Livestock

by DJ

Chapter 28

"Don't fuss!" D'vork thrust away the arm of the medical robot trying to assist him. "I'm alright." He wasn't, but the medical staff, what was left of them, had other more injured crew to attend to. His back was severely bruised and the back of his head stung where a dressing covered a gash that had taken a long time to stop bleeding. He had ordered what remained of the crewman, who had saved his life by shielding him with his own body, to be to be prepared for burial with all honours once they reached Gpuchk, if ever, and had listened to the reports coming in from the various departments; and the reports were bad. Now all he wanted to do was to get to Tadik. Ignoring the crew clearing the mess, he made his way to where Tadik still lay, motionless on his bed, white faced with sunken cheeks. D'vork found an unbroken chair and pulled it close to the bed. Easing his aching body down onto it, he leaned gratefully on the bed and took hold of Tadik's hand, squeezing it gently. He thought he felt the hand tense at his touch and squeezed a bit harder. He gazed down at Tadik's face for any sign that would indicate any change in the boy's slumber; was that a roll of the eyes he saw beneath those perfect lids, a slight twitch of the lips?

At last those lips parted enough for the tongue behind them to appear, trying to moisten those lips. An observant robot hovering nearby studied the bio readings on the monitor above the bed. With power down to a minimum all over the ship, the medical bay also had to conserve energy and only the basic readings showed. "Report M2B."

"Heart rate stable, Captain," the robot squeaked. It too had suffered some damage; D'vork noticed it had lost one arm. "Blood pressure normal; brain activity increasing; indicating little or no damage." It handed D'vork a small container and a swab stick, "Oral lubrication is advisable, Captain."

D'vork dipped the swab in the syrupy liquid in the container and applied it to Tadik's lips. Before he could remove it, Tadik licked at it; D'vork applied more to Tadik's lips and let him suck on the swab, knowing the liquid encouraged the natural production of saliva. The boy gave a raspy cough, opened his mouth, took a deep breath and coughed again.

"Tadik, can you hear me? If you can, squeeze my hand." For a few seconds, D'vork felt no difference, no response and was about to let go of Tadik's hand when the boy's eyelids fluttered open, and glazed eyes stared up at the bulkhead above. D'vork leaned closer. "Tadik, look at me." At the sound of his voice, the boy's eyes swivelled down to blink, sleepily at him. D'vork breathed a sigh of relief. "Don't try to talk just yet. Your throat must be dry from all this dust flying around, Just have a little more of this saliva inducer then you can have a drink to help clear your throat." He applied more lubricant to Tadik's lips and allowed the boy to suck on the swab. Then, without looking at the robot, he reached out and let the robot retrieve the container and replace it with a similar one with a thin flexible tube protruding from the top. He introduced this to Tadik's lips and inserted an inch of the tube into his mouth. By squeezing the container, D'vork could regulate the flow of the liquid, drop by drop, and watched Tadik's throat as the boy sucked and swallowed, alert to any sign of choking.

Eventually, Tadik pushed the tube out of his mouth and D'vork handed the container to the robot. Finally Tadik gazed around the ward and frowned at the chaotic activity. "What happened?"

D'vork shook his head. "We don't know; we were hoping you could tell us. I arrived just in time to see Inmahn fighting with some kind of electrical entity. It had put up a powerful shield around your bed so nobody could get to you or Inmahn. Then you pointed towards Inmahn and something like a laser beam shot from your fingers and enveloped the entity. Whatever you did caused the entity to lose control of the shield before you killed it; but not before it managed to wreck the place and cause most of the ship's circuits to blow. What you see around here is the result, and it's the same all over the ship. What little power we have left is being used solely to keep the life support systems going; and even they are beginning to fail." D'vork didn't voice the biggest problem of all; the fact that the ship, with its engines inoperable, was just another piece of space junk speeding through space under its own velocity with no forward thrusters to slow the ship down. "I'm just amazed that you managed to kill that thing."

Tadik shook his head. "It wasn't just me; my brother was here."

"What? Where?" D'vork looked round the ward. "Is he still here?" He didn't see anyone else except for his crew. Are you sure, Tadik? We didn't stop to take anyone on board."

"No," D'vork heard the word in his mind and not with his ears, and realised Tadik was speaking mind to mind. "I sensed there was danger aboard the ship. As I was paralyzed - and I still am although it's slowly wearing off - I couldn't even alert Inmahn. Then I remembered the story about my brother and I being powerful when together as babies, so I reached out with my mind, I was right, D'vork; he's on Gpuchk. Remember I felt the pull towards your planet?"

"Can you make contact with him again?"

"I don't know; I could try. I'm just so tired. The poison from the papuberries seems so much stronger than the first two. It's difficult to handle it. I need to speak to Inmahn. Where is he?"

"I'm sorry, Tadik, the fight with the entity killed him."

A frown puckered Tadik's face. "Are you sure? I can still read him."

D'vork shook his head. "I saw his remains carted away. There is no way he could have survived that fight."

Tadik's frown deepened. " His body may be damaged but his brain is active. You must retrieve him before they dismantle him. If my brother and I are to restore any power to the ship, we'll need him as an interface to the circuits or we'll be fried as well."

Only half believing Tadik's words, D'vork sat back and called a human orderly over. He told the man to contact U'lac with orders to have Inmahn's remains brought to the medical bay. Turning back to Tadik, he said, "Now tell me how do you feel now? You have been unconscious for many hours. We thought you would never wake up."

"I wasn't asleep; I was traveling."

"Traveling? How?"

"I'm not sure. In my mind I found Seeker, the planet I was born on, and found the archives which told of mine and my brother's births, and the chaos we caused until we were separated. I think we are the product of a higher alien species on our mother's side. I also found that she was not born on Seeker but somewhere in a far galaxy…." D'vork watched as Tadik's features relaxed, and realised his lover had succumbed to his exhaustion.

Frowning, D'vork rose from his seat and turned to First Lieutenant Chadwick, second in command of human medical resources and now in charge of the whole medical unit. The young man offered at his shoulder, as if wanting to say something but unsure of upsetting his captain with anything less important than Tadik's welfare.

When D'vork did not say anything, he plucked up his courage and said, "Sir, how is he?"

D'vork glanced down at Tadik and sighed deeply. "I'm afraid he's hallucinating. He believes his brother was here on this ship, and together they fought the entity that killed Inmahn. He also believes he travelled off-ship, to the planet of his birth."

Chadwick shook his head and muttered his agreement at D'vork's words. He didn't want to upset the captain by offering his own opinion that this was a sign of an increasing fever, and also a deterioration in the young man's condition.

Meanwhile, down in Inmahn's quarters, a young technician grimaced at the unwholesome task he was about to undertake; that of dismantling the mass of burnt metal and melted plastic that had once been the android's torso. He had already removed the limbs so he had an unrestricted workspace. With no power to run the metal cutters, he opened the hand cutters and began the laborious job of cutting away the remains of the breast plate. Suddenly a voice said, "I say old boy, could you scratch my face, please; I can't seem to reach it myself."

With a well of fright, the terrified technician stumbled back, lost his balance and landed on the deck. He stared up at the lump of metal and plastic as the voice said, "Oh dear! Was it something I said?!

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