Disclaimer: The characters belong to Roddenberry-Kirschner, Atlantis, and others. Most of the dialogue in this piece was written by Paul Gertz and Jonas McCord, which I thank profusely for this episode.

Content Warning: Adult themes.

Spoilers: "The Joining", and one or two small ones for "First of Its Kind".

Author's Note: The idea of rewriting an episode from the point of view of a character is not new. Indeed, I was inspired by a challenge on the "Sunnydale Slayers" ("Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" fandom) site, using E:FC instead of B:TVS. Ha'gel is one of those characters who drives me nuts to write, considering how often I joke about being the fandom's Kimera expert, but I hope I managed him here. That, of course, is up to you to decide....

This story won 3rd place for "Best Season One story" in the 1999 PhilosophySphere Shaquarava awards.

The Last Chance to Dance
by Estirose
copyright 1999

I am awake. Someone is disturbing the pod that I was put in, no doubt some traveler of space or a native of the world I've landed on. I cannot feel the being that is beyond the pod, for the beings that sealed me here made sure I could not cry out or hear anything outside the space I inhabit. But the barrier is weakening, and I shortly will be free to know what had happened, is happening, in the universe.

I hold still as the pod continued to be open, mentally encouraging the being outside to speed themselves in the opening of my prison. I have things to do, things left undone when the beings that had started calling themselves the Taelons sealed me in here. I don't know why they had spared me when they started killing my people. Given their attitudes, I doubt they would survive even with the things we gave them. We gave them life, we saved them, and they paid us back by killing us.

Ah, it is open! But panic sets in as I realize that I have not managed to escape from those who put me into the pod. I can hear them, but I cannot hear the voices of my own people. I was wrong - the Taelons have survived, and my people are the ones lost to time. At least the being standing before me is not Taelon, that I know, but he does seem to carry some sort of tool in his hand, the tool that cut open my pod. I apologize to him silently as he leans in close enough for me to reach his face.

I have taken hosts before, so I am used to the process required to cocoon him and take his shape. With it, I take his knowledge, his name, all the things I need to know to survive in this world. The Taelons will no doubt be hunting me down soon, and I need all the help that I can get. And, thankfully, this one is of a sex that doesn't bear children, which will make my other task much easier....

"Randy! What's taking so long?" someone shouts as two or three others come around the corner. Seeing me as I finish taking this Randy's form, they are obviously upset. I raise my hands and unleash the power of my Shaqarava, for I cannot allow these to report my presence here. I wish I had time to move Randy, but his memories tell me that it might be dangerous to remain here. My only hope is that the Taelons are delayed in discovering the pod and Randy's cocoon.

After doing my/Randy's best to make it look like a robbery had not taken place, I depart. My host has money, the local measure for goods exchange, and his memories tell me of several places I can go to accomplish what I must before the Taelons hunt me down. I take a late-running public transport, getting off when I spot one of the places that seems best, the "Flat Planet Cafe". I step inside, looking for someone appropriate, someone alone, for what I need to do requires privacy.

Finally, I just go to the bar. "What's your poison?" the person there, the bartender, asks, and it takes me a moment to realize what she's asking, while she lists off drinks. A commotion erupts at a table a few feet away, leaving a young woman sitting alone. One that Randy himself would find attractive.

"What's she having?" I ask the bartender, using one of Randy's favorite facial expressions to charm her.

"A bad day," she states.

"What do you suggest for that?" I query innocently, hoping that she will find me something useful. I finally end up with something very overpriced, but what I hope is worth it.

Taking the drink, I sit down opposite the woman. She isn't receptive, but that's okay. I grab her hand, ostensibly to let her know that the drink is a gift, meant well, but also cheating a little and activating certain processes within her. She seems to relax, her focus entirely on me. Which is what I want, of course. I want her ready, for we will not have much time, and I don't want her to fight what I must do. "Drink," I say, not wanting the drink I bought to go to waste. It is small payment for what I'm using her and Randy to do. I will make sure the alcohol is burned out of her.

As she drinks, I study her evaluating her readiness for what I'm about to ask of her. She is in fine physical condition, of the right age for childbearing for this species. Somewhat attractive, at least by Randy's definition. My own definition is somewhat different, but I do not begrudge him his own standards. He is still fairly young.

After she drinks, it is easy to suggest to her that we should go to her apartment and... spend some time together. I know Randy has his own apartment, but I don't want to go there in case the Taelons find the identity I have assumed in the next few hours. After all, she will have to be closely monitored for the next few hours, for safety's sake. I can't allow anything, anything at all, to harm her. She eagerly lets me into her car, almost pushing the vehicle beyond legally-acceptable speeds to get to her apartment.

As I follow her into her building, it is hard not to get excited myself. Her excitement is hormonally-induced, but mine is genuine, for the duty ahead of me is a pleasure, despite the circumstances. I wish I did not have to rush the joining, or what comes after, but I have little choice in the matter. I must take good care of her - I will take good care of her. I follow her up endless stairways, as she is too impatient to use the building's elevator, and down endless corridors.

"I don't know what happened," she confesses. "When I touched your hand, my whole body just-"

"Where's your apartment?" I interrupt, trying to get her mind on where she is going. We are going to run out of building soon if she keeps chatting instead of keeping her mind on the location of her residence.

"Right here," she answers, as she stops and fishes in her purse for her keys. She unlocks the door, turning around to smile at me. She then grabs the collar of my shirt in her free hand and pulls me inside, and I close the door behind me. She is doing little things, making final adjustments obviously important to her, then pulls me over to the bed in her small dwelling. Before she has a chance to drag me down onto the bed itself, I kiss her, checking her over internally one last time, making sure she's ready and even trying to excite her a little more.

As she closes her eyes, I temporarily discard my guise, taking her within me while I do what I must to continue my own species. But, at the same time, I let her know who I am, what I have seen, and that despite my desperate merging that I love her. How can I not? She is who I've chosen as a partner. But, as I encourage my own DNA to merge with hers and Randy's, something goes wrong. I instantly stop paying attention to my child-to-be in order to fulfill my promise to take care of her. It is too late, my partner dying even as I shift back.

I hold her for a few moments, shocked by my inability to recognize that those of this species might not be able to handle my natural form of reproduction. Sometimes this happens, and my kind have always let those species be, coming back if we can find a way around those species' weaknesses. But I have the bad luck to be alone, the last, and not have the time to find a way to safely reproduce. The Taelons will find me eventually, and then we will be gone.

So, I must flee again. I arrange the girl on her bed, silently apologizing to her for the way I arrange her limbs, but Randy's memories say that if I do it this way, maybe the local authorities won't suspect and send the evidence on to the Taelons. The more time, the better, if I plan to broaden my options. I apologize again, this time out loud, for leaving her apartment such a mess. Not that she's going to care now, but she was fairly neat in her life.

* * *

I walk the streets of the city during the night, avoiding the police and reviewing my plan. I need a place, and I need time. A place to hide out, for I need to find a private place to work, and time, just to figure out how to reproduce with this difficult species that is my only hope. I am not in the medical field, unlike my friend Be'ant, or even knowledgeable about such things, like Ra'das is, or was. They would be able to get around the problem easily, but I am a teacher, not someone who would normally be in this situation.

Sometime around early to mid afternoon, I think I've found the perfect place. The search has been long, partially because my desire to avoid all authorities, and partially because I keep trying to find ways around the reproductive dilemma that I'm faced with. Certainly nobody will open a door which says "DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE DO NOT ENTER"....

Except for me, although I wish I had a tool to open it. Deciding punching out a window might be too obvious to those looking for me, I prepare to blast open the door and hope I don't cause anything to explode, or anybody to notice. Unfortunately, someone has noticed me - the kind of attention I really don't want right now. The voice commands me to freeze, but I don't have time for that right now. I turn around, slowly, sure enough finding a police officer with a gun. I have to get rid of him, leaving no evidence, if I am to proceed unmolested, so I do. Part of me hates the amount of killing I've done so far, to Randy's associates, to the police officer, even the accidental death of my potential mate.

But part of me realizes that if I am to have a chance to continue my species, I may have to do some truly desperate things. As the light fades from the destruction of the police officer, I notice another. That means that I've been reported, no doubt. I aim at the other, but he manages to hide behind a nearby dumpster. I start after him, but at the moment, I have more troubles - two police cars. I have to get out of here, which means preventing the police from capturing me. Them, too, I disintegrate, with the officers inside.

I will not get far on foot, not with the police after me and knowing my location. It is time to change to a different host, and, fortunately for me but not for him, the other police officer is still by the dumpster. He fires at me, but I let the bullets fly through my form relatively unmolested, intent on getting a stable hold on him. Once I have him, I let Randy go, assuming his form instead.

I deposit the form in the nearby dumpster. From my newest host, I know for certain that both the local authorities and the Taelons are hunting me down, although the police don't know exactly why. The Taelons have sent two human servants to chase after me, using the local police to flush me out and find me. My host's memories identify one of the two as a former police captain from the area, which means he is most dangerous. The two of them, another Taelon employee, and several other members of the police arrive shortly thereafter.

Eager to direct them away from my host's cocoon, I use my host's memories of me coming towards him to babble semi-incoherently. They are convinced, and are easily led astray by my supposed form. They are looking for Randy, not the young police officer, officer Reed, whose form I've assumed, although I'm sure they've found Randy by now. He should be waking up at any point. I continue my act of being the officer on the scene, happy that nobody seems to be questioning me at all, although they know I've switched bodies - the more dangerous one, Boone, is shortly summoned to a lab where Randy has woken up.

Finally, they leave. I manage to keep anyone from checking the dumpster, not letting them find my host. I keep guard outside the dumpster a little longer after everyone else has departed, to stop any quick-thinkers from accidentally uncovering him. Leaning against the wall, I keep watch, and think.

* * *

I think I have a plan. Randy would call it 'going up the ladder of authority' - using this form to ambush someone who might be able to keep tabs on the Taelons' hunt for me. I've decided on Sandoval, one of the Taelons' servants, for my next host. I think he's one that would come, alone, driven by his desire to root me out. But I will catch him... and be far more merciful than he would to me.

Reaching for my host's global, I place a call, getting Sandoval fairly quickly. "Sir, I found something in the alley where we lost the suspect."

"What is it?" he asks.

"I don't know, sir... I've... never seen anything like it before," I lie smoothly, shaking my head as if I really haven't. "I think you should come down here, immediately."

He takes my suggestion, as I predicted. Why shouldn't he? "I'll be there immediately," he responds, and closes the transmission.

He arrives in a few minutes, interested in my 'find'. Oh, he's suspicious, of course, but not of me. Nobody even gave a thought to me taking over the host I did, even if they know that Randy is out of his cocoon. And this one will sleep for a little bit more, I made sure of that.

"Where is it?" he asks, obviously in a hurry.

"Inside this dumpster," I reply, motioning him towards the metal container. He shouldn't have to look too hard to find the cocoon.

He looks inside, but continues questioning me. "What made you stay behind, officer?"

I quickly come up with an answer. "Those men who died were friends, sir. It could have been me."

The answer apparently satisfies him. I figured it would. He pokes around, finding the portion that I left near the surface. "All right," he says, turning, "give me a hand here-"

And so I do. I grab him, shifting for the third time to a new host. Sandoval's mind is more interesting than the others, and I note with interest the enhancements the Taelons have made to him. He's also a little more complex to cocoon, thanks to the symbiot on his arm, but I manage to put that one in stasis with him. He's more interesting than I initially thought. Maybe I will have time to explore him before I have to find a new host. He has so many secrets that the Taelons don't know about!

Shortly after, Sandoval's own global beeps. I answer it, running through my host's memories to discover that the caller is Siobhan Beckett, another servant... implant... of the Taelons. "You wanted proof about Marquette?" she asks.

I quickly agree to come to her location. Not only do I not want her to become suspicious, I find Sandoval's memories about her extremely useful. If she is alone... she might be open to seduction, for she is interested in Sandoval. And if her enhancements are the same as Sandoval's, then, maybe, I will have a second chance at saving my kind. There will some minor problems to deal with, such as the enhanced loyalty the Taelons have put into their implants, but those can be taken care of when I'm successful with the child.

Speaking brief words to the cocooned form, I deposit him deep within the dumpster and then go to meet Beckett.

* * *

I walk into St. Michael's church, hoping that she will discover nothing amiss. She is waiting for me within the church, and leads me to a small, semi-underground room. "I followed Marquette here," she says, "and found this. Enough proof for you?"

I know from Sandoval's memories that she suspects another employee of the Taelons, a Captain Lili Marquette, as a spy for some group that suspects the Taelons are not all they seem. Certainly Sandoval would have found the panel in front of them highly suspicious, but I have to distract Beckett from this business of spies and get her interested in Sandoval. I stare at her, memorizing her face, so that future generations know how I feel about her. She looks a little irritated. "Well? Are you not curious in why a high-tech DNA scanner is here? It's got to be a Liberation enclave."

"Must be," I say hesitantly, after noticing that she's expecting Sandoval to say something. I've got to get her off the topic of Marquette before anybody notices Sandoval has started sounding weird. "Good work, Lieutenant."

She huffs. "Good work? I've uncovered what could be the nerve center for the Liberation, and all you can say is 'good work'?" she asks, her voice rising as she goes on.

I have to reach her before she goes off and ruins what's possibly my last chance. "I'm - sorry. I've been distracted."

She gives me a cold look, and says, "I'll contact Zo'or." It's obvious that I'm tackling this all wrong as she walks off. Oh, she hasn't noticed that Sandoval's acting odd yet, but it just might come to her. Besides, I'd rather have her as a partner than an enemy. I follow her.

"I was wrong about you," I tell her as she walks out into the main church. "I was wrong about a lot of things."

This stops her. "What's going on here, Sandoval?" she asks. Clearly she's noticed something wrong at this point. However, instead of making me more worried, I feel more joyful. I've chosen the right person - the child could not have a better mother.

"I would have preferred the privacy of your hotel room. But who am I to question fate?" I reply, speaking the total truth. I may have not been there when she cast her runes, but I know a slight precognitive ability when I see one. And her hotel room would have been easier in terms of the resulting pregnancy. I take her arms, guiding her towards the most open space I can. "Siobhan, if it wasn't for my CVI, I wouldn't be able to mask my true feelings for you."

"You -"

"I'm not made of stone," I tell her. And in truth, he truly isn't. He's not entirely blind to her virtues himself. She laughs nervously and turns away. I catch her arm. "What's wrong? You're the one who said that I should 'jump blindly into the void'.

"Well, yes, but there's-" she says. She is responding, for I'm saying exactly what she wants Sandoval to say, and she's not paying attention to the fact that I'm not precisely acting like Sandoval. I give her hormones the push needed to completely divert her attention to the upcoming joining.

I reach behind her with one hand, unbinding her hair. While I brush it behind her shoulders, I tell her that a part of me will always be with her. I don't know if she recognizes what I'm saying at this point, but I mean every word. Sandoval and I will always be with her - through what I give her during our joining, and through our child.

I kiss her, letting her weight settle onto my body as I shift into a more useful form, carrying her into the air as I do what I need to do. I nervously check her internally, but she is fine, her enhancements preventing any problems as I join her and Sandoval and myself into a child. A male one, I whisper into her mind... she is pleased at this. I then track the use of her enhancement... her CVI... in an attempt to find the loyalty-enhancer, the motivational imperative, and burn it out. I believe I am successful.

My task finally done, I collect myself into my assumed form and lay her gently on the ground. She can rest for a moment while I find someplace to take her. My host's home is hundreds of miles away, unfortunately, and her apartment in London, even farther than that. Her hotel room is in the same city as Sandoval's place. The best I could hope for would be some place I could rent for a day or so, someplace where the cries of her labor could be muffled. She can take care of the child after that... she would be as good a protector to her offspring as she was to the Taelons. She might even be amenable to a second child, if we are given the chance.

A shout. "Ha'gel!"

I look up to find William Boone standing there. How in the world did he find me? I don't have time to worry about that, I must keep Siobhan and the child safe. I raise my hands and fire at him with my Shaqarava, missing and hitting a pew in the process. I must destroy him... for he is one of the greatest threats to us right now. I step over Siobhan, putting myself in front of her and looking for my enemy. I spot him, but as I am about to fire again, he hits me with his own weapon, disrupting my blast and blowing me off my feet.

When I get my feet again, I manage to fire at him before he fires at me, damaging more of the church. He fires wildly, missing me but shattering the window a few feet away. We continue our firefight, missing each other by various degrees. Ashamedly, I hear a noise and almost fire upon Siobhan... or at least Lili Marquette, who is thankfully dragging her out of the action. I pause to let Marquette know that I am not going to fire upon her. But soon, Boone is firing upon me again, and I must return to fighting with him.

Then, as I lie on the floor, Boone calls to me, claiming that he's fighting against the Taelons, and that he's standing up. I study my hands, planing to make the final blow that will end his life. But something in his words speaks to me. He tells me that he wants me to join him in fighting the Taelons, for we are both doomed to failure if we don't. I examine my Shaqarava, and decide to take a chance that the Liberation did have spies watching the Taelons. I stand up, ready to duck back down or fire again.

But he has his palms up, unable to fire unless he wants to shoot his hand off as well. If he is telling the truth... then I have found safe haven for myself and Siobhan. I hope that I am right in trusting him, as I walk towards him.

As I walk towards him, the police burst in, aiming at me. I can hear Boone screaming "No!", trying to wave them back. But it is too late, far too late. I aim at them...

Right as Boone shoots me. The blast is too strong, and I am too weak, after three hosts and a few hits, to hold my form together now. I can feel myself dispersing, letting go of any residual energy from my other hosts. I forgive Boone. I hope he and the others take good care of Siobhan. I will not be here for the birth, but that doesn't matter anymore... my species continues on, despite the Taelons. I have won.

-end


Earth: Final Conflict fanfics