"I did not intend to show myself."The ancient's voice roared and echoed round the village, and the villagers cowered down with their hands over their ears. "But, your disbelief in us gave me no choice. In our ' scribblings, ' as you call them, we warned of many disasters and great happenings throughout the centuries. The population of this planet did not heed those warnings and suffered as a result. The greatest of these was the coming of this ice-age. It is up to the members of this community to awaken the people of Gpuchk to the greatest disaster of all which is about to happen but can be prevented. A great invading fleet of spaceships, from a far-away galaxy, have already destroyed numerous planets in their path, and within weeks, this fleet will have Gpuchk in its sights. Kidat is the last hope for your survival. He and P'pit must go to Home City to awaken the Great D'bactu to the danger, and you will help them. The warriors of this village will go with them to protect them on their journey."
Kidat watched the faces of the villagers as they turned to mutter among themselves. What was it with these people? Surely they could see the ancient was real. They turned back to face the ancient, pointedly ignoring Kidat. P'duk stepped forward, his eyes blazing with anger. "What about our families, and why should you involve my youngest son if there is danger?"
"Your women and children will stay here under the protection of the Rogoch. P'pit is one of many chosen by the ancients to carry our spirits. Look!"The ancient pointed to where P'pit lay curled up in the sleep of an innocent child, half hidden by Baka's thick fur. "No harm has come to him. He sleeps while I am here with you. My time here is short, but when I go, your son will awaken and carry my spirit to D'bactu. He will be the anchor between us, and we will speak to you through him."
"But you cannot use him this way."P'pit's mother had joined her husband. "He's only a baby. Take any of our sons but not my baby."
The ancient rammed his staff into the snow. "Woman you do not understand. Only someone innocent of any evil thought and pure of heart may carry our spirits. How many of your sons are as pure in heart as P'pit? You will obey or see this planet destroyed. Be proud that your son has been chosen to save this planet from destruction."
The Ancient turned away, dismissing them with a cursory wave of his hand and bade Kidat walk with him, back to where the Rogoch waited. Drawing Kidat close, he said in a whisper, "My powers do not allow me to stay any longer but hear me, Kidat. There is something you must know that others are not ready for; the menace that threatens Gpuchk is not what it seems."
"You mean there is no space fleet?"
"Of course there is, and the threat is real enough, though not from the direction that many people will be led to think. The real danger comes from closer to home."
"So who is behind the threat?"
The ancient shook his head. "In our writings and prophecies, the elders spoke only in general terms of threats and disasters; we have no more details than you do. On the planet Earth there are three holy books which are revered above all others; The Holy Bible, The Koran and The Torah. In them the teachings and prophecies are open to the interpretation of the reader according to the depth of one's belief. So it is with our writings. It is up to you to persuade the king and his court to listen to what I have just told you, and guide them in the right direction to find the answers they seek."He gazed down at Kidat with a knowing smile. "I know you are thinking you are but one small individual but you are a unique one with powers as yet untapped."
"Enough."The ancient's reply held a note of impatience. "I can say no more."The ancient began to fade. "You will find your answers in Home City."The last words that Kidat heard, or was it his imagination, were, "Find your brother."
Brother? With a sinking heart, Kidat watched the ancient face to a whip of mist then nothing as P'pit sat up, stretched and yawned. Grabbing handfuls of fur, the boy slid down Baka's left shoulder to stand beside him with a questioning gaze. "What's happening, Kidat? Where has everybody gone?"
Kidat turned to look back at the gathered villagers to find the centre of the village empty. "The warriors were to escort us to Home City while the Rogoch guarded the village, but I guess we're on our own."
P'pit frowned, looking from the village to where the Rogoch waited. "We don't need them; I'd rather have Baka's family to keep us safe."
Kidat smiled at P'pit's wise choice. "So would I, P'pit. Are you ready to go?"
For answer, P'pit walked back to Baka and cuddled into the animal's fury foreleg. Baka purred softly before hoisting the child onto his back and growling to Kidat to join them. Once he had made sure he and P'pit were secure on Baka's back, Kidat looked at the village one last time. At last the villagers had shown their true colours , and that left Kidat with only one choice. Knowing the Rogoch would go with him, the villagers would have to take their chances against hunger, with warmth and the lack of protection from the scavengers of the wild. So be it.
Inmahn came out of the emergency room, his usually bland features tight with worry as he came towards D'vork. "Tadik is resting, Captain, that's all I can say at the moment, until we have finished some more tests. That session on the bridge took a lot out of him and he's very weak. I think it best if you could get some rest yourself and come back in the morning."
D'vork nodded. "May I see him?"
The android seemed about to refuse him, then he nodded. "Only for a few minutes."The android led him further into the medical bay than he had ever been, even though as captain he had access to every part of the ship. Inmahn led him into the private, single bed ward reserved, kept ready for the higher ranking officers of the ship. D'vork walked to the bed and gazed down at its human occupant with a sinking heart. Tadik looked so childlike and helpless, his face white and drawn. D'vork drew a chair close to the bed and sat down. Reaching out he took hold of Tadik's hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. Tadik's eyes flickered open in response. D'vork leaned down and kissed him. "Hi, lover! Feeling better now?"
Tadik's face puckered in a frown of confusion. "Thirsty."Above the bed, just out of Tadik's reach, hung a water feed. D'vork reached for it and pulled it down till the slim nozzle touched Tadik's lips. Tadik opened his lips and D'vork eased the nozzle into his mouth, holding it there till Tadik has sucked enough water. Tadik relaxed and closed his eyes for moment, licking his lips as if savouring the moisture. Then he opened his eyes again and studied D'vork's face, his frown returning. "What's happening?"
D'vork shook his head. "Nothing much, I've been relieved of my duties and the ship is headed towards Gpuchk."
Tadik's frown deepened. "Why? I thought we were headed for Quastor?"
"We were till you pointed us in the direction of Gpuchk."
Tadik shook his head. "I don't remember."
D'vork watched Tadik's eyes fill with concern and squeezed Tadik's hand. "We were looking for the place where we thought your father might be; you indicated there was something pulling you towards Gpuchk; your father or perhaps your brother?"
"Did I? Oh yeah, I remember now. How long will it take to get there?"
"Well, with the new update to our drives, Otrall and his team are making, we should reach Gpuchk in ten days."
Tadik sighed with relief and relaxed against his pillows. "Thank goodness for that. I don't think I can hold out much longer. All this strange healing my body is doing is making me feel so sick and weak."
"Never mind!"D'vork gathered Tadik in his arms and hugged him against his chest. "You have all of ten days to rest up and concentrate on yourself. Inmahn tells me he can't believe how you've battled against two doses of poison. You just keep on doing what you are doing, and I'll be with you all the way home. In fact, I think I will ask Inmahn to have you moved back to our cabin."He tightened his arms about the boy to show him how much he loved him and felt the boy wince."Concerned, he relaxed his embrace to look down at his consort. "Is there something wrong? You seem to be in pain."
Tadik shook his head and cuddled into him. "It must be something to do with the healing I'm going through; my stump feels tight and it's like I have a needle stuck in the end of it. When you squeezed me your arm pressed on it. It's probably nothing to worry about."
"Inmahn is busy at the moment. I'll have him look at it as soon as he's free."Hearing Tadik give a deep sigh, D'vork realized Tadik was tiring, so he rocked him gently until he fell asleep then laid him down again, content to watch his lover sleep. He eventually dozed off, still holding Tadik's hand, and jerked awake when someone laid a hand on his shoulder.
Inmahn said, "A meal has been laid for you in your cabin, Captain. I suggest you give yourself some quiet time and a shower. I have hung a clean uniform in your bedroom."
D'vork smiled as he rose to his feet. "Are you suggesting I'm not too fresh to be near, Inmahn? Give me a call if there is any change in the patient's condition. By the way, I want you to look at his stump; he's complaining of tightness, and pain in the end of it. Call me if you find anything wrong."
In his quarters, D'vork enjoyed the luxury of a harsh, defoliating shower. Feeling cleaner than he had for a long time, he dressed in the clean uniform Inmahn had prepared for him and sat down to a satisfying meal of tenderized Rogoch steak, and vegetables grown in the ship's hydroponics allotments. He was washing it all down with a hot brew that his mother had introduced him to called Coffee when Percy bleeped. The message was from the Medical Bay. Inmahn had found something interesting and wanted D'vork to take a look. His coffee forgotten, D'vork used his wrist comm to move to Medical. There he found Tadik lying on a treatment table in the scan lab. Above him hovered a huge multi-scanner, and all round the bed screens showed the live results of each scan; If D'vork had not known better, he could have sworn Inmahn was laughing, although his bland features showed no expression except for a twitch of his mouth and a glint in his eyes.
D'vork studied the screens, watching the red of Tadik's heart and the accompanying red dots as they pulsed their way throughout his body, returning to his heart as a dark line. Okay; Tadik's heart worked fine, what next? The next screen showed Tadik's skeleton with his healing ribs, and the third one showed something happening to his stump. "Huh?"D'vork moved closer to the third screen, not believing his eyes. "I don't believe what I'm seeing."He turned to Inmahn to find the android smiling at him.
"Neither did I! If Tadik had not been sedated he would have been jumping at this. Inmahn pointed to the tip of the stump and enlarged the area till only the stump showed. There, within the stump, at the tip of what remained of the upper arm, something was growing and pressing on the surgical scar. D'vork stared at the screen, his mouth hanging open; then he stared at Inmahn. "Is that what I think it is?"
Inmahn nodded. "Yes, Captain, that's a baby's hand."
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