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This chapter, and all following chapters, are the original 1st draft chapters from Destiny's Edge. The places, names, and events contained within these chapters are somewhat different than those found in the finished novel.
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He felt free!
He could feel the air on his face, tickling his senses. Overwhelming his mind with pleasures he only dreamed of feeling.
The scent was strong now, getting closer. The thrill of the hunt now dominated his mind. The prey was near, his heart quickening in anticipation. It was almost over.
A sound. It was here. He crouched down as low as his body would allow, slowing his breathing, stilling every muscle in his body. Waiting for just the right moment.
Movement. It was ahead of him, coming closer. Unaware of his presence and his intent. The urge to rush forward so overwhelming, but still he made no move. The time was not right.
Closer and closer it came, his focus narrowing until he was aware of only the prey. His muscles tensed, ready to pounce. The smell of his prey, it's ignorance of his presence, all raising his excitement. It was almost time.
There! He leaped, springing into the air with all his might, a mighty roar startling the prey, causing it to hesitate. It had no time to react, his body colliding with the prey, bowling it over, his jaws finding and clamping down on the bewildered creature's neck. It tried in vain to dislodge him, fear filled the air as his prey realized its doom. He clamped down hard, cutting off its air. He could taste blood in his mouth, and it invigorated him. The prey weakened, its movements becoming sluggish.
Silence. It was over. The prey lay limp on the ground. Releasing the grip he had in its neck, he stood. Looking down at his prey.
"You did well," a voice spoke, causing him to look up towards the sound of the voice.
"An excellent hunt."
His breathing slowed, as did his heart. The exhilaration he felt was no replaced with calm contentment. He looked upon the face of the one who spoke, and saw the face of his love.
"I have never felt so alive!" he said.
"That is how it is meant to be Jev," his love said, speaking his name for the first time.
"I am glad for the change Kiyel," he said, watching as his love approached him.
"It will take time still to get used to Jev," Kiyel said.
"You are with me though, and that is all I need to get through it.'
"We shall see if you still feel that way after Jaffay gets through with you," Kiyel laughed.
"Do not remind me," Jev groaned. "He has already begun training me, and each night I feel as if my muscles are going to tear away from my bones."
"He is good at what he does, Jev. It has been two days since we left the cave after the change. You have learned much from me, and your body has become accustomed to it's new form. If Jaffay says you are ready, then you are. I will be here for you when he is done, but when you are with him, pay special attention to what he says and does."
"I shall, Kiyel. I am ready," Jev said.
"For now, we must take your prey to the others. They will be waiting, and hungry."
"I have learned much from you Kiyel. But to be honest, the most important thing you have taught me is how to love."
"That, I think, you already knew, Jev. You simply needed to find the one you could share that love with, and I am happy that it is me that you have fallen in love with."
"I could love no other, Kiyel," Jev said, taking a hold of Kiyel's hands with his.
"Nor I," Kiyel said, leaning forward to give his mate a gentle kiss. "Do you need help with this deer?" he asked, separating from Jev.
"No babe, I can manage," Jev said, bending down to pick up the deer he had killed. He threw it over his shoulder, where it hung limply, then stood up and looked at Kiyel.
"Let us go back then," Kiyel said, and led the way back to the cave.
"Captain, you can't be serious!" Jaffay exclaimed.
"I am serious, Jaffay. I want him trained. You have already agreed."
"I may have agreed to train him Captain, but you can't expect high command to just let you allow Jev to become a part of the Caitaran military. There are rules for enlistment."
"You don't need to tell me about our laws and regulations, Jaffay. I have spent the better part of my life living them. This situation is unique, as even you must admit. Jev is linked with Kiyel. By law, that makes him already a member of my crew."
"Captain, that would be true of a Caitaran, but Jev is not Caitaran, he is Human, no matter what his outward appearance. He wasn't bred with our instincts, our culture. He is Human," Jaffey pointed out.
"And who are we to tell him who he is? What matter is it where he was born, or how he was raised? The fact remains that he is a hybrid. Part Caitaran, and part Human. I also think if you take a closer look, that he is more Caitaran now than human. He may not have been born Caitaran, but thanks to his link with Kiyel, he knows everything there is to know about being one. Right now he is out there with Kiyel, hunting for the second straight day. Each time he has come back, it was he who made the kill and provided us with the meals we have enjoyed."
"I am aware of that Captain. I am just pointing out that he is still part Human. We cannot expect him to react the same as we do, and that makes him unpredictable, a risk."
"You mean more so than Oshi?" Kel asked.
"Point taken, Captain, but Oshi is insane, and that would make any person dangerous. Jev is an unknown in our midst, and you would be wise to watch him."
"Don't worry, Jaffay. I am watching him. Kiyel has done his duty. He has taught Jev all he knows of our culture, and was able to do that far faster than any of us could have, because of their telepathy. Now it is your turn. You must teach him discipline. I would prefer to avoid any more instances such as what went on with Oshi. I know you've only been training him half heartedly these past couple days, but he needs this, for his survival and ours."
"Very well Captain, I will train him, but just because he is Kiyel's mate and Liej, does not mean I will go easy on him."
"Nor do I expect you to, my friend," Kel said, resting a hand on Jaffay's shoulder.
"Kiyel, how do you do it?" Jev asked, slowly making his way up the rocky trail.
"Do what, my love?" Kiyel asked.
"How are you able to work with people who eye you with suspicion."
"I don't follow," Kiyel said, looking at Jev in confusion.
"Can you not feel it when you are with the others? It's almost as if they are afraid of us because of our telepathy, and our relationship."
"Jev, you are reading far too much into it. Of course they are suspicious, but it's not our telepathy or our relationship that is bothering them. You know that telepaths are regarded highly by our people, and that people of the same sex regularly become life-mates."
"That's just it. Your people. But I'm not exactly Caitaran am I? I may look it, but I'm still part Human. I was born a Human. Nothing can change that," Jev pointed out.
"Of course not babe, but I think that is what makes you the most attractive to me. You weren't born Caitaran. I fell in love with you because of who you are Jev. Not because of how you look. Though I have to admit, you look damn attractive as you are now," Kiyel said wryly.
"Oh does that mean you didn't think I looked attractive before, when I was Human?" Jev said, knowing full well that Kiyel was playing with him, trying to ease his discomfort. 'Two can play at that game,' he thought.
"Babe, no, it isn't like that at all," Kiyel said, trying to correct himself.
"Relax Kiyel, I'm only teasing," Jev said, grinning.
"You little tease!" Kiyel said, laughing.
"Yep! That's me!" Jev said.
"Just wait until tonight when we've gone to bed then," Kiyel said, grinning wickedly.
"Promises, promises," Jev sighed, then began to laugh, which was joined by Kiyel. "Seriously though babe, I can see it in their eyes, especially Kel's. They don't trust me."
"They just don't know you as well as I do Jev," Kiyel replied.
"I can accept that, but how much longer is it going to take for them to realize that I love you, and that I am no danger to them?"
"As with all living things, in their own time, Jev. Trust isn't given, it's earned. You've come a long way to earning that trust, but the past events with Oshi, and the change, it hasn't made things any easier for them. Give them time babe. They will come around eventually."
"I will babe. So long as you're with me."
"Have no fear on that, I'm always going to be with you," Kiyel said.
Jev and Kiyel made their way up towards the cave. They were close now, but Jev was tiring quickly. The deer, which before had seemed like a piece of paper to him, was now making him sweat, and his arms were beginning to get sore.
"Jev, do you want me to take the deer from you?" Kiyel asked, feeling Jev begin to weaken.
"I'd love to say yes babe, because this deer really is getting heavy, but at the same time, I do not want to appear weak in front of the rest of the crew," Jev replied, readjusting the deer on his shoulder to try and make its weight less noticeable, with limited effect.
"Jev, you are still recovering from the change. It has only been a couple days."
"I know Kiyel. But I want to do this, if nothing else than to prove to Jaffay that I can."
"Oh so it's Jaffay that you're trying to impress. Be careful there, Jev. He's no dummy."
"No, that he isn't," Jev admitted.
"Then for crying out loud, let me take the deer so we can get into the cave and have something to eat. At this rate, we'll be eating well past night fall," Kiyel said, smiling at Jev.
"Oh you are so evil!" Jev said, though he couldn't help but return the smile. "Fine. If you want it, it's all yours."
"Don't worry Jev. Eventually you'll be able to do this without even breaking a sweat. It'll just take some time."
"Always time, isn't it?" Jev asked, helping put the deer on Kiyel's shoulder.
"In life, that's all we have. Time. The trick is to make use of the time we have available to us, and to not squander it. Be thankful we have this time babe."
"I am, Kiyel," Jev said. Together the two of them made their way the up to the mouth of the cave, Jev walking in first, with Kiyel closely behind him.
"There you two are!" Tiela's voice spoke up beside them.
"Hello Tiela," Jev said, looking over at her.
"Don't 'hello Tiela' me, Jev. Where in the God's name have you been?" she demanded to know.
"The kill was more challenging than I had anticipated," Kiyel said from behind Jev.
"I take it we have Jev to thank for this fine animal?" Kel said, walking up to them from the other side of the cave where he was discussing something with Jaffay.
"Yes. I had begun the hunt, but became careless and the deer was spooked. It was Jev who picked up it's trail and made the kill," Kiyel admitted.
"Kiyel, why don't you tell the Captain the truth?" Jev said.
"The truth?" Kel asked, looking at Jev and then back at Kiyel.
"I tripped," Kiyel mumbled.
"You tripped?" Kel asked, to which Kiyel nodded in the affirmative. Kel couldn't help himself, and began laughing, with Tiela joining him.
"You Kiyel? You tripped? How?" she asked.
"I was about to make the kill, when my foot caught on a root that was jutting up from the ground. I ended up falling flat on my stomach," Kiyel said, embarrassed, causing Kel to begin laughing histerically.
"Oh God, I needed that," Kel said, eventually able to stop laughing. "Don't worry lad, I think something like that has happened to each of us during a hunt."
"Speak for yourself, Captain," Jaffay spoke from behind him. "I myself have never endured an embarrassment like that."
"Oh no Jaffay?" Kel asked, smiling at him. "And what about that time eight years ago when you went out hunting with me and Oshi? Just as you were about to pounce on your prey, you spooked it."
"Captain, that was not me who spooked the animal, it was Awyn."
"Who?" Jev asked.
"My mate," Jaffay said.
"That may be so, but you should have seen the look on your face when you saw her. Jev, it was classic. There she was, strolling through the woods on Caitaran. Back then Jaffay was a junior officer, fresh from the Acadamy. We had gone out for a hunt when he saw her. I swear he fell in love with her on the spot and completely forgot about the animal that he was hunting. A couple months later they had become life-mates. But I will never forget the look on your face when you first saw her, Jaffay. Classic!" Kel laughed.
"It was still not because of me that the animal fled."
"Well, are we all going to stand here and wait for dinner to cook itself while we reminisce of past events?" Tiela asked.
"No of course not," Kel said. "Give it here Kiyel, and I shall prepare it for us tonight. I believe it is my turn." Kiyel handed the deer over to Kel, and they walked over to where the fire burned. It had gotten steadily colder outside, and the cold air was beginning to affect the temperature within the cave.
Together they sat by the fire, holding each other. Kiyel gently began to run his hand up and down Jev's back, sending chills down his spine and causing the fur on his back to rise up from his body.
"Oh God Kiyel, that feels so good. I had no idea Caitarans were this sensitive," Jev moaned.
"There is much I have to show you Jev, but here is not the place nor is it the time."
"No, I agree Kiyel," Jev said, leaning in closer to Kiyel. "But it feels just as nice to be held by you my love."
"I know what you mean Jev," Kiyel said, hugging Jev close to him.
"Kiyel, Jev," Jaffay said, sitting down beside them.
"Jaffay," Kiyel said. "How is Taaj doing?"
"He has still not regained consciousness. Tiela is doing all she can for him, but we are running out of time, and we need to find that probe soon."
"Jaffay, Kiyel and I can find the probe, but we won't know how to get there without Taaj's help. I may have been a colonist on this world, but for most of my life, I have never left the town. Only my brother knows more than I."
"You have never spoken of your brother, babe," Kiyel said.
"My father and I didn't speak about him much. He joined the rebels some time ago, and neither of us had heard from him since. Though I expect he's still alive as the T'Kri are especially fond of displaying the bodies of the rebels that they have captured, tortured, and killed."
"If the rebels do know the land better than you, perhaps they would be willing to help us," Jaffay said.
"Unlikely. First of all, there's no way we could approach them. I might have at one time, but no longer. No one would recognize me any more, and the colonists are extremely suspicious these days."
"He is right Jaffay. If we cannot rely on Taaj to guide us, then we're going to need the rebels, but getting them to trust us isn't going to be easy."
"There might be a way though," Jev suggested.
"You have our full attention Jev," Jaffay said.
"The main town, which we call Landing, was known to my father as the main meeting and recruiting center for the rebels. They often go there in the guise of a farmer or laborer, but the end is always the same. One or two of our young laborers ends up leaving the colony to join the rebels.
The colony is increasingly getting restless, fed up with the T'Kri, and virtually on the verge of open rebellion. The T'Kri have no qualms about killing the colonists, and for the most part, it is that which tempers the actions of the rebels, and prevents an open revolt. For the most part, the rebels dedicate themselves to sabotaging the T'Kri efforts. Damaging their equipment, and vehicles when ever they get the chance."
"How do you know all this?" Jaffay asked.
"Didn't I tell you? My father was a member of the colony's council," Jev said.
"Must have slipped your mind," Jaffay mumbled.
"Well, there were more pressing matters to worry about than my father at the time," Jev pointed out.
"Fine, so how do we get in contact with them?" Jaffay asked.
"Simple. I will go to Landing and kidnap one of the rebels," Jev said.
"Babe no! You can't!" Kiyel protested.
"Yes I can Kiyel. It has to be me. I'm the only one who knows where these rebels meet, where they recruit people, and where they take them. I'm the only one who has a chance to make this work."
"Let him go," Kel said, walking up to the group.
"But Captain..." Kiyel started to protest.
"Jev is right. These are his people, or were. He knows them better than anyone. But at the same time Jev, you're a member of my crew now, and I do not send people out on missions alone. Kiyel will go with you. Then there is the matter of your appearance."
"I have been thinking of that Captain," Jev said. "Kiyel, what did you say happened to me when I made the change happen?"
"You used telekinesis, but that's not going to work Jev. What you did was instinctive, out of a need to protect yourself."
"Yes, I know that Kiyel, but I was thinking that there might be a way to make people believe I look Human. Remember what you had me do when I went into town to gather supplies before we came here?"
"We altered people's perception of you. Basically they forgot you were there moments after you were out of their sight."
"Exactly. Couldn't the same thing be done to make them think they are seeing a Human face rather than a Caitaran one?" Jev asked.
"It's possible, but even if it were, it would take a lot of concentration on both our parts."
"I know. That is why I have to go to Landing alone. Captain, I know Kiyel will have to come with me, but he will have to stay out of sight, which means I will have to go into the town on my own. Kiyel will help me maintain the illusion that I am Human, but he can't come with me. It would put too much of a strain on the both of us and we need to be able to react at a moment's notice if something were to go wrong," Jev said.
"He's right Captain. I don't know if it is possible, but if it is, one of us will have to remain hidden. And since Jev does know the town better than any of us, he is the only one that can go in. I don't like it though," Kiyel admitted.
'I don't like it either babe, but it has to be done this way,' Jev sent.
'I know my love. We will work on this before we leave,' Kiyel replied.
'Then we will have to leave tonight. It is soon the time when the rebels normally rotate their teams. We need to be in Landing in two days if I'm right,' Jev sent.
"When can you start working on this illusion?" Kel asked.
"Actually Captain, we were going to start that tonight and then leave shortly afterwards," Kiyel said, turning his attention back to Kel.
"Why so soon?" he asked.
"Because Jev tells me that in two days, the rebels will be rotating their forces. It will be our best chance to find one that can take us to where the probe is."
"But we still don't know where it was dropped," Jaffay said.
"We will by tonight. We're going to do that before we leave as well," Kiyel told him.
"You two are doing a lot in such a short amount of time. Are you sure you are up to this?" Kel asked.
"No, but what choice do we have?" Kiyel pointed out.
"True. Very well, we will leave you two to make your preparations. I will make dinner, for all of us, and then have Tiela prepare you both with some rations for the next few days."
"Captain, it would probably help if we took with us some freshly cooked meat. It would not do us any good to start a fire to cook when we will be so close to the T'Kri and the colonists."
"Agreed. I will make sure the two of you have enough to last. But you will still have to ration carefully. If you run out, you will have to resort to hunting," Kel said.
"Thank you Captain. Come on Jev, we had better get started," Kiyel said. Together the two of them walked off to a more private area in the cave. Jev was nervous about what they were about to do. Despite having been with the Caitarans for such a short amount of time, he felt more a part of them, than he ever did with the other colonists. Even his father.
"Are you okay Jev?" Kiyel asked.
"Yes. It's just that it has been a while since I have been around other Humans, and I can't help but think how strange they are going to seem to me. It's almost as if they are completely alien to me."
"That is to be expected, babe. You have gone through much more than just a physical transformation. You're beginning to think like a Caitaran more and more."
"Is it because of our link, Kiyel?" Jev asked.
"Partly. The strange thing is, I too have noticed a difference in myself. Where as before I had a completely Caitaran outlook on life, now, I find myself conflicted, as if everything I grew up believing needs to be examined, and challenged if necessary."
"I'm sorry Kiyel, I had no idea," Jev said sincerely.
"Do not fret about it Jev. I am actually looking upon this as being a good thing. For no matter what happens to either of us, I know we will be together," Kiyel said.
"You've got that right babe," Jev replied.
'Shall we get started then, Love?' Kiyel sent.
'Yes. What must we do?' Jev asked.
'We'll search for the probe first. It will be the easiest of the tasks.'
'Do as you did before when searching out this cave Jev. Reach out with your mind. Imagine yourself floating above the landscape. See everything around you.'
'What am I looking for, Kiyel? I cannot see much,' Jev sent.
'Draw from me then, babe. Look for a large concentration of metal. Start from there.'
'All I can see is the T'Kri base to the South,' Jev sent.
'Narrow your focus then babe. Try to look at a smaller area until you find what we are looking for.' Kiyel replied.
"Found it!" Jev exclaimed aloud.
"In the mountains just West of the T'Kri base."
"That presents a problem then," Kiyel said.
"I know. It is possible though. We need one of the Rebels who is familiar with that territory to guide us though."
"Then you still plan to go through with this," Kiyel said.
"Yes. The probe's position makes it even more necessary."
"I know. I just wanted to make sure that this is what you wanted to do Jev."
"Want to? No. I don't want to, but I have no choice, Kiyel. I will do what I have to in order to rid this planet of the T'Kri. For good."
To Be Continued ...