Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Star Traveler Update - What did he say?

“What did he say?” I asked Jake.

“That he was going to go check on Kayo,” Jake answered, then flipped off a quick sign to Arr.

After the incident on Ukhta I asked Arr and Jake what they used for sign language in the tree that day. I can read Mercenary signing. I have been around them enough over the years that it has become a necessity - kind of a self-defense mechanism. Any woman with sense will learn so you can read what they are talking about to each other when you’re in negotiation with them or even just to know what they think of you when you walk in a bar alone. It gives you a feel for the temperature of the room and whether it would be safer just to turn around and walk out.

But, Jake and Arr didn’t sign pure merc. Come to find out, Arr’s people augment their language with gestures and Jake has picked up quite a few of them. They are sprinkled in his merc signing and Arr’s henu signing is sprinkled with merc signs. I have dubbed the new signing Mercnu. They offered to teach me.

“So that sign with the cross right fist is Kayo?” I asked. In merc it would have been spelled out.

“Yep,” Jake said. “When Arr first came aboard he wanted to know how Kayo got his name, so I showed him some fights where the match ended in a KO, hence the fist swipe. Got to admit, it is faster than spelling it out and Kayo has already learned it is his sign.” Jake sounded proud of the delinquent dar-dolf for picking it up so quickly.

Dar-dolfs are really smart animals it’s just that Kayo is so young. He is kind of a dufus most of the time. However, he really came through for us in the end on Ukhta. We owed him one.

Suddenly a satyr sprinted out of the woods at the edge of the meadow with Kayo hot on its trail. The satyr was having no trouble staying far enough in front of the dar-dolf to be safe and still tease by playing on his pipes. Arr was close behind Kayo in his attempt to catch the mythical being. It was quite a scene - the satyr gamboling like the half goat that he resembled – leaping and skipping. Kayo was like a fighter jacked on full speed. His was in a headlong charge with power behind it. He was quick, but moved more like a bear. Not near as elegant as the satyr when he ran. And then, there was Arr. He ran like a cheetah. You felt that if you could see his skin you would be able to see every muscle contract and elongate. He had no trouble keeping up with the two he was pursuing. In fact, he could have easily overtaken them, but that would have ended the fun game of chase. They all were laughing. I could even see delight on the dar-dolf’s face.

“Kids,” Jakes said, but it was in a loving way. He has really grown fond of his new partner. I haven’t seen him smile this much in years.

When I first met Jake he was an angry young man. His father had just been killed and he was adrift in the universe. His only tether was Tim and that was tenuous. Tim and Jake’s father, Taylor, were friends. Tim had a hand in training Jake and when his father passed he helped keep Jake on track, but Jake was a handful. For a while, he was in self destruct mode. It was all Tim could do to keep him safe. It was during that time when I met him.

Even though his mother was out of the picture practically since his birth, Taylor did a good job of raising Jake with manners and taught him how to treat women with respect and gentleness. It was ingrained. He had a quick wit and a sarcastic tongue. He would have been an excellent catch for any women willing to put up with his line of work. I would have taken him on then, but he was broken. He didn’t want anyone close enough to see his pain. If he only knew, the pain was there for all to see.

Over the years he kept working with Tim and his other mercenary friends. When he picked up Kayo he started to take gigs on his own with just the dar-dolf as back up. Tim worried about him until Kayo proved himself once by saving Jake’s hide.

The satyr fainted back and disappeared into the forest. Kayo and Arr circled around back toward us on the blanket.

Kayo sped ahead and bowled Jake over. They wrestled as I pushed at them to keep them from scattering our food all over the meadow. When Arr came up, he joined in and it looked like a passel of puppies. It was good to see Jake so happy. He deserved it after all this time.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Star Traveler Update - Babe...

I took what had been Arr’s injured hand in mine. “How does it feel?”

“It’s much better,” the young henu answered in a soft voice. “The doctors say it knit well.”

I turned his hand over and ran my fingers over his open palm. Across what he had told me was his mating tattoo. All henu were matched up at an early age and had corresponding tattoos to identify their allegiance. Arr's future mate was lost with all the others of his race when the aliens attacked his home planet.

“It doesn’t hurt any longer?” Unlike my usual maternal self I had lost track of Arr’s injuries when I had my own healing to concentrate on. For the last couple of weeks I'd following his recovery and rehab.

“No, not really,” he answered, “just stiff in the morning. The doctor’s say it will pass in time.”

Jake patted his partner on the back. “It’s good he’s young and heals quickly,” Jake said. “Unfortunately, he is getting a lot of practice learning to heal fast hanging around me.”

Jake said it as a joke, but I knew it concerned him that both Arr and I had been hurt while he had escaped any injury. He considered it his fault and it was something the henu and I were collectively working on getting him over. We came out physically scarred from the run in with Klaid and his partners, but Jake’s injury was to his heart. He doubted his ability to protect the ones he loved and that was serious territory for Jake. He always protected his people.

Arr’s head swiveled to his right. There at the edge of the trees a centaur emerged. He was sleek, muscular and coal black – so black, he was almost blue. His hair was long and ran down the middle of his back like a mane. It lay across his human shoulders all the way down over the front of his horse shoulders. The tip of his hair almost reached his knees.

Jake had kept his promise and as soon as I was on my feet, though not very steadily, he took us to an imaging chamber to see a pristine Olympus. He packed a picnic and we were sitting, just enjoying the cool, clean breeze and the feel of deep grass beneath our bare feet.

“Isn’t he magnificent?” I asked. A female centaur followed the male closely. She was a lovely chestnut color with long flowing hair down to her waist where her human self turned into the horse of her lower body. Some of the hair on the sides of her face were platted into braids and pierced with flowers for decoration.

“I’m going to go take a closer look,” Arr said. “Want to come?”

I still didn’t have much stamina. I decided to pass and Jake stayed with me.

By the time Arr reached the centaurs, Jake was feverishly digging in the picnic basket.

“What are you looking for?” I asked.

“I brought your pills.” He finally found the bottle and doled out two and put the rest back. He handed them over to me with a glass of iced tea. “Here you go.”

I took them dutifully.

“Now, take off your shirt and I’ll cream you up.” Jake had appointed himself our personal attendant over the last few weeks. I had a halter top on with a loose shirt over the stop to cover the scars on my back. There wasn’t anyone else in the image chamber except we three, but I was still self conscious about walking to and from the chamber with my back looking the way it did. Jake was in the habit of rubbing my back down twice a day with Scarfree cream. The scars really were fading and I was thankful he took the task of getting the cream on me. It would have been hell to figure a way otherwise.

I pulled off my shirt and laid face down on the blanket. I felt the drizzle of the cool lotion and them Jake’s hands rhythmically stroking up and down along my back. I felt his hand under my halter top. He was careful about not missing any spots.

When he was almost finished I felt his finger trace a single scar from my waist to my shoulder. Then I felt his lips kiss me on the tip of the scar at the base of my neck.

“Jake? What are you doing?” I asked.

“Babe,” he softly breathed in my ear and kissed my back a little lower down.

Now I can tell you that this would have an effect on any woman. Jake is handsome. Not normal handsome, but what we ladies call ‘drop dead’ handsome. However, I happen to know that he is a lov’em and leav’em guy too and we've been friends too long. Sometimes in this world a good friend, one you can depend on, is far more important than a good lay.

I turned over to face him. He leaned down to plant another kiss on my bare shoulder.

“Babe,” he sighed deeply.

I caught his face between my hands and stopped him in mid-descent. “Jake, how long have we known each other?”

He looked puzzled.

I tapped his forehead with my index finger. “Scratch the old gray matter, bud,” I said. “We met on Aotulp when you got me out of that jam with the Bassil Gang. How long?” I reiterated.

Jake sat back on his heels. “Four, maybe five years ago,” he guessed.

“Eight,” I corrected. “And in all that time you have never put a move on me.”

His tone changed from a breathless heat to a denial, but he still said the same thing, “Babe.”

“You are one of my best friends and I want to keep it that way,” I said. “I don’t want you sleeping with me because you feel responsible for what happened. My scars are fading and you have to let yours do the same.” 

I rose up and put my hand on his knee. I leaned over and kissed him on the nose. “I want to keep you as a friend for all time. I want us to grow old together. If we sleep together, and I must admit that is a tempting thought, it will lead to no good. You always dump the girl. I have seen you do it again and again over the years. I am not a dumping kind of girl. Once I had you, I would rather shoot you them let another woman have you.”

Jake handed me my shirt. “You want a sandwich, babe. I brought cheese or mali beast.”

“Cheese would be great.” I took the sandwich and that was the end of that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Star Traveler Update - Is it over?

It wasn’t over!

Klaid had me pinned to the ground beneath him. He straddled my hips as he leaned down and licked my cheek with his rough tongue. His breath was hot and moist as he proceeded to lick down my neck and along my shoulder. I struggled, but I couldn’t free myself. Klaid held my hands captive above my head. I was trapped under his weight. He leaned back and flicked his forked tongue over his lips before he bared his teeth and sunk his fangs into my shoulder. I screamed in pain.

“I got ya,” Jake said, as he wrapped his arms around me. “It’s alright. You’re safe,” he soothed.

It took me a minute to orient myself.

I was in the Ukhta hospital.

I was safe.

It was over.

It had been a dream - a horrible nightmare.

I buried my head in Jake’s shoulder and hugged him tightly trying to calm my racing heart and my trembling nerves. The dreams were so vivid.

Jake stroked my hair and rocked me gently where he sat on the edge of my bed. He kept repeating what he had said that night in the glade. “It’s over. It’s all over, Babe.” It had become his mantra the last few days while caring for Arr and me.

The Ukhta doctors had patched us up, but we needed time to recover. Fusing tissue and knitting bone were just part of our injuries. Our bodies still had to finish the healing process and I personally was traumatized and not up to travel. I was exhausted. I couldn’t close my eyes without that monster taking over my dreams. I hadn’t had more than a few hours sleep since the rescue.

Jake laid me back down in the bed. He brushed hair out of my eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I think I brought that one on.” He lifted a damp rag off the table beside the bed. “You looked warm. I thought I would cool you down.”

“Felt like a forked tongue to me,” I said, trying to make light of my overactive sub-conscious.

“Sorry.” Jake looked beat.

I don’t think he had been away from Arr and me since we were delivered back to this room after the doctors got through with us. He had parked himself between our two beds and not moved except to care for us.

I put my hand over his with the cloth in it. “Not your fault.” I took the rag and wiped my face. “It really feels good. I just can’t get over the dreams. How do you and the other guys do it? You must have seen some really horrible things over the years.”

“I don’t know,” Jake shook his head. “Having someone eating you registers up there with some of the worst I can think of.” He squeezed my hand. “You won’t ever forget it, but it will fade in time. Other work will push is out of your mind eventually.”

“Then I better get back to work soon,” I said.

I looked over toward Arr in the next bed. “How is Arr doing?”

Jake’s eyes went to his young partner sleeping soundly in the next bed. “He’s resilient. He heals fast.” Jake looked back at me. “This wasn’t near as bad for him as for you. His dreams are still haunted by the Hydra.”

“We’ll find an imagining chamber when you both are ready to travel,” Jake offered. “I’ll treat you to a virtual trip anywhere you like.”

“I’d like to go back to Olympus,” I said. “I don’t think I appreciated the place when I was there. I’d like to see that centaur again in a pristine world.”

“You got it,” Jake promised. He took the washcloth from my hand and laid it back in the bowl of water. “Try to get some sleep now. I promise not to disturb you this time.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Star Traveler Update - Flank steak

Nightfall found us in a clearing ringed by trees. Klaid let Cracker build a small fire and sent Gathus back to check our trail for signs of searchers. Jake and Arr were cuffed to trees like the last two nights. I was staked face down in the grass. My suit had suffered some more damage at the hands of Klaid. It was now ripped up the left leg. I had been lying there for over an hour in horrible dread of what was sure to come my way soon.
Gathus returned and nodded to his leader.

Klaid came to his feet. I didn’t see Cracker come up behind me, but I moaned in pain as I felt him straddled me and sit down across my carved up back.

“Release him,” Klaid told Gathus and nodded toward Arr.

Gathus un-cuffed him and pulled him up to his feet.

“We’re going to play a game,” Klaid said. “I’m getting hungry and I feel like a nice juice flank steak.” His tongue flicked out to lick his lips at Jake and Arr. “Cracker is going to carve it off your lady friend. You get to try and stop him. If you can, she goes back in you and Harcourt’s custody, and I eat the dried beef in my pack. You lose and I get a nice piece of her.” He smiled. “Ready, set, GO!”

I screamed as pain shot down my thigh. Cracker hadn’t wasted time starting to carve, but he didn’t get far before Arr tackled him pulling him off my back. Cracker still had the knife in his hand. He sliced at Arr. Arr tucked and rolled out of range, but right into Gathus’ arms. Gathus held the much smaller henu for his partner. Cracker flicked his blade into the dirt at his feet. He started to pummel Arr in the face and stomach.

“Stop!” Jake yelled. “Damn it, Klaid. I’m going to kill you.” He kicked at the ground in frustration, jerking on his cuffs until I saw blood ooze down his wrists.

Arr took several blows before he managed to flip his way out of Gathus’ hands and landed a kick to Cracker’s chest. It knocked him off balance, but when he came up he had his knife back in his hand. Gathus hit Arr from behind and he went down to his knees. He fell forward catching himself with his bad hand. He rolled over in agony. Gathus fell on him and pinned him down. Cracker moved up to work on Arr with his knife.

Kayo came out of nowhere. He hit Gathus so hard he knocked him off Arr. Blaster fire hit Cracker in the chest. He went down like a rock.

Klaid had his blaster in his hand and it was pointed directly at Jake when he was hit by two blasts simultaneously. He crumpled to the ground.

Tim and several Ukhta came out of the trees. Tim leaned over Klaid and dug through his pockets until he found the key to the cuffs. He went over to release Jake. Arr made his way to my side and helped the Ukhta release me.

Jake exploded to his feet from the base of the tree the minute Tim released him. He pulled Tim’s blaster out of his holster as he pushed past him. He stomped over to Klaid and blasted him four more times in the chest. He started to kick Klaid’s limp body.

Tim came up behind him.

“Stop it, Jake,” he said as he moved to pull the blaster from his hand. Jake jerked away and fired into Klaid’s dead body again.

“Jake,” Tim coaxed. “It’s over.” He held out his hand. “Give me the gun. Arr and 3su need you.”

Jake handed over the blaster and leaned down to dig through Klaid’s pockets until he found the fuser. He gave Klaid one more resounding kick before he turned back to me and Arr.

He fell to his knees beside us and pulled Arr into a man hug and held him. He reached over and handed the fuser to Tim. He squeezed my hand as Tim started to fuse the slice in my thigh.
“It’s over,” Jake said. “It’s over.”

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