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Once they stepped inside, and stood in the main foyer, Sam closed the door behind them and gently and carefully retrieved Aiden from Jev’s arms then led them through his living room down a hallway to a small examination room at the back of the house. It was sparsely furnished room, in which there was only a single exam table, and several cupboards, filled with medical supplies, above a long counter spanning the width of the room, at the end of which was a small round sink.
Sam gently placed Aiden down upon the exam table, and then began removing the blanket from the boy’s bruised and battered body, which they all quickly saw was now covered in blood and sweat.
“My God!” Sam exclaimed loudly, gasping in shock at what he saw. “What the hell happened to him?” he asked, looking up at Jev, who stood opposite the table next to Kiyel.
“It’s a long story, Doc, and I promise, I’ll explain it all to you later,” Jev said. “But right now, he needs your help. I’m afraid he’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s in shock. Is there anything you can do for him?”
“I don’t know,” Sam said, while he began going over the many cuts and bruises that covered Aiden’s frail little body. “I need you to get me some towels, and some warm water, so that I can clean off all this blood, so I can see where he’s hurt. You know where everything is. And get Kiyel out of the room, I don’t want him anywhere near the child,” he said.
“He’s not going to harm him, Doc,” Jev said, as he reached into a cupboard and grabbed a couple of towels. “In fact, he helped save Aiden’s life.”
“I wish I had your confidence in him, lad; he’s still a wild animal, after all,” Sam replied.
“Doc, he’s no more a wild animal than I am,” Jev said wryly.
“That’s what I mean,” looking over at Jev, a wry grin of his own stretching across his face.
“Very funny,” Jev said, handing Sam the towels and walking over to the sink.
“Jev, do you realize that I got a call from Tanis, Janette’s personal assistant, about this boy?”
“No, I didn’t. But I can’t say that I’m surprised. Just be glad you didn’t go into that home and see what we saw,” Jev said, grabbing the large pot sitting on the shelf above the sink and filling it up with warm water, then bringing it over to Sam, who began cleaning the blood off Aiden’s nude body.
As Sam worked, he began to get a better idea of the extent of Aiden’s injuries, the most serious of which appeared to be centred mainly on his posterior. As he carefully lifted Aiden’s legs, and saw the fresh blood slowly seeping out from his horribly raw and inflamed anus, he was forced to fight back a sudden urge to throw up. He took in several deep breaths until his stomach had finally calmed down.
Looking at the wound again, he knew that he needed to work quickly, as the boy was loosing too much blood.
“Jev, I need you to run and grab me two units of plasma from the duty nurse, upstairs. Tell her to give you a vial of antibiotics, also, and hurry!” he ordered, turning to look at Jev.
Without hesitation, Jev did as Sam instructed and quickly hurried out of the room, returning several minutes later with two plastic IV bags and a small glass bottle.
Sam, who, in the mean time, had begun working on Aiden’s injuries, saw Jev return, and indicated for him to put the plasma and the antibiotics on the counter behind him.
“Your nurse asked if you needed her help,” Jev said, as he put them down.
“I assume by her absence that you told her I didn’t?” Sam asked.
“I didn’t think she’d appreciate seeing Kiyel here,” Jev told him, with a grin, as he looked down at Kiyel. In his mind, he could hear Kiyel laughing.
With a smile and a shake of his head, Sam readied an IV for Aiden, after getting out an angiocatheter and a sealed packet of iv tubing from a drawer below the counter behind him, then he had Jev help him gently turn the boy over onto his side. From one of the upper cabinets, Sam readied a mild sedative which he promptly injected into a vein in Aiden’s arm, with a syringe.
“Alright, Jev, I need to have both you and Kiyel step outside, while I get to work.”
“No buts, Jev,” Sam said, cutting him off in mid-sentence. “The risk of infection to Aiden is too great for either of you to be in here while I work.”
Nodding his head, reluctantly, to Kiyel, they walked out of the room together. Jev looked back at Aiden on the table, one last time, before sighing and closing the door behind them.
Waiting out in the hall, for Sam to complete the operation on Aiden, was sheer agony for Jev. He began pacing back and forth. At least twice, he found himself reaching for the door handle, to see what was taking so long, but then he remembered Sam’s warning about the risk of infection, and he thought better of it, and instead he continued to pace the hall. Kiyel, meanwhile, lay quietly by the door to the exam room, his tail flicking occasionally while he waited with Jev for word on Aiden’s condition.
After about two hours, Sam still had not finished with Aiden, and Jev began to get more and more worried, when all of a sudden, the door finally opened, and an exhausted looking Sam stepped out of the room and into the hallway.
“Well, that’s as good as I can do for him right now, I’m afraid,” Sam said.
“Will he be okay?” Jev asked.
“That’s yet to be seen. I’ve managed to stitch up the tear in his rectum and stop the bleeding, but it was torn up pretty badly and I cannot guarantee that an infection hasn’t already set in. And even though I’ve given him some antibiotics, it might not be enough,” Sam told him.
“Now,” he continued, “while Aiden is resting and his body is recovering from the surgery, let’s go into the living room, so you can tell me exactly what happened to this boy and who the sorry son of a bitch is that raped him.”
“Okay,” Jev said, cringing slightly at the sudden wave of anger he felt coming from Sam.
Sam led Jev down the hall, Kiyel dutifully following them, and back to the living room where he indicated for Jev to sit on the couch, while he sat in the chair opposite him.
“Alright, Jev, let’s hear it. How was it that you two happened to be at that house, and ended up taking Zachary from there when you did?” Sam asked.
“Well, when Kiyel and I were in Clearhaven, we were passing though a somewhat uninhabited area of town, when we heard a child’s screams; or rather, Kiyel did, as his hearing is pretty sensitive. We ran to the home where he’d heard the screams—and by this time, I was able to hear them as well—and since we were the only ones in the area, I kicked in the front door and we entered the home. That’s when we found Zachary. He was tied down to his father’s bed, with his father straddling his chest. Both of them were naked, and it became pretty obvious what his, so called, father was doing to him. I guess, if you’ve spoken with Tanis, that you already know what they ended up finding in the house, after Kiyel and I left with Zachary, that is.” Jev said.
“Yes. He told me that they found what was left of a man’s body, his throat shredded, and the room covered in blood. They also found the bed with some cut ropes, and blood on the sheets.”
“It was Kiyel, actually, who did that to Zachary’s father. I helped Zachary by cutting the ropes that held him to the bed.”
“Tanis told me that the place looked like a bloodbath had taken place in there,” Sam said shaking his head in disbelief.
“We just wish we could have done more to him. If you ask me, he should have been made to suffer as Zachary did. I just can’t believe he did that to his own little boy,” Jev said, suddenly losing what little control he had left, over his emotions, as he collapsed on his side, sobbing, on the couch.
“It’s okay, Jev. He’s gone, and Zachary is safe, now. You did good. You and Kiyel both did real good,” Sam said, getting up from his chair to console him.
“Jev, I need to ask you something. When you were at that house, did you happen to see two forest cats, there?”
“I knew you were going to ask me that,” Jev said, as soon as he managed to get his sobs under control, and he sat up straight.
“I take it you did, then,” Sam said, after returning to his chair.
“Not exactly. You see, the two forest cats... well, one of them was Kiyel,” Jev said.
“I gathered that. And the other cat? Does Kiyel have a mate who came into town with him?” Sam asked.
That question actually made Jev laugh a little, and he looked over at Kiyel, who was sitting on the floor beside him, patiently looking up at him with a bemused expression on his face. His head was cocked slightly to one side, which made Jev laugh even harder.
Sam looked at him with a serious expression on his face. “I’m glad you find this so amusing,” he said.
“I’m sorry, Doc, it’s just that when you asked me that, I couldn’t help myself,” Jev said, quickly sobering up. “You might as well come have a seat, Kiyel.”
Sam watched with shocked amazement as Kiyel suddenly stood up; not on four legs as he expected he would, but rather on two, and then took a seat next to Jev.
“Jev, what the hell is going on, here?” Sam asked, his voice filled with apprehension.
“You see, Doc, Kiyel isn’t native to this planet,” Jev answered.
“He’s an alien?” Sam said, in a shocked whisper, and looking uneasily at Kiyel.
“Yes, I am. To your world, at least,” Kiyel replied for himself, completely startling Sam, whose eyes suddenly opened wide in shock.
“Jesus!” Sam exclaimed.
“It’s okay, Doc,” Jev hurriedly said, trying to reassure him. “He’s not going to hurt you.”
“Like he didn’t hurt Zachary’s father, you mean?”
“That bastard was going to kill his own son!” Jev said heatedly. “Kiyel did what he had to in order to save Zachary. And believe me, if I’d had the strength, I would have done exactly the same thing.”
Seeing the surprised look on Sam’s face, Jev forced himself to take a deep, calming breath. “I’m sorry, Doc, I shouldn’t have yelled at you like that.”
“No, it’s me who’s sorry, Jev,” Sam said, with a conciliatory grin. “Had I seen that bastard raping his son as you two did, I’d probably want to tear him to pieces, myself.”
Jev nodded his head appreciatively, and smiled as he pictured Sam doing just that.
“So, Kiyel, I guess what I’d really like to know now, is how you came to be on Alessi in the first place,” Sam said.
“About a decade ago my people sent a probe to this planet, to determine its suitability for colonization. The problem was, for reasons that we weren’t able to fathom at the time, the probe suddenly stopped transmitting its data, so my team was sent here to investigate. The T’kri spotted our ship, and shot it down. Seven of us managed to survive the crash. The others made their way into the forest and took refuge within some caves. I had been injured, though, and couldn’t follow, so instead, I made my way here, and that’s when Jev found me, outside, by the inn.”
“Then that metal fragment...” Sam said, his voice trailing off.
“Was actually a piece from my ship, yes,” Kiyel answered. “And the reason why I was able to find Jev when I did was because I’m a telepath.”
“I figured you were at least empathic, since Jev was able to sense your feelings,” Sam said.
“Then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you to learn that Jev also is a telepath.”
“As incredible as that sounds, it would actually make sense, now that I think about it,” Sam admitted.
“Well it’s true, Doc. In the weeks I’ve known him, Kiyel has taught me things that I’d only dreamed were possible. But not only that, I found that the more time we spent together, the closer to him I was beginning to feel, and before I knew it, a bond had formed between us; first emotional, and then telepathic.”
“Wait a minute, you’re saying...” Sam tried again.
“That I’m gay and that Kiyel and I are mates? Yes,” Jev answered.
“Now that’s something I didn’t see coming,” Sam said. “But then,” he said, with the slightest hint of a smile, “you always were able to surprise me.”
“There is one thing that I still don’t quite understand, though,” he continued. “Tanis told me that there were two cats, so if one of them was Kiyel, where did the other one come from? Did another of his crew join you?”
“Actually, the other cat was me,” Jev answered.
“Excuse me?” Sam said, genuinely confused.
“Doc, you know about werewolves right?”
“Of course I do, but what do they have to do with anything?” Sam asked.
“Well, just like werewolves go through a transformation, so have I; in part because of the link I share with Kiyel, but mostly because of latent abilities that I never knew I even had.”
As soon as Jev told him that, he reached into Sam’s mind, and carefully removed the image that he had planted in there earlier, allowing Sam, for the first time, to see him as he truly was.
“Jesus!” Sam exclaimed again, jumping out of his chair in sudden shock. “Jev?”
“Yeah, it’s me, Doc. I’m the first human-Caitaran hybrid in existence.”
“But that’s... that’s just not possible!”
“It is for one who has telekinetic and telepathic abilities,” Kiyel said, “which Jev apparently has. Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it possible, either. For certain, my own people have never encountered another species that could change as Jev has.”
“This is just too incredible,” Sam said, sitting back down.
“I know,” Jev said, “and I really do apologize for dumping this on you all at once. If we had more time, I’d explain it further. But Kiyel and I really have to get going, soon, and we need to take Zachary with us. Tiela, the ship’s chief medical officer, will probably be able to do more for him there.”
“Tell me, Kiyel, does this Tiela person have the necessary equipment to help Zachary’s body fight off infections?” Sam asked.
“Yes, and also to speed up the healing process,” Kiyel replied. “We also know, from treating Jev, before he changed, that the chemistry between our two species is very similar. At least, Jev didn’t show any signs of rejecting the medication given to him.”
“Still, Zachary is only three years old, whereas Jev is almost a full grown adult. I want that boy to have the best chance of healing, so if your medic has medicines that can help, I’d best be there, too, just in case he doesn’t react well to your meds.”
“You really want to come with us?” Jev was actually a bit surprised. “But what about the rest of your patients, here?” Jev asked.
“Jev, there are several people here who are fully qualified to handle any emergency that might come up. I may be the colony’s main doctor, but I’m certainly not the only one. I never did like being in charge of everything, anyway. Too much paperwork,” Sam said, with a wry grin.
“And you know something,” he continued, “this new look of yours actually suits you nicely. I definitely want to look you over, though.”
“Oh God,” Jev said, rolling his eyes at Sam. “Not you, too! I swear examinations must be a hobby or something for you medical types.”
“Hey, just because you’ve changed species, doesn’t mean I’m not your doctor anymore. And besides which, legally, I’m now also your guardian,” Sam said.
“What do you mean?” Jev asked, suddenly taken aback by that unexpected piece of information.
“In your father’s will, he named me as your guardian, should anything happen to him.”
“You... you’re not kidding, are you?” a bewildered Jev asked.
“Would I say it, if I didn’t mean it?” Sam asked in return.
“No, I don’t suppose you would,” Jev answered, with a huge smile on his face. “It actually kind of makes sense, though. Dad always treated you more like family than just the family’s physician.”
“So you don’t have any problems with me being your legal guardian, then?” Sam asked.
“You know I’ve always looked up to you, Doc. So, no, I don’t have any problems with it at all. In fact, I’d be really honoured to have you for a guardian,” Jev said.
“Thank you, Jev,” Sam said, and he smiled.
“Since you’ll be coming with us,” Kiyel said, “it would probably be a good idea if you pack a few things for yourself before we leave.”
“Yes, I’ll definitely need to gather some supplies for myself, and for Zachary. Just give me a few moments, and I’ll be right back,” Sam said, before hurrying back into the exam room.
While he was in the exam room, he carefully removed the catheter from Zachary’s arm, and put an adhesive strip over the tiny wound, which dripped a bit of blood. Zachary was still asleep, which was a good thing. He needed to rest, to help his injuries heal faster. Sam then left to get the things he would need for the journey.
“Alright, we’re all set, I think,” Sam said, as he looked into the living room, slinging a pack over his shoulder.
“I’ll go get Zachary, then,” Jev said, as he walked back to the room where Zachary lay. Carefully picking him up, Jev grabbed the blankets and made sure they were wrapped securely around the frail boy, and carried him over to the living room, where Kiyel and Sam were waiting for him by the front door.
“Report, Commander!” Captain Harris barked, looking up from his desk at his first-officer standing smartly at attention before him.
“Sir, they’ve just been sighted,” Gregori answered.
“It’s about bloody time,” Captain Harris said, putting the report he had held in his hands down. “Where are they?”
“Near Doc O’Riley’s clinic.”
“Are you sure it’s them?”
“Yes, Sir. They were two large forest cats, walking upright, and one of them was carrying what looked like a small child in his arms. Doc O’Riley was with them, also.”
“Damn it!” Captain Harris cursed, “If they keep this up we won’t have a colony left to defend!” he said. “Very well, Commander. Do we know where they were headed?”
“They were last seen crossing the valley, sir, making their way towards the forest.”
“Who do we have in that area?”
“Just Michaels and Simms, sir,” Gregori answered.
“Raise them on the com, and get them to that location,” Harris ordered. “Then get another team ready to join them. This time we’ll make sure they won’t get away from us.”
“Aye, sir,” Gregori said, saluting before he left the Captain’s office.
Captain Harris allowed himself to lean back in his chair and reflect on the events of the past several hours.
Having gone to the crashed T’kri shuttle in search of Mikkel and Janice, and unable to find any sign of them—or the Caitarans they were with—in the immediate vicinity, he ordered his team to return to base while he traveled alone to Clearhaven in the hopes that some of the townsfolk may have seen something.
It was there, while he roamed the streets that he learned the T’kri had completely pulled out of Clearhaven—a fact which surprised even him—and it was also there that he learned of the sudden appears of two forest cats in the middle of town.
Immediately he knew the cats had to have been Caitaran, especially when he heard that they later left running on their hind legs with what appeared to be a child.
As quickly as he could, he contacted the rebel base, and arranged for a pick up. He knew from talking to several individuals that the cats were headed towards Hillsforde, and he needed to act fast if he was to have a chance at intercepting them and hold them for questioning.
One way or another, he was going make Mikkel pay for his betrayal, and for taking Janice away from him. And those two Caitarans were going to lead him straight to him.
After leaving Sam’s clinic, and heading up the hill that would lead them away from Hillsforde, Jev and the others quickly traversed the open valley until finally they disappeared into the surrounding forest. It had taken them some time to get there, though. At least twice, they were forced to leave the path and seek shelter behind some bushes or large boulders to avoid being seen by any traveling colonists. Unlike when Jev and Kiyel raced from Clearhaven to Hillsforde in an effort to save Zachary’s life, this time they could not afford to be seen and possibly be followed, by either T’kri or rebel patrols.
They were now several hours into the forest, and well on their way to the caves, where Kel and the others waited for them. Kiyel looked behind him to check on Jev and Zachary, and he smiled. Zachary, who was still under the effects of the sedative Sam had given him, slept in Jev’s arms while instinctively gripping him tightly—just as a Caitaran cub would—with his hands. He had many fond memories of the times he sat, watching his mother with his younger brother, Kehlan, who held onto her with his little hands while he slept in her arms.
Just then, Kiyel’s reverie was abruptly ended when he witnessed Sam, who had been following behind Jev, stumble, and only just manage to maintain his footing.
“Are you okay, Doc?” Jev asked, turning quickly, hearing Sam falter.
“Yeah, I’m alright. Just not used to all this hiking, is all. I haven’t done anything like this since I was in med school!” Sam said, as he stopped for a moment to catch his breath.
“We can’t rest yet, though,” Kiyel said, as he scanned the area around them, and not feeling at all at ease where they were, “it’s not safe. We need to get deeper into the woods,” Kiyel said.
“Just give me a few, to catch my breath, Kiyel. I’ll be fine in a second,” Sam said, while leaning up against a tree.
“I can’t sense that there’s anyone following us, Enassi,” Jev said, reaching out with his mind into the forest. “We did a pretty good job of avoiding anyone on the path when we left.”
“No, you’re right. But I’ll still be more at ease once we’re deeper in the woods and farther away from Hillsforde.”
“Let’s just be glad that Zachary is sleeping through all this,” Jev said, looking down at the child wrapped up in blankets in his arms.
“All the more reason we get him to see Tiela as soon as possible,” Kiyel said. “If he wakes up, and is still in pain, his cries could alert either the T’kri or the rebels as to our whereabouts.
“Alright, I’m ready,” Sam said, standing next to them.
“We should be able to reach the caves in a few hours,” Kiyel assured him.
“Are you going to be able to make it, Doc?” Jev asked.
“Boy, I’ve been walking farther than this since before you were born. I’ll make it. I’m just not used to it. With the two of you around, though, I’m betting that I’ll be doing a lot more walking in the near future.”
“You’re probably right,” Kiyel agreed, giving him a toothless grin.
“Alright, Kiyel, let’s get going,” Sam said, shaking his head, but with a smile on his face.
“Tanis, what’s the status on the teams that went out to investigate the explosion?” Janette asked, walking out of her office to the desk where Tanis sat.
“They arrived twenty minutes ago, Janette,” Tanis replied, looking at his watch briefly.
“Have they made a report yet?”
“Not yet. I’m expecting it to be delivered within the next few minutes.”
“When the team leader gets here, have him join me in my office will you?” Janette asked.
“Of course. Did you need me to be present as well?” Tanis asked.
“I always need you, Tanis. I don’t think I’d be able to do this job half as well without you here to help me,” Janette said, and sighed wearily.
“I’ve always liked doing this sort of work,” Tanis admitted, practically glowing from the compliment she gave him. “Even on Earth before we left.”
“It shows,” she replied, smiling at him. “Just send the team leader in when he gets here.”
“I will,” Tanis told her before she returned to her office, and not even bothering to close the door behind her.
“We’ve got a problem,” Kiyel said suddenly, stopping in his tracks.
His ears perked up, and his tail began flicked nervously behind him. Reaching out with his mind, Kiyel began focusing on the presence that he had sensed.
“What is it?” Jev asked behind him.
“There’s a number of people rapidly headed our way,” Kiyel told him.
Jev opened up his mind, and just at the edge of his senses, he saw them. “Damn!” he cursed softly.
“What? What’s going on?” Sam’s breathless voice asked behind them.
“We need to move, and quickly. We’re being tracked by rebels,” Jev said.
“What, you’re sure it’s the rebels and not T’kri?” Sam asked, nervously looking around him in a vain attempt to see what it was that Jev and Kiyel were talking about.
“You can’t see them,” Kiyel told him. “They’re about two kilometers to the north of our position, close to where the crash site is.”
“It’s definitely the rebels,” Jev said. “Captain Harris is with them, and he’s really pissed,”
“Pissed?” Kiyel asked, not familiar with the word.
“Mad, upset and definitely infuriated; all of it directed toward us. Somehow he knows we’re out here, and he’s coming for us,” Jev explained.
“So what do we do now?” Sam asked.
“We can’t allow them to delay us,” Jev said resolutely. “Zachary needs help from Tiela, and we’re definitely in no shape to fight them off ourselves.”
“Agreed,” Kiyel said.
As he began looking around them, his eyes suddenly settled on a familiar vine structure a few yards away from them, and he began to smile.
“Follow me. I’ve got an idea,” he said.