Prologue: SAVING GIDEON
Galen knew that he shouldn't get any closer to this Matthew Gideon whom he had rescued from such a hopeless situation. He knew it, but he needed to touch Matthew, to feel him, to know he was all right. He had to know he had chosen right instead of wrong to serve. He moved closer to Gideon. The man had removed the EVA suit and was dressed in standard issue pants and T-shirt. Galen touched Matthew's arm, startling him. He was so cold. Galen's tech kept him way too warm to even think about being cold, but this was almost like a dead man's arm. Gideon must have suffered some hypothermia in the time he was waiting for his air to run out, waiting to be left to die.
"I'm so cold," Matthew said. Galen knew his own body heat was probably the best way to warm Gideon up. His own skin was always warm, and he could make himself even warmer if need be with his tech. Galen began removing his clothing.
"Don't be frightened, Matthew. Body heat is the best way to fight the cold. We'll just snuggle under some blankets until you're warm. You must have gotten hypothermia
Once down to his underwear, the Technomage helped Matthew remove his clothing, until the man wore nothing but his briefs. Galen got a thick blanket and guided the tired, confused man to his bed. Matthew lay down and Galen lay down beside him, partially covering Matthew with his body and pulling the blankets around them as he put his arms around Gideon. Galen rubbed cold arms and shoulders, and used his tech to make them even warmer. Soon the chilly skin was feeling more human, and the blue was passing from Gideon's lips. Galen held him until Gideon's even breathing and warm skin told him that the man was finally asleep. Galen was tired too. Soon he felt himself drifting…
Galen awakened to the feel of something touching his cheek, no, something kissing his cheek! He opened his eyes to see a pair of hazel-brown eyes gazing into his wide blue ones. Matthew kissed Galen's cheek again. Then, without a word, he touched his lips gently to Galen's. The Technomage was shocked and, much to his own surprise, very excited by Matthew's kisses. His excitement rose considerably when Matthew slid his tongue into Galen's mouth. Galen felt his skin grow warm when Matthew explored the inside of his mouth and then Matthew's right hand began slowly caressing Galen's shoulder, his chest, his ribcage, and lower to his belly.
Galen gasped as Matthew slid his hand below his belly, inside Galen's underwear, running his fingers through Galen's hair. The Technomage was glad he had let his body hair grow back in. He would have been embarrassed to be hairless like a boy.
He lifted his hips as Gideon slid his underwear down. All coherent thought left Galen's mind when Gideon closed his hand around Galen's swiftly hardening penis. Gideon stroked him slowly, as he kissed Galen over and over. Only Isabelle had ever been so physically close to Galen.
Galen was shivering when Gideon began to kiss his way down his body, kissing his chest, his belly, down until Galen almost came when he felt Matthew's tongue touch his cock. The Technomage took a deep breath to bring himself under control. It helped a little, not a lot! Matthew began to suck him, taking him into his mouth and driving him crazy with his tongue. Gideon sucked hard and fast until Galen was so close, then changed his pace to slow and deep. Galen exploded into Gideon's mouth. For a few seconds, Galen forgot everything but Matthew, who didn't stop until Galen was still and finished.
When Galen was able to speak again, he asked, "Why?"
"I needed…" Gideon paused to think about what he was going to say, "I need to be alive. I need to feel another person. I just need…."
Galen's gaze slid down to Matthew's naked body. At some point, Matthew had gotten out of his underwear and was naked and very erect. Galen leaned forward to touch him, exposing his back to Gideon.
"What?" Galen had forgotten. He looked at Matthew. Matthew's hazel-brown eyes were wide with shock. He was staring at Galen's implants. "What are they? What are you?"
"I am a Technomage. Those are my implants."
Matthew looked as if he was in deep thought, and then he looked Galen in the eye and said, "Man, I'll bet you have to beat the chicks off with a stick."
Galen smiled and kissed Gideon. Gideon took Galen's long fingered hand and slid it down his belly to his rigid cock. Galen touched him. He loved the smooth hard feel of him. He felt himself drawn to taste Matthew. He too needed… to be alive right now, to please this lost man who needed him. He tasted Gideon, slowly, deliberately, savoring the scents and tastes of his body. He licked the tiny clear drops of precum from Gideon's head, stroking him with his hand until another drop appeared, then licking it up. Gideon's body was a bit hairier than his own and he enjoyed running his hands over the course hair on Gideon's chest and down his belly. By the time he finally took Matthew into his mouth entirely, Matthew was so close that he arched his back and immediately filled Galen's mouth with his hot liquid. Galen sucked him until he was dry and spent.
The Technomage moved to put his head on Gideon's left shoulder where he could hear the strong, even thud of Matthew's heart beating. Then he put his arm across Matthew and closed his eyes….
Ten Years Later
Galen stood on the deck of his small ship and stared at the crystal in his hand. What he saw there was the one person he loved more than any living being and the one thing he feared and hated more than anything else in the universe.
Matthew Gideon asked the glowing box where they should go next. It gave him a destination, another dead world that Galen knew they should avoid. It spoke in Gideon's own voice now. Galen cringed at the sound of it telling Matthew yet again "Do not trust Galen." Matthew still trusted him though. The Box hadn't come to control Matthew yet. The Captain was a strong man with an iron will. Galen wondered if Matthew had any memory of that cold night when the Technomage had saved him from death so many years ago. The image was as clear in his own mind as if it had been this morning:
Galen had awakened to the feel of something touching his cheek, no, something
kissing his cheek! He opened his eyes to see a pair of hazel-brown eyes gazing into
his wide blue ones. Matthew kissed Galen's cheek again. Then, without a word, he
touched his lips gently to Galen's.
Galen put the thought away. As usual, it was too intense for him to think about. He had fallen hopelessly and helplessly in love with the man who he had saved that night. He had never been able to put Ensign Gideon out of his mind.
Galen's mind drifted back again as Matthew locked the closet that held the box and flopped down in his chair. He had been so surprised by the kisses, and yet, he had needed them so badly. Losing Isabelle had almost destroyed him and had unleashed a violence in him that he would never have believed possible. That slender cold young man had offered him redemption, and Gideon never even knew it.
All the Ensign knew was that he was cold and had almost died and he needed to feel alive…
Galen had loved only a few people in his life, his parents, Elric, Isabelle and Matthew. Matthew was the only one still left. Galen's parents had died when he was a child and Elric had become father and mother to him. Isabelle was his heart and his soul. When she had been murdered, he had lost both. Matthew had been his redemption, and Galen loved him for that. Loving Isabelle had been a spiritual love as well as physical. Loving Matthew was about need, both a physical need and something more, a need to be accepted and forgiven. Though Matthew didn't even know it, the two of them needed each other.
Abruptly, Galen tucked the crystal back into his cloak and said, "Open, ship."
He strode down the ramp and made his way to Matthew's quarters. Perhaps it was time to save Matthew again.
"Hello, Galen. I see you're back."
"How observant, Matthew. I trust you haven't gone and found the cure while I was away. I'd hate to miss the fun."
Matthew raised his eyebrow at Galen.
"In a bad mood, are we?"
"No, not really. Just pensive, Matthew. Do you remember when I picked you up all those years ago?"
"Not a lot. Just vague things here and there mostly. I didn't remember any of it until we met the first time to talk."
"What do you remember?"
"Everything that happened before you picked me up runs around and around in my head like a bad vid. After that, it's fuzzy… I remember you saying you were Galen. I remember being so cold, shivering; I was so cold. It's just a feeling here and there. I know when you dropped me off, I didn't even remember you."
"You were scared, and you had suffered from hypothermia. I couldn't get you to stop shaking. I was afraid you were going to die on me. I couldn't let you. I warmed you."
"You held me and made me warm somehow…"
"Well, the tech has its uses…"
Matthew blushed and said nothing. Galen knew he was remembering what had happened after he was warm.
"My God, Galen!"
Galen just stood and said nothing, more frightened than he had been in a long time at what Matthew might say. Galen knew that Matthew could break his heart with a word. Matthew got up and moved closer to Galen. He still said nothing as he looked at the Technomage. He reached one hand up and gently touched Galen's face. Galen still couldn't move.
"I remember…" Matthew whispered. He gazed into space as if seeing the past.
"I..." Galen started to speak.
"I kissed you, touched you, more than that. You let me do anything I wanted. I showed you what I wanted from you. You had been so sure of yourself… but you weren't then."
"I had never been with but one person. I am not good at intimacy, Matthew."
Matthew looked into Galen's face. Galen stopped breathing. If he could have, he'd have willed his heart to stop, too. Blood roared in his ears as Matthew stood so close. He could smell Matthew's scent, a scent that had haunted his dreams for almost ten years. He remembered being covered in the scent and taste of Matthew.
He said nothing, didn't move. Matthew caressed his cheek.
Galen wished he were a teep. He wanted to know what Matthew was thinking. He was too afraid to ask. He didn't even dare to hope that Matthew could love him back. Matthew slid his hand to the back of Galen's head and pulled Galen's mouth down to his own. The kiss was gentle, loving. Galen returned it but otherwise, didn't move a muscle.
"There hasn't been anyone since me, has there? You've watched over me and protected me, haven't you?" Matthew spoke in a voice so low that Galen could barely hear it.
"Yes. I wanted to protect you. Had I not found you, I would have died of grief. And no, Matthew, there's been no one else."
Matthew kissed Galen again. This time his tongue plunged into Galen's mouth. Galen accepted it, sucking and licking it, as he slowly put his arms around Matthew. He knew Matthew would feel how hard he was but he didn't care.
"Galen, I don't know what I have to offer you. No more than I did then, I'm afraid."
"Matthew, you will never know what you gave to me." Galen took Matthew's arms and placed them down by his side. He kissed Matthew gently and turned to go.
"Wait," Matthew said simply.
"I mu-" Matthew took the Technomage into his arms and kissed him hard and hungry this time. His hands ran over Galen, touching leather pants, sliding inside Galen's shirt to tease a nipple. Galen gasped in surprise and in pleasure as Matthew bit the tip of his tongue. Matthew's hands explored and then began to undress Galen. Galen shook as his lover did the things he had dreamed about for ten years. Matthew kissed his mouth again and again and then explored his body with his mouth, nibbling here, licking there, until he was on his knees in front of Galen. Galen groaned as Matthew touched him with his tongue. As he had done ten years before, he almost came at the feel of Matthew's wet tongue. He felt tears run down his face.
Then he was lost in pleasure as Matthew took him into his mouth.
All the denied pleasure of ten years came crashing into him. He was momentarily embarrassed by his lack of control, then gave in and moaned Matthew's name as he filled his mouth. Matthew took all he gave. When Galen stood still and spent, Matthew stood and kissed his mouth again. He turned and walked to his bedroom. Galen followed wordlessly. He knew that he would do anything Matthew asked of him.
Galen trembled as he followed Matthew. He could feel that monstrous Box in here in Matthew's quarters! It gave off a murky presence, like a malevolent shadow in the room. His own lust for Matthew was stronger at this particular moment in time. He knew what Matthew would do to him. He wanted it so badly, more than anything he had ever wanted, except for Isabelle to live. Since he was already undressed, he watched Matthew remove his clothes. He wanted to help but couldn't seem to move. Matthew was deceptively muscular. He looked like a slim kid still but he wasn't. He was wiry, all muscle, not an ounce of fat. Matthew looked into Galen's eyes as he unzipped his pants and slid them down. Galen's gaze slid down to Gideon's rock hard cock.
"Touch me," Matthew demanded as he stepped closer to Galen. The Technomage took Matthew into his hand. His skin was smooth and satiny, stretched over steel.
Matthew gasped as Galen leaned down to taste the precum forming on his head. The Technomage's tongue was hot and wet as its tip teased Matthew. Matthew saw more in Galen's eyes than lust, but he wanted what Galen was offering so badly right now that he chose to ignore it. All he wanted was to ease this need! He wanted to bury himself deep inside his friend, and he wanted it now.
Galen seemed to sense this. He lay down on Gideon's bed, waiting for Matthew to tell him what he wanted. Matthew said nothing, just motioned for Galen to turn onto his stomach. He put a pillow under Galen's belly and grabbed something from his drawer. He rubbed the exotic oil onto Galen, sliding a finger inside. Matthew was breathing as hard as Galen was. He moved up beside Galen so he could kiss him, still with his finger inside. He looked down at the rows of implants on Galen's back He knew he had to touch them. They were as warm as Galen's skin, just hard and unyielding, yet not quite machine. Matthew rubbed the skin around them, then found himself kissing the implants, his tongue snaking out and touching Galen's pale skin.
Galen breathed in sharply as Matthew got back up on his knees and moved behind him. Galen opened his legs to give Matthew room. Matthew positioned himself with his head pressing against Galen. He pushed gently, but Galen was having none of it. He pushed back against Matthew, taking him into his body. Matthew wanted to stay still but he couldn't. He began moving, slowly then faster and faster, until he was rocking the bed.
Galen had slid his hand under his body to touch himself. He never expected that having Matthew inside him would actually be so pleasurable. He had known that pleasing Matthew would be.
Matthew whispered Galen's name as he came, filling Galen with his hot fluid as well as pleasure, as Galen brought himself over the edge too. Both men lay still afterwards, Matthew holding Galen, kissing his brow, running a hand over Galen's face.
During the night, Matthew made love to Galen again, a gentle slow love this time. Galen lay awake for hours afterward. He had never felt such passion, not even with Isabelle. With her, it had been a meeting of minds as well as bodies. With Matthew, it was so intensely physical. He had no idea what Matthew was thinking. He just knew he loved him and needed him.
Captain's Journal, entry 246
Today has been one HELL of a day! I'm still reeling over what happened. Today was busy. We finished our search at this location and are now setting course for the next one. I guess I should go ahead and get to the important stuff. The day-to-day stuff is in the log. I keep telling myself I'll stop listening to that damned Box! But I listen to it anyway! It sounds like me now! NO idea why! It gives me a location and I can't seem to ignore it. It tells me not to trust Galen and that I can ignore. Galen has never given my any reason to distrust him… the Well of Forever maybe, but after Galen told me why, I understood.
It calls me though at night sometimes. You know how sometimes you think you hear someone call your name? Well, the Box calls me that way. I sometimes wonder at the way I won the Box. Was it chance, or did the damned thing choose me on purpose? Why was the guy so anxious to die? I try to put this stuff in the back of my mind… but sometimes… well, it insists that I listen.
Today, I asked the Box where we should go after this next destination. It told me some planet out on the deep range, where no one has been in God knows how many centuries. Then Galen shows up, almost as if he knew I'd been consulting the Box.
Galen asked me about what I remembered from ten years ago. Holy Mother of God, what I remembered! Galen had warmed me, and I had seduced him! The memories all came flooding back to me! He turned to go, and I found myself doing the same thing again. I was on my knees in front of him. Then I made a fucking pig out of myself and took him to my bedroom and had him, not once but twice. How could I be so stupid? And the way he looked at me. I think he's -well, I can't be sure but I think he may in love with me!
Galen was gone with the morning. He knew he had to go somewhere else, so he could think clearly. He had to find out about that Box and find out how to destroy it. He had felt its evil, its possessiveness even as he and Matthew had made love. It would not suffer him to be around Matthew for very much longer, and he knew it sought to control Matthew, he just didn't know to what end. Galen only knew he must find out and try to destroy it and save Matthew. He couldn't let Matthew be hurt by this thing.
He had not been able to save Isabelle. He would not fail Matthew.
Galen left Matthew a small message on his computer:
"I have some business to attend to, Matthew. I shall be back as soon as I am able.
Please do be careful. I have grown quite fond of my stray cat."
The Technomage flew to a site he knew to contain vast banks of information, almost like the old libraries at Alexandria in ancient Egypt on Earth. He looked up all possible references and actually found some promising leads, but he needed to talk to another Technomage. Perhaps he could find Alwyn. Alwyn was still out there somewhere, with his booming voice and his golden dragons. Galen smiled at the thought. He missed his order. He had his ship send out a message to Alwyn. Galen set about studying what he found. As best as he could tell, an evil box of great power had been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It seemed to originate on Earth and appeared only to use humans. Its source was not revealed or even hinted at. It seemed Galen had much drudgework to get through all this information. He hoped Alwyn would contact him soon to help or at least advise him. Everything depended on his being able to free Matthew from this monster. It was going to be a tough struggle. He had nothing to lose though, except Matthew.
Back on the Excalibur, Captain Gideon led his crew to yet another dead world, one that his Box had told him to check. It was a hot jungle planet. At one time, it had been teeming with animal life, but now it was covered in vegetation so thick as to be menacing. All animal life was gone. It took days of cutting through the jungle just to reach the ruins of the only city that seemed to have ever existed on this planet.
Everyone was on edge. They all seemed to be wary of yet another dangerous wild goose chase. Matheson knew that their information was not coming from the Rangers, but he didn't know where it was coming from. He was detecting some small differences in the Captain's behavior too. It was tempting to scan Matthew to find out what was going on, but John couldn't bring himself to violate Matthew in that way. Everything that had happened since Galen left confused John. The Captain was making loyalty hard with his actions, and that hurt John more than he could tell anyone. He respected Matthew Gideon more than anyone else he had ever met, and to see the man he idolized act in such an inconsistent way was making him question everything he believed.
They found nothing in the city, nothing at all, as if the people had just packed up and left, taking everything they owned with them. Max was angry that Gideon had wasted their time. He was also angry that Dureena had cut herself on a sharp plant spike, and Sarah was having a hard time treating the thief's wound. It was causing Dureena to run a high fever, and she was delirious. Matheson thought that Gideon seemed much too unconcerned. It wasn't like his Captain to seem so disinterested in the welfare of his team. This was the Captain who never left anyone behind.
Max spoke to Matheson.
"Can't you talk to him, Lieutenant?"
"Mr. Eilerson, I've tried. He brushes me off or cuts me off." John had attempted to talk
to the Captain only to be snapped at. It hurt to know Matthew didn't seem to trust him anymore.
"Perhaps you should contact someone over his head."
"He is my commanding officer and a friend, Mr. Eilerson. I can't do that yet." How much longer COULD he wait? He had responsibility to the crew as much as to Gideon.
"I hate to say this but we need Galen."
For once, Matheson agreed with the xenoarchaeologist.
Galen scanned data crystals and read ancient tomes. He was getting nowhere fast and needed help, but who was going to help him? It had been days, and he hadn't heard from Alwyn. He didn't even know if his old friend still lived. Galen boarded his ship and sat down to rest his eyes. He was so tired, and he missed Matthew. He sat there for a while, before he saw the blinking light that indicated he had a message.
A booming voice jumped out at him from the crystal ball he held in his hand.
"Galen, my boy! There you are!"
"Alwyn! Good to know you're still among the living!"
"Your message sounded rather urgent, my boy."
"I've encountered something that I have no clue what to do about," Galen admitted with reluctance.
"I assume this something is dangerous?"
"I think that would be a safe assumption, Alwyn."
Galen told Alwyn about the box. The older Technomage paled as Galen talked.
"What do you know of the box?" Alwyn finally asked Galen.
"Very little. A few vague references here and there are about it."
"I'll tell you all I know, but none of it is good, my boy. I'll be there in a few hours. Make some tea and sandwiches, and do take the crusts off. I have a lot to tell you."
Dureena was finally responding to some antitoxin Sarah had made after going back down to the planet with Eilerson and Matheson. Max was sitting with her. This had surprised Sarah, but one never knew with Max. She was angry that Gideon didn't seem concerned about Dureena. It was out of character for him, as had been much of his recent behavior. She wished Galen would come back. She knew she had not always had a good relationship with Galen, but Matt had always seemed relieved to have him around.
Max sat by Dureena and got angrier and angrier. The Captain had needlessly risked all their lives for nothing! And Sarah had been forced to go down to that dreadful planet again to save Dureena.
Dureena opened her eyes and looked at him.
"What?" She started to get up and fell back, too weak to sit up quite yet.
"It's okay. You're going to be fine." Max patted Dureena's arm and she looked at him as if he were totally insane. Max continued, "You got a fever from some plant down on the planet. Sarah had to go back to find a antidote for the toxin."
"Why are you here?"
Sarah walked in before Max could answer and said, "He hasn't left your side since you fainted in the cafeteria three days ago."
"Max? This Max?" Dureena looked at Max as if he were a large pile of dirt sitting beside her. He didn't let go of the hand he held.
"Is she well enough to leave here?" Max wanted to take care of Dureena. He had always wanted her but seeing her injured had made him realize that it was much more than just lust. He needed to see to her safety.
"Not yet, Max. She's too weak to even walk."
"What if she had someone to take care of her?" Max asked.
"Well, I would consider that. I do need the beds for the diggers who were injured this morning when that small cave fell in."
A new day had brought another dangerous, useless planet to explore, and some of the ground crew had been injured. Everyone was getting nervous, and some were downright scared. Sarah offered no encouraging words, because she didn't seem to understand Gideon herself.
"Dureena, I'm taking you to my quarters. I can take care of you there," Max said.
"No," was her one word answer, but Max paid no attention and within twenty minutes, he had installed her in his bed, given her one of his shirts for a nightgown, and pulled lots of pillows and blankets around her. He had made her some tea and found some soup for her in the cafeteria. Dureena looked angry, but when Max wasn't looking she snuggled down into the warm blankets and promptly fell asleep. Max slid in the bed beside her and put his arms around her. He too was asleep within minutes.
Alwyn arrived in three hours. He took the offered tea and sat down opposite Galen. Alwyn still had not said one word since entering Galen's ship. The younger Technomage was used to the older man's odd ways, and he knew that this was not unusual for Alwyn. He had to be tired after his journey, and if Galen wasn't wrong, Alwyn was also burdened by the news he was about to impart.
"What do you know of the Apocalypse Box?" Alwyn asked.
"It's evil, it hates me and it isn't made from any Shadow technology as I can't hear it speak."
"No… it's older than the Shadows or Vorlons, maybe as old as the Old Ones. I don't know WHERE it came from, no one does, but it seems to find a home for its evil purposes among humans. What that says about us, I don't know."
"I sometimes forget that I am human, Alwyn. I think I've always considered myself a Technomage first, never even thinking about being human. Until recently, anyway. That has changed."
"Why has it changed?" Alwyn asked.
"Your friend seems like a sensible man," Alwyn said, remembering the young man he had met once before
"He is but he has the Box, or should I say that it has him." Galen almost choked on the words.
"I thought as much." It was just like Alwyn to know everything. "Gideon is more than a friend to you. Yes?"
Galen actually blushed.
"And does he feel the same way about you?"
"I don't know, and it doesn't really matter. I would destroy the Box even if Matthew hated me for it. It is very evil, and Matthew is a man who is entrusted with a mission so vital to the survival of Earth, that he must not be stopped."
"Very well, then. We shall find a way."
The two Technomages talked for hours about the Box. It had belonged to many famous and infamous humans throughout history. Alexander the Great had owned the Box, but had lost or gotten rid of it months before his death. So had Hitler. Ted Bundy had the Box for a few short months. Charles Manson had used the Box to tell his followers what to do; he had proven more evil than the Box. Arthur Molder had owned the Box when he killed 40,000 humans and aliens in his forty odd years as the Space Bomber, who had terrorized jump gates and cities all over the civilized galaxy. He had been caught when he lost the Box to some unknown gambler on Praxis 9. It was possible that this was the man who lost the Box to Matthew Gideon, star ship Captain and general troublemaker.
What did the Box want with Matthew Gideon? The Excalibur was one of the most powerful ships in the galaxy. It had free passage almost anywhere. It carried the fate of the whole human race in its mission. It also had Galen, a creature made of Shadow and Light, not wholly human but never wholly Shadow. Galen carried within him a great power that few knew he possessed. Matthew had no clue. Did the Box know? Was that why it hated the Technomage so much? There were many more questions than answers as morning dawned on the strange planet.
Max woke up with a sleeping Dureena in his arms. He smiled to himself. He could get used to this. He figured Dureena would punch him out when she woke up, so he just lay there for a while, enjoying her small warm body and also enjoying indulging in some very Max-like fantasies.
Dureena stirred in her sleep and moved into a position almost on top of him. Her leg lay against his rapidly hardening cock. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him, never opening her eyes. Max kissed her back, wishing she even knew it was him. She slid her small hands into his pants and touched him. He groaned. He wanted her so badly, had for a long, long time. BUT she didn't know she was touching him. Dureena probably thought it was someone she loved before. Max tried to disengage from her, but she wouldn't let him. As she unbuttoned the shirt he had put on her, she opened her eyes and smiled.
"I knew it was you all along, Max."
Without another word, she moved all the way of top of him and slid her body down onto him. Max groaned as she rode him. It was a gentle lovemaking. Dureena rode him as if he were precious to her, and he loved her, as he had always wanted to. They pleasured each other like they had no one else. Max whispered her name as he came into her already shuddering body. She spoke to him in her native language, sweet love words for which he needed no translation.
Max knew that he would never allow Gideon or anyone else to hurt Dureena again. She had suffered enough pain and loneliness in her life. He understood those things all too well. He held her as she feel asleep again, and then drifted off himself.
Captain's Journal, entry 248
I don't know what's wrong. The Box has started talking to me all the time… since Galen left or maybe since I fucked him. The whole fucking crew is mad at me because Dureena fell and stuck a briar in her damned arm! I am about ready to space the whole lot of them! Even John is being sneaky… but I can't tell what the fuck he's doing! I'm going to let Galen have it if he ever gets back here!
Galen's little ship docked. Matheson was there to meet him, followed by Max, Sarah and Dureena. They all started talking at once. He noticed who was absent from his welcoming party.
He held a hand up. "One at a time, please. I might be a magician but I still have only two ears."
"It's Matthew," Matheson said.
Galen felt his heart lurch. Was Gideon all right?
"He's crazy," Max said.
"Reckless," from Sara.
"Not Matthew anymore," from Dureena.
The last statement gave Galen a chill. He had feared that this is what he would return
to. The Box would not tolerate Galen and his love for Matthew to interfere with its goals, whatever they were. Galen had hoped he would not have to fight this thing. It appeared that his hopes were in vain. This mission and all that it would accomplish AND unveil were much more important than his own fears.
He went in search of Matthew and found him in his quarters. Matthew was lying in his bunk with his eyes closed as if he were listening to something, but the room was silent. Galen felt the malevolence of the Box more strongly this time.
"Matthew, I have returned."
"Well. Well. So I see."
"How are things?"
"I missed you, Galen." Matthew's eyes were cold and hard. Galen could not find the
man he knew inside that icy shell. It didn't matter. Galen knew what he had to do. Matthew got up and went to Galen, grabbed him, kissed him hard and began tugging his clothes off. Galen returned the fiery kiss, pulling at Matthew's clothes in turn. He told himself it was to save Matthew that he did this, but a part of him knew that this was for himself too. He wanted to feel those hands and that mouth touch him, wanted to feel Matthew buried deep inside him. There was very little need for foreplay. Both men were ready as soon as the last garment fell to the floor. Matthew pushed Galen toward the bed. When Galen was on all fours in front of him, Gideon entered him. The only lubrication he used was his own precum. The pain was quite intense. Matthew was no small man and the passage was small and tight. Galen gasped when he felt Matthew's hand underneath him, roughly stroking him. His hands gripped the sheets as Matthew murmured to him.
"You are mine, Galen."
"Yes, Matthew, I am."
Much later, the Captain leaned down over Galen, forcing himself deeper and kissing between the rows of black implants. Matthew bit the tender white skin as his own orgasm hit him. Galen cried out in pain and ecstasy as his own body found its release. The two men collapsed onto the bed, saying nothing. This was the gentlest that Matthew treated him all night. Matthew took him again and again, until both of them were bloody and bruised and totally exhausted. Galen knew it was the Box, but it didn't lessen his pain. He also knew his Matthew was in there, watching, maybe even helping the Box. He submitted to all that Matthew dished out and dished out a bit of his own, and when Matthew finally dozed from exhaustion, Galen got up. He got his clothes and dressed then he reached inside his cloak and took leather cuffs out and tied Matthew hand and foot to the bed. Matthew didn't wake.
Galen called Max.
"You may come to Matthew's quarters and let him go when I contact you again or in three standard hours, whichever comes first. I will be down on the planet."
He went to the hidden cabinet and cast a spell. The door opened, and there it was. The Apocalypse Box. The Technomage felt revulsion just standing this close to it. But he had to finish this job. He had to save Matthew. Galen cast another spell and picked up the Box. It was hot, almost hot enough that he couldn't touch it, but he did anyway. He had felt pain before. He could do this… he MUST do this! The Box actually cooled down. Galen took it to his ship, which had been programmed to destroy itself if the Box tried to interfere with his instructions once they had cleared the Excalibur.
They flew down to the planet below. He moved the box out into an open place and set it on the ground. It gave off a golden glow as it sat there.
"Galen," it hissed Matthew Gideon's voice.
"What do you want, you filthy abomination?"
It laughed at him.
"You are the abomination, Technomage."
Galen knew he would be lost if he listened to it.
"I can offer you much, Technomage."
"You can offer me nothing."
"I can offer what you want most."
"What is that?"
"The captain of the Excalibur."
"Leave Matthew out of this."
"So he is your weakness." It laughed again.
Galen was getting angry, and he knew his anger would be what he needed to destroy this horrible thing!
"You are his toy, Technomage?"
"No. I am his friend."
It laughed yet again, a horrible, ugly sound.
Galen knew it was time. He had no further time to waste, and the more it talked, the weaker he felt. It was sucking the energy out of him somehow. He thought about Matthew, about the strong, moral man he loved. He thought about Isabelle and felt the rage in him grow. He began to do his equations… to draw the massive destructive power that was his creators' gift, to form it into a tangible force. The Box was forming a power too. Galen could feel it. He gathered his power in the form of a fireball in his hand. He hurled it at the Box and heard it scream then felt the fire run back into him. He didn't let up. He sent more and more destructive force into the Box. The Technomage kept sending until finally the Box exploded with such a force that it blew him back more than 100 feet from where he stood.
Galen tried to get up, tried to feel for it and realized that something was wrong, very wrong. His implants were…. Dead. He raised himself up and saw that the Box was gone, only a tiny blackened bit remained in the center of large black crater.
The Technomage lay back and activated the comm link he had brought with him.
"Max?" His voice was weak.
"Get Matthew down here, quickly! I need to say goodbye."
Max went to the Captain's quarters. Matthew was awake and waiting, naked and tied to the bed
"Max, what's happened? Where is Galen?"
"Planetside. We must go now."
He untied Gideon and threw some clothes at him.
"Hurry. Trace has a shuttle ready and Sarah is standing by."
They landed on the planet near to the black crater that had been left by the destruction of the Apocalypse Box. Matthew had known as soon he awakened that it was gone. He remembered what it had made him do to Galen and knew that Galen must have taken the Box.
Galen lay on the ground next to the crater. He looked up when Matthew walked over. Sarah started to push him away.
"No, Sarah. You can't help me. I didn't want to go without saying goodbye to Matthew, though. First Max, come here." Max knelt down beside him. He took one of Galen's hands in his. "Maxmillian, when you go back to the Excalibur, there will be a file called Golden Dragon on your computer. When you open it, it will put you in contact with my friend, Alwyn. He will tell you my last wishes. Help Matthew to see that they are carried out, if he wishes to do so."
Max got up and went back to Dureena, who had also made the trip down. Galen motioned to her. She got on her knees in the charred dirt.
"Dureena, you would have made a formidable Technomage. I am sorry our order will die without one such as you among its ranks. In another time, I could have loved you. I hope Maxmillian knows how lucky he is."
Dureena retreated into the shelter of Max's embrace, weeping softly on his shoulder. Galen turned at last to Sarah, saying, "Sweet Sarah, you will be the salvation of the human race, I think. I wanted to be a healer. Alas, destroying was my destiny. Take care, Sarah." His voice was growing softer and weaker.
Galen turned his gaze to Matthew. Matthew knelt down and took Galen into his arms. "We've gotta get you back to the ship. Sarah can help you."
"No. I'm dying, Matthew. I sent for you. I did not want to die down here alone. I wanted to tell you goodbye. To tell you how much I love you. Isabelle told me a long time ago that there was a plan. I never believed her, but she was right. Everything goes according to plan."
Galen was getting weak and his vision was becoming darker. He saw Isabelle standing behind Matthew. She smiled and wore his favorite gown, the one with the runes he had dreamed about, stitched into the hem. She didn't say anything, she just smiled.
"Matthew, hold me. I'm cold."
Matthew held him. Galen whispered, "I'll contact you someday and send you my love… Matthew, kiss me. Isabelle has come for me." He died as Matthew's lips touched his. Isabelle took his hand and led him away, into the mists.
Matthew cried no tears though he realized he had lost someone who loved him like no one ever had. He held Galen, until Max and Sarah pulled him up and led him away. Dureena and Sarah took him back up to the ship while Max waited for Trace to come back and get Galen.
Alwyn had given them the directions to the Well of Forever. It had been three months since Galen had died. Matthew stood on the same spot Galen had stood on with Isabelle's ashes in a tiny vial. Matthew had Galen's ashes. He took the vial and kissed it, saying the things Alwyn told him to say and then he poured the ashes onto the sand. Tiny specks of light flew around in the ashes and then flew away.
"Goodbye," Matthew whispered and flew back up to his ship.
He had a galaxy to save.