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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
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After leaving the hanger, Ardem and Sanaa led Jev, Kiyel, Sam, and Aiden through the busy corridors of the ship to an elevator, where they stopped and waited for it to return to their level.
Aiden, who was increasingly becoming nervous with so many Caitarans giving them curious looks, gripped Jev’s hand tightly in his and moved behind him to try to avoid their stares. Jev saw his discomfort and smiled down at him reassuringly, while at the same time giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
Just then the lift door finally slid open. They stood back to allow a group of Caitarans to exit the lift, then piled in themselves. When the door closed, and Ardem touched his hand to the panel by the door, Jev felt the lift lurch slightly as it began to ascend.
“No elevator music?” Jev commented wryly in English as he turned his head to look back at Kiyel.
This caused Sam to chuckle lightly, while a bemused Kiyel just shook his head.
Moments later, the lift deposited them onto a relatively empty corridor several decks up from where they started.
The stark contrast between the two corridors immediately caught Jev’s attention. Where the first was filled with so many Caitarans it was almost impossible for them to move, this one was almost completely devoid of life, except for the occasional Caitaran who passed by them.
Sensing Jev’s confused astonishment, Kiyel leaned down to speak to him.
“We just came from the lower decks, where our ground troops and pilots live and work. The upper decks, like this one, are where the officers and those responsible for running the Cetani live,” he explained.
“Is that why it was so crowded down there and not here?” Jev asked.
“We probably just came aboard during shift change,” Ardem answered.
“There’s over four hundred crew on board, Jev. Most of them occupy the lower decks,” Sanaa added.
“That many?” Jev asked, his eyes widening with surprise. “Wow!”
Ardem and Sanaa both laughed at his reaction.
“You’ll get used to it soon enough, Enassi,” Kiyel said.
Jev felt a gentle tug on his sleeve and he looked down to see Aiden looking up at him with a hopeful expression.
“Are we getting something to eat now?” Aiden asked.
They suddenly stopped and turned to stare at Aiden with a mix of surprise and amazement on each of their faces. It wasn’t what he said that made them stop so suddenly, but rather it was how he said it, for somehow he spoke to them in perfect Caitaran.
Aiden seemed to wilt under their gaze.
“Did I say something wrong?” he asked timidly, again speaking Caitaran.
Jev was the first to recover, and he knelt down to his level.
“No, of course not, Aiden,” he assured him. “But how did you learn to speak like us?”
“I don’t know,” Aiden answered, relaxing visibly when he realized he wasn’t in trouble. “I just do.”
“This is incredible,” an astonished Kiyel said.
“I take it this child has never spoken our language before, Kiyel?” Sanaa asked.
“No, never,” Kiyel said.
“Aiden, you can understand everything that we’re saying?” Jev asked.
“Some of it,” Aiden answered, nodding his head, and smiling proudly at him. “I couldn’t before, but I can now.”
Jev smiled at him and stood back up.
“So we can see, cub,” Kiyel said.
“Hey, I’m not a cub,” Aiden protested, looking up at Kiyel seriously, “I’m a boy.”
“You know something, you’ll always be a cub to us,” Kiyel said with a smile.
At this everyone burst into laughter, except Sam, who was looking more than just a little perplexed.
“Would someone mind explaining to me what’s going on? I can’t understand a thing you’re all saying.”
“Sorry, Doc,” Jev said in English as he quickly got his laughter under control. “It’s just that somehow Aiden is beginning to learn how to understand and speak Caitaran.”
“Did either you or Kiyel teach it to him?” Sam asked.
“No, and that’s just it, he seems to be picking it up on his own.”
“It’s very unusual,” Kiyel added, absently scratching behind his ear.
Sam’s brow furrowed in thought as he looked at Kiyel.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Kiyel, but didn’t it take you only a few days to learn English?”
“That’s true. But I’m a fully trained telepath. Aiden isn’t.”
“Plus there’s the fact that Kiyel and I are using our abilities to suppress Aiden’s talent,” Jev reminded him.
Sanaa’s ears pricked up at this when Kiyel finished translating everything that had been said, and she looked at Jev with surprise.
“Are you saying the child is a telepath?” she asked.
"We don’t know yet. His talent was wakened prematurely,” Jev said, reverting to Caitaran.
“So he’s here to be tested,” Ardem said.
“That’s right,” Jev confirmed.
“Well, however he’s doing it, we’re not going to get any answers standing out here in the corridor,” Kiyel said.
They reached their destination a short time later, walking through the doors that slid open form them. On the other side was a spacious, comfortably-lit room with a number of round tables scattered throughout. Circling each of these tables were four large, extremely comfortable-looking, chairs. Beside the entrance, where they had just come in, was a long bar, behind which stood a Caitaran who was busy preparing food and some drinks for a pair of Caitarans seated on stools at the bar.
The most striking feature, however, and the one that caught Jev’s eye the most, were the four large windows at the opposite end of the room. Outside was the breathtaking view of Alessi below them.
For a few moments he just stood there, looking at the scene before him in awe. It was not until he received a gentle nudge from Kiyel that he allowed himself to be led by Ardem and Sanaa to a pair of empty tables near the windows.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Sanaa asked Jev as they sat down. “No matter how many times I come to this lounge and look out that window it still manages to leave me breathless.”
“It’s beautiful,” Jev said, reluctantly tearing his gaze away from the view.
“So what would you like to eat?” Ardem asked.
“I don’t really know,” Jev said. “I’ve never actually eaten Caitaran food before.”
“What, never?” Ardem asked, looking at Jev in astonishment.
“Jev wasn’t born Caitaran, Ardem. He was born human, just like Sam and Aiden here,” Kiyel told him.
“Wasn’t born Caitaran...” Ardem echoed incredulously, his voice trailing off as he stared at Jev.
“It’s a long story,” Jev said.
“Well, we’ve plenty of time,” Sanaa said.
But before Jev could respond, one of the lounge’s wait staff approached their table.
“Is there something I can get for you?” the tall, dark-furred Caitaran male asked.
Looking up at him, Sanaa began by ordering a round of k’yarri for herself, Ardem, Jev, Kiyel, and also Sam, who indicated he was interested in trying a cup after Kiyel explained that it was similar to Alessian coffee, only sweeter and not as strong.
“And for the little one?” the waiter asked.
“Some nanaya juice if you have any,” Kiyel ordered.
Sanaa then ordered a simple first meal for each of them, after which the waiter left to get their order.
“Kiyel, what’s nanaya juice?” Jev asked, speaking in English for Sam’s benefit.
“It’s a sweet-tasting drink made from a fruit grown on Brekar that’s very rich in vitamins,” Kiyel explained.
Sam nodded his head.
“That’s just what he needs,” he said.
Shortly afterward, the waiter returned to their table with their drinks, which he placed in front of them before leaving again.
Curiously eyeing his drink, Aiden lifted up the glass and took a tentative sip from it. As soon as the greenish liquid hit his taste buds, his face quickly lit up with pleasure and he began drinking in earnest.
“I think he likes it,” Ardem said with a little chuckle.
“What was your first clue?” Kiyel asked.
By the time Aiden had finished his drink, the waiter was back with their food, which Jev eyed hungrily as a plate was placed before him.
On it were some strips of cooked meat and a variety of vegetables and fruit that looked very appealing, even though he couldn’t identify any of it. The smell alone made his mouth begin to water.
Aiden, in the meantime, was staring at the food on his plate with an uncertain expression.
“What’s this?” he asked, pointing to a round, reddish fruit.
“It’s fruit. Try some, it’s really good,” Kiyel assured him as put a piece of meat in his mouth, closing his eyes as he savoured the flavor.
Seeing the expressions of contentment on both Jev’s and Kiyel’s faces, he did as Kiyel suggested, tentatively putting a piece of fruit in his mouth. To his pleasant surprise, it was very tasty, and like Kiyel and Jev, quickly began enthusiastically attacking the food on his plate.
“So tell us, how is it possible that you could be born human, but look like one of us?” Sanaa asked.
“That’s part of the reason why Tiela wants to see Kiyel and me in the medical bay tomorrow,” Jev said, after swallowing a piece of meat. “About a week ago we were attacked by the T’kri in the cave we were hiding in. During the attack I somehow began to change, though I don’t remember it happening.”
“We believe that Jev is not only a telepath but also a telekinetic, and it’s this talent that allowed him to change,” Kiyel said.
“But how could that cause such a change to occur?” a confused looking Sanaa asked.
“I wish we could tell you,” Jev said, his ears dipping apologetically. “At the time, Kiyel suggested that I instinctively altered my DNA in response to the threat, and that because I’m still going through puberty my body was amiable to the change.”
“We won’t know for certain exactly how Jev did what he did until Tiela has had a chance to take a look at him,” Kiyel added.
“It sounds almost too incredible to be believed,” Ardem said in awe.
“He’s not entirely Caitaran though,” Kiyel continued. “Some of his human DNA is still present, as is evidenced by the colouring of his fur, which is the same colour hair he had when he was human. Also, Tiela has said that his vision is slightly better than our own, in that he can see colours more vividly.”
“In other words, you’re a hybrid,” Sanaa said to Jev, leaning back in her chair, and nodding her head in understanding.
“So it would seem,” Jev said before returning his attention to the food on his plate.
An hour later, Jev was working on his second helping. From the very first bite he took, he was impressed with how good it tasted. Somehow the flavours seemed more real than any of the food he’d eaten on Alessi.
The others watched with amusement as he took bite after bite, until finally everything on his plate had disappeared. Jev, oblivious to their stares, closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his stomach as he savored the experience.
“When you said you were hungry, you weren’t kidding,” Sanaa said, looking at Jev with a wide grin on her face.
Jev suddenly opened his eyes and stared at her, his ears dipping slightly from embarrassment. He was saved from further embarrassment, however, when the lounge doors opened and Kel and Tiela walked in.
“Well it didn’t take you two very long to find the lounge,” Tiela said to Kiyel as she and Kel pulled up a couple more chairs to sit with them.
“How was the debriefing with Chuul?” Jev asked.
“About as well as could be expected, considering,” Kel said with a slight shrug.
Jev got the distinct impression that Kel didn’t want to talk about the debriefing, so he let the matter drop.
“Did the two of you get settled into your new quarters yet?” Tiela asked, quickly changing the subject.
“Actually, we came here first. We were in such a rush this morning that we didn’t have a chance to grab something to eat before we left,” Kiyel said.
“That’ll teach you to sleep in,” Kel said.
“Something interesting happened along the way, though,” Kiyel said, “Aiden has begun speaking our language.”
“He has?” Tiela said, her ears pricking up with interest as she turned her attention to Aiden.
“How?” Kel asked.
“We don’t know,” Kiyel said, with a shake of his head, “though it’s likely because of his talent.”
“I thought you and Jev were preventing Aiden from using his talent,” Kel said, looking at them with a confused expression.
“We are, Captain, but only to a certain degree. We can’t block his talent completely. Neither of us has that kind of ability. We can only ensure that he doesn’t affect others by sending wildly.”
“It’s amazing what the mind is capable of, given the right motivation,” Tiela said, chuckling lightly.
“In his case, it was food,” Jev said, smiling at Aiden.
“We’ll know more once he gets tested by the Telepath Guild,” Kiyel said.
“Speaking of being tested,” Tiela said, reverting to English and looking at Sam, “would you care to join me tomorrow when we do Jev’s and Kiyel’s scans?”
Sam, who up to this point had been simply observing the conversation, and not understanding a single word of it, looked at her with a surprised expression.
“Thank you, I would,” he said. “I had actually planned at some point to ask you if I could anyway.”
“I figured as much,” she said with a knowing grin. “Given your knowledge of human physiology, Admiral Chuul has given me permission to train you to work in our medical bay.”
“She wasn’t really too keen on the idea at first. Not until, that is, she was told that not only are you a physician, but you’re also Jev’s legal guardian,” Kel said.
“How’s he going to work with you when he can’t read or speak Caitaran, Tiela?” Kiyel asked.
“He will if you do a language transfer, like you did for us.”
“Captain?” Kiyel asked, seeking Kel’s permission.
Kel flicked his ears in assent.
A few minutes later, Sam was rubbing the sides of his temple, nursing a small headache.
“I’m sorry if I caused you any discomfort,” Kiyel said, flattening his ears backward in apology.
“No, that’s quite alright, Kiyel,” Sam assured him.
His eyes then suddenly flew open and he looked at Kiyel in shocked bewilderment as he realized Kiyel spoke to him in his native language, and that he had understood him.
“Now you know how I felt when I first realized that I could understand the Captain back on Alessi,” Jev said with a knowing grin.
“This is going to take some getting used to,” Sam said.
“We haven’t been properly introduced. I’m Sanaa, and this is my Enassi and life-mate Ardem,” Sanaa said to Sam.
Sam nodded in greeting to each of them.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Sam,” he said, trying out his Caitaran, though he struggled to form the words.
“Don’t worry, Sam, you’ll get accustomed to our language soon enough,” Tiela said with a sympathetic grin. “Right now, however, the four of you need to get settled in to your new quarters. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day for all of us.”
“Have Doc and Aiden been assigned quarters yet?” Kiyel asked.
“Yes, they have,” Tiela said, and then smiled at him. “In fact, they’ll be sharing yours.”
Jev looked at her, cocking his head on one side, ears turning in her direction.
“Just how large are our quarters, Tiela?” he asked.
“Large enough, Jev,” she laughed.
“Enassi quarters are some of the largest on the Cetani,” Ardem interjected helpfully. “They’re equipped with a bedroom and an office that can be converted into another bedroom, which yours already has, a sitting room, personal facilities, and a small alcove in which you can prepare drinks and small meals for yourselves.”
“That’s pretty impressive,” Sam said.
“Only the Ambassador Suites, one deck up, where visiting dignitaries reside, are larger, and those include a full kitchen,” Ardem added.
“I can’t wait to see them,” Jev said, clearly impressed.
“Well then, if you’re finished, we should get going,” Ardem said, pushing back his chair as he stood up.
“I’ll stop by later to see how you’re settling in,” Tiela promised.
“You’re not coming?” Kiyel asked, his ears flicking in surprise.
“After being subjected to Chuul’s debriefing, Kel and I decided we needed something strong to drink,” she said.
“Perhaps several drinks,” Kel added dryly.
Jev smiled and chuckled lightly as he and the others then rose from their chairs.
“I guess we’ll see you later then,” he said.
After leaving the lounge, Ardem and Sanaa once again began leading them through the seemingly endless corridors of the ship. This time, however, they remained on the same level.
Before long, they stopped at a door at the end of a long, empty corridor, which had just closed behind a Caitaran male. He was about Jev’s height and sported a grey and black pelt, which Jev found intriguing as it wasn’t a colour he’d seen on any other Caitaran. He was also fascinated by his blue eyes, which again was unusual for a Caitaran.
“You must be Kiyel and Jev,” the Caitaran said, curiously eyeing them both.
A look of surprise crossed Jev’s face when the Caitaran place his hand on each of their chests, a gesture which he now recognized to be the traditional telepath greeting.
“You’re not a telepath are you?” he asked as he and Kiyel returned the Caitaran’s greeting.
The Caitaran shook his head.
“No, but I grew up around telepaths,” he said. “My name is Riyad. I was asked by the Telepath Guild to help get your quarters ready.”
“I guess that’s how you knew who we were,” Jev said.
Riyad smiled at him with wry amusement.
“There isn’t a telepath on board who doesn’t know who you are, Jev. The two of you have become quite the source of conversation,” he said.
“Ah,” Jev said, ears twitching faintly with embarrassment.
“If you’ve finished embarrassing our friends, Riyad, perhaps you could allow them to see their quarters now?” Sanaa suggested, lightly admonishing Riyad, but inwardly smiling at Jev’s reaction, which she found somewhat endearing.
“You’re right, Sanaa,” Riyad said, quickly sobering up, his ears flattening briefly against his skull.
“Jev, go ahead and place the palm of your hand there,” Sanaa said, indicating the flat, hand-sized panel located on the bulkhead beside the door.
As soon as Jev did as he was instructed, the panel lit up and he heard a low chirp from the computer.
“What just happened?” Jev asked.
“The security system is now scanning your DNA and recording that information in a secure database. Like Ambassador’s quarters, Enassi quarters feature a system that’s keyed to an individual’s unique DNA. Only those who’s DNA has been recorded in the system will be able to open the door from the outside,” Riyad said.
“So what’s to stop someone from just breaking the door down or prying it open?”
“Well for one thing, the doors on the Cetani are constructed of a lightweight, composite material that’s actually stronger than three inch thick steel. Also, when closed, the doors are magnetically sealed. It’s virtually impossible for anyone to break into the room,” Riyad explained.
“In other words, we will be the only ones able to open the door,” Sam said, speaking slowly so as to ensure he was understood.
“And security and medical personnel, who can override the lock in emergencies,” Riyad said, somewhat taken aback that Sam had spoken to him in Caitaran, albeit with a heavy accent.
“That makes sense,” Sam nodded.
With a final chirp, the panel turned dark again and Jev removed his hand from it.
Riyad then motioned for Kiyel, Sam, and then Aiden to each in turn place their palms on the panel, recording their DNA into the system along with Jev’s.
“Alright, everything’s set,” Riyad said after he tapped a few final commands into the panel.
“Thank you, Riyad,” Kiyel said, ears giving a tiny flick of appreciation.
With a nod and an acknowledging grin, Riyad turned and started down the corridor towards the lift, which he then disappeared into.
“Well, Jev, care to do the honours?” Kiyel asked.
An eager grin formed on Jev’s face as he placed his palm on the panel, causing it to light up once again. Upon confirming his identity, a low chirp sounded, after which the door to their quarters slid open.
The first thing Jev noticed after they stepped through the door was that other than the light from the corridor and from the star field outside the large windows across from them, they were standing in almost total darkness. It was only due to his Caitaran eyes that he was even able to see. Sam, however, not being Caitarans, wasn’t so lucky, and ended up tripping on the leg of a stool near the door as he entered, causing Jev to cringe slightly, but then being forced to stifle a laugh when a series of choice words came out of Sam’s mouth.
Movement by the door caught Jev’s attention and he turned just in time to see Kiyel touch an illuminated button on the panel beside the door causing the lights to come on.
By the time Jev’s eyes had adjusted to the warm, yellowish lights he was already impressed. Their quarters was indeed everything Ardem and Sanaa had told them it was, and more.
They were standing on a slightly raised dais which almost completely encircled a large sitting area with two over-sized sofas and a low table in the middle. At the far end were two large windows which presented them with a magnificent view of Alessi below and the stars beyond. On their left was a small bar, in front of which were several tall stools, one of which Sam had already bumped into. On their right were three doors leading to what Jev assumed were their bedrooms and the washroom.
“Well, what do you think?” Sanaa asked, her voice suddenly breaking the stunned silence.
“It’s incredible,” Sam said, while still taking everything in.
A huge grin appeared on Aiden’s face as he practically leapt down from the dais to the sitting area below, where he scrambled up onto one of the sofas.
“We honestly weren’t expecting this,” Kiyel said, smiling with amusement at Aiden who happily stretched out on the sofa.
“The doors leading to your bedrooms are just over there,” Ardem said, nodding to the two doors closest to the windows. “Your personal belongings should already have been brought up and put into your rooms.”
“And through the last door is your personal facilities, where you can freshen up and take care of your personal needs,” Sanaa said.
“We humans call it a washroom,” Sam said.
“An apt description for it,” Sanaa said with a wry grin.
“Well, I guess we’ll leave you now, so you can get settled in,” Ardem said as he touched the panel by the door to the quarters, which then opened. “If you need anything at all, our quarters are right next to yours.”
“Thank you, Ardem, Sanaa,” Kiyel said, ears and tail flicking appreciatively.
With a nod, Ardem and Sanaa then stepped out into the corridor, and the door closed. "Well, shall we check out our room?” Kiyel suggested to Jev.
Jev grinned enthusiastically at Kiyel in response, and grabbed his hand as he led him to the door nearest the window.
Sam starred after them with a light chuckle, and shaking his head slowly as they quickly disappeared through the door.