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"Kiyel? What? How?" Jev stammered.
'Please do not be alarmed.' Jev heard Kiyel say, though he didn't know how that was possible, since it didn't appear as if Kiyel actually spoke.
"Who are you? And how can you talk and not open your mouth? For that matter, how can you even talk at all?" Jev asked, now uncertain about being in this... being's... presence.
'I am a telepath.' Jev heard.
"A telepath? But there's no such thing as telepaths."
'Please sit down Jev, there is much I need to explain, and until I learn to speak your language, I can only communicate with you like this.'
"What do you mean, speak my language, you're talking to me right now." Jev said, sitting down on the edge of his bed, although he sat down guardedly.
'Don't be afraid Jev, I'm not going to hurt you. I couldn't even if I wanted to, especially not after all you have done for me. The only reason you can hear me now, is because I'm communicating to you telepathically, or as my people refer to it; sending. Your mind is interpreting what I'm sending and organizing it into something that it can understand.'
"But you're talking to me, I can hear you," Jev insisted.
'Only because that is how your mind perceives it.' Kiyel sent.
"Okay, I can accept for now that you are a telepath, but I still don't know anything about you." Jev asked.
'I am Kiyel Eldaran, telepath third grade, of the Caitaran scout ship Agiz.'
"Kiyel," Jev repeated. "I thought I just made up that name."
'No, it is my real name, something that you picked up from me when you touched me.'
"But how?" Jev asked, his curiosity now overriding his fear.
'I do not know exactly. The only way another can receive as you have is if you have some telepathic abilities.'
"Me? But that's not possible." Jev said.
'I overheard your conversation with Sam. Some of the things you have described show you have a little ability to receive and are sensitive to another's emotions. Telepaths are rare among my people, and it is even more rare to find another species to have this ability.'
"I'm still having difficulties believing all of this Kiyel," Jev said uncertainly.
'It's understandable Jev. It's not easy to have everything you've believed in suddenly be put into question. I can show you that I speak the truth though. Will you let me?' Kiyel sent.
"I guess," Jev said reluctantly. "Will it hurt?"
'No, I promise you it won't,' Kiyel sent. 'I want you to clear your mind, and relax. Try and focus on nothing else around you but me. Once you have done that, try to send me a thought, any thought at all.'
"Okay, I'll try," Jev said. Closing his eyes, he tried to push out everything going through his mind; the coucil meeting, the first time he saw Kiyel, the T'Kri officer, until the only thing occupying his mind at that moment was Kiyel. It was as if a door had suddenly opened before him, and he could see Kiyel standing there, waiting for him. Acting instinctively, he called out to Kiyel with his mind. 'Can you hear me?'
Opening his eyes, Jev felt a wave of exhaustion come over him, causing him to almost fall forward off the bed, but Kiyel was there to catch him before that could happen.
'Easy Jev, it's not easy at first.'
"That was," Jev said, trying to catch his breath, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. "That was... wow."
'Are you okay? Are you able to sit up on your own?' Kiyel asked.
"Yes, thank you," Jev answered, slowly sitting back up on the bed.
'You did very well for your first time Jev. Normally it takes weeks before a telepath can send like you just did.' Kiyel sent.
"You mean you heard me?" Jev asked, amazed.
'Yes. It was faint, but I heard you.'
"It was amazing. When I concentrated on you, I just knew what to do and how to do it," Jev said.
'That's as it should be when a telepath sends to another. The only time you will find communications impossible is when the person you are trying to send to is either unconscious or is actively blocking you. But even then you'll be able to sense them.'
"Unless they're dead," Jev said.
'Yes, that is true.' Kiyel admitted.
"But how can you do it so easily?" Jev asked.
'Over time your mind becomes used to sending to someone, and it doesn't drain you like it just did. It's like a muscle that you need to work in order to become stronger.'
"So eventually, I'll be able to send to you and not even feel the effects?"
'Exactly. It becomes no more tiring that it does for you to speak verbally as you do.'
"I don't know what it is about you Kiyel. From the moment I met you, I felt perfectly at ease with you, like I knew that you wouldn't hurt me. I'm sorry for the way I reacted to you before, but it was a shock to see you standing up on your hind legs and actually talking to me," Jev admitted.
'I understand, and I apologize for that. I am not used to first contact situations, but I'm afraid the circumstances prevented me from doing otherwise.'
"What do you mean?" Jev asked.
Kiyel walked over to the bed, and sat down beside Jev. 'We came to this world because one of our deep space explorer ships launched a probe a number of years ago. That probe suddenly stopped transmitting it's data and me and seven others were ordered to investigate what happened. Upon our arrival to this world, our ship was attacked, and we ended up crashing not too far from here. Only five of us survived the crash.
'The others escaped higher up into the hills, in the hopes of finding shelter and to avoid detection by the ones who attacked us. I was too injured to follow them, and opted to attempt to draw off any pursuit from the rest of the crew but mainly in the hopes that I could find help and heal my wounds.
'Along the way, I felt something brush against my mind. At first I thought it was another member of my crew, but none of them are telepaths so I quickly discounted that. The only other possibility I could come up with was that there was someone on this world, alien to my people, who had a telepathic ability. I knew it was a huge task to locate whoever it was whose mind I had felt, as it very well could have been one of those that shot us down, but it was the only hope I had for survival.
'I was lucky that I hadn't been discovered by them, and that it was you who found me in the snow. Even in my feverish condition, I recognized you immediately as the one who touched my mind. I knew I would be safe and that you would care for me until I was well again.'
"So what happens now?" Jev asked.
'For now, I must remain hidden. No one can know of my existence yet,' Kiyel sent.
"What about my Dad?"
'Not even him. I only revealed myself to you because I trust you.'
"You trust me? We hardly know each other though."
'That is true. We will eventually though.' Kiyel laughed.
At that moment, Kiyel heard someone starting to climb back up the stairs. Carefully, mindful of his still sore injury, Kiyel got up off the bed, and went back to the closet, laying down and curling his tail around himself, pretending to be asleep. 'Someone's coming upstairs. It's your father.' Kiyel sent.
"I don't hear anything," Jev said, his head turning towards the door.
'My hearing is much better than yours, plus you forget that I'm a telepath,' Kiyel replied.
Jev then heard the unmistakable footsteps as his father reached the top of the stairs and made his way towards Jev's room. Jev was still sitting on his bed when his father appeared in the open doorway.
"Jev, how's the cat doing?" he asked.
"Kiyel's doing just fine dad," Jev answered, pointedly saying Kiyel's name.
"I'm sorry, yes. Kiyel. He looks to be asleep right now. I came up here to see if you wanted some lunch. I know you don't want to leave him, but he'll be fine up here while you get something to eat, and you need to eat something. You haven't eaten since yesterday."
"I'm not hungry right now Dad," Jev said.
'Go, I know you're hungry. I will be fine. After what you did earlier, you need to build up your strength.' Kiyel sent.
Jev almost answered Kiyel, but caught himself in time. "Okay Dad, I'll come down. But only for a little while. I need to get something for Kiyel anyways."
"Of course," Lars said, watching Jev get up from the bed. Taking one last look at Kiyel, Jev walked out of his room with his father in front of him.
'See if he has some cooked meat. It has been a long time since I've had a decent meal and my teeth have started to get dull from all those ship rations.' Kiyel sent. Jev was glad that he was walking behind his father, otherwise he would have been questioned as to why a smile had suddenly appeared on Jev's face.
When they had reached the bottom of the stairs, Jev went to go sit at the table where Sam was sipping some coffee.
"Jev! Good to see you finally out of that room," Sam said. "How's my patient doing?"
"Kiyel's resting right now. I'm just going to grab something to eat and then I'm going to bring him something when I'm done."
"You know lad, the way you're caring for that cat makes me wonder if you'd consider becoming a doctor. You have a natural feel for it."
"No thanks Doc," Jev said, stifling a laugh. "I just want to see Kiyel get better."
"A shame," Sam sighed. "Oh well. At least under your care he's sure to pull through."
"Thats enough of that Sam," Lars said bringing a plate of sandwiches and some milk in a pitcher, and placing them on the table in front of Jev. "My boy's got enough to do helping me with the inn without following after you all over the countryside."
"You wound me Lars," Sam said, effecting a false look of hurt on his face, and putting a hand on his chest. "I would not dare think of taking him away from you."
Jev sat there, eating his food quietly while Sam and his father talked amongst themselves. The more he listened to them talk, the more it seemed to him that they were hiding something from him. His father had never hidden anything from Jev, and it hurt him to know that his father was now. While he knew that they were keeping something a secret, there was no way of knowing what it was, although he figured it had something to do with Kiyel.
What Jev found fascinating was that he was becoming very close to Kiyel. Much closer than he had ever felt for anyone, his father included. He felt inexplicably drawn to Kiyel. It was as if he had known him all his life, even though they had only met last night. He couldn't deny the fact that his feelings for Kiyel were getting stronger with every passing moment. It scared him in a way. For him to feel this close to Kiyel, an alien, was not something he could have ever imagined happening.
Jev knew for certain that wherever Kiyel went, he would go. Even if that meant leaving his father, and possibly the colony itself. He sat there at the table and regarded Sam and his father as they talked. Putting the last bit of sandwich in his mouth, he made to get up from the table, drawing the attention of his father.
"All done Jev?" he asked.
"Yeah, Dad," Jev answered. "I need to get something for Kiyel now. I'm certain he's hungry by now."
"If he'll eat at all," Sam said. "That fever may have diminished his appetite."
"No, I'm certain he'll eat. I'm going to get some meat from the cooler and cook some for him."
"Jev, he's a cat, not a person. Just give it to him raw," Lars said.
"Cooked meat would be easier on his system than raw meat. The last thing we need is for him to get sick all over the place." Jev replied.
"He's got a point there Lars," Sam pointed out.
"Alright, but make sure you clean up afterwards. I'm not going to be cleaning up your mess."
"Don't worry Dad," Jev said, already making his way to the kitchen. Grabbing some meat from the cooler, Jev placed in the frying pan which was on the stove. His father had left the stove burning, so there was plenty of heat with which to cook the meat.
The colony didn't have much in the way of available meat, with the only cows available being used for milk production and for breeding. Pork and ham was more readily available at the market in town due to the fact that pigs produce greater numbers of offspring they produced. To supplement the available meat, the T'Kri allowed several colonists to do some hunting in the forests in the hillside. There was an animal native to this world that to Jev looked strikingly familiar to deer he once saw on Earth. No one in the colony thought to give these animals any other name, so they were simply referred to as deer.
It took Jev only a short while to cook the meat for Kiyel, after which he placed the meat on a plate that he had taken out of the cupboard. Doing as his father had told him, Jev washed the frying pan quickly, and hung it with the rest of the pots and pans which were located just above a small counter in the middle of the kitchen. His father and Sam were still talking amongst themselves in the empty inn, sitting at the table near the fire and paying little attention to him. From one of the drawers he took out a knife and fork and put them in his pant pocket, then grabbed the plate, and went up stairs.
Inside his room, Jev saw Kiyel curled up on the floor in his closet. To him it appeared that he was asleep, but he also knew that Kiyel was in fact awake. "I brought you something to eat Kiyel. It's not much, but it's all I could get for now." Jev said.
Kiyel's head lifted from the floor and he regarded Jev standing before him with a plate on which was a fair-sized piece of cooked meat. 'Thank you, it will do.' Kiyel sent, rising from the floor and walking over towards the bed.
Jev handed the plate to Kiyel. "I also brought these, as I didn't think you were going to eat it with your fingers. I mean paws... I mean..."
'They are fingers,' Kiyel sent, laughing lightly. 'When running on all fours which my people still sometimes do, our fingers retract, much like the cat you had as a pet retracted its claws.' Kiyel sent, holding up one of his hands.
Jev watched with fascination as Kiyel's fingers seemed to sink within the palm of his hand, beginning to resemble the paws of a regular cat. Jev also noticed for the first time how Kiyel's face appeared less like a cat's and took on a more human look. The only differences that Jev could see were that as well as being covered in fur, Kiyel's ears were still those of a cat, as were his facial features. Jev was mesmerized by Kiyel's eyes most of all. Most cat's eyes that Jev had seen were golden-yellow colour, but Kiyel's were a brilliant blue. And while there was no mistaking his feline heritage, Jev knew Kiyel's feline features to be somewhat softer, and more expressive. It took Jev completely by surprise when he saw Kiyel smile at him as he studied him.
'Like you Jev, we evolved from another form. With us, it was a primitive feline. We still share many characteristics of our ancestors, but we've evolved to a point where more and more of our feline characteristics are becoming less evident.' Kiyel sent, answering Jev's unspoken questions.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to stare," Jev said, suddenly embarrassed.
'No, not at all. You're curious, which is to be expected. My people have had more contact with other worlds than you have, so it's only natural that you would be curious. Despite that, I find myself equally fascinated by your people, and with you in particular.' Kiyel sent, sitting down on the bed then cutting off a piece of meat and putting it into his mouth.
"Why me?" Jev asked, sitting down beside him.
'Because you are a telepath, a trait that isn't to be found in any other species that my people have come into contact with. More importantly, I find myself to be very comfortable in your presence.'
"Thanks," Jev said. "I like you too Kiyel. Aside from helping my Dad look after the inn, I spend most of my time alone and bored. I don't have very many friends. So it's nice to have someone to talk to."
'I find that hard to comprehend Jev, though what I feel from you leads me to believe what you say.'
"You can tell what I'm feeling?" Jev asked.
'It's getting easier the longer we're together Jev. I know you are feeling it too.'
"You're right, I do," Jev admitted.
For the next few minutes Kiyel finished eating in silence. After swallowing the last piece, he put the plate and utensils down beside him and looked at Jev. 'Jev, I can sense your confusion about what your are feeling. I can also tell that those feelings are frightening to you, especially with how intense they are.'
"It's just that I've never felt this way about another person before. I'm drawn to you in way's I don't understand. It's like I need to be near you, and the closer I am to you, the stronger those feelings become."
'Can you feel anything from me?' Kiyel asked.
"I don't know, what's it feel like to be able to sense another person?"
'To a telepath, it feels like those feelings are a part of you, yet you know they're not. Not only can you sense the emotions of the person, but the personality behind those emotions. I believe that it is the closest that two people can get to one another,' Kiyel sent.
"I think I understand. When I was downstairs eating my lunch, and making you yours, I knew that my dad and Sam were talking about the two of us, even though I couldn't hear what they were saying, I could still feel that they were keeping something from me."
'You are right about that Jev, I could sense it too. You will have to be very careful around your father from now on. If he finds out who I am, I can only imagine what he will do.'
"I'd love to say that my father isn't that kind of a person, but I don't know anymore. Ever since you arrived, he's been a little distant with me. Usually we talk a lot when we eat together, but not today. Today he barely said a thing to me."
'Maybe it is time you get out of here for a while and spend some time away from the inn.' Kiyel suggested.
"You may be right Kiyel. I've spent so much time with Dad in this inn that I've almost forgotten what it was like out there. But now with the T'Kri patrolling more, I don't think Dad will let me."
'Sometime you are going to have to decide things for yourself Jev. As soon as my wound has healed more, I will be going back out there to try and find the rest of my crew. I would like it if you would come with me.'
"You know you don't even have to ask that of me Kiyel. You know how I feel. Where you go, I go," Jev said resolutely.
'I had a feeling you would say that,' Kiyel laughed.
"I'll bet you did," Jev said, joining in Kiyel's laughter.
Two days and nights passed, and true to his word, Jev began to venture out of the inn. His father was not happy with Jev's decision and tried his best to get Jev to change his mind. But Jev was determined. He knew that his future was with Kiyel, and not stuck tending a bar with his father. He loved his father, but found living with him while Kiyel was there was becoming more and more strained. Especially since Kiyel was quickly healing from his wounds and was following Jev around constantly. Since Kiyel couldn't be seen with Jev walking around on two legs, he was restricted to traveling on all fours, which was not something he was accustomed to.
Several times Jev and Kiyel encountered a T'Kri patrol on their many walks. One look at Kiyel standing by Jev's side was enough for the T'Kri to give them a wide berth. Kiyel always kept a close eye on the T'Kri when they passed. He knew that if it wasn't for him, Jev would have been in real danger, and there was no way he would let anything happen to him.
Jev, in the meantime, was beginning to enjoy his freedom more. Under Kiyel's tutelage he was able to communicate with Kiyel telepathically for longer period's of time, making sure he brought along some food with him to keep his energy levels up. At the same time, Jev helped Kiyel learn to speak English, which was the official language of the colony. Most of the colonists had come from North America, but some had also come from places like England, and Norway. Jev's family had originally come from Sweden, but had emigrated to Canada when his father was a teenager. Kiyel was a quick learner, and in a short time was able to speak in a heavily accented English.
"This is much more like it Jev," Kiyel said
'I agree Kiyel,' Jev sent.
"You're getting much better at communicating with me," Kiyel stated with admiration.
'Thank you, but I find it fascinating how quickly you were able to pick up on English,' Jev replied.
'It's not a difficult language to learn once you know what the sounds mean,' Kiyel sent. 'Besides, being a telepath makes it a little easier to assimilate another language.'
'How so?' Jev asked.
'Language is tied into the brain at the most basic level. The brain's main function is to receive data and to communicate. The first thing it learns to do is to communicate, receiving data is already inherent. Language is the one part of the brain that a telepath can access readily which is how you were able to understand what I was sending to you at first. By listening to how you spoke to me, and picking up the references from your brain, I was able to understand what you were saying to me. The hard part was getting my mouth to form the words.'
'Yeah, I noticed that when you first tried to talk to me,' Jev said.
'I'm sure I sounded a little odd to you,'
'Actually, I thought you did really well. I didn't have to teach you much at all,' Jev admitted.
They were, at that moment, heading back towards the inn. The snow that had fallen during the storm was beginning to melt. The colony had been blessed with a cloudless sky for the last couple of days which allowed the sun to warm things up. It was the beginning of spring, and the colonists were hoping that this was the last snowfall until the next winter. Most of the farms were anxiously waiting to be able to plant their crops which was necessary to refill the depleted stock.
They were just coming to the top of the hill when they started to see a rising billow of smoke coming from ahead. Jev raced to the top with Kiyel bounding right after him.
"Oh god no!" Jev screamed starring at the sight before him.
"Jev what is it?" Kiyel asked coming up behind him. But Kiyel didn't need to wait for Jev to answer as he looked at the valley below. What he saw there made him gasp in horror. "By the gods!" Kiyel exclaimed. In the valley below, engulfed in a wild fire, was the inn. Dark billowy smoke rose up from the roof of the building, and Kiyel could see that portions of the inn had already collapsed.
"Dad!" Jev screamed, and started to run down the hill.
"Jev! No, wait!" Kiyel yelled after him, already catching up to Jev before he got too far. "You can't help him now. The inn's gone."
"No! My father's in there!" Jev cried, trying to escape from Kiyel's grasp, but Kiyel was too strong.
"I can't sense him in there Jev," Kiyel said. "If he was in there, he's dead. I'm sorry Jev."
"But he can't be gone! It's all my fault, I shouldn't have left him!" Jev said, sobbing as Kiyel took him into his arms.
"Then you would have been killed too Jev, and that is something I can't live with," Kiyel told him softly.
"What are you saying Kiyel?" Jev said looking up at him, tears streaming down his face.
"I love you Jev. Don't ask me how it happened or when, but I love you," Kiyel admitted.
"You love me?" Jev asked.
"Yes, I've loved you for a while now and I've tried everything I could to stop myself, but it can't be helped. God's help me, but I love you," Kiyel said, tears beginning to form in his eyes. "I don't want to lose you, Jev."
"Then may your god's help us both Kiyel."
"What do you mean?" Kiyel asked.
"Kiyel, I love you too."
"Gods Jev, we're going to need all the luck in the world."
"I know, but I'm not leaving you Kiyel." Then Jev did the one thing he never thought he'd ever do, he raised his head and wrapped his arms around Kiyel's neck and pulled his face towards him. For the first time in his life, he passionately kissed the person he loved most in all the world. That he fell in love with Kiyel, an alien, made no difference to him.
"I have wanted to do that for so long," Jev said breathlessly, as he and Kiyel separated.
"I have also my love," Kiyel said.
"But what of my father?" Jev asked, suddenly focussing his attention back to the rapidly disintegrating inn.
"I'm really sorry, Jev," Kiyel said. "But the chances are it was burned to the ground by the T'Kri. I know your father is a very careful man, but even he can't predict the T'Kri's actions."
"Well then," Jev said, a rage suddenly coming over him. "If the T'Kri are thinking that they can destroy my family, they have another think coming to them."
'Jev honey, what are you planning?'
'Kiyel, it's about time that these T'Kri learn the meaning of fear. We're going to find your crew, and then we're going to find a way to rid this planet of the T'Kri for good.' Jev sent.
Kiyel could feel the waves of anger emanating from Jev, but he knew also that he was right. Finding his crew was the best first step to defeating these T'Kri. He didn't know what the future had in store for the two of them, but he knew that whatever it was, they'd face it together.
To Be Continued ...