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When Tiela later dropped by Jev and Kiyel’s quarters as she promised she would, Jev wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see that Kel was with her as well. It occurred to him then that lately, wherever Tiela went Kel was constantly at her side, following her around like a kitten would follow its mother. So when he saw the two of them standing outside their door together, he had to suppress the grin that threatened to form on his face. Better than ever now, he was able to feel the connection that was growing between them. If they weren’t already a couple, he knew they soon would be.
Stepping aside to let them in, Jev noticed that Tiela held in her hands several data pads which she promptly offered to Sam upon seeing him.
“These are for you, Sam. They contain all the information you’ll need on Caitaran anatomy and physiology,” she said.
After scanning over them briefly, Sam nodded with appreciation.
“Thanks, these will help,” he said.
“So how are you two liking your new quarters, Kiyel?” Tiela asked.
“Honestly it’s more than Jev and I expected, Tiela,” Kiyel admitted.
Kel slowly nodded as he looked around and took everything in, having never before seen Enassi quarters.
“Excellent,” she said with a grin. “In that case what do the four of you say to joining us for an early third meal?” she said.
“Sounds good to me, I’m starving,” Jev said, his tail beginning to flick in anticipation.
“You’re always hungry,” Kiyel said, with an amused chuckle.
“Well I am a growing boy.”
In more ways than one, Enassi, Kiyel sent with a mischievous grin.
Kiyel! Jev protested, his ears flattening against his skull in acute embarrassment.
Luckily for him though, neither Tiela nor Kel noticed, or if they did, they chose not to say anything.
“By the way, where’s Aiden?” Kel asked, suddenly noticing his absence.
“Oh, he’s taking a nap. What with all the excitement he’s had today he was pretty tired,” Sam answered. “I’ll go wake him and see if he’s hungry.”
“No, wait, you don’t ...” Tiela started, but Sam had already left, quickly disappearing into the room he shared with Aiden.
Moments later, when he re-emerged, he was carrying a very groggy looking Aiden in his arms.
“Did you get a good sleep, Aiden?” Jev asked.
“Uh huh,” Aiden nodded.
“I’m impressed,” Tiela said, looking at Sam and Aiden in surprised wonder. “How in Dahel’s name did you get him to let you carry him, Sam?”
“Honestly, Tiela, I don’t really know,” Sam said, clearly as surprised as she was, but also beaming with pride at his adopted son. “I just went in to wake him and he suddenly reached up to me as though wanting to be picked up. So I did.”
“Maybe Aiden’s finally realized that Sam wouldn’t hurt him,” Jev said.
“Well, whatever the reason, it’s certainly a good sign,” Tiela said.
Aiden began to squirm slightly in Sam’s arms, wanting to be let down, which Sam did.
“Well, shall we get going then?” Kel asked.
Minutes later, after they left the quarters, they arrived back at the lounge and stepped inside.
They weren’t in the lounge for more than a half hour, and already enjoying their meal, when the lounge doors suddenly opened to admit a young and very nervous looking female yeoman. Out of the corner of his eye, Jev saw her begin scanning the room until her gaze finally fell on them, at which point she then began to make her way to their table.
“Are you Kiyel, sir?” she asked with timid apprehension, which Jev found rather odd.
Surprised that she was looking for him, Kiyel looked up at her and nodded.
“There’s a call for you from home world, sir,” she continued.
“A call, for me?” Kiyel asked, his ears pricking up with curiosity.
“Yes, sir. I’m told it’s your father.”
Kiyel frowned slightly, his nose wrinkling.
“Damn!” he muttered quietly. He slowly rose from his chair, his tail flicking jerkily behind him, showing his distress.
We both knew this time would come, Enassi, Jev sent.
I would have preferred to tell him about us later though, when we were on Caitar.
Do you want me to come with you?
No, this is something I should do myself, Kiyel sent.
Jev nodded in understanding as Kiyel apologetically excused himself from the table and then left with the yeoman out of the lounge.
“Jev, what was all that about?” a confused Tiela asked when the lounge doors closed behind them.
Everyone at the table stared expectantly at him, but Jev just shook his head, his ears dipping slightly apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Tiela. I really can’t say. I made a promise to Kiyel that I wouldn’t.”
Kel leaned back in his chair, his eyes narrowing as he stared at Jev intensely.
“This ship is under a strict communications blackout, except for command level channels, until the T’kri threat on Alessi has been dealt with and diplomatic relations with the colonists has been firmly established. For Kiyel to be receiving a communication of any kind indicates that he must have some pretty high level connections. It would appear there’s more to our Kiyel than we previously believed.”
Again Jev said nothing, even though each of them at the table continued to stare at him.
Kiyel followed the young yeoman down the corridor to the communications office located on the same level where he was ushered inside and shown into a small room. There the yeoman had him sit down in the chair before a console, above which was a view screen that displayed the Caitaran Force’s insignia. Reaching past Kiyel, she activated the unit for him.
“I’ll be waiting for you outside, sir, if you need anything,” she said, bowing respectfully before leaving the room so he could take the call in private.
The insignia on the screen faded away and was replaced with the image of his father who was wearing a severe expression.
“Kiyel, what in Dahel’s name are you doing out there?” his father asked without even so much as a hello.
“It’s nice to see you, too, father,” Kiyel said.
“Don’t be evasive, Kiyel! I know something is wrong. I could feel your distress from here on Caitar. Now what’s going on?”
“Father, you may be the most powerful telepath on Caitar, but there is no way you could have possibly picked up my mental state from that far away.”
“Alright, call it father’s intuition then,” his father said with a dismissive wave of his hand. But then his expression and tone softened. “Your mother and I have been worried about you.”
“As you can see, father, I’m perfectly alright.”
“That’s not good enough, Kiyel. We know that the ship you were assigned was shot down and that you were injured. Other than assuring us that you survived, however, that damned Admiral Chuul is refusing to discuss your situation with us.”
“That sounds like something she would do,” Kiyel said dryly.
“It took me calling in a few favours just to be allowed to make this call,” his father continued. “Now what’s going on?”
Kiyel let out a long sigh, resigning himself to the fact that he wasn’t going to be able to avoid telling his father any longer.
“I was injured in the crash. But I’m all right now.”
His father’s expression softened further and became full of concern.
“The captain ordered a retreat into the forest nearby to avoid being discovered, but I was too weak from the injuries I sustained to follow. I was forced instead to make my way to a small settlement belonging to the colonists where, near death, I collapsed in the snow. Almost immediately after, I was discovered by one of the colonists who took me inside a dwelling where my wounds were treated.”
There was an uncomfortable silence as his father sat staring at him through the terminal.
“That was a risky thing you did, Kiyel,” his father gently admonished. “For all you knew the colonists could have been the ones who shot down your ship.”
“Except I knew they weren’t, father, because my mind touched the mind of one who possessed a talent.”
His father leaned forward in his chair, ears pricking with surprised interest.
“Wait, they’re a race with telepaths?” he asked.
“Didn’t Ambassador D’lin tell you that in her reports?” Kiyel asked, his head cocked on one side and looking quizzically at his father.
“There’s been no mention of there being telepaths among the humans at all.”
“More interference from Admiral Chuul I’ll bet,” Kiyel muttered derisively.
“You’ve bonded with one of these human telepaths haven’t you, Kiyel?” his father suddenly asked, the realization hitting him.
“I have, father. He’s my Enassi. His name is Jev. It was he who found me and saved me.”
“I should have realized it sooner. The feel of your mind is so different now. There’s an almost alien quality to it.”
“Father, I need to know if you will accept him. I left Caitar because I wanted an ordinary life, not one tied to duty and tradition, like you and mother. That hasn’t changed. So if you won’t, there’s really little point in us returning to Caitar.”
His father leaned back in his chair and shrugged his shoulders, though the set of his ears showed he wasn’t at all pleased with the situation.
“He’s your Enassi, Kiyel. I can’t say it’s what I’d wished for you, but whether he’s human or Caitaran makes no difference. The bond is undeniable. He will be welcome here.”
“Thank you, father.”
“Don’t thank me just yet. There is still your mother to consider,” his father said with a slight frown. “At any rate, I would appreciate it if from now on I’m sent the full reports on all matters concerning you and your Enassi. Unless it’s cleared by you, I assume Admiral Chuul will continue to frustrate my efforts.”
“When I signed up, I did so under an assumed name. The admiral doesn’t know.”
“I am aware of that, Kiyel. But it has to be done. It’s about time Chuul learned some humility.”
“The Cetani is scheduled to leave for Caitar at mid-day tomorrow. Your mother will be joining you shortly before its departure to represent Alien Affairs. I would come myself, but at the moment I’m up to my ears in this Caitaran/Alessian treaty. I will, however, look forward to meeting your Enassi when you return. Take care of yourself, Kiyel.”
“And you as well, father,” Kiyel said as the screen went black and the insignia returned.
Only when Kiyel was certain that the connection was closed did he finally allow himself to relax, a relieved grin stretching across his face.
Jev was enjoying his second cup of k’yarri and listening to the quiet conversation around the table when he glanced over at the lounge doors as they opened to admit the same group of humans that had been with them on the shuttle. Leading them was the ensign who had been assigned to them.
While the ensign led the group to an empty table in a far corner of the lounge, one of the humans, a tall, lanky man with curly brown hair and dark blue eyes stopped suddenly and looked over at them, a look of surprised recognition flashing across face.
“Is something the matter, Jev?” Tiela asked him.
“I think that man over there knows Doc,” Jev said.
“Really?” Sam asked. He looked passed Jev to see the man slowly starting towards them.
“Are you Doctor Sam O’Riley?” the man asked when he finally reached their table.
“Yes, I am. Is there something I can do for you?”
“My name’s Shawn Dedrick. You treated my daughter a couple of weeks ago after she was roughed up by a T’kri patrol.”
Sam’s brow furrowed in thought for a moment, a frown on his lips, as he tried to remember the girl.
“Her name wouldn’t happen to be Tanya would it?” he asked.
Shawn nodded, a grateful grin stretching across his slightly unkempt face.
“I never got the chance to before, but I’d like to thank you for everything you did for her.” He reached across the table to Sam, offering his hand, which Sam gladly shook.
“You’re very welcome, Shawn. She’s doing well I take it?”
“Much better now, thanks,” Shawn nodded. “She’s begun apprenticing with the proprietor of the bakery in Clearhaven.”
“That’s good to hear,” Sam said.
“If you don’t mind me saying though, I was a little surprised to see you on board. I thought I saw you on the shuttle on the way up, but I wasn’t sure until now. You’re the last person I’d have expected to see willingly get on board an alien vessel.”
“Normally you’d be right,” Sam answered with a slight chuckle. “But the truth is I’m here because of little Aiden here, and Jev.”
“Wait, do you mean Mikkel’s little brother?” Shawn asked. “I thought Jev and their father both died in the fire.”
“Luckily I wasn’t there,” Jev said, startling Shawn, who suddenly stepped back from him when he saw not the Caitaran he expected, but Jev as he looked when he was human.
“Shawn, this is Jev,” Sam said.
“What the ...? How’d you do that?” Shawn asked, eyeing Jev warily.
“I’m a telepath,” Jev said succinctly, allowing his illusion to fade to reveal his true self.
Seeing his sudden weariness, Tiela offered him her cup of k’yarri, which he gratefully accepted and quickly drank.
“But you’re a Caitaran. There’s no way you could be Jev,” a clearly flustered Shawn said.
“He used to be human though, just like you, Sam and Aiden are,” Tiela quickly interjected. “How and why his transformation occurred is something we’re trying to figure out.”
“Needless to say a lot has happened since my dad died in the fire,” Jev said.
“Right, well, I think I really should be getting back to the others now,” Shawn said, his tone anxious. “Thanks again for everything you did for my Tanya, Doc.”
Before Sam could respond, however, Shawn turned and hurriedly returned to the group of humans he had come in with.
“He was afraid of me,” Jev said quietly.
“Can you really blame him?” Kel asked.
Jev involuntarily flinched at the rebuke, his ears twitching slightly.
“No, I guess not,” he answered.
But then suddenly a wide grin appeared on his face as he looked up across the lounge to the lounge doors once again, his tail tip flicking with pleasure.
“Now what?” Tiela asked.
“It’s Kiyel,” Jev answered. “He got the answer he was hoping for. He’s on his way back now.”
“What answer would that be?” Kel asked.
Jev was about to answer when the lounge doors suddenly opened to admit a rather cheerful looking Kiyel, who quickly made his way to their table.
I missed you, Enassi, Jev sent as Kiyel leaned down to rub his nose to his affectionately.
Kiyel let out a light chuckle as he retook his seat next to Jev.
I was only gone for a few minutes, he sent.
“Well, Kiyel, don’t you think it’s about time you levelled with us?” Kel asked.
“I beg your pardon, sir?” Kiyel asked, looking at him quizzically, the smile on his face quickly disappearing.
“A third grade telepath with your rank would never be permitted to receive a personal communique during a communications blackout. After everything we’ve been through I think we deserve to know what’s going on.”
“You’re right, sir, you do have a right to know,” Kiyel said with a sigh, his ears dipping apologetically. “But I don’t think we should discuss it here where it’s too public.”
“Then why don’t we continue this conversation in our quarters,” Sam suggested helpfully.
Kiyel nodded in agreement.
Unbeknownst to them, however, as they got up to leave, a lone Caitaran male who was seated in a relatively dark and empty corner of the lounge was watching them closely. He continued to watch them until they exiyrf the lounge, at which point he got up himself and followed them out.
Arriving a few minutes later at Jev and Kiyel’s quarters, Tiela immediately went to the food prep station to prepare some k’yarri for them, as well as a glass of nanaya juice for Aiden, while the others went to the sitting area.
“Alright, Kiyel, out with it,” Kel impatiently said, sitting opposite him, “what’s going on?”
“Sir, you were right about me not being a third grade telepath,” Kiyel began. “I’m actually a first grade telepath. And although you all know me as Kiyel Lhevi, that isn’t my full name, it’s actually Kiyel Lhevic.”
“So you are a pride leader’s son then,” Kel said, recognizing the name, his nose twitching slightly.
“But why the deception, Kiyel? Why join the Forces under an assumed name?” Tiela asked when she joined them. She sat down next to Kel and placed their drinks in front of them on the low table that was there.
“Because I’d had enough of the life my mother and father wanted for me, Tiela,” Kiyel told her, his voice tight. He reached out to draw Jev closer to him. “I wanted to live a normal life, not one tied to duty and tradition like my parents are. They enjoy that sort of life. I never have. It would probably surprise you to know I’m betrothed to a female, chosen for me as my life-mate by my parents and hers when we were born. I want nothing to do with her, and they know it. Nevertheless, they continued to insist that I go through with the bonding. So one night about a year ago, I left and joined the Forces.”
“Kiyel told me about all this shortly after I learned he wasn’t an Alessian mountain cat. Elder Veir is the only other one who knows who Kiyel really is,” Jev said.
“That would make sense, since the Elder would know your family,” Kel nodded.
“Luckily, the Elder sympathized with my situation and agreed to help keep my true identity hidden.”
“Well, since your father called you here, he obviously managed to figure out where you’d disappeared to,” Kel said.
“Does he know that you nearly died down there?” Tiela asked.
“He does now, but only because I told him. Admiral Chuul has been frustrating his efforts to learn more about what happened to us,” Kiyel said.
“That sounds like Chuul alright,” Kel muttered derisively, his ears dipping slightly.
“Which is why my father told me that I should reveal my true identity to the admiral. He said that it was time she learned some humility.”
Kel gave a little bark of a laugh.
“I would give anything to be there to see that!” he said.
Jev grinned. He understood Kel’s feelings toward the Admiral, since he shared them as well.
“Before we do anything though, Kiyel and I should probably get some sleep so we can be ready for our appointment with you tomorrow, Tiela,” he said.
“That’s a good idea, Jev, since it is getting pretty late,” Tiela nodded, getting to her feet and waiting for the others to join her. “But tell me, Kiyel, is everything all right between you and your father now?” she asked as they started for the door together.
“Yes, I think so. It’s just my mother I have to worry about. She’s on route to the Cetani as we speak.”
“To see you?” Sam asked.
“Not specifically, no, although I have no doubt that’s the very first thing she’ll want to do when she gets here,” he answered with a faint grin. “She’s been asked by our government to assist with the negotiations with the Alessian government.”
“No doubt,” Kel echoed, mimicking Kiyel’s grin.
Kiyel touched his hand to the panel beside the door which then promptly slid open.
“Well, I guess I’ll see the both of you tomorrow then,” Tiela said, stepping out into the corridor with Kel.
“Good night, Tiela, Captain,” Jev said with a slight flick of his ears, before touching the panel to shut the door behind them.
Sam then looked down at Aiden, who had been holding his hand the entire time they were standing there.
“All right, you. It’s time for bed,” he said.
“But I’m not tired!” Aiden whined defiantly, even though it was plainly obvious he was having difficulties keeping his eyes open.
The three of them laughed as Sam began ushering the sleepy child towards his bedroom.
Having finished third meal, Hraka decided to return to the solitude of his quarters where he could think. He was lying on his bunk in his quarters, slowly nursing a hot cup of k’yarri, when the door suddenly sounded, abruptly pulling him away from his thoughts. At first he was inclined not to answer it, but then the door sounded again, more insistent this time. Annoyed, he rose from his bunk, made his way to the door and activated the intercom.
“Yeah, who is it?” he growled.
“It’s me, Vrash, Hraka,” came the answer.
The door slid open, admitting an excited older male Caitaran with a graying pelt.
“It’s late, Vrash,” Hraka hissed with a scowl as he closed the door, the set of his ears showing his displeasure. “What do you want?”
“I saw him, the abomination, in the upper deck lounge.”
“You disturbed me for that? I’ve already seen him, in the hangar bay,” Hraka replied, his tone impatient.
“Not like this you haven’t,” Vrash said, his tail flicking excitedly behind him. “He changed.”
Hraka’s ears pricked up with curious interest.
“What do you mean, he changed?” he asked.
“One minute he was Caitaran, the next he looked like the furless aliens from the planet.”
At this Hraka’s brow furrowed, his scowl deepening even further.
“Is the abomination still there?” he asked.
“No, he and his Enassi and some of the crew from the Lekur left to go to their quarters.”
“You followed them?” Hraka asked, eying him incredulously.
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t seen.”
“They’re telepaths, Vrash. They didn’t need to see you to know you were following them,” Hraka said, his tail twitching angrily.
“They would have reacted to my presence if they did. Which they didn’t.”
“Even so, you damn well better be more careful in the future,” Hraka said in a tone that brook no argument. “If our plans are to succeed, we must remain hidden and act covertly for the time being. Later, when the time is right, we can reveal ourselves.” His lips then curled back in a wicked grin. “In the mean time, I’ll personally take care of the abomination and his Enassi.”