Joey was weaving through an asteroid belt made of cotton candy when a distant electronic chime gently brought him out of his sweet dream.
"Alarm off," Joey muttered as he rolled onto his side.
Twenty minutes later, Joey suddenly snapped his eyes open and gasped, "Shit. Computer. What time is it?"
"The time is oh six hours, fifty-two minutes," the female voice instantly replied.
"I still have eight minutes then," Joey said with relief, and then proceeded to stretch.
After letting out a whoop of a yawn, Joey bounced out of his bed and went straight into the sonic shower in the corner of his room.
"Computer, time," Joey commanded once he had finished the basics and found the tingling sonic vibrations had restored his morning woody.
"The time is oh six hours fifty-five minutes."
"Argh," Joey moaned, then opened the shower's door.
"Warning!," the computer chirped instantly. "Sonic shower deactivated. On next use, please deactivate sonic shower and wait for the end of cycle tone before opening door. This will ensure..."
"Computer, time!" Joey barked, cutting it off, as he reached for his underwear.
"The time is oh six hours, fifty-five minutes," the female voice replied.
Joey stepped into his tunic and zipped it up, then paused in front of the mirror to make sure everything was in order before frowning and saying, "Computer, edit time preferences for Joey Conner. For one hour after a wakeup alarm, all verbal time requests should include the seconds. Save changes and tell me the time again."
"Changes saved. The time is oh six hours, fifty-eight minutes, twelve seconds," the female voice replied.
"Shit. There is no way I'll get to the bridge in less than two minutes," Joey groaned before grabbing his communicator off his night stand, and then dropping it when it chirped.
"Lieutenant Commander Joey Connor, report to transporter room two," the slightly muffled voice of the computer said through the communicator.
"Oh, well now you tell me," Joey exclaimed with irritation as he picked the funky looking metallic arrow up and slapped it to his chest.
Joey pressed the unlock button on the keypad by the door of his quarters, then smiled as the door swooshed open. At least now he had an excuse to be late.
But instead of rushing down the corridor to the turbo lift like he had intended, Joey paused from the sensation that he was missing something important in his rush to leave.
He turned around and scanned his quarters with his eyes, then queried the computer for the time again.
"The time is oh seven hours oh one minutes, thirty-five seconds," the female voice instantly replied from the interior or his room.
"Computer, why didn't you announce my change of orders over the room's com system?"
"Inquiry not understood. Please clarify."
"Why did you use the communicator instead of the room's com system when you relayed my orders to report to the transporter room a few minutes ago."
"Inquiry not understood. Please clarify."
"Clarify yourself!" Joey said with a huff.
"Reference to change of orders not found within default time reference."
"What's the default time reference?"
"Computer, where am I supposed to be right now?"
"Lieutenant Commander Joey Connor was scheduled to be on the bridge at seven hundred hours."
Joey's right eyebrow shot up, then reversed its direction as it joined his left eyebrow in forming a frown as he tapped his communicator and said, "Connor to the bridge."
"Brigley here. Joey, you're late again."
"I know that. But late for where?"
"For the bridge, where else would you... Well, never mind now. Your goose is cooked. The captain just stepped out of the turbo lift."
"Jon, I swear it isn't my fault this time. The computer told me to report to the transporter room over my com badge when I tried to put it on, but now it doesn't seem to know..."
"Lieutenant Brigley," the Captain's voice interrupted in the background of the communicator's signal. "Is that our ops officer reporting in to say he overslept again?"
"Yes sir. Or rather, no sir. He seems to be having difficulty with the computer this morning."
"Tell him to get his ass up here on the double, or he'll have more problems than the computer to deal with.
"Aye, sir," Brigley replied, then privately to Joey said, "You heard the lady."
"Yeah, I heard her," Joey said. "Hey Jon, do me one quick favor first. Update the orders in the computer. I want to see how it announces it to me."
"Okay, but I wouldn't waste any more time if I were you. Brigley out."
Joey stepped back into his room and locked the door, then waited for the computer to speak for over a minute.
"Computer, time," Joey demanded impatiently.
"The time is oh seven hours, oh nine minutes, fourteen seconds. Lieutenant Commander Joey Conner, report to the bridge," the computer said through the room's com system without any hesitation in between.
"Somebody must be playing a fucking joke on me," Joey huffed as he flicked his finger at the unlock button and ran to the nearest turbo lift.
Joey's ears were already red as he stepped out of the turbo lift and on to the bridge, but his spreading blush abruptly halted itself as his blood froze from the way his sister's fingers on her left hand were tapping rhythmically on her chair's status console.
"And I just got comfortable," the ensign muttered under her breath as Joey stepped up to the ops station and officially relieved her.
"Commander, I wish to have a word with you in my ready room," the captain announced just as Joey had gotten settled in.
"Aye, sir," Joey automatically said while his left hand momentarily spazed out from his surge of anxiety, which was only worsened by the panel noisily complaining at his invalid entry.
Joey quickly secured his station and logged off before standing up and catching the look on the brunette's face as she walked up to take his place.
"Don't get too comfortable this time, ensign," Joey said with a firm tone.
"I'm just keeping the seat warm for you, sir," she playfully replied.
Joey had to wipe the smile off his face before pressing the call button on the ready room's door. And when he heard his sister's voice say "Come," he realized he strangely felt relaxed about what was about to take place.
"Captain," Joey said after the door swooshed closed behind him and Sarah hadn't turned from her position at the window.
"What did I say right before I authorized your transfer to my ship?" Sarah said with a quiet yet firm voice.
"No breaks on account of being the Captain's brother," Joey sighed.
"Come on, Sarah. We went through all this last week."
"Well apparently it didn't do any good. What else?"
"I have to be the perfect officer, never slouch on the job, and basically never give anyone any reason to say you play favorites."
"I have to reprimand you just like I would anyone else," she said, turning around.
"Okay, okay... I know the drill. I'll be painting the ship's hull on my day off again."
"And you'll use the right paint this time. Not the kind that glows neon green or any other color when we're on the night side of the planet."
"Joey, you're the best ops officer we have, and I know that all the effort you put into your special projects can leave you drained. If you can't report to duty because you're too tired to get up, then get the doc to give you a note or something. Just don't make up lame excuses like trying to blame the computer. Nobody on the bridge is going buy that, so I can't either."
"Get a note from the doc. Check. But for what its worth, somebody was playing a trick on me this morning by sending a false change of orders computer announcement though my communicator."
"Really... Have you reported this to security?"
"Awe... Do I have to?"
"I want you to be here on the bridge when you're supposed to be, not wandering around the ship on a wild goose chase next time the Borg decide to attack."
"Well, I kind of hoped to track down whoever it was myself, but I guess you're right."
"Of course I'm right," Sarah said with a false insulted huff. "I am the Captain after all. Now get back to your post, Commander."
"Aye, sir," Joey said while giving her a fancy salute.
Just as the ready room's doors swooshed opened from Joey's approach, Joey's communicator chirped and then announced, "Lieutenant Commander Joey Conner, report to transport room two."
"See?" Joey exclaimed to both Sarah and Jon.
But everyone's attention was instantly diverted the next moment by the computer's announcement of, "Intruder alert."
"Where?" the Captain demanded as she quickly followed Joey out of the ready room.
"I... I don't know, sir," the ensign at tactical announced. "There are no unaccounted life signs aboard."
"Computer," Sarah barked as she landed her butt into her chair with a bounce. "Explain the intruder alert."
"Inquiry not understood. Please clarify."
Anticipating the computer wouldn't be able to explain itself, Joey's fingers began to fly across his console as he inputted query after query in tracking down what had triggered the computer's automated announcement. Strangely enough, when he found the source, he didn't feel the least bit surprised.
"Captain," Joey exclaimed, interrupting the computer's explanation of its confusion, much to Sarah's relief. "Someone or something is trying to activate the transporter system in transporter room two."
"Yellow alert," Sarah barked into the com system in her chair's arm. "Security to transporter room two. Secure the doors, but do not enter until the captain's party arrives. Engineering, shut down power to all transporters until further notice. Lieutenant Commander Wishmaker report to the captain outside transporter room two."
"Joey," Sarah said with her you're-with-me tone, shortly followed by, "Lieutenant Brigley, you have the con."
Joey followed Sarah into the turbo lift, then just as Sarah instructed the lift to take them to transporter room two, her communicator beeped and said, "Engineering to the captain."
Sarah tapped her com badge and said "Go ahead."
"Grant here sir. All attempts to reroute power from transporter room two have been unsuccessful. Do you want us to shut down the grid to that section?"
Joey's communicator beeped again, then announced, "Joey Conner to transporter room two."
Joey and Sarah looked at each other, then as the turbo lift slowed to make a turn, Sarah said, "Go ahead and get ready to, but don't turn off the grid unless I give the order. And lieutenant, start monitoring Lieutenant Commander Connor's communicator. I want to know the exact location of anyone sending a message to his communicator."
"Aye sir," Grant said with a slight hesitation to her voice.
"Captain out," Sarah said before tapping her com badge to disconnect.
"Times like this I wish I did have a first officer," Sarah said while pulling a rubber band out of her pocket and using it to put her hair back.
"It didn't call me Lieutenant Commander that time," Joey pointed out with a thoughtful frown. "And you know you'd be playing favorites if you made me first officer."
"Who said anything about you being first officer?"
"Fine then. Make Terence your first officer and be done with it," Joey said, the first officer issue being the last thing on his mind at the moment. "What are we going to do, Sarah?"
"Well it's obvious this isn't a computer glitch, and it isn't Borg. It isn't their style. Someone is trying to get you to go to that transporter room. So let's give them what they want and see what happens. I'll have Jon raise the shields if they try to transporter you out. But my instincts say that's not what's going to happen."
"Well, just remember," Joey said as the turbo lift finally stopped and the doors opened. "Mom is going to be pissed if you lose me to a bunch of aliens."
"Is the room secure?" Sarah asked Terrence as they approached the heavily armed party outside the transporter room.
"Secure? Depends on your point of view," he said, handing Sarah and then Joey a phaser. "The doors are magnetically sealed, nobody is inside, and no one has come out. However, I didn't lock the doors, and they aren't responding to my security overrides. I'm about ready to blast a hole through the bloody thing."
"I don't think that will be necessary," Sarah said.
As Sarah filled Terence and the security team in, Joey slapped his phaser onto his hip before walking over to the open panel next to the transport room door.
The moment Joey touched the diagnostic controls normally covered by the panel, the corridor lights died, the red alert klaxon wailed along with the sound and shimmer of force fields being raised throughout the corridor, and the computer's voice announced over the ship's com system, "Intruder alert. Security fields activated. First officer Commander Joey Conner to transporter room two."
Just as Joey was getting a handle on the situation, for a split he felt the tingle of a familiar mind touching his, and then the transporter room doors opened on their own accord.
"Joey, don't even think about going in there," Sarah warned as she tested the force field blocking her way with her hand.
"It's okay, Sarah," Joey said as he felt the touch again. "I think it's Tim."
"Computer, deactivate force fields outside transporter room two!" Terence ordered.
"Unable to comply. Security level zero required."
"Security level zero?!?" Terence exclaimed. "There is no such security level, you bloody machine!"
"Computer, who has security level zero clearance?" Joey asked.
"That information is unavailable. Joey Conner to transporter room two.
"Please," the computer added after a small delay.
The familiar mind touched his again, lingering long enough that Joey got a sense of the direction it had come from. Joey probed the transporter room with his limited unlinked telepathic senses and got a wispy trace of what he decided was an incomplete thought.
"Commander, hold your ground," Sarah ordered when Joey moved towards the door.
"Be ready to raise those shields," Joey said after a slight hesitation, then walked into the transporter room.
The doors closing behind him barely registered to Joey as his limited telepathic senses tingled with the wispy traces of another mind trying to reach him. Joey froze in fear when he found himself standing in front of the transporter controls with his right hand reaching for the energizer touch pad without consciously knowing he was doing it.
But then the wispy thoughts seemed to focus themselves enough to impart the urgency of situation, and without any further thought, Joey started the rematerialization sequence.
Joey held his breath as the sparkles of the transporter beam formed between the floor and ceiling pads, but after over a minute of waiting for something to materialize, he had to gasp for his breath while checking the controls for what could be wrong.
"Not enough power," Joey muttered to himself before tapping his communicator and saying, "Conner to the Captain."
When he didn't get a response, Joey sighed, tapped his communicator again and said, "Conner to the bridge."
"Fucking fantastic," Joey muttered when again he didn't get a response. "Computer, are you still with me?"
"Inquiry not understood."
"At least some things don't change," Joey said to himself. "Computer, increase power to the transporter."
"Unable to comply. Power routing for this section has been disabled."
"Shit," Joey said when his attempt to override the lockout failed. "Computer, where is Captain Harrison?"
"Captain Harrison is not aboard the Harrison."
"What?!?" Joey exclaimed. "When did she leave?"
"That information is unavailable."
"Computer, fuck yourself in the ass. You're useless!"
"Unable to comply. Command not understood."
Joey estimated that he had less than a minute left before the matter stream would destabilize and whoever or whatever was in the beam would be lost. As he scanned the room for an additional source of power, his hand brushed up against his phaser.
"Well, if it worked on TV," Joey said as he took his phaser off his hip and went to the other side of the transporter console.
Before Joey could finish removing the access plate from the rear of the console, the mind which he nearly forgotten all about suddenly found its way to him again and desperately tried to get Joey to form a share link with it.
The mind was very weak, so weak that Joey was hesitant on forming the link knowing it would drain him like a battery. But he also felt the mind's desperation and anxiety, and most of all, he felt the other's fear for the life trapped in the beam.
So Joey physically braced himself before forming the share link, and for a moment he thought it had failed when he didn't feel anything more.
The familiar sound of a materialization behind him caused Joey to turn around, then he felt his strength leave him as the beam's occupant began to take physical form.
Joey was on his hands and knees with dizziness when the transporter cycle completed and the figure on the transporter pad slumped to the ground. The room spun around Joey as he tried to crawl over to the transporter pad, but he quickly found himself so disorientated and weak that his hand could just barely find his com badge and tap it before he lost his coordination all together.
"Medical emergency in transporter room two," Joey said as loud as he could despite his voice refusing to work.
The world around Joey blurred to a hazy nothing, his mind getting stuck somewhere between being awake and asleep. At one point Joey sensed he was being moved, and later managed to open his eyes when he heard Sarah saying something to him. But when he couldn't focus enough to understand her, Joey gave up and fell fast asleep.
The sound of the red alert klaxon brought Joey out of his deep regenerative sleep seemingly only moments after having entered it. He sat up feeling somewhat sluggish both mentally and physically, and took a moment to take in his surroundings.
Joey was just coming to the conclusion he was in sick bay when someone stirred on the diagnostic bed next to him.
"Doc?" Joey called before carefully slipping his legs over the edge of the bed and trying to stand up.
"Doctor Brown? Nurse?" he called again when he felt dizzy and sat back down.
"Joey?" the other bed's occupant softly called out.
Joey took a deep breath before staggering over to the other bed, then struggled to see through his dizziness to identify the other patient.
"You found me," the stranger said. "I didn't know where I was, and I kept hearing you and Suzi, but I couldn't find you."
"I'm sorry, but I'm so dizzy I can't see straight," Joey said with difficulty. "Who are you?"
"Eric," the faintly familiar voice said. "Eric Roberts?"
"Eric?" Joey gasped in shock. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Joey's found his dizziness fading while he watched Eric's increasing astonished face taking in their surroundings apparently for the first time.
"Joey, where is here exactly?" Eric asked softly.
"You're aboard the USS Harrison, a Challenger class starship."
"Yeah. Cool, huh?"
Eric took another look around the sick bay, then laid back down sighing, "It's just a dream, then."
"I know it seems like it, but it’s not, Eric. We're really on a starship."
Eric frowned, then asked, "Oh really? Then how did I get here?"
"Well, that's actually a good question," Joey said.
Eric didn't try to interrupt Joey's description of the events leading to Eric's arrival, but at the same time, he didn't believe a word of it and stated so when Joey finished.
"Alright," Joey said, throwing his hands up in front of him to signify he was giving up. "I can't spend any more time here trying to convince you. We're at battle stations, and I need to report to the bridge."
"The bridge? Oh, of course. You're the Captain, right?" Eric sneered.
"No, I'm not," Joey said huffily before tapping his communicator and saying, "Conner to the bridge."
"This is the Captain. Joey, are you all right?"
"I think so," Joey said. "Why are we still at red alert?"
"The Gaylord is under attack. We're twenty minutes away from intercept. If you're up to it, I'd like you at ops."
"Is it... Borg?"
"Yes. Wally said they popped out of nowhere. I don't know what we're going to find by the time we get there, but they're going to pay for what they did to Jon Luc."
"Oh, give me a break," Eric muttered.
"I'll be there as soon as I can. Conner out," Joey said before closing the channel and turning back to Eric.
"Eric, I think it would be better if you came with me."
"Why, oh phantom of my imagination?"
"Look!" Joey said, seizing Eric by the shoulders and pressing his fingers into him. "Whether you want to believe it or not, you're in the middle of this, and you have to be here to help us somehow. You remember Wally, don't you? Well, right now he's probably getting the shit blasted out of him."
"By the Borg?" Eric said with discomfort, finding Joey's pinching grasp a little too real for a dream. "But they're not real! None of this is!"
"A couple of months ago, I would have said the same thing," Joey said, releasing Eric from the look of uncertainty in his eyes. "Eight years ago, a couple of members of a secret organization of telepaths called the Cabal sensed a linked consciousness with inhuman thoughts approaching Earth. Eventually they were able to determine that these aliens intended to enslave us using a combination of genetic and electromechanical modifications of our bodies.
"So they started gathering the greatest scientific minds and put them to work building spaceships more advanced than anything ever seen before, and also started a program to train as many voices as possible to man the ships when the time came.
"My sister's group at Central State was one of seven groups of telepaths trained without them even knowing it. They found that the team-ship formed when they thought they were alone was much stronger than in voices who knew it wasn't a life or enslavement situation.
"Three months ago, they contacted Sarah and brought us into the fold, so to speak. We've been training on the ships for over two months now, and we're just to the point where we can handle them on our own without our mute commander guiding us."
"What about Suzi and Tim?" Eric asked, unsure what to believe.
"They're on Earth. Last week, Tim nearly fried his brain out taking on the whole damn Borg collective while we tried to rescue the Challenger. We saved a lot of the crew, but Jon Luc was... Well, he's just not human anymore."
"Is Tim okay?" Eric asked.
"He will be. He just needs to rest his telepathy a while. Suzi went with him because I was having problems linking afterwards, and she'd be vulnerable to the Borg's control if she isn't linked through me."
"The Borg are telepathic?"
"Very. That's why everyone on the ships is either a voice or immune to voice."
"Everyone but me," Eric pointed out.
"You'll be alright," Joey said reassuringly. "We shielded our mute first officer through three attacks without a problem. And the Borg probably won't even bother with you since you're not part of the crew.
"Computer, how long until we're in range of the Gaylord?" Joey queried when Eric didn't immediately ask another question.
"Fourteen minutes, forty one seconds," the computer replied.
"Come on," Joey said when he suddenly noticed Eric's clothes. "We need to get you out of those shorts and into a uniform."
"Why a uniform?"
"Because that's all we have," Joey chuckled. "You feel up to walking?"
"I think so," Eric said after standing up on his feet and taking a couple of steps. "I feel really light though. Like I'm floating."
"Half a gee of gravity," Joey explained as he led the way out of the sick bay. "I say gravity, but it's really inertia. The ship's just a big spinning donut with a big rocket mounted at the center of the hole. The first time Tim, Suz and I saw the Harrison, my sister had to stun the three of us just to stop us from making each other laugh with jokes."
"Rocket?" Eric said with surprise. "What, no warp drive?"
"I wish," Joey said. "No warp drive, no Vulcans, and no tractor beams."
"But you have transporters," Eric said, finding himself at odds with the whole situation again.
"One good thing about the Borg," Joey said as they stepped into a turbo lift. "They can't keep a secret worth a damn.
"Deck five, section C," Joey told the turbo lift before explaining further to Eric, "We picked up the warp drive, the transporters, energy weapons, and force fields from just listening to their collective mind."
"You just said you don't have warp drive," Eric objected.
"The Harrison doesn't, but we do have the technology. It just doesn't do us any good since you can't use it when you're in a gravity well."
"Er, gravity field then. The warp technology the Borg have only works outside a gravity field, which means we'd have to fly outside the solar system before we could use the drive."
"That sucks," Eric said.
"Yeah, well, if it wasn't for that, we'd all have been Borgified years ago. We think it's taken them over twenty years to get here from where they warped in at."
The turbo lift came to a halt, and as they waited for the doors to open, Eric heard someone whisper, "He's dreaming."
"Did you hear that?" Eric asked Joey just as the doors opened."
"What, the doors?"
"No. I heard someone whispering."
Joey immediately stopped in his tracks and turned towards Eric with alarm all over his face.
"Whatever you do, don't listen to them."
"It wasn't the Borg," Eric said as he felt the color drain from his face. "I mean, it doesn't make sense."
"Can you hear them now?"
"Good," Joey said, visibly relieved. "If you hear any other whispers, focus on something else and let me know you need help, okay?"
Joey stopped and asked, "Hey, you're almost Tim's size, aren't you?"
"I guess so," Eric said with some surprise. "I haven't seen him for about year now, so I don't know."
"Let's try his quarters first then. If they're baggy on you, we can try someone else's."
Eric felt somewhat insulted by this. For the past six months, Eric's friends and family were constantly commenting on how amazed they were by his latest growth spurt. Randy, his boyfriend, had convinced Eric to join a gym with him so they could both get into shape over the summer and try out for the varsity football team together.
Eric wasn't vain, but he had become a bit proud of his masculine and fit body. He was fairly sure he wouldn't fit in the clothes Joey had pulled out of the drawer, but Joey insisted they would stretch.
And they did stretch. Eric was standing in front of the mirror admiring how every ripple of his six pack was visible through the tunic when Joey returned to the room and gasped.
"Joey, what's the matter?" Eric said with alarm.
"Yeah. Are the Borg attaching?"
"What? No. No, nothing like that," Joey stammered while his eyes studied Eric's face with a fierce intensity. "You... changed."
"Yeah? Shorts go bye bye, remember?"
"Not just the clothes. You... You grew up. Shit, you're like nearly six foot tall."
"Five eleven, one eighty five, plus a six pack," Eric said proudly. "That's how Randy says it."
"Eric, up until I left a couple of minutes ago, you were... Shit, you were like you were in Venezuela."
"Sees what you see," Eric heard whispered.
"Bridge to Lieutenant Commander Conner," Joey's communicator chirped.
"Go ahead, Jon," Joey replied.
"The captain wanted me to inform you we're five minutes away from interception. If you're going to be at ops when we get there, you better haul ass."
"Roger. On my way."
Joey looked at Eric, then shook his head and said, "Come on. We'll figure it out later. Right now we have to save the human race. Again."
Between Joey's anxiety of the upcoming battle and Eric's doubts of the reality of his situation bubbling through his mind again, the turbo lift ride to the bridge was in total silence.
The moment the doors open, however, Eric couldn't help but let out an astonished "Wow!"
"I'd give you the tour, but we don't have time," Joey said, just as the big view screen at the front jumped to the image of a big black donut with a bright white flame coming from its otherwise empty center.
"What the hell?" Joey exclaimed as he made his way forward to his console. "Is he doing what I think he's doing?"
"I don't know," Sarah said, her tone full of dread. "They still have under seven minutes left to turn the ship around and do a full burn to avoid collision. Terence, are you sure we can hit their engine at this range?"
"We'll know in six minutes from... mark," Terence said calmly.
"Come on Wally," Sarah said under her breath. "Don't make me do this."
Eric was looking around for a place to stay out of the way when Sarah suddenly noticed him.
"Eric, you can come and sit in the first officer's chair, if you like," Sarah offered.
"Uh, thanks, but wouldn't I be in the way?"
"Only if you start acting like a first officer," Sarah said, generating a snicker from the entire bridge crew.
After Eric sat down beside her, Sarah asked. "Do you understand what's going on?"
Eric nodded and said, "You're hoping Wally turns his ship around."
"No. If he does, it means Wally and the others on the ship have been taken over and will try and dock with the Borg's ship to be processed."
"But if they don't turn... Won't they be killed?"
"Either way, they're already dead. I just hope I don't have to be the one to kill them first."
"You'll fire on them if they turn," Eric stated, his gut tightening at the thought of Wally's demise.
"Better that than to be mutated into one of them," Sarah said with a bitter resolve.
"Captain!" Terence exclaimed. "Two life pods just ejected. And two more!"
"And another pair. And another," Joey announced. "Looks like standard evacuation launch pattern too."
"Make sure you get an accurate count on the number of pods launched and their headings, Terence," Sarah commanded. "Jon, what's the E.T.A. for our point of no return?"
"Uh," Brigley stammered, then said, "Eight minutes, twenty one seconds."
"Shannon, send an update to the Cheap-Slut and the Black Hawk. Tell them if they don't receive another update before that time, we'll be following Gaylord's example."
Eric shivered as he felt the tension on the bridge shoot up, and as Sarah ignored the nervous chit chat going on around her, Eric started to get pretty scared.
"Bathroom," Eric's mysterious whisper said.
Eric looked all the way around the bridge looking for some sign of a bathroom of some sort. Out of three doors, two were labeled turbo lift, and the other was labeled Captain's ready room.
While Eric was uncertain whether to trust this whispering voice, he couldn't see how it could possibly be the whispers Joey had been so afraid of and decided to investigate it.
"Excuse me, Captain. Where's the head?" Eric asked Sarah.
"The head. The toilet."
"Oh," Sarah said before pointing over her left shoulder. "The door between the turbo lift and the ready room."
"That door wasn't there a moment ago," Eric said to himself, already feeling better about not telling Joey about his whispering friend.
"Hello?" Eric whispered once the bathroom's door shut behind him. "I'm here."
Eric sat down on the stainless steel toilet and listened to the gentle hum of the small room's lights and air system. There were no whispers, and even the sounds of the bridge crew and its equipment were totally blocked out of the five by four foot room. It was so peaceful, Eric wanted to close his eyes and just let himself float away to sleep...
"Wake up," the whisper said with urgency.
"About time," Eric said, snapping his eyes open only to find himself in complete darkness.
"Take Joey and Suzi to Tim," the whisper said gently.
"Who are you?" Eric asked in a soft voice.
"Take Joey and Suzi to Tim," the whisper repeated, but this time so faint Eric barely heard it.
"Hello?" Eric said a little louder when the whisper didn't say anything else.
"You know, I'm getting tired of this shit," Eric shouted as he stood up and stretched his arms out to feel around.
Eric quickly realized he was still in the bridge's head, there just didn't seem to be any power.
"Damn it! What kind of starship is this? Didn't they ever hear of emergency lights?"
"Emergency lighting activated," the computer's voice announced as the room lit up in a dull red light.
"Alright, let's give this Star Trek shit a try," Eric said thoughtfully. "Emergency door open."
"Uh... Open sesame?"
"Open says me?"
"Think Eric. You've watched a few episodes," Eric mumbled to himself. "Computer. Uhm, override door control."
"Access code required for all override commands."
"Access code. Let's see. How about two, four, six, eight?"
"Access code accepted for security level zero."
"Good. Now, open the damn doors."
"Unable to comply. Main power off line. Doors must be opened using manual override."
"Right. Um. Computer, where is the manual override?"
"Manual override for type seven compartmental doors is located behind the access panel marked manual override."
"Oh," Eric said with a bit of embarrassment, having remembered noticing it before his little nap.
After popping off the access panel, Eric found a metal handle that he ended up pumping to open the doors.
As Eric wedged himself through the doors, emergency lights snapped on revealing a deserted bridge. The view screen and all of the controls but one panel were dead.
"Navigation," Eric read out loud from the faintly glowing panel. "I suppose this means the ship is on a collision course with the Borg ship."
Eric sat down at the controls and tried to decipher them, but what labels there were didn't help explain how to use them.
"Computer, where is Joey Conner?" Eric asked when he wondered it himself.
"Lieutenant Commander Joey Conner is on deck three, corridor five, subsection C."
"What's he doing there?" he asked himself.
"That information is not available."
"I wasn't talking to you," Eric said, but then asked, "Computer, where is everyone else? Why is the power turned off?"
"At thirteen twenty seven, Captain Harrison ordered the crew to abandon ship. At thirteen forty one, main power was taken off line by Lieutenant Commander Joey Conner."
"Computer, if main power is off, how come you're still working?"
"Computer core and ship wide communication systems were connected to emergency life support power at thirteen forty by Lieutenant Commander Joey Conner."
"Computer, how many crew members are left on board?"
"Is there anyone else on board?"
"Internal sensors are off line. Last sensor reading at thirteen forty one indicated seven unknown life forms had materialized on deck seven, engineering section four."
"Were they Borg?"
"There is a ninety seven percent probability the unknown life forms were Borg."
Eric paused, then asked, "Computer, are there any life boats left?"
"Seven life pods were ready for ejection before main power went offline. Current status of life pods is unknown."
"Can they be launched without main power?"
"Affirmative. Life pod type C dash eight are capable of manual un-powered launch."
"Computer, how do I get to Joey."
"Turbo lifts are off line. Use bridge maintenance ladder two to access deck three, corridor five, subsection A. Afterwards, take corridor five to subsection C."
"And the bridge maintenance ladder two is where?"
"The four bridge maintenance ladders on Challenger class starships are each located behind access panels labeled Bridge Maintenance Ladder."
"All right, wise ass, where on the bridge are these access panels located?"
"Bridge maintenance ladder access panels for Challenger class starships are located on either side of the spin and counter-spin bridge turbo lifts."
Eric quickly found the access panel labeled Bridge Maintenance Ladder Two and after pulling it off, he stuck his head through the two and a half foot square opening and shouted, "Computer, turn on the emergency lighting for bridge maintenance ladder two."
"Unable to comply. Bridge maintenance ladders on Challenger class starships do not have automated emergency lighting."
"Do they have regular lighting?"
"Affirmative. Bridge maintenance ladder lighting on Challenger class starships are powered from main power. Main power is offline."
"Well then can I connect them to emergency power?"
"Affirmative. Bridge maintenance ladder lighting can be rerouted manually through access panel labeled..."
"Yeah, yeah. Bridge maintenance ladder lighting power. Where is the access panel?"
"Bridge maintenance ladder lighting power access panels for Challenger class starships are located next to bridge maintenance ladder at each level."
Eric sighed, then asked, "Computer, just tell me where I can get a flashlight."
"Bridge access to hand held lighting devices for Challenger class starships is from one of the four storage cabinets labeled hand held lighting."
"And where... Ah forget it. I'll find them myself."
Once Eric had retrieved a flashlight, a medical kit, and what he assumed was a phaser from their individual storage cabinets built into the walls of the bridge, he crawled through the opening and nearly dropped the light down the hole from it being right inside the opening. After getting on the ladder, he pulled off the lighting power access panel, then quickly decided the flashlight was all he needed and started to climb down.
Deck three was only two decks below him, and Eric was almost disappointed by the short journey down. But once he kicked the access panel off and crawled into the corridor, he purposely dropped the access panel down the hole and listened for it to hit bottom. When it finally did, he decided he didn't feel disappointed any more, for it was a long way down.
Eric had to admit the designers had done a good job at labeling things. After all of the stupid questions he had asked the computer, Eric had learned to look around before asking. So when he realized the corridor he was in went in two directions, all he had to do was to look around and immediately found a sign on the wall:
Deck 3, Corridor 5
Section A ← Section B Section Z →
Figuring section C would be after section B, Eric went left, and before he knew it, he had not only passed section C, but D as well without any signs of Joey.
"Computer, where is Joey Conner?"
When the computer didn't answer, he retraced his steps to section C, then looked for some sign of where Joey might have gone.
His foot found the answer before his eyes did by kicking a door's manual override access panel which was laying flat on the floor beside a closed door.
Eric immediately grabbed the pump handle and started pumping the door open, then just as he started wiggling through the doors, a hot and bright beam of energy shot right through his head.
Eric's alarm and panic quickly dissipated when he realized he wasn't actually hurt, and then when he got hit in the shoulder by the same energy weapon, he exclaimed, "Hey! Will you stop that!"
"Eric?" Joey exclaimed from within the dark.
"Yeah," Eric said with relief as he finished slipping through the doors. "What the hell are you still doing here when everyone else left?"
"I couldn't leave without finding you first, and then Borg boarded us... Eric, you have to get off the ship. It's going to explode."
"Well, I can't say I'm surprised," Eric said with a shrug. "So where's the nearest life boat pod thing."
"Deck seven, section F."
Eric started wiggling back through the door, but stopped when he realized Joey hadn't moved to follow him.
"Aren't you coming?" Eric asked.
"I can't. The Borg shot me with some kind of stunner and I can barely move."
"I'll carry you then."
"You can't. I'm too heavy. Besides, the Borg are still on board, and you don't have time to be slowed down by me."
"You forget," Eric said as he lifted Joey off the floor and put him over one shoulder. "Half a g makes you weigh half as much."
"Shit," Joey gasped when Eric kicked one of the doors' edge and both doors slid open all the way.
"Okay, maybe you are a little heavy," Eric admitted a minute later, setting Joey down on his feet, then found Joey managing to stay upright. "Can you walk?"
"I'm not sure," Joey mumbled. "My whole body feels asleep."
Eric thought a moment, then said, "If you can move on your own, I'll scout ahead a bit, then come back and help you. Okay?"
"But what if you run into the Borg?"
"You let me worry about that. Just keep moving."
"All right, but if they catch me, just go. Don't try and save me. I doubt I'll be anything worth saving by then."
Other than not being able to hold his head up straight and his arms dangled limply from his shoulders, Joey didn't have as much trouble as they both had expected. Within minutes they were outside the turbo lift's door for section F.
As Eric opened the ladder access panel, Joey slumped to the floor.
"Come on. No time to rest," Eric said when he crawled back out of the access hole after inspecting the ladder.
"I'll never make it," Joey complained, sleepily.
"Sure you will," Eric told him confidently. "Get up. Don't you want to see Suzi again?"
"Well, yeah, but.."
"Come on then. If you stay here, you'll die right? And if you fall off the ladder, sure, you'll die there too. But if you don't fall, and we make it to the life pod..."
"Okay, okay," Joey mumbled. "But I'll go first so I don't knock you off the ladder if I do fall."
"Sorry, Charlie," Eric said as he went into the access hole first. "You're too slow. I can be on deck seven before you get to deck four. But don't worry. I promise I won't try and catch you if you do fall."
"Thanks," Joey muttered with a small smile on his face.
Once Joey was on the ladder okay and was making his way down, Eric started his way down as well, but nearly fell off the ladder when the lights came on.
"That's better," Joey muttered as he closed up the lighting power panel. "Couldn't see."
Eric let out a sigh of relief, turned his flashlight off, and in no time was kicking the access panel out into the corridor on deck seven.
The first thing Eric noticed after crawling halfway out the access hole was the fact that the lights on that deck were on.
And then an ashen white skinned man with electronic appendages sticking out of his gut, chest, and forehead walked right past Eric without showing any signs of noticing him.
Eric carefully backed up and climbed back on the ladder, then whispered up to Joey, "The lights are on and there's a Borg walking around the corridor. Are there any other life pods nearby?"
"I don't know," Joey said. "But we could try the shuttle bay instead. It's just one deck down."
"Good idea," Eric said before sliding down the ladder to the next access hole.
While that deck's lights were on as well, Eric scouted the area while waiting for Joey to catch up and didn't find any signs of Borg.
But just as Eric saw Joey's feet reach the access hole, a tone drew his attention to the turbo lift.
Eric froze in fear when the doors opened and two Borg stepped out. As the two inhuman creatures jabbered in some alien tongue walking straight for him, Eric backed up against the wall and closed his eyes, terrified of what was to come next.
When he realized the Borg had walked right past him, he opened one eye in time to watch the taller Borg glance around, then push the smaller one against the wall and kiss it passionately.
"Okay, now it's getting too weird," Eric said as he carefully approached the two interlocked creatures.
The movements of their arms and heads, along with their kissing's noises, only convinced Eric more and more that two creatures before him weren't really monsters, but two human beings with the hots for each other.
When Eric was standing within two feet of them without them noticing his presence, he decided to try something more decisive.
"You two should get a motel room," Eric said boldly.
When neither reacted to his statement, Eric reached out and grabbed the taller one's shoulder, but no matter what he tried, he couldn't affect either of the two kissing creatures. They were like two stone statues that could move on their own, yet were totally solid stone to Eric.
Eric tried yelling at them, and then out of desperation, he spat at them, and nearly fell over backwards when the taller one suddenly turned his head towards him and said something.
The two seemed as spooked as Eric was, and after only a short exchange of words, they hurried down the corridor and passed through the doors marked Shuttle Bay.
"Well, that was weird," Eric said as he joined Joey back at the turbo lift. "I wonder what scared them off."
"I think they saw me," Joey said, slumping up against the wall. "I don't understand why they didn't attack."
"I think I do," Eric said. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
Joey watched as Eric confidently entered the shuttle bay without apparently caring whether there were Borg inside or not, and struggled to keep his numb body moving to keep up. Up until he found Eric making faces at the two Borg, he had nearly cried out in despair from thinking Eric had been taken over.
But now Joey didn't know what to think. He was so tired, and things weren't making sense any more. If it hadn't been for Eric, he would have curled up somewhere to go to sleep, knowing all too well he probably would have never woken up.
When Joey entered the shuttle bay, he found Eric walking towards him with a frown on his face.
"There aren't any shuttles left," Eric simply said.
"Damn," Joey said as the hope of getting home in one piece evaporated.
"Hey Joey," Eric said as Joey got comfortable on the floor.
"Your link thing. Is it working?"
"Yeah," Joey said as he tried to think straight.
"Are you linked to someone right now?"
"What?" Joey asked groggily.
Eric kneeled down, lifted Joey's heavy head and looked him in the eyes when they flickered open momentarily.
"Come on, Joey. Stay with me just a little while longer. All we need to do is hitch a ride to Suzi's."
"Hitch... Hitch from whom?" Joey asked once he managed to comprehend him.
Eric sighed, then asked, "If Tim was here, and he was trying to get back to Earth, but there weren't any more life pods or shuttles left on board, what do you think he'd do?"
"He'd... Uhm. I guess he'd try to hijack a Borg and have it fly him home."
"So can you do it?"
"I don't know, Eric. I can't think. I'm so tired."
Eric sat down beside Joey, then said, "I guess you would be. It must be hard to keep this thing going as long as you have."
"Nothing," Eric sighed. "I wish I could... Hey Joey. If you linked with me, maybe I could do it!"
"Link with you?" Joey repeated groggily.
"You link with Suzi and she can do those things right? Why couldn't I?"
"You don't know how," Joey eventually said.
"Oh, come on. How hard can it be? Besides, it's better than waiting for the Borg to find you, right?"
"Okay," Joey said, too tired to even argue any more.
"Well?" Eric said when Joey frowned a few moments later.
"I can't find you," Joey complained.
"Open your eyes," Eric said, hoping that would somehow help.
Joey opened his eyes just a crack, then after a few moments of trying to focus them, Eric's image suddenly formed in front of him, and a moment later, so did his mind.
"Whoa," Eric gasped as he felt Joey touch his mind.
"You have to accept it," Joey said with frustration.
"Oh.. Uh... There. Okay?"
"Mmm," Joey grunted, seeing this as his chance to finally get some sleep.
"Wow. This is... Cool." Eric said as he began to feel the minds around him.
Just as Eric was getting the hang of his new sense, the rest of his senses dimmed and then went out all together.
Yet he could still feel the minds around him, including Joey's, whose mind was now much calmer than the others.
Eric quickly felt out the nearest mind traveling in a vehicle, then after a few attempts at trying to command the mind to find them and only getting a confused response, Eric realized why and focused on tapping into the mind nearest to his and Joey's.
At first it was all just a jumble of thoughts and sensations to him, but then when Eric tried to push them in some kind of order, he found himself sitting at a reception desk, tapping a pen in boredom.
"Whoa. I'm a girl," Eric said when he tried looking around and noticed the extra weight on his chest.
After giving one breast a sampling squeeze, Eric glanced around the desk looking for a clue as to where he was. He couldn't believe his luck when he found not just the address, but a map of the entire county.
"I knew it," Eric exclaimed when he looked up from the map and noticed the "Welcome to Central State University's Harrison III Medical Center" spelled out in eight inch high silver letters on the wall opposite from the main doors.
Eric found a pencil and quickly traced a route from the Medical center to the highway that would take them in the direction of Suzi's parent's home.
"Now, do I take Joey myself, or just hitch us a ride?" Eric asked himself out loud.
"Who you talking to, Sheryl?" a male guard said as he walked into the lobby.
"Oh, nobody," Eric quickly said. "Just thinking out loud."
"So anyway," the guard said as he leaned up against the counter like he was planning to stay a while. "My brother was hell bent on getting even with me. I had to watch my step for three weeks before I got wind of what..."
"Hold that thought," Eric interrupted him. "I got to go pee."
"What, again?" the guard said as Eric slipped the folded map into the back of his skirt and walked out from behind the reception desk.
"You know how it is," Eric said as he walked towards the corridor on the left.
"Sheryl," the guard shouted.
"The ladies room is that way," he said pointing down the hall he had come from.
"There's one down here too, isn't there?" Eric quickly shot back.
"Yeah, but... ah, never mind. Women."
Eric was blindly using his expanded senses to lead him back to Joey, but they only led him to a dead end with Joey below him. So Eric turned his borrowed body around and headed for the elevator, but then stopped at the door next to the elevator marked stairs.
"I wonder," Eric said to himself before going through the door to check out the stairwell.
"Main power," Eric said, flipping the light switch off with a chuckle. "Emergency power," he said as he flipped it back on.
After flipping the lights on and off a few more times, Eric went down the stairs, then shook his head with a grin spreading across his borrowed face as he headed for the door marked loading bay.
"So this is the shuttle bay. I wonder what room we started out in," Eric said as he stuffed the map into Joey's shirt before turning around to return his body to where it belonged.
"Sheryl, what the hell are you doing down here," the guard asked from the stairs.
"I was just getting some exercise," Eric made up. "I needed to do something to wake up."
"Well I'm sorry if I was boring you," the guard said, insulted.
"It's not you. It's just so late," Eric stammered.
"What are you talking about? It's only a little after eleven."
"It is?" Eric said, looking at the watch on his borrowed wrist with surprise. "It can't be. It's been hours since...
"Uh... What are you doing?" Eric asked, noticing the guard was holding down one of the buttons on his radio.
"Oh nothing," he lied. "Better come back upstairs with me now, Sheryl."
"Okay," Eric said as he tried to leave the girl's body.
After stepping in the elevator, Eric sensed another mind touching Sheryl's, then two more minds from farther away joined the first in an attempt to pry her body from Eric's control.
Parts of her body seemed to go numb as others flared with increased sensitivity, and if Eric hadn't been just as anxious to leave the body as they were to free it, he probably would have enjoyed the tug of war they apparently were having.
It wasn't until he found himself handcuffed to a post in a small room that Eric focused himself on returning to Joey so hard he finally did break free, and found himself wearing Joey's body a moment later.
When one of the distant minds touched Joey's as he ran out of the docking bay's back door, Eric instinctively shoved the other mind away, ran to another building across the street, and slipped inside.
Finding no one in the immediate hallway, Eric walked briskly towards the doors at the other end of the building, but skidded to a stop when he heard a voice speaking over a radio, followed by another man's voice saying, "Yeah, yeah. I'm checking it now."
Spotting a men's room two doors down, Eric dashed across the hallway and ducked into the door before anyone came around the corner.
"Alright!" the surprised guard said when Eric nearly slammed into him. "Hold it right... Oh it's you."
"Yeah, it's just me," Eric instantly said. "You heard what's going on?"
"Yeah," the guard said, indicating his radio. "I was just about to secure the doors. What are you doing in here? I thought you'd be out there with the rest of them looking."
Eric smiled convincingly and said, "Probably the same reason you came in here. I gotta pee."
"Ha, yeah. Well, I'll leave you to your business then," the guard said, then left the bathroom.
Finding that Joey's bladder was actually in need of emptying, Eric decided it wouldn't hurt to actually use the facilities while he was there. And while he did so, he noticed the mind of the guard was standing right outside the bathroom's door, but then walked away in a hurry after apparently being satisfied by the sound of liquid against porcelain.
Eric kept a mental eye on the guard as he cut his piss short and hightailed it out the bathroom. Just as he was leaving the building, he heard the guard's running feet and a voice yelling over the radio something he couldn't make out, but Eric was sure it was about him.
Eric jumped over a metal railing, dropped ten feet, then hopped over some bushes to reach a small grassy field with walkways running to the buildings on the other side. Realizing he was heading deeper into the campus instead of out of it like he wanted, Eric hesitated as to what to do next.
At the far end of the field to his right, Eric saw headlights whizzing by, and then by chance, Eric noticed a bicycle's wheel sticking out of some bushes that ran along the concrete wall he had just jumped down. He was just pulling the bike out of its hiding place when he felt a wave of telepathic energy pass through Joey, part of which he sensed was reflected back to the wave's source.
Not waiting to see what was going to happen, Eric hopped on the bike and pedaled as hard and as fast as he could to put as much distance as possible from where he had been when that wave had hit.
Sensing at least a half a dozen minds scanning the immediate area behind him only made Eric push his borrowed body even harder, but in his mad rush to escape, he didn't see the drainage ditch at the end of the field until he collided with its grassy bank.
Joey's lip was bleeding and his shirt was ripped, but Eric was relieved to find that was the worst of his injuries.
The bike, however, wasn't so lucky. The chain had come off, but considering that the front wheel was so bent out of shape it couldn't do a complete rotation any longer, Eric abandoned it and headed towards the road twenty meters away.
But just before he reached the road, Eric flopped down into the grass out of sight and took a moment to catch his breath while he tried to decide how to throw his pursuers off his tracks.
Not once had his own mind been touched by the other telepaths, the most likely reason being his mind was actually several hundreds of miles away. Eric was certain he could use this to his advantage somehow, but since he didn't have much experience in using telepathy, he didn't know exactly how.
What experience he did have, however, was limited to mute side two ways and the occasional mind hopping game across town.
Joey's body was still breathing fairly hard when Eric was startled by another wave of telepathic energy passing through Joey. Eric was preparing to flee when he suddenly remembered the first time he had ever heard of a telepathic pulse.
"Tim told me about it at his mom and dad's wedding after it gave several people a headache," Eric muttered. "I wonder if I could..."
Using what he remembered from the mind hopping games, Eric slowly popped from one mind to another, staying as close to the edge of the campus as he could while heading for a large group of people at the opposite end.
The moment Eric jumped into the nineteen year old male's body he had chosen randomly from the forty or so minds within the group, he knew exactly were he was and who was in charge there.
"Where are you going, lover?" the Hispanic beefcake asked when Eric disentangled his borrowed limbs and got up on his feet.
"I just remembered something I need to tell Wally," Eric said, then paused a moment to take in the beauty of the person he was addressing.
The boy smiled while running his hands down his naked chest, rubbing his obvious erection still contained by his shorts while Eric felt his own erection growing in his.
"Are you sure you remember?" the boy teased.
"I, uh.... I'll be right back," Eric said, turning away and heading for the bed, finding himself suddenly a bit out of breath.
To his surprise, Eric found the bed empty, but it only took a moment for Eric to realize that Wally was probably out looking for Joey with the other telepaths. Seeing that it probably would have taken quite a lot to convince Wally who he was, if Wally even remembered him in the first place, Eric decided it was probably for the best and simply went back to his original plan.
After several minutes of unsuccessfully trying to generate a pulse himself, Eric rested a moment and took in the groping mass of half naked men all around him.
They were all in a sort of holding pattern, kissing and groping each other without instigating anything more.
Eric's attention was at that point drawn to the expectant and hopeful eyes of the boy who Eric's host had been entwined with earlier. Eric exchanged smiles with him, then without really thinking about it, went back over to him.
"What did Wally say?" the boy asked as Eric got down on the floor with him.
Eric glanced back over to the empty bed, then realized Wally had made everyone believe he hadn't left and probably was responsible for no one having even slipped their hands into the other's shorts.
Figuring Wally wouldn't have done this if he planned on being long, Eric smiled as a plan formed in his head.
"He said," Eric began as he put his lips on the other's and initiated a tonguey kiss.
As soon things were about where they had been when he arrived, Eric made a quick leap just outside the campus grounds into a man riding in the back of a pickup on the way home from getting drunk.
The man's body was slow to respond, but the two men in the cab weren't too bad off. Eric once again drew from his limited telepathic experience and managed to convince the men they needed to pick up Joey once the coast was clear.
After making sure the men knew where to look, Eric popped back into Wally's suite, this time finding himself sucking on his partner's right thumb while his partner did the same to his.
"Simon says, now suck your own thumb," a young boy's voice said.
Eric barely had enough sense to follow the order as everyone else complied with it.
"Simon says, stop sucking your thumb, you big babies!" the boy exclaimed with a chuckle. "Simon says, uhm... Simon says tickle your lover."
"Simon says, burp in your lover's face."
"Pee in your pants!"
"Terri!" Wally's voice called from the other room. "Don't abuse them."
"But I didn't say Simon says," the boy said with a soft yet happy voice. "I wasn't really trying to make them pee. I was just seeing if you were listening."
"I always listen to my pretty boy's voice," Wally said, coming into the room and joining the boy on the bed.
"So can we go back to the game now?" Terri asked.
"Not just yet," Wally said lovingly. "They've found Joey and are getting ready to take him back to the medical center. It shouldn't be but a couple of minutes more."
Eric internally moaned, then decided he had better put his plan into action before it was too late.
"Pop goes the weasel!" Eric exclaimed loudly, then jumped to a different mind.
"Danny?" Wally called to the young man Eric had just left.
"Danny wanny, the big fat nanny!" Eric exclaimed before jumping again.
"Ch, ch, ch, ch, ch, Whoo WHoo!!" Eric yelled, then jumped.
"What's up, Doc? What's cookin', Doc?"
"Ain't nothin' but a hound dog, barkin all the time..."
"Bingle! Bangle! Snip, snap, BOOOIIING!"
Bouncing from one mind to another, Eric continued to shout out random lyrics and lines as the room's startled occupants began asking Wally what was going on.
Wally was far more concerned over protecting Terri from whatever threat Eric's shenanigans posed, and within seconds the group of half bewildered half scared young men were falling to the floor unconscious.
Entirely by accident, Eric bounced into the youngster, and for a moment, Eric and Wally stood there frozen in shock.
"Get out of MY BOY!" Wally suddenly exclaimed as he grabbed Terri and held on to him so he couldn't move.
Eric sensed Wally's desperate probes of the boy's mind attempting to feel out Eric's controls, and then moments later, six other minds focused on the boy's and started a game of tug of war.
"I'm sorry, Wally," Eric gasped when he caught a glimpse of the man's panicked face, but stood his ground hoping to give the men more time to grab Joey.
Standing his ground was becoming increasingly difficult, as the seven minds were collectively taking more and more control of the boy away from Eric. He held on as long as he could, then when the last vestiges of the boy's senses stopped, Eric found himself seemingly floating next to Joey's deeply asleep mind.
When Eric slipped into Joey's body, he was relieved to find himself in the back of the pickup truck as it sped away from the lights of Central State's campus.
It took Eric about fifteen minutes to find someone who was heading in the direction he needed to go, and once he had Joey safely in the back of the van and they were speeding away without detecting any other minds sensing them, Eric relaxed, quickly falling asleep from the gentle sounds and vibrations of the road beneath.
"Good morning, my Queen," the smooth muscular guard greeted softly when Queen Suzanne awoke on top of him.
"Good morning," the Queen replied as she pulled herself up to the young man's face and gave him a wet kiss on the lips.
"Good morning, my Queen," a familiar voice rang out from the dark corner of the room.
"Timicus, come out of thy shadows," Queen Suzanne beckoned as she grasped the guard's little solder between her thighs and enjoyed feeling the shudder flow through the man's body.
"Nay, my Queen. I do not wish to intrude on the Queen's playtime."
"Then come joineth," Queen Suzanne ordered gently but firmly. "Or does thy Queen's body arouse your manhood no longer?"
"My Queen, I did not arrive here to induce an offer of fornication from thee. I have news of the Queen's Champion."
"Sir Joseph?" the Queen asked with emotion.
"Aye, my Queen. He has been rescued from our enemy's dungeons by our old playmate Sir Eric Roberts. The two of them are on their way to thy castle as we speak."
"Timicus, what wondrous news!" Queen Suzanne exclaimed, bolting out of the bed with not a stitch of clothing on. "Thou sure of thy source?"
"My Queen, I would not tell thee if I was not sure of my source," Timicus said as Queen Suzanne put a robe on.
"Fenton, get dressed," the Queen ordered her uncertain bedmate. "The Queen's Champion shall have a hero's welcome awaiting him."
"Yes, my Queen."
Queen Suzanne immediately called for her handmaidens and the captain of the guard, and once she had given her instructions, she sent them on their way and sat down to write a message to her brother.
"Timicus," Queen Suzanne called once she had finished her letter.
In a poof of pink smoke, Timicus appeared beside her and asked, "Yes, my Queen?"
"Could thy deliver this to Duchess LeAnne?"
"My Queen, I am thy court sorcerer, not thy messenger boy."
"Please Timicus?" Queen Suzanne said gently as she stuffed the letter into an envelope and then sealed it with melted wax and her royal stamp. "I should like Duke Jason to attend the Queen's Champion's return, yet he would need to leave within the hour to make the journey in time. Thy magic is simply faster than the swiftest of steeds in thy Queen's stables."
"Very well, my Queen," Timicus sighed, then snapped his fingers to make the letter disappear in a poof of smoke.
"Is that all, my Queen?"
Queen Suzanne gazed at her sorcerer a moment, then asked, "How does thy feel of his brother's return?"
"My Queen? I am overjoyed, of course."
"Timicus," Queen Suzanne scolded.
When Timicus sat down on the unmade bed behind the desk at which the Queen sat, Queen Suzanne knew he was undecided about his feelings on the matter.
"We have been apart too long, my Queen. I am uncertain he will still be the brother I once knew."
Queen Suzanne sat down beside her closest friend and most trusted adviser, feeling his turmoil and finding it a familiar one.
"My love, do thou still have... feelings for him?"
"My feelings for Eric are most complex," Timicus admitted. "Almost as complex as they are for thee."
Catching him peering at her bust, Queen Suzanne smiled and laid back, allowing her robe to fall open.
"Thou knowst thou will be needed to oversee the preparations," the sorcerer said with hungry eyes.
"The Queen has faith in her staff. We have the time."
"But what of thy energy?" Timicus said, climbing on top of Queen Suzanne with his robes still fully in place. "Would thou not wish to conserve it for thy champion's return?"
"Will my champion be able to perform his... duties?"
"Nay, my Queen. I doubt he will."
"Well then, thou can perform yours."
"Very well, my love," Timicus relented as he snapped his fingers and his robes vanished in a puff of pink smoke.
Queen Suzanne let herself drink in the magical sensations only her lover's sorcery could provide her, never minding the world quickly dissolving around her as she entered a wonderous orgasmic yet gentle cloud of pink smoke that became sleep.
Joey's cussing awoke Eric with a start, and to Eric's dismay, he found himself inside a futuristic cabin, which he immediately guessed to be a shuttlecraft.
"Sorry if I awoke you," Joey said apologetically. "The computer won't release the controls."
"Good," Eric said with relief. "You'd kill yourself if you tried to drive asleep."
"I'm not asleep," Joey said crankily. "Besides, after flying a starship through an asteroid field, I probably could fly this tiny thing in my sleep."
Eric stood up and looked Joey in the eyes to say, "Joey, this is all just a dream. You're really in a van on your way to Suzi's from Central State."
"What are you saying this for? Are you trying to confuse me? The Borg! They've.."
"Stop IT with the BORG already!" Eric yelled. "After you blacked out, I remembered enough about telepathy from what Tim and I used to do together to jump into a few people around us. We weren't on a starship. We were at a medical center at Central State."
"But... I remember leaving Earth. And flying the Harrison. And Tim taking on the whole Borg collective."
"It's all a dream, Joey," Eric enforced. "You're probably remembering dreams you've had before tonight."
"I don't believe you," Joey declared.
"Think about it, Joey," Eric said with a moan. "You shot me in the head with a phaser and it went right through me without leaving a mark. How could I have survived that?"
"The... The phaser's batteries were low," Joey sputtered. "Or it malfunctioned."
"What about after I put on this... uniform. Before I looked myself in the mirror and visualized myself, you only saw what you remembered from a year ago. I didn't grow up on the spot, you know."
"Then maybe you're the dream," Joey said. "The way you arrived on the ship, and then you disappeared, and then you conveniently reappeared after everyone else was gone except..."
As Joey's eyes grew wide from his suspicions generating alarming conclusions, Eric decided he had had enough and grabbed the phaser still attached to his waist.
"What are you doing?" Joey said in alarm when Eric pointed the phaser at the glass window on shuttle's door.
"Proving it's a dream," Eric said as he pulled the trigger and disintegrated the glass, which was followed by an explosive decompression of the shuttle's interior.
Joey's eyes were shut when Eric's vision blurred, but both felt a wave of dizziness pass through them as a great vacuum surrounded them.
Eric forced his eyes open again just in time to witness the blackness of space replaced by a dark fog, then a moment later, sound and motion returned with the jolt of the wooden wheels beneath them encountering a large rock.
Joey gasped for breath as the sounds of hooves hitting earth and the creaks of the enclosed carriage they were in filled their imaginary ears. Their noses were assaulted by musty wood, sweaty horses, and most of all the combination of blood, several days of sweat, and the forged metal of which they found themselves suited in.
"What the hell?" Joey exclaimed, then groaned in pain as he discovered the source of the smell of blood was from his impaled left shoulder.
"Told you it was a dream," Eric said after getting over the shock himself.
"I thought you weren't supposed to feel pain in dreams," Joey complained in discomfort after the cabin jarred again from another rock.
"This isn't any ordinary dream," Eric pointed out while examining Joey's wound. "Shit, I can't see anything for all the blood. Just remember, Joey. It's not real. You can't die."
"Maybe not, but it sure feels like I'm dying."
"Computer," Eric called out. "Computer..."
When Joey gave him a crazy look, Eric shrugged and said, "Well, it was worth a shot."
"M'Lord?" a male voice called from outside. "Were thou calling me?"
"Uh, yes!" Eric exclaimed. "Could you tell us what year this is?"
"Yes. My injured friend here doubts my word."
"I see, m'Lord. 'Tis the year four hundred ninty seven, m'Lords."
"And where are we going?" Joey called out.
"Why to the Queen's castle, m'Lord. Does the Queen's champion not remember ordering thus?"
"The Queen's champion has lost a lot of blood and is somewhat delirious," Eric made up.
"Well, I guess we know who's dream this is," Joey moaned.
"Queen's champion. Not bad, Joey. I would have pegged you to be her..."
"Don't you dare say the U word," Joey growled. "Suz might change her mind and make it happen. To both of us."
"Ugh," Eric said with a shiver. "I never thought of that."
"Did... Anything like that happen with my dream?"
"Nothing as drastic as becoming a... You know what," Eric said with a grin. "Actually, the only thing I can think of was there wasn’t a bathroom on the bridge until I asked about it, and then it was there."
Joey frowned, then said, "I don't remember there being a bathroom on the bridge."
"Well, that explains it, doesn't?" Eric chuckled.
Joey started to chuckle too, but quickly decided against it from the discomfort it caused him.
"You said we're on our way to Suzi's," Joey asked after a minute went by.
"I uh. Well, remember the whisper I heard?"
"Well, I think it was Tim, and he told me to take you and Suzi to him."
"Oh," Joey said while shifting his weight uncomfortably. "Shit this armor is heavy. I can barely move."
"You're probably trying to move your real body in your sleep," Eric said thoughtfully.
"Hey!" Eric exclaimed a moment later. "I can't feel anybody's thoughts anymore!"
"I think... I think I'm linked with Suzi now," Joey said after feeling out his sides of the share links. "I don't remember doing it though."
"Damn. Well, I guess it's a good thing you're still able to move your body then. You're going to have to do some walking to get to Suzi's front door.
"I don't understand," Joey said.
"I'm not really here, Joey," Eric explained. "My body is back um... Uh..."
"What's the matter?"
"I'm trying to remember where I was," Eric said with confusion. "Or when it is."
"Driver," Joey yelled out.
"What's today's date?"
"Why its Tuesday, twenty-first day of August, m'Lord."
"Thank you, driver," Eric called out as the date rung a bell. Eric then said to Joey, "I'm at a motel with my dad."
"With your dad?!?" Joey exclaimed as incestual images popped into his head.
"Yeah, we're in Champagne, Illinois checking out the University there. It's where my mom and dad went to college and met each other."
"Oh," Joey said as he blushed.
"You're turning red," Eric snickered. "What did you think?"
"Damn it! Even in a dream I... <sigh> It doesn't matter what I thought."
"M'Lords," the driver interrupted. "We're approaching a village where I normally water my horses. We shan't be stopped more than a half an hour, if thou permits me."
"We permit thee," Eric said, then said to Joey, "The van probably needs gas."
"A half an hour to get gas?" Joey pointed out.
"It must be around midnight, so he's probably tired," Eric said with a shrug. "Besides, I'd like to check out what this dream world is like before we reach Suzi's. It could come in handy if Suzi really thinks she's a Queen in the late fifth century."
"Fuck, this damn wound really hurts," Joey cussed after readjusting his position again. "Hey, get some bandages out of that box under your feet and patch me up. I doubt the Queen's Champion is supposed to bleed all over her royal robe when he returns to her."
Eric pulled the wood box out from under his seat, looked inside, then after pulling out a roll of white cloth, he examined all four sides of the box and its lid.
"How did you know there were bandages in here?" Eric asked as he put the box back where he had found it and handed the roll to Joey to hold.
"I'll tell you later," he said with a strained voice as he turned himself on his seat so Eric could get to his armor's laces.
"Shit, you smell," Eric commented when the combination of BO and dried blood flooded his imaginary nose.
"You don't smell so great yourself," Joey grunted.
It took Eric nearly five minutes to untie enough of the leather laces that he could remove the damaged armor, and nearly didn't finish the job when blood started pouring out that caused Joey to pass out.
"Shit," Eric cussed over and over as he held a handful of bandages to the front wound while unrolling more to do the same to the smaller wound on Joey's back.
Eric let out a screech of surprise when just as he had finally gotten both of Joey's wounds covered and the slowed the bleeding, Joey's entire body vanished.
"What in the..." Eric started to say, then almost tumbled over when the carriage came to a quick halt.
"We're here, m'Lord," the driver announced as he opened the door. "Looks as if the tavern is still open if thou would like an ale. I shall join thee after me horses are watered and fed."
Eric assumed Joey had just gone back into a dreamless sleep again and would eventually return, mainly from realizing the driver wasn't surprised that Joey was missing.
So Eric took the man's advice and went over to the only building nearby which was still lit.
Another knight on a horse galloped into the small field in front of the tavern just as Eric reached the open doorway. Eric took a moment to admire the knight's slick dismount, then when the knight pulled his sword from its holder on the saddle and put it into its sheave on his belt, Eric for the first time noticed a sword's handle sticking out of the sheave on his own belt.
Eric slowly unsheathed his sword, finding the sight, sound, and feel of doing so strangely exciting. He was so entranced in his sword that he didn't notice the knight approaching the tavern. The knight's respectful "M'Lord" made Eric jump and he ended up pinching his right index finger and thumb when he slammed the sword back into it sheath.
"Fuck!" Eric exclaimed in pain, then fell onto his back when the knight swiftly drew his sword and shoved him backwards.
"Thou best have a good reason to curse at thy brother knight, m'Lord," the knight growled.
"I wasn't cussing at you," Eric exclaimed. "I pinched my fingers, see?"
Eric raised his bare hand up to show the knight, but after only a simple glance at Eric's hand, the knight suddenly seemed more interested in the crest of arms painted onto the chest plate of Eric's armor.
"My apologies, your Excellency," the knight said as he held his hand out to help Eric up. "A tavern in Broths tis not a place where I expect to meet the Viscount of Atlantia."
"The what?" Eric asked as he let the knight help him to his feet, then immediately thought better of his question and said, "My apologies as well, er, M'Lord. I am a bit tired from my long journey and just wasn't..."
"No harm done then," the knight said cheerfully. "If you will excuse me, your Excellency. You see, my bladder is quite full..."
"Uh, sure thing," Eric said to the back of the knight's suit of armor as the knight hurried inside the tavern.
When Eric entered the tavern himself, the tavern's keeper immediately strained his eyes at Eric's chest, then suddenly gasped and exclaimed, "Your Excellency, thou honor us with thy presence!"
Eric was dumbfounded as the room's occupants all bowed their heads in respect while the few who were standing also kneeled.
"Uh, thank you," Eric said, embarrassed. "Please go back to what you were doing. I'm just here for a quick drink."
As the dozen or so patrons attempted to do so, Eric quickly moved to the nearest empty stool and sat down.
"What does your Excellency wishith?" the keeper asked, obviously pleased as punch to have Eric in his joint.
"I guess I'll have an ale," Eric said, getting a kick out the concept.
"Oye!" the keeper exclaimed across the room a moment later. "Don't be doin' that in 'ere! Take it outside or upstairs if you must!"
"My apologies, your Excellency," the keeper said with great regret as three men and two very young looking women slinked their way out the door. "Thou shouldn't have to put up with commoner's disrespect here."
"That's okay," Eric said, somewhat mystified.
Once the keeper presented Eric with his ale, Eric couldn't help but smile wickedly as he brought it up to his lips, knowing his dad would have had a fit if he knew.
But his smile vanished the moment he tasted the warm stuff, finding it not much more than herb-tasting water with only just a slight trace of alcohol in it.
Not wanting to insult the keeper though, Eric struggled to drain his mug in one go, and then just as he was setting it back on the counter and letting out a great burp, Eric felt someone else's surge of fear a moment before everything blurred.
Eric found himself flat on his back with a scruffy looking guy in his late twenties laying on top of him, covering Eric's mouth with his hand while saying, "listening to you whine about your stupid parents. The boys and I think its time you two start putting out, or you just might find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, or even worse. Clear?"
Eric found himself nodding, then realized he wasn't in control of the body he inhabited when he couldn't move it as the man roughly started tugging his/her shorts off.
When Eric heard another girl's whimpering to his left and his host turned her head to look, he caught a glimpse of another man watching them, apparently waiting his turn, followed by the sight of a gas sign in between the trees all around him.
Everything then suddenly blurred again, and Eric found himself sitting at a bar staring at the half drank soda in his right hand. When he looked up, he found the face of the knight staring back at him in the bar's mirrored wall, but instead of wearing armor, he was wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans.
Sensing more of the fear from the girl he had just left, Eric jumped to his feet and rushed towards the door, barely catching the fact that the bartender was yelling at him to pay for his drink.
Eric grabbed the wallet out of his back pocket and tossed it to the bartender while yelling, "Call the police! Those three men are trying to rape those two girls!"
Eric was slightly disorientated when he came out of the bar when he didn't find the gas station where he expected it to be. But since he still could sense the girl's fear, Eric simply followed this across the street and into the woods.
A muffled cry and surge of anxiety from the girl caused Eric to run at full speed into the small clearing where he instantly leapt at the nearest man and tackled him straight off the half naked girl underneath him.
Eric's fist slammed into the man's startled face, then just as he was about to do it again, Eric sensed someone in the process of tackling him from behind.
In a move which would have impressed a ninja, Eric leapt straight up in the air, timing it so perfectly that the second man slid right under his scissoring legs which closed around the man's middle.
Eric's legs rendered the man breathless when they landed on top of the first man who was still trying to gather his wits. But when Eric looked over at the stunned girl, her attention wasn't on him, but behind him.
This time when Eric tried to roll out of the way, he got kicked in the face by the second man just before the third kicked him in the stomach.
"Damn!" Eric exclaimed when he didn't feel as much pain as he expected, and then shot his legs up and returned the kick in the stomach with both feet.
Eric was exhilarated when he easily flipped himself to his feet, and so he exclaimed, "This guy's body is awesome!"
"Look out!" the other girl cried from the bushes, drawing Eric's attention to the fact the third guy had just flicked open a switchblade.
"You are so fucking dead," the knifeman said as he took a slash at Eric.
"A little help would be nice about now!" Eric cried out.
Eric's feet were suddenly knocked out from underneath him by the second man, followed by the first guy landing his knee into Eric's gut.
"No, not by you two!" Eric gasped as he swung his body around, balled it up before springing himself through the gap between the first two men and rolling to his feet as he landed.
Eric started backing away when the first guy grabbed his own switchblade from his discarded jeans, but then Eric stumbled on a rock and nearly didn't hear one of them cry "Surround him!" as he fell.
Eric managed to get back up to his feet in time to hop out of the way of one slashing hand, but then fell over when he narrowly escaped another slash a moment later.
When a blade made contact with his left upper arm, the cold yet burning sensation it left in its path sent a shock wave through his entire body, leaving a strange tingling feeling in his toes and eyebrows.
As more adrenaline pumped into his borrowed body's blood stream, Eric's senses and awareness seemed to double while time seemed to slow down. A flash of light reflecting off a rapidly descending switchblade triggered Eric to put his powerful body back into action.
Kicking one switchblade out of a hand and reaching out to grab the wrist holding another, Eric again was exhilarated by the speed, strength, and flexibility of his temporary body. He yanked the man whose wrist he had grabbed and sent him to the ground, ducked under the third's blow and head butted him in the gut while kicking the other in the face.
Now that Eric was out of the middle of the three, he immediately turned his attention on the third guy who still had his switchblade. Eric made a move towards him to initiate another slash, and when the man obliged, he caught the man's wrist as he leapt into the air and used the weight of his whole body to force the man's hand to the ground, burying the blade and generating a painful cry from the man as his hand was nearly crushed.
Eric was about to roll away to finish off the other two when they jumped him. But just as they were about to start pounding the life out of him, they suddenly went limp.
"About freak'en time, Tim," Eric gasped as he pushed the two unconscious men off him, then almost hit the two girls in their faces when they appeared hovering over him.
The girl whose fear he had felt earlier dropped a large rock she that had been holding when Eric had jerked into motion, making him instantly realize it was they who had knocked the men out.
"Ungrateful bitches!" the third man cursed as he leveled a gun on them with his remaining good hand.
"Police! Drop the gun!" a voice cried from the edge of the clearing.
The man dived towards Eric and the girls while firing his pistol at the officer, but was so involved in trying to hit the ducking law-man, he didn't notice his human cover wasn't just sitting still.
When the man swung his gun towards Eric, Eric threw the rock the girl had dropped like a baseball at the man's gut while throwing himself away from the girls and the officer in hopes of drawing the man's aim and attention away from them.
Eric rolled and sprang behind a tree just as another series of shots rang out, but only five or so shots were fired before someone cried out in pain and fell to the ground.
"You there!" the officer's voice called. "Come out slowly with your hands where I can see them."
As Eric held his hands out and stepped away from his cover, flashing lights appeared from the direction of the road while the sounds of a vehicle skidding to a halt reached his borrowed ears. Eric hesitated when he saw that the man giving the orders wasn't wearing a uniform or even a badge, but relaxed when the man kept his leveled pistol pointed halfway between Eric and the fallen men. The man who had pulled the gun was sitting on the ground holding his bleeding right arm.
"Everyone just stay right where they are and don't make any sudden moves," the officer's voice said before shouting. "Over here boys! And call in an ambulance!"
"Already on its way!" a voice replied.
"Can we get our clothes?" one of the girls asked shakily.
"Not yet," the officer said firmly.
"You came just in time," Eric said gratefully as hurried footsteps approached.
"You're just lucky I suddenly decided to stop for gas before heading home for the night," he replied in a more friendly tone while not dropping his guard.
"Yeah, lucky," Eric said while thinking, "Thank you Tim."
A moment later, two uniformed officers came into the clearing with their guns drawn, one of them asking, "What you got, Sheriff?"
"Not sure yet," the Sheriff replied as he holstered his weapon and stooped to pick up the discarded gun at his foot.
"I was filling up my tank when that fella over there," he began, nodding at Eric, "runs out of Barney's and high tails it across the road and into these woods. Then Barney comes out yelling something about a rape. I had Barney call you while I ran after him.
"By the time I caught up with him, those two were down," he said while pointing to the two dazed men, then points to the third man and said, "But then that one pulls out a gun. When I ordered him drop it, he started shooting and I returned fire. I shot him in the arm, he dropped his weapon, then we all just sat here waiting for you boys."
"They," one of the girls began, pointing to the three men, "tricked us out here, and were going rape us when he came out of nowhere and..."
"Kicked their asses," the other girl finished abruptly.
"Yeah," the first girl confirmed.
Another pair of deputies arrived just as the three men started to tell their own side, to which the Sheriff responded, "You all are going to have to come down to the office where you can make your statements. Ladies, you can put your clothes back on now."
Eric stayed silent as the deputies cuffed the two relatively uninjured men on the ground, deciding the less he said the better as he expect to be whisked away from his borrowed body at any moment.
But when one of the deputies started to handcuff him, he asked, "Am I under arrest?"
"Not yet," the Sheriff said. "It's just until we can verify who you are and check out your story."
"I gave the bartender my wallet," Eric offered while feeling a little bitter. "And I was only trying to stop those men from hurting the girls."
Eric was lead out of the woods and across the road towards the bar's parking lot where the police vehicles and ambulance were parked. Eric tried to separate himself from his host body, then doubled his efforts when he noticed the van that Joey was in was nowhere to be seen.
"Agent Riley, are you feeling all right?" Eric heard the Sheriff's voice address him.
"What? Yes I'm fine," Eric quickly said as the handcuffs where removed from his wrists. "Just a little tired."
"You should have identified yourself to me in the woods, Mr. Riley," the Sheriff said as he handed Eric his host's wallet back to him.
"Would it have mattered?" Eric asked before opening the wallet and almost dropped it in surprise.
"I suppose not," the Sheriff admitted. "On the rare occasions we've had F.B.I. agents visiting Broths, they were here to work with us on a case."
The Sheriff's voice had implied the last bit to be an indirect question, and since Eric had no idea what the truth was, he simply said, "I can't answer that at the moment, but did anyone happen to see which way a blue van went?"
The last police car left ten minutes later leaving Eric standing alone in the middle of the parking lot.
"All right Tim. What am I supposed to do now?" Eric asked out loud, looking up at the twinkling stars.
When no answer came, Eric sighed and turned around to go back to the bar.
As he approached the entrance, he recalled the first time he had supposedly entered the pub, then did a quick about face when he remembered how the knight had arrived.
"Yes!" Eric exclaimed when he spotted the Harley exactly where the knight had dismounted his steed. After patting the front pockets of his jeans, he found a small ring of keys, one of which he recognized as the key to the Harley's ignition.
Having gotten his bearings from the Sheriff earlier, Eric popped a wheelie as he tore out of the parking lot in hot pursuit of the van carrying Joey.
The exhilaration of speeding down the highway at high speed was dampened by the concern of finding the van, but Eric couldn't help the grin which kept forming on his face whenever he passed another vehicle and he imagined what the other driver saw.
Eric knew he had found them the moment he saw the tail-lights of the van. He didn't recognize it. He just knew, and knew Joey was still inside.
For the remainder of the twenty-five minute trip, Eric relaxed and enjoyed riding the machine. His dad wouldn't let him take their Harley out on the road, saying it was a family tradition that he had to wait until he graduated high school before he could have one of his own to ride wherever he liked.
Eric wondered about what was going on in that motel room in Illinois. The last thing Eric remembered was lying on the bed in his clothes watching T.V. waiting for his dad to finish washing up in the bathroom. Eric didn't think his dad would have tried to wake him up, but if he had and couldn't, Eric could only imagine the panic his dad would have felt.
After worrying about that for several miles, Eric switched his thoughts from his dad to his boyfriend Randy.
Randy was a bottom. In case that doesn't mean anything to you, that means Randy liked to be the one fucked, which usually meant he was positioned on the bottom. For the first month after they started having sex, Eric was constantly finding himself confused by Randy's lack of interest in equal play. But once Eric understood this about Randy, he found himself very content being the fucker and never the fuck-ie, and until recently neither of them could have been happier with their arrangement.
Football camp had started three weeks ago, and on the first day, both Eric and Randy recognized the stealing glances Pete McGregor had made in both the locker room and the shower.
Eric kept finding Randy's eyes on Pete's ass, and just before Eric had left for Illinois, Randy had asked Eric what he thought about having a threesome with Pete. Eric said no without making a big deal about it, yet it had hurt a lot to find Randy thinking about having sex with anyone besides him.
He had been thinking about this all day and had nearly convinced himself to talk about it with his dad, but somehow just the concept of talking about it made it more real than what Eric wanted to make it. And if he didn't love Randy so much, he probably wouldn't have been thinking about it as much as he had.
Eric knew that part of his attachment to Randy was simply out of fear of losing his own persona. All year long he constantly struggled to identify what feelings were Eric Robert's and what feelings were Tim Brandton's, and before he had noticed Randy, Eric was never sure about any of them.
Before Randy, Eric was living in an emotional hell, not sure of who he was or what he truly liked. Twice he had become so distraught that he had taken steps to end his life, and in each case his dad had caught on and stopped him before he could.
Then Randy came on the scene, and Eric's feelings towards him always felt like true Eric Roberts feelings. Eric was afraid of what would happen if he lost those feelings. Even the realization that a typical Tim Brandton response to Randy's suggestion of a threesome would have been the opposite of the one Eric gave didn't seem to help alleviate Eric's fears.
When the van signaled that it was getting off at the next exit, Eric shoved his worries into the back of his mind again and focused on navigating the roads ahead. It had been several years since he had been to Suzi's, and between the dark and new construction everywhere, he was having trouble remembering exactly how to get there.
But once he saw the catholic church that used to have a tree that had always reminded him of a cock, he knew where he was and where to go.
When Eric shut the Harley's engine off and the van's driver did the same, the quiet that followed felt a little eerie after all of the excitement Eric had had that night.
The fact there was still lights on in Suzi's house barely registered when the house flashed momentarily into a large stone wall with a doorway.
"Do you have anything I can write a note with?" Eric asked the van's driver before the driver could open the van's side door to get Joey out.
Eric simply wrote, "Take me and Suzi to Tim", on the piece of paper the driver handed him, then folded the paper in half and stuck one half down Joey's shorts, leaving the other half sticking out the front.
Eric helped the driver carry Joey up to the front door, and was about to knock when the world blurred again for a moment.
"Holy sh... Mom! Dad! It's Joey!" Jason cried after he had opened the door and his eyes went buggy.
As Jason grabbed Joey's limp body, Eric said, "Take Joey and Suzi to Tim."
"Hey, where are you going?" Jason cried out as he found himself the one only holding Joey.
Eric turned to find not only the van's driver but Agent Riley walking back to their vehicles. Eric was so surprised by their quick departure that he barely had time to cry out, "Thank you!" before they had started their vehicles and waved goodbye.
Suzi's dad was helping Jason carry Joey inside while Suzi's mom took a second look around before closing the door, Eric's hand passing right through it when he had tried to stop it closing.
"Shit, now I'm a ghost?" Eric exclaimed after walking right through the closed door.
"I'll call Margaret and Samantha to let them know he's here," Eric heard Suzi's mom say.
Eric entered the living room, finding the two men just standing up straight from having laid Joey down on the couch.
"He's out cold just like Suzi," Suzi's dad commented. "How the hell did he get here?"
"Those guys looked like they were being remote controlled," Jason pointed out. "They probably didn't even know that they had been here."
"What's that?" Suzi's dad asked, noticing Eric's note peeking out. It had somehow worked its way underneath Joey's shirt while they had carried him in, but one of its edges was trying to poke back out.
Jason pulled the paper out and read out loud. "Take me and Suzi to Tim."
"Show it to your mother," Suzi's dad said after looking at it himself. "But tell her it might be a trick."
"A trick?" Eric exclaimed. "Oh come on..."
Eric sat down in the chair next to Joey, finding it as hard as a rock despite its cushions, yet he didn't feel any more or less comfortable than when he had been standing. Eric was tired, possibly more tired than he ever had felt before, but he wasn't ready to close his imaginary eyes yet.
"Margaret wants us to take Joey to Sam's and Tim's southern home, and Sam thinks we should take Suzi there too," Suzi's mother said from the kitchen.
"What if this is some kind of trap?" Suzi's dad insisted. "What if bringing them all together is what whoever is doing this wants?"
"I still say everyone is making too big of a deal about all this," Jason disagreed. "I practically can guarantee its Tim causing this."
"What, put them all into a deep sleep and kidnap Joey from his home halfway across the state? Even if I thought he could do it, why would he?"
"I don't know the why dad, but I don't have any doubt that he could. Shit, dad. That painting he did of us is all the proof you need. And Suzi told me he's even more powerful when he's asleep than awake. He probably just got so caught up in a dream he pulled Suz and Joey into it."
"But that doesn't explain why he'd physically kidnap Joey," his dad argued.
"Maybe he just doesn't really know he's doing it," Jason said with a shrug.
"If that's the case, then there's no harm in keeping Suzi here," his mother pointed out, entering the room.
"Fine by me," Jason said with a yawn. "My point was I think we're all losing sleep over nothing."
Eric yawned his own agreement and without a further thought let himself fall asleep.
"My queen," a familiar voice called, waking Suzanne from her royal slumber.
"No, my queen, 'tis Elizabeth," the handmaiden spoke humbly. "Word has cometh from the village. Thy champion is safe and will arrive shortly."
The Queen smiled, then smiled even wider when she realized her bed was covered in rose pedals an inch deep. She rolled her naked body over and rubbed a handful of pedals over her stomach and breasts before asking, "And Sir Roberts?"
"His Excellency... was not with him."
"Explain," she said, not really concerned as she knew Timicus would be the first to deliver bad news if there was any.
"There is nothing to explain, my Queen. According to Sir Joseph, his Excellency was with him for most of the journey, but Master Timicus said he parted his company to rescue some damsels in distress."
"Thank you Liz. Please tell the stewards I wish to bathe."
"Yes, my Queen," Liz replied, closing the door which she had only cracked to speak through.
"Timicus," Queen Suzanne called out after covering most of her torso with the rose pedals. "When thou haveth a moment, the Queen would like to speak with thee."
The formation of a rose pedal shower above her indicated he had heard her, and the Queen's smile only broadened as she closed her eyes and let herself be covered by the falling petals.
"Yes, my beautiful Queen?" Timicus said gently, waking Queen Suzanne some time later.
"Is Eric well?" the Queen asked, stretching her naked body, then smiling at her beloved sorcerer's ogling eyes.
"He is, my Queen," Timicus said softly before bending down to kiss her lips. "He demonstrated his superior skill with the sword."
"Impressed?" the Queen queried.
"Very," Timicus admitted. "His skill could equal that of your champion's."
"Really..." the Queen purred, stretching again before sitting up to get up.
"Indeed," Timicus said patiently.
Suzanna put on her gown intending to go straight to the bathing chambers when the hidden meaning to his words occurred to her.
"Thou is not suggesting Eric should challenge my champion for his place?"
"Of course not."
"Then why would thou make such a comment?"
"My queen, the wound thy champion received may never heal completely if it was caused by the enemy's black magic. If we do not wish to see our champion fall before his service is over, we must elevate his status above that of champion. But not before we have a new champion whom we trust to take his place.
"There is no higher status above the Queen's Champion," Suzanne pointed out.
"You are mistaken, my Queen."
"Timicus," the Queen said shakily. "Thou know that is not possible. I can not choose between thee."
"My love, thou must make him thy King. I fear his life will be short if thy do not."
"Surely thy magic can cure his wound," she argued.
"Black magic is rarely reversible without the consequences being worse than the original spell. Thou know this to be true."
The Queen glanced nervously at the metal door at the other side of the room, closed her eyes, then nodded her agreement.
"I shall always be yours, my love," Timicus softly spoke as his robed arms wrapped around her from behind. "And the spell the three of us cast together will not break. Our magic and love is too strong."
"Very well," the Queen relented. "If the Queen's Champion agrees to this, then I will make him my King. But thou best decide what to tell the Prince once and for all for thou know he will ask."
"Yes, my Queen. He will ask. He will ask."
The sensation of someone washing his face awoke Joey from the dead sleep he was in.
He struggled to open his eyes and for a moment he succeeded, but he couldn't quite bring anything into focus. So he closed them again as the wet cloth wiped soothingly across his face and chin.
Once the cloth had been removed, he cracked open his eyes and found himself stripped bare and surrounded by six women who where busy washing the remainder of his body with wet cloths.
"Uh, thanks, but uh.." Joey began, but stopped as a pink vaporous mist formed at the foot of the cot he was on, quickly thickening into pink smoke before the smoke focused itself into human form with a flash.
Joey blinked then started laughing uncontrollably.
"Control yourself, my friend," Timicus said, obviously baffled by the laughter.
"Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?" Joey laughed. "You look like a bearded hippie wearing someone's bed sheets!"
"You know, make love, not war?"
"Thy speak words of great wisdom, Sir Joseph."
"Cut the crap, Tim," Joey said suddenly serious. "What the hell is going on anyway? What are we doing in Suzi's dream?"
"Queen Suzanne," Timicus corrected him while motioning the attendants to leave, "Sent me to see if thou art strong enough to attend a celebration in thy honor..."
As the last attendant closed the door behind her, Timicus then added in a near whisper, "And more importantly to learn why thou returned before thy task was done."
"And what task was that?" Joey sighed, deciding Timicus was just part of Suzi's dream.
"To kill our greatest enemy," Timicus said with uncertainty. "Do thou not remember?"
"To tell you the truth, I don't care any more. Suzi, this is all just a dream."
"I believe thee to be delirious," Timicus said sadly.
"Delirious, eh?" Joey said, sitting up. "Could you hand me my watch? It's on the table over there."
Timicus, hesitated before turning around and spotting the digital sports watch on the wooden table.
"Where did thou obtain such a device?"
"Thin air, apparently," Joey muttered, "Could you hand me my dress clothes?"
"Do ye feel well enough to attend the celebration?" Timicus asked uncertainly while picking up the pile of satin-like clothes from the same table.
"Shit. If the Queen is throwing me a party, I'd be a fool not to go, wouldn't I? Besides, you know she'd never forgive me if I didn't."
"'Tis true thy queen would jest about it if thou missed it, but she would not hold it against thee."
"Okay, now I need my white dress shoes. Hmmm... I don't see them," mumbled, Joey pretending to be concerned.
"Perhaps they are still in your chambers?" Timicus suggested.
"You're right. I bet they are."
"Allow me," Timicus said, closing his eyes a moment, then snapping his fingers.
Joey was amused when after a puff of pink smoke his old white dress shoes he wore freshman year in high school appeared on his feet. But seeing he had gotten away with his charade that much, he decided to go a little further.
"No, not these. They make my feet hurt. I'm talking about my albino alligator skin shoes. You know. The ones made out of the giant albino alligator I killed a few years ago."
"Oh of course," Timicus said with some embarrassment. "My memory is not what it was."
After another puff of pink smoke, the white alligator shoes Joey had imagined appeared on his feet.
Joey hid his smile by pretending to examine his shoes, then stood up and gave the dream character a sincere, "Thank you."
"'Tis good to have ye back, my friend. The Queen and I both have missed thee more with every day that came to pass." Timicus said tenderly. "And if all goes well, thou wilt not have to leave us again."
"That's good," Joey said, not sure why this seemed so significant.
"Are thou not curious how this is to be done?"
"Of course I am," Joey said, fainting interest.
"When his Excellency, Sir Roberts, returns, the Queen will request that he take thee place as the Queen's champion. If he agrees, the Queen will announce both her betrothal to thee and her new champion without thou fighting to the death."
"No fight to the death. That sounds like a good plan."
"You will be King," Timicus clarified.
"Yeah? Isn't that a good thing?"
"For thou, indeed," Timicus said with obvious hurt feelings.
"Hey," Joey said tenderly, catching on a bit late. "It was your idea, right?"
"I suggested it, yea."
"Well, do you want her for yourself?"
"Nay, thou know that 'tis not possible. I am but a commoner. My veins contain no royal blood."
"That's not what I meant," Joey sighed. "Look Tim, Suzi, whoever is running this thing. I will not marry Suzi without Tim's whole-hearted blessing. And it's okay if Suzi doesn't want to marry me because of Tim. It's never been a contest, and we've been through too much shit together to start making it one. That's my take on it, you two figure out the rest. Now let's go. There's a party waiting with my name on it."
As they made their way to the main hall where the celebration was being held, Joey was considering playing along with the dream for a while longer. He was sure he could snap Suzi out of her dream persona simply by confronting her with the truth, and knowing that made him more comfortable with just letting her dream on a while. Joey was intrigued by how real everything seemed, and was honestly thrilled to find he could alter the dreamscape simply by suggesting it as the watch and his shoes proved.
As they approached the doors to the main hall, trumpets sounded to announce his impending entry. Joey grinned at the fanfare, then suddenly realized the Queen's champion probably should have a sword when greeting his Queen.
"I could really use a ceremonial sword right about now," Joey whispered to Timicus.
"Indeed," Timicus muttered, snapped his fingers behind his back, then announced, "I present the Queen's Champion his sword."
"Thank you," Joey said formally, taking the bright silver sword in its sheath attached to a velvet belt, then hesitated a moment before asking, "Did they put the Velcro on it as I asked?"
"Yes, m'Lord," Timicus acknowledged, turning the ends of the belt over to show the Velcro strips.
"Very good," Joey said, putting it on while resisting his desire to chuckle.
To the trumpeters' relief, Joey finally entered the great hall, its size and the number of people inside making him gasp. The ceiling was seven stories high and the hall was as long as a football stadium, yet only 200 ft wide. Of course that's only if you didn't include the stairs and the seven terraces above.
"We added on last year," Timicus explained. "The Queen wished to be able to launch an arrow from a bow and not have it strike the far wall. Unfortunately the peasants make very good bows these days."
"Shit," Joey exclaimed, mostly due to the people bowing as Joey approached. People were packed in from the floor to the ceiling, making a vertical and horizontal wave as they bowed.
As Joey approached the far end, he could see Suzi sitting on a silver throne wearing a white fancy dress that made her virtually glow in the candle lit room. The closer he got, the more she seemed to glow, and it was giving him goose bumps seeing how beautiful and happy she appeared to be.
A small boy around six whispered something into her ear which made her smile even more as she nodded. As his goose bumps were suddenly replaced by a warm sensation, Joey was grateful that his body flush wasn't visible like his erection apparently was in the satin clothing he was wearing.
When they finally reached the end of the hall, Timicus stepped forward and announced, "My Queen, I present to thee your Champion, Lord Joseph Theodore Conner of Oakley."
Joey stood there awed by her brilliance and beauty until Timicus nudged him in the ribs and whispered "Bow."
So Joey bowed, saying "My Queen."
"Timicus, could ye turn the dress down a wee bit?" Queen Suzanne whispered. "I can barely see anything past it."
"Of course, my queen," Timicus whispered back, snapping twice.
The brilliance of her dress slowly lowered to where Joey wasn't squinting any longer from the bright light. But a moment later he squinted again from the smile on his face triggered by the one on hers when their eyes met.
"My beloved people," Queen Suzanne then began in an official voice, "your Queen's Champion has returned from his quests of righting wrongs, slaying evil dragons and spreading his Queen's love to the lands beyond hers. Your Queen calls for a feast!"
The crowd exploded in a simultaneous "Hurray!"
"You Queen calls for a celebration!"
Another "Hurray!" exploded, louder than the first.
"And after our bellies are full and our barrels of ale are dry, your Queen calls for an orgy!"
The walls and floor shook with the resulting "Hurray!", which was followed by a someone's crying out "Long live the Queen!" that crowd immediately echoed at a deafening level.
"Let the feast begin! Timicus?"
Timicus held his hands up above his head, closed his eyes and mumbled something before clapping his hands together. The clap was far louder than any noise the crowd had made, and in the blink of the eye the entire room was empty except for the people who where around the throne.
"Where did they all go?" Joey asked.
"To their homes to eat," Timicus answered. "We don't have enough room to feed everyone here."
Queen Suzanne stood up, her dress falling to the floor. After one of her handmaidens helped her put on a robe, she stepped right up to Joey who's smirk had turned to a genuine smile.
"Welcome home, my love," the Queen said gently.
"Nice to be home, my love," Joey replied before meeting her lips with his.
"He would be our son," Timicus explained. "The Queen's, yours, and mine. His innocence would cure the Queen, but no one can ever learn of the spell we cast tonight. For if they do, the spell will be broken and the darkness would take control of not just the Queen, but all three of us. Forever."
"What was that?" Joey asked,
"What was what, my love?"
"Art thou hungry?" the Queen asked her champion.
"Depends on what kind of hunger you mean," Joey said, having recognized the look in her eye.
"Which ever hunger thou feels most," the Queen said, winking at her sorcerer.
Joey found himself with his arms around the Queen just as he had, only he was now in the royal bed-chambers, and neither of them were wearing any clothing.
"I have missed thee," the Queen said, kissing his chest while sending her hands up and down his back.
"I've missed you too," Joey said honestly, but not mentioning that it had only been a week since she had left.
"Timicus, are thou joining us?" the Queen suddenly asked.
"I shall join thee shortly, my Queen," Timicus's voice came floating in. "I must fill the ale barrels and cast the spell of prevention."
"Spell of prevention?" Joey queried.
"For the orgy so the kingdom doesn't overrunneth with children in 9 months," the Queen explained.
"Ah," Joey chuckled before lifting her up off her feet and tossing her onto the bed.
Joey's staff went to full mast from the way Suzi's body and hair laid all spread out, her eyes and mouth held open invitingly, compelling him to ravage her with all his strength.
And ravage her he did. He found he had limitless strength and energy, never tiring in his thrusts, and only slowed down after each of her orgasms to let her catch her breath.
When she begged him to come inside her as she felt her sixth orgasm approaching, Joey missed a beat, then went all out. It had been an established protocol for over a year to never to come inside her, but Joey knew this wasn't real, no matter how real it felt. And damn did it feel real.
Even so, he almost pulled out just out of habit when he felt his orgasm peaking, but steadied himself as his shudders and shakes began, each jolt of semen squirting deep inside of the queen's fuck hole.
Joey soon rolled them over so he was on bottom, then the two enjoyed some tender kissing before the Queen settled down in her usual sleeping position, both of them enjoying the feeling of some of his cum dripping out around his soft cock still embedded inside her outer lips.
Eric awoke in complete darkness, and after feeling the bed beneath him and the sheets covering him, he relaxed and rolled onto his side.
But then someone else moved in the bed behind him, and he shivered when a soft feminine body pressed themselves against his naked backside.
"M'lord is cold?" the body's owner asked.
"M'lord?" another woman's voice asked immediately in front of him, just before she too pressed her body against his, her head snuggling up against his chest.
Despite the shock, Eric found their soft bodies pleasantly comforting, and simply decided to enjoy the moment even if it wasn't real.
"What time is it?" Eric asked softly.
"Just past three, m'Lord," the woman at his chest answered.
Eric moved his arm and draped it over her upper back and began rubbing it as he marveled at how real her skin felt.
She returned the affection with simple kisses to his chest. Once the other woman felt the movements and heard the kisses, she began kissing his upper back and neck while one of her hands found its way to his butt cheek for a squeeze.
That awoke his cock, and as it began to fill, the woman at his chest sensed it and snaked a hand between them to grasp it.
Eric was about to call a halt to the fondling when his curiosity got the better of him. Whenever he had had an erotic dream before, he always awoke when it became too exciting. Plus he was curious to see how real it would feel. It wasn't like he was cheating on Randy. It was only a dream. And if it felt too real, Eric decided he could simply stop it.
So Eric rolled himself and the woman at his chest so she was on her back and slid down so his face was even with hers. As their tongues entwined, Eric's right hand slipped down heading for its usual entrance to tease open, but corrected its course when he remembered the current residence had a front door.
Her wetness startled Eric. It had been a long time since he had had sex with a girl who hadn't been a twin. And he never recalled any girl ever being this wet without the help of the drink.
But what startled Eric the most was how arousing it was to dip his fingers into her folds and rub the warm slimy fluids between his digits. Sticking his finger's into a guy's ass never aroused him quite like that.
And the sensation of pressing the head of his giant manhood into the warm, wet, self-lubricating entrance was almost as stunning as finding himself sinking into her without having to stretch her open first.
"It's as if a woman's cunt was designed to accept a cock," Eric thought to himself, then rolled his eyes at its stupidity.
When he bottomed out, Eric enjoyed lying on top of her with her legs straddling his. It wasn't a position he was accustomed to since Randy's legs were always either up in the air or underneath him whenever Eric had his cock inside his rectum.
Eric shuttered in pleasure as he started pulling back and felt her juices sliding between their sexual organs. Her tightness was so evenly distributed, her skin was so soft, her body felt so light beneath him, Eric lost himself in the moment and started pumping into her like his instincts demanded.
Her vaginal contractions during her orgasm triggered his own, and Eric reveled in the feeling of his own cum shooting out inside the quivering juicy hole.
He collapsed on top of her after pulling out his deflating member and letting the juices that covered it smear between both of their lower stomachs.
Eric had forgotten all about the other one until a pair of hands began fondling his buttocks.
Eric smiled when the hands started caressing his rose, then lifted his ass into the air and enjoyed the fingers rubbing the pussy juices into his little hole. But then he screeched when he felt the head of a cock press up against his relaxed hole.
Eric took a hold of himself and after a moment of convincing himself it was something he wanted, he told the cock in the dark to proceed.
The cock was average size, but even then it took a while to work it in to Eric's tight ass. All the sensations he felt were as real as real life, and while Eric did gain pleasure from it once the discomfort of stretching his ass left, Eric was troubled by how much he desired to be fucking that pussy instead of being the one getting fucked.
After the cock blew its load and left without Eric getting anywhere close to a second orgasm, Eric laid down in the now empty bed realizing how great a mistake it all had been.
He was close to tears when he heard the whisper say, "Don't cry."
"Why not!" Eric shouted. "I fucking don't know who I am any more!"
"You are you," it whispered after a long pause.
"And who is that? Eric Roberts? Or Tim Brandton? Or both?"
After an even longer pause, the whisper said, "You are the son of Steven Michael Roberts and Mary Lisa Kensington."
Another whisper seemingly from a different direction said, "The apple does not fall far from the tree."
Then the original whisper said, "Your deepest feelings are inherited through them."
The second whisper followed saying, "Believe in yourself, and the world will be at your feet."
"Believe in yourself."
While he didn't completely believe them, their words did comfort Eric enough that he wasn't distraught any longer, just worried.
He found the bed sheet and pulled it up over him, then laid there letting his feelings settle out before saying, "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Eric Nicholas Roberts," the whisper said in his left ear.
"Who are you?"
After getting no response, Eric sighed, then decided to try one more time.
"You're not Tim, are you."
"Are you the one running the dreams?"
"Are you stuck inside them like us?"
"Can you help me?"
"I can advise, that is all."
"Then what is your advice?"
"For now, play along with the dreams while they are fun and don't be afraid if they turn bad. You should sleep now."
Eric took a minute to process that before asking, "Why are you helping me?"
"Your family is important to me."
The second whisper said, "I care about them."
Followed by a third whisper saying, "I care about you."
Then all three whispers said, "You are never alone."
And then first whisper said gently into his ear. "I am always with you."
"Then why haven't I ever heard you before?"
"Who are you?"
Eric sighed, then closed his imaginary eyes intending to fall back to sleep.
"If I can, I will show you when the time is right," the whisper said faintly from beyond the bed, seemingly moving further away.
"Okay," Eric said sleepily, having been truly comforted by the thought he wasn't alone.
Queen Suzanne awoke on top of her Champion's chest feeling more content and fulfilled than she remembered having felt in a long time.
"He's different," Timicus said from beside them.
The Queen studied her sorcerer's expression as he studied her champion's face, then smiled at him lovingly and stroked the side of his face.
"His lovemaking is much more... patient."
"Yes, he savors the moment more, and does not rush to reach his climax," the Queen agreed lovingly.
"Even more than that, my Queen. He brought thee to six climaxes before allowing himself his own. He has greater self control than I knew was possible without the aid of magic."
"Your Queen is amused by thy jealousy," Queen Suzanne mocked. "Rest thy worries, my love. Thou hast never disappointed me in thy loving with or without thy magic. The return of our champion will not change this."
"You are right as always, my Queen," Timicus acknowledged with a slight blush.
When Timicus returned to studying their champion's face, the Queen did so as well.
"He is different in another way," the Queen said after a few minutes.
"Yes my Queen?"
"He was attentive to me, but did not wait to include thee."
"I noticed, my Queen, but when I spoketh of our plan to make him King, he shared his heart with me. I do not feel excluded from his love. It may be some time before he shares it physically with me again, but I trust he will."
"Timicus, what thoughts can you give of your Queen desiring another child?"
"They are happy thoughts, my Queen. A Queen should have many heirs with her King."
"And what of her other love? Should a Queen feel bound to restrict her bloodline to pure blue?"
"The Queen should only do what's best for her people and by the people. The blood of any child birthed by thee should be blue for the people to accept the child as royalty."
"And what of the Prince?"
"My love, the Prince's blood is pure blue. My influence is purely magical and emotional."
"Thou led us to believe otherwise," the Queen said with a touch of anger.
"Nay, my Queen. The Prince is as much my child as yours or our champion's. My blood does not flow through his veins, but he bears my heart and feels the natural forces around him as I do. In honesty my Queen, I believe he is thy Champion's son in body, but my son in mind and spirit."
"And what part does your Queen share with her first born?"
"All of him, my Queen. He is your son, mind, body and soul."
After several minutes of digesting that, the Queen said, "Timicus, if I cannot mix my blood with yours, then I desire thee to take a mate of your own."
"I understand, my Queen, and will make it so. Thy descendants will always have my magic at their disposal."
"Yes, my love. But more importantly I believe someday the purity one's bloodline will not matter to the people, and all three of our blood will finally mix and rule the land as one."
"Yes, my Queen. I love you, my Queen."
Queen Suzanne crawled over and straddled the sorcerer, and as they began to make love, they did not notice Joey awakening beside them.
Joey watched their lovemaking with mixed feelings. Surprisingly the conflict wasn't over the fact that they were doing it, or doing it without him. It was the fact that it wasn't real.
Joey knew that deep down inside, he and Suzi both wanted the threesome again. But Joey had a deep gut feeling that it would never happen, and watching Suzi play it out in a dream just seemed like it was tempting fate.
"Fuck it," Joey muttered, deciding if he couldn't get it in the real world, he might as well take advantage of it there.
So he joined in by burying his face into the Queen's ass as it hopped up and down on the sorcerer's cock below it, then relived a game of Suz-ball before sucking the sorcerer's cock while Timicus sucked the Queen's ass and cunt for their seed.
When the sorcerer didn't resist Joey's finger probing his ass, Joey lost the mood and stopped.
"Joey, what's wrong?" Suzi asked when he got up off the bed.
"That's not Tim, and you know it," Joey said sternly. "Playing out this fantasy will just make thing worse in the real world, so just stop it, okay?"
"If you want to play Queen, go ahead," Joey said gently. "I'll be your King, and Tim can be your Merlin. Just don't make it about sex, please?"
"Who is this Merlin thou speak of?" Timicus asked before he and the rest of the world faded to black.
"Joey?" Suzi called out into the darkness.
"I'm still here," he replied, his voice sounding more confident than he felt.
"Where are we?"
"Well," Joey began as he moved his imaginary body towards Suzi's voice. "We were in your dream, but now I don't know. I'm trying to find you, so keep talking."
"Okay. Should I move too?"
"No, you stay still. I'll come to you."
"Is Timmy doing this?"
"Eric thought so, and I did too, but now I'm not sure."
"Eric is here? Eric, can you hear me?"
"He must be asleep, Suz."
"But aren't we asleep?"
"We're dreaming, sort of. Ah. Found you," Joey said gently when his imaginary hand found her imaginary arm.
"You're still naked," Suzi giggled as she hugged him.
"So are you," Joey replied.
"So what do we do now?"
"Are you tired?"
"A little. Are you?"
"Yeah, I guess. I wonder what time it is."
"Weren't you still wearing that watch?"
"Shit, you're right," Joey exclaimed, immediately reaching over and pressing the light button.
"Hi," Suzi giggled when the light came on and illuminated their upper bodies to each other's virtual eyes.
Joey gave her a grin before announcing, "If this watch matches the real world, then its three thirty seven."
"AM or PM?" Suzi asked as the light shut off.
Joey hit the light button again, then said "AM."
"How many days have we been in here?"
"None. It's Wednesday morning."
"But I've been in here longer than that," Suzi frowned.
When the light shut off again, Joey didn't hit it again, and just said, "It sure seems like it, but I bet you just remember other dreams you've had in the past. At least that's what Eric said about mine."
"What was yours?"
"It was... Group stuff."
"It was Group stuff in space, okay?"
"I knew it," Suzi laughed. "I bet you and Captain Kirk had a race or something."
"No, but I'll try to work the suggestion in some night," Joey said thoughtfully. "Well, seeing there isn't anything else to do, let's just go to sleep."
Joey got down on the featureless floor, turned his watch light on to see if he could see any of the floor's features, then grunted his disappointment when nothing showed up.
"Just lie on top of me," he suggested after lying on his back and finding it comfortable enough.
Suzi did as he suggested, and after Joey started rubbing her back as he always did, they both felt safe enough that they closed their imaginary eyes and entered a deep dreamless sleep.
Eric awoke to the sounds of birds chirping and a clanging of pots in another room.
From the mud colored walls, straw roof, and stone cobbled floor, Eric he guessed he was still in Suzi's dream. From the two naked women sleeping beside him and the state of the bed, Eric assumed part of the previous dream had happened in this one.
A gentle knock on the door distracted Eric from the ass of the brunette woman whom he supposed he had laid, and after a moment to consider what to do, he called, "Yes?"
"Master, thy meal is ready," a strangely familiar young male voice said from behind the door.
"Okay, I'll be out in a sec," Eric replied as his two bed companions stirred.
Eric crawled over the brunette whom he had fucked and stood up, then turned around in a circle looking for his clothes.
"Does your Excellency have to leave so soon?" the blonde asked woefully.
"I'm sorry ladies. Duty calls," Eric answered. "Any idea where my clothes are?"
"Out by the fountain, m'Lord," the brunette answered coyly.
"What thee didn't toss into the river," the blonde added with a lusty smirk.
"Figures," Eric sighed, then had an idea.
"Boy?" Eric called out the door.
"Run out to the fountain and fetch me my clothes, please?"
"Yes, Master. But Master, sir, your porridge is getting cold."
Once Eric heard the door close, he asked the girls, "Is there anyone else home?"
The two girls looked at each other with growing smiles, and both replied, "No m'Lord."
"Good," Eric said, ignoring their disappointment as he opened the door and walked out to the kitchen.
Eric picked up the bowl of porridge and turned around to dump it down the drain, then said, "Shit, no sink."
So he pretended it was a bowl of milk and gulped it down without bothering to taste it.
Clumsy footsteps outside the door alerted him to the boy's return, and Eric barely had time to dash back down the rustic hall before the exterior door opened.
The women were still in bed naked, the blonde brushing tangles out of the brunette's hair.
Suddenly the bedroom door opened and a young teenage boy walked in holding a pair of woven trousers up in front of him with one hand while covering his eyes with the other.
"This is all I could find, Master," the boy said.
"Thank you," Eric said slowly as he took the trousers, his eyes studying the lower half of the boy's familiar face.
Eric slipped the trousers on, ignored the itchiness of its fabric while his eyes were locked on the boy's partially hidden face.
"Master?" the boy queried when Eric gently took hold of the boy's wrist that was connected to the hand covering his eyes. The boy didn't resist Eric lowering his hand since his eyes were shut tight as well.
"James," Eric gasped.
"Yes Master?" the boy asked, opening his eyes to find Eric's shocked expression, and in confusion glanced over at the bed.
"I'm sorry Master!" the boy gasped as he not only shut both eyes, but covered them with both hands. "I didn't see the ladies. I didn't see the ladies."
"My goodness, Lindsey" the brunette exclaimed. "You certainly don't see that kind of chivalry around here these days."
"No, you certainly do not."
"Here, boy. You don't need to fret. There we are. We put our clothes back on," the woman teased.
"Did they put their clothes back on Master?" James asked innocently.
Eric sighed. "No James, they're making fun of you. Go on outside. I'll be out in a minute."
"Yes Master," he said, turning around and walking straight into the frame or the door.
"We were just havin' a little fun with the boy, your Excellency," Lindsey said apologetically.
"I want a straight answer. No bull shit," Eric said seriously. "Whose dream is this?"
"Don't play stupid," Eric said angrily. "I'll play your little game, but only if I know who's running the show! Now whose dream is this!"
"Yours," she said emotionlessly before everything disappeared into blackness.
"Thought so," Eric said with a yawn, then closed his eyes and let his imaginary body fall over, knowing it wouldn't hit the ground.