One of the specially ordered rubber helmets fell from the conveyor belt not quite right, hitting the sharp side of the machine in a glancing blow. One of the inspectors picked it up and examined it, but not seeing anything decided it was undamaged and put it back in the load with the rest of them. The fissure was so small, the sides so tightly closed, it could not be seen.

The load of helmets was taken through the series of testing rooms - extreme heat, extreme cold, stretching, compressing. In each one, the tiny crack grew slightly deeper yet no wider, remaining undetected. In the final inspection, a room where electrical pulses and radiation were sent out, the fissure remained tightly closed, no sign of it showing up on the screens. So when the helmets were shipped out to their destination, the flawed one went as well.

Chapter 1

Area 62 had been so named by a humor-challenged official high up in the Department of Interplanetary Investigation and Communication, more commonly referred to as the Space Department. Area 62 was, in short, a glorified version of Area 51, used for the holding of alien prisoners and the subsequent questioning. The staff of Area 51 felt that Area 62 was a usurper, and in fact often privately referred to it as The Pretender. To the efficient, highly-trained staff of 62 itself, it was merely Area 62. To the Loran inmates, it was known as Haeth - the Loran word for hell.

Alithea stood in the line with the rest of her co-workers at Area 62 to receive their new gear. The old uniforms and helmets had, by necessity, contained traces of metal. And it had been too great a risk, as the metal, even surrounded by rubber, conducted the prisoners' brainwaves, and more specifically their mind influence. It had been far too easy for the prisoners to manipulate their captors.

Alithea accepted her new uniform gratefully. She wasn't quite the same as her fellow operatives at Area 62, she hadn't let her training turn her into a practically emotionless, efficient robot. She could still be as hard-hearted and efficient as the rest of them when needed, but when she was off-duty she relaxed, allowing her sense of humor and fun come out. All the rest considered her rather silly and emotional, and she considered them emotionally crippled. Despite the anomaly of their personalities, arguments were few and they all worked together well.

They all disbanded to change into the new, rubberized outfits. The prisoners' manipulation level had been on the upswing recently and the old uniforms simply weren't cutting it. Just last week, there had been another incident - one of the captives had managed to take control of the guard escorting them to questioning. The Earthen soldier had shot five other guards before being taken down by Spec Ops. The Loran prisoner had also had to be shot, as they were too dangerous to try and recapture. One of the victims of the attack had been from Alithea's squadron, but she was merely injured. Luckily there had only been one fatality, everyone else was expected to make a full recovery, but the incident only underscored the necessity of the new uniforms.

After all the operatives had donned their new work apparel, assignments were handed out - which prisoners would be supervised by which operatives. Alithea took the slip of paper, glancing over the details of her ward. It was a male, roughly 24 years old in Earth years, named Dareth, prisoner ID number 1666783, possibly rebellious but not a threat, recently captured and already interrogated. Raising her eyebrows at the information, she headed off down the hallway to inspect him herself, silently thanking whatever official had decided to order the manufacture of the new uniforms. She had no desire to be at the top of the article about the next incident.

Swiping the pass in front of the scanner, she pushed open the door and entered. The alien within looked up as she came in, and she studied him openly. He was clearly tall, even sitting down, very pale, with very dark hair, as all of his race had. His eyes were black, very deeply so, and glittering with malevolence as he examined her equally obviously. Alithea glanced down at the paper in her hand again, skimming over the information, before looking back up at him. He was staring at her, the malice in his eyes unmistakable, and it made her nervous despite her protective gear.

She cleared her throat. "Dareth, correct?" Alithea had a tendency to become sterner than usual when she was anxious, and such was the case now. She found herself tapping her left foot and instantly stopped. The prisoner didn't answer, the malice becoming even more obvious, and mixing with a frightening intentness. "Your name is Dareth, is it not?" she repeated, her voice going sharper with irritation and something akin to fear.

The prisoner finally spoke. "And what if I refuse to tell?" he asked softly.

"That's not a very good idea," said Alithea shortly, beginning to be very afraid. Her annoyance heightened, both at her own nerves and at the prisoner for being so difficult.

He sneered slightly. "Typical human," he said dismissively, and turned away to lie on his bed with his back to her. Alithea didn't even notice her left foot was tapping again right before she turned and stalked out, distinctly ticked.

Dareth lay on his back, watching the fluorescent light in the middle of the ceiling flicker. His face was blank and emotionless, but inside he was smirking broadly. The stupid girl in charge of him could be manipulated. It was difficult, certainly, whatever crack or flaw that allowed his control to reach her must not be very large, but it was possible. He would have to overwhelm her in one fell swoop, in order to orchestrate his escape. But he would do it.

The door opened and he felt her come in. He lay perfectly still, staring up at the light, monitoring her brain activity. She was nervous and irritated, and he restrained a smirk. He liked the fact she was intimidated by him, it gave him even more power over her. Power he would shortly be putting to good use.

Alithea glowered at the insolent prisoner, still lying on his back watching the light. "I brought you food," she said abruptly. He continued to ignore her, arms behind his head, but his lips curved upward slightly in a rather menacing smirk. She almost slammed the tray down beside him on the bed, her temper spiking sharply at his rudeness. Just because he was prisoner, he was taking that as an excuse to get away with very bad manners and it stroked Alithea the wrong way.

Then she found herself doing something she hadn't intended to do - taking the cuffs off her belt and kneeling beside the bed to cuff him. He sat up, holding out his hands for her to do so. She struggled against the impulse mentally, but her hands calmly continued to disobey her and bind him, checking for tightness and the seal. Then her right hand descended to the gun on her hip, pulling it out and shooting the camera high on the wall.

Barely had she replaced the gun before Dareth was standing mere inches in front of her, the cuffs tight against the back of her neck. "Technically, I don't need you other than to get me out this cell," he breathed, his eyes intense. His pulse thundered in his ears, he had not thought to ever escape this place, a few captives had been known to break out of Area 51 but Area 62 was considered by both its designers and prisoners to be utterly impenetrable, from inside or out. If all went well, he was about to get away, and the thought increased both his jitters and his excitement, and his ruthlessness. He could not afford now for anything to go wrong. "But it will be easier for me to get out of this facility if you escort me. However, keep in mind that if you do anything to alert anyone or otherwise call unwanted attention to us, it would be but a matter of seconds for me to kill you. Understand?"

Alithea stood perfectly still, her breathing deep and erratic in fear, her eyes wide. The plastic cuffs digging viciously into the back of her neck told her he wasn't fooling, that if she wanted to live she'd better cooperate. When she didn't answer immediately, he jerked his hands so that she stumbled even closer, his face scarcely an inch from hers, his eyes merciless. He certainly did not intend this weak slip of a girl to have the slightest inclination to go against him; in cases like this, the ends justified the means. "Do you understand?" he repeated in a low growl.

"Y-yes," she stuttered, shaking slightly. He released her, and she stumbled back before straightening up with a snap, her militaristic bearing returning abruptly. Dareth moved forward, his eyes glinting with the promise of freedom, to take up a position right in front of her. They marched forward in lockstep, Alithea's hand reaching out and opening the door. The foreign will remained in power over her as they made their way through the halls toward the hangar.

No one stopped or questioned them, much to Dareth's relief. It hadn't taken him long to realize Alithea was the only one he could control, whatever uniform flaw that allowed his brainwaves to get through was specific to her. The lack of trouble lasted right up until they reached the hangar. Then an official, in the ubiquitous rubber uniform, stepped in front of them. "Where are you going?" he demanded.

Alithea felt herself reaching for her gun again. "Please don't make me kill him," she begged frantically. So much for not heading the top of the next incident report, some small wry part of her thought, even as she drew her weapon.

Behind her, Dareth huffed in irritation but her thumb flicked the setting to stun before she fired. She had to shoot twice, once to burn through the rubber armor, once to actually stun the guard. But the alien's reflexes - and thus hers - were quick enough she could get off two shots before the surprised hangar official could get to his gun. He crumpled to the ground and Alithea hurried forward, fighting the impulses that controlled her long enough to check that he was still alive, her heart clogging up her throat at the thought that she might've just committed murder. The fact that it was hardly her fault did not matter at the moment, only ensuring that the man was still alive. Relief swept her as her fingers found his pulse, beating steadily in his wrist.

She was jerked to her feet, sent stumbling towards one of the smaller shuttles, with the name Sky Walker painted on the side. "He's fine," Dareth said harshly. Humans were so emotional, it was truly disgusting. "Now get us into a ship." Spine stiff with anger and fear, Alithea swiped her pass in front of a scanner which released the locks on the shuttle. The door opened with a hiss of hydraulics, and they marched up, Alithea in front this time, for all the world as if she were the prisoner. Pressing the button to shut the door, she turned and released the cuffs, her body still ignoring her wishes completely. It made her head hurt to fight, so she simply went along with his control, secretly hoping to be able to alert someone before they left Earth, or make a run for it, overpower him - something. If only he would let up his control of her for just a moment...

Her hands lifted, picking the rubber helmet up off her head and casually tossing it down. Of her own accord Alithea shook her short bouncy black hair down so it swished about her ears, secretly glad to get the stuffy cumbersome helmet off - it didn't even work anyway, apparently. Dareth stood back, arms folded, eyeing her closely, his face set in the usual inscrutable Loran lack of expression. "You look dreadful in that thing," he said finally, alluding to her opaque orange rubber jumpsuit. "Do you have clothes on beneath it?"

She scowled at him, resisting replying for a moment. "No," she finally said curtly, feeling faintly violated.

"Hm," he replied unconcernedly. "That's problematic. I'm not letting you remain in my sight in that thing."

She folded her arms. "How about letting me out?" There wasn't much chance of that, to speak of, but she had to try, simply on principle.

Dareth snorted, turning toward the cockpit. "Not a chance. You're my prisoner now." Alithea glared at him, but didn't move; couldn't move. After a minute her body turned, going to one of the storage compartments and opening the door, turning on the light. Inside were racks of clothes, and Dareth's meaning couldn't be clearer. Change clothes or pay the price. Muttering rebelliously to herself, she went inside and shut the door most the way, looking over the various outfits. Selecting a silver and light blue jumpsuit, she changed, exchanging the heavy rubber boots for light footwear.

Coming out of the closet and closing the door behind her, she felt a jolt go through her as he once again took control of her brain. Her body moved across the short open space between the storage and the controls, sliding into the co-pilot's seat, and she looked down at the controls. Alithea had never been in space before, all her actual 'in-ship' training had been done in a simulator. However every trainee had been in the simulator so often they had almost every process memorized, and she capably assisted in steering the ship.

A soft, satisfied sigh from her shipmate made her look up and out the viewport. Right ahead was a large, silvery, almost reflective starship. A Loran starship. They were approaching it quickly, and Alithea shivered in fear, realizing any attempts at any kind of escape were beyond her reach now. She was a prisoner of war, and there was not one thing on the Earth or above it she could do about it.

Dareth bit his lip thoughtfully, staring out the viewport. Though he had managed to keep his face in its blank, emotionless mask, he had been quite surprised when the human girl had begged him not to make her kill the guard. It had shown a gentleness he wouldn't have suspected from an Earthen soldier. He had been even more astonished when she had managed to break his control over her long enough to check that the guard was still alive - this was not supposed to be possible for humans to do. It showed a strength which would not otherwise be suspected, and her ability to do so was even more surprising. Dareth had judged her to be weak, easily plied to his will, but her ability to resist him was perturbing.

He felt a twinge of regret as to what her fate would be as a prisoner of war. She was surprisingly innocent, especially for what she was, and the strain of being a prisoner might well kill her. But his heart hardened again as he remembered that she and her cohorts had kept him and thousands of his race prisoner with no qualms whatsoever. She was merely a human, and therefore deserved what was coming to her.

Dareth shifted slightly in his seat, feeling the spark of her life force approaching the door, and prepared himself to seize control of her mind again. The moment she exited the small storage room, he snapped his will onto hers, frog-marching her across to the co-pilot's seat. Once she was there he let up his control just enough so that she could assist in steering the ship in her own way, though he kept a wary thought in her mind, just in case.

Her emotions were somewhat amusing. She was terrified, obviously, but it was mixed with resentment. It was the resentment he found amusing - she wasn't really thinking much of being taken prisoner, she was fuming that he had forced her to change clothes. He wasn't sure why she was so irritated at this, she looked much better in the blue and silver than she had in neon orange.

A silver flash out the viewport caught his eye, and he breathed a sigh of relief. A Loran ship hovered gracefully but a few minutes' travel away, and overwhelming gratitude and relief swept over him. He'd been on edge since he'd first taken control of his guard, certain something would go wrong, but now - now he was safe, finally, safe.

Beside him, he could feel the girl's terror mounting, until the pressure became so unbearable he had to disconnect from her emotions. Again, he felt a brief flash of pity, and again, it was driven out by his own disgust for humans in general. She wasn't pitiable, he reminded himself. She was weak. She'd had nothing against hurting him while he was in captivity. He couldn't help her. This was war. There was no room for pity.

"Dare you," Kalle teased gleefully. Dareth sighed in mild annoyance, he and Kalle had been at the Academy together, and Kalle was the same sort of aggravating nuisance now as he had been then. It was just Dareth's luck that the other man - no, boy, he was so juvenile - would be stationed on the very ship that picked Dareth up after his escape.

"No, Kalle," Dareth reiterated patiently, stretching his sore muscles. "I've seen enough of her to hold me for the rest of my life. Besides, she's ugly," he added untruthfully.

Kalle smirked at this last part. "No she's not, she's cute."

"How can you possibly know that," Dareth inquired wearily, rolling his shoulders.

"I saw her when y'all first came on board," Kalle answered impatiently. "Come on," he added coaxingly. "It won't be that bad. And if you don't, I will," he finished triumphantly, smirking broadly at the thought of getting a chance at the girl.

Dareth ground his teeth, suddenly wishing that he could get away with bopping the other male one, but that would be classified as assault and battery on a fellow-soldier, and that was enough to get you court-martialed. "Fine," he said after a long moment. "I'll go kiss the girl." It wasn't fair to her to let Kalle in with her while she was defenseless, in Dareth's opinion, nobody deserved such a fate as that. And though he wouldn't admit it for the world, she was kind of pretty. He'd never been interested in women but at least he wouldn't be kissing a toad.

"And zap her," Kalle reminded him, and Dareth ground his teeth.

"Yes," he ground out through his clenched jaws. "I will also zap her." He stood and marched out of the room, ignoring the mildly curious looks of the other soldiers lounging on their bunks and Kalle's crow of triumph.

Alithea sat nervously on the bed in the small but comfortable room. Dareth had contacted the Loran ship over the comm, and a landing bay had opened in the bottom of the larger starship. Dareth had piloted the smaller shuttle inside, disengaging the lift and snapping the plastic cuffs on Alithea's wrists. She bit the inside of her lip, wondering why he didn't just control her actions again, but didn't say anything - she hadn't enjoyed being under the will of another, that was for sure. The door opened and he marched her down the ramp.

A guard of Lorans waited below, and she was quickly surrounded and marched off. The cuffs were removed once she was in the room, and she was left alone. Making her way over, she sat on the edge of the bed, her heart pounding in fear and trepidation. After a very long time, it felt like hours but couldn't have been more than one, the door opened.

Alithea looked up as Dareth entered. "What're you going to do with me?" she asked quietly, trying to keep her voice from trembling. Honestly she wasn't sure that she wanted to know but it couldn't possibly be worse than what she'd been imagining...could it?

He eyed her a moment. "Take you back to Lora, I suppose," he said slowly, and came closer. "You know, you're very pretty when you're not in neon orange rubber."

Alithea could feel herself blushing. "Thanks, I think," she muttered, twisting her hands. This alien man made her very uncomfortable, he was completely unpredictable. First he had threatened to kill her, taken her prisoner, and now was flirting with her, and she was completely off-balance. Looking up, she saw he had come closer and was now smirking slightly, his eyes intense.

Dareth felt beyond ridiculous. He did not want anything more to do with this human, and her constant fear was beginning to wear on his already frayed nerves. The thought of leaving her to Kalle's none-so-tender mercies motivated him to persevere, however.

He gently touched her cheek, leaning closer still, and she felt a thrill race along her spine. For a minute she wondered if he was physically electrifying her, but her mind went blank as she felt his lips press suddenly against hers. She fell back on the bed as he leaned over her, automatically kissing him back, a strange warmth outside her experience spreading throughout her.

Dareth fell beside her on the bed, refusing to allow himself to feel guilty over what he was about to do. But almost against his will he lifted a hand and tangled it in her hair, unable to completely torment her without any kind of a comfort - he could at least make this...what was the word...interesting for her. Slipping the other arm about her waist he rolled over so she was on top of him, not breaking the kiss. She started to pull away and he intensified the passion, feeling her melt to his will once more, and a sudden surge of satisfaction at the power he wielded over her flooded him. He smirked mentally, intensifying things, determined to bend her completely to his sway.

Alithea's mind was a blur as she kissed him. One thought managed to make its way across her consciousness - this was wrong, she needed to pull away now - but as his lips pressed harder against hers the feeble resistance vanished. She couldn't think, couldn't breathe, couldn't reason, completely lost in the moment. She barely registered as his arm around her waist tightened for a moment, as his other hand brushed down her back. It wasn't important in the here and now.

Dareth managed to slip the small gun out his belt without her apparently noticing, transferring it to his right hand. He pressed it to the base of her skull at the back of her neck, hesitating only a fraction of a second, battling the conflicting guilt and satisfaction that were warring for control, before pulling the trigger. The girl gasped, stiffening, as blue flames danced up and down her body, before traveling onto him. The voltage with which he had shocked her was enough to knock a regular human unconscious but to a Loran merely felt like a warm, pleasant tickling sensation. As the lightning faded from off them she went limp, her head falling onto his chest.

Dareth callously threw her frail body off of himself onto the other side of the bed, getting up and leaving the room. The door slid shut behind him, leaving the unconscious prisoner alone.

"There," he said flatly, reentering the crew's quarters. "I kissed her and knocked her out."

Something in his eyes kept Kalle silent, a simmering danger, anger at himself for letting his emotions go, and anger at Kalle for provoking him, and anger at the girl for being such a...human. Weak, despicable, and easily manipulated, the lot of them.