It's the morning after a night you wish you hadn't had.  All you can do is deal with it then keep moving and don't look back.



By:  M. J. Cogburn and C. E. Krawiec

rate the episode



Not until he walked through the doors and breathed in the tang of the salt air scented with some flower fragrance, did Vaughn allow himself to feel.  But it was too much for him and he ran blindly down a path and then kept running through the gardens, tripping and getting up, running and running until he couldn't run any further.  He had no idea how far he had run when he tripped over a nub of a tree root and went sprawling yet again, but this time he didn't try to get up.  He laid there, his bitter tears of regret and remorse soaking into the ground with only a few sea birds soaring lazily through the bright blue sky to hear him cry.


Vaughn had no idea, nor cared, how long he had lain on the ground, crying like a baby.  Only when there were no more tears to cry, and feeling totally drained, did he begin to acknowledge the day around him.  Still, he just lay there, face down on the ground, until at last the relentless heat beating down on him, as the sun climbed higher in the sky became the catalyst that forced him to move.


Getting to his feet, the leaper wiped his face on the sleeve of his shirt then made his way back.  He didn’t respond to any the door guards’ comments as he re-entered the complex; inside he didn’t have the strength nor care to answer them.  Instead he waited silently for the elevator, pushing the button for Level Five, the bachelor men’s quarters, but the elevator never got there.  As the doors of the elevator closed, Vaughn made a decision, and pressed the button for the second level.  When the elevator doors opened on the second level where the few restaurants, coffee shops, and the mall shops were located, Vaughn stepped off.


For a moment he looked at the people bustling about the mall concourse, many chatting and laughing as they went about their shopping.  As he stood there, he also sniffed the unmistakable aroma of food from the various restaurants also housed on this level as they gently scented the air.  He wasn’t hungry, nor was he thirsty but suddenly he wanted a drink.  No, he needed a drink.


Moving amongst the people going about their business, the leaper made his way along the length of one of the long main walk-ways then turned right and went to the next to last bar at the end and entered the One More Shot, also as known as “OMS” as nicked named by some of the regulars.  Without pausing to look around, Vaughn crossed the nearly empty low-lighted room to the bar.


At the sound of someone coming in, Shelly, the middle-aged barmaid who worked the late morning/early afternoon shift, looked up.  Seeing who it was, she greeted him as she continued polishing glasses.  ““Hey, Vaughn. You’re here a little early aren’t you, sugar?”


“Give me a shot.”


“Of what?” Shelly asked, still busily polishing.


Vaughn’s preferred drink was a Samuel Adams beer, but right now, he needed something stronger.  He wanted something that would numb the pain of grief and rejection tearing and eating at him inside.  Scanning the neatly arranged collection of liquor bottles arranged on the mirror-backed shelves behind the bar, he said, “Give me a shot of whiskey, whatever you’ve got.”


Shelly stopped in mid-polish of the glass in her hand then moved further behind the bar until she stood in front of the good-looking young man who was a fairly steady regular.  And the one thing she knew for a fact, Vaughn wasn’t a whiskey drinker.  He preferred his beer or the occasional mixed drink.  The hard stuff, straight, wasn’t his style.


“You want to talk about it?” she asked gently.


“All I want to talk about right now,” Vaughn said tightly. “Is you getting me what I asked for, and then keep them coming until I tell you to stop.”


“What’s up?” Milo Shimmelman, the bar owner asked, coming out of the back room.


Nodding at Vaughn she said, “Nothing... that I know of yet.”  Glancing at her employer, she added, “Vaughn just ordered a drink.”


“So give the man his beer,” Milo responded.


“Are you going to get me that drink, or do I have to go across the way to get it?” the leaper demanded.


Milo exchanged looks with Shelly even as he nodded at her.


Turning around, she scanned the bottles then selected one and poured a shot of Four Roses into a shot glass and placed it on the bar in front of the leaper.


“That’ll be four…dollars,” Shelly said, hesitating when Vaughn dug in his pocket and tossed three or four wadded twenty-dollar bills on the bar.  Before she could pick them up, she watched him pick up the glass and toss the drink back, grimacing as the liquor burned down his throat.






“I didn’t come in here to talk,” Vaughn said bluntly, a hard edge to his voice and attitude.  “I came in here to drink.  There’s the money…” he flicked a hand at the bills she held. “So either keep ‘em coming or give me my change and I’ll go somewhere else.”


Having been a bartender for the last thirty of his fifty-seven years, Milo had seen and heard more good and bad about people than any priest or psychiatrist that he knew.  And he had learned over the years that most of the time what the people who came into the bar to try to drink away anger or pain wanted, whether they realized it or not, was a sounding board, someone to listen.  Sometimes it worked.


Moving to the barmaid’s side, Milo slid a glance at her, giving her a subtle nod that said he would handle the situation.  Without a word, Shelly went back to what she had been doing a few minutes earlier.


Pouring yet another shot into the glass held out to him, Milo knew that the young man sitting at the bar and tossing back shot after shot of whiskey was trying to drown something.  He also knew that sooner or later Vaughn Rickar was going to want to talk.  This time, though, he was wrong.  After a half hour at the bar, the bartender watched the leaper wobble his way to one of the tables near the back of the bar, some of his drink sloshing onto the floor as he went, before he dropped into a chair.


Hour after hour passed. The afternoon slipped away, and still the leaper sat at the table in the shadows.  He ignored everything and everyone, except when Shelly or another barmaid approached every so often to replace an empty beer bottle with a fresh, cold brew.  Milo and Shelly and later, Angie and Sharon, had watched Vaughn clamber to his feet and stagger off to the men’s room several times.  After the third time they were all silently hoping, for his sake, that he’d turn wrong and stumble out the door.  Selling drinks was their work, but that didn’t mean that they liked watching someone hurting as badly as the leaper obviously was, continue to punish himself.  But though so drunk at that point that he could hardly stand, the leaper always found his way back to the table in the shadows.


It wasn’t until the early evening and the regular crowd began to drift in that Milo decided that even if the drunken leaper hadn’t caused any trouble or bothered anyone, that it was time he left.  To that end, when he saw a couple of Vaughn’s friends come in, Milo drew them aside.


“I don’t know what’s eating at him,” he said in a low voice. “But something damn sure is. He’s been here all day and hasn’t said six words to anybody.”  Glancing at the two men significantly, he said quietly, “What he needs isn’t in a bottle.”  The three of them paused to turn their gazes collectively across the bar now bustling with business and backlit with conversation, laughter and music to the lonely man slouched over a table and clutching a beer bottle.  It was almost a relief to the bartender when he saw the drunken leaper lift a hand to wipe clumsily at one cheek then the other a couple of times.  *It’s starting to come out* was his only thought.


Turning back to Vaughn’s friends Milo told them, “Get him outta here.”  Darting another look at the leaper, he suggested, “Take him topside.  He could probably use the fresh air.”


Going behind the bar, Milo moved to stand at the end of it nearest where Vaughn Rickar was sitting, close enough to lend assistance to the others should they need it.  He watched as Cody Whitman and Bob Edelsen used humor and a subtly firm attitude to convince their inebriated friend to go with them.  Between them, and another of their friends who happened to be on door duty at the main topside exit, the guys finally half guided, half-carried Vaughn out into the cool early evening air.


Bob and Cody talked to and over Vaughn as they moved along the garden paths, wondering when or if their friend would show some sign of capability of standing and walking on his own.  It took nearly an hour, but at last the cool air lightly scented with flowers seemed to have some bit of effect as the drunken leaper stumbled then caught himself.  They watched as he wobbled unsteadily as if about to fall, just managing to stay on his feet.


For Vaughn, the transit from the bar to top-level was hazy at best with most of his ability to remain vertical provided by a couple of friends whose faces he couldn’t quite make out through the alcoholic haze in his brain.  It wasn’t until he was walked through the doors and outside that the tang of the salt air was able to etch through the alcohol in his system to allow some of what he’d hoped to drown to make its way to the surface once more. 


“Lemme...go,” he slurred, pushing and swiping at the hands that reached for him when he almost fell.  “Lea-ve me a- alone.”


“Buddy boy...” Bob began as he took a step toward his friend then stopped when Vaughn sort of hollered and hiccupped, “No!” then turned and stumbled off down the path they had been walking.


Shaking his head a moment, Bob sighed then made to go after the drunken leaper; a hand on his arm halted him. He looked at Cody.


“Let him go,” Cody said, his gaze never having left his fleeing friend.   “Whatever it is, he’s gotta deal with it...alone.”


Without further comments, the two men watched their friend run, stumble, nearly falling as he continued along the softly lit garden path until he turned to one side and disappeared.  Another minute passed and then they returned inside the complex, pausing only long enough to tell the guards about Vaughn before returning to the bar.


Vaughn stumbled at first then slowly began to run through the gardens, tripping and getting up, running and running until he couldn't run any further.  He had no idea how far or to where he had run when he stumbled then went sprawling but he didn't try to get up.  Instead he lay there for the second time in less than twenty-four hours, as bitter sobs again wracked his body, tears of regret soaking into the ground beneath him.  Only a bright new moon hung in the star spattered night sky were witness as Vaughn Rickar, new Chief Leaper for Lothos, cried until at last his body could take no more punishment of any sort, and he passed out.





Feeling herself being lowered onto a soft place, Siren moaned lightly.  “Ohhh, I feel horrible.  Daddy?” she asked softly hoping that he was nearby.


“I’m here, dear heart,” Xavier murmured softly, stepping up to replace Mr. Conroy at her side.  Gently, he smoothed the hair from her forehead.  “You’re going to be fine,” he assured her.  “You’ve had a shot of Benadryl and I’m going to get you some Tylenol and then you are going to sleep.”  Xavier glanced up at the young man now standing up at the other side of the bed.


Straightening up, he met Mr. Conroy’s eyes.  “Get her undressed and under the blankets.  I’ll be back in a minute.”  He didn’t think that he needed to tell Mr. Conroy anything else other than that.


Siren nodded at her father’s words but then slowly and determinedly sat up on the bed.  “I… I can do it myself,” she said as she felt Trevor’s presence as he came back around the bed.  She reached to the buttons on her dress and tried to mess with one of them.  Flustered, she flung her hand back down to the mattress.  “I’ll just sleep in it,” she muttered to herself as she turned over and snuggled onto her pillow.


“No, you’re not,” Trevor told her gently and came back to her side, perched on the side of the bed and pulled her up into a sitting position.  He hoped that she didn’t remember how easily he managed to hold her with one hand while unfastening the buttons down the front of her dress without problem, but truth was that he had had practice with other girls and their buttons.


It took less than a minute to unbutton the dress and pull it over her head.  Only then did he let her curl up again, now only in her slip and underwear.  Standing up, he drew the blankets over her, just as Xavier returned with the medicine.


After Siren took the medicine, Trevor had the distinct non-pleasure of stripping to his shorts under Xavier’s watchful eye and then getting into bed next to Siren.


As much as he wanted to hold Siren, he refrained, instead turning onto his side away from her.  But before Xavier turned out the light, he felt Siren snuggled up against his back.  She was still there when he fell asleep a short while later.


Although the room was dark, Siren could feel that she was in her own bedroom and could also feel the warm body lying beside her in the bed.  What she could really and truly feel was the way that her head pounded and her whole body hurt.  She moaned lowly and moved closer to the warm body lying beside her.  Being cold and shivering wasn’t helping much, but just the heat from his body seemed to help as she wrapped her arm over his waist, and snuggled closer, desperately needing his warmth.


It was feeling Siren shivering against his back that drew Trevor out of a deep sleep.  For a moment, he just lay there, blinking slowly in the darkness until the fogginess in his mind cleared and he recognized what the shivering was.  The arm hugging his waist from behind was a giveaway too.


“You awake?” he whispered softly.  Hearing a muffled, “Uh huh,” he carefully turned over and almost instantly felt Siren hard against his body, her cheek against his chest.  She was still shivering, and she had her arms hugging her body even as she was in his arms.


Gathering her closer, he pulled the blankets higher around her, and held her a little closer.  Kissing her forehead he asked, “You feeling better?”


Siren drew in a shaky breath as Trevor wrapped his arms around her.  “Ohh yeah.  If feeling like a Mack truck ran you over… sure… much better.  If your head feels like… Mount Saint Helens about to explode… much better… and freezing to boot.”


Chuckling softly at her answer, Trevor began rubbing his hands up and down her back, knowing that it would generate a bit of warmth on her skin.  “Well, if this is your first head cold, you’re doing well if you feel this good,” he told her.  “But,” he went on to reassure her, “it only lasts a couple of days and you’ll be good as new.”  Trevor noticed that she had stopped shivering and was quiet, too.  “You okay?” he whispered against her hair.


Siren felt extremely odd, and as she moved toward him, she found that suddenly she couldn’t breath.  It was like someone had wrapped his or her arms tightly around not only her chest but her throat as well.  She gasped and lightly beat her hand against Trevor’s chest to get his attention.  She wanted to call out to him, tell that no, she wasn’t okay, far from it, but she couldn’t even draw a breath in to even speak.


For a moment, Trevor figured Siren was well enough to tease, so he didn’t pay attention to her breathing lightly on his chest.  But when the hits got harder, he looked down and saw the panic in her eyes as well as the way her lips were open slightly.


He focused his attention more on her face, as well as the hard, shallow gasps she was making.


“What is it, Siren?” he demanded scrabbling to sit up in bed, fumbling for the small bedside lamp.  Finding the switch, he flicked it and got a bad feeling from what he saw; Siren lying on the bed, her face and lips paling, her hands at her throat.


“Oh my God,” he gasped out.  Then, “XAVIER!” he bellowed at the top of his lungs.  “XAVIER!!! GET IN HERE!!!”  Trevor was not one to panic, but even the strongest person when faced with the unexpected can have a moment of anxiety or panic.  He had just had his and now, he turned to her and quickly but gently helped Siren to sit up, cradling her against him.  “Slow down,” he told her as calmly as he could.  “Breathe slowly.”


Xavier grumbled when he heard his name called, but when it was called a second time with such urgency, Xavier quickly grabbed at his robe and walked to Siren’s room.  “Mr. Conroy…” he began as he walked into the room and saw him cradling Siren in his arms.  “… why are you screaming…” but he didn’t get to finish when he saw how pale Siren was, her lips turning a pale shade of blue.  “What happened?  What’s going on?” he asked quickly as he walked over to the bed.  He sat down beside her on the bed and looked into her face, and shook his head.  He didn’t like how she was looking at all.  “Lothos, Dr. Hugen is needed in here for Siren.”


Lothos was aware of his daughter’s distress even before Xavier woke.  “He’s in the elevator now,” Lothos said into the room.  He focused on Mr. Conroy as he held and comforted and soothed his daughter.  “As for Mr. Conroy and Siren, they were not doing anything.  Mr. Conroy was holding her in his arms, at her behest, to warm her.  She awoke cold and turned to him for warmth.  That is all.” 


Siren barely took in a small breath the Trevor kept coaxing her to take and when she heard Lothos voice she closed her eyes.  ‘Oh God, please knock me out… anything to let me breath better,’ she thought to herself and finally tried to push away from Trevor to lay back down, but he wouldn’t let her.  Again, she gasped and just clung her him for support as she concentrated on breathing again.




When the fist hit his door the first time, Peter jumped out of bed.  The second time it hit the door, it knocked the door out of his hand and he jerked back.  The security guard was standing there out of breath and then Lothos voice booming in the corridor that Siren was having trouble breathing was all he needed to hear.


Turning back, he grabbed his robe and his medical bag and was past the guard and halfway to the elevator before the guard caught up to him. 


On the sixth floor, Peter tore down the hall to Xavier’s quarters and flung the door open. He’d been there a couple of times in the past. He followed the sound of distressed breathing to one of the bedrooms.


Siren’s color was definitely blue, but it was not quite yet to a shade that he considered dangerously alarming.  Going to the side of the bed, he pushed past Xavier and sat beside Siren and opened his medical bag before turning his full attention to her panic stricken eyes.


“I just can’t seem to get away from you today,” he said in a soft, calm tone as he visually checked her over.  Glancing at Trevor he asked firmly, “What happened?”

Siren grabbed at Trevor’s shoulder, digging her nails into his shoulder and gasped again as she glanced between the two of them before her eyes rolled back inside her head and passed out.


Trevor started to respond to Dr. Hugen, but Siren’s nails in his shoulder made him look at her and caught her as she went limp in his arms.  “Do something!” he almost shouted at the doctor.  “She can’t breathe!”


Taking out a vial and a syringe, Peter Hugen drew a dose of the medicine.  Swabbing the inside of Siren’s elbow that was closest to him, he slipped the needle into her vein and pressed the plunger slowly, steadily injecting the medicine.  Almost within seconds as they watched the color in her face slowed it’s rush to a darker shade of blue, and Siren finally took an easier breath.


“She’s going to be okay,” Dr. Hugen murmured quietly as he withdrew the needle and swabbed the injection site, his eyes flicking constantly from her arm to her face.  Putting away the syringe, he focused again on his patient.


Siren was breathing slowly but steadily, and her breathing pattern was starting to return to normal.  While she was still out, he pulled out a very small oxygen bottle and mask then fit it over her face.  Adjusting the flow for the smallest amount, he continued to watch her.  He knew that he wouldn’t be leaving until she woke.


“What do you think happened, Dr. Hugen? What would have caused her to have such a hard time breathing?” Xavier asked watching him as he put the oxygen mask on her.  “She was fine this morning before they went topside.”


“What?” Peter Hugen snapped his head up to meet Xavier’s.  “Siren was topside?”  To his nod, he then recalled how he’d phrased the question.  “Who was she with?”


“Me,” Trevor said without hesitation.  “We didn’t do anything except walk around inside the perimeter.  We picked some daisies, and got caught in a rain shower…”


Peter returned his focus to Xavier.  “Has Siren ever exhibited any signs of allergies before?”


Xavier shook his head as he looked at his daughter. “No.  You know how she is.  She tells me everything, but as far as I know, it was her first time to go topside.  I’m not positive on that, but… I think that I would know if she had allergies before.”


Xavier stepped toward Siren and lightly moved her hair from her forehead.  “Mr. Conroy, has she talked with you about being topside before?”


“She did mention that she’d never been topside her entire life,” Trevor offered the information freely.  “I thought she would enjoy getting out in the sunshine.”


Peter shook his head.  “I don’t know exactly what it is, but Siren was exhibiting classic symptoms of an allergic reaction to something.”  He glanced between the two men who were hovering over her.


Standing up, he made a decision.  Snapping his medical bag closed, he told him and Lothos, “Until I know what caused her episode, Siren is going into the infirmary where she can be monitored. And tomorrow morning, I’m going to run tests to find out just exactly what’s wrong – if it’s an allergy or what.”  Not waiting for a gurney to be sent, he instead handed the bag to Xavier then turned back to the bed.  Throwing the blankets back, he leaned down and scooped Siren from Trevor’s arms and headed for the door. 


They made an odd parade of sorts through the deserted halls:  three men in varying states of sleeping apparel, an unconscious woman in Peter Hugen’s arms, and the silence was almost stifling as the elevator descended to the infirmary.





Maxwell had finally cleaned out three of the many flowerbeds since he got up this morning and purposefully rushed out toward his job.  He enjoyed his job, not a question in that, but he also knew that the labor in of itself would help elevate some of the stress that he was feeling from talking with that uppity, snotty-nosed bitch as well as the holier than thou blonde security guard.  But both kept coming back to mind.  All that made him do was work harder, getting more scrapes and cuts on his arms and shoulders as he worked. 


When he heard Lothos summoning him to go to Ms. Z… Dr. Malvison’s quarters again, he cleared his throat and respectfully told him, “Yes, sir.”


Walking down the corridors again, and into the elevator, Maxwell finally got to Dr. Malvison’s quarters once again.  Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door and waited.


“Come in,” Zoë called out.  She had situated her chair so that she was facing the door as well as being near one of the chairs in her living room.  When the door opened and Maxwell Robinson came into the room, she noticed how he was even more sweaty and scratched up than before.  She quirked an eyebrow at him.  “Ever heard of showers?” she asked him with a bit of a smile as she indicated the chair where she wanted him to sit - the one closest to her.  Her quip at least got her a tiny smile from him, but he perched on the edge of the chair, looking like a bird ready to take flight.


Maxwell gently smiled at her.  He licked at his lips then said, “I’m sorry about my appearance, Ms. … Dr. Malvison.  I went to work early this morning.  I apologize.”  Knowing that she probably didn’t want to talk to him about his day, he asked, “Lothos said that you wanted to talk to me?”


“That’s one of the things that I’ve always liked about you, Max,” Zoë told him with a grin.  “You always come right to the point.”  After a moment, she continued, her tone a bit quieter but no less earnest. 


“I wanted to let you know that Tala is going to be fine, but more than that, I wanted to thank you for helping her.”  When he started to delicately brush her thanks aside, Zoë reached out and put a hand on one sweaty, scratched forearm.  “You don’t understand, Maxwell,” she told him as she gently squeezed his arm.  “You saved Tala’s life.”


Maxwell blinked at her in shock.  “I… I what?” he asked her softly.  “She… the medical technicians… said that she was going to be fine.”


Zoë didn’t want to confuse Max any more than necessary, so she briefly explained what Hugen had explained to them.  “So you see, Max,” she told him with a confident and grateful smile, “you saved Tala’s life.  And I can assure you that I and Tala’s father are both grateful beyond words for what you did.”  She paused, and then broached the next subject at hand.


“Tala asked me to bring you to her,” she told him, watching his face closely.  “She wants to thank you… personally.”


Max didn’t know what to say to her.  At the moment, all he could think of was how he had saved the woman’s life.  He had been a part of it.  Different feelings hit him at several times and finally, he nodded.  “Okay,” Max said to her.  Let Ms. Tala have her say, then I won’t have to talk to her again,’ he thought.


Zoë hadn’t realized that she’d been holding her breath until Max finally agreed to go with her to see Tala.  “Perhaps you’d like to shower before we go?” Zoë asked politely, but the look in his eyes told her that they needed to go now, or he might not go at all.


“All right,” she told him.  “Let’s go.”


Max opened the door for her and then walked beside her all the way to the elevators, then through the halls of the medical floor, but outside of Tala’s room he hesitated.  It was obvious that he was a bit uncomfortable with his appearance. Or was it something else?


“What is it, Maxwell?”


Max didn’t want to step into that room, and find himself face to face with that woman again and her convictions of him already.  “Oh…” he said lightly.  “I’m wondering if I should put on some steel plated armor first before I go into ward off the fire and brimstone about to come my way,” he told her bluntly.  But when Ms. Zoë looked at him with her eyebrow raised, he lifted one shoulder.  “Well, she did hit me good yesterday and I wasn’t prepared.  I thought maybe…” he grinned at her.


“That’s the Maxwell that I know,” Zoë grinned back at him. She motioned toward the door.  “Go ahead.  I’ll wait out here.  I’ll give you two a few minutes alone.”


From what Zoë could see, Maxwell looked as nervous as if it were his first date, but this meeting wasn’t about dating.  At least, not right now.  If all went well, perhaps it might lead to it, eventually.


Max walked into the room and what he saw startled him.  Seeing the IV, the oxygen mask, and the heart monitor string, as well as hearing the constant beep of the monitor itself, set in his mind how bad the situation had been.  He rubbed his hands together and he approached the bed and looked down at her face seeing her eyes closed. If she was asleep, he definitely didn’t want to disturb the rest she desperately needed.  He turned back to head toward the door, when he heard something murmured behind him, he turned back to find her eyes opened.  Swallowing hard, he nervously approached her once again and looked down at her.


Tala looked up at the man before her and was not sure how to tell him how grateful she was for saving her life.  Even though it hurt to raise her arms, she moved her right hand up to the mask to move it only for a moment but Maxwell’s hand quickly shot out and stopped her.  “Maxwell,” she said his name through the mask as she grabbed at his hand and captured it in hers.  She took in a slow shaky breath and looked him straight in the eye.  “Maxwell, thank you for…” she swallowed and took another shallow raged breath, “saving my life.  I don’t know how… to repay you.”  She was sincere in her words.  Although she was not one to show her tender ‘underbelly’ side to anyone, she was truly thankful to him and tears slowly started falling down the side of her face.


Max blinked at her and finally smiled at her as he reached out to wipe at the tears away from her face.  However, the words came out of his mouth before he had a chance to even think about what he was telling her.  “You surprise me, Tala.  Here I was expecting fire and brimstone, not a heartfelt thank you.”  It took a moment for his words to sink in for both of them and he clamped his mouth shut as he thought, ‘Idiot!  That was just great!  A simple you’re welcome would have sufficed.


Tala felt her anger shoot through her.  ‘How dare he say that?  Could he be that mean?  Seeing me hooked up to everything and not being able to draw in a decent breath into my lungs and he’s trying to pick a fight when all I said was thank you for saving my life?’  Her breathing rapidly increased as he anger did, which caused her heart rate to beat faster, the beeps of the machine even telling him that.  Her hands balled into fists at her side and she closed her eyes tightly as she pain again shot through her causing her to cringe. 




Quinton Sylvane smiled at the ladies as he made his way past the nurses’ station and down the hallway toward Tala Lothoman’s room.  Seeing Dr. Zoë Malvison outside of the room as well, he came up and greeted her cordially.  “Good morning,” he said to her with a smile.


“Good morning, Officer Sylvane,” Zoë said back to him. 


“Call me Quint, Dr. Malvison,” he said back with much respect toward the woman who was all business to him.  He glanced into the room to see Maxwell Robinson standing beside the bed.  “Is it okay for me to enter and see how Ms. Lothoman is doing this morning?” he asked plainly.


“By all means, Quint,” Zoë said with a smile.  “Go on in.”  Zoë was even more apt to having this stud muffin taking her daughter out as well.  From what she could see, he wasn’t short of anything in the gene pool either.


Quint opened the door and started in, a smile on his face as he approached the bed.  He was barely across the room when he saw Ms. Lothoman’s hands ball up into fists at her side, see her close her eyes and her body begin to cringe in pain.


“Oh God,” Tala barely said the words before her body convulsed and began thrashing around on the bed.


Rushing toward the side where Maxwell wasn’t, Quinton looked down at the lovely woman thrashing on the bed and recognized that she seemed to be in a seizure of some kind.  He wasn’t sure how quickly he did it, but he had his belt off in record time and swiped at her mouth, making sure that her tongue wasn’t laying back then folded his belt and put it between her teeth.  Bringing her toward him, Quint cradled her head in the crook of his arm making sure that she wouldn’t bang her head against the bed before he looked up at the young man across from him and demanded, “What the hell did you do to her?!”





It was a combination of things that finally dragged Chief Leaper Vaughn Rickar back to consciousness.  Perhaps it was the heavy shivering as a cool, damp breeze washed over him...a piercing shaft of sunlight in his eyes...and the sound of a man's voice speaking above him, the words he spoke seeming to echo endlessly in the leaper's head.


" been out here all night?  Get up and get outta here.  Some people have to work to earn their pay."


Groaning, Vaughn squeezed his eyes shut tightly, shielding them with one hand.  Putting his other hand down so he could push himself up to a sitting position, he frowned at the dampness under his hand and lifted his head a bit and peered at his hand.  Grass.


'What…' he wondered as he sat up, but as he did so the world around him tilted crazily and began to spin.  A coarse, raucous screaming high above his head made him wince visibly.  Foolishly - he realized a moment later - Vaughn lifted his head then tilted it back and peered up at the brilliant blue early morning sky then quickly ducked his head again, cursing the sea bird that was doing the screaming.


Wayne Dickens, Assistant Head Gardener of the grounds of Lothos' complex for the last six years, had discovered all sorts of things in the gardens from time to time.  In those years he had also found people in one garden or another doing some unusual things as well as some things better done behind the privacy of closed doors.  Now, eyeing the groggy, drunken man half sitting, half sprawled in a corner of the garden furthermost from the upper complex building as well as the one nearest the shore of the island, he suspected that this one had probably wandered in the night before and passed out.  But he didn't care about that.  What he cared about was keeping to the routine maintenance that was performed on each garden, and today, it was this one.  Lothos expected the grounds to be kept maintained and groomed, and he wasn't going to allow anyone, much less this man, to interfere.


Impatient for the man to leave, the fifty-something man reached down to grab the drunk by the front of his shirt and haul him to his feet, giving him a couple of teeth rattling shakes for good measure.


"I said get outta here," he bitched crossly.  "Or I'm dragging your ass to the security detail at the entrance."  Seeing the younger man drop his chin slightly as he appeared to hiccup, Wayne shook him again as he prepared to shove him away then dog him to the security detail he'd threatened.  It was one shake too many.


"Aw geezus!" he fumed when a drunken Vaughn Rickar lifted his head, his eyes widening as their gazes met in the split second before he vomited, spewing the contents of his stomach down the front of the gardener's shirt.  "Get away from me!" he shouted, shoving the still heaving man away from him then began stripping the soiled shirt off.  That done, there was nothing else to do but stand there and watch the younger man, on his hands and knees, puke.


As Vaughn emptied his stomach yet again onto the earth he had been so forcefully removed from, he felt about as low as a human could feel... almost. He had a small reprieve and his stomach seemed to calm for a moment and he moved his hands slightly.  It was a mistake.


Vaughn hadn't a chance to catch himself - he was already too close to the ground as it was; and then he was on it once more.  This time, though, he found himself in the midst of his own vomit.  He scrambled quickly to move, but he couldn't move quickly enough.


"Awww... damn... now, I'm gonna get...” Wayne turned slightly, his own stomach threatening to overwhelm him of the breakfast that he'd had.  Shifting his gaze away from Vaughn, he reached into his back pocket and grabbed the walkie-talkie.  "Security," he said plainly as he felt his own stomach rear back.  "Need someone here to get a drunk.  Garden Five... back lot."  He swallowed and blew out his breath and talked his stomach back down.  He was just glad that he was upwind from the smell.


Vaughn heard the man saying something into the device and frowned as he fumbled to turn over and sit up.  Stripping off the shirt that he had put on the previous night and using the back of it, he wiped at his face.  His head was throbbing and he knew that he'd probably get in trouble, but at the moment he didn't care.  He scooted clumsily away from the mess that he made then lay down on the ground once more,

and wishing for something that would make his stomach stop rising and falling like a wave in the ocean and for his head to quit pounding. 


For the gardener, hearing the sound of approaching footsteps a few minutes later and looking around to see two security officers headed his way was the best thing that had occurred since he'd clocked in a half hour ago.


"What's up, Wayne?" the older of the guards asked without a trace of joking in his voice or expression.


Waving a hand dismissively at the now half-undressed man laying face down on the ground beside the puddle of vomit he'd put there, Wayne snapped, "Everything in his stomach. Look," he showed the guards his shirt. "The s.o.b. puked on me."  Glancing at the prostrate man again, this time the gardener aimed a kick at the man's legs but missed.  "Just... get him out of here, guys."


Stepping back out of the way, he watched the guards manhandle the drunk to his feet, give him a chance to get his balance, or at least a semblance of it, then walked him away.


"He oughta get an hour in chains," he called out after them.  "And while you're at it, somebody oughta make him 'dance' at the end of a whip."


"Thanks, Wayne," the older guard called back. "We'll take care of it."


"Yeah," the gardener muttered as he waited until the threesome disappeared from view before turning to go to another entrance that lead to a maintenance room in the upper level to get the clean shirt he always left there for those unexpected accidents.  At the door he paused, glanced at the soiled shirt then tossed it in the nearby trash can and went inside to get the clean shirt then returned to the garden to get started on the day's work.




Johanna Royden's eyes opened for the umpteenth time since she was ordered to bed and glanced over at the clock, glad that it read seven thirty.  She sat up on her bed and stretched out her right arm as she yawned.  She swung her legs out to place them on the floor then slowly stood up.  She needed to get dressed, head back down to the infirmary to get the doctor to check her shoulder out then perhaps get some breakfast.  She stood up and went to her closet and peered in to see what she had that wasn't so tight that it would hurt her shoulder.  She found a sundress that only had one single strap and decided on it.


Going to the restroom, she stripped out of what she had slept in and carefully stepped into the shower and turned the water on.  She showered quickly and got out and dried off.  It took longer this time to get dressed than it had in the past just because no one was there to help. 


As she slid her feet into the sandals, her thoughts turned to Vaughn Rickar.  She wondered where he was and how he was faring with his parents.  She hoped that it hadn't gone too rough.


Not worrying with her hair or makeup, she walked out of her quarters and headed to the elevators.  She still was feeling the effects of the drug in her system and she favored the corner of the elevator until her stop at the infirmary.  Once there, she entered and went directly up to the nurse's station.


"Excuse me, please, Dr. Vanderweld needs to see if everything is fine with my shoulder and to see if I'm fit for duty," she replied softly.


The nurse, who looked at her, blinked and told her to have a seat before she put her down on the list to be seen.  After making the required notations on her roster, she left to go find Dr. Vanderweld.  He wasn't going to be happy. 


If she remembered correctly, he had told this same young woman to stay in bed, and yet she was out again.  She just hoped that he wasn't going to be mad at her for the leaper being in the infirmary.


Vickie rounded the corner and turned to look into the window where the doctors on duty were located.  Swallowing, she opened the door, and hesitantly said, "Dr. Vanderweld?"  When his attention came to hers, she winced.  "Johanna Royden is here to see you, sir.  She's...” Before she even began to tell him that she was sitting in the foyer, he had already passed her, his face heated and his footsteps pronounced.


After a well-earned day off and about nine hours sleep Kevin Vanderweld had come on duty in a reasonably good mood.  For once in the proverbial blue moon, it appeared that his shift was going to be more or less routine; a few patients in recovery, and a handful of walk-ins with minor problems; a sore throat that turned out to be tonsillitis, a woman with a broken arm and a cook that had scalded his arm.  Other than that, it was a good day.  So when he decided to sit down and catch up on some reports, Kevin figured he that he was sailing smoothly along; then Vickie Cheatham appeared at the office door.  As soon as he heard the name fall from her lips, Dr. Kevin Vanderweld was out of his chair and through the door almost before she could press back out of his way.  Rounding the corner where the examination rooms were, he glanced in two or three of the open doors but didn't see the injured leaper. 


"Where is she?" he demanded when he heard footsteps hurry up behind him.


"In the waiting area...."


Sweeping through the doors separating the examination area and the outer waiting area, the doctor saw the patient in question sitting quietly near another woman who was holding a small, crying child.  Rather than rake her over the coals in front of the other woman, thereby possibly frightening the obviously sick little boy, Kevin fixed Johanna with a cool if steely look.


"Inside," he clipped the word off, jerking his head at the double doors he'd just come through.  "Room One.  Now."  He noted that the leaper appeared to be rested and in reasonable control of whatever pain as she heeded his order.  Still, she had clearly disobeyed his orders of the night before.


Following Johanna back through the double doors and into Examination Room One, he paused to call back to Vickie for the leaper's chart; the nurse had rightly anticipated his request, and now stood by the door, in the hall, offering him the chart.  Kevin took it and closed the door.  He glanced at the unopened file then focused on Johanna.


"I gave you strict orders to stay in bed, Ms. Royden," he began, getting right to the point.  "That," he indicated her shoulder, " may not seem like a serious wound to you, but if you don't do as your told and give yourself time to heal, you're going to wind up exacerbating it.  If that happens," he warned her. "I'll order you into the infirmary and have you restrained there until that shoulder is healed.  I trust that what I've just said wasn't over your head?"  He paused then, opened the file glancing it over then placed it on the small desk near the door before turning back to her.  "Now explain why you're here instead of where I told you to stay."


Johanna understood every word that Dr. Vanderweld had told her and swallowed then took in a slow steadying breath.  "Dr. Vanderweld, I apologize.  Lothos and I..." Johanna paused then shook her head and started again.  "Lothos told me that before I could go back to work that I would need to be cleared with you.  I know that eight hours isn't enough time for anything to heal that quickly...” Johanna didn't miss the 'oh really' look that crossed his face.



Johanna looked down at her lap and took another steadying breath.  "I don't say it often, sir, but I do apologize for not listening."  She brought her head up for their eyes to meet and she blinked as their gaze locked and she stood.  "I'll go back to my quarters until you summon for me... that is unless you want me to report to the correctional facility, sir," at that, Johanna stood at attention and deemed that whatever fell on her shoulders... literally... was her own doing.


Kevin just stared at the leaper consideringly for a moment then said, "Sit down.  Since you're here, I might as well check your shoulder and change the bandage."  Glancing at the sundress, he went to the door and opened then called for the nurse.  When she appeared, he said, "Get her a gown." Glancing back at the leaper waiting quietly, he said, "I can't check her in that dress."  Leaving the room, he waited the couple of minutes until the exam room door opened again.


Going to Johanna, Kevin didn't waste any time pulling down the left shoulder of the gown and began removing the bandage.  His touch was gentle and the examination thorough.  "Well, lucky for you, there aren't any torn stitches and no sign of infection.  How's the pain?" he asked then paused to ask the nurse to get fresh bandaging material.


Johanna was able to keep her face bland through the whole procedure.  Most of her feelings she left up in her room with, she hoped, much of the guilt that she still felt for Melissa.  But when she focused on her shoulder, she said, "The pain is still there.  Not sure if it's some 'ghost' pain though from when the letter opener was still there.  But, it's not as bad as it was yesterday."  Johanna nodded slightly then added, "It hurts."  She wasn't sure exactly if she was talking about her shoulder, or her heart.


"It's going to hurt for a couple of weeks," he informed her.  Carefully he manipulated her arm, testing the movement and watching her reactions.  He noted that she winced a couple of times and gasped once but it was all within normal parameters of her type of injury.


"It appears to be healing well," he finally told her as he re-medicated the wound then applied a fresh dressing.  "As for you returning to work," he began firmly.  "The only duties I will clear you for - if necessary immediately - are desk duties or, at the most, observing."  Seeing a shadow cross her face, he stated flatly, "No leaping for you for at least...two weeks, and not a moment sooner."  Applying the last bit of tape in place, he said, "You can get dressed.  Keep that dry and report to the nurse once a day for a fresh bandage and so she can check the wound." Taking the syringe Nurse Cheatham held out to him, Dr. Vanderweld also took the alcohol swab from her.  Without further comment, he administered the shot to her.  Wiping the injection site, he gave the syringe back to the nurse to dispose of then turned back to Johanna.  Seeing her expression, he said, "Antibiotic." He gave her a significant look.  "I'm well aware of how some leapers deal with taking prescribed medications."  Stepping back, he staid, "You can go now, and heed my orders, Ms. Royden.  Next time, I will write you up for disobeying an order."


Johanna nodded to the doctor.  "Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir," she said respectfully then stood and held out a hand to the doctor before her.  He looked it at for a long moment then shook her hand before excusing himself and leaving the room.


Johanna immediately got dressed once more.  It still took some time, but she was starting to get better at not messing with her shoulder too much.  As she started back through the infirmary, she saw Dr. Vanderweld at the nurse's station and nodded respectfully at him then left the infirmary.


Getting to the elevator, she stepped in and was more than a little surprised when she reached for the button after the doors closed and the car shot up immediately.  She looked at the levels as they flew by and realized that someone had called it from one of the top floors.  A little flustered at the thought, she watched as the elevator went to ground level.  She sighed and pushed the button for the ladies’ level then stepped back into a corner and was ever so glad that she had.


Two guards and a miserable, smelly, and shirtless Vaughn Rickar stepped into the car with her.  Johanna blinked at the threesome and tried not to stare, but with a body as his, she couldn't help it and the conversation that they were having as they got in was enough to tell her what was going on.


"So... you decided to drink yourself loopy and out in the gardens?  Or were you already there, and just wandered out there and passed out?  Which is it, Mr. Rickar?"


"I...had a few...b-beers," Vaughn mumbled, leaning against the wall of the car, doing his damnedest to ignore the way his stomach was reacting to the smooth, rapid descent of the car.  "Guess I...passed ...out."  His stomach lurched and he swallowed, putting a hand to his stomach. "I...think...."


Jim Carstairs reached out and slapped the leaper's face sharply.  "Suck it up, mister," he snapped.  "You puke in here and you'll clean it up."


Vaughn swallowed again, wanting to do just what the man was saying.  Turning his head slightly he noticed the woman in the car with them, not remembering seeing her when he had gotten into the elevator.  Then he recognized her and turned away.  Bracing his forearms on the wall of the elevator, he laid his forehead against them and concentrated on breathing slowly and carefully.  He got a moment's respite when the elevator stopped and Johanna got off.  As the doors closed and the elevator continued its downward journey, Vaughn's greatest relief was that Johanna wasn't there to see him, or to question him about the why or what that had brought him to this moment.


"W-where are we going?" he managed to whisper just as the car began to slow then stopped.


Without batting an eye, the older guard replied, "Level Fourteen."  


Back To Top