DISCLAIMER: Xena Warrior Princess and its characters are the property of Renaissance Pictures and MCA.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To thedatajunkie[at]gmail.com
SERIES: Part 2 of the Guardian series.
By The Datajunkie
Jordan watched the last of her students leave the room and felt a pang of regret. This was her last class at the university and she was surprised at how much she was going to miss it. She took her time erasing the board and then gathered the stack of final exams that had been deposited on her desk.
She headed for the teachers lounge, watching the rush of students and faculty as they completed end of semester tasks and classes. Jordan dropped her stuff onto a table in the corner and turned to have what would probably be her last argument with the cantankerous drink machine. She was determined to win this time.
The battles between the teacher and the machine had become legendary and she ignored the various chuckles and snickers as she approached her enemy. Bravely plunking three quarters into the machine, she paused long enough to make sure that they didn't drop back through the change slot and then firmly pressed her selection.
There was a metallic rumble and clatter, then silence. Laughter erupted behind her as she glared at the machine. "You outdated pick pocket!" She punched her selection button again, jamming the plastic hard and chipping a nail. Gritting her teeth, Jordan narrowed her eyes and then punched a different button. Another rumble, but no drink emerged. As the teachers began to call out suggestions, Jordan turned away from the machine as if giving up.
She let out a yell and snapped her leg around in a sharp kick that caught the mechanical beast by surprise in the control panel. There was a startled silence from the peanut gallery and then a loud rumble from the machine as it surrendered two Mr. Pibbs, much to Jordan's delight. She scooped up her prizes and then bowed to her cheering audience before heading back to her corner.
Popping the top on one of the cans, Jordan settled in to grade exams. She worked steadily, wincing at some of the more blatant errors and grinning at a few rather unique approaches to the last extra credit question. Time slipped past and as she finished the last paper the late afternoon's light was beginning to fade. Jordan glanced around at the now empty lounge and sighed. "Guess I'm finished here."
Dropping the graded stack of exams into her TA's capable hands, Jordan stepped into the nearest bathroom. She pushed open all the stall doors, insuring that she was alone and then pulled the left sleeve of her jacket up to reveal a sleek black watch. Tapping it smartly, Jordan raised it slightly and spoke quietly. "Argo? I'm ready to leave."
Jordan's form shimmered as it disappeared, leaving the bathroom empty once again.
Kiera watched as Jordan pulled the skin-tight sparing suit on and forced herself to calm down. The pale blue material faithfully traced every curve and swell of her lover's shape, making it very hard to remember what they were doing.
Jordan could feel the eyes staring at her body and hid a tiny grin as she sealed the seam of cloth around her neck. She knew what effect she was having on Kiera because she was having similar problems herself. The dark blue body suit that the dark haired woman was wearing left absolutely nothing to the imagination and she swallowed hard as Kiera bent to secure her boots.
Lightweight and surprisingly cool, the suits were designed to allow the maximum range of motion, yet still provide some protection. Jordan had been amazed the first time she had discovered the added advantages of the suit. She and Kiera had been training with the staff weapons when Jordan had actually managed to slip past the older woman's remarkable defenses. As surprised as Kiera was, Jordan had not pulled her blow, having expected Kiera to block it instead. The dull sound as it had struck her friend still made Jordan cringe when she thought about it.
Horrified, Jordan had dropped her weapon and reached for Kiera only to see the other woman laugh lightly and shake her head. "I'm fine. The umar fabric absorbs kinetic energy. It won't stop a blade or a laser hit, but it can handle general blunt force trauma."
Which brought up the question that had been plaguing Jordan for the last few days. Kiera and Argo, an android that handled the daily ship's duties, had been training Jordan in both armed and unarmed combat for the last nine weeks. What was confusing Jordan though was the lack of modern weaponry. She could now wield a staff with a skill that would give Friar Tuck pause and could hit what she aimed at with a crossbow. Jordan glanced at Kiera. "Why are you teaching me these types of weapons? When you took out that Grey," She saw Kiera's eyebrow rise at the term and amended, "That Zok, you used some kind of ray gun."
She had known that this question was coming and Kiera merely laughed. "There are a lot of weapons on board that your government would kill to get their hands on but those are for emergencies only." She sat down on a low bench that lined one wall of the training room and motioned for Jordan to join her. "We have two goals Jordan. To stop alien infiltrations of earth, but also to make sure that the general populace doesn't find out that there are aliens until they're ready to handle it. If I went after a raider with laser pistols blasting then it wouldn't be long until someone spotted me."
Jordan laughed merrily. "But someone did spot you. I saw you shoot that disintegrator thing."
Kiera's nod was grim. "That was a mistake on my part. I had scanned the building and the surrounding area before going in and thought it would be safe."
Seeing the self-disgust in her lover's face, Jordan was quick to reassure her. "Honey, you had no way of knowing that I was across the river with a pair of binoculars."
"No, but that just illustrates my point. Whenever possible we need to use weapons that won't raise too much suspicion if seen."
"Um, I hate to break it to you but I haven't seen many people walking around with fighting staves lately."
"Which is why it closes up into a nondescript size and shape."
Jordan nodded, but still had a question. "So will I ever learn to use any modern type weapons?"
Argo entered at her question and chuckled at Kiera's response. "Sure, after you've trained enough."
"Which won't be long."
The android smirked. "Yeah, it only took Kiera fifty-three years to earn her disintegrator."
Jordan blinked. "Fifty-three ?"
Kiera flushed and glared at Argo. "Only because you were so damn stringent about the requirements."
Argo ignored her. "She's just mad because I had to take it back a couple of times because of improper use."
"How do you improperly use a disintegrator gun?" Jordan studied Kiera speculatively.
"Oh she almost wrote the book on that!."
But Argo was off and running, listing various incidents where Kiera had either underestimated the weapon's strength or missed her target all together.
Jordan was laughing wildly by the time Argo finished and Kiera was scowling in embarrassment.
"All right all ready! Let's get back to the point shall we?"
Kiera's fingers dug into the armrests of her chair as the planet's surface loomed in the front viewscreen. She darted a look at the pilot and winced at the maniacal grin she saw there. "Um . Honey?"
Jordan heard the nervous note in her lover's voice and swallowed a chuckle. "Yes dear?"
"You might want to change course a little. I think somebody would notice if we put a large dent in the surface."
"You can't dent a gas planet, love. We'd just sink."
"And that would be much better I'm sure."
Ignoring that, Jordan did pull the responsive space craft into a new course and increased their speed a thousand fold, leaving Jupiter to continue its silent passage in peace.
Jordan stayed low as she followed behind Kiera. They were creeping behind a tangle of overgrown fence and she could hear the low croon of several cows in the distance.
The call had come in during dinner and Kiera had made Jordan's evening when she had announced that she could come along. Now she was in a cow pasture in Wyoming, trying to avoid stray manure piles while sneaking up on aliens that were about to ruthlessly butcher some cattle. She focused her thoughts and sent a weak message to Kiera. Why they doing this?
Kiera glanced back at her partner and gave her an encouraging smile. She knew that the mental communication was difficult to master at first but Jordan really was doing well for a novice. They're drug dealers.
Jordan stopped moving and her eyes widened. Drug dealers? Okay, you going have explain that.
They started forward again and Kiera filled her in. There are several glands in cattle that produce chemicals that are intoxicating to the G'frat. The dealers kill the cattle, butcher the bodies to hide what they're after from the humans and then sell the chemicals offworld. The G'frat authorities have had a tough time cracking this particular ring though. They asked for our help since the source of the drug is earth.
Our help. Jordan smiled happily. So what now?
Kiera held up a blue ball and grinned devilishly. First we blow their ship and destroy any glands that they've collected so far. Then we pick off the rest as they're running around trying to figure out what happened.
The orb began to glow and rose into the air a few inches above Kiera's hand before zipping off to find the G'frat ship.
Seconds later, a low boom echoed over the pasture and Jordan saw a brief flash of light as the ship was completely destroyed. The four G'frat froze in place, as they tried to deal with the fact that they were now stuck on this world. They didn't have long to fret about it though as Kiera broke cover behind them and opened fire.
The group of aliens ran in different directions, trying to avoid the determined guardian that was suddenly bearing down on them. Wild warbles of alarm filled the air and one was abruptly cut off as Kiera shot the G'frat in question.
Jordan saw the small furry creature running straight for her and felt her staff expand to its full length. She swept the feet out from under the creature and activated the laser tip in one end of the weapon. The terrified G'frat stared up at her with huge eyes and Jordan hesitated. At just under three feet tall and covered with brown fur, the G'frat looked alarmingly like a teddy bear and Jordan found herself suddenly questioning whether or not she could actually do this.
The hesitation was all the G'frat needed and as Jordan warred with herself he lunged, knocking her weapon aside and plunging the small blade in his hand into her chest. Jordan's cry of surprise turned into a gasp and she fell to her knees as the G'frat slipped away into the night. Staring down at the weapon sticking out of her body, Jordan sent a faint thought to Kiera before she lost consciousness. Kiera help.
Kiera saw Jordan fall and her heart stopped beating for one endless moment. She drew her sidearm and fired on the fleeing G'frat automatically, but she was running for Jordan. She slid to her knees beside the motionless figure and carefully rolled her over. Kiera blanched at the sight of the wound and she scooped her lover into her arms and cried out for Argo.
They disappeared instantly, reappearing in the medical unit. "Argo! Get that tube open!"
The android slid the cover back and watched in concern as Kiera placed Jordan inside. "The weapon must be removed first."
"I know that!" Snarled the guardian and then she gripped the handle of the blade. "I'm sorry, lass." A quick motion and the knife was gone. Jordan didn't move and Argo closed the tube and activated the machine.
Kiera swallowed hard at the sight of her lover's blood staining the weapon and she tossed it aside as she moved to lean against the healing tube. She focused on Jordan's pale face and laid a hand on the cool cover. "This is my fault. She wasn't ready. I shouldn't have let her come with me."
Argo wisely kept quite. There would be time to assign blame later. She herself had her own ideas as to what had happened. She scanned the biosigns and quietly informed Kiera that Jordan would be fine in a few hours.
Did you succeed?
Kiera didn't respond to Aries, choosing to ignore the ship's computer.
Kiera, I understand that you are upset but it isn't as if she would have died from the injury.
Eyes focused on Jordan, Kiera just muttered, "Shut up."
Jordan blinked sleepily as the cover to the healing tube slid back. Kiera was smiling down at her and Jordan remembered what had happened. She let out an exasperated groan. "I screwed up."
Kiera was quick to correct her as she helped the young woman from the tube. "No, you didn't. I shouldn't have rushed you."
Jordan smiled weakly at Argo as the pale android handed her a robe. She slipped it on before speaking. "No. I hesitated and it almost got me killed. And might have gotten you killed as well."
"It would take more than that to kill us, Jordan."
"You know what I mean." She inhaled and exhaled in a quick puff. "I'm sorry. I made such a big deal out of going with you and then I mess up."
Kiera slid an arm around her lover's waist and they walked back to their quarters. "Can I ask you something?"
See the blonde head bob in agreement, Kiera plunged ahead. "What made you hesitate?"
Jordan sighed heavily. "What made me hesitate? A lot of things. For one, the G'frat look a lot like big teddy bears." She shot Kiera a sideways look. "You could have warned me about that."
Wincing, Kiera nodded. "Good point."
"As for the other I just wondered why we had to kill them. Couldn't we just catch them and kick them off the planet?"
They stepped into their quarters and Kiera led Jordan to the low couch. "Yes we could but they'd be back within a day. It's not like they weren't warned Jordan. There are transmitters broadcasting a standard warning in every language known. Any ship entering the solar system without permission does so at its own risk."
"There are some races that are vastly more advanced than earth's and whose only goal is to seek knowledge. There are several scientists from these that are either in the solar system or on earth itself, studying what they consider to be a primitive, warring culture."
Kiera could see the wheels turning in her lover's brain and knew there would be more questions. There always was with Jordan. Her mind was agile and creative, much to Kiera's delight and it made for some rousing discussions between them.
"How can you be sure that they're friendly?"
"Haha! Because, the race that appointed me as guardian is more advanced than any other race out there. It's like a child trying to hide something from its parents."
"Do you know much about the beings that chose you?"
Kiera shook her head. "Not really. When I was first made the guardian I was too busy learning and training. And trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was on a ship that sailed in space. Nothing in my life had prepared me for that, not even my years as a pirate." She paused as she realized what she's just said.
Jordan leaped on it of course. "A pirate? You were a pirate? When? Where?"
Kiera sighed deeply. "I guess I should tell you."
The younger woman placed a gentle hand on her arm. "Not unless you want to."
"It's okay. I just haven't told anyone before and I'm trying to figure out how best to tell the tale." She shrugged. "At the beginning I suppose, though I dare say you already know some of it. My name used to be Anne. Anne Bonny."
Jordan blinked. "A-Anne Bonny? You ." She laughed a little. "You're right, I do know that story. It's one of my favorites." She frowned slightly. "But how much of it was true?"
Kiera shrugged again. "Well I did marry James Bonny and I did run off with Calico Jack. We were lovers for a long time aboard the Revenge, but that changed when I found out about Read's secret."
Kiera smiled and it was wistful. "Mary changed my world." She explained that she began to see the woman on the sly and had done so for months until Calico Jack had caught them. "It all went to hell then."
Enraged at the betrayal, Calico Jack had beaten both women half to death and had given them to the crew. In was during that horrible night that the Revenge had been attacked and captured. There was a tightness in Kiera's voice that warned Jordan not to press for details. Not that she needed to. She knew what Keira had meant by 'given them to the crew' She kept silent, but tightened her grip on her lover's arm.
"It took months for the trial to come about and by then Mary and I had realized that we were both pregnant."
She went on to tell how Mary had gotten sick and died in prison and how the judge had granted Anne a temporary stay of execution until she had given birth.
"The day after I had Samuel, my father came to take him back to Ireland. His proper wife hadn't been able to conceive and he had agreed to take the child if it was a boy." Kiera leaned her head back against the couch and stared at the ceiling. "My hanging was scheduled for the next day."
"Your father didn't try and get you out?" Jordan knew there had been speculation that that was what had happened because Anne Bonny's execution had never been recorded.
"I believe his exact words were, 'A whore's path you walked and a whore's end you'll have." She chuckled darkly. "If only he knew. That night I was approached by the aliens with their offer. I never looked back."
The feel of a warm arm slipping away from her waist made Jordan stir and Kiera paused to drop a kiss on one smooth shoulder before rising and heading into the bathing chamber. Stepping into the shower, she spoke softly. "Shower on, all heads, one hundred and three degrees." Water cascaded around her as she became engulfed in the multiple streams.
A moment later she was no longer alone as Jordan pressed herself against Kiera's back. "Mm, good morning."
A chirp echoed through the room and they both groaned as Aries spoke. "Lu ci wishes to speak with you Kiera. In person."
"Can't it wait?"
"He seemed most insistent."
"Blast! All right. Tell him I'll be there shortly." Kiera smiled apologetically at Jordan and then got out of the shower.
Jordan ordered the water off and grabbed a towel, waiting for Kiera to fill her in.
Recognizing the look, Kiera gave her a short explanation as she dressed. "Lu ci is one of the alien xenobiologists I was telling you about. He's studying earth and humans."
They hadn't teleported to the earth this time, at least, not directly. A quick stop to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve Kiera's car and they were off. The sleek black machine looked exactly like a BMW Z4 Coupe. Kiera had explained that Argo loved to change the appearance of the craft with whatever current car she was in love with. "At least she got over her passion for that pink Cadillac. It was very hard to go unnoticed in that one."
Amazed at what she was seeing, Jordan kept her face pressed to the window as they rose from the depths. She realized they were climbing very fast and she frowned. "What about decompression? Aren't we coming up too fast?"
"No love, not for us. The changes that were made to our bodies make the need for decompression unnecessary."
Jordan grinned and looked over her shoulder at Kiera. "So I guess this means you wouldn't object to a little diving off the Great Barrier Reef?"
Kiera gazed at her love fondly. "I think I could be persuaded."
Lu ci was a wizened Chinese man who apparently ran an apothecary in Toronto's Chinatown. The incongruity of this tickled Jordan to no end and she fought to keep a more serious expression on her face. "So, he's studying our world?"
Kiera nodded, slipping a pair of red tinted sunglasses on and handing Jordan a pair. "Yes. Try not to freak out when you see his true form. Lu ci is a little sensitive."
Jordan pushed the glasses into place and tried to prepare herself for what the special lens might reveal.
Most aliens visiting the planet used holographic projections to blend into the populace. The sunglasses cut through that deception, allowing them to easily pick out the visitors.
Jordon followed Kiera into the shop and through the twisted maze of shelves until they reached the back.
"Kiera! Welcome! Who your friend?"
Jordon bit her bottom lip to hide her smile as the cheerful alien waved three pink tentacles at them in greeting.
Kiera leaned against the counter and removed her glasses. "My partner. Jordon, this is Lu ci from the planet Arelia. Lu ci, this is Jordan."
Jordon pulled her own glasses off and smiled warmly at the ancient little man who was beaming at her. "Nice to meet you."
Lu ci nudged Kiera and winked. "She is a keeper, Guardian."
"I think so." Kiera glanced around and tapped her glasses on the counter. "So what's up Lu? Why the urgency?"
Lu ci held up a hand and retreated into the back of the shop. He returned a moment later with a small, cloth wrapped bundle. "Yesterday a human sold me this. Wouldn't tell me where he got it." He opened the cloth and laid it on the counter.
Inside was a large fur covered hand. Jordan winced as Kiera picked the severed appendage up and sniffed it. "Um, gross."
"About three days old." Kiera laid the hand back down and glared at it. "Have you contacted them yet?"
Lu ci shook his head. "I no can reach them. They either not answering or " he trailed off.
Kiera wrapped the hand back up and slipped it into her coat pocket. "Okay, we'll head up there and see what's going on."
Lu ci looked relieved. "Let me know if they okay, all right? T'mosk was teaching me to brew Icktalian ale."
Kiera patted his hand reassuringly. "I will. Thanks for the heads up."
They left the shop and returned to the car. Jordan had a dozen questions but she waited until they were inside the security of the vehicle. "So what's going on?"
Kiera started the car pulled out into traffic before speaking. "The hand is from an alien race called the Briswli. They've been living on this planet for almost a hundred years."
"Nothing. They're refugees. Their world was destroyed by a conquering race and their escape ship crashed on this planet."
"Crashed? And I suppose nobody saw it?"
Kiera snorted. "Oh they saw it. Sort of. Are you familiar with the Tunguska Blast of 1908?"
"Yeah, it sounds familiar. A meteorite strike in Siberia, right?"
"That's what everybody thinks. A circle of forest 15km in diameter was flattened when the Briswli ship exploded. Took me and Argo a week to get all the pieces up."
"But some of the Briswli survived?"
"Yes. T'mosk, the former ruler of Briswli and his family."
Jordan thought about the hand currently resting in Kiera's pocket. "So the hand was from one of them?"
Kiera's hand gripped the steering wheel until it creaked. "I hope not. There were only six survivors from the original crash. T'mosk, his mate O'shica and their four children." She turned down an alley and hit the cloaking control. Instantly the car disappeared and Kiera wasted no time in going airborne. "They were living in the wilderness in the upper reaches of Canada."
Jordan could hear the strain in her lover's voice and she placed a comforting hand on her thigh. "They're your friends."
It wasn't a question but Kiera nodded anyway. "Yes. I haven't been by to see them in a few years. Got busy with other things." She slapped the steering wheel. "Blast it! I should have checked in with them sooner."
Jordan squeezed the warm leg under her hand. "Hey. You said the hand was only three days old. Even if you had seen them last week it might not have mattered in the long run."
Unable to argue with that, Kiera gripped her hand and brought it to her lips. "You're right, lass. I'm borrowin trouble."
Shifting closer, Jordan leaned against the dark woman's shoulder and accessed the onboard computer for information on the Briswli. "So, is there anything special I should know about the Briswli or " She trailed off as an image appeared. "Kiera that's "
Looking down at her partner's stunned expression, Kiera couldn't help but grin. "Is there a problem, love?"
"No, that's a Briswlian."
Jordan stared at the picture, trying to reconcile what she was seeing. "So that film was real?"
Kiera chuckled. "Oh yeah. T'Mosk gave his daughter hell about that." The Briswli princess had wanted to get a closer look at the humans. She'd started a stir that had forced the family to move from their home and go even deeper into the forest.
"This is so strange. I've seen the drawings and the photos and always thought they were a hoax." She glanced at Kiera as she realized something else. "If Bigfoot is real, then how many other 'myths' are too?"
"Depends on what you call 'myth'. Ask me and I'll answer; if I know that answer that is."
Jordan considered for a moment. "The Lochness Monster: Myth or alien?"
Jordan rolled her eyes. "Agh! You said you'd answer my questions!"
"I did. You asked if it were a myth or an alien. There's a third choice that you didn't ask."
"Okay, then what is it?"
Jordan was nonplused. "You mean it's really real?" The fact that this was more surprising than it being an alien from another world only illustrated how radical her thinking had changed.
Kiera shifted, switching on the autopilot before turning to Jordan. "It was a real animal. The last time Aries recorded one was alive though was about fifty years ago. There's been no sign of him since."
"Yeah, Nessie was a male, the last of his kind. Since Aries does regular deep scans of the planet, she was able to record their decline over the last couple of centuries."
"Wow. I don't even know what to ask first about that."
"The whole thing's accessible in the databanks."
Making a mental note to explore those databanks thoroughly, Jordan asked another question. "What about the other lake creatures around the world?"
Kiera shrugged. "Aries only ever detected Nessie's kind." She smiled at Jordan's disappointed look. "However there are several species of sea serpents that have yet to be discovered by humans."
"Sea serpents? Just how big are these serpents?"
"The biggest one we've seen so far was over 100 feet long."
"And nobody's seen them?"
"Not in this century, no." Kiera slowed the car as they approached the last location she had for the Briswli camp. "I think all the sea traffic has kept them deep. We're here."
What had once been a tidy camp was now a wrecked mess. Jordan didn't see what Kiera was talking about at first because the Briswli used natural materials for their tools and such. Kiera picked up a sharpened stone and handed it to Jordan. "They decided to live as simply as they could, hoping that would make it harder for them to leave any clue that they were here." She nodded at the tangled mass of leaves and branches. "They sleep in nests like that during the summer and retreat to a cave higher in the mountains during the winter."
Jordan nodded and realized how bad this was. "So how do we find out what happened?"
Kiera pulled a small box from her belt and began to sweep it over the ground.
The compact black armor she was wearing looked as if it were covered in small scales and did wonderful things to the taller woman's figure. She straightened the glasses she wore and smirked. Of course only she got to see this particular sight. All others would see a woman dressed in casual hiking gear. She ran her tongue across her lips to moisten them as Kiera bent over to wave the device at the ground and the armor highlighted one of Kiera's best features, of which there were many. Jordan mentally whapped herself. This wasn't the time or the place for that.
The box did nothing until Kiera passed it over the nest. A small beep sounded and Kiera began pulling the branches aside. Buried under the debris was a rust-colored patch of ground. "Briswli blood, male."
Straightening, Kiera began to widen her search, but after several minutes she had covered the entire area with no more findings. "I don't know whether to be happy that there's no more blood or body parts, or mad because there's nothing here to tell us what happened."
Jordan considered all that Kiera had told her about the alien family they were searching for. "What if someone did find them? Would they run? And if so, where would they go?"
Kiera thought for a moment. "The winter caves. We'll try there." She tapped the watch on her wrist and asked Aries to transport them to the mountains.
Jordan blinked as the world whirled away, only to be replaced a moment later by a different view. They were standing on a rocky slope, the forest stretching out below them as far as the eye could see. Kiera started climbing, picking her way carefully between the rocks. Jordan followed, grateful for her own armor as the rocks were sharp. A few minutes later they were standing outside a small, dark opening that had been hidden by bushes. Kiera knelt and peered into the darkness. "Hello?" She spoke again and the language was unlike anything Jordan had heard before. "Thruk Shaw Ukpet?"
There was a rustle from inside. "Frudken Kolmarce."
Kiera smiled up at Jordan. "That's T'mosk." She crawled into the cave and Jordan followed.
Once inside she was amazed at the difference. The ceiling was much higher, allowing them to stand and in the light from a fire in the back of the cave, Jordan could see primitive furniture and more recognizable tools. Several dark shapes were seated around a small table, another lying on a cot by the fire.
Kiera approached the table and one of the Briswli stood, meeting her halfway. They embraced and Jordan heard a rumbled chuckle from the tall male. "It's been too long, Guardian."
Kiera nodded. "It has and I'm sorry for that." She took T'Mosk's hands and looked at them. "Lu ci called me after somebody brought something into his shop." She reluctantly pulled the bundle from her coat pocket and opened it for the Briswli to see. "I'm afraid to ask how this came to be in a human's hands."
T'Mosk grumbled and jerked his head towards the figure on the cot. "J'Cosh. The young fool got too close to the humans and they shot at him. The bullet shattered his wrist and we had to take the hand off."
Kiera winced in sympathy. "But surely you didn't just leave it?"
T'Mosk shook his head. "No, of course not. The hunters managed to follow J'Cosh back to our camp and we were forced to leave in a hurry."
A low groan rose from the cot and one of the smaller Briswli went to her brother's side. She urged him to sit up and drink from a wooden cup she held. Kiera spoke softly. "How's he doing?"
"He has a fever that will not go down. I think the stump is infected."
Kiera nodded. "Perhaps I can help?" She waited for the former king to nod before going to J'Cosh. "Hey there. I see you went looking for trouble again." She gently took his bandaged arm and began unwrapping the stump. "Lucky for you I always carry a regen wand with me." She ran the thin metal rod over the inflamed flesh for several minutes, until the color had returned to normal and the seam showed definite signs of healing. Kiera patted the boy on the shoulder and stood, leaving him in his sister's care. "He'll sleep a bit now I expect."
T'Mosk thanked her and then smiled, revealing sharp teeth. "So Guardian. Who's your friend?"
Kiera slapped her forehead. "Ah curse me! I'm sorry. This is Jordan. My partner in every way."
T'Mosk seemed pleased to hear it. "It's about time you settled down." He winked at Jordan, an action that seemed so out of place on his furry face that she blinked. "I hope you're keeping a close eye on her. This one needs a keeper."
"I'm trying my best, but she's a handful."
Kiera was indignant. "Hey! Standing right here!"
The Briswli's invited them to stay for dinner and they agreed. Jordan was treated to a surprisingly flavorful meal of cooked roots and a salad-like concoction of herbs, fern heads and dandelion leaves. Over dinner, Kiera discovered why Lu ci had not been able to contact them and declared that she would repair or replace their broken transmitter before they left.
As they flew home that night, Jordan slid closer to Kiera and rested her head on the guardian's shoulder. "So are we going to let the idiots with the guns go free?"
Kiera sighed. "There's not much I can do other than wiping their brains. By now they could have told dozens of people. But without the hand they have no proof and will sound like every other Bigfoot hunter out there."
Jordan nodded, feeling a little depressed. "But what if they come back again? They know the general location of their summer camp."
Grinning, the guardian winked. "Now that we can fix. A few well-placed holoprojectors and they'll never find it again."
Relieved Jordan snuggled closer and watched the ocean skim past underneath them.
Kiera wrapped her arm around her lover's shoulders and turned the car towards the underwater platform, realizing with some amusement that she and Jordan were riding into the sunset. Together.
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