Chapter 72 





Aaron glanced up at the clock, Toshi would be here soon and he could start the first day of having him tag along.  He had just finished checking Toshi’s placement test results when he noticed a large black shadow moving closer.  Looking up he saw Titus, “Hello Titus, what brings you to my office?”  Thinking about it he tilted his head, “Is something wrong?”



Questions,” Titus moved over and stared at Aaron then climbed up onto the love seat next to Aaron’s desk so he could be comfortable, “Why did you make us?



Leaning his chair back, Aaron twisted around so he could look at Titus, “Out of all your cousins, your old breed was the one most noted for taking care of children.  Children are precious to us and I wanted only the best to help guard our children.”  Aaron stared at Titus for a moment, “I had already worked on the different improvements I was going to do to your cousins, the ones the Beastmasters wanted to give those they bond with; but I wanted you to stand out, to be different, and when I decided to make you bigger, larger than you were so you would stand out, I found something unexpected.”



Scooting his chair closer to the love seat Aaron stared into Titus’s eyes, “I found, because of your new size, your brains had become large enough and complex enough through the other changes I was going to do, to make you truly intelligent, as intelligent as we are.  Then I discovered I could give you one of our more precious gifts, the gift of mind speech.  Even though you were intended to be the guardians of my children, and my race’s children, it did not take me long to make the decision to make you as you are now.”  Looking into the expressive face Aaron smiled, “I knew by doing this I was creating a new people, a new race; one I could only ask them to help raise and guard our children, to never order them as they were free beings.  Even knowing everything that would and could happen I made you what you are now, in thanks for your cousins’ service to my people.”



Seeing the shock in Titus’s face Aaron smiled, “You only have one other cousin that could reach the size that would give them the chance to become intelligent like you, and they are not known to be nurturing towards even their own pups.  You and your people are my way of thanking your species, and cousins, for thousands of years of loyal work, and it was the right thing to do.  I could not live with myself if all I was doing was making slaves of those I knew could be better, or free.”



Titus had been listening to the words and the emotions behind them.  He had felt the truth in the Prime’s words, “Thank you.”



You do not order, you ask, even though we demanded you make more of us,” Titus struggled with what he wanted to say and wanted to know.



“Of course.  We don’t own you Titus, and to make the seven of you, and with your pups the fifteen of you, the only ones to receive our thanks is not right.  The only way you truly will become a race is to number in the thousands.  Granted that will take time, years most likely as I don’t want the outsiders to ever know your true beginnings, but we will get there.  I would just hope you will be patient when it seems we are being too slow, not going as fast as you want at times.”  Aaron felt the understanding as Titus grinned, “Mark will, over the next couple of days with Xon and Pete’s help, start building a new wing off of the new med bay; a wing Richard will eventually be in charge of when he becomes the first healer for your people.  Even though my people will know how yours came to be, only my Clan will have the secret of how to make you into what you are now, and so different from your cousins.”



Titus thought about what he had learned and tilted his head to the side, “Can you make us sound different than our cousins?” Titus asked slowly, understanding that they were now different; the only thing left to change so they would not be mistaken for the cousins was their voice.



Twisting his chair around Aaron pulled up the gene maps and looked at the section that controlled and determined their vocal cords’ shape and length.  Highlighting the section Aaron changed the size and shape of the vocal cords as he had the system run a simulation that could play the range of sounds out of those vocal chords.  Finally he turned to face Titus who was sitting up, listening closely.



Go back one…” Titus was excited, “Stop… there, that one.” Nodding his head he smiled, “It is the closest to what we hear when you talk to us, it has the same sounds only taller.”



Activating a full diagnostic on the sounds Aaron saw the sub harmonic range available.  Overlaying one of their own speech patterns over top the ones being played by the simulation he saw they were very close, but at a much higher frequency, out of even Alterans’ hearing range.  “I can make these changes.  Of course we will not be able to hear you without one of Pete’s nifty inventions, but I should be able to do this easily enough.  It will take a full day for the changes to take hold, but during that day you must not use your voice.  I can add this to your pups right away without any danger to them, as they are not making much noise yet.”



Tapping his desk as he looked at Titus, “It might be best if the changes happened overnight, when you slept, then you would just have to worry about being quiet until supper time,”  Aaron sent the changes to the System Core.  He could create the nanites tonight after he got back.



If you do this during the sleeping before the awakening…” Titus asked as he stared at the wonderful computer, “Can the machines be taught then to listen to our words as well as our minds.”



Glancing at the display Aaron nodded, “They already can pick up sounds in the higher range, and they just have to be taught to recognize your words.”



Good, the pups will be cared for if something would happen, they would be able to speak their needs before the mind speech becomes active,” Titus was pleased and his tail wagged slightly, his pups would be safe if something happened to them.



“Titus, you’re not planning anything dangerous are you?  I know your intelligent and your own person. My friend, I would hope you are not planning anything that might leave your pups without both parents,” Aaron stared at Titus, eyes narrowed wondering what was going through his mind.



In case…For future if something happens and it takes time to get new parents to pups,” Titus told him firmly before sidetracking him, “How many clans?



“Okay, I can see there might be times that being able to tell the equipment to call for help would be needed, especially as our equipment does not have the telepathic sensors built in.”  Aaron sat back, rocking in his chair slightly as he looked at Titus and thought over his question, “Currently there are only three clans: mine, the Beastmasters and the Shaolin.  One more for sure next year, but maybe two more will be formed next year after the new children are born.  There is always the possibility of more forming, but those are the ones I know about and have approved so far.”



Thinking he knew where Titus was going with his question on clans, “The Shaolin is the largest clan numbering over one hundred thousand.  They guard their own children and escort them everywhere, it has been their way, well always.  And until I was hurt by being attacked,” Aaron winced at the sudden piercing stare, “we kept the guards around us when venturing outside the kingdom, when we knew we could be spotted or were going to official functions.  Over time certain outsiders became dangerous and wanted to take what we had by force; before we had always relied on one section of Clan security to provide coverage for all of us, but now we each have a team assigned to us, and unless we are going to a known safe area, when outside our territory we have guards around at all times, hidden and in sight. “



“The Beastmasters are a new clan, and for the most part their bonded can and will keep them safe, as safe as they can be while on missions.  But next year they will start having children, and two of those newborns will be children of my Clan.” Aaron looked out the wall towards the Earth below, the memory still to fresh, “To cement their clan to ours two of their sons will be fathered by members of my Clan, and then they will need help watching their children.  Well that was what we all thought; it did not even cross our minds that some of the recruits they had taken in were still children without their gifts yet…like Mikhail,” he whispered the name in pain.



The walker, he and his alphas have need of us now.  We have heard their minds as they wished they could talk about things and need to know that the cousins understand them…now they need us to see their pups are safe.  Safe until our cousins bond so they will be protected,” Titus told him slowly, wondering if he would be denied,  Samson and Sheba will go over today, and Samson shall be Alpha of those who guard the walkers pups.”



“That might go a long way to healing their hearts,” Aaron mused as he leaned back and looked up at the ceiling. “You do know that some of the walkers, as you call them, bond to great cats, or they will after we get them the right kind.”



Shuddering as if shedding water Titus smiled, “No one is perfect.”



Aaron stared at Titus goggle eyed, “You just made a joke,” he chuckled, “granted not a good one, but a joke none the less.”  Chuckling at the tail wag that knocked the cushions off the love seat, “Will tonight before supper be soon enough?  We need to do this carefully so they do not think I feel they can’t be trusted to care for their children.”



Yes,” Titus stood up and jumped off the love seat, “They must feel their pups are safe again.”  Stopping at the doorway Titus looked over his shoulder, “You have always treated us like your own, all of your people, for that my Alpha you have my thanks and Love.”



Aaron was still staring at the door in thought, so he saw the confused look on Toshi’s face as he walked in looking over his shoulder, “Um…who or what is Titus and why should I run fast?”  Toshi bumped into the sofa before looking where he was going and at Aaron, “And did that dog just talk to me in my head?”



Giggling Aaron pointed to the love seat which was still next to his desk, “Have a seat Toshi, we can go over your placement scores; and that was not a dog but a Kesol…and yes he did just talk to you in your head.”



Picking up the cushions off the floor Toshi looked at Aaron strangely, “But he is just a dog, right?”



“Afraid not, Toshi,” Aaron grinned as he twisted in his seat so he could look at the teen, “He is a Kesol.   Comparing his race to dogs is like me comparing you to a gorilla, not flattering at all most of the time.”



“But he talked in my head,” Toshi seemed to be stuck on that point before sighing, “just like all of your people do, so that should not surprise me.”



“My tutors were most impressed on the way your system tested my knowledge,” Toshi smiled as he leaned forward, “I am most eager to hear my results.  Not only did I surprise myself, I surprised my tutors who watched on is excitement.”



“Well then, let’s see how well you actually did. “Aaron grinned as he opened the file, “Math, you are working at second year university level.”  Feeling Toshi’s pleasure Aaron grinned, “Language skills are also quite high, you could easily graduate your secondary school with them right now, as is your social studies.  Now the thing that surprised me was your sciences.  I would have thought with your math skills being so high that your sciences would follow along.”



Aaron sensed the feeling of failure, “Hold on Toshi, you can easily graduate secondary with these scores.  It just seems you’re missing a link, or the key to make the sciences easier for you.  Chemistry you excel at, yet the biological side you seem to struggle.”  Looking over at the crestfallen teen Aaron remembered how their culture demanded excellence in school.   “All your scores more than tell me you are ready to graduate, and in fact your tutors are thrilled…as is your father.”



“But are you pleased with my scores?”  Toshi was worried, and afraid it would be held against him for not doing better.



Feeling the need to be accepted by him, Aaron looked at Toshi, “Toshi, this test was designed to see where you are at in your schooling to see where you need help and, or what, directions you need to go in.  That series of tests tell me you love working with numbers, and on the science side of things you are more apt to gravitate towards chemistry. The biggest thing you should be proud of is, you passed your secondary levels with very high marks.”



Sitting back in surprise, “I passed…as in graduated,” Toshi was dumbfounded as he saw the smile and nod as answer to his question, “I passed…” he trailed off shocked at the announcement.



“Now there is no question that you were being brought up to be Emperor one day, the questions remains though what to do in your spare time.  What would you like to study now?”  Aaron saw and felt the confusion radiating from the teen. “We never stop learning, or making ourselves better.  You remember Kenny?”



Nodding, “Yes, I remember,” grinning Toshi thought back to that day, “The first time I met him he told me he wished to have his first masters by the time he had his first pubic hairs.”



“That sounds like Kenny,” Aaron chuckled, “But there is a lot of truth to his statement.  He passed his secondary levels some time ago,” Aaron fudged a little.  Several weeks was some time, wasn’t it?  “And he is still studying, trying to find what interests him most.  What I’m saying, or trying to convey, is now that you have graduated I want you to find out what you like to do best.  We already know you like math, did you ever give a thought to architecture or design?   It relies heavily on math.”  Sitting back in his chair he pushed it back to the center of his desk as he saw Toshi really thinking about what he was saying.   “There is terminal access over by the rest of the couches, in the coffee table in fact.  I want you to go over there and do some research on the fields that rely on math, that math is a big part of.  There must be hundreds out there, and when that one catches your eye we will talk about what you need to do to excel in that field.  Nothing says you can’t have a side career to being emperor.”





Pulling Pete around and kissing him soundly Brian smiled as Pete’s unfocused eyes stared at him before grinning and asking, “Well, I suppose round three can start as soon as I finish this, if that is what you are after.”



Laughing Brian leaned against the table, “Not really, I have a problem and I was hoping you would be able to build something for me to take care of it.”  Running his hands down his sides before moving them towards his crotch and then up his chest, teasing Pete,  “this will just have to wait until tonight.”



Blinking and then looking up to the giggling face Pete grinned, “Okay, have a seat and tell me what your problem is and maybe we can build something to fix it.”



“I need a mobile processing center.  Right now we have the one we built in Gray Haven but it is pretty much booked full time processing food crops and making things like ketchup and mustard, that type of thing.”  Brian looked up at the ceiling and noticed the plasma up there.  Why in the world?  Shaking his head he looked back at Pete, “I could build processing plants at the orchards, or the other places I need them, but I would only need them there a few weeks out of the year, a huge waste.  So two or three big mobile processing plants where we can move them around as needed to the areas being harvested is what I need…and what the hell is up with the plasma on the ceiling?” He pointed up at the ceiling with his finger.



Giggling like a madman Pete whispered, “I installed it because Joe kept looking up as he talked to me about building things,” touching the terminal he grinned and pointed up as he looked forward back at Brian.



Looking up Brian laughed as he saw Pete’s face looking down at him grinning, “Have you broken him of the habit yet?”



“Sadly no,” Pete pulled up the design for the processing plant, so he could see what all was involved in the day to day operations.  Feeling a hand on his shoulder he looked up into a grinning face.



“Don’t worry Love, he’s military after all.  It takes them longer than normal people to get trained,” Howling out in laughter Brian slid off the desk into the chair, “So do you think it is possible to build something like I need?”





Richard sighed in frustration.  Saving the file he was working on, he stretched as he stood and thought about Mark.  He had questions that needed answered.  Walking out of his bedroom he walked over to Mark’s bedroom and peaked inside the door.  Not seeing him working at his desk he started walking towards the compound courtyard; he had felt he was working at his desk when he sent his mind searching for him so he must be at his public office.  Walking into the building he smiled, he might want to think about using one of the empty offices here, not that anyone ever comes to visit him, but still it might happen someday he smiled at the thought.



Seeing someone walking around looking lost Richard waved, “Hello there, looking for someone?”



Jumping from the sudden sound asking him a question in the silence, and not hearing anyone walking up Tad turned around, “Um…Yes…Actually I was looking for you.”



Stopping in shock Richard squeaked out, “Me, whatever for?”



Laughing at Richards expression Tad smiled, “Well one of the Clan, anyway.  I was hoping someone could help me find out who to talk to.  You see I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and now that I am free to do whatever I want I thought I would see what it took to learn to be a vet.”



“Oh,” Richard sounded relieved, even to his own ears he sounded relieved; grinning he waved the lad over, “Well Mark is the one you really need to talk to, or Aaron.  Well maybe not Aaron as he can help you out and find you an advisor but he is,” stopping Richard was about to say Aaron probably would be best when he caught himself rambling.  “Sorry about that. I’m still thinking about the homework assignment Aaron gave me.  I was on my way to talk to Mark about it, so he is the one you need to ask, and if he can’t at least get you started he will be able to get the answers for you.”



Starting to walk back towards Marks office with the teen at his side Richard realized where he recognized the face from, “Aren’t you one of our rescues, the Yin Kong wasn’t it?”



Surprised and pleased Tad hurried to catch up, “Yes, actually I was one of the guys who asked to be made gay so I could join the kingdom.  I wanted what was being offered, more than anything I wanted something better than my old life; it was nothing but pain and always being put down, never being good enough.”



Richard stopped at stared at the image next to the door, a round emblem with four legged animals and poultry feathers.  That was understandable, the knife and fork on either side though made him worry. Peeking in and seeing no one around but Mark he motioned Tad in, “Mark, Tad here needs some direction.  He wants to be a vet, you see.”  Richard glanced back at the emblem outside door once more trying to figure it out.



“Are you alright, Love? What’s out there that is so interesting?” Mark was amused and thought he knew, but he wanted Richard to say something.



Disgusted Richard came back in and sat down, “I can understand the beasts, the four footed animals, and even the feathers make sense if they stand for poultry, but what the bloody hell do the fork and knife stand for?”



Giggling, Tad peaked at Mark who was laughing, “Blame our sons for that one, Love.   Ryan came up with that idea, he said it made sense since I deal with food animals.  Glen agreed saying that way no one would confuse me with one of the horse doctors, or doctors for the small animals.”



Richard stared at him open mouthed, mumbling to himself, fork plus knife on a round plate equals food, “Bugger me if that doesn’t make sense.”



“Later Love, right now we have company,” Mark smirked causing Tad to almost fall out of his chair in laughter.



“Don’t mind me!  I’ve never seen a bugger, though if it is anything like a shag, well then I hope you have a cold shower nearby,” Tad grinned as Richard turned red before joining the laughter.



“Right then Tad…Falmouth isn’t it, age fourteen and your birthday is in three weeks if I remember right,” Mark shocked the teen.



“But even my own parents didn’t remember my birthday like that,” Tad got all choked up and felt Richard pull him close and hug him.  He melted into the hug and held on until he had control of his emotions after hearing Mark tell him, “Of course we keep track of everyone we rescued personally, and their birthdays too”.



Seeing Tad thank Richard for the support with a hug and kiss to the cheek Mark gently steered the conversation back to the veterinarian side of things, “So which specialty are you interested in, large or small animals?”



“Horses, definitely horses,” Tad smiled remembering the good times growing up before his grandparents died.



Pulling up Tad’s tutor scores Mark was pleased to see the strong sciences and biology background.  Adding several sections to the program Mark smiled, “I see you every morning out at the farms, playing with the horses and helping with the large animals.”  Finishing changing the criteria and direction the tutor was steering him in Mark smiled, “Right, done now, your tutor program knows you want to be a vet for large animals specializing in horses eventually.  I’ve also added your name to the list of those that want to help when I do vet work on the larger animals, it will give you some hands on experience.  Once you get to the halfway point we will get you some field training and finishing work with one of the our vets.”  Smiling at the beaming teen, “Before I forget, the practical labs are located at the central command center on Middle Earth.  All the labs and artificial wombs are there so you can do your practical aspect along with any projects that pique your curiosity.  I’m usually back there in the morning after breakfast working on projects until eleven thirty or so.  After lunch you can find me here in my office most times.”



“Thank you,” Tad jumped up in glee and hugged Mark before jumping around the desk and hugging Richard, “I’m going to go get started right now.”



Giggling, Richard watched Tad leave happier than he was a moment ago and jumping in joy.  Tad ported out at the top of one of his jumps causing both of them to howl out in laughter.



Calming down Richard lost his smile and sighed, “Now, my problem.” Seeing he had Mark’s attention he outlined the problem, “The problem is there is no single species of cat that has all the traits the Beastmasters want.  The one with most is the lioness; they at least have two of the traits needed.  I’ve listed the species by traits, and even had the Core narrow out the genes responsible but all I’m left with is a bunch of clusters and no animal for them to go into.  I’m way over my head and have no idea where to go from here,” Richard threw up his hands in frustration.



Before Mark had a chance to say anything one of the pups rushed in, in a panic, “Aphrodite is stuck and is hurting.”



Richard jumped out of his chair and placed a hand on the pup’s head, “Apollo, think clearly of where Aphrodite is.” Once he had an image of where Aphrodite was he ported both of them out without pausing to tell Mark where they were going.



Getting up from his chair Mark made his way to the Med Bay.  Whatever happened they would more than likely wind up in the Med Bay he thought. Walking in not even a minute later, Richard had Aphrodite on the bio-bed and was administering nanites through an IV line Mark never knew he knew how to even start an IV. Doing several things at once without thinking about it, all the while muttering about damned people eating plants.  “How they hell was it able to send roots outside of a sealed greenhouse?  Did someone pee on the door with industrial acid or something.”



Apollo peed on the door yesterday,” Athena sent, “He does not like the plant and was marking it, hoping it would go away.”



“Why won’t she stabilize?” Richard muttered as he looked at the monitor, “I replaced the missing fluid fixing the blood loss, and administered nanites to act as red blood cells; she should be getting better instead of worse.”  Hands moving across the terminal he saw that her organs were starting to fail for some reason;  it was almost like…’poison’ he thought.  Pushing past Mark who had come up to help him, Richard’s hands flew across another terminal and he initiated a transport, but instead of moving Aphrodite from one spot to another he held her in the flux as he ran a quantum scan.



Backing away when he saw Aphrodite shimmer and the fade in and out as a transporter beam took effect Mark looked at Richard in awe wondering when he had gone all techie on them.  Pete, Love, this is an emergency.  We need Aaron to the Med Bay right NOW… and get Xon over here with one of the scouts and beam every trace of that damned plant out of the sealed greenhouse.  It found a way to escape and attacked Aphrodite.”



“Well, that shouldn’t be there,” Richard muttered as he looked at the trace scans and added what he found for the filter program to remove.  Looking through the quantum scan for anything not part of Aphrodite he noticed an oddity on the report, “Ah, a small fragment of that damn plant.  Why the hell is it still alive after I broke through the root hairs?…Well it needs to go,” he muttered as he removed it through the filters and went back to searching for things that did not belong.



“AARON…” Pete yelled out as his hands moved across the terminal uncontrolled.  The emergency message had startled him and ignoring the last hours worth of work he just ruined, he pulled power from the gestalt and screamed for Aaron causing Brian to wince in pain from splash back.



“Okay Toshi, tomorrow David and Derrick will be here checking on the colonization progress.  Why don’t you follow them when they go visit the colonies to get a first hand idea of how things are going…” Aaron winced and rubbed his temple, “Pete, what’s wrong?”



We need you in the med bay.  That damn plant attacked Aphrodite.  Mark said they need you,” Pete told him as he moved one of the newly created mobile transporter arrays over the sealed greenhouse and altered the destination, placing the plant in the buffers here on his moon base.  Activating the transporters cycle he was slightly shocked at how large the root system had become; it had breached the sealed greenhouse in several spots.



“I’m sorry Toshi but I have to go, a medical emergency,” Aaron’s hands logged the terminals off as he pulled power from the gestalt and ported out, leaving behind a shocked and worried teen.



Wobbling just a little bit from the long range port Aaron saw the shimmer of a transporter behind him from where the sealed greenhouse was.  Ignoring it he strode through the doors and stopped in shock seeing Aphrodite was caught in and out of a transporter beam as Richard was muttering while his hands danced across the terminal changing settings eyes never leaving the plasma screen.



“Athena, hop up on the other bed. I need to check something.  I need to make sure what I am seeing is supposed to be part of the normal chemistry in her blood supply or not,” Richard ordered not bothering to look up as he heard her whine.



Make Apollo do it.  He’s the bad boy, it’s his fault,” Athena whined only to be stopped when Titus growled out, “Do as the healer tells you!



But it’s not my fault.  I didn’t pee on the door,” Athena told him fearfully as she moved to the table and climbed up. “Is it going to hurt?” she let the fear she was feeling at seeing Aphrodite hurt then fading in and out color her mental voice.



“No Child,” Aaron rubbed her head in comfort, “all we are doing is scanning you just like we do for a checkup.  It does not hurt at all.”  Aaron calmed her and moved his hand out of the way when the bio-bed activated and started to flash the information on the plasma behind him, and over to the one where Richard was working.



Staring at the two scans side by side Richard noticed Athena did not have that hormone group, “Right insidious little bastard.  I didn’t like the looks of you anyway,” Richard muttered as had the filter remove the traces of hormone that did not belong.  Double checking the reports one more time he nodded before programming the system to disengage the transporter.  A small red square started blinking, waiting for the touch that would deactivate the transporter hold and disengage the beam.



“Aaron, I finally got the thing in the buffers and…” Pete trailed off as he skidded to a halt at seeing a transporter beam with the transport in filter mode.  Staring at Richard like he was an alien, his mind tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together and the answer he kept getting did not make any sort of sense.



Taking a deep breath Richard moved back to the bio-bed, “Mark, when I tell you, touch the red flashing button.”  Pulling a drawer open Richard pulled out the small tray with the sensors he had modified, with Aphrodite’s help, to be placed on the guardians without shaving them and set it on the top of the bio-bed and hoped the rest of the things they had talked about and made worked.  After all he had not even come close to finishing the system he was using. Closing his eyes and standing still to control his breathing Richard counted to ten slowly before howling out, “AROOOAUGH…”



Aaron blinked back in surprise wondering if Richard had lost it and sat down heavily on the bio-bed next to Athena when a voice echoed through the room.



“Emergency Procedures Activated…Voice command interface active…”



“Emergency!  Prepare bio-bed for bio-tube transformation,” Richard’s voice almost had a growling tone to it.  Ignoring the grinding noise from above him, as he knew it was there for a warning and no grinding was actually taking place as the panel silently slid aside, a dome started to descend from the ceiling, stopping just above his head.



“Right, let’s get this done…Now Mark,” Richard’s hands flew as he slapped the modified sensors on Aphrodite; one between her eyes and the other to the side of her chest that was struggling to rise and take a breath.  Placing her on her back he pushed a button and a mechanical arm snaked out from the bottom of the bio-bed and made its way down past her teeth into her throat on its way into her lungs. Pushing the tray to the floor Richard stepped back and howled again, “AROOOO.”



He had a large audience now as most of the Clan had come running to find out if they could help and had packed the med bay.  Trying to keep the area around the bio-bed clear they crowded around the walls and door; and they were shocked at Richard’s howling.



“Crash system activated…” the voice echoed as the lid slammed down and locked into place on top of the bio-bed and, unlike the bio-tubes where the regen fluid filled from the bottom up, the regen fluid poured into the device in less than a second as the large column attached to the top of the cover delivered the regen fluid and let the air escape.



Staring at the monitor the reports showed that Aphrodite was still in serious condition but not crashing like she had been.  Now that the poison was gone, and the alien whatever the hell it was removed, it was all normal damage that they could fix, “RRROUGH.”



“Organ regeneration initiated…Cell regeneration initiated…Emergency directives initiated…”



Seeing the readings were reporting that the system was working as planned Richard collapsed to the floor, hugging his knees tightly as he took in huge gasps as the adrenalin started to leave his system making him want to be sick.



Seeing every face staring in shock as they stood looking at Richard, Aaron slowly moved over to Richard and knelt down and pulled him into a hug, “It’s alright now, Love, it’s alright,” rubbing Richard’s back he stiffened in fear as his P.A.D.D. sent the emergency tone signaling code patient.



“Attention all staff…Emergency….Clan Stranton Med Bay section sixteen…CODE Protocols now in effect…Attention all staff…”



As the message repeated Aaron glanced at Mark who moved closer to them now that things had gone still, and gestured with is head towards his leg.  Once Mark had removed his P.A.D.D. and accepted the signal the room was plunged back into silence.



“Let me through…Dammit, move out of the way,” Fred bellowed as he rushed into the room, trying to figure out who got hurt and skidded to a stop as he saw Aaron holding Richard.  “Aaron…What?”  Eyes roaming around and counting heads he noticed one of the pups in the bio-tube, and it was a strange looking bio-tube, square, not at all tube like his mind was telling him as he tried to focus on things; just relieved his Lovers all appeared to be unhurt.



“What was with…Why all the barks and howling?” Mark asked gently as he sat down and scooted so Richard was between his and Aaron’s bodies.



Titus had moved around so he could sit and look at Richard with a new respect in his eyes.  He projected, “First one was hurt.”  Moving his head around as he noticed everyone looking at him, “Second was PAIN…last…last was FIX.” Shoving his massive muzzle between Aaron’s arms he stared at Richard and licked the tears off his face, “Why?



Taking comfort in Aaron’s arms Richard looked at the staring eyes, “Aphrodite has been helping me.  We have been trying to make a system that could heal you if you were hurt and no one that had hands was around. Together we have been building something she could run.  You don’t have our hands so it had to be able to take her voice commands.”



Titus sat down fast in shock, dislodging Aaron’s arm from around Richard as he sat.  Staring at Richard as his mind ran over what was said he looked at the pup and then back to Richard.  Hanging his head he huffed, his equivalent to a sigh.  Every time he thought he had things figured out he was proven wrong.  They treated his people as their own, and now they treated his pack as their pack, even to the point of fixing their machines so they could use them, “Thank you one who runs with the pack.”



Reaching over Richard lifted Titus’s snout so he could look into his eyes, “She is my friend, how could I not?”



Aaron smiled as he pulled Richard into a hug and pressed his head against Richard’s, “Well done my Love…Well done Richard Stranton, healer to the guardians of the Clans.”



“WHAT…” Richard shot up, standing he looked down at Aaron, “Are you out of your mind?  I’m not a healer, I have no idea what I…”



Mark moved around after standing and kissed Richard cutting off his protests mid rant.  Releasing his lips Mark looked him in the eyes, “You saved Aphrodite, and when I’m finished with you, you will believe you are the healer Aaron just proclaimed you to be.”  Pushing him towards Fred who had pushed his way to where they were standing he waited until Fred had finished kissing him and passing him to Pete before hugging Aaron and whispering, “I had no idea he had been working on this, what he did was incredible.”



“Yes it was,” Aaron hugged Mark to his side and smiled at Richard as he was being passed around; he laughed when Titus stood up on his hind legs so he could kiss Richard when he was passed by on his way towards Tim.  Gazing at Pete, “Where you able to get that entire thing into the buffers?”



“I think so, at least I hope so.  The root system had spread several meters outside the greenhouse.  I never thought it would be able to get through the Ionosin like that,” Pete was confused; it should not have been able to get through the metal.



Sighing Aaron rubbed his temples, “I think the base might be Ceramacrete not Ionosin, but it should not have been able to get through that either.”  Coming to a decision, he looked at Derrick and Xon, “I want a team of MCAs to remove every atom where that greenhouse is standing.  Go down one hundred meters and then fill it back in.  I want no trace of this thing even being allowed to settle anywhere as we don’t know how it reproduces or spreads.”



“Pete, find an asteroid to build a greenhouse on, one that we can study this damn thing on, and if need be we can drop it near the sun to be sterilized if it gets out of control.  Feed it a pig or something so we can finally get some answers.”  Aaron had a sudden thought, “Xon, go down to the Core and search through every intrusion into this system on record.  I want to know about the smallest meteor that passed into this system from the moment the sensor net was put in place.”



“What are you thinking, Aaron?” Xon looked at Aaron wondering where he was going with this search he wanted to have done.



“I would swear that plant is not native to this planet,” Aaron moved over to the bio-pod.  “Tell me Xon, if you wanted to colonize a world that had T-Rex's all over the place or other nasty predators, how would you go about getting rid of them so you can move in?”  Sighing Aaron smiled grimly, “I’ll bet we never know for sure, not unless we find another planet with that same plant on it, but if I had the time it sure would be easy to drop an engineered plant with pretty flowers and calming scents on a hostile planet to get rid of the troublesome life forms, especially if it didn’t destroy the plant life I wanted left alone."



Spotting some scared little faces Aaron smiled at them, “Aphrodite will be just fine in a couple of days. The bad plant that attacked her is gone and your Altor Richard is making her all better.  She’ll be up in four days playing hide and goose with you guys like she does every night.”  Aaron grinned as the youngsters walked over and hugged Richard tightly.  Once they had left after getting hugs, having seen for themselves Aphrodite was alright they left after kissing the sides of the clear top of the Bio-tube.  The rest of the Clan hugged Richard, and soon Mark and Richard were the only ones left in the room with him. Then Aaron asked, “Richard whatever gave you the idea to incorporate the transporter into the bio…well pod best describe them I guess.”



Shrugging Richard placed a hand on the clear cover and looked at Aphrodite floating in the regen fluid, “I remembered you and Xon talking about the transporters, and how no one ever thought of using them to scan and filter out medical things like diseases and such.  It was the easiest thing I could think of to give Aphrodite the ability to do surgery or remove objects…though I still have to finish working on the voice system, some of the commands are still not all there.”  Rubbing his throat he grinned sheepishly, “I’ll start by making sure the Alteran voice commands are all uploaded…but mental ones would be better yet.”



Shaking his head in wonder Aaron smiled, Richard didn’t realize what he had accomplished, or how astonishing it really was.  “In between your new slave driver cramming your head full of facts and knowledge, if you can find time to write up what you did and how I’ll see about getting Pete to fix you up a mental link gadget thingie.”  Hearing Richard giggle Aaron kissed him one more time before glancing at Titus, who was staring at Richard lost in thought, and walked out the door.



Walking down the path,  Aaron headed for the bench near the hot springs and placed his folded clothes on it after he stripped out of the confining shorts.  Feeling much better he noticed Damien and Lady over in the corner and waved them over.  Sitting down he absentmindedly starting scratching between Lady’s ears.  He looked at his lover for a moment, “Samson and Sheba want to go over to the Beastmaster compound.  Titus said it would go a long way to helping the youngsters get over their fear of what happened to Mikhail yesterday.”



“He might be right,” Damien sat down and leaned against Aaron, “I stopped by to visit, well Doug and I did after we and Lady moved the sheep to new a new pasture this morning.  The place is not the fun loving happy place it was Saturday when we stopped by.”



“Then it might be time that something good happens,” Aaron decided.  He knew how to introduce Samson and Sheba without making them think he did not believe in them now, “Get the clan together, we are invading the Beastmasters.  I have an idea.”



Damien stared at Aaron for a moment before grinning and rushing off.



“You three can come out from behind the flowers now,” Aaron said into the seemingly empty air.  After a moment Titus and the two who wanted to move over to the Beastmaster compound walked out looking at him inquisitively, “All of us, except Mirri and Aphrodite, are going to go over to the Beastmasters, and when I ask who stands for Mikhail I want you,” Aaron looked at Samson, “Samson to speak for him after you step forward.  Hopefully their shock at his name being included will delay anyone else from stepping forward.”



I see, this will be done right then.” Titus sat down and looked at Sheba and Samson, “You will become part of them this way…it will cause many tears and healing can begin.”  Standing up Titus let out a loud bark calling the pups, and looked at the clan who were assembling.



Gazing down at the ground a moment longer Aaron stood and slipped back into his clothes before facing his lovers.  Holding his hands out in front of him he ported his crown to his hands and placed it on his head, “Circlets and robes please, Loves.”



Grinning in thanks as Kevin handed him his robes Aaron slipped them on as he looked at the yearning faces of their sons as they got dressed.  He beamed in pride at Xon when he stepped over and handed each of them a small version of their robe, ever the protocol specialist it seemed, and secret father who would do anything for his sons.



Ten minutes after asking Damien to gather the Clan they stood ready and Aaron grinned at Friedrich’s perplexed look as he pulled power from the four gestalt points in large crackling arcs and shared the energy with his lovers.  He was making a spectacle, and the reason he was let him enjoy himself for once.  Linking his mind with his lovers as they grinned in anticipation the many voices of the merged minds of the clan spoke out, “Let the Dragons show themselves as we arrive.”



Friedrich stared at the spectacle, not daring to get close with the large arcs of energy spiking out and surrounding the clan as every single member save the youngsters had the very same expression on their faces as they ported out.  Startled, “Where the hell did they go? And without any backup!”



Mirri nodded in satisfaction as she turned to go back to her pups, “They went to heal the walkers of their pain, do not interfere!!!



Donny sat looking at his clan, they seemed so sad he thought, “Sad and scared,” he mumbled causing Ru and Corey to look up.



“Who is scared and sad,” Corey looked at Donny, wondering who he was talking about.



“All of them,” Donny waved his hand around the dining hall.  He fell off his chair a second later as a loud roaring boom came from behind him.  Glancing over his shoulder from his position on the ground he found himself, along with everyone else, starring up at the image his mind was telling him was not real.  Donny started to count the dragons standing on the other side of the glass wall before he saw them launch themselves in the air and disappear in a flaming display leaving behind the Clan.  And the first thing his startled mind noticed was they were in formal wear; the second was they were gone and twisting around frantically at the painfully loud baying and barking that was not coming from any of their bonded he saw the Clan standing behind Aaron in the middle of the hall.



Eyes gazing around the hall Aaron was aware of those running in from the hallways from the other parts of the compound.  Waiting until everyone was present he nodded, “Yesterday the Beastmasters lost one of their own…and the Empire lost a son.  Those that took Mikhail from us are being hunted, or are already dead.  In death there is rebirth, a son will be born in the future that will never know one of his fathers, his loving touch, and yet the legacy of his father will go on through him.”  Stepping forward Aaron smiled as he placed a hand on Donny shoulder and his voice carried, “Tonight…Tonight we induct those who have earned their place in the Beastmaster clan and we will honor the son who was taken from us.”



Looking into Donny’s confused face Aaron smiled again, “Beastmaster, assemble your clan.  We will celebrate new lives being started and honor one taken before he was ready.”  Leaning in Aaron whispered, “Trust us…”



Donny nodded and whistled and motioned for his lovers and clan leaders to assemble the rest of the clan.



Aaron watched as the confusion and uncertainty that was prevalent on almost all the face started to become really confused but animated as they gathered around whispering and trying to figure out what was going on.



Finally Donny had assembled the twenty nine new recruits that had bonded to an animal, even if it was only one of the horses until they got the new cats.  Looking over those they had decided to give the title of Beastmaster to Donny wondered how they were going to do this; the hastily assembled start was not the carefully laid out ceremony they had come up with.  Hearing the excited whispering from the youngsters he thought maybe they should have two ceremonies; the one they came up with, and one that Aaron was performing for them, but he was not sure what Aaron was doing so he didn’t know which way to decide.



But Aaron decided for him when he started the ceremony they had come up with, “To be a Beastmaster means wondrous things; to share your mind with one who flies, with one who runs and one who walks on all four legs by your side.  Tonight those assembled before us, standing as they were born, tonight they shall attain their dream.”  Moving so he could stand in front of the first in line Aaron smiled at him, “Who stands for this one?  Who stands for Gabriel Brightfeather?”



 Running Bear snapped out of his daze and quickly moved behind his cousin and smiled his voice filled with pride, “I stand for Gabriel.”



“And why is Gabriel worthy?” Aaron asked startling everyone when he deviated from the ceremony.



Surprised Running Bear looked at his cousin.  Not knowing what else to say he spoke from his heart, “Ever since we were small I have watched how Gabriel interacted with those around him, and growing up near each other I watched Gabriel and his soft spot for animals.  Now that he is Alteran he can live his dream of speaking with the animals, of working hand to paw with them.  His favorite movie growing up was, and probably still is, Dr. Doolittle,” he grinned at Gabriel’s blush. “But mostly he is worthy because he is making his dream come true.”



Nodding Aaron smiled, “Spoken from the heart, Beastmaster, and no truth has ever been louder or more right.”  Aaron placed the tattoo device against Gabriel’s temple and looked him in the eyes, “Do you, Gabriel Brightfeather, vow to follow your dreams and honor your bonded until the day you to join with the wind?”



“On my honor, I so swear,” Gabriel told him firmly and his smile turned into a grin as he felt the pulsing against his temple.  Touching the cold place where the injector had sat a moment before he thought he felt the tattoo beginning and melted into Aaron’s embrace and jumped in joy when he heard Aaron’s words, “Welcome Beastmaster, the journey to your new life begins now.  Reach out, grab your dream and run with it.”



Grinning at the excited teen Aaron moved to the next in line.



Almost an hour later Aaron stepped back from the twenty ninth new Beastmaster and glanced around at the excited faces and felt the joy in everyone’s minds, but the joy was still a little off.  There was still sadness ,and now it was time he thought as he looked at Titus and nodded.



Stepping to the empty spot Aaron once more looked around, “Who stands for Mikhail Bolstin?”



Silence fell over the room as if someone pulled the power cord on the stereo, and the pain came back tenfold on the intensity in their minds.



Samson walked forward regally and projected to everyone, “I stand for the pup!!



“And why would one of the Kesol, the Guardians of the clans, stand for one he did not know?” Aaron looked at him and caught the shock on Donny’s face out of the corner of his eye.



Pleased at his people finally having a name for their race, Titus moved next to Aaron and sat at his side and looked at Samson, as if inspecting him for flaws for daring to do something like this.



I would honor the pup taken from us before his time,” Samson made himself look bigger, “I would stand here for him now as he will never know the joy of running with the pack, of laughing with his bonded in joy…of gazing at his pups as they are born and know the wonder he has brought into the world.”



As one of the Kesol I judge him worthy of the title and demand his name be added to the rolls for all time…IN HONOR,” Samson drew himself so he was balanced on his hind legs as he said the last and stared at Aaron in determination.



“So noted, so demanded, so ordered…these things are but words.  Do you accept the responsibility that these words will force upon you?  Do you accept the posting of alpha of the walkers your actions will require?” Aaron asked in the quiet.



Gladly…” landing back on all fours Samson looked at Titus, “My alpha, a new pack needs our protection and I ask to be appointed alpha of the walkers; to build the Kesol in numbers needed so I may honor and hold my pledge to THE ALPHA.”



Titus nodded, before adding his mental voice to Samson’s,  shocking the Beastmasters at hearing them speak telepathically, “Four paws of four paws shall be sent to you in seven risings of the sun.  Run fast…Bite hard Samson, Alpha of the Walkers.”



Ceremony now over Aaron pulled his robe off and handed it to Kevin who he kissed long and hard, “Start supper without me, Love. I think I have some questions to answer, but save me some if you would.”



Taking in the shocked and tear stained faces, both in joy and sadness as Aaron walked around and kissed his lovers before they left, after they were all gone he sat down and waited for the first one of the five leaders of the Beastmaster clan to ask the first question.



“Aaron, what…Why?” Donny sat down next to Aaron and looked at him trying to understand, “Why would you bring the guardians early?”



“It was not my decision, Donny,” Aaron looked at the Kesol as they moved through the youngsters.  He watched the hard hugs and pain filled sobs that went along with those hugs, “They truly are an intelligent, sentient species.  Their race will forever more be known as Kesol as we are forever known as Alteran.  I don’t own them or order them around like slaves. They decided this would be done now, tonight, so when they explained their reasoning I agreed.”



“Four paws of four paws?” Ru asked confused, “Do they mean sixteen?”



Laughing Aaron nodded, “Exactly.  In the beginning we gave them our language, and our speech patterns, but they have evolved.  They changed what we gave them so it fits what they know and how they think.”  Holding up his hands and wiggling his fingers, “We base our math on the number ten; they, on the other hand, base it on the number four.”



“And changing the ceremony with your asking of why the applicant was worthy?” Corey asked as he sat down wanting to know why the new recruits felt better than he expected them to feel.



“They had to know, deep in here,” Aaron placed his hand on Corey’s chest, “that they were being brought into your clan for a reason; more than because they bonded with an animal.  That you acknowledged they had value; that they were wanted for being themselves.”



Standing up Aaron smiled, “And lastly, because I know it is still to fresh and raw in your minds and hearts but you don’t know how to ask about what I said; Fred harvested cells from Mikhail right after he was given grace and produced eggs from them.”  Seeing their shocked looks he smiled sadly, “If he was older we would have taken sperm samples, so later, once you have healed as a clan, when the time is right, Mikhail will have a son.”  Pointing to the celebration going on with the new Beastmasters and sobbing youngsters that were taking the first step to healing, “Go, your clan needs you; both to celebrate and commiserate.  I need to get home,” stepping away from the table he grinned, “Trust me, I truly know from losing one of my own, it gets easier.  You’ll never forget, but it will be easier.”



Donny flashed back to the night long ago when he watched Aaron do for one of his Clan that he just did for one of his own.   Looking up he saw Aaron port out and stood, “I think we need to get these guys fed, then we can all sit down and cuddle with the youngsters.”





“Right then, let’s see which one of the Clan passed their ordeal now,” Leftbridge muttered as he opened up the sealed envelope, thinking it was the harshest rite of passage he had ever come across, maybe that was why they were so formidable.  He would hate to have one of his sons, or even his grandson, to ever have to go through a life and death situation just to be declared an adult.  Reading the first couple of lines the note dropped from his limp fingers, Bob wrapped his mind around the fact that the name on that slip of paper was known to him, very much so.



                To: Captain Bob Leftbridge



                Per my agreement here is an update for you database.  Please inform you officers that from now on Richard England is now known as Richard Stranton…Dragon Lord, having passed his ordeal this date.



Looking at his computer geek with vacant eyes when the geek asked him who he needed to change in the database, he just pointed to the paper wondering how the hell he should breach the subject with her majesty.



Glancing at his Captain who looked like a lorry hit him he picked up the slip of paper and glanced down at it, “Bloody Hell…”



Edward smiled as he answered his uncle’s question on whether they could go take a peek at one of the colony worlds, “Of course you can, if you want.   I know David and Derrick are going to spend most of the afternoon visiting as many of the five colony worlds as they can tomorrow; to get a firsthand account of how things are really going.  I think they are taking Toshi with them so a couple more will not be a problem…” Edward trailed off as he looked up with a faraway look in his eyes, listening, silverware dropping from his hands in shock, “BUGGER…”



The lady Margaret was shocked at her nephew’s language at the dinner table.  Before she could say anything her mother in law placed a hand on hers and squeezed, silencing her.  Remembering clearly the last time Edward cursed like this war had been declared.



Blinking Edward placed his napkin on his half finished plate, “If you will excuse me I have to go…Richard just passed his ordeal.”



“Oh Dear, “Victoria sighed as she looked at her husband.



“It will be okay, Dear.  We should be proud of our grandson, he is now a man.”  Shaking his head sadly Alfred smiled, “Way before he should be, but nevertheless we will not take this from him or cheapen it in anyway.  We will be proud of him; we will be proud that when the time came he stepped up and did what he had to, what was right.”