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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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"Jev, Kiyel, get over here and get some of this meat," Tiela called out from the fire in the middle of the cave.
"We're coming Tiela," Kiyel answered back, getting up onto his feet and helping Jev up as well. "Well babe, I don't know about you, but I am absolutely starving."
"You said it babe. I am so hungry I could eat a horse!" Jev replied.
"A Horse?" Kiyel asked, not familiar with the word.
"Yes, a horse. It's a large animal back on Earth that humans used to ride on."
"Ah yes, I'm getting an image of it now. Humans used to ride atop those animals?"
"Still do I'm sure," Jev said.
"So why would you eat one?" Kiyel asked, looking at Jev with curious expression on his face.
"Well I wouldn't, it's more like a saying. I guess I'm so used to using human terms for everything, even though I'm not really human any more."
"It doesn't matter whether you are human or not babe," Kiyel said. "It doesn't change one bit how much I love you."
"I'm glad babe. I was worried that it would change things between us."
"Never!" Kiyel said, suddenly stopping in front of Jev, and reaching out with his hands, resting them on Jev's shoulders. "I love you for who you are babe. I thought you were the most attractive person I had ever met before, and I still do now."
"I'm sorry for doubting you Kiyel," Jev said.
"Don't be. I don't know how I would have handled the transformation you have undergone, but I think you are coping marvelously."
"Uh huh, I heard that thought," Jev said, smiling wryly at Kiyel.
"What?" Kiyel questioned, effecting an almost believable innocent tone to his voice.
"You know how many times I've caught you trying to look at my tail?" Jev asked, laughing as Kiyel began to blush with embarrassment.
"Can you blame me babe? You are very attractive to me, and if you will excuse the expression, I think you look hot with a tail."
"I thought you did Kiyel. Personally, I'm beginning to like it too. By the way, that was a very human expression you used just then.
"A part of me will always be Human Jev," Kiyel pointed out.
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Are you two going to stand there and talk all night or are you going to come and get something to eat before the Captain eats it all?" Tiela interrupted.
"Sorry Tiela, we'll be right there," Kiyel said. "Ready?"
"Let's eat babe," Jev answered, and together the two of them joined the rest of the crew by the fire.
Tiela handed Jev a portion of the deer meat on a small metal tray, then did the same for Kiyel. There was not much else they had to eat, but Jev was thankful there was plenty of meat to go around. He knew that Tiela was exaggerating the amount of meat the Captain was eating, but her comment did work in getting both he and Kiyel to join them. As they sat there eating, Jev managed to sneak a few glances at Tiela, who was sitting beside the Captain. Without trying, he could sense a connection forming between them, though he kept it to himself.
Kiyel naturally picked up on Jev's observations. 'They do make a good couple my love,' Kiyel sent telepathically.
'Do you think they will become mates?' Jev asked.
'I would say that is a likely assumption,' Kiyel replied.
"Did you two manage to locate the probe?" Kel asked, interrupting their private conversation.
"Yes we did Captain," Jev said. "It lies in the mountains to the West of the T'Kri base."
"That creates a problem then," Kel said.
"I'm afraid so Captain," Jev answered. "However, the rebels do operate in those mountains I'm certain. It is just a matter of finding one that knows his or her way around there. With the rebel officer as our guide, we should be able to pinpoint the probe's exact location."
"So what is your next move?" Jaffay asked.
"After we have eaten, Jev and I will work on creating the illusion he needs to be able to move about among the Humans in Landing."
"The trouble is, I've never done anything like this before, and if it's anything like scanning for the probe, I'm going to be utterly drained of energy."
"That's why we're eating now babe," Kiyel said. "Until you get used to working with your talent, your energy will get depleted very quickly. It's going to take the two of us combined to make the illusion work."
"I just didn't think I would get drained as much as I did," Jev said, taking another bite out of the meat that was on his makeshift plate.
"We will have to be careful in the future Jev to make sure we have enough energy to do the job."
"It's too bad we didn't have any energy drinks like I used to drink back on Earth," Jev said.
"Energy drinks?" Tiela inquired.
"Yes, they were flavored drinks that usually contained a lot of minerals to give an athlete an extra source of energy. My father didn't like them too much because they also contained a lot of sugars."
"Well we do have something similar to your energy drinks back home," Tiela said. "It's a shame actually, because they would have been perfect for the both of you. But unlike your drinks, our version doesn't contain sugars. Instead it has an ingredient that has the same effect, without the side effects sugar has."
"I'd be interested in it, especially if it could help Kiyel and me maintain our energy levels when we work telepathically," Jev said.
"Just keep in mind babe, that you're only getting drained as much as you are because your talent is still new. You haven't been training it as long as I have."
"No, but eventually I will. This is all so very new to me," Jev replied.
"I know it is Jev," Tiela said.
"If the two of you are going to get a chance to work on your illusion, then you had better get to it, if you are finished eating," Kel said.
"We are, Captain," Jev said, putting his empty plate on the ground in front of him.
"Jaffay, you are on dish duty," Kel said, then stood up and went over to where Taaj was laying, still unconscious.
"Are you ready Jev?" Kiyel asked, standing up.
"As ready as I'll ever be babe," Jev replied, getting up as well, and following Kiyel to the same spot in the cave where they had located the probe.
"Jev, creating an illusion is a lot more tricky than making yourself appear invisible to others like you did before we came here," Kiyel said after they had sat back down.
"What do I need to do?" Jev asked.
"You first need to picture in your mind an image of yourself as you once were. We're going to create the illusion of you as you once looked. It will be easier for you to do this than to try to imagine some other person."
"I have it babe," Jev said, his eyes closed.
"Now I want you to reach out with your mind and I want you to project into mine your image, concentrate on making me see your image, rather than on your actual body."
"It is difficult babe." Jev said, straining already from the effort.
"I know babe. You've never done something like this before, and it will take us time. You can do it though. Just concentrate."
"Okay Kiyel," Jev said.
For the next couple hours, Kiyel worked with Jev, helping him create the illusion that they hoped would fool anyone into thinking Jev was Human. Despite Jev's outward appearance, he would always be part human, and it was that fact that would make it easier for Jev to be able to blend in with the rest of the colonists. Kiyel could never convince someone he was human, as he had never lived among humans other than Jev, and his father, and even then only for a short time.
Despite the drain on Jev's energy, he was finally able to accomplish his goal. Sitting before Kiyel was the old Jev, the Jev he knew from the day they first met.
"Well, how do I look?" Jev asked, opening his eyes, and looking at Kiyel.
"Amazing love," Kiyel replied. "You look exactly as you did the day we met at the inn."
"I don't know for how long I can do this Kiyel," Jev admitted, his illusion wavering slightly.
"Draw on my strength Jev. Your talent isn't developed enough to do this on your own yet."
Jev closed his eyes once more, concentrating this time on Kiyel, drawing from him the energy he needed to maintain the illusion, and immediately began to feel the strain lessen. Opening his eyes, he saw Kiyel staring back at him.
"That's a lot better Kiyel, but there is just one problem which I think you can already figure out," Jev said.
"I know. It can't be helped right now. We don't have the time as you've pointed out."
"We need to find a way to hide my face."
"What about the coat you took from the abandoned house? It has a hood on it."
"Yes that will work. I will still have to be very careful though," Jev said.
"I will be close by in case anything should happen Jev."
"I know you will."
"And what about the rebel I find? What should we tell him? Suddenly seeing two Caitarans in front of him isn't going to make him trust us. He will have to be told something."
"We will have to relay to him your experiences my love. Once we have him alone, you can show him your face, and if he recognizes you, it might actually work to our advantage."
"Agreed. I think also I'll have to chose carefully. There are some people who have a lot of prejudices, even amongst our own people."
"Very true. Your father wouldn't have been too accepting of me, that much I could sense," Kiyel said.
"As much as I loved my father, I have to agree with you. Spending time with you helped me open my eyes a little. He was a good man though."
"Let's go back and show the others babe," Kiyel said, slowly standing up.
"Okay," Jev agreed, and allowed Kiyel to help him up. Together the two of them walked back to where the others had gathered. The surprise that appeared on their faces was all that Jev needed to confirm that his illusion was working.
"Jev, you look exactly as you did when you got here. Aren't there people in Landing who will recognize your face?" Kel asked.
"Not likely Captain," Jev replied. "My coat has a hood with which I can hide most of my features. Once I have located the Rebel we intend to kidnap, it won't matter what I look like."
"So you plan on dropping the illusion when you are out of sight of the town?" Kel asked.
"Yes, but only after explaining a few things to the rebel. It would not do us good to have him startled by my real appearance. Kiyel will safely stay out of sight, but keep a constant eye out for anything that might indicate I am in danger. I do not foresee any problems however."
"Take no chances Jev. In my experience, even the most carefully laid plans can go awry in an instant," Kel pointed out.
"That is why Kiyel will be close by. I do not take risks needlessly Captain."
"No, of course not. I did not mean to imply that you did."
"Jev, it is time. We need to get our rest. We have a long trek ahead of us tomorrow."
"Yes. Good night everyone," Jev said, nodding his head at each of them.
"Good night Jev, Kiyel. We will have everything packed and ready for you when you wake up," Kel said.
"Thank you Captain," Kiyel said, and turned with Jev to the spot where they would rest for the night.
Waking up, Kiyel looked over at the sleeping form of Jev beside him and smiled. Jev's head was resting on his shoulder, with one arm draped over Kiyel's bare chest. He looked so beautiful laying like that. Reluctantly, Kiyel shook Jev gently, whispering his name, until Jev began to stir.
"It's time to get up Jev," Kiyel said softly.
"Oh let me sleep a little longer," Jev mumbled.
"Sorry babe. There's nothing I would like more than to lie here with you all day, but we need to get to Landing."
"I know, I know," Jev said reluctantly, sitting up slowly to stretch. "Is everyone still asleep?"
"Yes, but the supplies the Captain promised us are by the cave entrance," Kiyel said, noticing the packs.
"We need to get something to eat before we go," Jev said. "I'm starving."
"Me too Jev. I think there is still some meat left," Kiyel said, getting up and walking over to the packs, opening one up. "Yes, here it is. There's not too much, so we'll have to do some hunting along the way."
"That's okay. Just so long as there is something for us to eat now," Jev said, walking over to Kiyel who took out two wrapped bundles from a bag.
"Dont' eat too much babe, save as much as you can. The less time it takes us to get to Landing, the better chance we'll have of finding a rebel suitable for our mission."
"Is there any bread in there too Kiyel?" Jev asked.
"Let me see," Kiyel said, rummaging around in the pack some more. "Yes, here it is," he said at last, holding up the remainder of the bread loaf they brought with them from before.
"It has to be stale by now," Jev said, unwrapping the loaf. "Amazing, it's not," Jev said, breaking off a piece for himself before handing the rest to Kiyel.
"Must be the cold air," Kiyel said, breaking off a piece before returning the rest to the pack along with the rest of the meat.
Once they had finished eating, Kiyel lifted the packs, handing one to Jev then slung the one he had over his shoulder. Jev did the same with his, and the two of them left, looking back into the cave and seeing the still sleeping forms of the rest of the crew.
"Ready?" Kiyel asked.
"Nope, but lets go anyways," Jev replied. Together the two of them left the cave, and out into the morning air.
It was bitterly cold outside, the wind having picked up since the day before. A thin layer of snow lay on the ground.
"Kiyel, this is going to make things more difficult," Jev said, noticing the tracks they left behind them.
"We should have a better chance of hiding our tracks once we get into the forest babe," Kiyel said. "It's still early yet, and the snow should melt as the day goes on."
"Let's hope so. At least in the forest we'll be out of this wind," Jev said.
"Thankful for your new Caitaran fur are you babe?" Kiyel laughed.
"You better believe it Kiyel," Jev said, smiling.
"Come on, let's go," Kiyel said, and led the way down.
The thin layer of snow on the ground made things a little treacherous as they made their way off the rocks. Several times they both had to catch themselves, slipping on some ice that lay hidden under the snow.
"I really hate this," Jev said, frustration showing in his voice.
"You and me both Jev," Kiyel replied. "But we're almost there." Finally the two of them reached the base of the rock formation, and stood before the forest. As Kiyel had predicted, there was hardly any snow on the ground by the trees, the leaves providing adequate shelter.
"Where is Landing from here babe?" Kiyel asked.
"It's slightly south of the town we had visited before. Actually, where my home was is closer to us than Landing. We made a pretty long detour to get our supplies getting here. We should be able to follow the path we cut the last time for most of the way."
"That will make the trip a little easier. Keep your mind open Jev. Between the two of us, you're the most sensitive to the T'Kri, and we do not want to run into them."
"What if we run into a group of rebels?" Jev asked.
"We'll have to deal with that if it happens, though I would advise trying to avoid them as well. We need a rebel alone."
"True," Jev said.
"I'll take point, Babe," Kiyel said, taking out the brush cutter.
Walking into the forest, Kiyel led the way along the path they had first created in their search to find the Caitaran crew. Jev followed close behind, his mind searching for any signs of the T'Kri or the rebels. He was relieved when he could detect neither, though he didn't dare drop his guard. Since a path had already been created, it took them less time to reach the clearing than it had before. Kiyel opted to rest then, as they had already been travelling for several hours.
The crispness in the air had long since gone, replaced with a wind that seemed to help carry the warmth from the sun above. There were no signs of snow anywhere to be found, which made Jev very happy indeed. Their passage through the forest would now be more difficult to track, except by the rebels, some of whom Jev knew were adept at tracking.
There was still ample food left in the packs, as they hadn't stopped to eat since leaving the cave. Jev knew that mid-day was soon approaching. They only had a few hours left of light, and he wanted to reach Landing before the end of the day.
"There isn't much time left babe," he told Kiyel.
"I thought we had until tomorrow before the rebels change shifts."
"We do babe. But I want to get there before tomorrow, to get a sense of the area. The Captain is right, we cannot afford to take any chances."
"Then we had better get going now," Kiyel said, putting the last piece of meat into his mouth.
"I'd better lead the way babe," Jev said, picking up the brush cutter. "We need to make a new path from here."
"Lead the way babe," Kiyel said, smiling suggestively.
"Damn, you just love to look at my new tail don't you?" Jev laughed.
"I can't help it babe. I think it looks really good on you."
"Well don't you be getting any ideas babe. We have a mission to complete."
"I know, I know. But a guy can day dream, can't he?" Kiyel asked.
"You have that right, Love," Jev replied.
Jev and Kiyel cut their way through the forest, their progress hampered by the brush which blocked their path. It would take them the rest of the day to reach Landing, Jev knew. Suddenly Jev stopped, sensing something at the edge of his mind.
'What is it Jev?' Kiyel asked, suddenly reaching out with his senses to try and detect what it was that Jev had picked up.
'I don't know, but I think there is someone coming.'
'I can't tell. They're still too far away,' Jev replied.
'How far?' Kiyel asked.
'I would say about a few hundred feet over in that direction,' Jev answered, pointing ahead of him and slightly to his right.
'Are they aware of our presence?'
'No, I don't think so. It sounds more like whoever it is is cutting a path just as we were,' Jev replied.
'We need to find some cover babe,' Kiyel said, already beginning to look around.
'And quick babe, he's coming towards us pretty quickly,' Jev said.
'Human or T'Kri?' Kiyel asked.
'He's definitely Human, and he's close enough for me to know that he is alone.'
'We will hide babe, and when he gets closer, get your hood up and your illusion ready,' Kiyel sent.
Jev and Kiyel found a spot off the path they had created, making sure they were well concealed behind some bushes. By the time Jev had pulled the hood over his head, he looked Human again. There was some strain, but it was manageable, thanks to the energy that Kiyel was allowing him to use.
Seconds passed, seeming to Jev as if it were minutes instead, and still the man hadn't appeared. He reached out with his mind to the man, and could sense that he was close now. Jev crouched down as low as he could, just in time, as he saw the man come into view, making his way steadily through the brush. Jev couldn't see the man's face from where he was, but he could feel the man's mind.
The man was now standing directly in front of where Jev and Kiyel hid, his back turned towards them. Jev could sense from the man's mind that he was aware that someone had come through here before. He saw with the man's eye's the brush that had been cut by Jev. He could feel the man's guard go up, the sudden rush of adrenaline filling his body, as he withdrew from his holster a T'Kri energy weapon.
'It's now or never babe,' Jev said, as he saw the man begin to turn in their direction. 'He knows that someone is here.'
'Be careful babe,' Kiyel cautioned Jev.
'I will be okay babe,' Jev sent, and slowly began to rise from his crouched position.
"Stay right where you are!" the man suddenly called out, seeing Jev rising from behind the bush. "Who are you?"
"Peace my friend, I mean you no harm," Jev answered, sending soothing thoughts towards the man, who's face he still could not see, as the man also had a hood pulled over his head.
"I will be the judge of that. Come out from there, but slowly," the man said, waving the gun to the side."
Jev did as he was told, being careful to make sure his illusion was properly in place. He held out his hands, hoping the man would recognize the friendly nature that he projected.
"Who are you? What is your name?"
"My name is Jev, and I am from the North," Jev answered honestly.
"Jev?" the man asked, his gun wavering slightly.
"Yes. My full name is Jev Bjorn," Jev said, sensing something familiar about this man.
"My God, is it really you Jev?" the man asked, throwing back his hood to reveal his face."
"Mikkel?" Jev gasped in shock.
"Jev it is you!" the man said excitedly, and putting his gun back in the holster, ran towards Jev, wrapping his arms around him and lifting him up in the air. Tears began to fall from Jev's face as he felt his brother's embrace, something he had not felt in a long time.
"Oh God Mikkel, I've missed you so much!" Jev cried.
"I've missed you too my little brother," Mikkel said, himself crying as well. They stood like that, holding one another for what seemed like an eternity, before Jev released his brother. They both had tears streaking down their faces.
"I thought I would never again see you, Mikkel," Jev said.
"Me? I thought you had died in the fire along with Dad," Mikkel answered.
"No, I wasn't at the inn, but I saw it burning by the time I came back."
"Dad let you leave the inn?" Mikkel said, surprised.
"I didn't give him a choice Mikkel. Much has happened since that day, and I have so much to tell you."
"And I want to hear it, but we need to find better cover than this. There is a T'Kri patrol in the area. I was trying to avoid them when I ran into you. At first I thought I might have encountered them, and would soon be taken prisoner."
"No, it's just us," Jev said, looking back to the bushes where Kiyel still hid.
"Us?" Mikkel asked, looking over at the bushes.
"Us. Come on out Kiyel," Jev called out. Slowly, Kiyel walked out of the bushes. He had discarded his clothing, and was approaching Jev and Mikkel on all fours, just as he had when Jev first met him and thought he was a forest cat.
"A forest cat?" Mikkel gasped, his hand going for his gun again.
"Don't!" Jev said, putting his hand on Mikkel's. "He is not going to hurt us."
"But Jev, that is a forest cat."
"He is so much more than just a forest cat Mikkel, he is also the one who I was with while the inn was burning to the ground. If I hadn't been with him, I would have been dead, along with Dad. He also saved me from the T'Kri a couple of times."
"You're kidding!" Mikkel exclaimed.
"No. And there is much more Mikkel. But you are right, it is not safe here. We need to find cover, and soon."
"Alright, follow me. Just make sure that cat doesn't try anything," Mikkel said.
"Don't worry, he won't," Jev replied, smiling at Kiyel.
'I was not expecting to play the part of a forest cat again babe,' Kiyel sent, obviously frustrated.
'I know babe, but don't worry. I think this is a much better situation than we could have hoped for. I trust Mikkel.'
'I know you do babe, and from what I sense from him, I feel like I can trust him too.'
"Let's get going Jev. Try to keep up with me." Mikkel said, looking over his shoulder.
"Don't worry about me Mikkel. I'm right behind you," Jev said, following Mikkel as he made his way through the brush, heading in the direction that Jev and Kiyel had already come.
"Up ahead there is a clearing. It will be safest for us there," Mikkel said.
"We know Mikkel. This is the direction we traveled in. We've already come from that clearing."
"How long have you been out here Jev?" Mikkel asked.
"A few days. Since the inn burned down. We've spent most of it in some caves further North."
"Ah, I see you've already found them. The rebels used to use those caves as a hideout until we found a better location."
"Do the T'Kri know about the caves then?" Jev asked.
"Not that I know of. I don't think they do. We didn't move because of them, but rather because there was a more secure location that was also closer to where the T'Kri have their base."
"You're not talking about the mountains to the West of there are you?" Jev asked.
"Actually, I am. Why?"
"Because that's where Kiyel and I were eventually going."
"You were?" Mikkel asked.
"Yes. After we took care of some business in Landing that is."
"Well, we can go to Landing later. For now we need to find a place in the clearing to hide before the T'Kri find us."
"I think I know of the perfect place Mikkel," Jev said. "Kiyel and I used it when we were hiding from the T'Kri. We camped there an entire night, and were never found."
"Do you still remember where it is?" Mikkel asked.
"Yes I think so," Jev answered.
"Then you take the lead Jev, and I will follow you," Mikkel said.
To Be Continued ...