Story Notes: Feedback: Cheerfully accepted.

Author's notes: Didn't think I could find a Sam&Jack story in 'Absolute Power', but I did.


I roll over restlessly, unable to sleep. Shifu's calm voice and deliberate words haunt me-the mind is always free. He seemed so utterly sure and confident as I strapped him into the chair. How could he tell that a part of me is imprisoned? Or was I only projecting my own discomfort at being back in that room.with that machine. I remember looking at the Colonel; his attention was wholly focused on the boy. If he was uncomfortable, he hid it well. But then, that's what we do, hide our feelings. It's how we'd gotten ourselves into this mess. I tried to catch his eye, but he ignored me.

As Aldwyn turned on the testing device, I couldn't help but shiver slightly. That drew the Colonel's attention, just a brief sideways glance, but I saw it. I also saw the slight stiffening of his stance-he wasn't as untouched as he would have me believe. But then I knew that too. I tried to smile reassuringly at Shifu; amazingly, he smiled at me in return. It was at that moment that I realized that the test was unnecessary, that Shifu had told us the truth. He is Harcesis, and he cannot help us. I wonder again, how can his mind be free if he's forced to suppress part of it? The arrival of Daniel and the subsequent departure of Shifu, though, interrupted my speculative train of thought.

I glance at the clock-0200. I get up then, albeit reluctantly, finally giving into my sleeplessness. I'm not sure why I chose to stay on base tonight, we'd been given forty-eight hours of downtime, but right now I'm glad. Instead of pacing in the confines of my apartment I can go to my lab. Pulling on my recently discarded fatigues, I check my reflection before leaving. I run a brush through my short hair and then fluff it with my fingers. Who's going to see me? I frown back at the woman in the mirror; her pale skin and dark shadowed eyes mock me. I wonder what her subconscious mind would reveal now? Don't go there Sam-go to your lab, I tell myself.

Leaving my quarters, I make my way down the quiet hallway, my steps slowing almost imperceptibly as I pass by his door. I wonder if he's able to sleep.quickly pushing those thoughts aside, I take the stairs down the two flights to my lab. Unlocking the door, I enter the still room. I turn on the small lamp on the worktable, and running my fingers along the edge of the table, I slowly survey my world. The world I've chosen, the world that currently chooses for me. Chooses how I dress, how I wear my hair, how I love..

Once more forcing forbidden thoughts from my mind, I pull out my chair and sit down at the table, opening my laptop. I open the folder where I keep my personal mission notes. No time like the middle of the night to start on the most recent installment of my life. No, make that our lives. I laugh harshly, the sound startling in the quiet of my domain. Catching me by surprise, my laughter abruptly turns into tears. I lower my head on to the desk, and suddenly too tired to keep up the pretense, I give in to the despair that is my ever-present companion.

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