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Chapter 06

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      After dropping off his passenger, Tristan headed for Helios prime, where he planned on starting the search for who ever was responsible for his time on the Sayatoga. On Helios Prime he would find Jeremiah Toleny, the human who had offered the job which lead to his capture. The offer had been anonymous of course, but it hadn't taken him long to find out who was behind it and verify that he was legitimate.

      Landing on Helios Prime had been simple, he reprogrammed the tracker's ID to emit a private ownership, and so many ships flew through that they couldn't afford to do more than a passing scan. Even before landing he was laying the ground work that would let him walk around without attracting undue attention.

      Accessing the network he created an identity, someone inconspicuous, but who could be expected to own his own shuttle, even if it was an old tracker he had bought at a scrap-yard. He linked the identity to one of the multiple accounts he had hidden within the banking systems, the amount in it wasn't exorbitant, but enough that no one would question he was vacationing here.

      When he landed Elijah, secretary to the vice president of Semetra corporation, a company so far away no one would even care about its existence, was completely created.

      Finding Jeremiah's residence was simple, Humans had this need to keep everything organized, they rarely took any steps to hide who they were, even his passenger, as notorious as he was, never went to the extent of hiding his identity. All Tristan had to do was put Jeremiah's name in his data pad and he pulled his information from the local net.

      He took position on the roof of the building opposite and watched his target go through his day, from preparing breakfast for his two sons, to sending them off to school, which was only a dozen blocs away, so they walked on their on. Tristan wasn't very familiar with human youth since he had no interest in them, but by their size he estimated the taller one to be maybe ten, and the younger half that age.

      After that Jeremiah cleaned the kitchen and then left for work. He was surprised at the lack of a female in the house, Human families usually consisted of and adult male and female plus what ever children they had. He didn't let her absence bother him; it simply meant it was one less factor he had to worry about.

      Jeremiah came back home exactly nine hours after leaving, one hour after that his children were also home. They would play while he prepared dinner then they would eat together. After the area was cleaned Jeremiah would help his children with their school work and then do his own work while again they played.

      Tristan didn't think much of how Jeremiah interacted with his children, he supposed it worked for humans, but it was very different from the way his father had raised him, and he thought himself much more suited to survival than those children would ever be.

      He spend the following days still observing them, he also followed his children to their school, he needed to know how the place functioned since he was confident he would need to involve them in some manner to ensure Jeremiah would provide him with the information he wanted.

      When he had all the information he needed he formulated his plan. He would need to approach the children while the school let them play outside in the afternoon, any earlier and it would allow too much time for someone to notice something and alert their father. He would try to approach both of them, but he would start with the youngest, the way Jeremiah behaved around him, he was the favorite and if he could only get one he would be the most effective.

      The house would be simple, the locks were from Gamilan; they were widespread because the same company offered an alarm system to go with it. Tristan supposed they were good enough, if they were installed somewhere no one attempted to break them. From his point of view, the house might as well not be protected.

      All he had to do now was wait for the right opportunity.

      * * * * *

      Jeremiah unlocked his home, happy to finally be back, it had been a good day, but it had been tiring. His clients had been very demanding. They requested that he guaranty the state the food stock that was going to be shipped to them, even before they were picked off the trees. He had been able to work out a compromise with them so everyone was happy.

      He put his bag down as he closed the door and looked at the holographic projection of his deceased wife, Isabelle. He caressed the ornate base in which the projector was housed; it was the only image he'd kept of her, showing her when she was young and vibrant, rather than the shell of a woman she had become due to the sickness. Now this, and their children, was the only reminder he had of her.

      He turned to head to the kitchen, but stopped moving when he noticed someone sitting in his favorite chair in the living room, it was a large, comfortable, chair that would let him sink in deep. The person occupying it didn't seem to be relaxing like he would be, instead he watched him, never blinking.

      Jeremiah swallowed hard, the way those slit eyes kept looking at him made him uncomfortable. It didn't help that the man sitting there looked imposing. He wasn't human; that was obvious by the dark short fur covering his chest arms and head, he guessed that his legs were the same under those pants. At first he thought it was black, but then realized it was a deep brown, and that he had specks of lighter colour here and there.

      Jeremiah was at a loss of what to do for a moment, after all, what were you supposed to do when you found a stranger sitting in your living room? "Hello," he said tentatively, "can I help you?"

      The man, or rather alien, he guessed, nodded slowly, "You can tell me why you were a party to the setup which lead to me spending three years in a prison ship, and who was behind it." His voice had a growl to it.

      Jeremiah was shocked that such an accusation would be laid against him. "I'm sorry; I don't understand, I've never seen you before today."

      The alien slowly and deliberately got out of the chair, "I would think very carefully about how you answer my question," he said as he threw something at Jeremiah's feet.

      Jeremiah looked at what seemed to be a bloody rag, "what is that?"

      "Take it," was all he said.

      Jeremiah picked it up and held it up, it was a small shirt; too small for an adult to wear, it had been ripped on the right shoulder and cut across the chest he noted, he got a little queasy as he guessed a lot of blood had flowed from those wounds, but he still didn't understand why the stranger wanted him to look at it. As he turned it over to look at the back he realized there was something familiar about it, it was the right size for a child, maybe someone Israel's age.

      He looked at the alien as the realization hit, it was Israel's shirt. The alien opened his mouth in a smile that exposed his vicious looking teeth. No, he forced himself to think, it couldn't be; he looked at the shirt again, looking for something that would tell him it was someone else's shirt, instead he found a stain, partially hidden by blood. Israel had insisted on having chocolate spread on his toast this morning, and Jeremiah had given in, he'd even let him spread it himself, and in the process he had sent a glob of it flying against his chest. Jeremiah had wanted him to put on another shirt so this one could be washed, but it was Israel's favorite and he wouldn't hear of it, so he had wiped the stain as well as he could and let him head off to school.

      "No," Jeremiah said weakly.

      "Do you want me to tell you how the small one screamed as I sank my teeth in his shoulder and ripped the flesh off his bones," the alien said in a calm even tone, "Maybe you prefer hearing about the sound his bones made as I broke them for being so noisy. Or maybe you want to hear about the larger one bouncing off the floor as I threw him away for trying to protect the little one."

      Marcus! Jeremiah's sorrow turned into anger as he listened to this creature speak, how dare he talk in such a way about his children, with a scream of anguish he ran toward it, "monster!" He was going to pummel it until it was a bleeding head on the floor for what he had said.

      Jeremiah didn't get to hit the alien, he pushed the striking arm out of he way and grabbed the man by the neck and easily lifted him until his feet no longer touched the floor. Jeremiah didn't care that he could barely breathe. He kept trying to hit this thing. The creature looked at him with an amused smile, Jeremiah's arms were long enough to reach its face so he hit the arms a few times, and then sunk his fingers through the short fur and dug his nails in, before pulling hard.

      The alien roared in pain and slammed Jeremiah on the floor hard enough to make him loose what little air he still had. "Listen to me carefully," he said in a low growl of anger, as Jeremiah fought for breath, "you still have a cub who is alive. If you cross me I will send him back to you broken in so many ways that you will wish I had simply killed him." Jeremiah's eyes went wide in horror at the thought and the reaction seemed to satisfy the alien, he released him and looked at his bleeding arm while Jeremiah coughed and whizzed. "Now tell me what I want to know." the furred being told him when he was able to breathe properly

      "I don't know what you mean!" Jeremiah screamed, looking up at his torturer.

      "Years ago from your perspective," the alien said in an even tone, other then the momentary flash of anger he didn't bothers that Jeremiah had hurt him, "your offered a contract involving the recovery of the item you caressed coming in. I took the job, and as I result I was captured and imprisoned for three years. I do not take kindly to anyone taking something from me. Now, you will tell me who is behind this so I can take my revenge on them; if you don't I will take it out on your cub."

      Jeremiah looked at the alien his blood turning cold in horror, "I don't know," he was barely able to get out, "I don't know," he said louder and continued quickly, "when my wife's hologram was stolen a friend mentioned someone who might be able to help me get it back, I contacted them and they told me what to do. Later the hologram was returned to me. I don't know anything else." The alien studied him, "Please, that's all I know," Jeremiah pleaded.

      The alien nodded and headed for the door. "I'll return your cub to you when I'm finished with him."

      No! He couldn't mean that he had told him everything he knew. "Wait!" he remembered something, "my friend gave me something." He scrambled up and ran to the fireplace's mantle; it had to be in there. He was always putting knickknacks in Isabelle's old jewel box he kept there. Trying to open it with shaking hand he knocked it to the ground and its content spread across the floor.

      Jeremiah went on all four looking for it, it was a data chip he remembered. "Please God, let it be here," he prayed as he searched through the spilled items. Could he have put it someone else? he wonder, despairing finding it. No, it had to be among these, it had to be there, for Marcus' sake it had to be.

      And as if God had heard his prayer he spied it near the foot of the same chair the alien had been sitting it. he lunged for it, afraid that it would run off. He closed a hand around and sat up. "Here! This it is, it has the contact information for those I called, it's all I have, it's all I know, please take it!"

      The alien walked to him unhurriedly and took it "Thank you," he said, turning and walking out of the house.

      "Give me back my son!" Jeremiah cried as the door closed. He stayed motionless for a moment and then crawled to the remnant of Israel's shirt, cradling it tightly, mourning the loss of his son.

      He didn't know how long he remained there, lying on the floor, crying; he didn't even hear the door open, only looking up when someone called to him.

      "Father?" the voice came again, and Jeremiah looked up to see Marcus looking at him with worry.

      Jeremiah scrambled to his son and held him tight. He had kept his word he'd given him back his son. But he'd taking Israel away, Jeremiah thought darkly, he couldn't let him get away with that. He would send Marcus away, somewhere no one could find him and then he would hunt that monster down, he didn't care if he died in the process, he would have justice.

      As he thought those dark thought he saw the door open and, bathed in sunlight, Israel enter. Jeremiah had trouble believing what he was looking at, his mind refused to acknowledge that his youngest son was there, walking toward him, only when he smile did he realize he was indeed there. He let go of Marcus and ran to Israel, taking him up in his arm and holding him close, spinning in place. "You're safe, it's a miracle." He said over and over.

      "What's wrong?" Israel asked.

      "Nothing's wrong," Jeremiah said through his tears, and then noticing what his son was wearing, "what happened to your shirt?"

      "Marcus pushed me and I feel in the mud. This nice man said he would get it clean and bring it here, he gave me this one to wear, is my shirt here yet?"

      Jeremiah realizes he was still holding the bloodied shirt and shook his head "No," he smiled, "but that's ok, I'm sure it'll be here soon." He hugged his son before letting him down. For a moment he thought about still hunting that creature that had forced him to live through his worst nightmare, but he wasn't so overcome by emotion to miss the message given to him with his son's return. He had been able to get to him once, he could do it again. He looked at his sons, Israel happily running to the kitchen and Marcus looking back at him a frown on his face and decided to be happy he had them and leave it at that.

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