"Nights in white satin ... never reaching the end ... letters I've written ... never meaning to send"
"Beauty I'd always missed ... with these eyes before ... just what the truth is ... I can't say anymore"
"cause I love you .... yes I love you o-oh how I love you"
- Moody Blues
A soft gong brought Goose to full alertness in the manner he'd been trained for. He looked around. The old training grounds around Wolf Den. He heard a laugh, and turned, alert as always, to catch Killbane's killing leap. He dodged, and allowed the lager man's own momentum to carry him over and into the ground a few meters away.
"Hah, not bad, runt! But dodge this!" Killbane suddenly brought up a laser, and fired, Goose screamed as he saw his arm cut off and float to the ground slowly, blood pouring from the wound even as his conscious mind registered the fact that there should be no blood, lasers cauterised their wounds.
He began to run, dodging behind anything, everything, to make sure Killbane couldn't hit him again. He heard the laugh again, and looked up. Killbane was floating in the air, holding Goose squarely in his sights.
"The game ends here, Runt!" Killbane said, and Goose saw the energy beam build up in the laser, come pouring out, and felt himself being cut open by the incredible heat of the weapon.
Waking with a cry, Goose sat up in bed. Beside him, Niko woke too, sitting up, she pushed a mass of hair from her eyes.
"Shane, what's wrong?"
He was panting with exertion, sweat pouring from him in sheets. He felt his arm, to make sure it wasn't still a dream - but no, the limb felt solid beneath his fingers, no trace of damagefrom any weapon.
"Shane?" Niko asked again, putting a hand on his shoulder. Her turned to look at her, seeing how the moonlight flowing through the light gauze curtains played along her nude body, creating shadows and dips, which shifted with every breath. "Niko, I -" He stopped, then stood up and walked, nude, to the balcony. He slid open the light flyscreen door and stepped into the cool summer night. Feeling a slight chill as the sweat rapidly cooled on him to an almost clammy feeling.
Niko glanced at the time, 02:24. It had been a strenuous mission they had come back from, rounding up a group of the Black Hole Gang who had been raiding settlements in an asteroid field for supplied while they tried to rebuild their shattered group after MacCross's dramatic and very public fall from grace at the reformed Daisy O'Mega's hand.
She had seen some things she didn't want to see - people torn apart by the Gang's weapons, and in some cases, by their bare hands. Without strong leadership, the remnants of that gang had become little more than rabid animals. She stood, and walked out to the balcony, where Shane was standing vigil.
"What's wrong, Shane?"
He took in a deep breath of the cool night air. Could he tell her, should he? He was a supertrooper, damn it. He should'nt be concerned about a bad dream. Even if it was as realistic as that one had been. He decided that part of the truth wouldn't hurt. Turning, he cupped her cheek and gave her a loving and gentle kiss. "It was nothing, babe. Just a bad dream. I'll be fine."
Niko put her arm around his waist and hugged him, as they watched the neer full moon illuminating the huge lake that surrounded BETA Mountain. The Mountain still carried the recent scars of Killbane's recent attack, which had thankfully been fully repelled with surprisingly minimal damage. The moonlight was bright enough for them to see the tiny shapes of small watercraft drifting across the lake as they laid a new network of superconducting cable. Part of Commander Walsh's plan to make the lake even more effective as part of the mountain's defence system.
Niko realised that although she now owned Shane's heart, his mind was still his own, and he would be very reticent in releasing all his innermost secrets to her, if ever. She accepted that, but still was concerned over this latest dream. He would never admit it, but she knew when he had a bad dream. The telepathic link they shared had enabled her to keep a very light tendril in his mind, so she could not only keep tabs on him when they were seperated, but also alerted her highly trained senses when his mind was distrubed. And even though he tried to hide it, she knew this was only the latest of a series of dreams that had disturbed her lover.
She decided that enough was enough. She let go of him and stood back, leaning against the balcony doorframe. Shane glanced at her as a slight breeze came up and wisped her hair into a halo around her body when the moonlight caught the individual strands and gave each one a tiny glimmer of light.
"Shane, you've been having bad dreams for two weeks now. I know you don't want to talk about them, but when you're hurting, I hurt too. I know when you have a nightmare, and I want to help. Please, may I?"
He turned to face her, then leaned against the balcony railing. "Babe, I don't want you to be involved. It's nothing, really."
She threw her head back to clear her vision, the brushed her hair out of the way with an idle hand. "Shane, it's not nothing when you wake up in a cold sweat crying out in the middle of the night."
He spread his hands helplessly. "I'm not supposed to have bad dreams, Niko. I don't even have good dreams. I don't have dreams, at least that's what N'Gata said. My brain was set up to be different enough that it didn't need REM sleep."
"And what do you think, Shane?" Niko asked, softly. "Do you dream?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I do, lately, the ones I remember have been about you." He smiled in fond recollection of the faint aethereal dream wisps that still swarmed around his conscious mind.
"So," Niko added, "Do you like those dreams?"
He nodded, smiling slightly.
"Do you like the bad ones?"
Shane's eyes narrowed. "Of course not. But, I shouldn't be having them. I'm a supertrooper, dammit. I'm not supposed to be effected by normal human weaknesses."
"You're in love ..." Niko said softly.
Shane moved to her, wrapping her in his warm, strong arms. "That's not a weakness, babe. That's perfection, so are you."
Niko smiled into his chest, drawing strength from his warmth and firm, muscular body. But she wouldn't let him deter her from her mission.
"Goose, let me help you with these dreams." She said, turning so that his arms wrapped around her, under her breasts, and her back was pressed against his front. Together, they gazed out on the moonlit sky in silence again.
"What will you do?" He asked after a while.
"We'll do it together, Goose." She replied. "We'll hunt out the bad dreams, confront them, and turn them into the wisps of nothing that you know them to be. No matter how powerful or disturbing a dream is ... it's just that - only a dream." She felt his arms tighten for a few seconds, then he relaxed again, and nuzzled the back of her neck.
She sighed, and relaxed into his caresses for a time.
"Goose, if we don't stop now ... we won't want to stop." She said after a long while.
"Do we want to stop?" His voice came, muffled by her hair.
She laughed softly. "Shane Gooseman, you have an amazing ability to change subjects very smoothly, mister."
She laughed louder when he hoisted her in his arms, and stepping back through the balcony doors, both of them got entangled in the gauze curtains. Giggling like an idiot, she pulled and pushed the curtains away as Shane stoicly stood, like a statue, until the path was clear, then he gently laid her on the bed and lay down beside her.
"Shane, what about-" He stopped her with a finger to her lips. "Let's talk later, babe." he said with a slight smile. She acquieced, and they rolled together, for warmth and other comfort.
Later, after their lovemaking, Shane lay awake, watching the soft night breeze fluttering through the thin curtains. Niko lay beside him, curled up, with an arm across his chest, and her leg covering his own.
He watched her sleep for a bit, thinking how incredibly lucky he was to have her. Before they had finally made a play for each other, he knew of at least eight other rangers who had been actively pursuing Niko for a relationship. Looking into himself, Shane thought about the otnly other time he'd felt like this for somebody, Back at Wolf Den, he'd felt this way about Darkstar. But could'nt tell her. So she'd left with Stingray during the mass breakout.
Shane sighed softly, and looked at Niko again. Sleeping softly, like a baby. She was a pleasure to hold, and he knew he gave her so much pleasure, not only when they were making love, but just because she knew he cared about her. He glanced at the chrono - 03:32. About an hour since he'd woken up. He leaned back, put a hand over Niko's, and soon fell back to sleep.
Only to wake up shortly thereafter on a cold sweat again. He looked around his heart still hammering in his chest, and the adrenaline pumping through him just like he was in full combat.
He went through the series of mental excersises Niko had taught him a while back to help him deal with all the anger and frustration he still harboured over his position and status within society and in regards to the Supertroopers in general.
Niko made a small noise, and Shane glanced at her. Her eyes were open, glistening in the soft light as she watched him calm down.
"We've got to do something." She said, sitting up so she was at the same level as him.
Shane nodded, and sighed. "What do we do?"
Niko finished lighting the scented candles, and returned to sit cross-legged facing Shane. She wore a loose robe, only just tied around her waist, and Shane wore a pair of shorts.
Give me your hands, Shane." She said. He held out his hands, and she turned them palm-outwards, then placed her hands aganst them. "Push, not too much, just enough to make sure you've got solid contact." She felt the pressure increase, and the warmth increased in her palms.
"Now just relax, Goose. Breathe deeply, smell the oils, relax your muscles. But don't go into a sleep state. Just relax."
Shane took a few deep breaths, and Niko could feel the psychic link begin to expand as his brain began to settle down. She focussed her own power, and carefully walked through into his mind.
`Shane, are you there?'
His thoughts came back rapidly. `Yes, what do we do now?'
`We go in search of your bad dreams. follow me.'
She visualised a long corridor, through which they both walked. Goose looked around him - `Where are we?'
`Your mind, Goose. Seen through my mind's eye. She stopped at a very small door, barely large enough for them to go through. `This is it, Shane. Are you ready?'
In answer, Shane boldly stepped forward and through the small doorway. Niko followed him into a miasma of light, sound, and colour.
Images assailed them from all sides, the doorway faded into nothingness - Niko could bring it back when they were ready to return, but concerned with the whirling maestrom of images flowing like oil across the landscape of Shane's sub-conscious mind.
"Shane, we need to go on. This is not the place of confrontation." Niko reminded him. Shane looked at the scene with glazed eyes, he had no idea his mind was racing with all this information ... Supertroopers ... Wolf Den ... Max, and his son ... Commander Walsh and Owen N'Gata ... MacCross ... The Queen ... Daisy ... The other Rangers ... Niko ... her images came unbidden to the forefront, and Shane watched as the scenes unfolded once again.
He stopped when Niko came up and physically touched him. "come on, we have to go deeper." She reminded him. He nodded, and they walked into the whirling maelstrom.
Deeper into the whirling storm of images. As they progressed further and further, the images became darker, more ominous. Scenes of Shane fighting various outlaws, mixed with scenes of Shane while at Wolf Den, fighting with and against the other Supertroopers flashed by, faster than they could catch them.
But the could both see that Ryker Killbane's image kept coming up more and more, as they progressed deeper into the swirling image storm that was Shane's sub-conscious.
finally, they came to another door, this one was marked with various hand-written signs, in a child's handwriting `keep away' `do not enter' `go back' and so forth.
Shane held back, and Niko took his hand. `Shane, look at me.' He turned to face her. `Nothing can hurt you here. I won't let it. This is a journey of discovery. We need to find out why you are being haunted by dreams - this is the only way, and the answers lie ... in there.'
He took a deep breath, all his bravado and strength gone, he seemed like a scared little boy, not the Supertrooper she knew and loved. This was a side of him she didn't like to see, but she knew that if they were to stop the dreams, they had to go on. She would be his strength if need be.
Shane stepped forward, and opened the door. Stepping through, with Niko by his side, they saw a small child, sitting alone in a large, dark room. The child looked very sad, and looked up as they approached.
`Who are you?' He sked.
`We're friends.' Niko replied, Shane seemd unable to.
`I ... know you.' The child continued, looking from Niko to Shane, then back to Niko.
She nodded. `Yes, you do.'
She glance around at the empty, dark room. They could hear the faint signs of other children, playing and roughhousing somewhere, but not here.
`Why are you here?' She asked, `Why aren't you playing with the other children?'
`I'm not allowed. I'm different.' The child replied sadly.
Niko glanced at Shane, he seemed to be in a different world, not willing or able to reply. That would come later, once they figured out the problem, she mused.
`Who are you?' She finally asked.
`I'm ... Shane ... Gooseman ... A Supertrooper!' The boy said finally, with some pride in his voice.
`Are you?' Niko said brightly.
He nodded proudly. `I'm going to be the best there is. Better than the others, better than Ryker!'
`Who's Ryker?' Niko prodded.
`You know who he is.' The boy replied, looking at Niko slyly - so much like the older Shane, she thought.
`Where is he?' Niko asked.
`He's not here.' The boy said with a sigh.
`Are you afraid of him?' Shane suddenly asked.
The boy looked at him, as if seeing him for the first time. `You're me!' The boy cried, looking at Shane in some surprise.
Shane nodded, his voice and some courage returned. `Yes, I am.'
`I don't like Ryker. He's mean to me. He thinks that just because he's older hecan push me around.'
Niko began to feel a tendril of something, something uncertain, between her and Shane.
`Ryker's not so tough, kid.' Shane replied. `He's all tough on the outside because that's what he's supposed to be. Inside, he's just like you, scared, alone. He doesn't have a family. You do, you've got Max, and Joseph Walsh. Ryker's got nobody.'
Niko looked surprised. She never knew Shane could have as much insight as he was demonstrating now.
`But he's bigger than me..' The boy said, his face crinkling up in remembered bullying.
`Yes, but you don't have to fight him, do you?' Niko replied, looking at Shane. He knelt by the younger version of himself. `She's right. Remember this, You can think and fight, Ryker can fight .. but he can't think. He's tough, strong, but you can think up plans and get around him while he's still swinging. While he's trying to pound you with force, you can fight back and defeat him, with thought.'
A door slammed open somewhere, and they heard a laugh. both Shanes reacted differently - the younger one shivered in fear, while the older one stiffened, and stood to his full height and looked around warily.
A voice came out of the darkness. `Where are you, runt? Ryker want's to play!'
Niko felt the tendril of uncertainly that was her guage grow into a sharp spike of frustration, anger, and unresolved conflict.
As footsteps sounded, getting closer, Nuiko movd to the older Shane, and placed her hand on his arm. `It is now time for conflict and confrontation, Shane. Use your own advice to your yonger self. You have to defeat him here, before you can really dfeat him out there.'
Shane nodded, then another door slammed open, and Killbane, the modified Killbane of only a few months past, walked into the room. The room faded, to become a plain of combat; dry, rolling grass, under a blue sky, with a bright yellow sun. Niko looked at Shane, and realised what was going on, finally.
He was smaller, much more like the child they had conversed with. Againt Killbane, he looked like a mouse against an elephant.
Killbane laughed and swung his massive fist. Shane ducked, and rolled, dodging the fist and rolling between Killbane's widespread legs. As he passed, he struck, causing Killbane to howl in agony and keel over.
Getting to his feet, Shane looked a bit larger, while Killbane seemed slightly smaller. Shane ran at Killbane and leapt, pushing off Killbane's shoulder, he leaped over the larger man, and with another kick, threw Killbane onto his back. Again, the sizes altered. Shane growing larger, while Killbane shrunk a bit more.
Niko watched the battle with a concerned frown etched on her features. She knew that Shane had to win this battle if he was to be able to properly confront Ryker Killbane in the real world, and it looked good. From the beginning, because this was Shane's mind, he knew the rules, and Killbane was just a lumbering ox.
The battle continued. Killbane landed a few good hits, which caused the sizes to reverse, but Shane continued to use his mind, to look for an opening and exploit it. The battle continued for some time, but Shane got the uper hand, and the sizes continued to reverse until both men were equal in height and stature. With a final blow, Killbane was thrown away, and vanished with an audible pop.
Niko felt the link relax, and the level of stress faded to nothing. She knew the battle within Shane's mind was over. He was victorious over Killbane here, so now he could finally best him in the real world.
Shane walked back to whre Niko stood, and she took his hands in her own.
`It's over, Shane. You've won. Now we can return.'
He nodded, she saw a glimmer in his eye that made her feel warm all over - he was actually proud of himself, she could see the pride in the way his internal persona stood and acted.
Niko guided Shane bck out of this deep psychic level and soon, they were back, sitting facing one another, pressing palms and recovering from the psychic battlefield.
She glanced around, the candles had burnt out, and the faint glimmer of morning was playing around the eastern sky.
Standing, she padded over to the comm system, and put ina call to Walsh's office. She hung up as Shane walked out of the living room. "Who was that?" He asked.
"Oh, nothing. I just made sure we won't be distubed. We both need a good night's sleep, Goose."
They settled down on the bed, snuggled close, andsoon both fell asleep. For Niko, it was a good restful slumber, for Goose, it was the first sleep in a long time during which he was really able to relax.