Major Salazar the chief surgeon of the Vengeance entered the wardroom where Colonel ta’Kall and Mstr.Sgt. Talos were waiting for him. He walked over and sat down across from ta’Kall and Talos, and just looked at them.
Finally after a moment Talos worriedly asked “Is he okay?”
“Yes, he’s fine. He’s already regained consciousness, I’m sorry to say”, Salazar said with a unreadable expression on his face.
“What do you mean?” ta’Kall slowly asked.
Major Salazar sat a moment and then said “You always bring me the most interesting things. Do you remember that Bedian Weir Cat you found wounded during the campaign for Bedia Altrax?”
With a puzzled look on his face ta’Kall nodded as he thought of the animal that even now rested in a stasis chamber in the hold.
“Well, at least you tranquilized it before you brought it on board. This time though, I suppose in all fairness, that you didn’t realize,” Major Salazar said.
“What are you talking about Salazar? All I want to know about, is the kid. Is he alright?” ta’Kall asked with an impatient look on his face.
“Like I said the kid is going to be fine. Corporal Stix, though, has a mild concussion and his left arm is broken in two places.”
Looking rather confused ta’Kall said “I’m sorry to hear about Stix, but what does that have to do with the kid.”
“Well, just about everything seeing as it was the kid that threw Stix across the infirmary breaking his arm and giving him the concussion.” Salazar replied.
“What are you talking about,” Talos interrupted. “That kid has a hole all the way through his shoulder, and he just took the full force of a blaster on stun. I couldn’t hurt a fly if I were in the condition he was when we left him with you.”
“After you brought him in I treated his shoulder for infection, bonded the torn muscles back together, and put a synth skin patch over the hole. The wound looks like it was made with an assault rifle, either an Elysian Mark 5 or possibly an Excaliber. From the state of healing I would normally say he was shot about three days ago, but I believe it has only been four or five hours since he was shot. He has the most amazing body chemistry and immune system.” Shaking his head, he continued.” I had finished treating the wound in his shoulder when he regained consciousness. He seemed disoriented but was not frightened. During this time I talked to him and found out that his name is Alex, short for Alexander. A few minutes after that, he became more alert and refused to talk to me anymore. About five minutes after that Corporal Stix came in. Alex totally freaked when he saw Stix come in the door. First he jumped all the way to the other side of the compartment, almost 12 feet. Then he decided to try to get by Stix and out the door. I called out to him to stop, and Stix tried to grab him. “Looking at them in a bemused manner Salazar continued, “I’ve never seen anything like it. The kid grabbed the hand Stix reached out with and threw him through the air all the way across the compartment and up against the far wall. He then ran out the door. By using the emergency remote I sealed the corridor bulkheads at both ends of the infirmary access corridor and then opened the door to the isolation ward. He went in there because it was the only open door that he could find. I then sealed and locked it behind him. He is still in there, and I did not want to do anything else until I could talk to you. This is the first place I came to after treating Stix’s arm and head.
After a wordless silence ta’Kall said. “I’m not saying that the kid didn’t do what you’ve told us, but all the same, it’s hard to believe he could be that strong. He doesn’t have the build of a heavy worlder, if anything he looked rather thin and weak.”
With a reflective look on her face Talos spoke up. “Now that I think about it, he is much stronger than he should be. He knocked me down when he pushed past me in the alley, and it felt like I was hit by a Neo-Bison, not a young boy.”
“Let’s go see what I’ve gotten us into this time,” ta’Kall said with a intrigued look as he rose.
Once at the infirmary, they used the security monitors to watch Alex without his knowledge. Huddled in a big chair in the corner of the room, he was a sad figure, a small boy who hugged his knees while silent tears slowly ran down his face. Looking rather bedraggled, tired, hungry and very scared, he touched even the heart of Stix, who had been watching him since Major Salazar left.
“Doc, I don’t care if he did hurt me. He reminds me of my little brother who died on Altair. He may be stronger and faster than should be possible, but I’ve been sitting here watching him, and that is one very young and scared little boy in there,” Stix said after the other three had watched Alex for a couple of minutes.
“He doesn’t look very dangerous to me”, Talos said in a compassionate voice. “He looks like he needs someone to hold him and tell him everything is going to be all right.”
“Yes, I agree, but he has shown that he can be dangerous. Admittedly, he has only struck out in fear, but we can’t take any chances. We need to tranquilize him”, ta’Kall answered.
“I can flood the isolation ward with a tranquilizing agent. That should keep him from panicking when we go in,” Major Salazar volunteered.
A few minutes later, with all preparations made, Salazar flooded the isolation ward with Adrixine. ( A clear odorless gas, Adrixine is used as a tranquilizer. In stronger doses it’s used to interrogate prisoners. It makes the subject willing to talk. The only problem is that if the subject knows he is under the influence of a drug he can still evade questions and lie, but he will almost be compelled to talk if asked questions. There are no other side affects.) After five minutes Major Salazar decided to call out to Alex over the intercom to check if the Adrixine was taking effect.
“Alex, it’s me Dr. Salazar”, is all that he had time to say before Alex leaped to his feet in panicked alertness.
“It’s like it doesn’t even affect him”, Salazar murmured to himself with a interested expression. “Let’s up the concentration from twenty parts per million to forty ppm.”
Observing the monitor, they could see the drug begin to take effect.
“That level of concentration is close to what we use for low level interrogation. On someone his size it should leave him with minimal voluntary muscular control, but as you can see although he is now calm, he is having no trouble moving around”, Salazar said.
Turning back to the controls for the isolation ward Salazar flushed the ward with fresh air so that they could enter. “Wait out here for a minute. He’s most familiar with me, so I shouldn’t scare him if I’m the one he sees first”, Major Salazar continued after checking the bio-monitors that were monitoring Alex one last time.
Salazar was successful in calming Alex down. Thinking it okay, the others started into the ward as well. Alex, seeing Colonel ta’Kall enter, jumped up and dashed to the other side of the room in fear. Quickly ta’Kall backed out the door and stopped the others from going in. Over the monitor they could hear Salazar calming Alex down again. A few minutes later Salazar called them in again.
After they entered he explained, “I gave him an injection of Adrixine, and he is tranquillized up to his ears right now. I believe I know why he has been reacting with fear. It’s the uniforms. He has reacted with fear to anyone that has a uniform on. Before Stix came in, all Alex had seen was me, and I’m wearing hospital whites, not my uniform.
Nodding his head thoughtfully ta’Kall asked, “Can I ask him some questions or is he too tranquilized to talk.”
“No, he should be able to talk, just be gentle in asking your questions.”
With an irritated look at Salazar, ta’Kall said, “I’m not that insensitive. Give me some credit. ” Walking over to the chair in the corner where Alex was once again sitting, ta’Kall squatted down to speak with him. “Hi, Alex.” But he got no response from Alex except a look of cringing terror as he came close.
Talos walked back into the room and tapped ta’Kall on the shoulder. “Let me talk to him. Maybe if I’m wearing this he won’t be so afraid of me”, she said indicating a set of hospital whites she had changed into.
“Good idea” Major Salazar said. After a minutes thought he continued “As a matter of fact everybody else leave the room except me and Talos.”
Looking on over the monitor ta’Kall and Stix were enraged over the story Alex told when he finally crawled into Ari Talos’s lap and broke down into huge sobs, clinging to her as if she were going to disappear. More than an hour passed before the entire disjointed story was told, a tale of watching his friends killed in front of him, of being hunted, shot and of the long hours of running that brought him to the space port. The last thing he remembered was the flash of light in the alley where the soldiers had tried to get him.
Leaving Talos and Salazar there with Alex, ta’Kall went back to the bridge of the Vengeance to speak to Capt. Stamos. Taking him aside he briefed him on the situation with Alex.
After listening to ta’Kall tell of the events in the infirmary Stamos had an idea, “Let me check something out”, he said. Turning to Jores at the com station he ordered, “Get me the commander of the Fury.” After a moment waiting for captain Harris, the commanding officer of the Fury, to come on line, he spoke over the com.”Hello. How are you Harris?” A second’s pause.”I’m doing fine. Do me a favor will you. Can you give me the exact coordinates of the explosion that occurred earlier this evening in the city?” after a moment “Yes, that’s what I needed. Thanks, I owe you one. Stamos out.”
Turning to the big holographic projector in the center of the bridge he punched up a map of First City and keyed in the coordinates that Harris had given him. Looking over his shoulder he called out, “Jores give me a back azimuth to the source of the coded transmissions we picked up earlier.”
“The bearing was 5630.0 relative to our position”, Jores replied from the com console.
Turning back to the holo map, he motioned ta’Kall to look at it after he had drawn a line from the location of the ship, out along the bearing Jores had given. “That bearing intersects perfectly with the location of the explosion.” Turning to a computer console he pulled up a map of the city. “The explosion was here right beside the imperial park.” Then looking in the directory again he located the entry he needed. Slowly, with a look of dawning horror, he turned to ta’Kall. “It was a children’s hospital. They blew up a children’s hospital.” Sitting down in shock he clenched his fists as he stared into space. “Jores made copies of all the decoded transmissions in the com log. It was a deliberate strike, with all the earmarks of the Imperial Marines. They used the right codes and procedures; there was even an airspace interdiction over that part of the city during the same time period. We thought that they were clearing the area for the transit of a diplomat into the palace or one of the royal family. It happens so often we didn’t even take special notice.”
Turning and slamming a fist into a bulkhead, ta’Kall didn’t say a word for long minutes. Then in an intense voice “I will give him up only over my dead body. I would not give an ineskian scavenger to people who would kill children in cold blood”
“I agree. Giving him up to them or even leaving him here would be the same as murder.” Suddenly with a slowly dawning smile of mischief Stamos looked at ta’Kall at the same time he spoke to the com rating. “Jores I want a notation in the log that Colonel ta’Kall’s orphaned nephew boarded the ship today to travel with the Colonel to Banners world. Append a note that I gave personal authorization for this.”
“Wait a minute, I can’t be responsible for him”, ta’Kall said with a stunned expression on his face.
“You found him”, Stamos said still smiling. “Do you want to turn him over to the Imperial Marines?” He finished in a suddenly serious voice.
“No, of course not”, ta’Kall said with a determined expression.
“Good, then that’s settled. You had better go talk to Sgt. Wilkens about some clothes and a place for the boy to stay,” Stamos said trying hard not to let his amusement at ta’Kall’s predicament show.
ta’Kall stood there for a moment looking stunned and then, as he shook his head in bewilderment, walked into the bridge’s gravity lift and disappeared down the lift shaft.
Laughing so hard it hurt Stamos turned and saluted the lift as he said “To fatherhood.”
Returning to the infirmary ta’Kall found that Alex was asleep.
“I went ahead and sedated him for the night,” Salazar told him. Turning to sit down at his desk Salazar motioned ta’Kall to sit.” I have run some tests on Alex. He is definitely human, but he has had so many changes made on a genetic level that it’s close. Whoever did the work was a genius. They blended human DNA with hundreds of other genetic patterns. I can’t even begin to identify most of them. One that I could partially trace was the code for his musculature. It is a blend of human and Weir Cat with one other unidentified DNA trace. The Weir Cat DNA is what is responsible for his being able to move so fast. I was able to type it because the record of the DNA I took from the Weir Cat you brought to me was still in the computer. I estimate that he can move about six times faster than a normal human and maybe five and a half times faster than a heavy worlder. The other unidentified trace is the one that enhances his strength, I think. Until he is tested, I won’t know by how much it is enhanced. I don’t even know what else has been modified on him because I can’t identify the patterns used for the other changes.”
“You mean that he is part Weir cat?” ta’Kall asked in amazement.
“No, no. Weren’t you listening. I said that his DNA has been patterned after a Weir Cat. They couldn’t actually splice Weir Cat DNA to human DNA; the biologies are totally different and would not merge.”
“So what is he?” ta’Kall asked.
“He is a six year old little boy. He is human to the point that he will be able to reproduce with a normal female. I suspect most or all of his traits will be dominant. But he is also something more than human at the same time. Ohhh, call it man, or better yet, boy plus a little”, The Major finished.
“Basically it’s like he’s been cybernetically and bionically enhanced. The only difference is one of degree and that his enhancement is biological rather than mechanical like ours,” Talos’s voice came over the Colonel’s shoulder from where she leaned in the doorway and listened.
“Exactly!” Salazar exclaimed “That is a very apt analogy.”
With a thoughtful look on his face, ta’Kall turned to the others and said “Okay. We now know what he is; sort of, now I have to figure out what to do with him. He is logged on the ship’s manifest as my nephew, but I don’t have the time to watch over him and keep him out of trouble.” With a sudden smile that looked very like the one Captain Stamos had given him, he turned to Talos, “Sgt. Major Talos I have an addition to your duties. Congratulations, you are now a mother.”
Talos gave Salazar a hard stare when he started to laugh and then tried to cover it by coughing. She then turned hard eyes on ta’Kall, “Not funny!!.”
“No, it isn’t” he replied seriously. “We can’t give him back and we just don’t have anyone to turn him over to.”
With a dip of her head she acknowledged his statement. “Ok I will organize it.”
ta’Kall watched with astonishment as she walked out the door. He had expected a royal battle to get her to take care of Alex. Turning to Salazar he snickered as he said “Sgt. Major Mother,” and then both of them lost it and started to laugh uncontrollably.
“And for thinking its so funny you can leave that Andorian statue that I like so much in my quarters”, Talos said as she popped her head back in the room. She then turned and walked away leaving ta’Kall and Salazar sitting there with pained expressions on their faces for getting caught.
“Now I know how the troops feel when she catches them red handed with their fingers in the cookie jar.”, ta’Kall said as Salazar laughed at him.
Turning serious ta’Kall waited until Salazar finished laughing, “Can you wipe all trace of Alex’s differences out of the medical computer?”
“Of course. I’ll also warn Stix not to tell anyone about what happened or about Alex. Just that he’s your nephew.”
Getting to his feet ta’Kall shook his head, “I don’t know what to think about this whole mess, but I do know that I can’t let him go back out there where he might be killed.” Turning and leaving the room he wore the expression of one who was used to carrying the responsibility and weight of others’ lives.