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Chapter 16

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      Alex stepped off the cargo ship and it took off as soon as he was at a safe distance. He put down the case he'd been holding and looked around, the place wasn't exactly what he'd expected as a port, three boarded up building and a beacon.

      A man walked up the path toward him. His gait was relaxed, but the way he moved showed he was comfortable with the weight of the large gun at his hip, and his hand stayed near it.

      Alex could understand the hidden caution, he didn't look like he had when he embarked on this expedition to find Tristan. He wasn't the teary eyed youth who had still been crying for Jack to come back when the security men showed up. He'd lost that layer of fat most desk jockey had and gained some well defined muscles. The scar on the left side of his face gave him a slightly menacing look.well defined muscles. The scar on the left side of his face gave him a slightly menacing look.

       "Seems like they were in a hurry to dump you off and get going," the man said in a gruff voice.

      Alex shrugged, "they were just dropping me off as a favor; they're on a tight schedule."

      "I'm Jacoby," the man said offering his hand, "what passed for a port master around these parts. What brings you to our little corner of the universe?"

      Alex looked at the hand but didn't take it. "I'm looking for someone," he replied, "but this might be the wrong place." This didn't look like the kind of place Tristan would come to, it was too peaceful.

      "You never know, who're you looking for?"

      "Just a Samalian I used to know."

      "Are you looking to stir up trouble?" The man eyed him critically.

      Alex wasn't visibly armed, he preferred keeping them in his shoulder pack unless he was expecting trouble, but there was no denying he was a merc. He shook his head, "no, I'm just looking to catch up."

      "Well, must be some catching up you're looking to do to come this far. The only Samalian we have is the tech.


      "Yeah, he lives in a cabin some ways out of the town, when ever someone has trouble with something they go see him and he fixes it."when ever someone has trouble with something they go see him and he fixes it."

      "That could be him," except for the part about helping others it sounded like something Tristan would be able to do.

      "In that case you want to take the path till you reach the town, and look for Eli's saloon."

      "He's there?"

      "Not now, but by the time you get there he will be."

      Alex thanked the man and picked up the case. As he walked along the path he thought back on how he'd ended up here.

      Like the alien had said the company's security had come looking for him. Once they made sure he wasn't contagious they brought him back to the company and put him in a small room, where they would come question him.

      At first the questions revolved around who Tristan was, how he knew him, how he'd gotten hold of his ID. After telling them multiple time he didn't know anyone named Tristan they showed him Jack's picture and told him that was him. His heart skipped a beat, but he wouldn't believe them. he accused them of lying to him just to justify kidnapping him. He told them over and over that Jack would never do the things they claimed he had.

      So they asked him about Jack. He was reluctant at first, but they convinced him that if he was right and that Jack wasn't the man they were looking for knowing more about him would help them find the right culprit.

      He started by describing him only as a friend he was helping out, but he wasn't able to keep how he felt from showing in his voice. So they questioned him about how they met, and then the questions became more and more personal, making him stammer and blush and he tried to not answer them.

      When they asked how he had enjoyed being fucked by an animal Alex just lost it. He told them to go to hell; that he wasn't going to be subject to their insinuation and insults. They tried to force him to reveal more about his relation with the alien, but he finally had had enough and remained silent no matter with they threatened him with. Or what they did to him.

      After a few weeks they didn't bother questioning him anymore. He'd get meals and be let out twice a day, and that was it. He didn't have any illusions that someone would come save him. Luminex was a wholly independent entity, as long as it didn't interfere with the government it could do what ever it wanted. Maybe if one of Alex's family member, or just a friend, were to come requesting his release something might happen, but the only friends he had weren't humans and they wouldn't want to risk angering such a large company. He didn't have any family, at least none that would miss him.

      After close to two month he'd come to believe that they had just forgotten about him; and then out of the blue and without being told why, he was released. He was even allowed to go back to his old position. He found out that while he was locked up the company had gotten a new president. No one talked about what had happened to the previous one.

      The new president came to see him after his release. He apologize for the way he had been treated and inquired if he'd need anything to help him get over what had been done to him. Alex told him he needed time and the man told him to take as long as he needed. He assured him that when ever he was ready his old job would be waiting for him.

      Alex took that time to try to find information on Tristan. He searched on every public database, but other than a few notes here and there about how he was a criminal who had been incarcerated in some of the worst prisons he couldn't find anything. He realized he needed to get to some of the databases not accessible to the public. He needed to go through someone with more clout.

      So he went back to work and when ever he had a moment he used the company's system to try to unearth whatever he could, but even after a few months he had nothing substantial. His lack of success was getting him down. All he wanted to know was exactly who it was he had shared his bed with.

      The call to present himself at the President's office made him apprehensive. Maybe the research he'd been doing had been noticed and couldn't be allowed. He didn't expect the company approved of an employee looking for a criminal using their resources.

      Instead he was welcomed with a smile by the President. They he asked them how he was settling back into his job and talk about work for a few minutes. The President then told him he was aware of the searches he'd been running, and that he wasn't in trouble because of them. He then handed him a file and told him that all the information he wanted was in it. He also warned him to be absolutely certain he wanted to know what was in it before opening it.

      Alex had asked him why he was doing this, and the president replied that Tristan had affected both their lives in some fashion so he felt he should help him in his quest to understand who Tristan was.

      It took Alex three days to work up the nerves to open the file. Before he finished reading the first page he had thrown up. There had been a detailed description of one of Tristan's first recorded crime, which left six bodies horrible cut up. It was a week later that he forced himself to read the rest of it.

      He wasn't able to sleep properly for days after that.

      How could he have fallen for someone that horrible, how could he still want him in his life even after reading about all these crimes. He tried to ignore how he felt, but he couldn't, Jack leaving had left a hole in his heart and even learning what kind of being he really was hadn't closed it.

      Since the only link he had to him was the Defender he started looking into it; wondering if it was even really what Jack had claimed. He contacted a variety of experts on alien species until he found one specializing on Samalians. He arranged a meeting and brought the Defender. He learned that not only was the object what Jack had claimed, but it was authentic, not a reproduction. He also learned stories about the Defenders, and the place they had in Samalian society. It was during one of those stories that he decided he was going to go looking for Tristan.

      He left the company and sold everything he owned. He then started looking for someone who'd be willing to take him to Samalia. It was so far that none of the regular transports were willing to do it. He eventually found a seedy looking man with a ship that was heading in that general area. He paid him almost half the money he had to convince him to drop him off there.

      The trip wasn't pleasant. It wasn't a cruise ship, so he was expected to work. He didn't mind it, but the crew was even seedier then the captain had been. Most of them kept looking at him like he was a piece of meat, and he kept hearing whispers about what the new guy was expected to do to earn his place on a ship. About halfway one of the crewman decided to carry through with one of those and tried to rape him, in front of everyone.

      He defended himself and at some point during the fight he found himself holding a gun and shot him. He was as stunned as the others when it happened, lying there on the ground, his shirt and pants ripped off. He had a look of horror as he watched the other man fall, a hole in the middle of his chest.

      Once he realized what had he had done he expected the others to kill him. Instead, after a moment of surprised silence they cheered and money was exchanged. He was shocked when they pulled him to his feet and congratulated him. Then the captain assigned Alex the man's duty.

      It was a year before he made it to Samalia.

      During that time he was taught how to fight hand to hand properly, how to fire a gun and how to out drink most grounders. He made some friendship during that time, but when he stopped to think about them they felt odd. He would trust these men with his life in a fight, but he never opened up to them, and they never asked him about his past; they life entirely in the present.

      The planet wasn't what he expected, Jack's descriptions had been exaggerated, it was much more technological then he had said. Most Samalians he met were nice, but they couldn't help, finding one specific Samalian, who hadn't been on planet for years proved to be impossible. He did end up with a few leads, the spaceport tended to accumulate gossip, and some had heard stories of Samalians on the wrong side of the laws roaming the stars.

      With those stories Alex hired himself on the next ship that left, and traveled from plane to planet, taking what ever jobs he could find when he was running low on money. When he realized he'd turned into a merc he had been on the move for two years, had gotten the scar on his face and had accumulated a small criminal record. He was surprised to find that he didn't care.

      The first Samalian he found turned out to be an enforcer for a criminal organization. He had heard of Tristan, but didn't know where he was, the last he'd heard a job had gone bad and he'd been caught, but that was almost ten years old. He gave him the name of a few people who might know more, and a warning to watch himself if he ever found him.

      The next three years were spent tracking anyone who might know something about Tristan and then following those leads. This planet had been the last one on his list, the one he thought was the least likely to be the right one. But he had gone to all the others and hadn't found anything, either they had been completely false leads, or he'd gotten there too late.

      The town was, unimpressive; maybe thirty buildings loosely spaced without any noticeable order, none of them more than two floors in height. The saloon was easy to find, in what could be considered the center of town. When he entered it there were only five people there, including the man behind the bar.

      He was the only one to look in his direction. "Hi, been a while since I've seen a new face in here. What can I get you?"

      "Do you know how to make a Madorian Tea?" Alex asked he barman while looking at he Samalian. He did have the speckle of light colour in his fur, but entire colour scheme was a shade or two too light.

      "I've never heard of it, but I can try to if you tell me what's in it." The barman replied as the Samalian happened to look up from the data pad he was reading and his eyes met Alex's for a moment before they went back down.

      Alex turned to the barman and shrugged, "Don't worry about it I'll have something local instead." Even though he had only really seen them once, Tristan's eyes had remained burnt in his memory; the cold and uncaring way they had looked at him as he told him that everything he had though had happened had been a lie. The contempt in them as Alex told him he loved him and pleaded for him to stay and the cold deadliness in them as he pushed him away. As much as he had been hoping to find Tristan, seeing those eyes again made him doubt the wisdom of being here.

      He watched the barman mix some alcohol in a small glass. While the colours mixed to settle in a vivid purple he tried to decide if he wanted this meeting after all. He drank it in one quick swallow; tasting the flowery sweetness mingling with the burning of alcohol. He looked at the bottom of the glass, regretting drinking it so fast as the alcohol burnt away the taste.

      He put the glass down and picked up his case. He walked to the Samalian's table and put the case on it. The Samalian looked up at him, and frowned for a moment. Alex remained silent while the alien sniffed the air, he stood straighter and his ears perking up as he recognized his scent. Alex kept himself from showing any reactions as Tristan barely stopped himself from touching the space between his pectorals.

      "Hi," Alex said, "I'm here to help you keep your promise." He said as he opened the case to revealing the Defender.

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