Author: CeeDee
see # 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Future of the Past - # 4
Phanuel

<(Raguel)(Hope) Archangel of penance, prince of the presence, angel of hope, and holds the devil in his power. Hope is a feeling of trust & a desire for good, accompanied by the assumption that your desire is attainable.>

+

I sat in the cantina eating a sandwich. I was waiting for the arrival of the shuttles. They were due any time now. I was nervous, okay. I had hoped that Howard would be here before they had arrived. But Howard would be delayed two days time, gathering the right personnel. I loved my former comrades like brothers, but I was apprehensive. It's been a long time since we've been together. Time changes things, people. Howard and the gang were closer now.

I wandered about the ship and was astonished at how familiar it was to me. I never once got lost. I investigated every room but two. I was unwilling to enter the captains' private quarters and the stasis chamber room, opposite medical. I avoided them for a whole week, before I could find myself daring enough to enter the room that held the last of the crew members.

Reluctantly, I made my way into the stasis room, drifting along the line of unknown dead. At last, I found myself staring at two of the glass-covered stases chambers... at my parents. I learned that my mother was one of the last to die. Her body next to my fathers. He had been tall; a strong, masculine appearance. And handsome, despite the pale phenomenon. She had been beautiful. The color of hair was exactly like mine and, although her eyes were closed, I knew from the logs she had the same cobalt blue eyes as mine. I knelt in front of the chambers and bawled like a baby for hours. All my life I had wondered why I had been alone in the world, and now I knew. I had found and lost them at the same time.

After the first few times, it began to get easier to enter this room. The grief was somewhat easier, no longer this gut clawing pain, but a deep-rooted, but bearable sadness. I came here often to mourn. I wish I could remember the first five years of my life here on this ship. I accessed the private logs of my parents. There are a few vid recordings with the three of us. I copied them down on a disk and put them with my personal belongings.

I also began to question this whole time-lapse concept. I debated with Bethor what would happen if we could prevent the invasion of the aliens, so that there would have been no need for the ship and its crew to come back in time. Bethor had a wide range of theories, but no real answers to that.

The worst theory was that the ship just would vanish, as if it never had been there. That raised the question of my existence. I had been born in this time, but my parents were not. Would I also cease to exist? What would happen to all the people from this present, staying on this ship if it ceased to exist? I pondered it over in my head repeatedly. In the end, I decided it wouldn't matter. We all had to be prepared to lose our lives in battle. I was. I hoped the others were as well.

I also discussed with Bethor the use of the enhancement serum. The AI was determined that only with the enhancement, would we be able to withstand the mental attacks of the Xetoins. I questioned it, as all five of us were already improved. We had been given nanites, which were now circulating in our bloodstream. Bethor informed me that, as a matter of fact, I had been given this serum as a child, and if there would be complications, they would have shown after Dr. G had 'pepped' me up.

I wondered why it had no effect on me. During the war I had been injured often enough. My healing processes had not been advanced beyond that of the others. Bethor made it clear that the genetic effects, except for the viral immunity, were dormant until adulthood. That would explain why I hadn't been ill so far, why I survived the plague on L2. Even while I had been exposed to the sickness, had held Solo in my arms as he died.

Pondering all that over, I sat there and ate my sandwich. I swallowed the last bit and took a sip from the soda as Bethor announced the immediate arrival of the first two shuttles at hangar two.

I wandered down to the hanger and waited, leaning against the wall, while playing nervously with the tuft of my braid. The first shuttle touched down and taxied in its parking position, then the next.

A hatch slid open and Wufei stepped out. He had grown up. Not as tall as I was, but he also was an adult now and a well built one, too. His hair still was pulled back in a short ponytail as he turned back to help someone out. Heero. He also had grown up. They almost were the same height. But he looked... frail, pale and sunken in. Slowly, they stepped down the stairway into the hangar. While Wufei studied his new surroundings, Heero leaned on him heavily, and concentrated on just walking.

I was shocked, but determined to hide it. The grip on my braid tightened and I tugged, hard. My God. Of course, I knew about his illness, but to see him this way... I almost missed Trowa and Quatre leaving the shuttle, too. Only the excited shout of my name from Quatre tore my eyes from Heero. I straightened, pushed away from the wall and strode towards them. We nodded brief greetings and there was a short, awkward pause as we all stood in the middle of the hangar facing each other. That was, until I cleared my throat and donned my best smile, "Well, welcome to my humble home." I almost missed the amused raise of one of Trowa's eyebrows and huffed. "Now, you will see," mumbling, I turned around and observed the hangar, now humming with life. Mananacs' were all over the place. "You want the grand tour, or would you like to settle in first?" I inquired.

"Actually," a familiar voice came from behind, "I'd like to see the medical equipment first. Heero here needs attention."

I whirled around. "Sally!" I excitedly called out. "What a nice surprise." Then a thought came to me and I narrowed my eyes as I took in her appearance. She was wearing a uniform. "You're working with the Preventers. How come..." I turned back. "Quatre..."

"It was my idea." Wufei interrupted. "Actually, as Quatre showed the disk to me, I was a little... worried. I confess, you seemed slightly..."

"...insane?" I offered.

He nodded. "To be honest with you, I'm still not fully convinced that you're not, Maxwell. You always were a little... eccentric. I need to confirm you haven't broken several laws."

I tilted my head, waved with my hand, "Go on."

He declared, "It was my duty to show the disc to Une. We decided we would be somewhat covert..."

I snorted at that, but he ignored me and went on, "... Investigate. We're," he motioned to Sally, "partners in this investigation. This is an official covert mission, on the Preventers' behalf."

"Okay," I nodded, "I can live with that if you can."

He looked flabbergasted at my lack of protest.

"It's not that I'm hiding something. You'll see." I looked over the rest of the now gathered people and announced loudly: "Bethor will show you to your quarters. There are enough rooms for singles. Of course, you can bunk together if you want to. Please follow the signs to sector three."

"Understood, captain." The AI replied and the hangar doors slid open.

This got another raised eyebrow from Trowa, and Quatre looked openly surprised. I shrugged and replied, "I forgot to mention that. Bethor is an AI, the soul of this ship so to say. It's much more advanced than the one on my ship. So, we six will bunk at section two, in the officers' quarters. And I'm the captain, it seems."

I eyed Heero and decided to address the problem head-on. "You able to walk to medical?"

It earned me an icy glare and a grunt.

I had to smirk. "Some things never change. Guess that means yes. Medical it is, then." I lead the way and we trooped through the corridors to our destination. I heard Sally's sharp intake at the futuristic looking medical bay as the doors slid open. "This, my dear, is your domain for making it all better, if it goes nasty. And for healing Heero."

"Duo...," she began, "there isn't..."

I didn't let her finish. "I know. Incurable in A.C.201. But curable in A.C 257. And that's where we are standing right now. Correct, Bethor?"

The AI's voice responded, "Literally incorrect, captain. Technically correct."

"Told you," I grinned at Sally's puzzled expression and turned to Heero, seeing a slightly confused expression on his face and a slim glint of hope shining in his eyes. I felt warmth spreading through my gut at the sight and at the same time regret. Was I really saving his life, only to put it at risk again sometime later? Yes. Yes, I was. Because there still was a chance he might survive a battle. We all might survive. But only if we could fight first. "Come on, Heero, lie down," I gestured to one of the sickbeds. "Let's get you up and about again."

"But... I don't know how to use all this," Sally made a wide spread gesture at the medical stations.

"Oh, you will," I waved to the others to step nearer as I walked to one of the control consoles. Picking up one of the special hypodermics I had prepared earlier I held it up, while Wufei helped Heero lie down on the nearest bed. "This," I announced, "holds an organic com unit. It enables communication with everyone wearing one, also with the ship's AI. It is similar to the wireless com units you wear at Preventers, only permanent." I grinned. "You can't lose it or misplace it and it can't be taken away from you if you fall in enemy hands. So, who's first?" I looked around.

"Duo, you can't expect us to...," Quatre started, "without explanation...," he huffed, unsure. "We need to know..."

"Quat, have I ever lied to you?" I interrupted him. It seemed like this was becoming a habit. "Look. This," I gestured with the hypodermic in my hand, "enables you to access the databases. It's way faster than asking me everything. You can go through the databases manually, if you want too. But it could take weeks, maybe months. We don't have that kind of time. With the com you will know your way around the ship. You will know about the Xetoins. You will know everything there is to know. You," I pointed to Sally "will know how to use all this here, how to treat Heero. You," I pointed to the rest of them, "you will know that I don't lie nor am I insane, either. And..."

"Me first," Heero interrupted my rant.

I stopped short and then nodded, perfectly understanding. Made sense. He thought he would die anyway, and it made no difference to him if what I did to him now would do harm. I was a little sad about this reason. "Okay. Thanks for trusting me." I approached him and injected the tiny unit under his left ear. "Bethor, acknowledge, activate and calibrate new implanted com unit. Full access. Standard greeting."

Heero's eyes went wide; the only sign that he, too, could now hear Bethor in his head. "Understood." He said out loud.

I snorted, smirking. "Okay?"

"I'm fine," he replied and never taking his eyes from me, confirmed for the others, "It's a com unit. The ship was communicating with me."

"Said so." I rolled my eyes and hold up an other hypodermic. "Next?"

After I repeated the procedure with the remaining four, I fished two headsets out of the console and handed one to Sally, who ogled it suspicious and one to Heero. "This is education 101 in history... no, future and medical. When you are finished, you will know everything and then we will talk, if you wish. Put it on your left ear, so that the contact's pressing against your com. Sally, you might want to sit down. It's a little overwhelming."

I instructed Bethor to merge with them and show them the details of the ship, its technology, the facts of its history and the war with the Xetoins. I also instructed Bethor to educate Sally on all the new medical knowledge she would need.

When I was done with Heero and Sally, I waved for the others to follow me.

"Where are we going?" Wufei inquired.

"I'll take you to the bridge. There are more of these units to merge with the ship..."

I was interrupted with Quatre's gasp. "Merge?"

"Don't worry, Quat. It's nothing like Zero. It's communication only. I Promise," I said, flashing him a reassuring smile.

Trowa asked, "How come this ship's AI accepted you, let you in?"

I stopped cold. "It's... complicated."

He heaved one eyebrow.

"Well... I'll tell you, okay? But I'd rather Heero..." I paused, thinking, "and Sally is there as well, if I do. Can we please wait for when he is better? Sally will start his treatment as soon as she comes out of merging, I'm sure." I walked in front of them, towards the bridge. "Look, it all makes more sense if you have all the knowledge, anyway. And you have to look after your people and direct them through the ship. You can do that after merging. Right now, I think they're sitting in their quarters, quite forlorn."

"Of course," Quatre cried out, "the Maganacs. I almost forgot about them!"

I chuckled as I mentally pinged him and thought, 'you're a bad daddy', then laughed aloud as he jumped and looked ashamed and indignant at the same time. "I am nothing like a daddy to them," he said aloud. I laughed harder.

"How did you do that?" he asked and blushed at the flabbergasted looks on Trowa's and Wufei's faces.

"Do what?" Trowa and Wufei asked at the same time.

I felt good. I hadn't laughed this hard in a long time. I pinged them all, thought 'that', and fell to my knees, clutching my sides in laugher at their faces. I was breathless and gulped in air as I finally came to again. "God, that was priceless," I giggled. "I can't wait to do that to Howard."

Sitting on the floor, clutching my sides I must have looked ridiculous, but to see the grins on their faces was worth it. I looked up at them, smiling. "It's good to be together, again."

+

We sat in medical, waiting for the others. I was nervous.

I had brought them to the bridge and after they sat down, I handed them each a headset. I had instructed Bethor to merge and give them the same information as Heero. Quatre had cried, as he came out of it, Trowa looked expressionless and Wufei looked as if he would like to kill something.

"This ship comes from the future. There will be a war," Trowa sounded matter of fact. "Again."

I took a deep breath. "Not if we can prevent it."

"We will have to fight." Wufei said.

"Yes," I toyed with my braid, "if you decide to join, that is."

They were quiet for a long time, all of us lost in our own thoughts. What if they said no?

Wufei looked at Quatre as he spoke up, but the question was directed at me. "We can walk away if we don't, can't we?"

I nodded, solemn. "If you decide to go, I won't stand in your way." I stood up. "Can we discuss this with all parties together, please? You certainly have some thinking to do. You know your way around now. See to the Mananacs', to your people. Bethor will show you to your quarters. Freshen up. Rest. We'll talk tomorrow." I turned on my heel and marched from the bridge straight into the hangar and into my Ezgadi.

I slept the whole night cycle, rolled out of bed, shaved and showered. Looking in the mirror before dressing, I made a decision. While I had a cup of replicated coffee in my galley, I inquired Bethor of the status of Sally Po. Bethor informed me that she was in medical. I pinged her and asked of a moment of her time and the use of the gene test unit.

As I entered medical, my eyes fell on Heero's sleeping form. "How is he?"

She shrugged, but her eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. "He had a high fever, but it's broken now. This serum is working." She shook her head, not believing her own words. "He's rapidly building up massive immune bodies against this virus. I predict a week until he's completely cured."

I smiled at that. "Make that three days," I chuckled dryly. "He's had a tendency to astonish every doc so far." I remembered all the times Heero had been injured, and the self-destruction of Wing. "That would be the second time he cheated sure death."

"Right," she said and stuffed her hands in the pockets of the doctors' coat she wore over her Preventers uniform. "What can I do for you? You're not ill, are you?"

"Nah," I said. "I want you to take a gene sample from me." As she raised an eyebrow, I continued, "I need you to confirm something." I slumped in the seat in front of one if the stations.

"Okay." She opened a box and came up with the unit, "Put your finger in here." It stung a bit, and there was a drop of blood on the pad. She typed a few commands and looked up expectantly as the apparatus beeped finally. "And now?"

I exhaled slowly. "Now," I inhaled, "I need you to go to the next room and look up a genetic sample marked 'Nemamiah'. Compare them. Let me know what you find. I'll wait. "

I closed my eyes and let my head fall back as she left the room. After a while, my old soldier senses told me I was being watched. I opened my eyes and slowly turned my head. Heero stared at me, eyes glazed with fever. "Hey," I said softly, "how are you?"

He regarded me a moment. "Fine," he said eventually.

"Right," I forced a smile, "fine, he says. I don't believe it. You are a liar, Yuy."

"And you aren't," he said earnestly. "Nobody believed in your story. Including me." There was a long pause, as we stared at each other. "I'm really going to be ok, aren't I?"

"Yeah," I nodded thoughtfully, taking a deep breath. "I knew nobody would believe. Hell, I wouldn't have believed me! I'm just glad there's still a little trust in you all for me, y'know. When in doubt..." I stopped as his eyes strayed to the doorway through which Sally had disappeared. I turned my head and saw her, leaning against the doorframe, a thoughtful expression on her face.

"It's a match," she said, "one hundred percent."

I pursed my lips. It was true. Okay, I still had small doubts being this child. They were gone now. "Thanks," I said quietly.

"This...," she waved behind her, "genetic sample bank only contains original crew members."

"Yeah," I nodded slowly, "I know."

"Duo?" She looked puzzled.

I took a deep breath. "Bethor, can you call Wufei, Trowa and Quatre to medical, please?" I grimaced. I had to tell them, now. It wouldn't help their trust in me if they found out by chance. Besides, Sally suspected something, I could tell. "I'll explain. Just wait for the others, okay? I don't think I can got through this twice." I gave her a small, sad smile and turned back to Heero, who looked suspicious, too, in his own way.

I took a few deep breaths as we waited in silence and steeled myself for the walk into the stasis room. Wufei was the first to arrive. He looked disheveled, as if he just had woken up, but relieved as he saw Heero awake and Sally okay. Trowa and Quatre followed shortly after. I didn't want to do this. Internally, I squared up to the inevitable while I addressed Heero. "You up to a little walk, just across the corridor? I have to show you all something."

"Duo?" Sally asked, "what are you up...," she halted, frowning. "That's where the stasis chambers are."

I ignored her and the others, who looked fairly puzzled, stood and held out a hand as I walked up to Heero's bed. "You coming?" I really didn't want to do this.

He nodded and reached for my hand as he sat up, gingerly tested his strength by standing and promptly swayed. I hurriedly caught him around the waist and steadied him. Wufei came up on his other side and lent an arm. "'Kay," I breathed. "Let's get this show on the road." I had to do this.

+

"It is time for you to learn the one thing Bethor revealed only to me." I paused and gathered my wits. I noticed their sudden uneasiness. "It's nothing relevant to you. It's personal."

I stared at Trowa. "You asked why the AI of this ship accepted me, let me in. The truth is the ship has been calling to me for the last four years."

Wufei made a disbelieving sound as I punched the pad and the door opened.

"These," I made an arch with my arm after we had entered the room, "are the last of the original crew of Bethor, Defender and Battleship, launched in A.C. 257. They died while trying to fulfill their duty. Please, pay them your respect." I paused for a proper amount of time. While Trowa had taken my place in supporting Heero, I had slowly walked up to the last one in line. I stated the name and rank of the one in the chamber and walked to the next, repeating the ritual. I stopped at the last two chambers and stepped up between them, turned to face the others and swallowed hard. Despite that my voice sounded hoarse as I said, "this was Hope, Warrior, Suit pilot." I laid my left hand on her chamber as I said it. "And this, Ambriel, Warrior and Captain." I laid my right hand on his chamber, staring straight ahead at the wall, seeing nothing as I whispered, "My parents."

I think Quatre clutched his hand up to his chest. I'm not sure. There was no sound for a long while.

I think Bethor had confirmed this to them, or it was Sally's nod, because finally Quatre stepped up to me and looked down to my left into my mother's chamber. He stammered, "You... look just like her."

I blinked rapidly and choked back a weak laugh. "I do, do I?" I fought against the familiar sting in my eyes and the lump in my throat. "And..." I swallowed, glanced down at the corpse of my father, the pale face, the white hair, forgotten already what I had wanted to say. The silence was gnawing at me. "He... he was an albino," I stated matter of factly, as if it were the most important thing. I had to get out of here. I had to run. I had to hide. I think Quatre was going to hug me, but I shoved him out of the way as I fled the room. I ran down the hallways heedlessly. I ran and ran, until I stood in front of the captain's quarters. The one room I had not dared to enter. Until now.

I tentatively touched the pad and the door slid open and revealed the cabin, a cabin like the other ones. The other cabins had been cleaned. I had cleared out the few ones that weren't. However, in here, there were still things scattered all over the place, as if the resident would return any time. It looked a little... messy. It looked... lived in.

I stepped in and absently picked up a t-shirt from the floor, depositing it on the unmade bed. A hairclip lay on the nightstand beside the bed. My mother's? I picked it up and slid my fingers over the cool metal. A hairbrush. I looked around and noticed an open connecting door. I stepped in the next room and gasped. A child's room. A few toys lay on the floor, a model ship. A teddy bear sat on the bed. Small pajamas. I sank down on the bed and picked up the teddy. One ear was ripped, the fur on the right arm worn. Mine?

I sat there a long time and stared at the toy. I looked up, startled by a pair of green eyes. Trowa knelt in front of me, his hands on my knees. I hadn't noticed him enter, or touching me. "I can't remember, Tro." I picked at the teddy's ripped ear. "You'd think I would. I was five, for Christ's sake. Bethor told me. I didn't believe, at first. But... I had the com unit. All my life, Tro. And, I... I read their logs, saw their vids. Saw... myself, as a kid. I..., God Tro, I look just like her. She laughed a lot, y'know? She knew she was dying yet she still laughed. Do you think that was, ... just like I do? Cover up... everything bad with a laugh?" I took in a shuddering breath.

"He shuttled me to Earth and put me in an escape pod, as my mother had died. There were only four of them left. He knew that I couldn't survive at that age, alone on the ship. As he was the last one, he ordered Bethor to contact me. Then he put himself in stasis. Bethor sent me dreams, the last years. So that I was able to build that ship and come here. To finish his mission." I slid down the edge of the bed and knelt in front of him. "My life is just... One. Big. Mission."

He put his arms around me and pulled me to his chest. I clung to him for all I was worth and sobbed in his shirt. God. Was that all I could do nowadays was cry? We sat there and he held me, rubbed my back until all I could cry no more. It felt good, somehow. Someone holding me, comforting me. I hadn't known Trowa could be this comforting.

"Okay?" he murmured in my ear, as my tears subsided.

I nodded and leaned back, wiping my face with my hands. "Yeah, thanks," I whispered, "I'm sorry." I figured we'd better get our asses out of here. I was startled to realize we'd been there for over an hour. I stood and took a last look around. "Come on," I said, "we need to find the others."

He nodded and looked earnestly at me. "I'm sorry."

I started to walk out and he followed. "What for?" I looked back over my shoulder.

"For doubting you. For ignoring your attempts at friendship."

I shrugged, but inwardly I was feeling a wave of longing. I smashed the feeling. "Maybe you weren't ready for that. We were young. It's okay." I couldn't let them in too close, now. God knows what would happen to me if we were successful.

A dart of panic shot through me. If my worst suspicions were true, I only had four months left to exist. Was this what Heero had been feeling? Knowing your time was limited? I took a few deep breaths. Would there be something left of me? Would they remember? I stopped cold in my tracks at the thought. Would there be anything left of what I did in our past? Or would it be as if I never had existed? Never piloted Deathscythe? Then... then everything would have turned out like my parents had known it. No. I shuddered.

"Duo?" Trowa took hold of my elbow, "What is it?" I didn't realize I'd stopped walking until he almost ran into me.

I gave him a wan little smile and shook my head. "Nothing, Tro. Everything's fine."

I was relieved as Bethor announced the arrival of the other shuttles, and turned on my heel, almost running to the hangars, leaving a bewildered Trowa behind.

I greeted Howard enthusiastically and answered a bombardment of questions as well as I could. I took him to medical where he, too, received a com unit. After merging with Bethor on the bridge, he sat, stunned. "Whew."

"Yeah, whew."

He nodded slowly. "We need to repair this ship."

"There's more." And I told him about my parents, the rest of the story.

"Holy shit," was all he had to say to that. "You sure, lad?"

"Uh-huh. Sally took a gene test."

"Okay," He stood and stretched. "I need to unpack. Where can I crash?"

I was glad he made no fuss about that whole mess. Boy was I thankful. "Take one of the free quarters in section two," I told him absently.

He was silent as we walked down the hallways.

I cleared my throat. "You think the men are able to do the repairs?"

He laughed. "After what they did from all you came up with, they should be able to."

Fiddling with my braid, I took a deep breath. "I didn't come up with anything. It was all Bethor. Nothing of it was me." I was a little disappointed. My pride had been shot to hell as I had learned that all my inventions I had been so proud of had been just suggestions Bethor had planted in my head.

"Bullshit," Howard said, "No one I know could have realized all that. Even with the help of the AI." He turned and stepped in front of me, hands on my shoulders." It takes an extremely sharp mind to detail a few dreams to working schematics, figure out the connections, the details. Do you remember how much trouble you had pointing out the particulars to the technicians, to make them understand? Okay, the AI planted the idea. But you realized it."

+

The next couple of days flew. There were things to organize, people to direct and equipment to sort. Most of my time was spent with the techs. I avoided the other pilots. I finally packed my things and moved in to one of the empty quarters when Wufei caught me. "We need to talk, Maxwell. You've been avoiding us."

I plastered a grin on my face. "Why do you think that," I asked, "there just was so much to do, people to meet..."

He snorted and grabbed me by the elbow. "And the Pope is a Buddist. Come on, let's have lunch." He steered me towards the cantina and I stopped in my tracks. All the pilots were gathered, even Heero, around a table with two empty seats. Wonderful. At least Wufei let go of my elbow as we approached.

"Hey, guys," I offered weakly, and took a seat between Quatre and Heero. "So, what's up?" I looked around and took in their serious expressions.

"First," Quatre spoke up, "we need to know how much you will pay us."

"Pay... you?" I almost choked on that.

"Yes," Trowa went on, "you hired us to be soldiers for you. Soldiers are paid. We each have a life you interrupted. We have expenses to pay."

"Hire...," I sputtered, "... for me." I looked around the table, opened and closed my mouth a few times, speechless. Then the anger rose. I clenched my fists and spat furiously, "you all can go to hell. I thought you understood. This fuckin' isn't for me, you assholes..."

Wufei spoke up, calmly. "And we'll be putting our lives at risk if we fight for you. How do you plan to compensate us for that?"

I was stunned, at first. Then I exploded.

"We are the only hope! These fucking bastards endanger *all* life on earth. People will die. They can't defend themselves. For God's sake! We fought a war for a better world, to make lives better, so that people could live in peace and have a good life. You would endanger all we sacrificed, all we fought for out of... of... greediness? This situation is worse than when Zechs tried to drop Libra on Earth." I had shouted the last sentences and clenched my teeth, took a few deep breaths in effort to calm down.

They were quiet.

I felt empty, cold with disappointment. "Okay. I'll ship you back."

I felt betrayed, and you could hear it in my voice. "I'm sorry I bothered you." I came to my feet so fiercely, the chair behind me clattered as it fell, I took a step backwards. "Take your people and go." I spat at the floor. "You disgust me. Asking for lousy payment. I thought you still were willing to fight for the good, to try and stop the evil. I'm sorry I was wrong. Don't come running to me when it is too late. If they reach Earth, then that means I couldn't stop them. But I'll die trying. I'll give my life if I have to. Alone if need be." I was so mad, I was trembling. Finally, I whispered, "I don't want to see you fuckers again, ever." I turned and ran full into Sally, who had crept up behind me, causing us both to stumble.

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