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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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Before they left the caves, Jev and Kiyel had made sure that the rest of the crew would be able to communicate with Mikkel. It took the crew some time to get used to speaking English, but pretty soon were speaking it as well as Kiyel did.
The trek to the mountains was uneventful for the most part. With Mikkel, Jev, and Kiyel leading the way, they made good time, despite having to rest several times for Jev, who was still fairly week from his transformation.
"You push yourself too hard, Jev," Kiyel admonished him.
"I don't push myself hard enough," Jev replied, his voice hard and determined.
"Jev, you are no good to anyone exhausted. You know that," Mikkel said. We will rest here for a while and let you regain your strength. These mountains climb high into the sky, and the air here is thin, which you are not used to."
"None of us are, though we are trained to deal with worse," Kel stated, taking off his boot and shaking a few pebbles from inside.
"I know. We just need to get there as soon as possible," Jev sighed, knowing full well that they were correct. "I just have this funny feeling that we'll be too late, that the T'Kri will find it before we do."
"Babe, we may be good, but we're not that good. No one knows what we'll find once we reach the probe," Kiyel said, with a hint of humor in his voice.
"Behave, Kiyel," Jev replied, grinning at Kiyel's little joke. No matter what his mood, Kiyel always seemed to be able to get him out of it, and as he looked into the eyes of his mate, he saw the love and the passion of the one he had fallen in love with.
"At least I got you to smile," Kiyel laughed.
"And it is not fair," Jev countered, lightly punching Kiyel in his arm. "So what will you do once we reach the probe?" he asked Kel.
"I guess that would depend on the condition of the probe. If it is intact, and secure, then we will need to get inside and check the operability of it. The reason we came back to this planet in the first place was because the probe suddenly stopped transmitting. If we can get that working again, we'll be able to contact the Cetani."
"What would cause the probe to suddenly stop transmitting?" Jev asked.
"That, I would say, is what we need to find out. The probe was designed purposely to withstand most any normal environmental conditions. Either the probe arrived with defective components, which is highly unlikely considering the extensive testing they go through prior to launch, or it has suffered some very severe damage."
"If it's damaged, can it be repaired?" Mikkel asked.
"That depends on the damage done. The probe is equipped with several redundant systems, so its failure to transmit could be indicative of all back up systems being damaged as well. Thankfully, there are other back ups inside the probe, and even if the damage on the outside is severe, we should be able to get the transmitter to work. Provided there is power of course," Kel said.
"Well, let us hope then that that is the case. If the fuel cells are damaged, we're going to need an alternative power source," Kiyel said.
Nothing more was said as the group made their way through the jagged mountain pass. Several times they had to stop and take cover as a T'Kri shuttle flew overhead. With Mikkel leading the way, they soon came upon an open area which sat on the edge the mountain. On the far side was a shallow cave that seemed to have collapsed recently, a large pile of rocks and dirt partially covered the opening, and next to it were several tall bushes, which to Jev looked perfect for the crew to use as shelter in case any more T'Kri shuttles should fly over head.
"Captain, there's a large metal mass buried beneath that rubble," Jev said, standing before the cave and reaching out with his mind, focusing on the pile of rocks before him.
"This has to be it," Kel said, advancing quickly towards the rubble. "Jev, Mikkel, Kiyel, let's get this rubble cleared out of the way. I want to get under cover quickly before we are discovered by the T'Kri. Tiela, make sure that both Oshi and Taaj are kept safe."
"Don't you worry about them, Captain. You just worry about the probe. I'll take care of our crew," Tiela said.
"Never had a doubt in my mind," Kel said, allowing himself to smile slightly at Tiela. It was brief, but Tiela didn't miss it and began to think that Kiyel was right; that Kel did have an interest in her, and there was no way she could deny her feelings for Kel. If they ever got off this world, she knew what she wanted to do.
While Tiela was attending to Taaj and Oshi, the rest were busy uncovering the opening of the cave. It was slow going, as some of the rocks were very heavy, but soon they were able to see the scuffed surface of something metal. Seeing that, only made them redouble their efforts in removing the rubble from whatever was underneath. A soft moan from Tiela's side drew her attention away from the rest of the crew, and she moved over to Taaj who was beginning to stir for the first time.
"Taaj, rest easy. Try not to move," she said softly to him. She watched as Taaj slowly tried to open his eyes, only able to do so part way. He raised his arm to his head, and began to rub the bandaged area, groaning slightly when his fingers made contact.
"Where..." Taaj tried, his words slurred as if he had been drinking heavily.
"Shhh, don't speak. You've been injured and have a concussion. We've found the probe and we're trying to get access to it. You just rest. I will get you some water," Tiela said. Taaj could only nod his head, as he closed his eyes, resigned to the fact that he couldn't do much else. Reaching into one of the packs she had brought with her, she took out a flask of water, and uncorked the top. Turning back to Taaj, she gently lifted his head slightly, being careful to not touch the injury, and tipped the opening of the flask to his mouth. She watched closely as he began to drink, hungrily trying to get as much water as he could, until at last his thirst was satisfied.
"Thanks," Taaj whispered, as Tiela rested his head back down onto the cloth she had rolled up to cushion his head.
"You're welcome," Tiela replied, smiling down at him. Once again, Taaj tried to open his eyes, this time managing to open them all the way, though Tiela could tell he was having difficulties keeping things in focus.
"Everything's blurry," Taaj said.
"That's due to your concussion, Taaj. Don't worry, There is a med-kit in the probe for emergencies, and I'll be able to do more for you to help you with that, once we can get to it." Taaj nodded his head slightly.
"Tiela, we're through," Kel's voice called out suddenly, drawing her attention towards the mouth of the cave. Just inside was the probe, dented and marked from the rubble that had fallen on top of it, but otherwise it seemed to be in remarkably decent shape. She had forgotten just how large the probe actually was. She knew that it contained a small living area for emergencies, and had enough room inside to handle most of them. It would be cramped, but she knew they all could fit inside it if they had to, which she knew they did if they were to avoid being seen by the T'Kri. What she wanted most right now though were the medical supplies that were included on every probe.
"I'll be right back," she said to Taaj, then she stood up and walked over to the rest of the crew. "Is there any chance of getting inside?" she asked.
"Yes, if I can remember the combination for the door," Kel said, already beginning to tap away at a small control panel on the probe's surface. "Damn, there's not enough power to open the door," Kel said in frustration, hitting the panel.
"What about the power cell in the energy weapon that I have?" Mikkel said, suddenly remembering that he had it with him.
"It might work," Kel said, taking the weapon from him. After inspecting it for a few minutes, he found what he was looking for and removed the weapon's power source, which to Jev looked more like a battery he used in his old remote control cars he used to play with when he was a child. "Jaffey, crack open that panel and lets see if we can hot-wire the thing," he ordered.
"Aye, Captain," he responded, and cracked the control panel open, fishing out a couple of wires from inside and cutting them with some wire cutters he took from one of the packs they had brought with them. Kel then handed him the power cell from the weapon, and he attached the two leads to opposite ends of the cell. Once he did that, they all could hear a hissing sound, followed by an impression forming on the surface of the probe and a door sliding upwards.
"Wow," Jev and Mikkel said simultaneously, as they looked in awe at the interior of the probe. "I didn't think it was that big," Jev said.
"No, it never looks like it from the outside," Kiyel laughed.
"Don't let it fool you. There is lots of equipment inside there, and with all of us inside, it's still going to be very darn cramped," Kel pointed out.
"What about power?" Kiyel asked.
"Give me a second to find out," Kel said, and ducked inside. They couldn't see much due to the darkness inside, but thanks to his new eyes, Jev was able to make out Kel checking things out, moving a few boxes around and trying different switches and buttons on a couple of the consoles inside. Finally he saw him kick the bottom of one in frustration before heading back outside. "It's no use. All the power systems inside are dead," Kel said with disappointment.
"What about the med-kit?" Tiela asked.
"It's in there, and fully stocked," he said.
"Good, let me in there. Taaj woke up and I need to get some things for his head."
"Taaj is awake?" Kel asked, looking over to where Oshi and Taaj still lay.
"Yes, but right now I'm betting he's got one hell of a headache," Tiela replied.
"Then you had better take care of that," Kel said, standing aside to let Tiela in the probe."
While Tiela was inside gathering her medical supplies, the rest were gathered around by the probe discussing what to do about the power situation. No one had any ideas until Mikkel spoke up suddenly.
"What about the power cells from a T'Kri shuttle?" Mikkel asked.
"They might do, but getting our hands on one of those will be very risky," Kel said after some thought.
"Not as risky as you might think, Captain," Mikkel said, grinning slightly. "We managed to 'acquire' one during a raid last week. Its condition wasn't all that good, but we've been making repairs as best we could."
"Even if the power supply to the probe is intact, we could still use that shuttle!" Jaffey said.
"I agree," Kel said. "The question is, how to get that shuttle to us."
"Actually, that's the least of our worries. I didn't tell you, but I have a wrist com, and have been able to get in contact with the rebels the whole time," Mikkel said.
"Well why didn't you tell us that in the first place?" Jev asked, bewildered by Mikkel's admission.
"Come on, Jev. You may have been with these people for several days, but I hadn't. I'm not just going to call my captain and have him come out here without me knowing whether it's safe or not."
"You don't trust me?" Jev asked silently.
"I trust you, Jev. But I belong to a team now. I have to think of them first before I do anything," Mikkel said gently, seeing how uncertain Jev was.
"Mikkel is correct, Jev," Kel said. "Had I been in his position, I too would not have divulged that information. However, once you knew that we could be trusted, Mikkel, you should have told us sooner. We could have avoided this trek and working on the probe by now."
"Yes, Sir," Mikkel said, accepting the slight reprimand.
"With that being said, Mikkel, I would suggest you get in touch with your captain. There is much we need to discuss."
Mikkel rolled up the left sleeve of his shirt revealing something that to Jev looked more like a watch than a communicator. Mikkel saw Jev staring at the communicator and chuckled lightly.
"It's not one of ours, Jev. It was originally from the T'Kri. We reworked it so we could use them. Some of the people among the rebels are technical geniuses and found a way to get them to work on a frequency that the T'Kri haven't discovered."
"Ah, okay," Jev said in understanding.
Tapping a couple buttons on his communicator, Mikkel waited a second before holding it up to his face, and talking into it. "Mikkel to Captain Harris."
"Harris here. Just where the hell have you been, Mikkel?" the captain's voice demanded to know.
"Sir, you are not going to believe me, but what I am about to tell you is the truth. I'm up in the mountains, and I'm not alone."
"I think you had better explain yourself, Mr Bjorn," Captain Harris said.
"Yes, Sir. I'm right now with my brother and a few others up in the mountains."
"Your brother? So he survived the fire after all."
"Yes, Sir, he did. At the time he was taking a walk with a... friend," Mikkel said, pausing slightly while looking over at Kiyel.
"Mikkel, I may be an old soldier, but I'm not so old as to not recognize when someone is holding something back from me, now spill it," Captain Harris said impatiently.
"Um, well, they're not Human, Sir," Mikkel said.
"What do you mean? Not Human? Surely you cannot be with the T'Kri!"
"No, Sir, I'm not. But they are aliens."
There was a pause on the other end before Captain Harris' voice spoke again. "I see. And just what is it that these aliens want, Mikkel?"
"This is taking too long," Kel said in frustration, and grabbed Mikkel's wrist, bringing the communicator closer to him. "Captain Harris, this is Captain Kel of the scout ship Agiz. We are right now in the mountains near the main T'Kri base of operations, and we need your assistance."
"Ah, Captain Kel. You will understand if I don't exactly sound too thrilled at hearing of another alien race on Haven."
"I am aware of your problems with the T'Kri, Captain. And I sympathize. We have our own problems with the T'Kri. It was our scout ship they shot down."
"We thought that it was a space vessel that got shot down," Captain Harris said.
"Aye, Captain. Right now we are located next to a probe that we had launched to this world over ten of your years ago. It's purpose was to locate a planet that might be suitable for colonization."
"You say you've had a probe on this planet for ten years? Why is it then we have never discovered it?" Captain Harris asked.
"When we finally were able to locate the probe, it was found burried under a pile of rubble. It took us several hours to get it uncovered. Inside is a transmitter with which we can use to contact our main ship." When Kel got no response to what he had just said, he continued, "Captain, we are men of action. Soldiers. Let us leave future interactions between our people's in the hands of those best suited for those tasks. Right now we both have the same problem, and it would be advantageous for us to work together."
"You said you had a transmitter that could contact your ship. It has the fire power and the incentive to rid this world of the T'Kri?" Captain Harris asked finally.
"Yes, they do. When the T'Kri shot down our scout vessel, whether they realized it or not, they declared war on us. I can assure you that our people do not take kindly to anyone committing violence against us without provocation."
"And just what assurances can we have that after the T'Kri have been driven off this world, that we wouldn't be trading one conquerer for another?"
"You're an honest man, Captain, and I appreciate that. All I can do is give you my word that at no time will the Caitaran government attempt to seize control of this planet. You began this colony, and you have the right to continue to live here in peace. What my government may want is to open trade negotiations between our two peoples," Kel said.
"Captain, I agree with you, that we are men of action, and diplomacy is best left in the hands of the diplomats. My only question now is, why contact us? If you have the probe, why do you need our help?"
"For reasons which we are unable to determine at this time, our probe has lost all power. Even the back up systems are inoperative. Mikkel has informed us that you have acquired a T'Kri shuttle. It is possible we could use the fuel cells on board that shuttle to power the transmitter and bring the Cetani here," Kel said.
"That sounds reasonable, even though I am slightly perturbed by Mr Bjorn's admission that we had a shuttle in our possession ."
"Time is of the essence, Captain," Kel said.
"Call me, John," Captain Harris said.
"Thank you, John. You may call me Kel. Are you able to fly the shuttle to this location?" Kel asked.
"We will have to wait for the cover of darkness, but we should be able to. We would need the co-ordinates for your location," John said.
"I will have Mikkel give you the co-ordinates since he knows this area better than we do," Kel said.
"That will be acceptable, Kel. Is there anything you wish for us to bring with us?"
"I would recommend you bring as many people as you can comfortably fit on the shuttle. We do not have room in the probe to accommodate you, so whoever you bring will need to sleep in the shuttle. Seeing as how we are so near the T'Kri base, I would suggest that each member of your team come armed. Also, if you could, enough rations and water to last us for at least a week. I do not know how long it will take for us to adapt the T'Kri power cell to our probe's systems."
"Understood, and I agree. We should be there within an hour after nightfall," John said.
"I look forward to meeting you, John."
"As do I, Kel. Harris out," John said before the communicator went dead.
"Well, that's that. They should be here in another couple hours," Kel said.
"Captain, I can understand you wanting them to bring the shuttle, but why ask them to be armed? We don't exactly have any weapons you know," Jaffey pointed out.
"Because I want them to feel secure in our presence. I want them to trust us so that we can work together. Having them come armed will help ease any tensions that might arise," Kel said.
"Understood, Captain," Jaffey said.
"Jev, you okay?" Kiyel asked quietly.
"I don't know." Jev replied, "I mean, they are my own people, but then again, they're not. It is going to feel strange to be among them again."
"You are truly Caitaran, Babe," Kiyel laughed.
"Yes, I am," Jev said, smiling for the first time since Mikkel had used his communicator.
"Here it comes," Jev announced, startling the rest of the crew who were huddled just inside the cave next to the probe.
"What?," Kel said, getting to his feat, followed by the rest of the crew, including Kiyel.
"The shuttle. It's on it's way," Jev said, turning to look at him. "Don't you hear it?"
"I hear nothing," Kel said, obviously straining to hear the faintest hint of an approaching shuttle.
"It's coming in low, from over there," Jev said, pointing towards the west most side of the mountain.
"I still hear nothing," Kel said. "Are you certain?"
Kiyel closed his eyes and reached out to Jev through their link, focusing on his senses. And there, exactly where Jev was pointing to, was the shuttle. It wasn't that Jev had heard the approach of the shuttle, but rather felt it's movement. Something which surprised Kiyel. "He's right, Captain," Kiyel said at last, opening his eyes. "There is a shuttle approaching from the west.
"Are they the rebels or more T'Kri?" Kel asked.
"Unkown. I can't tell."
"I can. They are the rebels. Their minds are Human," Jev said. "There are no T'Kri on the shuttle."
"Are you certain?" Kel asked Jev, turning back to him.
"Quite certain, Captain. After being inside the T'Kri officer's head, I should know what a T'Kri feels like."
"Of course," Kel said, looking questioningly at Kiyel.
"Jev's talents are uncharted, Captain. If he says it's the Humans, I'd trust him. But now I'm beginning to hear the shuttle. We'd better prepare for its arrival.
"Quite right," Kel said, and turned to face the rest of his crew. "Tiela, make sure both Oshi and Taaj are properly protected. I don't know how much dust and debri the shuttle will fling about, but we don't want their conditions to grow worse because of it. Jaffey, you and Kiyel find a way to get some lights on in the probe using the power cell from Mikkel's weapon. Jev. Keep an eye on that shuttle. I am sure you know who is on it, but I don't want to take any chances," Kel ordered.
"Understood, Captain," Jev said, nodding his head slightly.
"Let's move, People," Kel shouted, and set to work with Tiela getting her two patients prepared for the shuttle's arrival.
Jev listened as the shuttle slowly made it's way up the mountain. It was amazing to him that he not only could hear the shuttle's advance, but also sense it. He opened his mind up farther and saw everything that was around it. 'Damn, they're hugging close to the ground,' Jev thought.
'They are trying to avoid being seen,' Kiyel sent to him, causing Jev to jump slightly as he wasn't expecting Kiyel to reply.
'Sorry,' Jev sent back to him, knowing that Kiyel sensed his being startled.
'Don't be, you are still getting used to this,' Kiyel sent, chuckling slightly.
'Whoever is piloting that shuttle is damn good,' Jev sent. 'He's not even coming close to hitting anything and they're in a very narrow passageway right now.'
'Well, you can show your admiration for his piloting skills when they get here. There is no doubt? They are the rebels?' Kiyel asked.
'Yes. And there are eight others with him,' Jev answered, reaching out to touch the minds of those in the shuttle. 'One of them is familiar with Mikkel.'
'A lover?' Kiyel asked.
'Possibly. Whoever it is is female, and she is very anxious to see him.'
'We will know soon enough,' Kiyel sent.
'They are here,' Jev sent. Just then the nose of the shuttle rose up from the side of the mountain. He could feel the hot air being emitted from the engines of the shuttle as it flew past him. Jev watched as it hovered slightly above them, the Caitarans watching it as it slowly settled to the ground. It was almost silent as it finally landed, the landing struts absorbing the weight of the shuttle with a slight bounce. The pilot inside had already begun to shut off the engines, and the rear hatch of the shuttle began to open up, revealing several uniformed people inside. A tall man, who Jev guessed to be in his early fifties by his salt and pepper hair, walked out of the shuttle, glancing at everyone assembled by the hatch.
"I am Captain Johnathan Harris, formally of the Earth Defense Force, and leader of the rebel forces on Haven."
"I am Captain Kel Lhevik, of the scout ship Agiz."
"Captain, on behalf of my officers, I would like to welcome you to Haven," John said, holding out his hand towards Kel.
"Thank you, Captain. I just wish we could have met under better circumstances," Kel answered, shaking John's hand in greeting. "Allow me to introduce my crew. To my right is Lieutenant Jaffay; my tactical officer, to his right is crewman Kiyel; ship's telepath. To my left is Tiela; my chief medical officer, to her left is Lieutenant Taaj; my navigations officer. Behind us on the stretcher by the probe is my first officer, Commander Oshi. You already know Mikkel," Kel said, pointing out each of the crew in turn.
Upon hearing his name called, Mikkel stepped forward and faced John. "Captain, Lieutenant Bjorn reporting for duty," he said, snapping to attention and saluting.
"At ease, Lieutenant. I will be expecting your report after we've completed the repairs to the probe."
"Aye, Captain," Mikkel said.
"Captain. You neglected to mention the last of your crew, I believe it is the one standing beside Kiyel. And where is Jev, Mikkel's brother?" Johnathan inquired.
"Captain," Jev said stepping forward. "I am Jev Bjorn."
To Be Continued ...