On the bridge, D'vork studied a printed summary of the evidence Bodi had found. "Does he know?"
Inmahn shook his head. "No, Captain; I thought it best for you to tell him."
It seemed so crazy! How could not one but two parents do this to their son? He scanned the bridge for any sign of trouble and thought he could take a few minutes break. He rose to his feet and nodded to Inmahn who turned and used his own teleporter to get back to quarters. D'vork turned to his commander. "Commander L'gia, I'll be in my quarters if you need me."Not waiting for a reply, he touched the unit on his wrist. Seconds later he materialised in his lounge and saw Inmahn already at the computer.
Inmahn acknowledged his presence with a nod of his head. "I've asked Bodi to verify all the facts as they stand, Captain. He has checked back with his source, and he says everything in that report is correct. Do you want me to stay while you speak to the boy?"
"Yes please, Inmahn, he may go into shock. I know I would if I were in his position. I'll talk to him in the bedroom; you stay in here and keep Percy on standby. I may need to talk personally to the lawyer in charge of the case. What I can't understand is why the man didn't unearth all this himself. When I've finished with him he won't even have a job sweeping the streets when he comes out of jail."
When he entered the bedroom, he found Tadik sitting cross-legged on the bed with a hand-held computer, working on some mathematical problems Inmahn had set him. A loose fur cape kept him warm. He looked up with a smile but it disappeared when he saw the serious expression on D'vork's face. "Am I in trouble?"
"No, Tadik, but someone else is."D'vork sat down and took the hand-held from him, placing it on the bedside table. "I have something to tell you that you may not want to hear; but I promise you I will not lie to you. Inmahn and Percy have been in touch with Earth and we now know why you are here."
Tadik's face hardened with anger. "It was my step dad, wasn't it?"
"What do you mean, indirectly?"
D'vork took a deep breath then sighed deeply. "It was your mother."
"WHAT?"Tadik shook his head so hard, D'vork thought he would shake it loose. "No, you're wrong. I love my mum and she loves me."He jumped off the bed and paced the floor, hands clenching and unclenching. "She's a sweet and lovely lady; she wouldn't hurt a fly. It's Franklin; I know it is; that rat's turd!"
"Tadik, listen to me."D'vork went to him and tried to embrace him, but Tadik wrenched away from him, sinking down in the same corner that gave him sanctuary the day before. He brought his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms round them. "Did you know you are worth ten point five million credits?"
"Don't talk bull. Why do you think Mum married Franklin Jute? That's the only thing I have against my real dad; he never provided for us."
"Oh yes he did."D'vork waited till Tadik raised his head to stare at him. "When you were a little boy, your father realised that your mother wasn't so squeaky clean, so he put of a lot of his earnings into high yield accounts. He made arrangements for your mother to have custody of you should anything happen to him but he made it difficult for her to get her hands on the money. The only way it would revert to her was if you died before you were eighteen. She wanted that money, Tadik, and you stood in her way so she decided to get rid of you. Franklin was just her tool. She made him act the hateful stepfather to put people off what was really happening. He did as he was told for a cut of the money. She paid your girlfriend a lot of money to entice you into her bedroom, and gave the silly girl the dope that knocked you out shortly after you entered her. You were arrested at the scene with your semen inside the girl, and your fingerprints on the knife. The police had a tip off that something was going on, and they raided the house just in time to see you standing, naked, over her, with the knife that killed her in your hands."
Tadik shook his head again. "No one could have known I was there."
"Your mother did. The police never bothered to check the girl's parents' phone calls. It seems that they were told not to by someone with money to burn. If they had done, they would have heard a recording of your mother giving Jade her instructions. Bodi dug deep and found the records of all phone calls between that girl's house and your own, sealed away in the main phone company's vaults. Another interesting piece of data Bodi found was about the prison guard you thought you recognised. He's your father's first cousin, Jacon Torm, out for a bit more money than he's making in that prison you were in. It's his son, Ajek who took your place, because he looked a lot like you. Your mother arranged the switch with his cousin, and as you were in solitary confinement prior to being shipped off to a juvenile facility, to await your appeal, Ajek is in that little cell waiting for Daddy to get him out of there; but I doubt if he will be alive for much longer if your mother has her way. She will not allow any of this to rise to the surface. She will silence him, the way she silenced your supposed girlfriend, and anyone else who takes her money."
"No, no, no!"Tadik shouted at me. "You're lying. My mum is a lovely woman. She wouldn't do this to me."
"What about the money?"
"I would have given it to her, if she'd asked. I don't want it."
"Why didn't she tell you about it?"
"I don't know."
"If you can read the mind of Franklin, why didn't you read your mother's mind?"
"Why should I? I love her. Families don't do that to each other."
"Did she ever tell you about her own family?"
"Yeah, she's an only child. Her parents are dead."
"Sorry, Tadik, that's not true. Your maternal grandparents, Carolus and Pretty Devaline, threw your mother out of their home after she stole most of their money. She never told them they had a grandson. The police are being informed of all this and will be arresting your mother and your stepfather shortly. The appeal will have to run its course, I'm afraid. But at least you will no longer be a prisoner."
"But I'll still be stuck here, on this ship."
D'vork didn't know what to say. The vessel was a battle ship, not a luxury space liner; the only place of any comfort was the presidential suite and only used in an emergency for travelling ambassadors who needed to get to their destination when no other transport was available, and even that was devoid of the finer items of luxury. "I'll endeavour to make your journey as comfortable as possible."He turned to leave, not wanting to appear too enthusiastic, even if he was aware of feelings towards the boy. Then the boy spoke up in a trembling voice.
"I'm sorry, I...I just can't believe it. I'm sorry I blew at you; it's not your fault. Right now I'm feeling...hell, I don't know what I feel. I just want to..."
D'vork turned to face him just as he slammed his head back against the bulkhead. His eyes were shut tight and there were tears leaking out from under his eyelids. "I just want to die," came the thought. Striding across the room, he leaned down to grab the boy by the arms, and hauled him to his feet. He shook him till he had the boy's wide-eyed attention. "Now you listen to me; that is defeatist talk. Nothing is so bad that it can't be worked out. I have someone looking at all the data from the trial and there is a chance the sentence can be overturned. We just have to sit tight and give this person a chance. Things don't happen overnight and I want this mess cleared up just as much as you do. You've had a nasty shock, but you'll get over it. I promise. Now, why don't we go and see what Percy and my friend have come up with?"
He watched the boy try hard to control his tears, choking them back and wiping his face with the backs of his hands. D'vork's heart went out to him; here was a boy whose secure family base had been swept away by an unscrupulous woman whose main concern should have been to care for and cherish him. May our gods help her if I ever get my hands on that woman! He went into the bathroom and brought out a towel Inmahn had found from the human stores. He handed it to the boy and waited till the boy was suitably in control of his emotions. Calmer now, the boy took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I suppose you think I'm a baby, blubbering like this. You Gpuchkians don't cry, do you?"
A chuckle rumbled deep in D'vork's throat. "Where did you get that idea? Just because my men look tough and bristle with weapons, it doesn't mean the soldiers of Gpuchk don't experience the same emotions as humans do. But believe me; they can, as you humans say, shed buckets. Come on! Let's give Percy some real work to do."He led the way into the lounge to find Inmahn and Percy having another of their petty squabbles, and D'vork, seeing the concern on Tadik's face, leaned over and whispered in his ear. "They're not fighting; they love each other to bits. It's one of the old fashioned simulations Inmahn programmed into the computer when he built it. It gives him the chance to act out his penchant for one up – man – ship."
Inmahn glared at D'vork. "I heard that. Is it my fault my builder wanted a gay companion? And just where are your manners? Didn't your mother teach you not to belittle your elders?"
D'vork growled at him. "Be careful, you rusty tin can; you're lucky my mother rescued you from being scrapped. Why she thought a petty minded antique from the twenty first century would be a suitable homeleaving present for me; I'll never know. And don't forget, I can always switch you off. You might look like a human but inside you're just a load of circuits and wires connected to a brain the size of a monkey's."
Percy's on line face took on a smirk of satisfaction. "I totally agree, Captain; he's got too big for his own boots lately."
Inmahn tossed his head. "Now look what you've done, Captain; he'll be impossible to control for days. It's a wonder his head doesn't explode."
D'vork laughed as he sat down at the console. "Well you built him, you reprogram him, but at the moment we have business to attend to and I need you and Percy to leave your fighting to one side. What have you got for me, Percy?"
"I've located an attorney who is willing to take Tadik's case on board. Actually he's an old friend of your mother's. I'll connect you now."
Percy's face disappeared from the screen to be replaced by that of an old man with a shock of unruly white hair. "Hello D'vork, nice to see you again. How's your dear mother?"
D'vork lost control of his chin as he blinked at the screen. "Rayle Close! It can't be!"
"What do you mean it can't be, you young pup! It'll take a few more years to kill me off. So, how can I help?"
"You've read the data on the Versont case?"
"I've only scanned through it but I've seen enough to make me want to study it further. But before I do, I'd like to speak to Mr. Versont."
D'vork drew Tadik to the console so that Rayle could see him. Without thinking what he was doing, he placed his arm round the boy's waist. "Rayle, I would like to formally introduce Mr. Tadikon Versont Junior. Tadik, this is Sir Rayle Close, recently retired barrister of the British Courts of Justice and now running his own law firm."
"Pleased to meet you, young man."
"Likewise sir; can you help me?"
"It's possible, but first I'm sending you some forms to fill in, employing me as you lawyer, otherwise I cannot act for you. Use the console to enter the required data and send them back to me. The sooner they are returned, the sooner I can go to court with what we know so far."
Tadik nodded. "Okay, thanks Sir Rayle. To say I'm totally pissed about the whole mess is only the bottom rung. I can't believe my mother could deceive me this way."
"Well, it certainly isn't something most mothers would even think about. Most would wait patiently for the funds to mature then persuade their son to part with some of it. And most boys would jump at the chance to pay their mother back for everything she's done for them."
Tadik nodded again. "I don't want the money; she could have had the lot if she'd just asked for it."D'vork watched the boy as the forms arrive. Inmahn printed them off for the ship's files, then asked Tadik to sit at the console to enter his details and request into the database, using a touch pad to add his own signature. Inmahn sent the forms off and Tadik filled in the hard copies and signed them as well.
"Great! I am now officially your attorney and ready to follow your directive. Do you want me to go ahead with the investigation on your behalf?"
"Oh yeah! We can't do it from here, can we? We'll be out of communication range in three days."
D'vork stared at him. "How did you know that?"
Tadik grinned. "Part of my studies included space travel, and knowing how to calculate how long it would take for ambassadorial journeys, and also the length of time an ambassador would still have contact with earth on any particular ship without having to wait for the increasing time lapse. I have to know these things if I want to be one."
D'vork turned back to the console. "There you have it, Rayle. You have three days to have the case against Tadik dismissed."
Rayle nodded. "I'll get onto it immediately, but can I ask Tadik something? When you were arrested did anyone take a sample of your blood and urine to test for drugs?"
"Yes, but it wasn't produced at court; something about it being contaminated."
"Interesting! I'll look into it and call when I have something to report."
Tadik's face registered his disappointment, that a magic wand couldn't be waved over the problem and have an instant result. D'vork tightened his arm round Tadik. "I know how you feel, Tadik. I was in a similar situation when I was an air cadet. My squadron was visiting another planet and I was framed for something I would never have done. I was allowed to return home and await the verdict, and it was hell, even if I was at home. So, young man, I suggest you keep warm and immerse yourself in your studies.
"Thank you, captain."Tadik rewarded him with a surprise kiss on the cheek before walking back into the bedroom. D'vork sat for a minute, stunned at what had just happened. Not quite a passionate kiss, it had a warmth that conveyed more than just a polite sentiment."He glanced up to find Inmahn regarding him with a raised eyebrow. D'vork grunted at him and rose to his feet. Storming out of his quarters, he was halfway down the corridor to where? Then he realised he hadn't used his teleporter. He growled again and slammed a fist against the nearest bulkhead.
Tadik wrapped the fur cape about him and sat on the bed. He picked up the hand-held and tried to concentrate on the module he was working on. He struggled for half an hour before he tossed the handheld onto the bedside locker and fell cross the bed in disgust. Nothing seemed to jell, and thoughts of D'vork kept on getting in the way. He sighed as he stared up at the ceiling. What on earth did he kiss him for? Because you've wanted to since you met him. Get a grip; I'm not in love with him. Just look at him, he's a great big hairy monster from another planet. Okay, I'm looking; all he needs is a brush up. All that frizzy hair can be tamed can't it? A bit of herbal oil would work wonders. And all that dry skin that keeps on flaking off, all it needs is a lotion. Then there's that fur down his back; it needs a currying comb on it; I'm sure it would feel different" He felt the fur round his shoulders. Hey, I have to be careful here, or I'll be calling him Sasquatch. This fur sure does feel great. It had certainly been nice, having D'vork's arm round him. Could that possibly be why he'd kissed the guy?
D'vork suddenly realised he was being spoken to by a very concerned commander, and straightened up in his chair. He looked round and saw the rest of the bridge crew staring at him from their stations. He cleared his throat and the crew turned back to their duties, some with knowing smirks. Damn them! "I'm sorry, Commander, I had my mind on other things for a moment."
"Yes sir."L'gia nodded and smiled, and D'vork wanted to hit him. Not him as well! U'lac was bad enough "We just thought there might be something wrong."
"Well there isn't so you can stop your worrying, all of you. What do you have for me?"
L'gia handed him a data-pad. "We've picked up a signal from a ship in trouble. All the information we have is on the pad."
D'vork studied the data and handed it back. "It's only slightly out of our way, I'm sure we can spare half a day to go and take a look. If our guests make a fuss, ask them what they would expect us to do if one of their ships force shields were down they had an encounter with a large piece of space debris in the middle of nowhere. By the look of it their shields went down at the wrong time. Make the necessary adjustments to our schedule and proceed with the rescue."Left alone once more, D'vork turned his attention to the problem that had occupied his thought before being interrupted. Oh, yes. The boy, and what was he to do with him; sweet little thing, gentle natured and apparently uncared for. Most disturbing was his telepathic abilities. On Gpuchk, only those destined to mate or choose to be a consort had that ability, known over the millennia as an animal instinct to communicate. Most disturbing! He rose to his feet and nodded to L'gia. "I'll be in my quarters. Call me when we approach the other ship"He tapped his left wrist and vanished.
Tadik opened his eyes to find that, the Captain had returned. The way D'vork looked at him made him feel warm all over. He made to sit up but D'vork pushed him back and lay down beside him. Moving the fur cloak aside, he pulled Tadik towards him. Tadik closed his eyes and waited with growing fear.
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