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Copyright Luke Trickett, 1999. Alethia copyrighted to Kylen Miles, 1996, DJ copyrighted to Jake Williams, 1998, Alec and Azelin copyrighted to Luke Trickett, 1996.
Any misuse or theft of characters portrayed in this work, or their likenesses, will result in prosecution under United States copyright infringement laws.

It was hot in this part of the desert, too hot. Even though the sun had just sunk behind the western range. Its last few stray rays of light lit the clouded skies a darkening shade of orange, like fire in the sky. Alec sighed and lit a cigarette, then looked back at the mind-bogglingly complicated schematic for the Landspeeders engine. DJ stood up from where he had been doubled over the maintenance hatch, and shot Alec a look of disapproval. Sweat streaked the mutt’s face, and his eyes were bloodshot. He had been working on the engine for the last six hours, and so far had only succeeded in making the problem worse. Alec was at a loss. He had built the speeder years ago, as an experiment. It had been designed so that the anti-gravity engines would run on nuclear fuel, but after Shepherd had expressed ‘Environmental concerns’ Alec had been forced to mothball the vehicle. Until last week when Exile had discovered it, and had assigned Alec and DJ the task of finding an alternate fuel source. With Taniths help, The Nuclear engines had been removed, and Tanith had fitted it with a pair of anti-matter engines. Engines which, he assured them, were foolproof and would need no maintenance for years at a time. In preliminary tests, the engines had functioned well.

Until today. Today Alec and DJ had decided to take the day and test the Landspeeders capabilities. Alec had assured DJ that it would be a good ‘skate’. That they could take the entire day off and just cruise the desert. It had gone well until about noon, when they had stopped for lunch in the lee of a cliff. After eating and resting, the ‘speeder would not start. Immediately, DJ had attacked the engine with reckless abandon, attempting to repair it. The crafts on-board radio was useless, drawing its power from the anti-matter reactor that also powered the ‘speeders contra-gravity drive. DJ had been working on the engines for too long now, Alec had decided. If he was going to repair them, he would have been able to do it a LONG time ago. DJ’s heart and head were in the right place, no doubt, but he had no clue how to repair an anti-matter reactor, or a contra-gravity drive. Neither did Alec.

Alec sighed again. “Look mate. It’s toast. If it was repairable, we both know that you’d have had it fixed a long time ago.”
DJ scratched inside his ear with a screwdriver and chewed his lip. “I think I’ve got it this time.”
Alec shook his head sadly and drew on the cigarette. “Nah mate. It’s knackered.”
It was DJ’s turn to sigh now. “I guess you’re right.” He looked around. “Where the hell is that buddy of yours?”
“Who? Tanith?”
“Yeah, him. The tall feller who rigged this contraption up to begin with.” DJ began to re-assemble the engine as best he could.
“I dunno. I thought he’d be here a long time ago.” Alec looked around. “Wherever ‘here’ is.”
DJ stopped what he was doing and frowned at Alec. “Whaddya mean?”
“I don’t know where we are. The GPS on the ‘speeder was hooked into the anti-matter reactor too. When it went ‘poof’, everything did. We’re lost, mate.”
DJ rolled his eyes, hastily threw the rest of the engine parts into the engine compartment and slammed the hatch. “Perfect!”

There was a large, flat rock nearby, which Alec sat on and finished his cigarette. As he flipped the butt away like a tiny meteor, DJ wandered over and sat down opposite him. He wore a look of utter defeat on his grimy face. Alec sighed for what seemed like the thousandth time that day and forced a smile.
“Look man, I saw a road a few miles back over there, We’ll sleep here tonight, and then we’ll walk back that way tomorrow. I’m sure someone will give us a lift.”
DJ snorted in disbelief. “Yeah, That’ll look really good on us wont it? A couple of Road Rovers, hitching a lift!” DJ shot Alec another look of frustration.
“We’ll see. Anyway, maybe they’ll come get us. You don’t know”. He stood up again and headed for the ‘speeder.
“What if Parvo’s goons show up? What then?” DJ’s voice stopped Alec in his tracks.
“Then I’ll introduce them to the equalizers.” Alec reached behind him and pulled a large handgun from his waistband.
DJ frowned. “Where you been hiding that?”
Alec removed another gun from the cargo pocket of his pants, and yet another from the side of his boot. He seemed to have an arsenal of firearms and explosives secreted about his person, none of which spoiled the line of his clothes.
DJ rephrased his question. “Where you been hiding THOSE? And why so many?”
Alec looked hurt. “I always carry at least 3 guns.” He whined “One for each hand, and one just in case. Besides, you can never be too rich, too handsome or too well armed. You should remember that.” DJ shook his head and lay on his back on the sand.

Alec removed some blankets and a survival kit from the storage compartment of the speeder, and went back to the rock. He tossed a blanket to DJ, and laid one on the ground for himself. As he looked westward, he noted that the failing light was reflecting from the bottom of some angry-looking gray clouds. Not a good sign. He handed DJ a ration pack, containing enough food for one man for 24 hours, tore open one for himself, lit another cigarette and began to poke through the packages of freeze-dried food. DJ watched. Something was very odd about Alec. DJ couldn’t put his finger on it, but something about the black lab was just plain wacky. He was over six feet tall, built like a professional wrestler, with an Australian-accented voice deeper than the marianas trench. He also smoked like cancerman from the X-files. He was smart, yes, and he was balanced, but something just didn’t click. He had noticed it when they first met, and he’d grown used to it. It was like he was from another planet, almost. DJ opened a block of freeze-dried fruit and munched on it. ‘Oh well.’ He thought. ‘At least it’s not cold.’

Suddenly, Alec stood up, drawing the gun from his boot as he did, and pointed it into the gloom behind them. The movement was so fluid and quick that DJ barely had time to jump.
“Do not move!” Alec growled into the gloom. ”Now, very slowly, walk this way.”
DJ squinted into the gathering darkness and whispered: “What is it?” He snatched a flashlight from the survival kit and shone it in the direction Alec was pointing the gun.
The beam of light fell across the face of another canosapien, silver-gray furred, lighter under the muzzle, with long, off-white hair. He wore round-lensed sunglasses, and a gray raincoat. It was like looking at a ghost; almost everything about the individual was a shade of gray, giving him a monotone, phantom appearance. His face remained expressionless as he stepped forward to where Alec stood. Alec moved closer and began to frisk the stranger for weapons. Finding none, he stood again and pushed the barrel of the pistol closer to the strangers muzzle.
“Who are you and who do you work for?” Alec demanded.
The stranger blinked a few times, and looked at DJ, then back at Alec.
“Azelin.” He said. “I work for all of you.”

Alec wasn’t impressed.
“Very funny, smart arse! Now, let’s start over. What’s your name?”
Azelin didn’t move, but simply responded. “Azelin.”
DJ Stood and moved a little closer. “Are you a Road Rover?” Azelin shook his head. “Then who do you work for?” DJ pressed.
Azelin was beginning to answer, when Alec interrupted. “D’you say your name was Azelin?”
Azelin turned slowly, to look at Alec, then nodded. Alec crouched and put the gun away, then stood and looked at DJ.
“It’s cool, he’s a friend.”
“You know this guy?” DJ stepped away from Azelin. Alec shook his head. “No” He replied. “But Hunter used to talk all about him a while back. I guess he’s a good guy.”
DJ’s eyes almost bulged out of his skull. “GUESS?!? What the hell does that mean? Is he or isn’t he?”
Alec was nonchalant. He went back to his place on the rock and lit another cigarette. “If he wanted us dead, we’d be dead. Neither of us is paying any attention to him. We’re too busy being confused.”
DJ turned back to look at Azelin. He was still standing where he had been, arms raised in the air, watching Alec and DJ.
“Can I put my hands down?” He asked. “My arms are getting tired.”
DJ looked around in confusion at nothing in particular. ‘I’m stuck in the desert with a pair of nutters!’ he thought.
“Yeah mate, come and grab a seat somewhere.” Alec answered Azelin’s question.
Azelin lowered his hands and sat near Alec. DJ watched him cautiously.
“So if you’re not a Rover, where did you come from?” He asked Azelin.
“I don’t know for sure.” Azelin said, his expression unchanged.
Alec chipped in. “DJ, do you know about Perris Park?”
DJ nodded, confused. Alethia, the Japanese Spitz had came from there, she was one of DJ’s closest friends.
“Well, from what I understand by talking to Hunter, Azelin was there.”
“You’re a Perrissian?” DJ turned to Azelin.
“Not exactly.”
“Then what? How do you know of that place?”
Alec answered for Azelin again. “He was created elsewhere, and sent there. Unfortunately, he was a member of Dogstar for a little while.”
Alec had barely said the word ‘Dogstar’ before DJ had leapt to his feet and pulled his own sidearm. He pointed the weapon at Azelin’s head at point-blank range.
“He’s DOGSTAR? Why in God’s name didn’t you say so?” DJ yelled at Alec.
Azelin turned to look at Alec. As soon as he moved, DJ planted the sole of his boot on Azelin’s chest and pushed him onto his back. He held him there and waved the pistol at him again. “Move again and I’ll redecorate that sand behind you an interesting new color called ‘hint of brain!’ You Dogstar piece of sh*t!”
Azelin’s expression didn’t change.

“Relax DJ!” Alec shouted, grabbing him by the shirt and shaking him. “He’s not Dogstar anymore! He isn’t dangerous! He was at Perris, yes, and he was part of Dogstar, yes, but I swear, he’s not dangerous!”
DJ shook Alec off him and turned back to Azelin. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Azelin’s expression still didn’t change, Instead, he shifted his weight a little, and began to speak.
“I was created in a lab. A part of a project, the purpose of which was to create disposable mutant soldiers. I was the first canosapien created. I was the first of you to be given a soul, and held to the principles of right and wrong. I was also given a mission. I was exposed to the knowledge of the Truth, and commanded to share it with others. When I was presented to the project officials, they got scared and canned the soldier project. They erased my memory and sent me to Perris. When they erased my memory they took away the Truth from me. That drove me insane. I joined Dogstar and participated in the raid on Perris Park. I killed people, yes. In return, Dogstar tried to kill me. As I lay there, dying, I felt what I had inflicted on those I had slain, and I repented. I was shown the Truth again, and I resolved to turn my life around.”
“Bullsh*t.” DJ hoisted Azelin to his feet and pushed the barrel of the gun against his head. Azelin continued to speak.
“That wasn’t good enough for me. I tried to make right what I had done. I helped people and did a lot of good. Still I couldn’t forgive myself. The regret I carried, the knowledge of the darkness I had sold myself to drove me over the edge and I shot myself. However, I was saved by what you might call a ‘higher power’ and ‘reset’. I was forgiven and I was given the Truth again. I was returned to earth and sent back on my mission to help those who need to see the Truth. That is when I met Hunter. I helped him, and he was grateful. You want to kill me? You can’t forgive me? That’s no surprise. I can’t even forgive myself. After all the people I have helped, I can’t even help myself.”

DJ pushed Azelin against the cliff face and prepared to pull the trigger. His finger tightened on the steel, and he closed his eyes in preparation for the recoil of the weapon.
“Damn straight I can’t forgive you. No small wonder you can’t forgive yourself. You’re a damned murderer. You caused too much pain to too many people. I’m not gonna let you do it anymore.”
Azelin sighed a little. “Very well. You leave me with no choice.” DJ stared hard at the red glass in Azelin’s sunglasses. For a second, he fancied he saw a flash of green light from them.
“This will feel a little strange.”
Azelin’s arm shot up, clamping DJ’s wrist in a grip that threatened to crush his bones like eggshells. He forced the pistol to one side, and reached up to grasp DJ’s head with his other hand. As DJ pulled the trigger, and the loud report of the firearm began to echo in his ears, a strange sensation crept up his arm, taking over his body. A feeling of separation. He felt as though his consciousness was being removed from his body, or that another mind was inside his own. A ghostly greenish-yellow light began to issue from Azelin’s eyes, flickering and sparking like lightning, glowing through the lenses of his glasses and filing DJ’s field of vision. With it came a noise, like the roaring of the ocean or a train. It overwhelmed DJ’s senses and he went limp.

“He’s coming around.”
DJ didn’t recognize the voice, and he couldn’t see. He blinked a few times, and moved, sluggishly. As his senses returned, he felt sand beneath his back. Opening his eyes fully, he saw a dark, clouded sky, lit by the moon. He also saw Alec, leaning over him.
“Yeah, he’s back.” Alec nodded.
DJ struggled to sit up, and looked around. He was still in the lee of the cliff. Azelin sat to his left, on Alec’s rock. Alec was helping him to his feet. DJ shook him off and staggered around. He looked here and there, trying to get his bearings.
“Welcome back to reality.” Azelin said, shooting him a knowing look. DJ froze.
“What did you do to me?” DJ mumbled.
A flash of light filled his vision, and DJ remembered. He remembered a room, a lab of some kind. He remembered a knowledge, something wonderful that was taken from him. Also, there was a feeling of emptiness, a maddening knowledge of something lost. He felt a rage at its loss, and he remembered taking the anger out on the innocent. Then there was sadness, regret. A feeling of hopelessness that he couldn’t shake. An act of desperation, and the sudden knowledge that he was being dwarfed by a mind that filled everything. He felt forgiveness, and peace. As he struggled to come to terms with these things, there was more. He saw Hunter, and knew that he had helped him. But still there was a feeling of guilt, a worry that nothing could make up for what he had done. Guilt that drove him away, that forced him to wander, guilt that he had to come to terms with, or suffer under it forever.
Suddenly, he was back in the desert. Back in his own mind, his own time.
Alec raised an ‘eyebrow’ and looked at Azelin. “Yeah, What DID you do to him?”
“I gave him a look into my life. He just lived through what I have lived through. Now he sees and understands what it is like to be me. It was the only way to make him believe. If he felt what I feel, he would understand. He has felt it.”
Alec looked dumbstruck.
“Don’t worry, the memories are only temporary. He won’t remember them forever. But he will remember that I feel nothing but the deepest, most soul-wrenching regret for my past.”
DJ sat down heavily and buried his muzzle in his hands.
“Sucks, doesn’t it?” Azelin asked.
“Don’t ever do that to me!” Alec said, looking worried.
“He was going to kill me.” Azelin muttered. “It was the only way.” He stood and walked to DJ, then crouched in front of him. “Hey.” He said, softly.
DJ looked up at Azelin with tear-streaked eyes. “I’m so sorry.” He whined.
Azelin shook his head. “We all have a private pain, DJ. We all have things we regret. You just had to see mine to appreciate it. A man can say he is sorry a thousand times, and he won’t be believed if the person listening doesn’t want to believe. You didn’t want to believe. You wanted me to be evil, you wanted me to feel no regret for what I did. I had to show you that the regret I feel is genuine. So genuine that it consumes me. I was wrong in the things I did, but that is behind me now. It was another life. Now I am a different person. I just need to come to terms with the past, that’s all.”
DJ nodded slowly. “I understand.”

Azelin stood and turned to face Alec. “You’re lost.” He said, matter-of-factly. Alec nodded and pointed to the broken landspeeder. “We need to get back to RRMC. That was our only way back. We are gonna stay here overnight and try and find our way back in the morning.”
Azelin frowned. “Why?”
“What do you mean, ‘Why’?” Alec asked, confused.
“RRMC is only about an hours walk in that direction.” Azelin jerked his thumb over his shoulder, southwards. “We can go home at any time.”
DJ looked up and frowned. “What do you mean, ‘we’? You live in the desert, you don’t live at RRMC.”
Azelin took off his sunglasses and looked down at DJ. “I need to be there. There is someone there I am supposed to help. That makes it my home.” DJ noted that Azelins eyes shone wetly in the darkness. As though he sensed that he was being scrutinized, Azelin hurriedly replaced his glasses.
Alec looked at DJ, then back at Azelin. “Who are you supposed to help?” He questioned, almost suspiciously.
“Another Perissian. A white canosapien by the name of Alethia. I am being led to her.”
Alec bit his lip and frowned. “I don’t know if it’s such a good idea you go to her, mate. She feels a lot of pain when it comes to her past.” Azelin turned to look at Alec, who realized his statement quickly and continued: “I don’t know if meeting another Perissian is a good idea. Especially one who was in Dogstar.”
Azelin sighed deeply and hung his head. “I know. But I have to see her. She’s the key. She’s the only one left.”
DJ stood and began to pick up the blankets and ration packs from the ground. He packed them neatly away in the speeder and then faced Alec.
“If he says he has to go, he has to go, trust me.” Alec slowly nodded agreement, then looked at Azelin. “I understand.” He muttered.
Azelin pulled his coat tightly around himself. “We’d better get going.” He said, sadly. Then he turned his eyes towards the dark skies. “There’s a storm coming.”
 
 

It was raining hard when the three of them finally made it back to RRMC. Alec and DJ stood, huddled in the rough-hewn depression in the rock that housed the personnel entrance to RRMC, while Azelin stood, still and emotionless in the pouring rain. He wasn’t paying attention to Alec or DJ. He was barely even aware of the freezing rain that soaked his clothes and fur through his raincoat. He was fighting the gut-wrenching apprehension that he felt in his soul. SHE was here. He felt her presence even now, brushing against the edges of his consciousness. Alethia was the key, she was the last perissian. Once he had seen her and helped her, Azelin was sure he could forgive himself. But also, he knew how she would react to him. That was what was scaring him. Suddenly, Azelin realized he was being spoken to.
“Are you listening to me?” Alec was saying.
“Yes. I can hear you”
Alec pointed towards the doorway that had somehow been opened in the wall of the shallow depression. “Then get inside! You’re soaked.”
Azelin slowly looked down at his dripping clothes. “Yes.” He mumbled. “I am.”
“Come on then.” Alec turned to go inside. Azelin didn’t move. “Are you coming or not?”
“I can’t come in unless she invites me.” Azelin turned and stood with his back to the wall, still in the freezing rain.
Alec huffed in frustration. “Bloody hell. You’re weird.” He grumbled. ”I’ll go tell her she has a visitor. Don’t be surprised if you stay out here for a while though. She might be busy.” Alec turned and went inside. Azelin stayed where he was. After a few seconds, he tried to force a smile, or a half-smile. Anything to replace the neutral look that he wore, which was rapidly devolving into a look of absolute misery. He soon gave up. She would see through any fake smile.

The wind began to blow, adding more chill to the already unseasonably cold rain. Still, Azelin remained motionless. He felt as though he was wet and cold all the way through his body and soul, and he would never dry out. Rain ran down his long fringe, and onto the lenses of his sunglasses, blurring his vision. He rarely took the glasses off. Even when it was night. Behind the lenses, Azelin closed his eyes. She was coming. Her presence was getting stronger.

“Hello?”
Azelin didn’t move. He opened his eyes and stared straight ahead, into the dark, wet gloom of the storm. “Hello?” the voice came again. Azelin heard movement in the doorway. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her. A Japanese Spitz, diminutive and frail looking. She frowned at him in confusion.
“You’re here to see me?” Alethia had a quiet, peaceful voice with an accent that Azelin couldn’t place. It was like hearing something from a dream.
“Yes” Azelin said, quietly.
“Why don’t you come inside?” she asked. “It’s cold out here.”
“Yes. I am cold.” Azelin muttered. Alethia’s frown remained where it was.
“Then come in!”
Azelin finally turned to look at her. “Are you inviting me in?”
Alethia's frown turned into a smile, and she giggled a little. “DJ was right. You are strange! Yes, it’s an invitation. Now, come in!” She spun around on her heel and walked inside. Azelin followed.

“I don’t know exactly why you’re here.” Alethia was saying, as Azelin followed her through the hallways of RRMC. “But you’re a strange guy. If DJ hadn’t told me you were ok, I’d not even be here with you now. Still, I guess we’ve met before. There’s something about you…” She stopped and turned to look at Azelin, who stopped also. Water dripped from his raincoat into small puddles on the floor. He looked and felt like a drowned rat.
Alethia stifled a laugh. “Sorry.” She said. “But you look so helpless! You need some dry clothes. Do you have any?”
Azelin looked at himself and the puddles that collected around his boots. “No.” He said. “I have no other clothes.”
Alethia’s amused look drooped into that of sorrow. “Oh. I’m sorry.” She said. “Let’s see if I can borrow you some. Follow me.” Azelin followed her again.
Shortly, they stopped outside a door, which bore Alethia's name. “Open, please” Alethia chimed, and the door slid open. Azelin followed her inside the darkened room.
“Lights.” Alethia said, and the computer obliged her. Azelin looked around the room. A large bedroom with an attached common area, and doors that presumably led to a bathroom and kitchen. The furniture was contemporary, and had been furnished to give it a homely feel. Even Azelin felt at home there.
“I’ll go and see if I can borrow something for you to wear from Hunter or DJ.” Alethia was saying. “Oh, here’s a towel. You can hang your coat in the shower so the water doesn’t get everywhere.” Azelin turned to look at her, and was hit in the face with the towel Alethia had just thrown to him. It caught itself on his head and hung there, blocking his vision. Azelin still didn’t move. He heard Alethia giggle.
“What did you say your name was?” She asked.
“Azelin” He replied, through the towel.
“Ok Azelin.” Alethia replied, emphasizing his name. She giggled again, and Azelin heard the door slide shut as she left.

When Alethia returned, Azelin had hung his raincoat over the curtain rail in the shower and had toweled his hair dry. He stood in the doorway to the bathroom, allowing his drenched clothes to drip onto the linoleum floor of the bathroom, instead of Alethia’s carpet. His nervousness had declined a little, largely due to Alethia’s pleasant demeanor, and her hospitality. As the door opened, and she breezed back into the room, Azelin’s heart lurched in his chest. He fought to keep his neutral expression, and closed his eyes behind the dark lenses of his glasses.
“I got some sweats from Hunter. They should fit you.” Alethia handed the bundle to Azelin and smiled. “You can change in the bathroom. Just leave your wet things in the tub, you can deal with them later.”
“Thank you.” Azelin mumbled, closing the bathroom door behind him.

Alethia sat on the edge of her bed, and exhaled. ‘Who is he?’ She asked herself. ‘I don’t know anyone named Azelin. And why is he here to see me? What does he want?’ Alethia ran he fingers through her snow-white hair and thought hard. She had never seen this guy before. Never. She had a great memory, and would definitely remember his face, or at least his bizarre mannerisms. ‘Best to let it rest until the morning.’ She decided. It was late, and she was very tired. Hopefully tomorrow would bring a fresh start.  Her musing was interrupted by the rattle of the door handle to her bathroom. She forced a smile again and looked towards the door, expectantly. The door opened slowly, and Azelin walked in. He was wearing the blue sweatpants and T-shirt that Alethia had borrowed for him. He was also still wearing the same sunglasses.
“Is that better?” Alethia asked.
Azelin nodded slowly. “Yes. Much better, thank you.”
Alethia let her smile slip for a second. Azelin picked up on it immediately. “You’re exhausted.” He said, sympathetically. Alethia sighed deeply.
“Yes.” She admitted. “It’s been a long day. I should have been asleep hours ago.” Again, she forced a half-smile.
Azelin thought for a second, then looked at her. “What I am here for can wait until the morning.” He said, matter-of-factly. “You need rest.” Alethia smiled warmly.
“You know, you’re kind of sweet. I’m sure that you’re here for something important. Are you positive it can wait?”
“It can wait.” Azelin replied. “Trust me.”
Alethia frowned a little. “That’s just it.” She said, in a strange, dazed sort of way. “I’ve never met you before, and for all intents and purposes I should neither like nor trust you, but I trust you. I get the feeling that you’re here for the best.” She looked down for a second, then shrugged and continued. “I suppose that sounds silly.”
Azelin sat down on a couch opposite her bed, and shook his head. “It’s not silly.” He muttered, almost to himself. “You had better sleep.” He craned his neck around and looked at the door. “I will wait outside.”
He was just standing when Alethia leapt to her feet. “You can’t sleep out in the hall!” She yammered. “If you need a place to sleep, you can sleep on the couch there. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing!” Azelin slowly turned and looked back at the couch.
“Yes.” He agreed.
 

Azelin didn’t sleep a wink. He was far too nervous. Outwardly, he looked asleep, laying on the couch, his head and legs hanging over the armrests. But inwardly, his mind raced a mile a minute, and in his chest his heart beat like a drum. Azelin was half-afraid that its loud thumping might even wake Alethia. He had moved the couch across the room, to keep out of her way, but still, he was afraid to wake her. Azelin thought back, to the only other time he had seen her. It was just for the briefest of moments, during the time he had been at RRMC to help Hunter. He had been standing on one of the balconies that overlooked mission control’s main ops room. She had walked through, just passing from one side of the room to another. In those few seconds, Azelin sensed her, and tried to remember where he had seen her. He felt such immense pain and anguish from her, like his, he felt that it stemmed from her past. There was a familiar mental tug, something that drew him to her. He had felt it with every person he had helped, every person who he had shown the Truth to. Azelin remembered it well. He had turned to Hunter.
“Who is that?” He had asked, pointing at Alethia as she walked away.
Hunter looked where Azelin pointed. “Oh, that’s Alethia, she was at the Institute too.”
There had been a pause, while Azelin thought back, trying in vain to remember her. “She needs help.” He had said. “So much pain in her..”
Hunter nodded slowly, and sighed. “Yeah, I know.” He looked down, then back at Azelin. “I’d not bother her though, Seeing another Perissian, especially one who had anything to do with Dogstar, well, that would be almost too much for her..”

‘Too much for her..’ Hunter’s words echoed in Azelin’s mind, forcing him to bite his lip. ‘Please’ He prayed. ‘Please let her hear me out, so I can help her. Please.’ Azelin shifted his weight and looked at her. She was such a beautiful creature. But there was so much pain in her heart. Azelin felt it even now, as she slept. He sighed, a sigh that seemed to hold all the desperation that he felt in his soul. Azelin opened his mouth and whispered, so quietly he could barely hear the words.
“Please let me help you.”

He turned away, and pulled the sheet Alethia had given him, up to his neck. The morning was approaching, and he did not know what it would bring.
 

Eventually, Azelin drifted into a dreamless sleep. He didn’t dream often, and when he did dream, his dreams turned into nightmares that brought him gibbering awake. When he slept, he was almost at peace. Separated from the world that he felt he owed so much to. His near-peace was soon shattered, however.
“Azelin!”
Azelin sat bolt upright, and looked around. Alethia stood at the end of the couch, drenched in sweat, with a look of sheer terror in her eyes.
“Tell me about Dogstar!” She panted, hoarsely.

Azelin looked down in sorrow. “I’m sorry.” He began. Alethia cut him off on mid-sentence.
“No! No ‘sorry’s’ no excuses! No B.S! You tell me, and you tell me NOW!”
There was a pause, during which Azelin thought hard, trying to find an easy way to break the news to her. “Get comfortable.” he murmured. “This may take a while.”
“I’m fine.” Alethia’s voice was cold and bitter. Azelin didn’t blame her in the least.

“I was created a long time ago. I was the first canosapien to be ‘born’. They created me, grew me in a lab. Even gave me a name. ‘Leon Saularic’ they called me, after the son of one of the scientists, I believe. I was supposed to be a prototype super-soldier. An utterly loyal warrior, no conscience, no mercy. What they, the scientists didn’t realize, was that they had created a new lifeform, a higher form of life than ordinary animals. A being on the same level as them. I was given a soul, and the ability to live my life by choices, and by right and wrong. I was also given a mission, I was exposed to a knowledge, a secret, something which I call the Truth. It was meant to be a way out of pain, a release from bitterness and anguish. It was freedom. I was told to share the truth with those I was lead to. All these things happened to me while I was being created, grown in a lab. Unfortunately for me, after I was ‘born’ the project officials got scared. They didn’t like the idea of a mutant animal with free will. While they thought about what to do, I was taken away and mind-wiped. They brainwashed me, took away the memories of where I had come from, and I was sent to Perris Park. That was what started everything.

When I was brainwashed, when they forcibly emptied me of all my knowledge and experiences, the Truth was taken too. Ignorance may be bliss, Alethia, but when you KNOW in your heart that somebody has been inside your mind, and snatched from you something very precious and meaningful, the knowledge of the loss will drive you out of your mind. That’s what happened to me. I went insane from the loss of the Truth, and I was coerced into joining Dogstar. When Dogstar attacked, I was at the front of the attack. I killed. I was responsible for many deaths there. The insanity in my mind took over, and I lost all control. Even Dogstar turned against me then. They turned on me as we withdrew, and beat me half to death. Perhaps the injuries they inflicted on me served to awaken me from my madness, or perhaps it was something else. But as I lay there, dying, I remembered my past, I remembered where I had come from. And for the briefest of moments, I remembered the Truth. That fleeting look back into myself changed me. I made a resolution to make good on the things that I had done. I promised to make the wrong things right, and to change myself for the better.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky. The knowledge of the evils I had done ate at me day in, day out. I could have helped the world, and I still would hear the screams of the dying from that night. I could not close my eyes, lest I remember what I had done. In desperation, I decided to end my life, and hope that death would bring me some release. I shot myself. I took my own life.

Somehow, I was saved, taken aside at the last minute and taken to a place beyond life. There I was shown my own shortcomings by what you could call a ‘higher power’ I was forgiven for what I had done. I was shown the Truth again and I asked to be returned to the world. That is how I ended up here. Leon Saularic died that night, and I was created. Azelin. It’s a Hebrew name, I do believe. It means ‘Saved by God’ wether or not God saved me is irrelevant. What matters, is I was forgiven. My past was wiped away and I was redeemed.” Azelin gave a sigh and looked away. “What good is redemption if you cannot redeem your own soul? What good is forgiveness if you cannot forgive yourself? I have helped so many people since I came back, Alethia, I have tried everyday to put the past behind me and become a new person. And every time I show someone the Truth, every time they are released from their grief, I get a little piece of my soul back from hell.” Azelin’s voice had cracked a long time ago and he took off his sunglasses and wept bitterly. He sobbed in remorse and shook his head in shame.
“So many people helped, and you still can’t help yourself.” Alethia said, softly
“It’s so horrible.” Azelin whispered, hugging his knees. “I can’t live like this. I can’t live after doing those things. If you’d seen and done the things I have, you’d not want to go on.” He buried his muzzle in his hands and sobbed like a child. “I was so sure you were the key.” He said, through the tears. “I thought, as I was being lead to you, if I could help you and you would understand what I had done, if you forgave me for what Dogstar did to your home, to your people, your friends, I thought if you forgave me, I could finally forgive myself. I thought I would have some peace.”

There was a long silence, and suddenly Azelin felt a soft touch on his hands. Looking up through tear-streaked eyes, he saw Alethia. She had taken one of his hands, and held it almost tenderly. “I know how much it hurts to be tortured by your own past” she whispered. “I know a lot about you now, Azelin. I know things you might not even realize. I have a gift, I can see into the hearts and minds of others. It is called telepathy. I can see into your mind, Azelin. There is so much suffering there, so much terrible pain and emptiness. What you did was wrong. You know that and I know it. But you have tried so hard to put that aside and move on. Your past won’t lie still. It won’t leave you be. See, people do terrible, terrible things. They rape and  murder, and hurt one another in all sorts of ways. When a mind has been exposed to those things, it leaves a stain on the currents of the mind, a mark that is never erased. I have seen into the minds of murderers before, Azelin. Their minds are shallow and fast, like a wild river running over sharp rocks. Your mind is different. It carries no mark of evil. Your mind is like a peaceful canal. It is dark and cold in places, but it is not the mind of a cold-blooded killer.”

Azelin looked down, sadly. “That’s not possible. I did those things.” Alethia squeezed his hand a little tighter. “Did you? Or do you just want to believe that?”
There was a long moment of confusion for Azelin. Soon, he looked up again. “What do you mean?” He asked.
“I don’t remember you, Azelin. I never saw you at Perris Park, and I knew everyone there. I had never seen you before last night. I dreamed that Dogstar did something to you, not that you were a member. Something doesn’t add up here, and I want to know what is going on. I know you were not at Perris Park. That is the truth.” Alethia paused for a second, then gave a knowing smile. “You were here to help me, to show me your Truth, weren’t you?” Azelin simply nodded. “Maybe you were brought here so I could help you? To show you a different truth?” She added, cocking her head to one side, questioningly. Azelin looked dumbstruck. After a second, Alethia looked into Azelin’s eyes and asked: “What is the Truth?”
Almost like an automaton, Azelin replied: “I can’t tell you what the truth is. You have to be shown it. You have to want to see it, then it becomes clear. You have to see it for yourself.”
“I can’t tell you the truth about your past, Azelin.” Alethia said, mimicking Azelin’s previous statement. “You will have to be shown it. You must want to see it, then it will become clear. You have to see it for yourself.”
 

Azelin slept soundly after that. His mind raced to begin with, but it soon tired, and he fell into a deep sleep. Alethia watched him sleep for a while, wondering how the events of the past few hours had came to pass. All of a sudden she had been thrown into this strangers problems, and now she seemed the only way out that he had. What had brought their fates together? What meaning did it have for her? She did not know, but something about it felt right, perhaps it was the knowledge that she was improving things for someone, or perhaps it was something else.

When the morning came, Azelin was still asleep. Alethia quietly prepared herself for the day, and left the room to eat breakfast. She returned a short while later, bringing food for Azelin with her. As she entered her room, she noted that it was still dark. She checked the couch, Azelin was still there, fast asleep. Setting the tray of food on a nearby table, she pulled part of the sheet back over Azelin’s feet and left the room, letting the door quietly slide closed behind her.

“I don’t seem to remember you ever bringing food to me when I slept in.” Alethia jumped at the voice, and spun around to look at who had spoken. It was Ricky, the husky mutt who Alethia had been close to, at one time.
“Ricky.” Alethia’s voice was cold.
“I ran into DJ and Alec last night,” Ricky said, almost in a sneer. “They said that some strange guy was here to see you. I just thought I’d keep an eye on him, make sure he wasn’t here to do you any mischief.”
“He’s fine.” Said Alethia, bitterly. “I don’t need you to watch out for me, Ricky. I know he’s safe.”
Ricky didn’t seem to hear. He looked at Alethias door, and back at her. “DJ said there’s something special about him, Something weird. You wouldn’t happen to know what I’m talking about, would you?”
“No, I wouldn’t.” Alethia said, turning and walking away. Ricky stared after her for a moment or two, then looked back at her door before walking away.

Alethia walked quickly to the computer archive room, and locked the door behind her. She sat herself at one of the consoles and turned it on. The monitor flickered into life, and a cursor began to flash.
“Identify user.” Said the computer, in a cold voice. The screen flashed with the same message.
“Alethia”
“User identified. Please enter your security clearance.” Alethia’s fingers tapped skillfully on the keys, and the computer responded with: “Clearance recognized. Please select desired program.” Alethia selected the database of known criminal and terrorist organizations and scrolled through the long list until she reached the entry for Dogstar. Very little was known about the organization, but there was a list of known members. This was what interested Alethia. She took a deep breath, and began to look through the names and mugshots of the once-soldiers. Something in Azelin’s story didn’t add up, and she was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Azelin awoke with a start, and looked around the darkened room. Reaching up to remove his sunglasses. They weren’t there. Azelin frowned. He never took the glasses off. He even slept in them. Looking around, he saw them lying on the floor nearby and quickly put them on. As he stood up and began to fold the sheet he had slept under, he noticed the tray of food on the table nearby. Also on the tray was a note, hand written on a slip of paper. Azelin took it and read it.

‘Azelin:
   I hope you slept well after our little talk last night. I thought you might be hungry so I brought you some food. Hopefully it won’t be too cold after you wake up. If it is, there’s a microwave in the kitchen. I am going to go and check on something. I will be back later. Peace be with you, Alethia.’

A smile slipped across Azelin’s face as he pocketed the note, then took the tray into the kitchen. After a moment of staring around, he located the microwave, reheated his breakfast, and ate. He hadn’t eaten well in a long time. Something inside him grinned like an idiot, and Azelin wondered what had caused it.

After eating, Azelin showered quickly and dressed in his usual clothes, which were now dry. He grabbed a leftover piece of toast from the kitchen and left Alethia’s room. As the door slid closed, he sniffed the air and looked up and down the hallway. To his right, the hallway turned left. One of the overhead fluorescent lights flickered sporadically at the corner. Azelin peered intently at the corner. He was sure that he had seen movement there. A frown crept across Azelin’s face and he walked away. He tore part of the crust off the toast and chewed on it thoughtfully as he walked. It had been two long years since he had first come to RRMC. A lot had changed since then. Azelin snorted at the thought. Hell, a lot had changed since last night.

Nobody seemed to notice Azelin as he walked through the operations center of RRMC. Out of the corner of his eye, Azelin saw Colleen, briefing an outgoing team. She hadn’t changed a bit in 2 years. Azelin smiled and looked around for Hunter. It would be nice to see how he was after all this time. Azelin looked all around the room, but couldn’t see him. He sighed a little in disappointment and wandered on. As he walked into the main hangar, Azelin again got the feeling he wasn’t alone.
“Who are you and why are you following me?” Azelin asked in a loud voice, stopping and staring straight ahead. There was a moment of silence, after which a voice behind him answered:
“I’m just making sure you are ok. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable.”
Azelin turned to see who had spoken. Behind him stood a tall husky mutt canosapien. His unruly hair was forced this way and that, becoming a messy fringe that covered his eyes. He wasn’t much to look at, really.
“I don’t think you could make me uncomfortable.” Azelin answered, eyeing the stranger. “Who are you?”
The strange Cano shifted his weight a little and offered a hand to Azelin. “I’m Ricky. I’m a friend of Alethia’s” He said. Azelin stared at the offered hand until Ricky withdrew it, nervously.
“What do you want?”
“I’m just making sure you are ok, that you’re not here to cause any problems for Alethia.” Ricky mumbled, uncomfortably. Azelin said nothing, but simply stood there.
“She says you’re safe.” Muttered Ricky. “You guys must be close.”
Again, Azelin did nothing.
“So are you like, her lover or something?” Asked Ricky, looking at the floor, then at Azelin. Azelin didn’t move, but simply stared. Ricky jumped nervously at nothing, and stammered. “I-I mean..”
“I’m just a guy Alethia found.” Azelin rumbled. “Since it was raining.”
 

Alethia blinked her eyes hard, and stared at the screen. For three hours, she had sat, scrolling through a list of known members of Dogstar, looking at names and mugshots. It had been a fruitless quest. She was almost through the list, and there was still no entry for ‘Leon Saularic’ on one hand, that was a good thing, but, she reminded herself, there were a lot of members who were not known, or at least not identified. She brushed some unidentified grit, or dust, from the desktop and went back to the list. Deliberately, she had forced the memories of Perris Park down inside her, to avoid the pain that the search would cause, but ever so often she would see a face, or a name that would force her to bite her lip and grimace at what it reminded her of. She looked down and absent-mindedly pushed the grains of dirt on the desktop into a little pile with her long, slender fingers. Then she frowned and wiped them away. Whoever was in charge of cleaning in this room was doing a piss-poor job. Again, she scowled and looked back up at the screen. For long minutes she stared, going through picture after picture and name after name. Nothing. Alethia scratched her nose and looked at her fingers. More of the dirt was there. She looked up, hoping to see where it was coming from, but the ceiling looked normal, considering the pitch dark of the room. Confused, she turned around in the swivel chair and stared into the darkness of the room. Behind her and above, a pair or round, red eyes shone. Alethia stared for a moment, then screamed.

“What?” said Azelin, stepping forward. The ‘eyes’ were the lenses of his sunglasses, reflecting the light from the computer.
Alethia panted for a moment, then grabbed Azelin around the waist and hugged him for a brief second. “I-I” she panted. “I was scared.”
“Ah.” Azelin nodded. “Everyone gets scared, once in a while.” He bit into the toast he had been eating, dropping more crumbs onto Alethia’s keyboard. “What are you doing?”
Alethia brushed the crumbs away and gestured towards the computer screen. I’m running through the list of Dogstar members, to see if you are in here. So far, no luck”
Azelin looked at the screen, then tapped the down arrow cursor a few times. He stood up and pointed at the screen with a long finger.
“There I am.”
Alethia looked. There on the screen was a mugshot of Azelin. His eyes were dark, and he scowled. He had no long hair, just his natural fur. The name listed, sure enough, was ‘Leon Saularic’ No other information was given, save the red lettering that read “Deceased”.
Alethia sighed. “Damn. I was hoping you weren’t there.” Azelin simply nodded. “Me too.”
“Still, records can be falsified, this could be fake.” Alethia turned back to look at the picture. Azelin looked down at her and took off his glasses. The first thing Alethia noted was how calm and in control Azelin looked compared to the picture.
“No offense, Alethia, but I think you are wasting your time.” He said.
Alethia shook her head and frowned. “No, I believe this was a morning well spent. You forget, in my dream, Dogstar did something to you, so of course they would have you listed on their rosters.” Looking up, Alethia saw that Azelin had turned away. She sighed a little and looked back at the picture. Azelins hand snaked into view and went for the power button, to turn the monitor off. Alethia grabbed Azelin’s wrist and held it down.
“Azelin!” She whispered, “Let me see your ears.”
“Why?”
Alethia pointed a nervously shaking finger at the mugshot on the computer and whispered: “That’s why.”
Leaning down, Azelin stared at the mugshot. In the picture, his left ear flopped loosely to the left, almost severed at its base, while the right was pierced with a large metallic tag bearing the roman numeral ‘I’

As Azelin frowned and stared at the picture, Alethia pushed her fingers through his hair and pulled it aside to expose his ears completely. She examined them and rubbed them with her fingertips. Azelin knew what she was going to say before she said it.
“There is nothing wrong with your ears.”
Azelin winced for some unknown reason. “I know.” He said. “And I don’t remember having them damaged either.” He straightened up and smoothed out his clothes, then Looked down at Alethia.
“Something is going on here Azelin, and I want to get to the bottom of it.” She said, her voice shaking a little.
“Despite the fact that you and the Dogstar have a very painful history?”
“Azelin, sometimes the best way to overcome something you fear is to face it.”
 

Together they searched the computer database for any more information concerning “Leon Saularic”. The search took almost all day, and by the time they had finished RRMC was deserted, it’s occupants all gone to their owners or to their rooms. Azelin felt a lot of disappointment as they left the computer archive room and walked the silent halls of RRMC. Outwardly, he appeared as calm, almost distant as always, but inwardly he was excited. Azelin had never really been one for mysteries, but this was an exception. In his mind he had always KNOWN that he was a horrible, murdering wreck of a person, but within a few hours his entire life had been thrown into question. Nothing added up and nothing made sense. He was lost and confused about his past for the first time ever. He was suddenly interrupted from his musings by Alethia.
“You’re very quiet. Are you ok?” She asked quietly, looking down. Azelin nodded and replied “Yes. Just thinking a little.”
“About what?” She asked.
“For years I’ve been sure that I was evil looking for salvation. Now it seems I might be wrong. That throws my whole life into question.” Alethia stopped and looked up at him.
“You’re not evil, Azelin. You’re good. You’re a good person.”
“Am I?” Azelin asked quietly. “I never considered murderers to be good.”
“You’re not a murderer! I told you that! Haven’t you listened to anything I have told you? You didn’t do those things that you are so willing to credit yourself for! You didn’t! It was someone else, someone who looks like you and somehow you were made to believe that that person IS you!” Alethia looked almost hurt.
“Are you sure?” Azelin asked, looking straight ahead down the hall.
Suddenly, Alethia slapped him. Azelin felt a stinging blow to his cheek and looked down.
“I deserved that.”
Alethia put her hands on her hips and scowled. “Damn straight you did. You’re a stubborn **shole, Azelin! I tell you something but you don’t want to hear it! You are so caught up in feeling bad about yourself because of something you think you did, but can’t prove!”
Azelin opened his mouth to speak, but held his tongue for a second. “If that event isn’t real, didn’t happen, what’s to say that all my other memories aren’t real either?”
There was a long silence, after which Alethia looked away. “You mean when you tried to kill yourself, and were saved?”
“Yes.”
“You’re worried because that is where the Truth came from, right?” Alethia looked back at Azelin and shifted her weight a little. “You’re worried that the Truth might not be real, and that you might have been misleading people about it for all these years.”
“Yes.”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Azelin. If the Truth is as powerful as you say it is, maybe it really does come from God.” Azelin shook his head a little.
“I don’t think it’s from God. To see the Truth, you have to want to be freed from the things that are making you suffer. I help people open their hearts and minds, and then they see the Truth for themselves. I don’t know where it comes from, but maybe it isn’t from God, maybe it’s from inside each person?”
“Then why are you worried?” Alethia asked.
“Because I was shown the Truth when I tried to kill myself. If that didn’t happen, and if I was never shown it, where did it come from?” Azelin took off his sunglasses and frowned down at Alethia with sorrowful eyes.
“I wish I knew.” Alethia said, softly.
 

Alethia wore a look of worry and shock on her face as Azelin outlined his idea

                                              *                       *                         *
 
 

Water cascaded from the showerhead and down Azelins body. He squeezed a ludicrous amount of shampoo into the palm of his hand and began to massage it into his hair. Living like he had, wandering from place to place, and never staying in one place for very long, taking long, relaxing showers was a luxury he couldn’t afford very often, so he was making the most of this. He scrubbed himself first-date clean, rinsed his body down, and stepped out of the shower. Grabbing a towel from the rail next to the shower cubicle, he began to dry himself off. As he did so, he hummed a few lines from some songs, to fill the void of silence in the room. There was a knock at the bathroom door.
“Azelin?” It was Alethia. “When you’re done, I need to have a word with you.”
“I’ll only be a minute.” He replied, then went back to drying himself off. Once dry, he slipped into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt that Alethia had borrowed from DJ. The shirt was much too small, and had a number of unidentifiable stains on it. Azelin tugged at it, trying to stretch it out a little. Useless. He put on his sunglasses, opened the bathroom door and walked into Alethias bedroom. She was laid across her bed, with a stack of file folders strewn all around her.
“What is all this?” He asked, simply.
“I went to the archive vault while you were in the shower and I got all the information we have on the Dogstar. Most of it is stuff I already know, but there is one big problem.”
“And that is?”
Alethia answered. “There are no mentions of a ‘Leon Saularic’ anywhere. These are old records, but they do cover the time you said you were there. Also, I have a complete listing of the names, origins and owners of all the dogs who were at Perris Park.”
She handed him an old manila folder, sealed with a strip of tape. “Please open this and look for your name. But please don’t mention any other names you might see.”
Azelin nodded sympathetically. Alethia didn’t want to be reminded of her lost friends. He took the folder and sat down on the couch, opened the folder and began to read through the names.

After a few long minutes, Azelin closed the folder and set it back on the bed, out of Alethias way. He looked down, pressed his fingertips together and sighed like a burst tire.
“I am not mentioned.” He said, simply.
“That’s what I expected.” Said Alethia, without looking up. “Now these records here,” Alethia pointed at the stack of folders. “None of these mention you either. And these are all original hard copies, dated to the time you claim to have been there.”
“Which contradicts the records on the computer that we saw earlier.” Azelin added.
“Exactly.” Alethia looked over at Azelin. “Computer records and be falsified a lot easier than physical records. You saw for yourself that the person they have named as Leon looks very little like you. It’s as though they added his file at a later date, and backdated it to make it seem as though you, or this Leon character, had worked for them.
“But why would they do that?” Azelin asked.
Alethia shrugged. “I have no idea. I’m just stating the facts. Nothing adds up here, and I’d like to know what’s going on. Anything Dogstar does is evil, but it usually makes SOME sense.”
Azelin tapped the side of his head with a finger. “My memory and your computer records say that I was there, but your hard copies say I wasn’t. One of them is wrong. I am still sure I was there, but everything seems to point in the other direction. Now I know my mind, that’s where all my power lies, where all my so-called ‘supernatural’ abilities are locked. Inside my mind. I don’t doubt the validity of it at all. I trust my memory.”
“And I trust mine, Azelin!” Alethia rolled onto her side and looked directly at him. “I know you weren’t at the institute, I have no memory of you. But you remember being there. Again, we have a contradiction. I trust my memory too, so I’m sorry, but one of us is wrong.”
Azelin nodded. “I know. Question is, how do we find out who IS wrong, and what happened to make that person think wrongly?”
Alethia rolled onto her back and held her head in her hands. “That’s what I want to know.”

The rhythmic thud of heavy boots outside Alethias room, and the jangling of keys signaled the arrival of DJ. There was a pause, then the doorchime sounded.
“Come in, DJ” Alethia called out.
The door slid open and DJ clomped noisily into the room. He had a blank look on his face. “Well, Allie, I can’t find anything else. That’s all the info we have on Perris and Dogstar right there.” He gestured to the folders lying spread across Alethias bed.
“It’s ok DJ.” Said Alethia. “We’ve reached an impasse. Neither of us can figure it out.”
“She told you then?” Azelin asked.
DJ simply nodded. He took a seat on the floor by Alethias door and began to clean his fingernails with a pocketknife.
“Can’t you do some kind of telepathy on him and see if there’s something in his mind that he hasn’t seen?” DJ asked.
Alethia sat up and half closed one eye while she thought. “It might be possible.” She said after a moment. DJ and Alethia both looked at Azelin. He stared back for a second, looking from Alethia to DJ and back again.
“Ok, do it.” Sighed Azelin.

Azelin sat on the couch and faced Alethia while DJ sat at the foot of her bed and watched. Azelin closed his eyes and exhaled.
“What do I need to do?”
“Just relax and let your mind go blank.” Said Alethia, gently taking Azelins hands in her own. “Let your mind wander.”
DJ watched as Azelin sat, listening to Alethia’s voice. He actually looked rather peaceful. He couldn’t tell if Azelins eyes were closed, because he was still wearing the sunglasses.
“Open your mind to mine, Azelin.” Alethia was saying, in a soft, hypnotic voice. “Relax the barriers of your mind and allow me to see inside.” Azelin exhaled a little, and seemed to relax more. There was a long silence of perhaps five minutes, during which the only sound was the breathing of the three. Then Alethia whispered. “I’m in.”
“Be careful!” DJ breathed, remembering his encounter with Azelins mind.
Alethia nodded a little. “There’s some kind of a barrier here, holding me out. I’ll try and see past it.” Her face tensed up a little, as if trying to conceal a great strain. The hairs stood on the back of DJ’s neck and a sensation like prickly heat danced on his forearms. He slid off the end of the bed to get a closer look, and as he did so, a spark of static jumped from the bed frame and stung him on the leg. He winced and rubbed at it. Alethia let out a little grunt of exertion, and DJ looked back at her.
“It’s very strong.” She whispered. “I’m almost through it.”
DJ ran his hand through his hair, sure of the sensation of static. His hair clung to his hand and stuck up wildly. He forced it down as best he could, and looked back at Alethia again. The lamp on the end table by the couch began to shake as though it were in a minor earthquake.
“I’m through!” Breathed Alethia. Suddenly, Azelin flew backwards, away from her as though pulled back by the shoulders. He rolled off the end of the couch and landed on his back on the floor. DJ leapt to Alethias side as she scrambled to where Azelin lay. Azelin spasmed and twitched like he was being electrocuted. His eyes were rolled back into his head and his arms and legs drummed on the floor of Alethias room. DJ tried to hold him down for a second, then slapped him. Azelin seemed not to feel it. “Get help!” DJ shouted, as the bulb in the lamp exploded behind him, sending  shards of hot glass flying everywhere. Alethia ran for the door. Pictures in frames on her table began to dance about, vibrated by the very air itself. A glass shattered on the counter in the kitchen, sending more glass flying across the room. Alethia opened the door and leapt outside.

DJ shook Azelin by the shoulders, and slapped him a few more times. Azelin was making a strange ‘Ak-ak’ noise in his throat, and his hands fluttered spastically, seemingly reaching for DJ’s shirt.
“Azelin!” DJ shook him more, ducking as a file folder flew across the room, scattering papers everywhere. “Azelin, its DJ! Wake up, man!” DJ balled up a fist, and punched Azelin in the head. Azelins eyes snapped open, and he grabbed DJ by the collar.
“Azelin!” DJ shouted hoarsely.
Azelin’s eyes focussed, and a look of sheer terror crossed his face. “DJ!”
“Azelin! What the hell happ..”
Azelin cut him off in mid sentence. “Where’s Alethia?”
“She went to get help! We thought you were having a seizure or something!” DJ hauled Azelin to his feet. “Watch out for the glass.”
“Glass?”
“Yeah, it was a weird few seconds here man, stuff shaking around like an out of balance wheel, things flying around and exploding.” DJ began to pick up the pieces of glass and paper from on the floor. Azelin found his sunglasses and put them back on. They had fallen off as he fell from the couch. He smoothed out his clothes and helped DJ pick up the glass.

The door hissed open and Alethia ran back inside, followed by Colleen and Dawn. Dawn was carrying a small med-kit.
“What's going on? Azelin, you’re alright!” Alethia panted.
“Yes. I apologize for what happened. I cannot explain it,” Azelin muttered, embarrassed.
Colleen shook her head. “Blimey, Al! You ‘bout give us all a heart attack there!” She took Azelins hand and led him to the sofa, and sat him down. She opened the med-kit, took out a few implements, and began to examine Azelin. “By the way. I’m Colleen. Hello.”
“Azelin.” He replied.

While Dawn and Colleen examined Azelin, Alethia and DJ finished tidying her room.
“So what happened?” Asked Alethia, dropping the last of the glass into the garbage.
“Well, things went crazy after you left, stuff was flying all over the place, and things were breaking. I shook him and smacked him around a bit and he seemed to come out of it. Then you came back.”
Alethia frowned. “It just stopped, like that?”
DJ nodded. “Yeah. What you do in there anyway? What made him go off like that?”
Alethia shook her head. “I don’t know, It’s hard to explain, but there was a barrier stopping me seeing into his thoughts, and there was like a fog, a kind of dank, cloying mist that kept everything I COULD see, all unclear and hidden. It wasn’t like any mind I’ve ever seen before. When I tried to see things clearly, it forced me out, almost physically squeezed me out. That’s when things got like they did.”
DJ looked blank. “I have no idea what all that means, but it sounds bad.”

Azelin said nothing. He helped DJ pick up the last of the debris left behind after the incident, then sat heavily on Alethias bed. After Colleen and Dawn finished, they left. As Colleen left the room, Azelin fancied he saw her shoot Alethia an uncertain look. Inside, he felt thoroughly embarrassed by what had happened. With all the discoveries he had made in the last two days and the uncertainty they made him feel, he almost wished that he hadn’t come to RRMC. But still, inside him, as strong as ever, he felt the need to be there. Only now it was combined with an intense desire to know the truth. To his surprise, Azelin had to let out a snort. ‘The Truth’. Wasn’t that what this was all about? But now, he had no idea what the truth really was.

Alethia heard Azelin’s snort, and looked at him in a curious way. “Are you alright?” She asked, concerned.
Azelin shook his head slightly and pursed his lips. “No, I’m fine, thank you.” He said, flatly. “Can you tell me if you learned anything from your little foray into my mind?”
Alethia thought for a second. She looked away and scratched behind her ear. “Well, not exactly. Like I was saying, there is some kind of block in your mind, something that keeps psychics from looking inside your thoughts. I don’t know if you’re generating it, or if it comes from somewhere else, but whatever it is, it’s very powerful.
Azelin nodded slightly. “That might be me. DJ will attest to how strong my mind is.”
DJ cut in. “Well, if it is you, why would you want to keep her out of your mind? If you’re serious about finding exactly what is going on here, then holding Alethia out of your mind isn’t going to help you at all.” Azelin nodded again. “I know. You’ll have to take my word that it wasn’t me.”

In his mind, Azelin sorted through the information that he had. He remembered being a member of Dogstar, and he remembered being at perris park. But Alethia had no memory of him. She swore that she didn’t know him. The computer records contained a little information about him, stating that he was called “Leon Saularic” and that he had been a member of Dogstar. But the hard copy records of the dogs who had been at perris park did not list him. Azelin knew that computer records could be falsified, but he also trusted what was in his mind. His mind, that was another strange thing. Why should there be a mental blockage preventing telepaths from seeing inside his mind? Again, nothing added up. Somewhere, on some side of the story, something was a lie. Azelin didn’t want to believe that it was him that he was living, or remembering a lie, but it was possible.

DJ left after a while, going back to his official duties. After he left, Alethia put away the envelopes containing the information from perris park, and went to the kitchen to get a drink. Azelin was aware of her eyes on him as he sat on the end of her bed and held his head in his hands. The entire affair was giving him the worst stress headache of his life. Shortly, he looked up. Alethia had come back into the room, silently, and was sitting across from him on the couch, studying him.

“Are you ok?” He asked her. Alethia looked a little dazed.
“Yes, I’m alright, thank you. I was just trying to imagine….” Her voice tailed off.
“Imagine what?” Pressed Azelin, puzzled.
“Trying to imagine what it must be like to be you. To not know whether you’re coming or going. Not knowing who you really are, having to question everything in your past, everything in your mind. Being blessed with incredible power, but not knowing how you’re supposed to use it. Being such a mystery to everyone, and not knowing the answers to the questions you pose yourself.”
Azelin gave a forced half-smile. “It wasn’t always that way. I used to be so sure. I was absolutely convicted about what I did. Mind you, now, even if I discover that I’m right, I’ll still question things a lot more.” He half-laughed.
“What’s funny?” Alethia asked, cocking her head to one side.
“I was just thinking about how I thought I was supposed to come here to help you.” He smiled, looking at Alethia over the top of his sunglasses. She returned the smile.
“Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?”
“Well” Said Azelin. “Not exactly funny…”
Alethia playfully shook her empty glass at Azelin, so that a few drops of water splashed his sunglasses. “You know what I meant!” She chided, happily.

As she stood up to return the glass to the kitchen, Azelin took off his sunglasses and began to clean them. Alethia stopped in front of him.
“Why do you always wear those?” She asked, quietly.
Azelin stopped what he was doing and frowned. “I don’t know.” He said, softly. “I feel like I’m safe when I wear them. When I look in the mirror wearing them, I don’t have to see the eyes of a killer. Others don’t have to see them either, when I’m wearing them.”
Azelin felt a soft touch under his muzzle, and allowed Alethia to lift his head, so that she looked into his eyes.
“I don’t see a killers eyes. I see the eyes of a good person. I see the eyes of someone who couldn’t kill without a very good reason.” She became very quiet. “I see the eyes of someone I’m beginning to like a great deal.” Azelin said nothing, but simply stared at her for a moment. Then he reached behind him and put his glasses on the end table.
“Then I won’t wear them when I’m near you.” He said, simply.

                                    *                                 *                                  *

DJ paced up and down the length of Alec’s office, and shook his head. “I don’t get it dude.” He said, frustrated. “It’s like, nothing about him makes any sense. I know a LOT about the dude, more than I want to know, but now its beginning to look like what I know, isn’t real.” He stopped and looked at Alec. Alec looked blank. He lit another cigarette and shrugged.
“Well, everything I know about him, I learned from Hunter. All I know is he is very weird, very powerful and very, very quiet.” He puffed on the cigarette, adding more smoke to the cloud, which hung by the ceiling in the office. DJ rolled his eyes and sighed.
“What do you think he ought to do?” He asked, exasperated.
“If I was him, I’d go back to Perris park and take a look around. You never know, maybe he’ll find something that will jog his memory.” Alec offered. DJ considered the idea for a moment. “You know” He said, nodding, “I had thought of that. If he remembers it differently, then its obvious he hasn’t been there. Or maybe he’ll find something that will clear this up.” DJ brightened. He looked back at Alec. Alec was staring at his computer screen, chewing his lip and tapping at the glass. DJ looked thoroughly fed up. “Thanks for the tip.” He said flatly.
Alec took another cigarette from the pack, without looking. “No problem.” He mumbled.
“Dude, you seriously smoke too much.” Said DJ as he left.

The hangar echoed with the sounds of DJs footsteps, as he walked back over to the Diesel rover and continued working on the engine. Alethias well being was a major concern in his life, and he fancied that the Azelin situation was causing her a lot of stress. Really, the last thing she needed was someone around who would awaken old memories of Perris Park. Suddenly, he stopped and looked around. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He had the feeling he wasn’t alone. Very slowly, DJ turned a full circle, scanning every corner of the enormous hangar. Seeing no one, he scowled and went back to work. “Dammit.” He cursed. “I gotta relax. This whole thing is beginning to wear on me.” He reefed on the nut he was tightening, and cursed as the wrench slipped and dropped to the floor. He bent to pick it up, and when he stood again, Azelin was standing on the other side of the Diesel rover. DJ jumped, gave two stuttering steps backward, and tripped over a floor jack. As he scrambled back to his feet, he watched Azelins boots walk around the front of the truck. DJ was beginning to wonder why he hadn’t seen them as he picked up the wrench, when Azelin reached down and helped him to his feet.

“I’m sorry, are you alright?” Azelin was saying. DJ brushed himself off, and nodded shakily. “Yeah man, I’m ok. Jeez, you scared the bejeezus out of me!” he half-laughed.
“I apologize. It’s a bad habit.” Azelin said. “I need to talk to you.”
Not noticing the subject change, DJ began clearing away his tools. “What about?” He asked.
“I want you to know that I’m not deliberately causing Alethia stress. I can tell you’re worried about it, and I know that you think that this situation could be bad for her. I promise you this, if I think that my presence here is harmful to her in any way, I’ll leave.”
DJ closed his tool chest and nodded. “I am worried about her, yeah. I’m sure you understand how much her past troubles her, but I’ll take your word on it that you’ll bail if something goes wrong.” He wiped his hands on an oily rag, and stuffed it into his pocket. Azelin noted that he was still shaking a little. “By the way,” DJ continued “I was talking to Alec earlier, and we kinda thought that maybe you ought to go back to perris park and see if you can find anything there. We thought that maybe something might jog your memory, or maybe nothing would jog your memory, if you know what I mean.”

Azelin nodded. “I was about to ask you if you had any ideas. I’ll be honest with you, DJ, my mind is too addled by confusion to decide on a course of action.”
DJ raised an eyebrow. “That sounds weird coming from you. You don’t seem like the sort to ask for advice.”
“Well,” replied Azelin “Normally that would be true, but in this situation, I’m honestly lost.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “If Alethia doesn’t mind, I’d like her to come with me to perris park. I don’t know if she’ll want to, but if she does, can you do us a favor, of sorts?”
“Sure dude. Name it.”
“I’d like you to follow us, in case something happens and we get into trouble. I’d feel a lot safer knowing you were around as back up.” Azelin brushed his hair out of his eyes and peered at DJ over the top of his sunglasses.
DJ nodded sincerely. “You got it brother. If she’s willing to go along, I’ll follow you guys to keep an eye on you.” Azelin followed DJ to a workshop sink and stood as he washed his hands. As he dried his hands, DJ turned to Azelin and asked: “Say, do you want to go get a drink or something? I’m no Alethia, but if you want to chat, one guy to another, I’m here.” Azelin frowned thoughtfully for a moment, then shrugged.
“OK, why not.”

An hour, and two small drinks later, DJ sat with Azelin in the day room, and together they lamented Azelin’s position. The world was, they had decided, a most unfair place. Azelin remained convinced that the entire ordeal was some kind of test.
“Everyone has to face a trial of some kind during their lives.” Azelin was saying, “Look at Job.”
The biblical reference was lost on DJ, but he nodded in agreement all the same. “Test or not, I really don’t like it. I mean, I can’t understand what this must be like for you.”
Azelin looked down into the bottom of his glass and screwed his muzzle up. “Well, take a moment and consider who you’re talking to. I’m a thing, a construct. I’m a genetic plastic model kit that’s been put together by an amateur and modified so often, you can’t even tell what it was meant to be.” He snorted and clucked a little. “But what can you do?”
Azelin looked up and watched a group of other rovers enter the dayroom. He rightly assumed it was shift change. He noted how carefree they all looked, with so little to worry about. However, he also noticed how they shot him awkward sideways glances and whispered amongst themselves in hushed tones. Azelin suddenly felt very self-conscious. No one here really knew him. DJ and Alethia knew him best, yes, but apart from them, everyone else looked upon him as a stranger. DJ seemed to sense this.
“What’s going to become of you?” DJ asked.
Azelin peered at DJ over the top of his glasses and sighed. “I don’t know. Even if we do sort this problem out, and I find out the truth..” He paused at the mention of the word ‘truth’. “Even if I do, what then? Do I really think I can ever fit in here? Can I be like you, Hunter and the rest? Working for your ‘master’ and all that nonsense? Where the hell do I belong?” He glanced back at the still muttering group of newcomers before looking back at DJ. “Hmm?”
“That remains to be seen.” DJ replied. “But one thing’s for sure. You’ll always be welcome here. You can just bide your time until you get yourself sorted out. Look at Tanith; He’s been here 4 years and still hasn’t got much of a clue. I guess that’s part and parcel of being what you are.” He cleared the table, and they left the day room. Azelin couldn’t help but feel uneasy as they passed the other rovers. The way they all shrunk back and eyed him so dubiously. He wanted to shout at them, to tell them: “I’m just like you! Why are you treating me this way? I am nothing to be afraid of!” But he didn’t. Instead he just stared ahead, cold and indifferent. DJ caught on almost immediately. When they had left the room, and were a few yards down the hall, he spoke up.
“Like a rock, huh?”
Azelin looked over. “I’m not sure what you mean..”
“Back there as we left, you got your old ‘thousand yard stare’ back. Why do you do that?” DJ’s tone wasn’t in the least bit accusing or condescending, just curious.
“You know, I’m not sure anymore.” Azelin replied, “I used to be so caught up in thinking, just thinking about life, where I was going, the past, I was so busy on the inside, that the outside got a little neglected.”
DJ nodded his agreement. “I can see how that would happen.” Rather abruptly, they stopped outside the door to DJ’s room. “Well guy, I’ve got to hit the sack. You still staying in Alethia’s room?”
“Yeah, her couch is pretty comfortable. Maybe I can gauge her mood and decide whether or not she will be up to this possible journey back to Perris. I’m still unsure about it myself.” Azelin ground something into the carpet with the toe of his boot, and looked up again.
“Well, stop by and see me tomorrow.” They shook hands, and went their separate ways. It wasn’t late, but for some reason the hallways in the living areas were deserted. Even Azelin, who had lived a lot of his life alone, felt that the emptiness was unnatural. He dug his hands in his pockets and quickened his pace a little. His own demons, the specters of his past, were closing in fast, and he felt he must find his shelter from them before they caught him in this lonely place. Azelin sighed heavily and hung his head. Perhaps he was bringing this suffering on himself, perhaps not. But regardless, what he was going through felt decidedly unfair. There was no protection from self-incrimination in the real world. Sure, it sounded wonderfully professional in a courtroom, but in the real world, where ones own self was judge, jury, witness, prosecutor and jailer, it was all too easy to be condemned by ones own self. As he approached the door to Alethia’s room, Azelin found a sticky note.

‘Azelin:
   I’ve stepped out for a minute. I shouldn’t be long. The door has been reprogrammed to open for you. Hope your feeling better, Al’

Azelin took the note down read it, then looked at the door.
“Open?” He said, uncertainly. The door hissed open. Azelin looked surprised, up and down the hall at nothing in particular, then stepped inside.
“Of your own free will.” Azelin found himself muttering under his breath as he entered. Immediately he took off his sunglasses and set them on the table. As the door hissed closed behind him, he went into the bathroom. After showering, he lay down on the couch and relaxed. Something about the room was peaceful. He felt like it was a sanctuary from all the troubles of the world. Despite all the problems and concerns, he wasn’t bothered here. With those thoughts in his mind, he fell into a deep sleep. to her. Azelin felt sure that she wouldn’t be up to the possibility of making a trip to anywhere near Perris Park, but for some reason that he couldn’t explain properly, he had offered the idea anyway. The plan was simple: Drive to Perris Park, spend a few hours there searching around, looking for clues, anything that could spark a memory, then head back. They’d be gone for two days, at the most. They’d spend the night at a safe house, and no one would be any the wiser. It was a simple plan.

Except it wasn’t. After he had approached Alethia with the idea and seen her reaction to it, Azelin felt for all the world like a moron. Alethia’s expression seemed to shout: “Are you crazy? How can you even suggest such a thing?” As he sat on Alethia’s couch, watching her face and trying to think of a good way to apologize, Azelin got the impression that she was tired of the whole search for truth. He sighed and shook his head.
“I’m sorry. It’s a dumb idea. Forget it. I must be clutching at straws.”
Alethia looked away. “I can sense how important this is to you. I know how badly you want to finish this quest and have a normal life. I just don’t think you understand how painful going back there would be for me.”
“I knew it would hurt. I’m sorry I suggested it.” Azelin looked down.
“What if I go there with you, and I stay a safe distance away while you search around? If I don’t have to walk the grounds of that place, I think I should be alright.” Alethia offered, looking back at Azelin, who still was looking ashamedly at the carpet.
“Then why go at all?” Azelin asked, then continued, almost as if he were correcting himself, “I mean, I can always go there alone. You honestly don’t have to go, Al.”
Alethia paused for a second, surprised somehow that Azelin had used a pet name, then went on, “I can’t say. I don’t want to go, but I feel like I should. I will not go on the grounds if I can help it, but you might need me to help you along the way.”
There was a brief silence, following which Azelin looked up at Alethia. “Please, Alethia, don’t do this if you don’t want to. Don’t feel like you’re required to help me with this. I know you’re doing all you can out of the kindness in your heart, but you should not feel obliged to go with me.”
“I didn’t say I felt obliged, I said I felt like I should.” Alethia shook her head a little, chidingly.
More than willing to give in the argument, Azelin shrugged and turned his palms skywards. “As you wish. We’ll go, but you won’t go onto the grounds. I am planning on leaving tomorrow. That way we’ll have the weekend to do what must be done, and no one will miss you. I think DJ said he’d lend me a vehicle for the trip, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do this. It’s a lot easier on me now I know that you’re willing to go.”

Alethia stood, then sat next to Azelin and hugged him. Azelin froze. The idea of having anyone this close was completely alien to him, and made him uncomfortable in a way. In his memory, the last person to touch him or come close to him in a friendly way had been a young girl he’d saved from a burning building. She’d hugged his leg for a second, before her father had pulled her away. Alethia wasn’t hugging him out of gratitude, or shaking his hand, or petting his head, she was holding him as a friend, someone, who valued him, though she had no reason to. Azelins head swam. Through his chest, he felt her heart beating. He became dizzy, and screwed his eyes closed.
“Al..” His voice trailed off.
Alethia released him, and sat up. “What’s the matter?”
“I.. I have to go..”
“What? Where? Why do you have to go? I don’t understand.”
Azelin tried to stand, but Alethia took his hand and held it so he couldn’t. He flopped onto the couch again. “I’m sorry, this is just weird for me.” He croaked.
“Why? I just hugged you! How is that weird?” Alethia sounded angry
“No-one, and I mean, no-one has ever hugged me like that at all. I can count the number of people who have touched me in any way in my fingers. I’m so unused to contact that your hug made me feel.. Odd.”
Alethia looked mind-blown. “You’ve never been hugged before? Are you serious?”
“I’ve been hugged once before, for about a second. I hardly even noticed it. I’ve never been hugged as a friend, or anything like that. I’ve not been around too many people or canos, as you can tell. This is really embarrassing for me, Al. I feel so weird.”
“Goodness!” Alethia said, shocked, “What kind of life have you known?”
“A lonely one.” Came the reply.
“Do you not want me to do it again?” Alethia asked.
Azelin felt himself flush. “Well, I won’t tell you to stop if to do decide to do it again.” He felt his face turn hot as he blushed. “Lord, I feel like such an idiot..” His voice trailed off and he wriggled a little in embarrassment. Alethia smiled.

That night, as Azelin lay on the couch and slept, he dreamt. In his dreams he was in a dark, cold room, with damp concrete walls and floor. A few wooden planks projected from one wall, covered by a mildewed wool blanket, forming a bench on which Azelin lay. High up on the wall with the bench was a square window about a foot across, with steel bars formed out of inch-thick rebar. Looking up at the window from the bench, Azelin could see a sliver of the moon. The silver light of the moon gave the dreamscape of the cell a terribly menacing air. Azelin trembled.

‘Aaaaah!’

A sound, like the drawing of a breath into a dying mans lungs filled Azelin’s mind. He started violently and sat up, ears straining to hear the sound again. Seconds crawled like years as Azelin sat his breath forming vapor in the cold air of the dream.

‘Aaaaaaaaah!’

The sound of the breath (voice?) seemed to be coming from outside the cell. Azelin stood up, stood on the rough, splintered wood of the bench, and peered out of the window. From between the bars, he could see a flat field, set up like a confidence course, with military-style climbing and rappelling towers, rope swings and other crude obstacles. It was well lit by the moon, and across the silvery, dew-laden grass, were some woods. A small copse of trees, or the edge of a forest. The woods were dark, gray and foreboding. They seemed to move as he stared at them. Was it a trick of the light? Or were the trees themselves reaching for him with thorny tendrils of twig and leaf? Straining his eyes to see the shapes of the trees, he finally saw definite movement in amongst the trunks. A humanoid shape, gray and silent. It flashed there for an instant, before melting back into the blackness of the trees. Azelin looked up and down the line of trees, searching for some trace of the figure. Nothing. Just the daunting, twisted branches of the trees. His eyes darted from object to object on the confidence course, looking for something, anything.

‘Aaaaaaaahlhhhh’

The ‘voice’ came again, seeming to half-form a word this time. Immediately Azelin looked back to the misty tree line.

Misty?

A thick, gray mist had begun to collect at the roots of the trees, rising from the very soil itself, rapidly thickening and swelling, it began to creep across the field towards Azelin, where he stood, frozen in fear in this cell with no door. It flowed like water in some places, and in others it reached, forming insubstantial tentacles, which writhed and thrashed as they crept along the clammy, wet grass of the dark field. The terrible, sentient mist advanced inexorably, reaching out with its serpentine arms as it neared the building. Azelin backed away from the window, stumbling and falling onto the floor of the cell. Scrambling to get to his feet, he saw the first creeper of mist flowing into the cell through the window. Another feeler of fog pushed between the bars, and crept down the wall. Azelin scurried to a corner, and watched as the mist forced it’s way into the cell. It seemed to cling to the walls and floor, covering each of them before it finally began to gather at his feet. The feelers wound their way up his legs, and Azelin choked back a cry of fear. They worked their way up his body, chilling him to the bone with their touch. Azelin closed his eyes as the mist formed an exploring tendril that hovered in front of his face. He held his breath, not knowing what to expect.

‘Aaaahzliiiin’

Caught by surprise, Azelin opened his eyes. All around him was the mist, so he did not know where the mist ended and the cell began. He spun round and put out a hand to steady himself on the wall, but his hand met only the coldness of the fog. Azelin stumbled and staggered, trying to regain his balance.

‘Aazelin’

“Who are you?” Azelin shouted into the swirling depths of the fog. He struggled to regain his composure, pulling his coat tight around himself and shaking his hair.

‘You know who I am.’ Said the voice, wispy and immaterial as the fog itself.
“If I knew who you were, I wouldn’t ask.” Shouted Azelin at the mist. “Who are you and why are you in my mind? You cannot be here! Leave now or be cast out!”
‘Your MIND?’ hissed the voice, then gave a clotted, gurgling laugh. ‘Oh ha ha haa! You have no concept of where or what this place is!’
“WHO ARE YOU!?” Demanded Azelin, “Show yourself!”
‘Who am I?’ repeated the other, ‘Show myself!?!’

The fog in front of Azelin swirled, and out of the dank, gray mist flowed a figure…

Azelin gave a start and sat up. He looked around and recognized the place as Alethias room. The coldness of the dream faded as he saw his surroundings. Then he jumped, forced himself to remember the last thing he’d seen in the dream. A figure: A face that had come at him out of the fog. For a brief tantalizing moment he remembered the face, then it slipped away as his mind set aside the dream. Cursing his memory, Azelin laid back down, trying in vain to recapture the image of the man he’d seen in his mind. He passed the rest of the morning that way, until it was day again.