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This series will include detailed descriptions of sexual encounters between a human male and other males from various alien races in a science fiction setting.

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About the story:

This series tells the story of an ordinary man who's life is near its natural end, but who suddenly finds himself, at the moment of the unexpected destruction of his world, the victim of an alien abduction with a bizarre motive, that ultimately opens the entire universe to him and propels him into a life of adventure that he'd never imagined was even possible.  He eventually finds himself thrust front and center into events that could, both figuratively and quite literally, change the shape of the entire known universe.

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Favors of the First Ones - Chapter 14

As Jake began to rise back up to consciousness he realized he was being gently shaken by Rhokki.

It was beginning to get darker outside and night was fast approaching.  He'd been sleeping comfortably and there was not going to be any video link with Komakwa tonight so Jake wasn't sure why the cat was waking him up.

Rhokki's face was close to Jake's and he spoke in a whisper, "Jake, wake up please.  We must speak."

Jake realized he'd already been untied.  He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes while Rhokki switched on the light on the low table next to the cot.

"What is it?" Jake asked quietly.

"I have some disturbing news.  I've told the Zeth about my intention to convince my people to break ties with Troska's group.  He informed me that that may not be the best course of action but that he would not interfere.  He asked what my motivation was and I explained the behavior of the bulls and the dishonor of Troska in not keeping his word regarding your treatment if you and Komakwa did not go against him.  I impressed upon him as best I could the fact that Troska is insanely driven by his extremist beliefs and intense hatred and would do more harm to our cause than good.  I informed him that I intended to spirit you and Komakwa away from here.  He was unhappy about that but again he said he would not interfere.  I attempted to convince him to move to our ship with us and he said that he would consider it and make his decision when the time came."

"That doesn't sound so bad to me.  What's the disturbing part?" Jake asked.

"That part came afterward, when I left the Zeth's tent to walk back through the camp to this one.  I passed the communications tent and heard Troska's voice coming from it, so I slipped into the shadows and worked my way around to the back of the tent to listen in.  I heard the temporary leader here speaking with Troska back on their home world.  The mad bull was telling him that the boy had succeeded in convincing his father to join their religion and that Mogwo would have the procedure to purge the favors from his body performed even while Komakwa was doing his trial here on the planet."

"OK, I'm still not seeing the problem.  Isn't that what everyone wants?" Jake asked.

"Yes, it is.  However, as I mentioned before, the boy may not be a strong strategist and this lends more weight to that impression.  He most likely approached his task with enthusiasm in order to quickly bring his part of this to a conclusion so that he could simply return to being with you.  Troska likely added pressure by telling the boy he would not be reunited with you until his part was done.  If Komakwa were wiser, he would have held off until the forty days were over and he was back on his home world in the safe proximity of his father before he convinced him to follow through.  Mogwo is still not aware of his son's close involvement with Troska's militant group and he also still believes that Komakwa's trial on this planet will be a normal and valid one with Komakwa being on his own for forty days.  As long as he still has his favors Mogwo cannot be informed of any of the truth.  He is not aware of Troska's group's presence here on the planet.

"Now that Komakwa has convinced his father to proceed with the purging of his favors even while the boy is away on his trial, Troska will be able to work with Mogwo directly and tell him the truth of everything about the First Ones and even his wife's involvement in trying to aid the Zeth to bring them down.  There is no doubt that he will be able to manipulate Mogwo without the aid of Komakwa from that point forward given their long standing relationship combined with the fact that Troska so recently rescued the boy from his predicament on this planet.  That puts you in extreme danger.  Troska told the temporary leader here that you have outlived your usefulness.  They no longer have need of you as the boy has already played his part and the father will be without the favors and easily brought into the movement.  The guard here asked what was to be done with you and Troska told him you were to be held until his return so that he could have the pleasure of dealing with you himself."

"Shit.  I sense a crowbar in my skull's future.  What about Mak?"

"Komakwa is in danger as well.  Troska no longer needs him and the boy has been a thorn in his side.  He told the guard that Komakwa still thinks he is to be reunited with you and that he will be waiting anxiously to be picked up and returned to you.  Once brought back here they are to place the boy in restraints and Troska will deal with both of you when he returns.  It is clear that he intends harm to the boy.  If it ever got back to Mogwo that Troska restrained Komakwa it would be the end of the old bull.  The fact that he has ordered that Komakwa be held indicates quite clearly to me that he intends to take the boy's life."

"How the hell can he do that?  Mogwo would kill him!"

"Remember, Mogwo believes that Komakwa is going through a normal ascendance trial.  It doesn't happen often, but occasionally a boy does not survive the trial and is never found.  If he does not return to the appointed place for his pickup in forty days it will be assumed he did not survive his ascendance and under their ancient laws no search will be performed on the sacred planet.  He will be assumed dead and Mogwo would have no reason to be suspicious that it was anything more than unfortunate failure on his son's part.  Troska need only make sure that Mogwo never find out the truth about what happened here.  That means that my own life is likely in jeopardy as well, though no mention of that was made by the guard as I listened in on their conversation.

"One fortunate side effect of my impotence where it regarded protecting you from the bulls is that they do not see me as any sort of threat.  In fact, they almost don't see me at all.  I am still just the Zeth's translator so I am allowed to wander the camp freely.  I'm afraid that may change in time.  Troska may not know about my feelings toward you and his mind may not yet be making the connection but eventually he will come to realize that I must die in order to protect his secrets even though it would put their communication with the Zeths in jeopardy.  He is being driven by his intense hatred of you and what you share with the boy."

Jake's heart began to race.  Once again that bastard of an insane old butler was trying to destroy what Mak and Jake shared.  This time it seemed he was going to kill them both and probably Rhokki as well.

"There has to be something we can do," Jake said, "When will your ship arrive?"

"Not for almost a week.  It will be far too late.  The communication tent is closely guarded and the equipment requires a code to be entered to function and I do not know it.  I am unable to contact my people to let them know what is happening to have them accelerate harder to reach here sooner.  Even if they did, it would still take them a couple of days and it would still be too late.  Whatever Troska is planning for the two of you, he will likely do it as soon as he flies back here from their home world.  There will be a delay as I have learned that in honor of Troska's rescue of Komakwa, Mogwo has asked Troska to be the religious representation for the boy's ascendance ceremony.  That means Troska will be on the shuttle with Komakwa, his father, and others from the ascendance committee when they bring the boy over to this planet.  Troska will take part in the ceremony and then he will fly back to their home world in the shuttle with everyone else when they leave the boy behind.  He will have to fly back here on his own after that so it will be at least twenty four hours from when they leave Komakwa here, and Troska is able to fly back to this planet.  We have to get away from here and we have to get to the site where Komakwa will be abandoned and take him away with us.  We will have one day from tomorrow morning to put some distance between us and this camp before Troska gets involved."

"How will we find the site where they drop Komakwa?  Are we close to it?" Jake asked.

"There is one other piece of critical information I overheard Troska say in his communication to the leader here.  He said, 'I need you to wait until noon before you fly out to the volcano.  We need to give enough time for the shuttle to leave orbit after the ceremony.  We can't let them see the scout ship going in to pick up the boy.'  That tells me that the start of Komakwa's trial will happen at the volcano that is near this camp.  That may be the reason this camp was set up here in the first place.  I've observed that volcano in the past and it will make our job in finding Komakwa easy.  The volcano backs on to a very high mountain range.  They can't drop the boy in the mountains.  They are too steep and rocky and he wouldn't have a chance there.  There is no safe location to land there anyhow.  The leeward side of the volcano has frequent lava flows spilling down the side, so that is off limits as well.  That means they must drop him on the side closest to this camp.  This side of the volcano is smooth and there is a forested area at the bottom of it.  They will likely land right near its base and do the ceremony there.  Komakwa will have been told by Troska that he is going to be picked up and he'll be waiting patiently for the scout ship to come for him.  If we can get there before they drop him we will be in position to see precisely where the shuttle comes down and we will locate him quite easily.  He will be waiting for his pickup so he will not move."

"Good, so we know where he'll be and we should be able to find him.  How can we escape these people?  Could we steal one of their ships?" Jake asked.

"No, not unless you know how to fly it.  I certainly don't.  I know a bit about them but I never learned to fly.  It brings up a good point though.  They have only the one scout ship here at present.  It is the one they will use to fly over to pick up Komakwa once he's been abandoned.  I will need to disable it before we escape in order to prevent them from being able to pick him up.  If I do it carefully they will not even know that it will be useless to them until the moment they get aboard it to go and get the boy.  I worked on the engineering crew on one of our ark ships years ago before I was selected to work with the zeth.  I know enough about antimatter fuel systems to render it inoperable.  They will ultimately be forced to wait another day for Troska to arrive with the other ship, or they will have to proceed on foot to go and get Komakwa.  Either way it will give us a great deal of extra time to get to Komakwa and bring him along with us and put a good distance between us and this camp.  We will have to escape here on foot under cover of darkness tonight."

"Do you think we can do it?" Jake asked.

"Yes, I think we can.  These people are lax and undisciplined and they keep exterior lights in the camp to an absolute minimum at night.  There will be guards outside of this tent as always but I can deal with them quite swiftly and easily provided I only need to deal with one at a time so that neither can raise an alarm.  You can help me with that."

"Why bother taking out the guards?  It's just a tent.  Can't we cut our way out the back side of it?"

"We might be able to but it would not be easy.  The tent is one piece and the material it's made of is incredibly strong and intended to protect against the long, sharp claws and teeth of some very effective predators.  There would also be the danger of the guards or someone else seeing us.  The two guards who cover this tent always stand at the two front corners so they would see any attempt to go out the sides.  The back of this tent faces back towards the latrine area which is one of the few places where they have an external light throughout the night and it is the one place where others are more likely to appear unexpectedly and spot us.  It would be better for us to make our exit from the camp forward of this tent and to the left toward the edge of the camp where it is darker.  It would be easier and much safer to deal with the guards out front and make sure they will be no threat to us.  The rest of the camp will be essentially empty as all of the others will be in their bunks.  If we take out the guards and stick to the darkness, our escape is nearly guaranteed."

"OK, so how do we safely take out the guards without them raising an alarm?" Jake asked.

"I've noticed that each time I leave here at night with your bed pan, one of the guards looks in to see that you are securely tied.  If I leave one of your feet improperly tied and you make sure he notices, he will probably come in and secure you properly himself.  At that point I will take down the remaining guard outside quietly by breaking his neck.  I need to go around the tent and back toward the latrine so it will be an easy thing to come back up behind the other guard.  It will take only a moment to kill him and I will immediately come into the tent behind the second guard and deal with him while he is facing you.  I only need you to struggle enough with your foot to make him take a bit of time to get you tied up to ensure that I have time to slip into the shadows and move around back to the guard who remains outside.  You should make a small amount of noise too by arguing with the guard about leaving you untied for a change, or something along those lines, to help cover any sound of a scuffle from outside.  Anything you can do to buy me a bit of time and cover any sound I might make would help."

"That sounds simple enough, but couldn't you just leave me untied so I can help?"

"No.  I would not want to put you at risk.  As long as you are tied up you are no threat to them and they will not harm you.  I suspect you are not an experienced killer, but I have killed many in my time.  Besides, if he noticed you were completely untied, he would not risk handling you alone and would likely involve the other guard and we would lose the ability to split them up and take them down quietly.  If it is only the one foot he'll assume I did a poor job tying you and he won't see it as any risk to him and will simply come in to fix it."

"OK, got it.  What then?" Jake asked.

"We would have to act quickly from that point as there are some that patrol the entire camp through the night to ensure no predators come in from the forest.  We should be able to slip out quickly without being seen and if we move swiftly through the darkness we should be able to put some distance between us and the camp before they realize what happened."

"Do you think they'll be able to track us easily?"

"We will make it as easy for them as possible to do so, at least at first," Rhokki said.

"Huh?  Why would we do that?"

"To send them off in the wrong direction.  They will not be aware that we know the location of the trial, or that they intend to put you both to death.  They will likely simply assume we ran off because of what they did to you with the plant today and they will be concerned that they went too far and will have to face the mad bull's wrath.  If I know their nature they will not even try to alert Troska of our escape.  They will be in a blind panic to do all they can to bring us back before Troska returns to the camp the day after tomorrow and that will hopefully work to our advantage if we send them the wrong way to begin with.  They are already not the brightest individuals and they will likely be scrambling like idiots when they realize they've lost Troska's prize and rendered their movement unable to communicate with the Zeths all because they pushed their perversions too far."

"So, how do we send them off in the wrong direction?" Jake asked.

"There is a river not far from the camp.  It is the source of their fresh water.  The river flows down from the mountain range that runs back toward the volcano."

"Yes, I remember seeing both the mountains and the volcano.  The river you're talking about is probably the same one Mak and I crossed when we headed back toward the wreckage of the ship we crashed in."

"Most likely.  This general area is often used for the trials and Komakwa likely knew it and wanted to get more familiar with it on that night that he stole the ship from his home and that is how you ended up crashing near it.  My people tend to be more active at night and we are quite comfortable in forests and jungles.  Sometimes I have gone out into the night to explore while you slept.  I took great pleasure in stalking the local animals to keep my abilities sharp.  I have become quite familiar with the surrounding area for miles, even back to the volcano.  You and I will exit the camp at the back and make our way toward the river in a direction away from that of the volcano.  We'll make sure that the bulls will easily be able to follow our tracks.  We will go all the way to the river and then cross it, but come up even a bit further down the other side.  We will leave tracks in the muddy banks and it will be clear to them what direction we are heading and it will be away from the volcano, not towards it.

"We'll follow along beside the river a short way leaving clear tracks and then begin to veer slightly away from it just as we reach a rocky part along its shore that I know of.  It will be a simple thing to avoid leaving tracks on the rocks.  We will use that opportunity to quickly go back into the river and follow it in the opposite direction, back past the camp and towards the volcano.  It will still be dark of night and they will hopefully not have discovered our escape yet.  When they eventually realize the guards are dead and find us gone tomorrow morning, they will locate our tracks and begin their search for us in the entirely wrong direction.  They will follow our tracks across the river and as far as the rocks and then they will waste a great deal of time trying to locate where we came out on the other side.  When they don't find any tracks past the rocks they will likely assume we went back into the river and they will no doubt continue to search along its banks in the same incorrect direction trying to find where we emerged from it again.  It will likely take them a long time to decide to search in both directions.

"We should have plenty of time to make it all the way to Komakwa's location even before they drop him off.  It should not take us more than ten hours to get that far if we move as quickly as we can.  When they attempt to fly there to pick the boy up they will realize the ship had been sabotaged and they will likely set off on foot to retrieve him but it will take them at least ten hours to reach him as well, but they will only be starting their journey after we've already picked up Komakwa and started running further onward.

"They will be able to track us once they get to the site where Komakwa is abandoned and they will follow us from there, but we will have a significant head start and we should be able to shake them from our trail, though it may be difficult.  From that point on we will sleep by day under cover and travel at night.  My night vision is very effective and I can lead us easily without requiring any light whatsoever.  We only need to keep from being caught for a little less than a week and my people's ship will arrive and pick us up.  The biggest problem will be Troska.  When he returns with the other scout ship they will be able to search for us much more easily from the air, but if we're very careful and do not travel by day we should manage to stay out of their grasp."

"How will your people find us if we have no way to communicate?"

"I have a tracking device interfaced to the translator in my head that will pinpoint my location for them once they are in orbit.  They will know when they arrive and find that I am not in the camp that something is wrong and they will use the locater to find me.  At that point there will be no problem getting the three of us off the planet."

"You seem to have everything covered.  This all seems to come so easily to you.  If I ever need a strategist from here on out, you're my guy, OK?" Jake asked.

The lion smiled and nodded.

"So when do we get started?" Jake asked.

"Soon.  It is nearly nightfall and the camp is already quieting down.  I will need to go out and deal with their scout ship.  I should have no problem getting into it.  They are extremely lax here as I said and once darkness falls, I can blend with the shadows easily.  I will pull the antimatter routing module so they will not be able to power the engines.  They have a spare, but I know where it is.  They will not be able to locate either once they discover there is a problem and even if they do, they will be quite non-functional.  I will make sure of that."

"Would it be possible for you to simply hide them, or at least one of them, where only you could find it instead of wrecking them?" Jake asked.

"I could, quite easily.  The module is very small and I could bring both of them back here with me, why do you ask?"

"We may not know how to fly one of those ships, but Mak does.  This camp will empty pretty much completely when they fan out to search for us.  Some of them will be searching back in the wrong direction and maybe some will be searching back up river in the other direction.  They'll have another party off on foot to go and get Mak.  There would be no more than a few left here.  They would likely leave no more than one or two behind to guard the camp from wild animals.  If there were some way we could sneak back here, something they wouldn't expect, we could steal the ship and Mak could fly us to a much safer location or even off planet to wait for your ship," Jake explained.

The lion grinned and said, "I believe I would be happy to share the position of strategist with you.  That is a brilliant idea.  They will not see that one coming.  We shouldn't have much trouble circling wide of the path they will be taking out to Komakwa's pick up site.  We would be leaving that location right about the same time they would be leaving this camp to go there.  We would arrive back here right about the same time they will be arriving there and it would be nightfall again.  We would have no problem entering the camp without being seen and taking the ship.  We would be long gone before Troska arrives with the other ship the next morning.  You would make a good rhuxus indeed.  We think more along the lines of efficient stealth rather than frontal assault."

Jake smiled and said, "I was a corporate executive for my whole previous life so fighting doesn't really come naturally to me.  I prefer to avoid direct physical confrontation even though the dents in my head might suggest otherwise."

Rhokki chuckled, "I love to fight, though only when the odds are even.  Leave the fighting to me if it comes to it."

Jake smiled and nodded.

Rhokki said, "The rucksack here in the tent is still full of food.  I will bring another so we will have plenty and will not need to stop to deal with acquiring additional food for at least a couple of days."

"Sounds good.  I'm ready when you are," Jake said.

"I will return when I'm ready to proceed.  I'll need you to make sure you have something for the bed pan so that I'll have a reason to take it out tonight as usual."

"What the hell?  Is there no end to the demands you'll place on me?" Jake joked, "You mean I have to not only lie here in bed while you do a few simple tasks like plan our entire escape, sabotage a scout ship, secure our food, take out two guards and deal with the evidence of that, then lead us off into the night keeping the enemy off our tails, but you're gonna make me take a shit in a pan too?"

Rhokki chuckled and said, "You're right and I do apologize.  It is unfair of me to place such a burden on you.  If you hold the pan I will gladly take a shit in it to save you the effort."

"Sheesh.  If you're gonna make me hold the pan I may as well take a shit in it myself then.  I guess when I think about it that would make our workloads about equal.  I'll lie here in bed and when the time comes I'll take a dump.  You do all that other stuff and we'll be even," Jake said.

Rhokki grinned and said, "Lie back then, I need to tie you up before I go out.  I will be back with the other rucksack by the time darkness falls completely.  The sooner we start moving the better."

Jake nodded and said, "Be careful out there."

He lay back on the cot again and Rhokki tied him up and then stroked his head briefly while smiling at him, then he turned and left to do all the work.

One of the guards poked his head in the tent right after Rhokki left and checked to ensure Jake was tied up.  This time, however, instead of simply pulling his head back out and returning to his post, he muttered something to the other guard and then he came right into the tent.

He grinned as he walked up to Jake on the cot and said, "It wasn't fair that they gave you the afternoon off from your duties.  I didn't even get a chance to use you today.  I had to guard your ass all night so I was still sleeping this morning."

Without saying any more he undid the tie on his shorts and dropped them down to the floor and stepped out of them.  His massive cock was already beginning to emerge from the leathery base and it continued to harden up as he stroked it.

He turned and straddled the cot and lifted his tail and lowered his asshole over Jake's mouth and waited while he continued to stroke his cock.

His asshole was covered in his old shit and Jake had no choice but to work at it with his tongue until it was completely clean.  The bull then reached back with his left hand and pulled his butt cheek away a bit to open his anus.  It was obvious he wanted Jake's tongue right up in his rectum.  Jake complied and pointed his tongue and pushed it as hard as he could until it spread the bull's anus and went inside.  He tongued the dirty sphincter while the bull moaned and continued to stroke himself.

Jake felt the bull's massive scrotum begin to tighten up on his chin as the guard moaned and stroked at his cock harder while Jake tongued his ass and then suddenly the bull stood back up and turned around as his breathing became short and he jacked his massive cock even faster.  He aimed the blunt end of his long tool right at Jake's face and grunted and a long, thick spurt of bull semen shot out onto Jake's forehead.  The bull grunted again and another jet shot out onto his cheek.

The bull kept on moaning and jacking his thick cock and spurt after spurt of his cum shot out to cover Jake's face.

When he finished, the bull flicked the end of his softening cock a few times at Jake's face to get the last oozing bits cum off and then stepped back into his shorts and pulled them up and walked out of the tent without a word.

He'd left Jake lying there, tied to the bed, with thick bull semen coating his face.

No sooner had the one guard left, than the other one came in and pulled down his shorts.

He chuckled and said, "I see you're one of those gay boys who likes to put on facial cream when you go to sleep.  I think you missed a few spots.  I can help you with that."

He then pushed the wide, blunt end of his cock against Jake's lips and the man had no choice but to open wide and let him in.

The bull did not last long at all.  He began to grunt and thrust at Jake's mouth but he didn't push himself down into Jake's throat.  He stroked his shaft while he humped at Jake's face with just the head of his cock and before long he grunted and a thick spurt of his cum shot out into Jake's mouth.  The bull then pulled his cock out and continued to stroke while he shot the rest of his load out onto Jake's face to merge with the thick cum from the other guard.

When he was done and his cock began to soften up he shook it over Jake's face to make sure every last drop of cum fell on him while it retracted back into its base.

He pulled up his shorts and walked out to return to his post.

Jake waited patiently for Rhokki to return while the cum oozed down his face and began to dry.  He hoped the big cat would keep his cool when he saw what the guards had done.

A little more than an hour passed and it was completely dark outside by the time the lion returned.

He took one look at Jake's face and he stopped and hesitated and let out a low growl as though he was going to turn around and go deal with the guards, but then he shook himself and came forward and dropped the rucksack he was carrying beside the cot and untied Jake.

He then went to get the cloth and bucket.

Jake held out his hand to take the cloth and clean his own face but the lion ignored it and proceeded to clean Jake's face thoroughly himself.

"It will be a pleasure to do what I am about to do to them," the lion growled in a low voice as he finished and then kissed Jake on the forehead.

Jake smiled and said, "I won't mourn their passing either.  I'm ready when you are."

Rhokki nodded and said, "I have disabled the scout ship.  Both routing modules are in the rucksack with our food and water.  We are ready, but for one thing."

He pulled out the bed pan from under the cot and smiled as he handed it to Jake.

Jake took it and filled it up then handed it back and said, "There, my part was a complete success.  You should have no problem with the rest."

The lion smiled and set the bed pan down as Jake lay back on the bed again.

Rhokki tied him up but simply wrapped the cord around Jake's right ankle loosely.

He then picked up the pan and walked out of the tent.

Jake immediately began to work his foot while he waited for the guard to peek in.  Sure enough, the guard's head appeared while Jake was making a show of trying to get his foot free and the guard looked closer and realized the bindings weren't done up.

He muttered something to the other guard and then came right in the tent again.

He walked up to Jake and stood over him and said, "Well, look at our little escape artist here.  You'd need more than one foot free to get out of here you know.  You wouldn't last more than a few minutes out there anyway even if you got away somehow.  There are predators out there that would make you shit yourself."

"I wasn't really trying to get away.  I just missed your cock so much already, I wanted to give you an excuse to come back in here," Jake said.

The bull chuckled and said, "I knew you loved every minute of the treatment you've been getting.  I just came on you an hour ago, but I guess I can coax another load out if you're that desperate for my spunk.  I'm not hard though, you'll have to fluff it up for me."

The bull then undid his shorts and pushed them down to his ankles and Jake made a point of moaning at the sight of the bull's sweaty genitals as they were released and the bull chuckled again.

Jake just wanted to keep the level of sound up a bit to try to muffle anything going on outside.

The bull took the thick, flaccid, leathery base of his cock in hand and moved it towards Jake's mouth.

Jake opened wide and let the bull slip the dirty end of it in to his mouth and he moaned fairly loudly as he sucked.  He could feel it stiffening up already and the blunt, pink, fleshy end of the bull's penis began to stretch out of the base into Jake's mouth.

Rhokki was definitely practiced at being stealthy because Jake did not even realize the big cat was in the tent before he saw a large paw quickly cover the bull's face while another clamped on to the back of his head and the lion twisted violently and Jake heard the sickening crunch of the bull's vertebrae separating and severing his spinal cord.

Rhokki had a cold look in his eye and an unsettling smile on his face as he lowered the bull's limp body to the floor.

He began to untie Jake as he said, "The leather shorts you were wearing when they captured you are in the rucksack.  Put them on, then come out and help me with the guards.  I will need to turn out the light now to make the rest of the camp think we're asleep if they look this way."

Jake nodded and reached into the sack to get his shorts out.

Rhokki gathered up the cords that had been used to keep Jake tied up and he turned out the light, plunging the tent into pitch darkness, and then he went outside.

As Jake pulled up his shorts and fumbled to tie them in the darkness, he could hear a rustling sound against the outside of the tent.

Rhokki came back inside and asked Jake to help him with the other guard's corpse.

They carried the body outside and Jake saw that the first guard had been tied against the pole at one corner of the large tent in a standing position.  In the near total darkness it looked like he was at his post as normal.

They maneuvered the other body to the pole at the other corner and Jake held him up while Rhokki tied him the same way with the cord around his neck and another using the back of his shorts to hold him against the pole while his knees were locked to keep him upright.

It looked a little odd but should be convincing enough in the darkness to fool anyone else who wandered through the camp to the latrines and looked over this way.  It would look like the tent was still guarded.

They each took a rucksack and Rhokki led the way out to the edge of the camp.  They circled it to the back on the side opposite from the volcano and they headed out through the trees into an open field beyond.

They ran through the chest high grasses as Rhokki led them toward the river at a very shallow angle to make it clear their direction was continuing away from the volcano.

They ran for about thirty minutes before they finally entered the river.  It was very shallow so they waded across, still following the same angle away from the volcano, and emerged from the other side.

They followed along the river bank a little ways and then Rhokki led them out and away from it just as the river began to turn a bit.  They came across a rocky area.  This was where they would try to leave no further tracks.

They walked careful now on top of the larger rocks so as not to disturb any and not leave any tracks in dirt or sand anywhere.  They hopped from rock to rock back towards the river and entered it again.

Now they waded as fast as they could against the flow in the middle of the river back in the direction towards the volcano.

In less than an hour they were back alongside the camp but it was a ways away from the river in a large stand of trees and it was pitch dark and nobody could possibly see them here.

They heard no sound so it seemed nobody had discovered their escape yet.  The more time passed the less likely it would be that they would be discovered until morning.

They continued on as fast as they could go for a couple of hours before Rhokki decided they were not making good enough time in the water and would have to leave the river and strike out on foot towards the volcano at the fastest pace they could manage.  They had done enough to put the bulls on the wrong track and it didn't matter now if they left traces.  The bulls would eventually know their intent and would pick up their trail at the site of Komakwa's trial anyhow.

Onward through the night they ran with Rhokki at the lead.  They stopped only occasionally to rest briefly, and for Rhokki to get his bearings and ensure that they were traveling the fastest route possible.

This was the first time Jake had ever really worked his new body hard and he was impressed with it.  He was not really getting tired at all, even after they'd been running for hours.  His joints did not ache, his muscles were fine and his heart and lungs were like well-oiled machines that just kept putting out the power.  The favors must be working absolutely every muscle in his body including his heart and his diaphragm and keeping them all in perfect shape.  He had no problem whatsoever keeping up with the big cat as he ran and Jake felt like he could maintain this pace for days if he had to.

There was no sign of any pursuit, nor did they expect to see any.

They continued right through until dawn and they saw the volcano looming large and close now.

They angled straight towards its base through the thick forest that surrounded it until they suddenly came to a clearing from which they could see right up the side of the volcano to its smoking summit.

"We should retreat back into the trees and wait here," Rhokki said, "We do not know exactly where they will drop Komakwa but we should be able to see and hear the shuttle as it approaches and we can see where it lands.  It should arrive within the hour."

Jake nodded and they went back into the trees to wait.

They had made good time and arrived well before the shuttle.

By now, or even a few hours ago probably, the camp would know that they'd escaped and would have tracked them to the river and be searching for them in the wrong direction.  Even if they'd decided to search in both directions it would be a slow process for them and it would be hours before they found their tracks emerging and heading toward the volcano.

They would likely not even try to use their scout craft to search for them now that there was daylight to allow it.  It would be far too risky to take the ship out when the ascendance committee shuttle was expected to fly over at any time.  They had to keep the scout ship hidden under its camouflage netting until after the appointed time for Komakwa's ceremony.  Even if they had tried to use the ship and realized it had been sabotaged and decided to send a party on foot to retrieve Komakwa, they would still be hours away.  They should be able to get Mak and then still have hours to circle out inland and further away from the river and begin to head back towards the camp to try to get to the scout ship and steal it.

It suddenly occurred to Jake that there might be a simpler solution to all of this.

"If we can get to the ascendance committee's shuttle before it takes off, couldn't we just come out of hiding and tell Mogwo everything?" Jake suggested.

"No.  That would not be wise.  We know that Troska is insane and we don't really know how he might react if we corner him.  We also know that the pilot at least will be on Troska's side.  We do not know how many others in the party will be in his pocket.  In any case, we would be putting not only Komakwa and his father at risk, but their entire race as well.  Mogwo still has his favors.  The Zeth device has been shut down so as not to cause the duplication issue to occur with Mogwo or anyone else on the shuttle.  That means that the First Ones can see and hear everything Mogwo sees and hears.  Their automated monitoring systems would flag anything suspicious.  If they see me here, as a member of the rhuxus race that is now known to have conspired with the Zeths, a race that they attempted to completely annihilate, or you, a duplicate of the other Jake who died under suspicious circumstances and is currently in the process of being resurrected, they will know that there is a threat to them here.  They may choose to act swiftly and decisively to eliminate it by doing to the miquanowan world what they did to the rhuxus world.  The risk is far too great and billions of lives are at stake.  We need to stay hidden."

"You're right, I didn't think it through," Jake said.

Rhokki smiled and said, "You cannot be faulted for looking for the quickest solution to our predicament.  If it makes you feel any better, I can assure you that it will not be any more difficult for us to get back to the camp than it was to get this far."

Jake said, "I just wish we were at least armed.  Weren't there any weapons we could have stolen from the camp?"

"There were weapons, but they are all kept locked away in containers inside the munitions tent.  We could not possibly survive a direct confrontation with the bulls in any case.  There are too many of them and they are trained killers.  As I said before, it is in the nature of my people to move stealthily and efficiently.  Our best hope is to never meet up with even one of them from this point forward.  We must stay hidden, and stay moving," Rhokki said.

"Yes, but if any of them should happen to find us, we're unarmed and helpless," Jake said.

The lion snarled baring his gleaming white and deadly looking teeth with the nearly six inch long fangs, raised a large paw, and extended his long, razor sharp claws and said, "Speak for yourself."

Jake chuckled and said, "I'll just stay behind you then.  The favors keep my nails nice and short and they won't be much use in a fight."

Just then Jake saw movement out of the corner of his eye.  He looked over and saw two long, black, six-legged, crocodile-shaped creatures scrambling out of the woods into the clearing and racing across the open ground.  He recognized them immediately as the black-furred predators that had attacked him and Mak on their first night here.

"I wonder what the hell those things are doing out in the open in broad daylight?  They hunt at night and sleep during the day.  They shouldn't be...."

He was interrupted when a massive bird-like creature burst out of the trees in pursuit of the black animals.  It was at least nine feet tall with incredibly muscular legs that ended at four-toed, bird-like feet with ten-inch razor sharp claws.  It had stubby wings and was covered in a shaggy looking reddish-brown fur.  Its head was large with a bright red crest on top and it had a long, powerful, curved, razor sharp beak that was at least two feet long with a sharp hook at the end.

The creature raced across the open ground and was on the lagging black-furred predator in seconds.  It stepped on it and its claws went right through the animal and severed its spine and skewered it to the ground.

The bird-thing barely missed a beat as it continued racing forward toward the second black animal while lowering its head and letting out a bloodcurdling screech as it spread its long, curved beak.  As it came upon the black predator it turned its head sideways and snapped its beak shut, slicing the animal nearly in half.

Jake and Rhokki watched as the large bird skidded to a stop and then turned and walked slowly back to the creature it had just killed.  It placed one clawed foot on the upper half of the creature and reached down with its beak and tore a long strip of the animal's flesh off and began to consume it.

"Do you still think your claws will be enough for you out here?" Jake asked in a whisper.

Rhokki chuckled softly and said, "There's always someone with a bigger set of claws."

Then the large predator's meal was interrupted by an even louder and longer version of its own screech that came from a long ways off across the clearing and behind a large stand of trees.

The bird-like creature stopped what it was doing and stood alertly and looked around in the direction of the sound.

Suddenly, a massive version of the same bird came out from behind the stand of trees and began to lope towards the smaller bird.

The first bird had to have been just a juvenile and this second one was an adult.  It was more than twice the size.  Jake estimated it would be close to twenty feet tall at the top of its head.

It opened its massive beak wide and showed it's stubby, purple tongue and screeched once more when it saw the smaller bird standing over the fresh kill and the giant predator began to race toward it.

The smaller bird wasted no time and turned and ran as fast as it could back into the safety of the woods where it had emerged.

The larger one slowed to a stop and screeched one last time and then turned its head down and plucked the first of the two halves of the black-furred predator off the ground and tilted its head back and gulped it down in one go.  It ate the second half the same way and then moved on to the other dead predator and it picked the whole thing up in its beak and in just a few bites managed to swallow it all down.

Jake was in awe of the size of the creature.  It could eat him or Rhokki just as quickly and easily as it had the black furred predators and it would likely still be hungry for more.

"You're right," Jake whispered, "That one's claws are definitely bigger."

"Indeed.  I think we'll stick to the trees from now on," Rhokki whispered back.

The creature looked around as if to see if there were anything else to eat nearby, and then began to lumber slowly in the direction the smaller bird had run, then it suddenly stopped and tilted its head up and sideways as though listening for something in the air, then it turned and began to run back to where it had come from like it was being chased.

Jake wondered what the hell a predator of that size would run from and he looked up to see if there was some sort of threat coming from the sky now.

From their location deep in the trees he couldn't see anything back in the direction the predator had looked, but he began to feel a familiar vibration in the air and suddenly there was a shadow from overhead and a large shuttle passed over them and began to come down in the clearing further ahead, almost at the stand of trees the giant predator had just passed on its way back where it had come from.

"Let us go further back into the trees and make our way closer so that we might observe," Rhokki said.

Jake followed him and they worked their way along deeper in the woods until they came to a spot with some heavy brush blocking them from being seen, but with a few spots they could peer through to observe the shuttle.

They hunkered down and waited.

The shuttle's ramp extended down and shortly afterward several bulls emerged.  Two large and older bulls that Jake did not recognize came out first.  One of them was dressed in what looked almost like ceremonial garb that would be worn by native Americans in one of their ceremonies.  It was an impressive looking outfit made of bleached leather adorned with beads, fur trim, feathers and polished teeth and claws from some sort of predators.

Jake recognized the next bull to emerge as Mogwo, Mak's father.  He wore a simpler version of the same type of bleached leather ceremonial garb.  He walked to the bottom of the ramp to stand beside the official looking bull with a smile on his face and he turned and watched with obvious pride as his handsome and strapping son finally emerged.  He wore what Jake remembered seeing him in last.  A simple and rugged pair of leather shorts, and heavy hiking boots with thick socks.

Mak grinned as he came down the ramp and stopped, facing the two older bulls and Jake's heart leapt with joy at the sight of him.

He looked happy and Jake couldn't wait to get out there and be with him again at last.

The last one to emerge from the shuttle was Troska.  He wore a much more subdued version of ceremonial garb that was died black and had red and grey beads attached to it in various patterns and black and white feathers and a necklace of teeth and claws.  He also carried a very tall, black staff with a ball at the top that looked as though it was made of some sort of polished stone.

When Troska reached the bottom of the ramp the gathering rearranged themselves with the leader of the ceremony standing with Troska at his side, and Mogwo standing and facing them with Mak at his side.

Jake couldn't see properly so he carefully moved forward through the brush to get a better vantage point near the edge of the trees.

"Be careful.  Do not be seen!" Rhokki hissed quietly.

Jake ignored him and continued to move closer.  This was an important moment in Mak's life and Jake wanted to witness it.

He moved out of the bushes he was hiding in and went behind some trees for cover.  He came around a thick tree trunk to another set of bushes just next to the clearing and carefully and quietly pushed his way into the bushes.  He accidentally snapped a twig on the ground just as his face emerged through the other side of the bushes.  He moved quickly backward to hide himself again but it was too late.

He saw Troska's face turn toward the sound and the mad bull's one functioning eye locked right on Jake's and opened wide and the bull's face began to twist into a look of surprise, and then rage.

Jake's heart began to hammer in his chest.  He'd given himself away.

Troska stayed quiet and then began to work his way back from the group as though to come over to Jake's position.

Jake couldn't risk trying to run.  It would make too much noise if he were to scramble out of the bushes in a rush and it might expose him to the whole group.  It appeared only Troska had seen him.

He kicked himself for his stupidity.  He'd only wanted to see Mak's ceremony up close and he'd put them all at risk.

Suddenly Mogwo noticed Troska's movement and he cleared his throat and said, "Is there a problem, Troska?"

The old butler looked at Mogwo and paused a moment to think, then said, "No, sir.  There is no problem."

"Then kindly return to your position and keep still.  I will not have you ruin this moment for my son," Mogwo warned.

The old bull sheepishly returned to his position and briefly glared toward Jake's hiding place.

It dawned on Jake that they were still perfectly safe.  Troska couldn't risk revealing Jake to the rest of the group any more than Jake could risk revealing himself.  It would mean the death of Troska and the end of his entire militant group if Mogwo found out what was going on and it would put their entire race at risk if the First Ones saw what was happening through Mogwo's eyes.  The enraged butler could do absolutely nothing but keep quiet.

It made Jake feel good to know that Troska would have to sit and stew on the long flight back to their home world, knowing full well that as soon as the shuttle took off, Jake and Mak would be back together and on the run from him.  It would drive the old bull even more insane.

There was nothing Troska could do until he arrived back on their planet and contacted the camp.  Of course, it made no difference to Jake, Rhokki and Mak because the camp would by now already be well aware that they had escaped.  His revealing himself to Troska made absolutely no difference in the end except to make the old bull suffer and that was a good thing.

Troska kept stealing glances towards Jake's hiding spot so Jake carefully and quietly extended his hand through the bushes and he flipped his middle finger up at the butler.  Troska saw the finger and raised one eyebrow and then looked away again.

Jake realized the gesture was likely completely meaningless to the bull so he pulled his hand back in.  It had felt good to do it anyway.  He enjoyed watching Troska silently seethe.  The old butler clung on to his staff with a death grip.  Jake was sure the mad bull was already imagining bringing it down repeatedly on his skull and laughing with glee as he did it.

Everyone appeared to be ready so the ceremony began.

"This world was once our home," the leader of the ceremony intoned as he raised his arms to indicate the land around them, "One day we will return to it.  We were a proud people and we were struck low by the power of the ancients as a test of our courage and resolve."

At the old bull's words the thought suddenly entered Jake's mind that maybe they were right in a very literal sense.  It could easily have been the First Ones that pushed this planet's moon into an unstable orbit, just to see how the bulls would react to the coming cataclysm.  It was just the sort of entertainment they enjoyed.

The old bull continued, "We will prove ourselves worthy and one day return to claim this sacred land as our home once more."

He then turned to Mogwo and asked, "What do you bring us to aid us in our goal?"

"I bring you the flesh of my flesh, my son," Mogwo replied solemnly.

The old bull looked Mak over briefly and then said, "This world is harsh and unforgiving.  Only the strongest of our men can survive here.  What need have we of a boy?"

"He is no boy.  He is a man," Mogwo said with obvious heartfelt conviction.

"He is no man until he has proved himself so," the old bull retorted, "He must brave the hardships of this world with no outside aid of any kind.  He must show the courage and resourcefulness required to make a home of this world.  Will the boy do precisely as his fathers tells him, as is the custom of our children?"

Mogwo smiled and said, "No, he will not.  As I have said, he is no boy.  He is the world to me but he is a man and must speak for himself.  I relinquish the right to guide his life and he must now decide his own fate."

Mak's chest swelled with pride as his father spoke and Jake smiled as he watched from his hiding place.

The leader of the ceremony then nodded and turned to face Mak directly and said, "What is your name, boy?"

Mak set his broad shoulders back and puffed out his muscular chest further and said in a deep voice that perfectly matched his fathers, "I am no boy.  I am a man.  My name is Komakwa."

"Very well, Komakwa.  If you are a man as you say, then you will have no trouble showing it by besting the land itself and the dangers it holds.  Will you submit to forty days in the wilderness to prove your manhood?"

"I will."

The leader nodded again and said, "I would not ask you to do this task completely unarmed.  We will provide you all that you should need to survive this place."

The old bull then turned to face Troska and nodded at him.

The mad bull reached to his side and pulled out a large and deadly looking knife with an ornately carved bone handle.  He hesitated for a few moments, suddenly realizing that he was about to give the young bull a tool that would only help him to get away from Troska once the shuttle left and Jake couldn't help but smile at the wonderful irony.

Mogwo cleared his throat impatiently and Troska seemed to snap out of it.

He held up the knife and said his lines, "This weapon has been blessed by our priests.  It holds within its handle the spirits of those who perished on this world.  May they guide your blade and show you the way to conquer this sacred land for our people once more."

He turned the knife to hand it with the handle facing Mak.

The young bull took it from his hand and slipped it into a sheath he already had hanging at his hip just as the ground shook and the volcano rumbled briefly and belched a thick cloud of smoke from the crater at its summit.

Everyone turned and looked up but there was no further activity from the volcano.

The leader of the ceremony smiled as he turned back to Mak and said, "The world trembles in fear of you already.  It is a good sign."

Mak smiled and looked at his father and Mogwo smiled back.

The leader of the ceremony put his large hand on Mak's shoulder and addressed the others as he said, "It is time for us to leave this place.  I have no doubt that when we return here in forty days we will find no sign of this boy.  In his place we will find Komakwa, a man, proud and strong.  Forged in the unforgiving crucible of this harsh world and ready to claim his own place among our people."

The old bull stepped back and Mogwo stepped up and put his hand on Mak's shoulder and smiled at him as tears welled in his eyes.  The two stared at each other for a moment and then Mak suddenly reached out and put his arms around his father's and Mogwo hugged him hard for a few moments, then pulled back and rubbed his big hand on top of his boy's head for the last time.  When next they met they would both be men.

Mogwo then turned to go up the ramp into the shuttle.

The rest of the entourage followed him in with Troska taking up the rear.

The grizzled old butler turned and stared back at Jake's hiding spot with his one good eye and his face was twisted in hatred.  He knew he might have lost his chance to kill them and he would have to sit on the shuttle with the others for the full twelve hour flight back to their home world knowing that they were slipping further and further from his grasp with every passing hour.

He reluctantly turned and entered the shuttle as the ramp began to rise back up.

Jake wanted to race out and latch on to Mak right away, but he knew he had to wait until the shuttle took off or risk being seen.

He began to hear and then feel the vibrating hum of the anti-fermion generators powering up as the craft began to lift into a hover over the ground.

He heard a noise behind him and felt Rhokki hook a claw onto the waistband at the back of Jake's shorts and the big cat said, "Stay hidden until the shuttle is truly gone.  I believe it is their custom to slowly circle the area to ensure that the boy is truly alone before they head back to their home world."

Jake was anxious but he held his ground as the shuttle slowly lifted up and then began to move forward in an ever growing circle around Mak.

It rose higher and higher and then finally Jake heard the hiss and crackle of the air being superheated as the plasma drive kicked in and the long blue cone emerged from the back of the ship and it began to tilt upward and head out of the planet's atmosphere.

Mak looked around and then began to walk towards the tree line a little ways away from where Jake and Rhokki were hiding.

The lion continued to hold Jake just a bit longer until the plasma thrust from the ship was just a very tiny blue dot before he finally let Jake go.

Jake plunged out of the bushes and ran toward the young bull.

Mak turned suddenly at the sound while reaching for his knife, but when he saw Jake his face was split by a wide grin and rushed toward him and nearly bowled Jake over as they crashed into each other and held on tightly.

Jake felt like his heart was going to explode it was so full of joy at having Mak back in his arms again.

"I missed you so much, Mak.  I love you."

"I love you too.  I was so worried not knowing what might be happening to you over here," Mak said as he increased the strength of his hug.

Rhokki emerged from the bushes and walked towards them with a smile on his face.

"I hate to interrupt this beautiful reunion but there is no time to lose.  We need to get moving, right now," he said.

Mak pulled back and said, "What's going on?  I thought they were gonna send the ship to pick me up in an hour or so?  Why did they let you two come for me?"

"We need to get moving as we talk," Jake said, "We're on the run from them."

Rhokki led the way and ran back toward the trees, but stayed out in the open along the tree line for the time being to allow them to move more quickly back toward the camp, but at an angle slightly away from the river and the path the bulls would likely take to reach the clearing to get Mak.

Jake and Mak followed and as they ran along the young bull asked, "Why are we on the run?  What's going on?  I thought everything was over once I convinced my father to get his favors purged."

Jake said, "Rhokki overheard Troska talking to one of the men back at the camp yesterday.  He said that now that you convinced your dad, he had no use for me or you any longer.  He's insane and he hates me.  If I don't miss my guess he'll probably kill us both with his bare hands.  The only question is which one of us he'll kill first.  I guess it depends on which one he hates the most.  I think he hates me just enough to kill you first and make me watch."

Mak shouted, "Fuck!  That old man is as crooked as the day is long.  He smiled at me before we left and said all I had to do now in order to finally be back with you again was to wait patiently here to be picked up."

"Everything he says is a half truth at best," Jake said, "You would have been back with me, and we both would be tied up and waiting for him to get back and finish us off.  He planned to kill us both and let your father think you didn't survive the trial.  Once your father has his favors purged Troska can tell Mogwo the whole truth about the First Ones and how you wanted him to help your world get free of them.  He would probably tell Mogwo that the best way to honor your memory would be to make it happen.  There's no doubt your father would play along gladly with anything Troska asked him to do, so he didn't need you anymore.  If he didn't need you, he sure as hell didn't need me.  He's insane, so taking our lives would only make him happy."

Mak shook his head as he ran and said, "I can't believe I fell for his lies again.  He told me if I could convince my dad to purge his favors and join the religion while I was on my trial he would have no need to keep us apart anymore and we could be together for the rest of our lives.  He was sort of telling the truth, just like you said, yet behind the truth was a different truth.  I've had enough.  If I see that old bastard again he's the one that won't be walking away.  I still need to give him this knife back at the end of the trial.  I would be happy to stick it right in his chest and he can do whatever the hell he wants with it after that."

Rhokki chuckled from ahead of them and said, "I like the way you think.  My people like to think ourselves clever enough to see through the facade straight to a person's true character and we do not like to be duped.  We have a saying that goes, 'Fool me once, shame on me.  Fool me twice, and you will fool no other.'  We aren't really poets so things rarely rhyme, but the bottom line is we do not take betrayal lightly.  He has proved he has no honor and no remorse.  He does not deserve to breathe the same air as those who do.  His life is forfeit.  By taking it from him we would only be protecting any others he would crush beneath his heel in the future."

"Ordinarily I would say that would be a bit extreme, but I'm willing to bend in Troska's case," Jake said.

Rhokki said, "I have seen with my own eyes that you are kind and tolerant almost to a fault so it surprises me that you would actually allow Troska to be killed.  Tell me, if I were to offer you the ability to press one button and set their entire camp and all of its surroundings ablaze with all of the bulls in it, would you do it?"

"No, I wouldn't.  I may have wished for their deaths in my mind occasionally or fantasized about it, but I couldn't actually kill them all in cold blood," Jake said.

"Even after all you have endured at their hands for the past two weeks?" Rhokki pressed.

"It wasn't so bad.  It did no damage of any kind.  It didn't change me.  It had no lasting effect of any sort.  Does it really warrant taking all of those lives?" Jake asked.

"That is one of the many things that impresses me about you," the big cat said, "You remained completely in control of yourself in the face of terrible trials at the hands of lesser men.  I do wish you could teach me some of your restraint.  Before you do though, I may just press that button myself once we are aboard my people's ship.  We are slightly more pragmatic than you.  The way I see it, allowing those men to live is the same as encouraging them to do the same atrocities to others in future.  They have proved themselves unworthy of living among real men and I would feel nothing were I to take their undeserved lives from them."

"Just what the hell are you two talking about?" Mak asked, "What did they do to you, Jake?"

"Nothing I couldn't handle.  You don't need to worry about it.  It's over.  I'm absolutely fine.  Rhokki helped me get through it.  It would have been hard if he wasn't there.  Maybe it would be different if he wasn't.  Maybe I would have gone off the deep end, but he was there and he kept me grounded.  No matter what they did I could look forward to him taking care of me at the end of the day and making me feel like a person again."

Rhokki looked over his shoulder at Jake and smiled at him as they ran along and Jake smiled back.

"But what did they do?" Mak asked, "Troska told me you were being treated well and, like an idiot, I believed him.  Rhokki, will you tell me?"

"I am sorry.  That is for Jake to do.  I can only say that I would not have been able to last beyond one day.  I would have flown into a rage and attacked them, and they would have killed me outright for it.  They would likely have done the same to Jake had he retaliated against them and he would not be here with you now if he had the same lack of control as I do.  Jake has an inner strength and self-control that I could only ever dream of having.  He is truly an impressive man."

Mak heard the depth of feeling in Rhokki's voice and said, "You two have grown really close over the last two weeks, haven't you?  I could hear it in Jake's voice any time he mentioned you when we talked on the comm screen every night."

Rhokki said nothing, but Jake said, "Yes.  He was all I had to keep me from losing hope each day.  He cared for me after Troska bashed my head and he continued to take care of me every night after that.  He didn't really have to, but he went out of his way to make me comfortable and to help me out.  They did everything they could to strip my manhood from me and he did the simplest things to make me feel like myself.  He means a lot to me.  I have strong feelings for him."

"I have very strong feelings for you too, Jake.  You are an honorable and beautiful man and it has given me no end of pleasure to care for you.  I can honestly say that I am almost sorry that part is over for us," Rhokki said.

Mak said nothing more and neither did the others.

They continued to run through the day, stopping occasionally to rest and eat and drink a bit from their rucksacks of food and then they pushed themselves onward.

At one point Mak asked, "Where the heck are we going anyway?  It seems to me we're heading back to where Troska's camp is."

"We are indeed," Rhokki said, "It was Jake's idea.  They will never expect us to run back to their camp.  As they get further and further away from it in search of us, we move closer and closer back towards it.  Our intent is to steal their scout ship and have you fly it out of there.  I have taken the antimatter routing modules and they are in our possession.  That ship can go nowhere without them.  We will sneak in under cover of darkness and make our true escape then."

"That's awesome!  Sneak right back in and take their own ship from them!  I love it!" Mak exclaimed.

"Since your last experience with this type of ship was to crash it, I trust that you can still recall how to fly one successfully.  There are only two seats in it and there are three of us so one would have a fairly hard landing in a crash.  I tend to be a nervous flier.  I am much more comfortable with four feet on the ground," Rhokki said.

"Is that what Jake told you?  That I crashed our ship?" Mak asked.

"No, but he didn't need to.  You were the pilot were you not?"

"Yeah, but...oh, never mind," Mak said and chuckled.

Jake laughed.

They followed the line of trees that bordered the open plains for as long as they could.  They didn't want to go out into the open and risk being seen by anyone or caught by one of the large predatory birds, but they didn't want to enter into the forest and have to run slower, even though it was a more direct route back to the camp.

Eventually they had no choice and they had to go back into the thicker forest as the tree line began to veer away from the direction they needed to go.

Now Mak led the way as he was the largest with the thickest hide and a large enough knife to cut his way through thicker weeds and vines that got in the way.  He was big enough to push his way through and clear a path that made it easier for the others to follow behind him.  He led on with cues from Rhokki until the light began to soften a little into evening and finally Rhokki called a halt and led them into the midst of some very thick shrubs in the middle of a big stand of trees.

"We are very near the camp but we will have to cross the open field to get to it and it is too light to proceed yet.  We should rest here for a few hours until darkness sets in."

The big cat sat and looked at the others quietly.

Mak sat on the ground cross-legged and smiled up at Jake.  Jake smiled back and walked over and sat in the young bull's lap and wrapped his arms and legs around him.

The two sat quietly, holding each other while they caught their breaths and began to cool off from their hard run.

Mak rubbed his cheek against Jake's and he pulled his head back and kissed him on the lips and said, "I'm so glad you're OK and we're back together again.  It's all I could think about for the last two weeks."

"You're the other thing that kept me going," Jake said, "Any time things were getting a bit too rough I would just think of seeing you again and it would lift my spirits.  You mean everything to me now, Mak.  I love you so much."

"I love you too," Mak said and squeezed him tightly again.

Jake got up and said, "I need to just go and use the bushes really quick.  It could be a long flight once we get going."

Mak smiled up at him as he walked off, then he turned to face Rhokki and watched him for a few moments.

He suddenly got up and walked over to the big cat and then knelt down and wrapped his massive arms around Rhokki's neck and said, "Thank you so much for taking care of him for me.  I'm so glad he had you there with him.  It would break my heart to think of him going through whatever it was they did to him alone."

Rhokki put his paw on Mak's back and said, "You are truly a good person.  I have heard the deep love he feels for you in his voice and seen it in his eyes any time he spoke of you.  He is a wonderful man.  It was my pleasure to take care of him for you."

Mak sat back and faced the lion directly and said, "You love him, don't you?"

Rhokki stayed quiet for a moment as if deciding what he should say, and finally said, "I cannot lie, it is not in my nature.  I love him very much."

Mak smiled and said, "Did you tell him?"

"Not exactly, no."

"You should tell him.  I know Jake and I can tell he loves you too.  It's obvious.  You shouldn't let another minute go by without letting each other know in case anything happens to us.  If you're worried about how I feel about it, don't.  I love Jake more than I could ever imagine loving anyone else and I feel secure in the knowledge that he loves me that much right back.  I want him to be as happy as he can be.  You're a terrific guy and if he loves you that makes me happy.  If you love him back that will make him happy and that makes me happy too."

Rhokki smiled and said, "You are indeed a wonderful person Komakwa.  I don't think I could have ever let Jake know how strongly I felt about him without your blessing."

"Call me Mak."

Rhokki nodded and said, "Thank you, Mak."

They heard Jake coming back and Mak stood and met him and kissed Jake on the cheek and smiled knowingly at him, then said, "My turn to use the facilities."

He walked off into the forest and looked back at Rhokki and jerked his head toward Jake just before he disappeared into the trees.

Jake saw the obvious gesture and turned to face Rhokki and said, "What was that about?"

Rhokki smiled and said, "Mak is a very good person and he loves you very much."

Jake smiled and said, "That's not news to me.  I love him more than I could ever imagine loving anyone."

Rhokki chuckled and said, "That is precisely what he said of his feelings toward you.  He also asked me what my feelings were toward you and I had to tell him the truth."

"The truth?" Jake asked.

"Yes, I told him I love you.  He seemed quite pleased."

Jake smiled and said, "Don't you think you should have told me first?"

Rhokki said, "You're right, and I apologize, but he dragged it out of me.  I do love you, Jake.  I have for some time now.  It truly was a unique pleasure caring for you and I feel a strong bond with you that I have never felt with anyone before.  I find you to be the single most beautiful male I have ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on.  It tore me apart as I watched those animals throw that plant on you and I thought that you were going to die without ever knowing how I felt about you.  I came very close to telling you right afterward in our tent, but I felt it would complicate things between you and Komakwa.  I do not know how it is with your people.  My people are polyamorous by nature.  Our males take many wives into our pride.  Being homosexual means the distinction between husband and wife becomes meaningless for me.  From what I understand, it is much the same with Mak's people.  Their males traditionally take many wives and in their past also took many male lovers as they evolved the specialization to make male on male sexuality equally valid."

Jake walked up to Rhokki and knelt down and kissed him on the lips and hugged him tightly and said, "I love you too.  I've loved your for quite a while now.  I couldn't help it.  You treated me with such kindness and tenderness.  You showed what a loving soul you have.  You're easily the most attractive person I've ever seen.  You're breathtakingly beautiful.  I feel so comfortable with you, like we fit together well.  It really bothered me to have you make me feel so good every night but not be able to do anything for you.  I couldn't do it without finding out how Mak felt first."

"Do not feel bad.  I experienced great satisfaction by pleasing you.  I look forward to exploring you much more.  I long to feel you inside of me.  I have never been with a male before and I have been filled with detailed fantasies about you ever since I first saw you two weeks ago.  I know that things may not be straightforward for us sexually due to the nature of my equipment, but I am confident that we will find ways to please each other.  It feels wonderfully freeing just to be able to talk openly to you about it."

"I can't tell you how much I look forward to exploring you too," Jake said, "What you were saying about the Matchmakers modifying us to increase our desire for sex seems to be completely accurate.  I have an almost insatiable appetite for it now and it's hard for me to control.  I've had plenty of fantasies about you.  I intend to find out how good of a job they did strengthening me back there.  I want that incredible tool of yours inside me, Rhokki.  I can't wait to have the chance to see just how well we really fit."

Jake was getting hard just thinking about it but he didn't feel the time was right just now.  They were in a life and death situation and they needed to keep their wits about them.

"You two are so cute together," Mak said as he came back to their hiding spot.

Rhokki smiled and said, "I believe it might be a good time for me to go and dig a hole and make a deposit while the two of you talk.  I will return shortly."

Mak smiled and watched the beautiful cat slip away into the forest and then he turned to Jake and grinned.

"In case you're wondering, I'm thrilled that you two love each other.  Rhokki is awesome and I can't wait to get to know him better," Mak said as he came to sit on the ground next to Jake and then he lay back and put his arms behind his head.

Jake lay down beside him and propped his head up on one elbow to face Mak and said, "You're a pretty special guy.  I love you so much.  I can honestly say it doesn't matter how many other people I fall in love with, you will always be my true love.  I could never love anyone as much as I love you."

Mak rolled onto his side to face Jake and put his arms around him, then rolled onto his back and pulled Jake up on to him.

"I feel the same way about you.  I don't love anyone else right now, but I can't help but think that I will come to love Rhokki for the same reasons you did once I get to know him.  It doesn't really matter to me how many people you love or how many I love, you will always be my man.  You're all I really need in the whole universe.  I'm so happy to have you back in my arms."

They kissed each other tenderly and rubbed against each other a bit.  Mak's cock was growing hard and so was Jake's, but neither one of them made any move to take things further.  It just wasn't the right time.

Jake lay quietly atop Mak with his arms around the young bull's thick neck and Komakwa kept his arms wrapped around Jake.

Rhokki came back and smiled at the scene and said, "My people tend to start to feel more alive when darkness comes.  I do not feel any need of rest at the moment.  Mak will be piloting the ship on what may be a long flight.  The two of you should take a short rest while I keep watch.  We have a few hours before total darkness and that much sleep should carry you quite a bit further later on."

"Are you sure?" Jake asked, "You remember those furry black things we saw get eaten by the big bird earlier?  They start to come into their own at night too.  Mak and I had a tangle with some of them a while back.  Only fire keeps them away."

Rhokki chuckled and said, "I know the animals you speak of.  They are nothing to me.  I have enjoyed hunting several of them for sport already.  They still need line of sight for their night vision but my sixth sense allows me to feel their eclectic field from behind trees and obstacles long before they know I'm there.  We have nothing to worry about from them.  Sleep and enjoy each other's company in peace for a few hours before we need to get moving again.  I will watch over you and I will wake you when it is time."

The big cat walked up to them and lay right beside them and turned his head and kissed Jake on the lips.  He then kissed Mak on the cheek and sat up again and turned to face towards the camp.

Jake and Mak held each other and basked in the joy of being back together until their weariness from the long run finally dragged them down to sleep.


If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more from the author please look in the Gay/Adult-Youth section at Nifty.org for...

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or check the Gay/SF-Fantasy section for...

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The Hawthorne Accord -  The adventures of a teenage boy who is rescued from a cruel fate in his home village by a friend, but ultimately finds himself on his own and hunted in a world that is being ravaged by brutal race wars between the humans and three races of monsters: kobolds, orcs and ogres.  He discovers in his travels that the world is not quite entirely the way he'd thought it was and that even a single teenage boy can make a difference in the fate of entire races, including his own.

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Feedback is the fuel for the author's engine.  All comments are much appreciated even if they say nothing more than "Liked it, thanks." or "Hated it, don't go there again."

Thank you,


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