be reaching that distance in two hundred microts."
B'dak sighed deeply, an expression of resignation etched on his face. Finally opening his eyes, he speared B'rin with his stare. When he spoke, his voice was low and icy.
"Brother B'rin, do not ever disturb me when I am in communion with the goddess. All else is of no consequence if I am not right in her eyes. Do you understand me?"
B'rin blanched under B'dak's glare. He had never seen his mentor this angry. He swallowed the fear that rose like bile in his throat, nodded his understanding and lowered his gaze to the floor.
"Good. Now get out!" B'dak spat coldly and turned away from the younger man, dismissing him.
As quietly as possible, B'rin backed out of the chamber and activated the door lock. He leaned back heavily against the bulkhead, his shoulders slumped and head bowed. Closing his eyes, he massaged his temples, hoping to calm the terror that had overtaken him. How could I have made such an error in judgement? The Prefect has always been a harsh master, but I have never seen him so ... so angry. Is he having doubts about this course of action? More importantly, am I?
He took several deep breaths to regain his composure, then straightened his shoulders and hurried through the corridor to his office. I must consider these things. I must ask the goddess for guidance.
Zhaan stepped through the portal to the Terrace. This was where John tended to come when he needed to think; either here or the maintenance bay and she had already checked there. Not surprisingly, he stood at the outermost edge of the deck, silhouetted against the stars. He looks like a lost little boy. So vulnerable, so small. Yet his insatiable curiosity and quick intellect are still there. Have I treated them unfairly? Have I ignored him and Aeryn as Chiana said?
"Go away." he said, a hard edge on his voice.
"John ... " Zhaan sighed as she moved to stand beside him. "I've been searching for you for nearly half an arn. Why didn't you answer your comms?"
"Didn't wanna talk anymore."
Her heart ached at the plaintive sound of his voice. She so wanted to help him come to terms with what was happening, but she suspected he wouldn't let her. He had been less than open with her since the transformation had begun. And though her logic told her it was because he didn't recognize her, she still found that it hurt. She missed her friend - this human.
She gently laid her hand on his shoulder and was surprised when he shook it off. "John..."
"I said, go away!" he snapped. "I just wanna be alone."
"John, please ... talk to me. I want to help you."
He whirled on her, anger blazing from his eyes. "What part of 'go away' didn't you understand?" he shouted. Startled by the passion in his voice she stepped back slightly. At her retreat he turned to face the stars once again.
Zhaan looked at the young man before her. She knew he was the same John Crichton she had come to know and to admire, but he was also very different. She wasn't entirely surprised that John was angry and confused. He had, after all, been through a lot in the past two solar days. But he had seemed to adapt well to the stress, as he always seemed to do. She suspected that if she stayed, respecting his desire for silence, that he would eventually talk to her. And so, she waited.
It didn't take long for her patience to be rewarded.
"Do you have any idea what this has been like for me? Waking up in a place where everyone knows you, but you have no idea who they are? Or how you got there? Or where your family is? I miss my family Zhaan. I miss my mom and dad, and even my sisters." He paused, turning to look her in the eye.
"I just wanna go home Zhaan. But you and everyone else want me to go to this planet, this Qaran." He stopped, running his fingers through his hair.
"And you don't want to go?"
"I'm afraid Zhaan. I know we need to go, but I'm afraid. I feel as if I'm walking into a trap."
"There is no need to feel that way John. Prefect B'dak has assured us that you will be safe."
"And you believe everything he told you, don't you?"
"There is no need to be sarcastic. But yes, I believe him."
"Well I don't." he said firmly, turning away from her. He wasn't sure he should confide in her. So far, she hadn't been receptive to his or anyone else's concerns about B'dak. He headed toward the corridor, stopping just before the door. He looked back over his shoulder, "But I'll go anyway."
The chamber buzzed with activity as B'dak walked onto the floor of the Qanesset. His heart raced in anticipation. My dream is so close to fulfillment. I cannot allow anyone or anything to stand in the way. He approached the dais at the center of the chamber and mounted the seven steps to speak with the president of the assembly.
After a brief, but heated discussion, the older man rose from his seat and moved toward the speaker's platform. He raised the heavy stone symbol of the Qanesset, striking it forcefully to the surface of the platform, calling the assembly to order. When all of the representatives were seated, he turned toward B'dak and nodded.
B'dak moved forward and stood at the speaker's platform. A murmur rippled through the assembled crowd at his sudden appearance. He waited for the crowd to settle down before beginning to speak.
"Allow me to begin by thanking President D'net for allowing me to address the assembly on such short notice. Many of you know that I have been off world for several solar days. I am here today to explain the reason for my absence." He paused briefly, scanning the faces of the crowd. He recognized many of them as being sympathetic to his cause, but many others were adamantly opposed to it. I need to frame this in such a way that there can be no opposition.
He took a deep breath and continued, "Some of you may have heard that the icon of our blessed goddess Porimma was stolen from the temple five days ago." An angry murmur rumbled through the room. He waited several microts allowing the full impact of his words to be felt then raised his hands requesting their attention again.
"That is why I have been absent from the Qanesset for these past days. I received information indicating that some off-worlders were responsible for this heinous act and left in pursuit of their spacecraft. I know that I probably should have passed the information along to the Ministry of Security, but I felt that time was of the essence and so I took matters into my own hands. I am pleased to say that we were successful in our pursuit."
He paused again, as another murmur rippled through the assembled group. He smiled inwardly as he observed the anger on their faces. This is going much better than I had hoped.
"The perpetrators of this crime are even now returning to Qaran to face the consequences of their actions. A Hynerian who visited our planet on a trade mission several days ago stole the icon. He and his two companions will be arriving within the arn.
"I will not pretend that I am surprised that this happened. You all know my thoughts on the presence of off-worlders on Qaran. They have influenced our young people, diluted our cultural heritage and now they have defiled our most holy place. Will we allow this kind of behavior to go unpunished?"
He stepped back from the speaker's platform as angry voices rang out from every part of the room. His eyes swept across the faces of his audience. I have them. They are like children before me. This was easier than I thought it would be.
As the protests began to die down, he stepped forward again. "Listen to me. Listen to me!" He said, raising his hands for silence, "I have gained the trust of these creatures. I can bring them to justice. But you must trust me. Will you trust me?"
Shouts of agreement echoed through the chamber as he stepped back from the platform again. He walked to the edge of the dais and bowed humbly, allowing their approval to wash over him. When he raised up, he noticed B'rin standing in the back of the chamber. He caught the young man's eyes and was shaken by what he saw there. He had expected to see approval, but was greeted with a cold stare. I must speak with him. I cannot lose his support.
Another pair of eyes watched from a shadowy corner of the assembly room. Eyes that had seen nearly three hundred cycles. Eyes that had seen others with the same message come and go. Eyes that belonged to the highest ranking priest on Qaran. The Guide had watched the proceedings with amusement. B'dak was clever. Too clever. In his haste to turn the Qanesset to his cause he had made one mistake. And it would cost him his prize.