Disclaimers: Most everyone in this story belongs to Roddenberry/Kirschner and Tribune (among others), except for Ben Wiley, who belongs to Henerson/Hirsch (among others). Dr. Rosemary Schultz, Adam Chen, and maybe a few random Liberation members belong to me.

Spoilers: "Redemption"

Author's Notes: This story takes place just before "Redemption", and departs from the established E:FC timeline there. Call it a very late response to what happened to Beckett in that episode. The incident that Rosemary mentions in the story is an altered version of a subplot from the former ULSG's USTD. The name for Siobhan's skrill comes from, I think, a writer named Athena.

This story was posted on PhilosophySphere in mid January 2000.

Free in the Heart
by Estirose (Angel Island)
copyright 2000

She's going to die. She's going to die.

The thought chanted its way chillingly through Liam's mind as he fought his way towards the prone form of his unknowing mother, Siobhan Beckett. The two of them had been mutually assigned to assist with locating the whereabouts of a Liberation base, possibly Doors' own headquarters. Siobhan had not known, as Liam had, that the people there were not Liberation members; instead, they'd run across a more radical group of Companion haters. But he could not tell her, just as he could not tell her of their relationship.

At last, the obstacles, human and otherwise, were out of his way. Kneeling beside her, he started administering as much help as possible. However, as he turned her head to check for injuries there, his heart sank. Her ear was bleeding again, in the sure way that meant imminent CVI collapse.

She began to stir, and he realized they weren't safe. "Siobhan... Lt. Beckett... can you stand?" he asked as she blinked. "We've got to get out of here."

"I'll try," Beckett said, and with his help, was able to stand. He guessed she was using her CVI to control her pain. Grudgingly blessing it for that benefit, he and she struggled towards his shuttle, finally making it and activating the shield.

When he looked back, she was unconscious.

* * *

"I have good news and bad news," Dr. Melissa Park said as she turned towards him. He'd brought her to Dr. Park, one of the few CVI specialists that he liked and trusted. "The good news is, here injuries are less severe than I initially thought. She'll pull through those just fine. And... I was running some scans."

"Her CVI isn't breaking down?" Liam asked, hopeful that he'd mistaken a cut for a CVI breakdown earbleed. Park shook her head.

"I and others have been interested in the long-term effects of the CVI. When Siobhan was under my care, some tissue samples were taken. Liam, the motivational imperative is breaking down."

"You mean, she's no longer thinking the way the Taelons want her to?" Liam asked, a hope dawning in him. "That's great! That means that I can bring her in to the Liberation."

But Park was shaking her head. "No, you can't, Liam."

"Why?"

"Look, Liam, your father did weird things to her CVI - it was barely functioning when she was pregnant with you. Whether he did it by accident or was intending to remove it I don't know, but it made the standard CVI break down much, much faster than it should have. And any CVI's going to be the same way. Plus, we always run the risk of her returning to the Taelons. We just can't take that chance. I'll reimplant her - but I can't let you do what you want."

With that, she left, hurrying away as if she had suddenly remembered something important she had to do. Liam watched her go, clenching his fists as he realized she meant to report to Doors. A part of him knew she spoke the truth. Another part of him railed at missing the chance - again - to be close to his mother and to be known by her.

Feeling suddenly heavy, he pulled a chair close and sat by her bedside, taking her hand in his while smoothing her hair out of her face with the other, he closed his eyes and started remembering....

* * *

She was like how she had been first time he'd met her in the guise of Companion Protector Liam Kincaid. Her hair was partly down, her face tired-looking, her clothing seeming a bit disheveled. She was sitting in one of the chairs in what had been Boone's office. For some strange reason, Sandoval was missing, but that was the only thing that had changed from his memories.

"Liam?" she asked. It was not the tone of a professional to a newly-introduced colleague, but rather one of disbelief upon finding a relative thought lost. "Liam, how could I have not recognized my own son?"

It was so unexpected, that his attention was drawn away from the mist starting to cover the floor back to her face. "Because they made it so that you *couldn't* remember," he told her. Drawing up a chair, he sat down.

"If I could only have told them more... if Ha'gel had only lived long enough, and fixed my CVI... have the Resistance no understanding of the bond between mother and child?"

"It was still there," Liam said soothingly, trying . "I knew, even if you didn't. I didn't agree with them either, but I understood their fears."

"Aye," Siobhan agreed. "Still, I'm glad that I know, in the end."

Alarm shot through Liam. It probably showed on his face, for she took his hand in hers. "I know my time is done, Liam. I can feel it. And I'd rather go now than do anything more for the Taelons. I've done enough in their name."

"I wish I could fix the CVI," Liam told her, shaking her head. "The knowledge might be up in my head and I'd never know it."

"Ye musn't be too hard on yerself, Liam. You're only a few months old, a child by any standards. Do not feel bad for something you cannot change."

"But if I only knew how to make the changes, to bring things back to before your CVI altered your brain structure...."

Siobhan Beckett sighed. "Nay. Don't fret yourself, Liam. I'm ready to go. Just give your old mother a hug."

Liam allowed himself to be drawn upwards, into a standing hug. His mother's arms surrounded him, pulled him into the warmth that he was soon to be denied. Placing his hands on either side of his mother's head, he kissed her on the forehead. "I love you, mom."

As she drew back, he could see her eyes glistening with tears twin to his own. "I love you too, Liam."

Siobhan started fading into the mists as he tried to hold onto her with glowing hands. "No!" he screamed, as something flowed through him and everything went to black.

* * *

Liam awoke with a screaming headache and aching hands. He was lying on a bed a few feet apart from his sleeping mother, in a hospital room. The medical terminal by his bed wasn't activated, but he recognized the monitor strapped to his wrist. Getting up, he read the indicators. His heart pounded as he realized she was still alive.

A few minutes later, Dr. Park came in, wearing the badge she wore at the Comtech human/taelon medical facility. "How do you feel?"

Looking over at her, he rubbed his palms. "Other than my head and my hands hurt, I'm fine. How is she?"

Park shook her head. "I was hoping *you* could tell *me*, Liam."

"Tell you what?" Liam asked, confused.

"What you did to her. I leave you alone for a few minutes, when I come back, you're slumped over, your pulse is racing, and her ear's stopped bleeding. I brought both of you here for a few tests, and it's like she never had a CVI in the first place."

"I did that?" Liam asked groggily.

"Apparently," Park said, cocking her head slightly. "I was going to ask you to explain it, but I take it you have no idea."

"None whatsoever," Liam replied honestly. "So, she's going to live, then?"

Park sighed. "She's going to live. I've been talking to Doors, and he's willing to take the chance of telling her. But Liam... before you tell her anything... if you tell her and she doesn't join us, we're going to have to kill her."

Liam's blood ran cold. "Then I'll just have to make sure she joins."

* * *

Park left, after fussing a bit about him and promising him a pain reliever. Liam drew up a chair, taking his mother's hand again. The door was closed, giving him a chance to talk to her privately without the staff at the facility wondering why one Companion Protector was calling another "Mom".

Besides, from what Park had told him about the cover story she'd devised, he assumed that the UK companion would soon want her back at work. But she'd have to disappear before then, since Park had sensibly removed her skrill. He hoped he'd have time to recruit her; she hadn't seemed too thrilled about going back to work for the Companions, which meant that she might be amenable to what he said.

While he was pondering the right approach to take, her eyes fluttered open. "Liam?" she croaked.

Liam picked up the cup and the water pitcher that someone had left and poured her some water. "Hi, mom."

Siobhan took it, taking a small sip. "Is this Comtech? It looks like it."

"Yeah."

She looked briefly confused, as if trying to remember a fact or memory just at the reach of her consciousness. "I was dying... and you were with me. Now, everything looks so fuzzy, so dull. I feel like I'm wrapped all over in cotton wool."

Liam shifted uncomfortably. "I'm told I did something to you."

"Aye, I would guess you have something of your father's gifts in you," she observed thoughtfully. "I think I remember being this fuzzy before I was implanted. Maybe ye've done what your father intended to do, without realizin' it."

"If I did, I don't remember," Liam told her.

"Yer not Athena, springing full-blown from Zeus' head," Siobhan chided him. "Ye surely can't expect to know all you're capable of."

"Sometimes, I wish I did."

Siobhan shook her head. "Ye've got to learn to walk before you can run."

"I guess so," Liam said.

"I wish we had more time," she said. "I have my son back for the first time back since he was born, and now, I'm going to lose ye to the implant again. Surely my Companion will want me implanted again. I don't want to go back, but I don't think I have a choice."

"Actually," Liam told her, relieved that she had brought it up, "There is an alternative."

His mother stared up at him, in seeming disbelief. "What?"

"I have contacts in the Liberation that are willing to help."

"*Doors'* Liberation? Have ye gone mad, Liam?"

She was staring at him, which he noticed because he was staring at her. "No. They're willing to give you a place to hide, in return for your help in fighting the Taelons."

"Ye misunderstand me, son. It's not whatever friends you've made there, it's Doors. I don' think I could trust him much more than I could trust the Taelons right now. I had a dream, after ye did what ye did, and he was there, jeering at me for what I'd done. I want to help - I just don't know if I want to give that help to him."

"Then we'll just have to make sure you don't deal much with Doors. How about Lili Marquette? Didn't you trust her with me when I was being born?" Liam asked, drawing the memories of his birth out of both their memories.

Siobhan took a deep breath. "Aye, I suppose I could. I don't know who to trust anymore, except maybe you, but she seemed a competent woman even when I was trying to prove she was Liberation."

Liam squeezed her hand. "Then I'll make sure she's there. Sandoval's got to give her some time off sometime."

"Aye," Siobhan agreed. "Now all we have to do is get me out of here."

"That's the easy part," Liam assured her.

* * *

Liam closed his global, frowning, and his mother leaned forward in her bed. "'Tis a good time to plan, Liam. T'wouldn't be good if someone caught us. Is Dr. Schultz still at the facility?"

"Yeah," he said, putting his global away and rubbing his left palm. "She's temporarily running this facility while Dr. Belman's doing a research project with the Taelons."

"She's a smart and crafty one, Liam," Siobhan said, shaking her head. "If you go off without permission on her watch, she'll hunt you to the ends of the earth. She might even find you."

"Then we'll just have to make sure you don't leave a trail," Liam responded, punching information into his global. "At least one not past the hospital doors. I'll make sure a car is waiting."

The door opened and closed, and Liam looked up guiltily as Dr. Park came in. "She'll need her clothes. I can get someone out pretty fast. Any other problems?"

Liam stood up. "I'll see if I can distract Rosemary for a few minutes," he said. "Invite her out to lunch."

Park snorted. "Better you than me. Siobhan, you're well enough to get out of bed, at least until we can get you someplace safe. But don't over-exert yourself."

"'Rosemary'?" Siobhan asked her son.

"I'll explain... sometime, much later," Liam said, trying to keep a slight blush out of his face. He got out of there in a hurry.

* * *

Siobhan watched in amusement as Liam nearly fled out of the room. "Rosemary?" she asked the doctor.

Dr. Park shook her head. "I guess when you mutually embarrass each other, you can start using each other's first names."

The doctor didn't seem like she was going to say any more, so Siobhan got up to the closets and found her clothes in a plastic sack. Behind her, she could hear the doctor dialing someone up on her global and getting someone to come with a car. She turned around. "Right. Someone will be waiting for you on 14th and Alhambra in about ten to fifteen minutes. That's about two and a half blocks out the back. They're in a blue car, an 05 Echo with an 'honor student' bumper sticker on the tailgate. Got it?"

Siobhan nodded. "Good," Dr. Park said. "I'm going to go out now. Wait a few minutes and then go downstairs. It's still visiting hours so you can easily get out one of the back doors. Liam should be meeting you at HQ."

With that, Dr. Park left, and Siobhan started counting the seconds.

* * *

Liam forced himself to walk out of the hospital after talking a little bit too long with Dr. Schultz. He hoped she wouldn't associate his visit with his mother's disappearance. He'd been careful to mention that he'd been to visit her so nobody would get suspicious.

His mother had to be at HQ right now. He eased himself into his car, hoping that he wouldn't arrive too late, given Siobhan's misgivings about Doors. Lili couldn't be down from her errands yet. Still trying not to hurry, he drove towards the church and the hidden base.

* * *

Despite everything, Siobhan could tell she was going down. She didn't know why they were bothering to blindfold her, as she had no problem identifying the church where she'd been seduced by Ha'gel even without full use of her sight. She supposed they were in the elevator behind whatever panel was activated by the DNA scanner.

As she'd told Liam, Doors worried her. Oh, some of her dislike of the man had to do with her dream and lingering dislike from her time as an Implant, but she was also bothered by working with someone who could easily become a terrorist. She'd gotten the impression that Liam wasn't fond of him either. Good boy. Good son. But he now held her life in his hands.

She felt the air stream in as a door opened. As her captors/rescuers led her forward, she heard safeties on guns click off, and tried not to be afraid.

After a moment, the blindfold came off, and she was rewarded with the unpleasant visage of Jonathan Doors. The billionaire-turned-fugitive was looking at her with a stern expression. "I hoped never to see you again," he said gruffly. "But I'm told you're willing to join us. Are you?"

"I am," she confirmed. "For the sake of my son, his future, and the life of the world we live on."

Doors nodded. Although his expression didn't soften, she thought a certain something evaporated from his bearing. "Untie her. Lieutenant Beckett, would you care to join me at the conference table?"

Without waiting for her reply, he strode off. As she observed the still-wary soldiers, she decided the reason that he was so willing to let her have free run of his headquarters was because she could easily be shot should she try something radical. Squaring her shoulders, she walked down to where Doors had gone, to the astonished stares of the Liberation personnel. She found him sitting at the table, talking with a solidly-built man in his early fifties who was going grey. The other man turned to her, reaching out to shake her hand and looking at Doors as if to ask him to introduce her. Doors paused for a moment, considering it, and then said, "Ben, this is Companion Protector Siobhan Beckett. This is FSA Agent Ben Wiley. He keeps us up to date on any FSA Taelon-related activities."

"Glad to meet you," the man rumbled, shaking her hand with a very solid grip.

"And you," she replied, carefully exerting pressure. The man nodded as he released his grip.

"Would you like some coffee?" Ben asked.

"Coffee would be fine," she replied. The man nodded, going out of sight and presumably to the coffee machine. He came back a minute later with the coffee, holding three mugs.

"This your blend, Ben?" Doors asked. Ben nodded, turning to look at her.

"One of my old bosses was a coffee freak," he said by way of explanation.

Just at that moment, Lili arrived in the small conference area. "Liam'll be a moment," she said, before disappearing off to get her own coffee.

Soon, she, Doors, Lili, and Ben were having a surreal tea party using coffee instead of tea. Siobhan wondered when her son would get there so that they could get started, and hopefully convince Doors to use his resources to keep her free.

A few minutes later, Liam arrived. At Doors' glare, he panted, "Sorry, Rosemary held me up."

"Coffee's over there," Ben said helpfully.

After Liam fetched his own mug, Doors leaned forward. "You understand, Ms. Beckett, that I cannot allow you to leave here if I think you're going to betray us."

"That's fine, Mr. Doors," Siobhan replied in an only slightly less cold voice. "I come here to seek sanctuary from the Taelons. In return, I will help you with your fight against the Taelons. I know you do not care for me very much, nor I you, but I meant what I said."

"And who would know, better than a former Implant, what the Taelons can do to a person?" Liam added.

"My son is right," Siobhan said. "I am aware more than anyone here of what the Taelons will do if humanity will let them. I know what crimes I've committed because my mind told me that the Companions were more important than anything. I want a chance to fight against them, directly or indirectly."

Liam's global beeped, and he got up and stood a fair distance away, the visual pickup of his global pointed towards the wall. It was a short conversation, but Siobhan could see Liam's body tense. He concluded the call, and went back to the table. As he was sitting down, Lili's global beeped, and she answered her call in much the same manner. "Sandoval?" Liam asked.

Lili nodded. "It seems that an injured Companion Protector is missing from her hospital bed. I've just been called to ferry Sandoval down."

"I also got a call to help investigate," Liam told her. He looked at his mother, regret and fear showing in his eyes.

"Then you'd better go," Doors said. "I can't afford for either of you to blow your covers."

Lili turned to go, but Liam was looking at her still. "Mom?" he asked, clearly wanting to be there for her.

"Go. Mr. Doors is right," she said, hoping he caught the unspoken reassurance: "I'll be okay."

Liam nodded, leaving with Lili to fulfil his duties. Siobhan watched the two of them disappear out of sight before turning to Doors. "You'll forgive me if I don't trust you, lieutenant," he said. "It's what keeps me alive. The Taelons have attempted to trap me once already; what better bait than a prize such as you?"

"Because I am not bait," Siobhan responded. "My son was the one who saved my life, not the Taelons, and even before that I was starting to wonder about some of the things the Taelons were saying to me. I won't pretend I'm a fanatic like you. But I want to live. I want to have the free will to love my son and my world, and not what my CVI tells me to love. I want to live to spoil my grandchildren."

Doors mumbled something about "Liam" and "Rate" that Siobhan couldn't quite understand. "Sometimes you have to be a fanatic. So, what do you want, and what will you give me?"

"I want you to keep the Taelons from finding me. In return, I will help you in your work against the Taelons with my expertise in Companion Security procedures and the things that have been said in front of me."

"Hey, you can live here," Ben said merrily. At Doors' glare, he added. "You can keep a close eye on her, and she's safe from the Taelons. And if the Taelons can't find her, we're safe from her telling us about them."

Doors nodded. "I agree. So, Ms. Beckett. This is my offer: you live here, assisting wherever needed, and especially in any plans involving Taelon-related facilities. In return, we'll do whatever we can to prevent you from being found by the Taelons."

"Agreed," Beckett replied.

* * *

Liam drove back to the medical facility, hoping his mother could negotiate sufficiently with Doors. He hoped so; Doors needed her expertise, and she needed the hiding places he could provide. In the meantime, he would have to do all within his power to obscure the investigation he was supposed to be helping with.

Lassiter was there to meet him. He handed him a board with all known information about Siobhan's mistake as they got in the elevator. As they were going up, Lassiter cleared his throat and said, "Dr. Schultz wanted to see you when you got up."

Liam nodded, handing the board back to Lassiter. The agent followed him into security, where a small crowd was gathered. A tech was going over the films, scanning to find when Siobhan had left. "Keep an eye here and call me if anything's found. I want to talk to Dr. Schultz for a few minutes."

The agent nodded, smiled, and turned to the monitors, leaving Liam to his interview.

Liam walked off towards where he knew the administrative offices to be. As he got near, he heard two voices, one female, one male, both of which he knew.

"I'm serious!" the female exclaimed. "We didn't do much besides talk. What can I do to make people stop thinking that we had hot, wet sex?"

The male replied in a humorous tone, "Well, you could try not blushing every time he or his name come up."

"I do not blush when that happens."

"Right."

Liam rounded the corner to find Dr. Rosemary Schultz and her assistant, Adam Chen, standing in the hallway. Rosemary turned a shade of red, prompting Adam to make an amused sound in his throat. "I guess I'll see you later, Rose, Major Kincaid."

With that, he left, still chuckling. "Hi, Liam," Rosemary said, almost shyly. "Let's go into my office."

She proceeded him in. When he went to close the door, she said, "No, don't. It's better if things stay open."

When she had settled down, he sat down in the chair in front of her desk. "So, I hear you lost a patient. In the not-usual sense, anyway."

Rosemary sighed. "I don't know what it is with Siobhan Beckett - she's been in this hospital twice when I've been here, and she's left without permission both times. It's like she's my personal curse."

"I'm sure she's not doing this just to annoy you," Liam offered. He set his global on record. "So, tell me from the top what happened."

"Well," Rosemary said, "It was several minutes after I finished talking to you. You'd left, and I was doing some paperwork. I knew the Lt. Beckett was a patient here, but I left everything up to Dr. Park since my duties right now leave me rather busy. One of the nurses notices she's missing, can't find her, talks to security, they look for her. And then I'm called in. That's about all I can tell you, since I wasn't very involved."

"Is there any similarity between this time and the last time this happened?" Liam asked, attempting to pull his mother's memories out to compare.

"Other than her departure, I hope not," Rosemary told him, and he could see him visibly shudder. "You see, last time she left, she killed one of our doctors on the way out."

"She *what*?" Liam asked, totally unprepared for what Rosemary had said. He couldn't remember anything of the sort from her memories.

"Maybe I better start from the beginning? When all this happened, I'd just been hired here. It was my first official day here, so it kind of stuck in my mind. I happened to be the CVI specialist on call when she came in, unconscious. I treated her, tended to her injuries as best I could, and then left her. Next thing I knew, my patient was out of there, leaving a blood trail that even I could track. She killed the doctor, for an unknown reason, then departed the hospital. We eventually got her back with no other known casualties, well, other than my global, but it makes me shudder every time I think of it."

"Why would a loyal Companion Agent with a CVI do such a thing?" Liam asked.

"Because, very simply, she wasn't running her own show. We found out during that time that some sort of militant anti-Companion group had come up with a virus that effectively scrambled the CVI. Eventually, we were able to kill it, but we had half a dozen implants living in quarantine for a couple of days. Ask Agent Sandoval sometime; he was one of those infected."

"I will. Thank you, Doctor Schultz."

"Anytime, Major."

He left Rosemary Schultz back in her office, and headed back to security, where he found Lili and Sandoval watching the tech with the security tapes. Lili favored him with a brief smile before Sandoval turned. "There you are, Major. I understand you've interviewed Dr. Schultz. Have you come up with any pertinent information?"

"Other than an overview of the original incident, no," Liam offered. "Until we find out where she went from the cameras, we won't know how she got out or her physical and emotional state."

"Then I'll go talk to Dr. Schultz myself," Sandoval said. "Perhaps I can yield more information. Captain, Major, you stay here and gather more information."

Sandoval left. Behind them, center security staff was still trying to isolate Siobhan's departure time. Liam personally hoped that his mother hadn't left any obvious clues.

After a minute or two, Lili slipped out of the room, with a motion to follow her. Once there, Liam commented, "Sandoval must think this has something to do with some sort of CVI virus. Was that something the Resistance was responsible for?"

"I remember that... we were working on something like that, but someone beat us to it. After seeing the effects, we decided against it and Dr. Belman ended up doing something subtler. That's how we got into a project to remove the MI."

"It wouldn't be beyond Sandoval to try to pin a re-occurrence on the Liberation," Liam said thoughtfully.

"No, and we don't need another public-relations disaster."

"Then we'll just have to make sure this isn't turned into one."

* * *

Siobhan lay down on the medical bed in the small medical/lab area of HQ, which she remembered from when she was pregnant with Liam. Dr. Park, having made herself scarce from the medical center, was quickly and efficiently tending to the wounds sustained during the fight with the extremists. Finally, she paused. "You'll need rest- lots of it. That'll give you a few days to adjust to being here. I heard that you were going to stay."

"Aye," Siobhan said. "I didn't like the idea of it at first, but what better place to hide than Jonathan Doors' well-guarded headquarters? And where else can I have a chance to be a mother to Liam without having to hide who we are?"

"Not many," Park conceded wryly. "Look, Jonathan is hard to get along with, especially if you have any sympathy towards the Taelons, but he's not about to throw you out. You're too valuable. So, he'll try to put up with you, and you'll have to put up with him."

"Aye, I guess I will," Siobhan said. A thought made her pause. "Doctor, who was a mother to Liam while I was... busy?"

The question took the doctor aback, but she answered after a short pause. "Me, Lili Marquette, a few others. You've got to understand, Liam's rapid maturation rate, we didn't get much of a chance to be mothers. Most of the staff that's been here since before your first visit have known Liam all of his life and love him. I think even Jonathan has a grudging respect. He's a father, you know."

"Aye, I paid attention to the Rho'ha trial," Siobhan said. "But it's good to know that someone has loved my son, even when I was unable to."

Park patted Siobhan's uninjured shoulder. "Liam... isn't that hard to love. Now, I guess we'll have to find you a place to stay. We do have rooms set up for the occasional member on run from the law, and for people who often have to stay overnight. It should be easy enough to fix you up with one. Here, let me help you out."

* * *

"Major, Captain," one of the security people said, "We found her."

"Thank you," Liam told him.

Lili opened her global. "I'll call Sandoval." The security man nodded and disappeared back into the room, Liam following. Lili joined them shortly. "He's on his way."

On the screen, Siobhan was frozen in midstride right outside her room. "If you don't mind, Major," the Tech said, "We'll wait for Agent Sandoval to get here."

"No problem," he reassured her.

Sandoval arrived, with Dr. Schultz, a few minutes later. "What have you got?" he asked without preamble. The tech turned, manipulating the controls.

"This is when Major Kincaid left the room," she said, freezing the picture of Liam as he walked out the door of the room, "And here's when Dr. Park left. Lt. Beckett left a few minutes later."

"She must have been wiping the medical records," Dr. Schultz said, eyes opening as if she'd just realized something of great importance. "When I got a hold of Dr. Park, she said that the medical records were still there when she left. That means they had to be erased between the time she left and the time we tried to access them."

"Did she have her clothes on the last time?" Liam asked, hoping to throw her off that track.

"Yes," she answered promptly. "Last time, we'd just finished an initial observation of her and were about to put her in a gown and transfer her to a bed. Dr. Park didn't say anything about her being dressed. I guess she may have wiped the records after she got dressed. It's a bit of a stretch, but then I don't know how good the lieutenant's computer skills are."

"Isn't that a little bit alarmist?" Lili asked.

"Captain, trust me, the lady might not have been firing on all four cylinders when she was infected, but there was a feral, single-minded devotion in her eyes when I ran across her that time. She'd have done anything needed to prevent people from stopping her. Including hacking into the files. I can't say absolutely that this is another CVI virus, but why else would she wipe any evidence."

"Then we will presume, for the moment, then that's what's happened," Sandoval said. "Doctor, what assistance will you need?"

"I need *you* to come with me and submit to a scan, since you might have been exposed." Dr. Schultz said sharply. "I'll need reports of any unusual behavior from any Companion Protectors around the world. With the portals and the shuttles, this could have come from anywhere and anybody could have it. I'll need to know if Lt. Beckett interacted with any other Companion Protectors."

"Understood," Sandoval told her. "Captain, Major, continue the investigation."

"Hold it, I'll need a sample from the Major as well," Dr. Schultz said. "Since I presume he was in contact with Lt. Beckett."

"This thing infects people without CVIs?" Liam asked, trying to delay the test.

She shrugged. "The last one used non-implanted humans as carriers for the virus. I have to assume that if this is a new infection, it'll be passed the same way. Think about it, Major. There aren't that many implanted humans. If you want to infect all the implants in the world, you've got to find a way to hide your virus so people can't find it. Don't worry; I'm just looking for a certain spike in a certain blood chemical."

Liam shot a helpless look at Lili. Dr. Schultz sighed. "Would you rather I quarantined you until I could make sure that you aren't going to pass anything along, Major?"

Lili rolled up her arm. "I've been in contact with him for a while now. Why don't you try me, first."

"Very well," Dr. Schultz said, frowning. "Major, maybe you'll come along."

"Yeah, Liam," Lili said in a tone of mock-teasing, "Why don't you prove I can best you any day?"

"Because you can?" Liam replied in the same tone, although he was grateful for Lili's intervention. Being thought a coward about getting holes poked in you was much better than being discovered.

* * *

Dr. Park's global beeped, and she stepped away to answer it. Siobhan gazed at her curiously, but it was a short call. "Liam's having a little bit of a hangup. Dr. Schultz thinks that there's a new form of the CVI virus that you got infected with, and she insisted on testing everyone."

"But Liam... his blood has to be different!" Siobhan protested.

"If I recall the test correctly, his blood is normal enough to be mistaken for human on that particular test. There's a Liberation member there than can 'misroute' his sample so that it isn't looked at any more than it has been before. So, don't worry. I'm sure he'll be out of there and back here before you know it."

"You'll have to forgive me, Doctor. I've just found my son; I don't want to lose him again, not now."

"I understand," Dr. Park answered, her voice sympathetic. "I don't want to lose him either."

* * *

"Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Dr. Rosemary Schultz said, coming back after dropping the samples off for analysis. Liam ran his finger over the pad that covered the needle mark. "You can put your arm down now."

"Okay," Liam said. "So, this test will clear me?"

"At least for the original virus. I'll be having some other tests run as well to make sure. I know that you probably haven't had dinner yet, so I'm sure you want to go home."

"Kinda."

"Lucky you. I was just starting on mine when all this happened," Rosemary responded, grinning wryly. "Moment I can release you, I will."

Just that moment, somebody beeped her global, and she excused herself to answer it. After a minute, she came back. "I guess at least somebody gets to their dinner. Nothing's shown up for you or Captain Marquette, so you're free to go."

"Thanks," Liam responded. He walked out, trying to make it seem like he wasn't hurrying.

* * *

After he and Lili were excused from the medical center, Liam headed back to the church and the hidden HQ. He was anxious to spend time with his mother, and he was sure she was anxious to spend time with him.

When the hidden door opened, Dr. Park had just stepped out of the elevator on the other side, adjusting her coat. "How is she?" he asked her.

"Oh, she's fine," Park said cheerfully. "Don't worry, Liam, your mother's a fighter. We found her a room, and she was settling in last time I looked. Just remind her to take another dose of painkiller in another four hours, okay?"

"You heading back to the medical center?" Liam asked, noticing the badge.

"Unfortunately, yes. No offense to you, Liam, but I don't have as much tolerance of Dr. Schultz as you do, and it looks like I'll be working with her a lot in the next few days. I wish Dr. Christian hadn't moved to that new research center in Ireland."

"You'll do fine," he reassured her with a smile. "You've put up with me."

"Trust me, Liam, you were easy. Now, I think you have a mother who wants to get to know her son. Get down there!"

* * *

It was business as usual, although some of the crown was thinning away as members started to wander out in ones and twos, back to their homes. By late that night, the only ones left would be the die-hard researchers and the fugitives.

And the only thing that he could think of right now was one particular fugitive, the newest addition to this underground facility. His mother, who could finally be his mother instead of the colleague that she'd been for the past few months. The woman who had finally gotten her freedom... sort of. If one could be called 'on the run' freedom.

He headed down the residential hallway, realizing he had no idea where Park had put his mother. It wasn't a part of the base that he ventured into very often. But when one of the doors opened, he knew who would be in the doorway. "Mom," he breathed.

"Come in, Liam," Siobhan greeted him. "It's not much, but it's a place to lay my head. Dr. Park says I shouldn't be moving about much anyway, so I guess I'd better get used to it."

She let him in, and Liam looked around the small, spare room. The walls held no decoration, although there was a small stand with a light, and a mattress with sheets and a pillow on it. Near the wall, not far from the bed, was a cot. His mother must have caught him looking at it, for she said, "Dr. Park had that brought in, just in case you wanted to stay the night sometime."

"Remind me to thank Dr. Park," Liam said. His mother smiled at him and sat down on the bed. Liam joined her after a moment, realizing that she had no chairs at all. "Can you cope?"

"Aye." After a moment, she added, "Agent Wiley asked me much the same thing after I finished negotiating with Doors."

"And what did you say?" Liam asked.

"I told him that I didn't know. He smiled and told me I reminded him of a case that he'd been part of in the late eighties. It involved a man who they were trying to catch. By coincidence, the man had chosen that time to become a part of his teenage son's life. Every time that they'd get near the father and son, the duo had moved on. Now, most people wouldn't have had the tolerance these two had to run all around the country, but these two had a secret. Y'see, even though the family didn't have a stable home and were effectively on the run, they had each other. It was the freedom to be close to one another which kept them from giving up. When he talked about this family, my mind finally crystallized on why I'm willing to live down here, in limited freedom, with Doors. It's because here I have you. Someday I'll be free to leave - but right now, my heart's freedom is all that matters."

"Did he ever say what happened to the father?" Liam asked idly.

"Aye," she said, as if having a memory intrusion, though he knew that wasn't possible without her CVI. "The government dropped the charges, the father went on to marry his son's mother, and the son went to college, became an astronomer, and became involved in SETI until the Companions came, after which he went to other projects. He apparently turned out pretty well."

"I'm glad for them," Liam said sincerely.

"So am I. I don't know their names, but I'm glad for them. I just hope I turn out as good a mother as this man turned out to be a father. The last time I remember you, you were just a wee boy, and look at you now!"

Liam tried not to blush. "I think I'm a bit bigger now."

"Aye," Siobhan replied, flashing her son a wistful smile. "All grown before I knew it. Liam, did ye have a childhood at all?"

"Not much," Liam admitted. "I was a physical adult an hour or two after I was born, and with all that happened and me assuming a position as a Companion Protector, I didn't have time to be a child."

"Oh, Liam," his mother said in a sad voice. "Ye should have let yourself be a child for a longer time. A childhood is a precious thing, not to be tossed away just because it can."

"I know now," Liam admitted, thinking back to his first few weeks of life. "But then... all I could see was a way to help the people that were caring for me and doing you proud as a Protector. And I wanted to stop the Taelons as well. It felt so *right* back then."

"Aye. I guess that makes us both as human as the rest of them, then," Siobhan said thoughtfully, before yawning.

"I guess I should let you rest, then," Liam said. "I'll be back tomorrow."

"Nay, Liam. Stay the night, let me have my little boy near me."

"I'm not little anymore."

"I know."

* * *

Siobhan woke up that morning before her son. She suspected it was because her body was still in the wrong time zone. Her CVI had helped her adjust to the changed time zone, but now it was gone, and its regulators with it. Still, it was a chance to watch her son sleep, a chance she'd never had... and a chance that she hoped that she'd have many more times over the years.

Quietly, she cursed Ha'gel for Liam's rapid growth. What mother wanted her children to grow up fast, to never know the joys of childhood? Liam had been denied those joys, and he knew too much to ever go back to a childhood. Even in places where children had to grow up quickly by circumstance, they could go back to being children. Liam, with his adult looks, was forever trapped being assumed an adult, never given the chance to be a child, the child he truly was.

She inched to the side of her bed. Reaching out, she could just barely touch her son's hair, barely knock a bang out of the way. Someday, she'd have the chance to get Liam out of this forced adult role, taking him to a place where he could be the child he truly was. Somewhere where he wasn't playing Liberation spy and Companion Protector, and where he could be her son.

As her stomach growled, she willed it to be quiet, to not wake Liam up from his blissful dreams. Looking over at her son, she got up and headed towards the door. She hoped Liam was hungry. She looked forward to having breakfast with him.

* * *

Liam woke up to find his mother missing. Her sheets were a mess, as if she hadn't had time to do them. He got up and felt the bed, relieved to find that the bed was still warm from her body heat. Probably was just in the bathroom, he decided. He put his shoes on, figuring that maybe he should fix breakfast and they could eat together. A look at the clock on top of the nightstand confirmed that they had time for a leisurely breakfast before he had to go to his apartment, change clothes, and head in to work.

When he arrived at the area where the HQ had its break room and meal preparation place for those who lived there most of the time, he stopped in the doorway at the sight of his mother clearly putting food together for breakfast. He watched her from the doorway for a minute or two before going to join her, consumed by a sudden desire to do something together with her that didn't involve military action or protecting Companions. He noted absently that she looked a lot like her mother when she was cooking; surely she'd learned a thing or two at her mother's knee, even a mannerism or two.

She turned, smiling as she saw him. "Liam. I didn't expect ye up."

"We... um... had the same idea," Liam said, grinning sheepishly.

That made her laugh. "Like mother, like son. I guess I shall have to let ye help."

So he joined her, making the toast as she made eggs. "'Tis too bad they don't have any bacon," she said. "Not anything I'd call bacon, anyway."

"I think they call it Canadian bacon here," Liam said, though he wasn't sure if he was right in his assumption.

"Whatever they call it here, they don't have it in supplies," Siobhan replied. She finished up the eggs as he finished up the toast, and then expertly put it on the two plates on one side of the counter. "It'll be strange, eating for one for the first time in years."

"I guess you'll just have to go back to normal," Liam observed.

"Aye. Or as normal as my life will allow," his mother replied with a wry grin.

Taking their breakfasts to one of the tables that was in the room, the two of them sat down, Liam pulling his mother's chair out before settling down in his own. He picked up his fork when he noticed his mother had bowed her head in prayer. "Oh Lord, we thank ye for the harvest that ye have given us. Bless our food and our lives, as we bless you forever. Amen."

"Amen," Liam echoed.

Siobhan dug into her food. "I miss Falcon, even if he always meant it seemed like I was always hungry. But I'll gladly trade him for you."

"I'm sure Doors will be glad that you did," Liam replied.

"Aye. I'm hoping today that I won't be dealing with him much."

"Better him than a date with an implantation table," Liam reminded her.

"'Tis why I don't mind helping him and his people… because I know that they'll do anything to keep me from being implanted."

"I'm glad to hear that," a third, gruffer voice broke in. Liam and his mother both looked up to see Doors entering the room, probably for his own breakfast. He selected his own breakfast, microwaving it and making some coffee before joining them. "Liam, don't be late to work today. Lili tells me that there's going to be a meeting up on the Mothership today, and I don't want you making Sandoval or Zo'or suspicious."

"I don't plan to," Liam told him. "I'm going to have my hands full just keeping Sandoval on the wrong track."

"And, I hope, that girlfriend of yours," Doors replied, his tone indicating his opinion. "I don't want her to get any ideas with Belman away on her research project."

Liam gritted his teeth. "I don't think she's going to give up on her pet theory anyway."

"Keep it that way," Doors ordered.

"Girlfriend?" Siobhan asked, looking confused.

As if he didn't hear her, Doors turned and said, "I've got some people who want to consult with you about Companion Security procedures. In the evening, we'll get together and figure out how to make your profile a little bit lower to the Companions. And Liam, if you don't get going right now, you're not going to get out of here in time to do us any good."

Liam looked at his mother, knowing again how much he wanted to be with her, and also knowing Doors was trying to push him out of there so that his mother could earn her keep. "I'll see you later," he said, rising from the table.

Siobhan just nodded.

* * *

Liam left his apartment quickly, even though he knew that he would be a bit early to work. Doors had sent him out of there far too early, which probably had less to do with Liam's cover and more to do with Doors not liking him very much. "Maybe I'll just do the paperwork that I probably won't be able to do," he muttered to himself as he started his car, knowing that finding the missing Lt. Beckett would probably be taking up his time today. If there was only some way of declaring her dead! But it wouldn't be as easy as what he'd been told about DeeDee Sandoval, who had been easy to make disappear because she didn't hold any dangerous secrets.

He made a note to make sure he showed up for the evening meeting, and then assumed the demeanor expected of a Companion Protector. Reviewing his mental notes, he knew that Da'an would have been scheduled for an event over in San Francisco, helping celebrate the re-opening of the Exploratorium there. However, he didn't know if Da'an still had plans to do that, or if he'd be involved in the hunt for his mother.

Liam parked his car in the lot for Companion employees and rapidly made his way into the Taelon Embassy. Between his badge and the fact that all of Companion Security and all the embassy staff knew who he was, he found himself rapidly emerging into Da'an's audience chambers. "Good Morning, Liam. You are early, are you not?"

"I had the feeling that I'd be kept pretty busy today, Da'an," he said, keying up his schedule from the computer and confirming the Exploratorium visit.

"Ah, yes. Lieutenant Beckett's disappearance," Da'an waved gracefully. "I believe Agent Sandoval is handling that."

"And as your protector, and one of the last people to see Beckett, I might be called in. Agent Sandoval is very efficient."

Just then, Liam's global beeped, and Liam was unsurprised to find Sandoval on the other end. "Kincaid."

"Major," Sandoval acknowledged. "You're needed for a briefing at the mothership."

"I'll be right there," he acknowledged. He looked up at Da'an.

"Go, Liam. If you are not done, then I will take another pilot this afternoon."

Liam nodded, glad that Da'an had released him to help head off the investigation. But, just as he headed towards the shuttle bay, Da'an added, "I hope that you will keep me informed of any… discoveries in the matter, Liam."

"I'll do the best I can," Liam said, knowing that Da'an didn't just mean the normal investigation. He quickly got to a shuttle, ran the pre-flight checks, and lifted off for the short trip to the mothership.

He easily got aboard and made his way towards the bridge, where Zo'or liked to have his little conferences. Sandoval and Lili were already there, standing on different sides from Zo'or's chair. Zo'or was smirking as usual. "Major," Sandoval acknowledged. Zo'or didn't even manage that.

"Good, you are here," he said imperiously. "One of our scientists, Tsh'ir, has developed another theory to explain why Lt. Beckett departed from the hospital as she did."

"Tsh'ir," Sandoval said, taking up the explanation from his Taelon master, "has been working on the long-term effects of the CVI. He believes that instead of the CVI virus that Dr. Schultz postulated, that it is possible that the Motivational Imperative burned out, and Lt. Beckett decided to leave before this was revealed and corrected by her physician."

"So, Lt. Beckett is on the run," Lili said in a thoughtful tone.

"We must find her before she makes contact with the Resistance," Sandoval replied. "You, I, and Major Kincaid will be assisted by the local police. I have already provided them with information that she is armed and dangerous."

Liam froze inwardly, calculating when he could get away to warn Doors and his mother that Sandoval was after her. But outwardly, he nodded as Zo'or said, "You may go."

Sandoval strode off, obviously not caring about either of them. Liam risked a quick, returned glance with Lili as they hurried up to keep stride with Sandoval, or at least a little behind him. "We have to warn them," he said quietly.

"I know," Lili replied. "I'll keep Sandoval busy, you call Doors."

Liam nodded, keeping an eye on Sandoval until he reached the shuttlebay. Sandoval than stood at the doorway, apparently waiting for the two of them to catch up with him and annoyed that they had fallen behind. No words were exchanged as he let Lili lead them to the shuttle, where she got in the pilot's seat, ran through the preflight checks and flew down to the Taelon embassy, and then drove to the police station.

While Sandoval was busy annoying the local police, and Lili was distracting him, Liam ducked into an empty office to call Doors. The face of the Liberation Leader soon appeared on the screen. "I don't have much time," he told Doors, "but Sandoval has figured it out. We're collecting the police to search for her now."

"I understand," Doors said simply. He then cut the call from his end.

Liam left the office to join Sandoval and Lili.

* * *

Park had stopped by briefly to look at Siobhan before she got to her first day of 'work' in Doors' underground complex. Siobhan was starting to like the doctor, who seemed to have a common bond with her through Liam. "Looks good," Park said. "Don't strain yourself, take it easy, and rest whenever possible."

Siobhan nodded, wondering if she should bring up the topic of Liam's apparent girlfriend. "Doctor, is Liam really dating Dr. Schultz?"

Park paused for a moment in the middle of putting stuff away. "It's not really my place to tell you… but, thank goodness, no. I think they had one date, embarrassed each other over something Liam won't tell even *me* about, and haven't gone out since and don't seem inclined to."

Siobhan stood up. "I thank ye, doctor, for what you could tell."

Doctor Park nodded before picking up her own stuff to take topside. As the two of them were about to head out of the small medical center, Doors came in. "Doctor, Lieutenant. Good. We're holding an emergency meeting at the conference table, and both of you need to come."

Siobhan found herself at the conference table again, fortified by a cup of coffee. The only difference this time was that Park was there and Ben Wiley had been replaced by a yawning young man. "Dr. Richard Natal," he introduced himself. "Forensic pathologist, night shift, for this city."

"Richard," Park greeted with delight. "Long time, no see."

"Well, different fields, different lives," Richard answered. "But, anyway, I guess we better get this through so I can sleep."

"Right," Doors said, leaning back in his seat. "Here's what's going on. The Taelons have come to the conclusion that Lt. Beckett here has her free will back because her Motivational Imperative has malfunctioned. They're starting to search for her, and worse, they're tightening security, which is something that I *don't* need. So, we're going to have to make the Taelons think Lt. Beckett died. Any suggestions?"

It was Dr. Natal that answered. "I think I might have one, right off the top of my head. We've got this serious firebug that sets fire to condemned houses, empty buildings, and the such. Thing is, he isn't big on checking to see if the place is inhabited by transients before he sets fire. I was thinking that we could have Lt. Beckett seem to have died in one of those fires."

"How would you convince Sandoval and the Companions that it was me that 'died'? Sandoval isn't stupid, ye know!" Siobhan asked him, resisting an urge to point out the really obvious.

"Hm, good question. Is there anything you have, lieutenant, that you carry around with you all the time? Anything at all that would easily identify you?"

"Her skrill," Doors said. "If it was also burned in that housefire... I'll make sure her skrill burns with whatever body we use."

Siobhan blinked, wondering if she'd heard Doors right. "Yer not going to take Falcon and set him on fire!"

Doors looked at her coldly. "Do you want to join it, Lieutenant?"

"He's got a point, Siobhan," Dr. Park said. "Falcon is probably the most identifiable 'thing' that you have. Besides, we can't return him to the Taelons without arousing suspicion, and I'm sure you'd rather not have our scientists experiment on him, which they would do given half a chance. I know the bond between an implant and a skrill can be very close... but he may just save your life, even at the cost of his own."

Siobhan tensed, but realized Dr. Park was correct in her thinking. Still, could she give up Falcon to save her own life? Falcon had saved her life several times over now. But there was no life for it now, not as it was. "All right, Doctor," she said in defeat.

Dr. Natal was running his finger down his chin. "Okay, we've got that. Now, let's see. Lt. Beckett, does your will specify cremation or burial?"

She blinked. "Burial, of course."

"Good. Here's the plan: somebody will burn down a vacant structure with a body inside sometime during the night. I'll get the burned body, and report the findings. Then, something will happen and Lt. Beckett's body will accidentally be sent for cremation instead of the right person's. That way, they'll have none of the body to prove that it isn't Lt. Beckett, but they'll have some stuff that seems to be Lt. Beckett's. Hopefully that'll satisfy them."

"What will you need?" Doors asked.

"Hm. A dead body, female. The body of somebody who's died accidentally or suddenly. Not a murder or someone under a doctor's care. That person will need to have wanted cremation and will have wanted to spread the ashes. And I'll need the skrill and maybe some of Lt. Beckett's hair and a skin sample."

"One of my people had a mother who died yesterday of a heart attack and was taken to the morgue," Doors said. "Would that be sufficient?"

"Just as long as they can be misprocessed. Did the mother want cremation?"

"I believe so. Let me get in touch with the young lady."

"You have someone for me, and I can do it."

"I'll take care of the hair and skin samples," Dr. Park offered. "And... I'll get the skrill out of stasis. I presume you'll want to say goodbye to him, Siobhan?"

Becoming dizzy at the speed of the proceedings, Beckett could only nod. Doors was opening his global as Park rose up. "Come on, Siobhan."

They left Doors and the pathologist behind. Dr. Park removed what Siobhan recognized as a skrill stasis chamber before leading her to the medical center/lab. She opened the stasis chamber. "Here, you say goodbye while I take the stuff Richard wants."

Siobhan held the stasis chamber in her arms, almost too scared to touch Falcon for the last time. The skrill lay still, its legs and probes resting by its side. "Goodbye, Falcon," she said. "May you fly free in the next life."

Park gently took the chamber from her and closed it. "I'll see what I can do to make sure his passing doesn't hurt."

"Thank ye, Doctor," Siobhan said, trying to not sniffle.

"It's the least I can do."

* * *

The search throughout the day turned up no clues, which wasn't surprising since Siobhan was safely underground. The only memories people might have had were of her departure. In fact, Sandoval released him to fulfil his duty to Da'an that afternoon, and he assumed that Lili was doing her part at misdirection. He assumed Doors was coming up with something to get the heat off her.

Liam ran his thumb down the DNA scanner in the church, impatiently waiting for the hidden door to open and let him get down to see his mother. He wanted to know how she was getting along with Doors, and the rest of the daily Liberation staff. He got into the elevator, waiting impatiently as it went down the hundreds of feet to the Headquarters, and, once he was down, strode through the thinning crowd to where his mother's quarters were. He found her sitting down on her mattress, chin in hand. She looked up. "Hello, my son," she said in a sad voice.

"Mom?" Liam asked in alarm, sitting down beside her. "Is everything okay?"

"Falcon," she said by way of explanation. "I had to make a choice to let them burn him to death to convince the Taelons that I'd died. But now, as I have time to think, was that a good thing? Did I have the right to give up his life without asking him?"

"Look at it this way... he's free from what the Taelons used him for."

"Aye, I keep telling myself that. I keep telling myself that he would have gladly sacrificed himself if it saved my life, and that he knew and hated what the Taelons had done to his species. But I still have to wonder."

"I think I have Falcon's memories inside me," Liam said quietly. "One time after I had a drink of alcohol, I went to sleep, and I think I dreamt his dreams. Or at least the dreams you dreamt with him. I get the sense of alienness as part of you, and I wonder if my father might have saved Falcon's memories as well."

"Aye, it seemed the kind of thing that he would do, if I remember correctly. Yer mum is getting forgetful in her old age," she joked.

"My mother's had a brain-enhancer in her for three years, and just recently lost it."

"True. If there's one thing I miss, it's being able to remember. It's like everything's fuzzy now in my memory. Like I reach for a memory and I don't fully remember it, not the way I used to."

"I guess it's just something you'll have to get used to."

"Aye. Liam, answer me a question, yes or no."

"What?" Liam asked, slightly disconcerted by the change in subject.

"Are you dating Dr. Schultz? Doors says yes; Park says no."

Liam sighed. "No. Park is right. Don't get me wrong, Rosemary's a nice person. But it's best for both of us that we don't repeat the experience. Besides, she knows that I'm not as pro-Taelon as I seem, but she doesn't know what I am or that I'm Liberation. I'd always have to hide that from her."

His mother put her arm around his shoulders. "Oh, Liam. I'm sorry for ye."

"We'll survive," Liam said, a smile touching his face. "It's just not going anywhere."

"I've missed so much of your life so far. I didn't even know you'd dated Dr. Schultz," his mother said. "It must be fortune, then, that I will get to see a little of it now."

"How are you doing here?" Liam asked.

"Well," Siobhan said, removing her arm, "Doors had me conversing with the Liberation leader in London - a Darla Bennington. After that, he had me working with a strange man named Augur. Those pretty much took up the day. Doors is waiting for the pursuit to end before he does a lot more with me, I'm told."

"Do you think that what he's planning will work?"

She brushed a stray hair back up over her ear. "It may work, if it can fool Sandoval. But he isn't an idiot, Liam."

"He can be fooled. Even implants can be fooled."

"I know," his mother replied. "I suspected Captain Marquette just before you were conceived - but I never had any suspicion of William Boone."

"Because nobody expected an implant to have a non-functional imperative. It's working on peoples' assumptions."

"Aye. Twouldn't be the first time it was tried in history."

"No."

His mother looked at the clock. "You'll be wanting to go to bed soon, I expect, Liam. I don't think I'll be of good company, anyway, until the Companions are convinced of my death."

Liam recognized this as a polite brush-off, but decided it was because she was mourning Falcon more than anything else. Kissing her cheek, he said, "I'll be back tomorrow… hopefully with good news!"

"I hope ye do, my son."

* * *

It wasn't until late the next morning, nearly eleven, when Sandoval called him out of the mounds of paperwork that seemed to accumulate every time he left his desk and to the coroner's office. He looked at Da'an, but the Taelon merely nodded. He left, taking his car over.

Sandoval was there, as was Lili, who spared him a look as Sandoval interrogated someone who looked like he'd much rather be in bed. The man protested to Sandoval that he'd just done the autopsy, Sandoval had the results, and the mixup wasn't his fault. "What happened?" Liam asked Lili.

"It seems like somebody found Lt. Beckett," she said. "She was in a vacant house burned down by an arsonist."

"How can they tell it's her?"

"The pattern matched her, and then there's there are remains of the skrill. Unfortunately, Lt. Beckett was mistakenly cremated and her ashes were scattered by someone else's family."

Sandoval stalked towards them. "Captain, Major, come with me," he said, leaving the annoyed coroner inside. He stopped them at a small office, probably that of the annoyed coroner. Sandoval keyed his global. "Zo'or. We have a positive match on Lt. Beckett's remains, and a sampling of those remains, as well the remains of what we believe to be her skrill."

"Excellent. Have the body brought up, so that our scientists may examine it."

"I cannot, Zo'or," Sandoval said smoothly, but with just the right tone of regret. "Lt. Beckett's remains were accidentally confused with another's. The family has apparently already scattered the ashes, and we were unable to come up with the container. The only samples we have are from the coroner."

Liam could imagine Zo'or getting more and more upset. "Yet, you are satisfied with the results?"

"Not until I confirm them with what we have, no. I will shortly be bringing samples up which should bring us satisfaction as to whether or not Lt. Beckett is the owner of the remains."

"Very well," Zo'or said, his voice biting with anger.

* * *

Siobhan waited expectantly near the elevator for her son, who was coming down for his lunch break and to bring news. When he walked in, smiling as he saw her, she felt her heart beat faster. "Did they believe it?''

"They seem to have. Since their only samples were the ones we provided them, they're satisfied it's you and Falcon. If they're not, they're certainly not telling either me or Lili."

Siobhan enveloped her son in her arms, finding sudden tears. "Then I am truly free," she said. "Maybe not to go up there, at least for a while. But still free."

"Are you staying here, then?" Liam asked.

"Aye. I have an obligation to fill. Besides, where else can I be safe and spend some time with my son? Here, I am safe, until the Taelons are gone."

She could vaguely see Doors standing there, sour-faced as always, but his presence didn't bother her. In that moment, she was Siobhan Beckett again.


Earth: Final Conflict fanfic