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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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"If we are going to go back to the caves where your crew awaits, then we had best be moving. That T'Kri patrol is still out there, and I do not want to have to deal with them and let them know of our presence if it can be avoided," Mikkel said.
"I agree," Kiyel said. "It's getting late, also."
"Mikkel, give me that pack over there, will you?" Jev asked, pointing to the pack that he had brought with him.
"What for?" Mikkel asked, reaching for it.
"You don't honestly think we're going to let good meat like this go to waste, do you?" Jev replied, smiling at Mikkel.
"Good point," Mikkel laughed, and threw the pack to Jev. Jev caught it, and took out a piece of cloth from the pack, then started placing the remaining uneaten pieces of meat, and what was left hanging over the dying fire onto it. Once he had collected all the meat, he wrapped it up as best he could, and stuffed it into the pack. Closing it up, he stood up, carrying the pack with him, and slung it over his shoulder. Kiyel started to kick dirt over top of the fire, putting out the remaining flame in the pit.
Once they were assured that they hadn't forgotten anything, and checking to see if their tracks were adequately hidden, they made their way to the caves, with Kiyel leading the way.
Thankfully, they had already cut their way through the brush, so finding their way back wasn't difficult at all, even despite the diminishing light due to the sun already beginning to set behind the mountains. By the time the last of the sun disappeared behind the mountains, they had already traveled half way to the caves.
A noise from behind them suddenly made both Jev and Kiyel stop in their tracks, their ears turned in the direction of the sound. The two of them stood there, not moving an inch, not even breathing, for fear of missing any hints of something behind them. Mikkel was confused, and was about to ask what was going on when he too heard the sound. Turning around, he just pulled out his gun when the first blast from a T'Kri blaster tore apart a thin tree beside them, forcing them to scatter in different directions.
"Get down," Mikkel hissed quietly, looking back, and seeing that Jev and Kiyel weren't even armed. "They've found us."
"I can see that," Kiyel said from behind a tree. "Jev, how many are there?"
"I'm not sure," Jev said. He was lying flat on the ground, and looking around intently in the direction from where the shots originated.
"How the hell is he supposed to know that?" Mikkel questioned, firing his gun back at the T'Kri.
"Just cover us, Mikkel," Kiyel ordered, and moved from behind the tree to squat down beside Jev. "Consentrate, Jev. You're the only one that can tell us what we're up against before it's too late."
Jev closed his eyes, and his face took on a look of deep concentration, sweat beginning to form on his brow. "Three of them," Jev suddenly blurted out, his eyes opening.
"From where?" Kiyel asked.
Jev looked at his brother, who was still returning fire, but noticed that he was coming no where close to where the T'Kri were hidden. As carefully as he could, and with Kiyel following behind him, Jev made his way to his brother, who was seeking cover from a large rock.
"Mikkel, I need you to open your mind to me," Jev said.
"What? This is no time for mind tricks Jev," Mikkel exclaimed, firing off another shot that blasted into the trunk of another sapling.
"Just do it!" Jev whispered forcefully.
"Alright," Mikkel said, and Jev felt the natural barrier that was a part of his brother's mind give way to his mind. Reaching out, he again sought out the T'Kri, and found them behind some rocks only several yards away. He could see them almost as clearly as if he was standing in front of them, looking into their reptilian faces with their large black eyes, and pale scaly skin.
'You see them now?' Jev sent to his brother.
"Yes I do! How'd you do that?" he asked in wonder.
"No time to explain, just take care of the T'Kri before they call for reinforcements," Kiyel said.
"Right," Mikkel said, nodding, and with the picture of the T'Kris' positions still in his mind, he took careful aim and fired. His shot scored, and bored deep into the unsuspecting officer's skull, killing him instantly.
"One down, the others have taken cover," Jev said, his voice sounding distant.
"Stay with us, Jev," Kiyel said, resting a hand on his shoulder.
'The one on the left is about to try and flank us,' Jev sent. Immediately Mikkel switched his attention to the T'Kri officer on the left, and indeed he did begin to move, just as Jev said he would. Taking careful aim, Mikkel fired a single shot which found it's mark and felled the officer.
'He's still alive, but he's not going anywhere,' Jev sent.
"There's still one more," Mikkel said.
"Where is he?" Kiyel asked.
"About twenty yards to the right, just behind those rocks over there," Mikkel said.
"Fine, keep him busy," Kiyel said.
"What are you going to do?" Jev asked, noticing Kiyel about to leave.
"I'll be okay. Trust me," Kiyel said, giving Jev a quick kiss on his lips.
"Damn, I'm going to have to get used to seeing my brother in love," Mikkel joked, grinning at Jev, who was blushing furiously.
"Just make sure Kiyel doesn't get hit," Jev warned Mikkel.
"Don't worry Jev. I'm not going to let anything happen to your boyfriend."
"He's my Liej and my life mate," Jev said, his tone becoming serious.
"Don't be. Just keep that T'Kri busy." Mikkel did more than keep the lone T'Kri officer busy, as he fired a succession of rounds from his gun towards the rock that hid the T'Kri. In turn the officer only managed to fire off a few rounds, the rock he was hiding behind scorched black from all the hits it had suffered from Mikkel's gun.
"He's there," Jev whispered.
"You sure?" Mikkel asked, then saw the look in Jev's eyes. "Of course he is." He held out his gun, pointed in the direction of the last T'Kri, ready to fire in case something happened to Kiyel. Suddenly he heard a scuffle behind the rock ensure, which ended in a gurgling scream and a the sound of something snapping.
"It's over," Jev said, sighing heavily.
"Kiyel, is he..." Mikkel asked.
"He's okay. He caught the T'Kri by the neck in his jaws and broke it."
"Damn. Remind me not to mess with a Caitaran."
"Who Kiyel? He's harmless," Jev said, grinning mischievously at his brother.
"I don't think I want to know," Mikkel said, standing up and rolling his eyes at his brother, beginning to put his gun back in the holster."
"It's not like that Mikkel," Jev said, realizing what Mikkel must have thought he meant. "Kiyel and I have never, well, we've never got the chance to..." he started.
"Jev. I'm sorry. It's not an of my business. What you two do is between you an Kiyel. So long as he doesn't hurt you, I'm happy for you."
"He never would, Mikkel. Because he'd feel it if he did."
"Yeah, I guess he would at that," Mikkel admitted.
'Jev, get Mikkel to come over to the one he shot trying to flank our position, and make sure he has the gun ready,' Kiyel sent to Jev.
"Kiyel wants us to go to that T'Kri that you wounded," Jev told Mikkel.
"What's his condition?" Mikkel asked?
"Unconscious at the moment, but waking up slowly," Jev said after a slight pause. "You might want to keep your gun at the ready," he suggested. Mikkel nodded his head, and removed the gun once more from the holster at his side, pointing it down to the ground, and making sure the safety was on.
Slowly they made their way toward Kiyel, who was standing guard over the T'Kri officer. He had already relieved him of his weapon and was pointing it down at him. By the time they reached Kiyel, the T'Kri officer was beginning to regain consciousness, trying to sit up, but collapsing back to the ground, obviously in pain.
"You hurt him good Mikkel. He's bleeding internally. Without medical help, he won't last the day."
"Good. The less T'Kri we have to deal with the better."
"Actually, I want him to live," Jev said.
"You what?!" both Mikkel and Kiyel exclaimed at the same time.
"Babe, what for?" Kiyel asked.
"I've scanned this officer's mind. He's not just some lowly trooper. This one is actually responsible for an entire troop of soldiers. We need him alive to give us as much information as he can about the T'Kri movements."
"Jev, do you know how dangerous it is for you to scan his mind like that?" Kiyel asked.
"I've done it before, Kiyel. I didn't realize I've done it before, but I had before I met you."
"Just be careful, babe."
"I will, Kiyel. I promise. But we need that information if we're going to have any chance of evading the T'Kri patrols in the mountains."
"He's right, Kiyel. It's one thing to know those mountains and know how to hide from the T'Kri, but your crew aren't used to those hills, and the T'Kri are. We're going to need everything we can get, especially luck, if we're going to make it there without being discovered."
"Regardless, this T'Kri needs medical attention, and soon," Jev said, again pointing out the current situation.
"So what are we going to do? Carry him there?" Mikkel asked.
"We have no choice. We can't leave him here any ways. The other two will have to be dumped somewhere or burried so as to hide the fact that we were here. We're too close to the caves. If another patrol comes looking for this one, they're going to eventually come upon the caves, and then we'd be discovered. Whatever we're going to do, we need to do it tonight. But we need to hurry," Jev said.
"Since when did you get so smart little brother?" Mikkel asked, grinning at Jev.
"Since being linked with Kiyel and learning all he knows," Jev said, smiling back at his brother.
"He's got you there, Mikkel," Kiyel laughed.
"No fair, tag teaming!" Mikkel complained, though he too was laughing. Together the three of them dug a shallow grave, and dumped the bodies of the two dead T'Kri into them, covering them up and making it look as natural as possible. It wasn't fool proof, but it would have to do for now, and hopefully was enough to hide what happened here from any T'Kri that might follow after.
With the remaining T'Kri officer, they made a makeshift stretcher from two large branches and a blanket that Jev had brought with him in the pack. By now the surviving T'Kri officer had lapsed back into unconsciousness.
For the next hour, they trudged through the forest, the noise they were making heavier than they would have liked, but was unavoidable due to the load they were carrying. When they had reached the rock face, they found themselves face to face with three figures standing above them, guns raised and pointed at them.
"Don't shoot, it's us!" Kiyel called up to them.
"Kiyel?" the Captains voice answered back. "What is that you have there?" he asked.
"That, Captain, is insurance," Jev replied. "He's a high ranking T'Kri officer that we shot, on the way here."
"Do you have any idea of the consequences of what you're doing?" Kel asked.
"Yes, Captain, I do. But if we have any chance at all of making it through the mountains undiscovered, we're going to need all the information we can get."
"And this human beside you is the rebel you captured as well?"
"This human happens to be my brother, Captain. His name is Mikkel, and he's volunteered to help us."
"Very well. I assume that the T'Kri you have there is injured?"
"Yes, he is. And he's dying."
"Then I'll have Tiela do what she can for him. If we're going to get anything out of him, he won't be any good to us dead. Now get in the caves. We have some food on the fire."
"Um, guys, I couldn't understand a thing there, but I heard my name," Mikkel said.
"Oh, damn. I'm sorry, Mikkel. I forgot that Kiyel's crew still haven't learned how to speak English. I learned their language from Kiyel and just talk as they do when I'm around them.
"We can give them your language after we've gotten inside," Kiyel said.
"And after we've had something to eat," Jev added.
"Good, I'm famished!" Mikkel said.
"You're always hungry," Jev teased.
"Oh and you weren't? Who was it who ate half a birthday cake one night?" Mikkel returned.
"Hey, I was six years old and it was chocolate cake. You know how much I love chocolate," Jev said, now on the defensive.
"I know," Mikkel laughed. "I'm just teasing you. You never could beat me at that."
"One day," Jev mumbled, but it was loud enough for Mikkel to hear and he began laughing again at Jev. Jev wanted to glare at him, and pretend to be angry, but he couldn't and began to laugh himself.
"By the Gods if you two don't keep it down, we'll have the entire T'Kri base coming down on us," Kel complained.
"Let them," Jev said. "By the time they get here, we'll be long gone."
"Don't you think I'm the one who needs to make that choice?" Kel asked.
"Well, you'd better make it soon. We got into a fire fight with three T'Kri soldiers, one of whom is on that stretcher. That was only about an hour ago, and not too far from here. If other T'Kri pick up on our trail, they're going to find us soon."
"Damn!" Kel exclaimed. "We need more time. Oshi's awake now, but he's more like a zombie than the person he used to be, and Taaj is also awake, but I don't think he's in any condition to travel," he said, as they entered the cave.
"Alright, who got hurt this time?" Tiela said, seeing the stretcher with a body on it before noticing anyone else.
"Not any of us, Tiela," Kiyel said. "This is one of the T'Kri that attacked us and we brought him with us. He's badly wounded."
"And you brought him here?" Tiela asked incredulously. "You should have left him to die."
"Well, that's what we were going to do at first, until Jev scanned his mind and found out that this is a fairly high ranking officer. The information he can give us is more than worth the risk of bringing him here," Kiyel replied.
"And you leave it to me to clean up your mess," Tiela sighed.
"Tiela, that's not fair," Kiyel said.
"I know. I'm sorry, Kiyel. Of course I'll do what I can for him, but I can't promise anything. I'm just really tired right now."
"I don't doubt it," Kiyel said, leading the way with the injured T'Kri over to the rock Tiela used for a table. "How is Taaj and Oshi?"
"Taaj has a serious concussion, and is resting right now. Oshi. I don't know what to make of him. He's awake, and isn't seriously injured, but it's like he isn't there right now, in his head. When food is presented to him, he can eat, but other than that, he needs to be helped to do pretty much everything else, including taking care of his personal needs."
"And who's had to do that?" Kiyel asked.
"Actually, the Captain has. Even after all that Oshi has done, the Captain still wants to help him."
"Kel's a good man," Kiyel said simply.
"That he is," Tiela said, looking over at Kel who was seated by the fire beside Mikkel. Mikkel was doing his best not to show how hungry he was, and failing miserably. Jev was sitting beside his brother, chatting with him, the two of them catching up more on things that had happened since they last saw each other.
Kiyel caught the look in Tiela's eyes when she looked over at Kel, and began to chuckle lightly.
"What?" Tiela asked.
"Tiela, why don't you just ask him if he's interested in being with you."
"You mean a date?" Tiela asked, shocked that Kiyel could see right through her.
"That is what the humans called it, yes."
"Damn telepaths," Tiela mumbled, to which Kiyel simply laughed.
"Come on Tiela. I can see it in your eyes that you like him. And I'm sure he likes you as well, though he tries even harder than you to hide it."
"Maybe. But now is not the time. I have to save this T'Kri for questioning and then we've got to get everything packed up to move out of here."
"Just don't wait too long," Kiyel suggested, before heading over to the fire to sit down beside the love of his life. As soon as he sat down, Jev almost instinctively leaned into him, and allowed Kiyel to wrap his arms around him.
"This feels nice," Jev said, almost purring with pleasure.
"It does," Kiyel agreed.
"I love you," Jev said, looking up at Kiyel.
"I love you too, Jev," and bent his head down, kissing Jev lightly on his lips.
"That is so cool," Mikkel said from beside them.
"What is?" Jev asked, looking over at his brother.
"The way you two are so in love with each other. I'm glad that you found him Jev. I always knew you would, though I didn't expect it to be Kiyel."
"Neither did I. But it just felt right at the time, and it still does. I could never love another as much as I love Kiyel."
"I don't doubt it, little brother. I'm really happy for you."
"Thanks. What about you though? Isn't there someone special in your life?"
"Who has time for that? Seriously, the rebels keep me busy. I've had a fling or two with a couple of woman, but nothing serious."
"Well, when the time is right, the right person will be there."
"I certainly hope so," Mikkel laughed. "I actually don't plan on being single for the rest of my life."
"Oh please! You and I both know that it's going to take a really special woman to put up with you, brother," Jev said.
"Honestly, you're not too far off from the truth," Mikkel said, the smile on his face disappearing. "I'm constantly moving around, and can never sit still in one place."
"Well, one day you're going to find that girl, and you're going to fall in love and you're going to settle down and raise a family," Jev said.
"I don't want to start any family until after the T'Kri have been driven off this planet."
"That's what we're going to be doing, and real soon. All we need to do is get to the probe, and we'll be all set."
"And you know where in the mountains it is?" Mikkel asked.
"Well, not precisely. We haven't seen any maps of the area to pinpoint it. We were hoping that Taaj was going to be able to help us, but he's just woken up from a coma, and isn't in any shape to help us."
"What about showing me where the probe is just like you showed me where the T'Kri were in the forest. If I recognize the landmarks, I'd be able to lead you there and we wouldn't need a map."
"Damn, why didn't I think about that?" Jev asked.
"You can't think of everything, Jev," Kiyel said.
"I guess not. Okay, we'll try it." Jev reached over and touched his brother's hand, concentrating on his brother's mind until he felt the barrier give way once again. He shared with Mikkel the image of the probe and the surrounding landscape. He kept the image in Mikkel's mind until he was sure that Mikkel could remember exactly where the probe was.
"Wow. I still can't get used to that," Mikkel said, once Jev had let go of his hand. It was like I was flying over the mountains. It was so cool!"
"Yeah, it is kinda neat," Jev admitted. "Did you see something in what I showed you that you recognized?"
"I think so. I've never seen it from above like that, but some of the landmarks are familiar to me, and I know how to get there, though it's dangerously close to the T'Kri base."
"We know," Kiyel said. "But it's our only chance of getting help from the Cetani."
"It's a wonder that the T'Kri haven't found it by now," Mikkel said.
"From what I could see, the area around the probe hasn't been disturbed for many years. Maybe the T'Kri just haven't thought of exploring that area of the mountains," Jev said.
"Or maybe it's in an area that's not easy to get to," Kiyel pointed out.
"No, it's accessible, but the path to get there is very well hidden. We've known of the path's existence, but we've never come across any probe."
"The probe might be hidden from the ground, and only can be seen from above, or it might be that your people just didn't venture that far in," Jev said.
"It's possible I guess," Mikkel said.
"So how long would it take us to get there from here?" Kiyel asked.
"We'll need to travel for several days at least before reaching the mountains. It could take us as much as another day to navigate through them to reach the probe's location."
"Now all we need to do is question the T'Kri officer to find out what we can expect from his patrols in the area," Jev said, looking over at Tiela who was busy tending to the injuries the T'Kri officer sustained. "We'd better see if we can get anything out of him. The sooner we leave the sooner we can get these T'Kri off this world for good."
Together, they all made their way to Tiela, who was covering the wound with a large gauze bandage. The T'Kri was awake, but he looked as if he was petrified. He was lying on his back, stiff as a board, and looking in any direction other than one in which he saw the occupants of the cave. As Jev neared the T'Kri, the officer's eyes turned to him, and he began to recoil in fear, almost falling off the rock he was laying on.
'Damn, I'm going to have to hold him in place, Kiyel,' Jev sent.
'Just do it gently, babe. He's going catatonic, and you might not get much out of him,' Kiyel replied.
Jev reached out with his mind, and willed the T'Kri's body to lay still. It only seemed to make the fear the officer was feeling become even worse and he could feel it begin to withdraw into itself, as if the very sight, and touch, and smell of Jev was driving it insane. He tried to send the T'Kri soothing thoughts, in a desperate attempt to calm it down, but nothing he did seemed to work.
All of a sudden he felt, rather than heard, the T'Kri officer scream out once, and then there was nothing. Looking down at the T'Kri officer on the rock, he could see that it was clearly dead, the look of pure terror etched onto it's reptilian face.
"What happened?" Mikkel asked, in awe. In all the time he had been fighting the T'Kri, he had never seen that look on their faces, ever.
"Something about Caitarans drives the T'Kri into a catatonic state, until the fear they feel inside is too much for them. Basically it died of fright," Jev said. "I saw something similar back at the inn when a T'Kri officer barged into my room. It took one look at Kiyel, and a look of pure terror came over it."
"Damn, if that's how they react to you Kiyel, I wish you guys would have come here sooner," Mikkel said.
"What's bothering me is that this officer basically died from the touch of Jev's mind. The touch of a Caitaran," Kiyel said.
"But why? Why would a Caritaran cause so much fright in a species that you've never seen before?" Jev asked.
"I don't know, Jev. But this is something that will have to be reported to high command. Did you manage to get anything from him before he died?" Kiyel asked.
"No. I didn't even get a chance to try. As soon as it felt my mind reaching out to it, it began to withdraw into itself."
"But you were able to do it before, why not now?" Mikkel asked.
"Most likely because it couldn't identify me with a Caitaran. Once it saw me however, just my presence coming towards it was enough to send it into a catatonic state, and by my touching his mind like I did, it probably sped things up even faster. There was no way I could have been able to get any information from it."
"Then we're going to be going into those mountains blind," Kiyel said.
"Basically," Jev admitted.
"May the Gods protect us," Kiyel whispered, looking once more upon the dead T'Kri officer.
To Be Continued ...