“3su,” Cassie whispered.
“What is it, Cassie.” I sat up in bed and beamed the light up to low. I glanced at the bedside clock. It was 2:00 a.m. It wasn’t like Cassie to wake me in the middle of the night.
“It’s Jake,” she whispered. “He’s on the bridge.”
“He’s very agitated,” Ma-rye-a piped in. “He just broke a mug.”
I guess I was just too sleepy. I didn’t understand what they were saying. “He dropped a mug?”
“No, it was a violent act,” Ma-rye-a corrected. “He is upset about something.”
“I think you should have a look,” Cassie continued. “He might do damage to us.”
Jake must really be upset if he had my A.I.’s running scared.
I got up and slid me feet into my slippers. I never wore a robe. I wear shorts and a tank top to bed. I am always cautious about being prepared.
“Do you think you should take your blaster?” Cassie asked.
“He’s an old friend, Cassie. I don’t need my blaster.” At least I hoped I didn’t.
I walked out in the dimly lit hallway. Ma-rye-a sets the lights low during the evening hours. If I get up unexpectedly to a full-on light I have one hell of a time getting back to sleep.
I could see Kayo halfway down the hall sitting against the wall. I hoped he wouldn’t challenge my approaching Jake. I didn’t notice Arr crouched on the other side of him until I got up close. Arr had his arm thrown around the dar-dolf. His cat eyes were huge black onyx looking disks, dilated to their full size in order to catch everything in the darkened area. He looked small and fragile beside the dar-dolf.
I squatted down in front of them.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“He’s really mad. He won’t talk to me. He told me to go back to bed,” Arr confided.
“Maybe that’s a good idea.” I reached over and put my hand on Arr’s shoulder. Kayo growled threateningly deep in his throat. Even the animal was confused.
“Nixs!” Arr said and Kayo stopped his growl mid-throat. Arr took a ragged breath like he was on the verge of sobbing.
“I’ll have Ma-rye-a call you when Jake is calmed down.” I gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Take Kayo with you, okay? I don’t want to have to deal with two nasty beasts at once.” I smiled and Arr returned it with a
weak one of his own.
“Don’t hurt him,” he said.
“Me? Hurt Jake? Never.” I was flabbergasted. First Cassie wanting me to take my blaster, now Arr asking me not to hurt him – what kind of rage was he in?
Arr rose effortlessly, whereas my knees cracked as I stood back up. I watched until he and Kayo padded down the hall and went back in their room.
Now into the lion’s den.
Jake was pacing the bridge. His foot falls were so heavy that there should have been a dented trough in the metal where he was treading.
“Jake? What’s wrong?”
“Go back to bed,” he growled and turned his back on me to look out the front view port. His hand hit another mug sitting on the control panel and it went crashing to the floor. He must have thought better about his order; after all I am the Captain of my ship. “Sorry.”
“That will teach me to leave dirty dishes around after an evening of viewing with guests,” I replied dryly.
“I just need a little time alone,” Jake explained. He stood balling and un-balling his fists at his side.
Something had him really worked up. If it would have been anyone other than a mercenary this is where I would have gone up behind him and placed a consoling hand on his back, but I was afraid in the case of Jake, I might lose that hand with an instinctive reaction.
“Tell me what happened? Was it a dream?” I had been around mercenaries most of my adult life. The good ones all had their ghosts to deal with if they had any heart at all, and Jake had more heart than most.
“Yeah,” he conceded. He turned around and dropped into the nearest chair as though finally admitting it to someone took all the energy out of his rage.
“Want to talk about it?” I asked, sitting down in my chair across from him.
Jake ran his hand through his hair in agitation. It was a habit he had. His hair always looked sexually mussy.
“I guess it was talking about Daily this evening that brought it on.” His hand raked through his hair again, but he sat quiet so long that I thought he had changed his mind about telling me. He sat looking at his hands. “I tracked Sarah to one of the Hydra dump sites. You know, they don’t live in very big groups.”
I nodded. I had heard that about the Hydra. They are vicious lizard type aliens that walk upright and have such volatile tempers that they can’t even stand each other half the time.
“I thought we could handle it,” Jake went on. “We went into the caves together. When the tunnel split I took Kayo, and Arr went alone down the other tunnel. I should have sent Kayo with the kid.”
“I can see why you didn’t. Arr has great hearing and better night vision than you any day. It would have been the logical thing to keep Kayo’s nose with you. I understand the Hydra are smelly beasts,” I consoled Jake.
Jake took a deep breath and went on. “I found Sarah and others. I got them out. She saw Arr captured. I went back in with Kayo. The Hydra had beaten the shit out of him and strung him up by shackles from the ceiling. He hates to be bound.” His hand raked through his hair again. A strand fell over his eye. He pushed it back and kept talking. It was like he needed to get it out so it wouldn’t fester any longer in his gut, or his heart as the case might be.
“The head lizard wanted to make a deal, but since I don’t speak Hydra and Arr was unconscious at this point he showed me in action what he wanted. He had a stinger. He cranked up the voltage and hit the kid with it.” Jake paused. His hands worked into fists again. “It’s his scream that woke me up tonight in my dream,” he confessed.
“But, you got him out,” I reminded him. I hadn’t heard this level of detail about the incident when we brushed on it earlier this evening, but Arr looked healthy to me. As good as the last time I saw him.
“Yeah, I killed the lizard and got him out,” Jake agreed. “It’s just…” He paused and sat again looking at his hands. “I just wonder if I have the right to take him into situations like that. What if he gets killed? He’s the last of his race. It’s not like if I died. No one would miss me. The human race would go on without a blink. Arr dies and his race, all his knowledge, his inherited talents of language, they all die with him.”
I did lean over and place my hand on his arm this time. “First off, I can name at least three people that would miss you terribly if you died, Tim, Arr and me. Secondly, I don’t think you could stop him going with you now. I see how he acts around you. He considers you somewhere between a father, brother, best friend and mentor. I don’t think you could beat him off with a stick.” I reached over and lifted Jake’s chin in my other hand so I could look into his eyes. “You’ve been through your own share of beatings. It comes with the job. You’ll keep him safe as only you and your experience can. And, if he dies in the end, which I pray he doesn’t for a very long time, he will die happily following you.”
Tears welled up in Jake’s eyes, but he blinked them back.
“He’s bound to you; as close or closer, than Kayo because he has understanding in his gene pool. You shouldn’t ever leave him behind. He needs you as much, or more, than you need him. You’re his family now – his world.”
Jake leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. “Thanks. I needed that.”
I would have liked to take that kiss a step further. Jake was one hunk of man, but now was not the time. I stood up and gave him my own peck on the cheek.
“You need to go back to bed and see if you can catch some peaceful Zs. I’ll see you in the morning.”
He nodded and followed me back down the hall. I caught a glimpse of Arr sitting on the edge of his bed waiting with Kayo lying at his feet. Jake reached over and squeezed his shoulder before he fell into bed. Arr looked up at me, smiled and nodded a thank you.
I headed back to my own bed.
I knew it wouldn’t be dull with them aboard.