Title: Code: Execute
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Warnings: adult themes, violent imagery
Category/keywords: Austin/Mickey romance.
Spoilers: Slight mention of dialogue from "Quit-it" and "Computer Logic" (the pilot).
Summary: Austin is called in to investigate the death of a scientist, whose experiment threatens to drive a wedge between Austin and Mickey.
Disclaimer: Probe and the characters of Austin James, Michelle Castle, and Graham McKinley, were created by Isaac Asimov and Michael Wagner. No profit is made from this story. All other characters are the sole property of this author.
Timeline: Takes place four years after the series, which aired in 1988, so I'm presuming the events in the series took place in that year. Mickey no longer lives with her mother.
Dedication: This is for all the people who have written about Probe, created websites about it, and generally kept its memory alive and especially for Angela W., Peregrine, and Maureen O'Brien, whose stories inspired me to finally finish my own.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
They were acting like immature children. Fighting over something like this--it was ridiculous. Leysa knew it was a non-issue, but there they were. She eyed her husband, Jeremiah, with concern. Splotches of red had already crept up his neck. His voice had long since passed calm and he was practically in Grant's face.Grant wasn't backing down.
Jeremiah pointed at a bank of electronic equipment. "I can't believe you think this thing is ready!"
"Ha! You put most of the effort into making this 'thing', as you call it, perfect. Do you honestly expect me not to release what we've discovered to the scientific world?" Grant stepped closer to Jeremiah.
'That's enough,' thought Leysa and stepped between them, placing her hand on her husband's chest. He was quivering with restrained rage, but he stepped back.
"Jerry, Grant. Stop it. There will be plenty of time to test this, after we do let others know about it. We already know that it works. I see no reason we can't celebrate what we've accomplished."
Her rationale seemed to mollify them.
"Leysa, I can't agree with you or Grant." The trio turned to look at a third man, whose rich brown skin contrasted sharply with the sterile environment of the lab. "Jeremiah's got a point. Can we ethically share this without working out the bugs first?"
'Back to square one,' she thought and sighed heavily. "Well, what do you suggest, Bernard?"
"Great, just great! Does anyone have a solution?"
Grant said, "I stick with what I said before, let's tell the world."
"No!" Jerry said explosively.
They all glared at him.
He held his hands up in defense. "Let's just tell this facility."
Grant shrugged. "That's good enough for me."
Leysa smiled, satisfied with that answer. "Fine. We'll do that then."
Austin James stepped through the doors of Serendip and barely avoided two men walking past the doors. He tracked their progress for a few seconds, shook his head and headed for his office. He didn't get very far before he saw his vice-president, Graham McKinley, coming toward him. The expression on his face was equal parts disgust, frustration and relief.
Austin smiled and called, "You look as harried as ever, Graham. Have you been getting enough sleep?"
Graham tightened his mouth in frustration. "Austin, you know as well as I do, that I do not get enough sleep. If you would do your job I would have more time to do mine."
"You do well enough. Now, Graham, why wasn't I informed that this experiment was being conducted?"
McKinley lowered his voice. "For one, Austin, you would have been breathing down their necks the entire time and for another, absolute secrecy was imperative. Could you imagine something this enormous getting out?"
Austin grudgingly said, "You have a point, Graham."
"I have two."
Austin reluctantly nodded and Graham smirked.
McKinley looked around Austin and asked, "By the way, Austin, where is that blonde that's usually hanging at your heels?"
Austin's face abruptly lost expression and Graham wondered what he'd said to get such a cold reaction.
"You mean Miss Castle? She's sick. All right, Graham, where are they?"
Graham narrowed his eyes, then nodded. "Follow me."
He led Austin to where a large group of people had gathered. Each member attempted to top the other's volume, all trying to be heard by the bewildered group at the center. The woman and her male companions, overwhelmed by the bombarding questions, could barely get a syllable out.
The crowd jumped and stared at Austin when he yelled, "Quiet!"
He stepped forward and said, "Hello, everyone. You know who I am. I'd appreciate some time alone with the scientists." With grumbled whispers, the crowd drifted away.
The woman stepped out of the forest of her comrades. "Mr. James, I presume?" she asked.
"Thank you. My name is Leysa Tsu. These tall men behind me are Bernard Hill," the black-haired, brown-skinned man smiled good- naturedly. Tsu laid her hand on the arm of the second man. His looks--thin, with ice blue eyes and platinum hair--were in direct contrast with Hill. He was standing next to an auburn-haired, bearded man.
Leysa continued, "And this is my husband, Jeremiah Collier, and beside him is Grant Miller, our friend."
Austin nodded. "Could you tell me who designed the procedure that made this possible?"
"That would be Bernard."
"I knew it." Austin smiled expansively, while Bernard just looked confused.
"I've been following your career, and I'm very impressed. I've wanted to meet you for a long time."
Bernard raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "I'm just part of a team. Leysa's our spokesperson, but she also transferred my idea from paper to machinery. Jeremiah's knowledge of quantum theory has been invaluable."
Jeremiah slapped a hand on Bernard's back. "He's being too modest. He couldn't have designed this without knowing a little about quantum theory himself."
"A little, Jeremiah?" Leysa teased.
Austin smiled. "Have you tried this with a living being yet?"
"Like a rat?" Leysa asked. "No. A few days ago we tried it with an African violet, and it's still thriving. We're running a few more tests tomorrow, if those go well we intend to test it on one of ourselves. You are welcome to come and watch and participate if you wish. We'd be honored."
"I'll be there. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have other business to do while I'm here." Austin walked away, leaving them to McKinley.
Leysa scrunched her delicate eyebrows together and said, "He doesn't get out much, does he?"
McKinley shook his head.
Later that night, Austin punched in the security code to his warehouse and entered, trying to make as little noise as possible. His secretary, Michelle Castle, had caught the flu, and rather than leave her alone in her apartment with no one to care for her, he'd told her to stay in the warehouse. He passed all the banks of electronic equipment and saw Mickey asleep on the couch, covered with a thick quilt.
He smiled. For four years, Mickey had been his secretary and in those years she had retained her boundless enthusiasm and open mind. She'd changed him however, causing him to realize that, even though he might never know why she stayed, he was glad she did. Her presence kept him in touch with the outside world, when for many years he'd found no reason to.
He put the rose he'd bought her down on the coffee table and watched her sleep. It was something he'd had many opportunities to do and he found that he loved watching her. There was something about her, something he could only categorize as...
She shifted and opened her eyes. Seeing him standing there, she said, "Thank you for doing this, Austin. You didn't have to, you know."
"Couldn't leave you in your apartment all alone. I brought you a rose."
Her gaze drifted to the coffee table and her face brightened with a delighted smile when she saw the rose. "Thank you, Austin."
"Glad you like it. Ask me where I've been."
She rolled her eyes and sat up. "Where have you been, Austin?"
"Serendip. Now ask me what I did there."
"Come on, Austin, just spill."
He sat down on the coffee table in front of her. "You were asleep this morning when I left. You missed the announcement of an amazing technological breakthrough. A group of scientists working at Serendip have discovered a way to teleport objects."
"Yes, in essence."
"That's wonderful, Austin! Can you imagine all the uses they'll get out of it?"
He nodded. "The scientists will be doing tests tomorrow. They've invited me to come and participate. Do you think you'll be well enough to come along with me? I'd like to know what you think about them."
"Austin. I never thought I'd see the day you'd ask my advice."
The same shuttered look that had thrown McKinley settled on his face.
"I value your opinion, Mickey, you know that."
She didn't know what to say and the silence stretched a bit thin before he said, "It's late; you should get your rest. I'll be upstairs if you need me."
"All right. Good night, Austin."
"Good night, Mickey."
She closed her eyes, but she didn't hear him go upstairs. She opened her eyes and saw he'd knelt beside the couch.
"I..." he sighed and smiled a little wryly. "Sweet dreams."
He stood, but very quickly he stooped and brushed his lips across hers. Too stunned to say anything, she watched him briskly step up the stairs and enter his room. When his door had closed a small smile had barely touched her lips.
The late afternoon sun was casting long shadows over the ground when Austin and Mickey visited the lab. It was located below the upper level and the white windowless halls contrasted sharply with the open space of above. Mickey waited as Austin swiped a key card through a keypad.
She asked, "Is that new?"
"Yeah, it's easier for security to individually issue personal cards to scientists who hire our labs."
The door beeped at them and they entered. The four scientists were busy at various computers. They looked up and smiled at the newcomers. Austin introduced each of them to Mickey.
Bernard said, "Thanks for coming, Austin. Leysa was just about to lead us in a series of experiments, mainly just teleporting something back and forth. Care to watch?"
Austin looked at Mickey. Her restrained posture tried to hide her delight, but it snuck its way out in a very large smile.
He smiled. "Of course," he said, just as Mickey blurted, "Are you kidding?"
Bernard chuckled. "Sit back and enjoy the show."
"Are we ready?" Leysa asked her companions.
Collier, Hill, and Miller were seated at their individual computers. "Ready," they answered. Austin and Mickey watched them work, standing a short distance away.
Leysa made one final adjustment, and then pressed a button. They watched as the brown furred rat disintegrated from the platform in front, and then reintegrated on the identical platform next to the other.
It squeaked when it discovered the cheese left there by Bernard.
The group laughed.
"That was amazing!" Mickey exclaimed.
Bernard gave a brief glance back to her, smiling. "Glad you liked it."
"Are you ready, Mr. James?" Leysa asked.
Bewildered, Mickey looked from Leysa's expectant gaze to Austin's excited one.
"Ready for what, Austin?"
He looked at her then lowered his eyes.
She felt an unexpected knowledge stab at her.
"You're not actually going to do this, are you?"
Austin looked apologetically at Leysa. "Will you excuse us for a moment?"
She nodded, puzzled eyebrows creasing her forehead. She turned back to the computer.
Austin led Mickey a short way from the scientists. Mickey's face was tight with control, but her turmoil showed clearly in her trembling voice.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Austin sighed. "I did. I told you I would be participating."
"A rat is one thing, Austin, you is another!"
"You think it's too dangerous, don't you?"
"Of course I do. It's too new. Just because that rat survived doesn't guarantee that you will. What happens if something goes wrong? You'll get yourself killed!" The tenseness he'd seen in her eyes made its way into her voice and he almost winced at the strident tone.
"I've considered the risks, Mickey. This is the chance of a lifetime. I can't pass it up."
"All the risks, Austin? I don't know if I can stand there and watch you do it. I don't know what I'd do if..." She trailed off and closed her eyes. When she opened them it was to find Austin staring at her.
"If I die."
"You said it, Austin, not me."
He rubbed his forehead. "Mickey--"
He could clearly see the tears standing in her eyes. She took a deep breath, and expelled it slowly. When she spoke her voice still trembled.
"Austin, I can't watch you do this. Don't expect me to."
She turned to leave, but he quickly stepped in front of her.
Her mouth twisted.
"If you don't know why, Austin, there's every reason for you to let me go. I can't stop you. I've never been able to keep you out of danger."
"You--. Mickey, I don't understand. What makes this different from any other situation we've found ourselves in? How many times have you yourself gone blindly into danger, while I stood on the outside?"
"This is not blindly, Austin. You're going in with your eyes wide open and I can't do it. I can't watch."
"Nothing will happen to me, Mickey. I promise. Please just stay and watch. I need you here."
She searched his face.
"Okay, Austin. But I have a condition."
"Let someone else go first."
He nodded. "All right."
He caught Leysa's eye, and she came over.
She asked, "What's the verdict?"
Austin shook his head. "You should go ahead and have one of your group go first."
"All right." She frowned and turned back to the group.
"I know I said that we'd have Mr. James be the last experiment of the day, but since he's declined I think it's best if we just shut everything down and start fresh in the morning. Does any one want to volunteer to be the first tomorrow morning?"
The response was a bewildered silence. Grant looked at the others and finally said, "I'll do it."
Leysa smiled tiredly. "Perfect. That's it for the night, then. Grant, will you help me shut down the equipment?"
Austin pulled Mickey aside. "Let's go, Mickey. I'm starving. We could get something to eat before I drop you off at home."
"Okay. Just give me a moment, okay? I'll be right back." She left the lab to find the ladies room.
Austin sat down to wait for her and watched the scientists. He noticed that Grant brushed his hand against Leysa's lower back, a touch that lingered a bit long. Curious, he looked at Jeremiah, and saw that he hadn't missed the action. Jeremiah frowned, and said, "Hey, Bernard, do you want some coffee?"
"Are you coming?"
Jeremiah pushed open the door and Bernard caught up with him. They walked down the hall. Bernard took a close look at his friend.
"Are you alright, Jerry?"
The coffee room was a snug place with a couch for comfort, a sturdy table and chairs for business talk, and a bar, where a coffee maker and a small office refrigerator took up most of the space. Several coffee mugs hung on a small tree. The smell of coffee hung heavily in the air. Bernard immediately fixed coffees for himself and Jeremiah at the bar. Jeremiah sat down at the table.
"Jeremiah, you know she doesn't intend to make you jealous. You have to talk to her."
"There's no point. She's made her choice. I'm not it. She's cheated on me once before, you know."
Bernard looked down at his coffee, and then turned and handed Jeremiah's to him.
Jeremiah continued, not noticing his friend's reaction, "She confessed it to me and I didn't want to know who it was. We were all right for awhile, you know how long we've been married."
Bernard ventured, "You've always seemed very happy together."
Jeremiah said, "Seemed to be. That changed when we met Grant. He looks at her as if she's already his."
"But you don't really know that she's sleeping with him, do you?"
"No." Jerry said, reluctantly.
"Why won't you talk to her then." Bernard's voice was touched with frustration.
"I can't. I don't want to hear what she'll say."
Bernard shook his head. "That's your mistake, Jerry."
Jeremiah didn't say anything, but morosely stared into his coffee.
Mickey quietly walked away from the door, where she'd stopped, having heard the voices.
She walked back to the lab, mulling over what she'd heard. It distressed her to know that there was trouble in what had looked to her to be a happy marriage.
She was just outside the entrance to the lab when she heard Austin calling, "Mickey!"
"Mickey!" He called again and then saw her. "There you are. Ready to go?"
"So what do you think of them, Mickey?"
They sat across from each other in a coffee shop. Mickey was picking at the remains of a crumbly coffee cake, while Austin warmed his hands on his mug. It was quiet in the shop, with only themselves and the cashier.
"Jeremiah is rather quiet. The rest of them were very nice, especially Bernard."
"Hard to believe they're scientists, isn't it?"
She smiled, and he noticed that it faded quickly. She was quiet for a moment, then softly said, "Jeremiah thinks his wife is cheating on him with Grant."
"How do you know that?"
"I overheard Bernard and he talking. I don't think she is though. She seems very happy with Jeremiah."
"She is cheating."
"What?" Mickey looked up, disturbed.
"How did--?" She stopped and her shoulders drooped. She continued, defeated, "Of course, you read their body language."
Mickey went back to picking at the crumbs.
"Are you done?"
"I'll take you home."
In the car they were silent.
Austin glanced at Mickey. She was staring out the car window, but she didn't seem to see anything that passed.
He opened his mouth to speak, reconsidered, reconsidered again and said, "Mickey."
She looked at him.
"I didn't know you would react that way."
"I'm your friend, Austin. I care about you a lot. We may not be the most likely pair in history, but I don't regret our friendship, do you, Austin?"
He quickly looked at her. She steadily matched his questioning eyes. "No. I don't. Why would you ask such a question?"
She looked back out the window. "I'm sure you've figured me out by now."
"I haven't and even if I did, that wouldn't change the way I feel about our friendship. You're good for me, Mickey."
They rode in silence until he pulled into the lot of Mickey's apartment building and parked. He turned to her and said, "What's wrong, Michelle?"
She could barely hold his intense gaze, and finally broke it. Her voice wavered when she said, "You hurt me, Austin. We've always been honest with each other. I can't believe you hid this from me."
She opened her door and was about to step out when Austin said, "Wait, Mickey, where are you going?"
"To my apartment. I'm very tired. I can't discuss this right now."
"No, no, Mickey. You just can't drop the subject like that."
"Why not, Austin? You do it before I can even blink."
Stunned at the coldness of the remark, all he could do was look at her.
She swallowed hard, and then said, "I'm, I'm sorry, Austin. That was unfair."
He shook his head. "Forget it. It's all right. Let me walk you to your apartment."
Austin opened his eyes. He'd slept restlessly, waking every few hours.
He sat up in bed and was about to get out when the phone rang.
He picked up the handset and said, "Do you know what time it is?"
Graham said, "6:50 am. Austin, something happened last night to one of the scientists. Grant Miller is dead. You need to get over here."
"I'll be right there." The phone connection clicked as McKinley hung up.
Austin immediately dialed a number.
He drummed his fingers impatiently, waiting for it to be answered.
Mickey's groggy voice answered, "Hello?"
"It's Austin. One of the scientists is dead."
"Who?" Mickey said. All traces of sleep were gone.
"McKinley said it was Dr. Miller. I'll pick you up."
"I'll be ready."
McKinley greeted them at the door, pulling Austin in by the arm. He said, "A security guard was patrolling when he found the body." He didn't speak again.
Mickey and Austin entered the lab, but McKinley stayed outside.Leysa had her face turned into her husband's chest, his arms around her. Bernard was sitting at one of the computer consoles.
Leysa's head jerked up at the sound of the door. She walked unsteadily to Austin and stood before him, her hands shaking. Tears were in her voice as she said, "Mr. James, will you follow me please?"
She led him to a corner of the room, to the platforms. Mickey glanced at it, but hastily shut her eyes to block out the sight.
What had once been a man was now horribly disfigured. Blood had started to cool and congeal, hiding what looked like a melted and burned plastic model of a man. Austin quickly covered his mouth and nose with his hand. He turned to Tsu, who had her eyes closed, not breathing. He pulled her away from the tube, to where the smell was practically non-existent.
"How did this happen?"
"We don't know. We do know, because we are the only ones left that this is," she swallowed hard, her mouth twisting, "was Grant Miller. I don't understand what happened. This wasn't supposed to happen." She started to shake her head violently, her blue- black hair slapping her face. "This wasn't supposed to happen," she repeated, then gulped back a sob.
Austin laid a hand on her upper arm. She quieted a bit. He led her to a chair and sat her down gently. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mickey leave the room.
"Ms. Tsu. I know you're upset, but I need you to tell me what happened before this accident. Please."
She looked up at him, tears on her face. She looked down at her hands and said, "I don't know. When you left Grant and I finished shutting down the equipment and then we all went home. That's all I know."
"Thank you, Leysa."
He left her to Jeremiah, who had hovered a discreet distance away.
Bernard approached him.
"Austin, I found something in the code."
Austin raised his hand, and shook his head. "Tell me later. I need to find Mickey."
Bernard crossed his arms and watched Austin leave.
Jeremiah looked at him and motioned for him to come close.
"Bernard, I'm taking Leysa to the break room. Do you have everything under control?"
"Yeah. Go ahead."
Jeremiah escorted Leysa out of the lab.
Mickey jumped when the door she came out of slammed behind her. She started walking back to the lab. Looking down, she didn't see Austin until she almost crashed into him.
Austin reached out and gently held her shoulder to stabilize her. His voice was low with concern as he asked, "Are you all right, Mickey?"
Mickey looked up at him. She shrugged and he released his hold. "I'm fine, Austin, that just wasn't something I needed to see."
"Do you want to go home?"
She shook her head emphatically. "No. I'm fine now. Is Leysa alright?"
"No, but her husband's calming her. I need to tell McKinley to notify the police. Meanwhile, make sure nobody goes in there that doesn't belong."
"Depend on me."
Austin turned to go, but came back. "Are you sure you're fine, Mickey?" he asked.
She defiantly glared at him.
He gazed at her for a few seconds more to make sure. Satisfied, he nodded and walked away.
Graham was standing outside the doors to the lab, turning over a cigarette in his hands.
Austin said, "I thought you quit, Graham."
"Thinking doesn't make things happen." He put the cigarette in his jacket pocket and looked at Austin. "I've called the police, Austin. They should be arriving soon."
"Good. When they get here, see if they can get the body out of here. I'm going to go look at the security cameras."
"Nothing happened Jeremiah, how often do I need to tell you that!" Leysa's voice was strained and cracking.
Mickey stopped mid-step and leaned against the wall to listen.
Jeremiah's voice was cold. "You don't have to lie to me. Nothing you say could make me care."
"Jerry!" She gasped and ran out of the room, rushing past Mickey. Mickey looked back at the door to the coffee room then followed Leysa to the ladies room. Leysa was sobbing uncontrollably. Mickey didn't hesitate a moment. She placed her arms around the woman. Leysa wilted onto her shoulder. After Leysa's sobs had diminished, Mickey softly said, "Tell me about it."
Leysa pulled back and grabbed a tissue from the counter. She rubbed her eyes with it, and then blew her nose. Somewhat composed, she said, "He doesn't trust me. He thinks I cheated on him with Grant Miller."
"That's not true, is it?"
"No, in fact it's far from it." She looked down and then up, meeting Mickey's eyes steadily. "Grant was sexually harassing me."
Mickey tried not to let the shock show, but it did. "Why didn't you tell Jeremiah?"
"I know you heard what he said to me, just now. I just tried, but the moment I mentioned Grant's name he started to accuse me of sleeping with him. Oh, Mickey, our marriage is destroyed. It's entirely my fault. I destroyed his trust in me." She started shredding the tissue. "I cheated on him once before, long ago. Now with this, he'll never trust me."
She turned her back on Mickey and tossed away the useless tissue paper.
Mickey shook her head and touched Leysa on the shoulder. "Leysa, that's not important. What is important is that you do everything you can to save your marriage," she said.
Leysa was silent for a moment. Her expression changed from despair to determination. She said, "I have to talk to him again. I refuse to leave it this way between us."
Mickey smiled. "Good."
They exited the bathroom to find Bernard in the hallway.
Leysa walked past him on her way to the coffee room.
Bernard asked Mickey, "Where's Austin?"
"He's gone to call the police. Why?"
"I need to talk to him."
"I'll go find him for you. Do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Have you been friends long with Leysa and Jeremiah?"
"Oh, I've known Leysa and Jeremiah since college. We've worked on other projects before this one."
"And what about Dr. Miller?"
"I met him on this project."
"You didn't know him well, then?"
"I knew him well enough to realize that he was trying to drive a wedge in this endeavor."
"What makes you say that?"
"It was no secret, at least to me, that all he wanted was the money this would make for him. Honestly, I don't know why Leysa and Jeremiah put their trust in him."
He stopped walking and faced her.
"Listen, Austin really needs to see what I've found and, no offense, but you won't understand it."
Mickey nodded. "I'll be right back."
Mickey passed McKinley's office in her search. Graham was giving instructions to his secretary.
Mickey stopped and asked, "Have you seen Austin?"
"Try the security office."
She approached the slightly open door to the security office and heard Austin say, "What happened to the feed?"
Mickey opened the door and walked in. Austin and a security guard were reviewing a snowy tape.
The security guard answered, "I don't know. The cameras must have been turned off, but I don't know how that's possible."
Mickey interrupted, "What's going on?"
Austin turned. "I wanted to check the tape and track who's been in that lab, but we've encountered a problem. The computers indicate that the security cameras were functional all night, but the tape says otherwise."
Mickey came closer. "When does it go like that?" She pointed at the screen.
Bill sat down at the computer and said, "I don't know. I'd need to check." He looked up at Austin. "How far back should I go?"
"Go back to when I left, 7:20 pm. Check at fifteen minute intervals. Concentrate on that lab room."
Bill pressed a few keys, and the screen flashed through still captures of the room. For a few scenes the room was empty, but eventually the screen jumped and went to snow. The time indicator showed ten pm.
"All right. I'm done here, this tells me nothing. Thanks, Bill."
He walked out of the room. Mickey followed him.
He turned to look at her.
"Bernard needs to talk to you."
"He didn't say. Austin, it's turning out that Grant wasn't a very nice guy. Bernard says he was trying to get control of the profits. Not only that, Leysa claims he was sexually harassing her."
He started walking again, faster. "That's a possible motive."
There it was, the thrill of the chase. "For murder, right, Austin?"
"You got it."
When Mickey and Austin came in, Bernard jumped up from the chair.
"Austin, I have something to show you." Bernard waved a hand at Austin and pointed at the computer screen.
Austin came in closer and started to read the screen's code.
"Do you see it?"
Austin followed a line with a finger. "Right here?"
"Yeah. Somebody tampered with the code."
"That's why the teleporter failed. This wasn't a simple malfunction. This was cold-blooded murder."
Bernard said, "And excluding Mickey, we're all suspects."
Austin grimly nodded.
Mickey looked from one man to the other. Impatiently she asked, "Does it tell you who did it?"
"No. It could have been anyone who had knowledge of how to use this." Bernard stated.
Mickey pressed forward. "So how did the code get changed? Everyone had left for the night, right?"
Austin said, "That's right. That's the key! The cameras failed at ten. That must have been when the murderer came here with Grant. And that tells me who it is."
"How?" Bernard asked.
The door to the lab opened.
Graham walked in followed by the police.
Austin said, "Good, you're just in time to hear that I know who committed this atrocity."
Leysa's tentative voice roused Jeremiah. He slowly raised his head out of the shelter of his hands.
"What do you want, Leysa?"
She bit her lip and approached him slowly. "Jerry, I don't want to call it quits. I know you do, but I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life proving it to you."
"Proving it? I'm sorry, Leysa. I'm having a hard time believing that. You haven't proved your faithfulness before."
"Jerry, I know I failed you and this marriage. I know that, but I haven't since. I hated Grant. He was always touching me, saying things to me--I thought I could handle it myself, but it just got worse and worse. I know you don't believe me, but it's true."
He silently processed what she said to him and she waited anxiously.
He said loudly, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because I know what you would have done to him."
"Leysa, I--I'm sorry. All this time, I thought you were--I was wrong. Dead wrong."
The door opened and Austin, Mickey, Bernard, and a few police officers came in.
Jeremiah and Leysa turned, startled.
"Come to get me, haven't you," Jeremiah said.
Leysa, not understanding, asked uneasily, "What's going on?"
Austin stepped forward, sorrow on his face.
"Ms. Tsu, last night Grant was murdered. The code governing safe teleportation was changed. We checked the security logs and last night, after all of you left, Jeremiah and Grant came back. Your husband killed Grant. These men," Austin gestured at the police, "have come to arrest your husband."
"No. It's not true. Jerry, you--"
He shook his head. "I'm sorry."
The police came forward and took him by the arm. As they left the room, Jeremiah said, "Just one question, Austin. How exactly? I did everything I could think of to cover."
"Instructing the security cameras to cease recording was easy for you, wasn't it? But, you forgot one thing. The keypad security card you used to enter the lab was specifically coded to you."
The police had gone, taking Jeremiah Collier with them. Mickey had held Leysa until all her tears were gone. Bernard Hill took her home. Mickey watched them leave, Leysa's head on his shoulder, a broken version of the content woman Mickey had met. Mickey wiped her eyes and went to find Austin.
He was in his office, looking out over the city.
She came up behind him and gently laid a hand on his shoulder. It tensed under her touch, but he didn't turn to look at her. She broke the silence, "Austin?"
He closed his eyes briefly and then faced her. "I'm sorry, Mickey."
She looked at him, worry creasing her face.
He broke eye contact and sat down on the edge of his desk.
"Mickey, you shouldn't have been here."
"What happened here was something I could have prevented. Mickey, you and I both saw the signs!"
She sat down beside him. "You did your best, and you got the evidence that will convict Jeremiah."
"There was no joy in solving this one, Mickey, nothing. I'm wondering why I even interfered. The police could have easily discovered that evidence."
"I'm sorry Jeremiah failed you, Austin, but you can't let that get you down."
"Mickey, what happens the next time I want to put myself in danger for the sake of science? Will you be there beside me or will that be one more leap of mine you can't take? I know how much you worry about me, and I know you know I can take care of myself. But I've come to a point..."
He stopped and she prompted, "Austin?"
He blinked a few times and said, "A point, where I couldn't fathom waking up one day, to hear you tell me that you'd had enough, that you couldn't take my recklessness anymore."
"Let me finish."
She looked at him wide-eyed, but he didn't notice as he continued.
"I need you beside me. I need your enthusiasm, your wit, and your kindness, and I need your love."
It took a moment for the last words he said to penetrate, but when they did, a small smile started, a smile that trembled just a little bit. She took his hand in hers and said, "Austin."
He looked up at her.
"How can you doubt I love you?"
Author's Notes: You've reached the end? How delightful! Thank you for reading. I started this story a long time ago. Until quite a long while ago, it lay untouched simply because I had no idea to proceed. This is the first time I have attempted to write a genuine mystery and much planning went into this to create it. I usually write stories centered on another show, The X-Files, and so forgive me if Austin and Mickey acted more like Mulder and Scully. This also grew out of a desire to create the origin of a device better known and used on Star Trek.