This one goes to my good friend Bre Tyler for getting me into this and another Ďmessí called *Testament* And Bre, Because of you, Iím going to write *Devilís Dance*
Ė T.L. Arens 2000
THE SECOND VICTIM
"Doctor Scott, weíre all painfully aware your publications regarding Interfacing and all the like. We are also aware, albeit painfully of your advocacy for the Transformers race. But now you come to the Intersystemary Medical Community with a claim that some ghost is hunting down individuals with psychic or potential psychic abilities, and that the Interfaces may be especially susceptible? You know, my mom made better mulligan stew than the stuff youíre dishing out to us."
Doctor Bobrian Gregorianís comment was met with quiet laughter from a room full of professionals, students, wanna-beís and reporters.
Kyle kept his poise, his gaze scanned the audience for one sympathetic individual. Three weeks had passed since the last attempt on his life. No signs of the strange watery dog-beasts were found anywhere. But Kyle knew from the stigma scarring his right hand, the monsters would return to kill him anytime.
"I am aware the situation sounds far-fetched." He answered Gregorianís mockery. "But the proof lies in the number of those killed by the same creature. Bethany DíChlavicís life came to a terrible end-her body torn up at the hospital. Nasha Vyrm, a second-grade language teacher was found decapitated and deboned. Oh, Iím sorry, doctors, am I getting too graphic for you? Are you squeamish about the fact that people are being attacked without cause and clue?"
Doctor Quiv Gritzmacher stood, her height rather distinguishable among her peers. "Doctor Scott, I donít think the community questions your claims, but the source. Most certainly people have died. Most certainly there are bodies. But what is not certain is who attacked them and why. If these . . . Ďmonster dogsí as you say, actually exist, than why has no one else really seen them?"
Kyle paused, unsure how to proceed. He felt as though he were smashing his head into a titanium bulkhead. <<They donít believe me.>> he sent to Voodoo who remained patiently outside the hospital.
<<Welcome to the world of politics, Kyle.>> Voodoo answered back.
That was no help.
Kyleís eyes fell to his right hand, lightly wrapped in a transparent bandage to keep out infection. He wanted to scream at his idiotic colleagues. How could people be so blind?
"Twenty-five hundred years ago, communities refused to believe in psychics and telepaths. They persecuted such people, condemning them for what they thought to be demon-possession. Now we see them for what they are: gifted. Have we come so far in our vision of the universe only to turn our backs on something new and alien? If we accept things such as telepathy and pyrokenetics, and telemechanics, how can we find it impossible that people are being attacked by poltergeists?"
No one gave him an answer.
The meeting disbursed shortly after and Kyle stepped outside, hoping no one would confront him face-to-face about his assumed lunacy. From what others told him, Kyle was highly regarded among his peers. He knew too, from what little research he had time for, that much of what knowledge was stored on Alean and Medbay in West Central, was due in part by what he, Jill and Skywolf attained over the millennium.
A sense of despondency settled over Scott. He had lost so much in such a short period of time and pulling his life back together seemed an immeasurable task. No one really knew how he felt. They assumed he already knew-it was so frustrating!
A tall, strong gentleman in dark hair and rich blue eyes approached, flashing a broad grin. "Up for some coffee?" Steve offered.
Kyle gave him a light smile in turn, saying nothing.
"Iím sorry it didnít go over too well." Parker laid a hand on Kyleís shoulder as they made their way toward Voodoo, now in jet form, waiting to take them back to West Central.
Kyle paused before they boarded. He seemed reluctant to stare his friend in the eye. "I donít understand why they wouldnít listen to me." Kyleís face turned to dismay. He glanced away, then back at his friend, "Steve, itís going to come back. Itís just a matter of time. And I have no clue who they might attack first."
"Even before they finish some old business?" Steveís eyes bounced at Kyleís hand, indicating the dog-beasts would come back for Doctor Scott, first. He watched as Kyle inadvertently slipped his hand in his coat pocket to hide his embarrassment. Steve affectionately whacked Kyleís shoulder. "Come on. Letís get some coffee." And he boarded Voodoo first.
Voodoo dropped them at the mall and took off to attend other business. Steve and Kyle slowly traversed the atrium, passing other food stands of too many varieties. They crossed the central seating area and entered a tiny coffee shop overlooking the mallís center court-complete with an indoor park and jungle gym for little kids. The two took a booth and waited silently for the waitress. One waiter appeared and set two glasses of iced water then promised a waitress would be with them momentarily.
Steven drained his water almost immediately. Kyle stared out the window, his expression burdened by the defeat at the meeting. His fingers touched the cold glass, his mind rolled the meetingís events over and over. He wondered what he could have said differently that might have made their change their minds.
Steve watched for several long seconds, hoping for some sign that his friend would mentally return and talk openly. But Kyleís thoughts lay somewhere else entirely.
The waitress poured fresh ice water in Steveís glass and produced a pen and pad.
"Coffee." Steve simply requested. "Make his a double with cream and cinnamon."
The order took Kyle by surprise and it brought him out of his despondent mood. "Cream and cinnamon?"
"Sure. Thatís how youíve always liked your coffee."
Kyle looked puzzled and horrified. Weird taste in coffee. But Steve merely grinned as the waitress set their coffees in front of them. He added a little sugar to his coffee and quietly stirred. Kyle calmed and smiled lightly. "Steve, Iíve been thinking." He watched as his friend grinned, but did not make eye contact. The doctor wondered if Parker was laughing at him. "I think Iím going back to Chenobis."
Steve was about to take a sip but hesitated and cast his eyes at Kyle. He slowly set the cup down and seriously stared at Doctor Scott. "Back to the beginning, Kyle?" He asked quietly.
Kyle eyed his drink suspiciously, watching as the cinnamon filtered into the coffeeís black abyss. "Beth is the only one who must have known what was happening. I think my answers lie with her."
Steve sipped his hot coffee and reveled the warmth as it coated his throat. "I canít let you go alone." He objected.
"Why?" Kyle asked innocently.
"Well think on it," Steve answered, "me sitting here, allowing an amnesiac to run around loose in the galaxy? Come on!"
Steveís joke lightened the doctorís heart and Kyle quietly chuckled. He sipped his coffee and found its flavor very rich. He took another wonderful sip.
"Give me at least six hours to find the little boyís room and some extra clothes." Steve requested.
"It takes you six hours to find the restroom?" Kyle asked.
"Well . . . thereís finding the place then actually choosing the stall . . . that takes effort."
Kyle couldnít help laughing. He set the coffee down to keep it from spilling. "Your partner actually lets you out in public like this?"
Steve stared at him blankly then turned to his coffee. "No, I escape sometimes."
That earned another bit of laughter from the quiet doctor. Kyle gazed back out the window, his smiled slowly fading, but his heart no longer as heavy. He sipped his coffee and something else came to mind: "Steve, there is a problem."
"I donít recall enough to patch everything together. I mean, I recall Bethís name. I remember how she died. I remember having lunch with another doctor. But not much more than that."
"You know, we did suggest regression hypnotherapy for you."
"I know." Kyle replied guiltily. "I just wasnít ready for it."
Steve reached across the table just squeezed Kyleís left hand for a moment. He knew. He knew. "What about now?"
Kyleís face held doubt, but his eyes reflected resolution. "If thereís anything left up here," he pointed to his head, "I do have a right to know."
Steve smiled grimly and finished his coffee.
"Just try to relax, Doctor Scott." Shy Tunuvu had been asked to work with patients at the West Central hospital before. Although she had never dealt with the Interface Community at large, she had worked with emotionally disturbed patients off-world. And since Soundwave wasnít readily available, it was agreed to give her a try.
Scott seemed clearly nervous but he tried to stay calm, his eyes gazing at Steve then at Jill when she finally stepped in.
"What Iím going to do, is merely put your conscious mind at ease. You can stop whenever you feel it best." Shy settled into a chair in front of Kyle and smiled sweetly. Her plump form rested comfortably in the seat and she set her hands in her lap.
Kyle was just about to close his eyes when the door opened again and Voodoo and Soundwave entered the room.
Kyle smiled knowing Voodoo was going to erupt in a fit.
"Here I go out and work hard all day long and what do you do?" The Sentinel admonished, "you do stupid things and donít bother to tell me about them."
"It isnít stupid." Kyle answered quietly. "I just want to see if the holes in my head are real."
Voodoo turned to the others. "I donít know why youíre bothering to see whatís in there. Iíve known this man for centuries and I can tell you thereís nothing there."
"Well, itís nice to have confirmation regarding my mind, Voodoo." Kyle folded his arms.
"Confirmation is the easy part." Voodoo retaliated. "Itís the proof that takes time."
"We really donít have time for this." Steve broke in. "Unless, of course, Voodoo, youíd rather substitute."
"Nobodyís gonna poke around in MY mind." Voodoo snarled.
"They couldnít find it if they wanted to." Kyle added quietly.
"Now thatís uncalled-"
"I think weíre ready to start." Jill interjected.
It cut Voodoo off, but he made a sour face and leaned against the wall, arms crossed. Soundwave hung back for the moment, merely remaining in case the psychiatrist had problems.
Kyle tried to settle, having difficulty because Voodoo pouted through their link. <<Iím sorry!>> he sent.
<<Weíre supposed to rely and trust each other.>> Voodoo seethed.
<<I do trust you. I just have to get used to it all over again, thatís all.>>
Voodoo calmed, sending waves of apology and a mental embrace. Kyle drank that comfort in and settled quickly under hypnosis.
"Where are you?" Shy asked.
"Hmm . . . in my quarters."
"And what do you see?"
"A mess." Kyle looked around his home, finding bookshelves turned over, a glass coffee table shattered.
"What kind of mess? What happened?"
"A fight. Looks like a bad one."
"Was anybody hurt?"
Kyle hesitated and Steve could clearly see him flinch. "No. But I see blood on the wall."
Shy opened her eyes, mildly surprised. "Did someone die? Is the blood splattered?"
"No. The walls are just bleeding. Something passed through them and left a trail."
Shy drew a deep breath. "Doctor Scott, Iíd like you to travel back beyond this incident. Iíd like you to move back a few days prior to the mess. Tell me where you are, what you see."
"Iím in the hospital, in the recovery ward."
"Do you know why youíre there?"
"Uhm . . . I suffered from traumatic shock."
"From what, Doctor?"
Voodoo diverted his gaze away from the stares of his colleagues. Not all of them knew what had happened. Kyle felt shame radiate from his partner and sighed.
"Itís okay, Voodoo." He said out loud. "Itís not your fault. I-I see a monster there in the room with me. It-itís on me! Jill! Jill . . . Jill was there and she blocked it . . ." Kyle relaxed again.
All attention fell from Voodoo to Kyle. Shy swallowed loudly. "Doctor Scott . . . when do you see this monster?"
"All the time I was there. It tried to attack Steven once, but Midnight came in the room and the dog-beast ran out through the wall."
Shy fell quiet for a moment. She sighed, feeling the fear and distress flowing from Kyle. "Doctor Scott, what do you know or remember of this monster? When did you first see the beast?"
"I donít know." Doctor Scott mourned. "It comes and goes whenever it pleases. It hates Voodoo."
"Oh? And why is that?"
"His life force exists on a different frequency. All the Transformersí life forces exist on a different frequency." Kyle opened his eyes and they fell on Steven. He had no expression, but he knew he was staring at his friend. Shy went on asking another question, but Kyle didnít hear her. A rumble of tones flitted across his mind. Fragments of memories faded away like melting snow. "It talks to me." Kyle finally volunteered. "It told me how evil Voodoo was, that Voodoo . . . was going to kill me." Kyle bent over and hid his face in shame. "Iím so sorry, Voodoo!" He rasped. "Iím so sorry!"
Voodoo moved to comfort his love but Soundwave held him back and shook his head.
"Doctor Scott," Shy started again, "Letís go somewhere else. Letís move above this and see where we are concerning your memory. What you need to do is pull yourself up above your mind. Think of your memory as land and the future as an ocean. And think of all your experiences and as much of your past as you can. Now, translate all that onto land-mass. Can you, Doctor Scott, give me a ratio of memory-land verses the sea?"
Kyle wasnít sure what she meant at first. But he changed the scenery as she suggested. He sighed and organized his soul. Before him stretched wide open spaces. A great sea of time rippled and reflected the colors of a soft pastel sky. Then land began to form. Small islands faded into existence and some could hardly be seen. Gradually, the land masses grew, some more than others.
"Doctor Scott," Shy asked quietly, "What do you see?"
Kyle shook his head, mournful. "Huge . . . gaps. Some places arenít there at all. Thereís one place . . . I think thatís my experience as a doctor. Itís huge. Thereís another . . ." And Kyle opened his eyes, totally heedless of anyone else in the room. But his dark eyes locked onto Voodoo. "Iíve been in battle with you?" He asked quietly.
<<Yes, Kyle.>> Voodoo replied privately.
<<Iím a medic and a warrior?>>
<<And a good one.>>
<<Such a terrible contradiction!>>
Kyle closed his eyes again and examined another large island. But a set of deep cold eyes pierced right through him and foul breath touched his cheek. Kyle flinched with a start. He heard Shy call his name. Someone touched him. Someone called his name in urgency. Jill, maybe.
<<Kyle.>> In the middle of panic, he heard Voodooís soft, comforting voice. Voodoo filled him, touched his troubled mind and wrapped his heart with a mental kiss.
<<SOMETHINGíS THERE!>> he shouted through the link. <<Itís-it doesnít belong there!>>
"Doctor Scott?" Shy called. But her patient was unresponsive, locked some place where she could not reach him. She turned to Soundwave for help but when the Decepticon Lieutenant tried to press gently past the Humanís defenses, he was confronted by violent images and terrible metal fangs. The powerful visuals snapped at him and Soundwave found himself kicked out. The Decepticon flinched. His optical visor flashed in mild surprise, but he said nothing.
Shy wasnít about to give in. She sat forward in her chair. "What is that island?" Shy pressed. "Does it have a name? Where does it come from?"
But Kyle bowed over in distress. The visions shot away from him and all his mind could conjure were huge dark gaps. He had lost time. He had no recollection of entire decades in his life. The distress kept him from saying anything more and he weakly reached to Voodoo for comfort.
The Sentinel wrested away from Soundwaveís grip and knelt beside his friend and gently massaged his shoulders. "Kyle." He whispered.
"Itís all gone." Kyleís voice cracked under emotional strain. "I canít see anything more. Iím sorry. Itís all gone. Thereís just voices and things I know I should remember. But theyíre not there anymore. Iím sorry."
Voodoo paid no attention to the disappointment registering on the faces of their companions. They should not have expected Kyle to do so much, anyway. Well, the hypno-thing was a dumb idea.
"Wait a minute!" Jill snapped her fingers. "Voodoo, were you and Kyle linked before or during the accident?"
"Yeah. Thatís how I took a plunge into the ocean." Voodooís answer came in a snarl. He didnít give a damn about their little mind game. He sat before his friend and concentrated on trying to comfort Kyle. He smoothed Kyleís blonde-white hair.
Voodoo grunted first, then realized his hostility was only agitating the very people who were trying to help his partner. "Yeah. I tried to get him to tell me what was going on, but he wouldnít talk to me. Why?"
Jill nodded, smiling. "See, although you donít know whatís going on consciously, your subconscious is part of Kyleís. The Sentinelís/Seekerís subconscious acts like a tape recorder. Except you just tuck the memories away. Iím willing to bet if we were to tap into your subconscious, weíd find out what happened."
Voodoo glared at her. He didnít like the idea of anyone set loose in his head.
"Perhaps Soundwave can delve deeper into Doctor Scottís mind." Shy suggested.
"No!" Voodoo snapped. "This is enough! Bring him out!" He stared hard at the psychic. She really had no idea what this was doing to his partner. "Damnit, I said bring him out!"
Shy stared at the Sentinel, who radiated intense anger. He was protecting Kyle and she could sense he felt Kyleís emotional strain. Shy glanced at Jill who grimly nodded in agreement. The psychic took a deep breath, a little unnerved.
"Doctor Scott, Iím going to count to three. And when I do, I want you to awake, forgetting the unsettled feelings and feeling refreshed and relaxed. One. Two. Three."
Kyle came to, still a little unnerved, but not so that it overwhelmed him. He mentally clung to Voodoo who emotionally wrapped himself around his friend.
Steve stepped out from behind Jill. "Well, at least we know a little more than we did."
"No." Kyle mourned. "Voodooís right. My headís nothing but a big blank."
"Thatís not necessarily true." Jill countered. "We can still tap into Voodooís head and retrieve a few of your own memories. Voodoo said you two were linked at the time of the incident. Chances are, your memories are locked in his head. And, Iím also willing to bet there are other memories that can be transferred from him to you."
The two exchanged hopeful glances and Voodoo finally faced Jill, his opticless features reflected some encouragement. "What do I need to do?"
Tiny droplets of delicious spring rain fell over his body. Tiny fruit blossoms sweetened the air and Kyle felt safer than he had in a long time.
The tiny droplets kissed his face and the doctor slowly opened his dark eyes. A strong presence wrapped itself in and all around him and hemmed him in from a distant despair. Kyle closed his eyes again, feeling the droplets shower kindly over his . . . naked . . . body.
Now he was awake.
He instantly locked eyes with Voodooís blank face and the robotís lip components turned upward in a grin. "I knew that would wake you eventually." The Sentinel warrior purred.
Kyle silently blinked, not sure what to think or say. He sat up in Voodooís hands, finding his naked self in unfamiliar surroundings. His eyes scanned the area, finding what might be another area of the park close to the hospital. But Kyle didnít think that was the right location; all the trees were different here. He finally gazed back at Voodoo.
"Where am I? And what are we doing here? And . . . where are my clothes?"
"Youíre in the North Sanctuary in West Central." Voodoo answered simply. "Weíre here because you passed out after the memory transfer. And your clothes are back at my place."
Kyle pointed in a general direction toward his home. "You brought me all the way here without my clothes?" He almost stammered over his own words. Doctor Scottís eyes narrowed when Voodooís lips turned up in amusement. "This is not funny, Voodoo."
"Yes it is." The Sentinel answered. "You humans all think funny. You regard your physic as art, but you insist on wearing things to cover it."
Kyleís eyes widened with annoyance. "I am NOT going to go into a philosophical debate over my nudity! What is going through your head? What if someone sees me like this?"
The first question earned Kyle a hard opticless gaze from the Sentinel.
<<Kyle.>> the voice was soft, but loud in Kyleís head and he flinched. Voodoo did it to remind Doctor Scott of their link, that he didnít have to ask questions like that. Voodoo smiled again. "Whatís a matter? Afraid a girl might come along and assault you?"
Kyle mutely brooded.
Voodoo shook his head. He didnít need to ask permission from anyone to do anything-that included Doctor Kyle Scott. <<Besides,>> he softly sent, <<Youíve always enjoyed these little surprises.>>
<<Did not.>> Kyle argued.
<<Did not! Since when have I ever enjoyed waking up in the middle of town in nothing but the hair on my skin?!>> Kyle waited a couple of beats, but received no answer. He fell silent, not sensing anything from Voodoo, wondering if he said something wrong. Confusion and shame touched him, fearful Voodoo was angry and had shut himself out of their link. Now he could not look Voodoo in the face.
<<It isnít you, Kyle.>> Voodoo gently sent after a long moment. <<I just wanted to share a quiet moment with you, thatís all.>>
Kyle swallowed hard, still unable to look his friend in the eye. Voodooís mood swings were difficult to interpret at times. Voodoo sent an emotion so strong Kyle thought it would cut off his breathing. It fell over him and the doctor had to hold himself up by his hands. Voodoo was suddenly sorry about something and when the shock of the emotion faded, Kyle realized Voodoo was apologizing.
"I have to leave for a while, Kyle. Thereís an assignment I have to attend. Iíll be gone for a couple of weeks."
Kyle was about to roll his eyes and ask why Voodoo couldnít just take him along.
<<Itís really dangerous. No organics can enter the area there at South Continent. Even Mid wonít let Steve go with him on inspection runs. They say the air there is poisoned and the acid rate is very high, even by Transformer standards.>> Voodoo set Kyle on a rockface near the waterfall and handed him a beach towel.
Kyle sent him a pained expression. "You really have to go?"
Voodoo shrugged. "Even nomads like me have to carry their load, too. I volunteered because I can move pretty fast and zero in on really tight spots."
Kyle wrapped the towel around his waist and frowned. "I think you already know what I plan to do."
"Chenobis." Voodoo answered.
Voodoo frowned. "I donít like the idea. I donít want you to go. But I canít stop you, either."
"Steve said heíd come with me." Doctor Scott answered.
"Steve isnít a jet. Steve canít fly you out under emergency conditions." But Voodoo had to digress; what happened to Kyle occurred while Voodoo himself wasnít around. Perhaps with Parker being there, nothing serious will happen.
Kyle smiled, his eyes studying the rock obviously imported from some other world. <<I think Steve would make an okay babysitter. From what Iíve gathered, heís earned your trust.>>
<<True.>> Voodoo answered. A space of silence passed between them until Voodoo set his finger under Kyleís chin and blankly gazed at his Interface. "I just donít want anything more to happen to you, Kyle. Youíre so . . ." Voodoo couldnít finish the sentence.
"Vulnerable." Kyle answered for him. Now he studied the Sentinel and gave him a professional but reassuring smile. "We will be there a few hours, a day at the most. Weíre just going to find out what happened to that Beth woman, thatís all. Weíll be fine, Voodoo. Really."
Voodoo kept his smile grim, saying nothing more. He didnít like the idea at all. But for once he wasnít going to argue about it either.
Kyle dried his hands of dishwater and answered the door to his private quarters. Steve stood there, a sloppy grin plastered over his face. Black armor minus a helmet encased his body.
"Hey." Steve greeted. "You about ready?"
"Sure. Let me get a coat."
The smile died on Parkerís lips. "Coat?" He echoed.
"Yeah." Kyle answered, slipping on a black leather trench coat. "Why?"
"This is not going to work." Steveís blue eyes stared hard at Kyle. Kyle just stared back. "No. This is not . . ." He entered the apartment, the door closing after him. He tracked into the bedroom, Kyle watching him and finally following.
"Steve, what are you doing?"
Parker shot him an annoyed expression. "You are NOT wearing that to Chenobis."
Kyle was inclined to laugh, but all he did was smile. "Youíre sounding like Voodoo. Whatís wrong with my clothes?"
Parker rummaged through the closet and under the bed before he found whatever it was he sought and threw a light weight metal case at Kyle. "Are you kidding? If I took you off Cybertron looking like that Voodoo would broast me for lunch. Put it on!"
Kyle stared at the case, then gave Steve a puzzled look. Then he put two and two together. "Armor?" He asked. "I have armor?" Steve crossed his arms and simply stared at Kyle with his piercing blue eyes. Doctor Scott grinned, feeling rather silly. "Broasted." He repeated. "Okay."
Chenobis didnít look like anything Kyle remembered. He recalled the pale rose sky, the squat rose-colored buildings and the lithe, grey-skinned people. But he did not remember the trees or the vehicles, the children and the population of the city which he visited not more than a few weeks ago. He had forgotten how people stared at him. Now he felt more uncomfortable because of the armor he wore. He wondered if they felt threatened by it. Steve seemed unconcerned, listening to a clerk via translator as she gave him directions to the hospital.
Parker led Kyle out the space port toward a waiting taxi and ushered the doctor in first. Kyle settled but kept glancing at every direction, shaking his head. "I donít remember any of this, Steve. I thought Voodoo said some of my memories were transferred from him."
"They were." Steve answered lightly. "But it takes time for your subconscious to reorganize them." He met Kyleís puzzled gaze and smiled reassuringly. "You didnít come to Chenobis like this anyway, Kyle. Voodoo brought you down."
Kyle nodded once in realization and relaxed.
The hospital did seem familiar to Doctor Scott as he and Steve took the first five steps to the entrance. They traversed the short hallway, glancing at three old ladies sitting at a bench. One knitted with knobby hands, the second chattered while the third stared at the two men. Her dark eyes shifted from Kyle to Steve and back, almost suspicious. She turned to her companions and muttered something as they passed.
The receptionist talked and typed at the same time and when she finally gave them her attention, her whole face lighted, the large smile aiming right at Kyle.
"Doctor Scott!" She greeted. "Itís so good to see you again! Oh we had hoped you were not offended by that nurse. He disappeared, you know. We donít know-"
"Iím sorry," Steve broke in, "can you tell us who Doctor Scott was with that day? Which doctor, I mean?"
The receptionistís face fell completely blank. "With?"
"Yes." Kyle answered quietly. "I canít seem to remember the name of the doctor who treated Beth DíChlavic."
"Zenthemp?" She guessed.
Steve silently turned to Kyle, carrying the receptionistís raised brows on his own expression. Kyle glanced from him to her and back then shrugged. "It sounds right." He guessed and gave an uncertain wry smile.
Steve smiled confidently at Kyle, then at the girl. "We were wondering when Doctor Zenthemp would or might be available."
"Right now." A cheerful voice sounded behind them. Kyle and Steve turned to greet what might be a humanoid in his late fifties, thinning hair and glasses. He extended a hand and the two Interfaces took turns shaking it. "What can I do for you now . . .Doctor . . . Scott?" His grin grew ever wider. "Itís good to see you again! How are you?"
"Iím fine, thank you." Kyle answered quietly. "Weíre here to ask a few questions regarding Beth DíChlavic, the odd circumstances surrounding her death."
Zenthempís face turned downward and he nodded gravely. "It was an oddity. Youíre here to investigate it? No crime has been committed."
"No." Kyle hastily agreed. "No crime. We just feel . . ." he glanced at Steve, his mind quickly searching for appropriate words, " . . . something might have been overlooked somehow."
Zenthemp again nodded. "Well, the case and files were closed, labeled a suicide." He eyed Kyle who unconsciously rubbed his right hand. "However youíre more than welcome to go through them; we had to keep everything on file for the court."
Steve followed Zenthempís gaze and gently pushed Kyleís hand down and protectively moved a little in front of his friend. "We would be more than grateful for that, Doctor Zenthemp." He answered quickly.
"This way." Zenthemp invited. Kyle and Steve exchanged anxious looks. Then Kyle turned a bit lost at his behavior, wondering how he could be so mindful of something that lay beneath his armor. Steve silently laid an assuring hand on his shoulder and followed Zenthemp down the hall.
No sooner did Zenthemp pull the file than he was called away on emergency. He quickly excused himself and fled the room. Kyle and Steve stared at the door, waiting for it to close. Kyle read the medic charts while Steve poured through the police reports and photos.
"I just remembered something."
Parkerís eyes drifted to Kyle, pleased that the memory transfer from Voodoo already started working. "And?"
"And I remember Zenthemp was given several bills from Bethís family. They included bills from two psychics and a witch doctor."
"A witch doctor?" Parker raised a brow but Kyle nodded without returning the gaze. Steve continued to watch his friend a moment longer, studying his body language, looking for symptoms, any nuances, something that might be out of the ordinary. Was he looking for a relapse like that day Kyle fainted, or was he just being a mother hen? Steveís lips pressed and decided he was just concerned. His eyes fell back to the files, trying not to wince at the gruesome photos portraying the bloodied room or Bethís body, torn asunder as though by an animal.
"Steve," Kyle called again.
"Hmm?" Steve glanced up, his mind not really on what Kyle had to say.
Kyle held up a bill from ĎProphetess Alandra.í "We could go visit one of them."
Steve closed the file and stared at Kyle, studying the doctorís eyes.
"What?" Kyle drew the bill back. Parkerís striking blue eyes scrutinized him and made him a little uncomfortable.
"Are you sure you can handle this?" Steve tried not to swallow the lump in his throat. The photos of a stranger were disturbing enough. Steve could not imagine something like that happening to Kyle.
Kyle mutely nodded. "Iím okay with it, Steve. Really. Iím okay with it." He drew a deep breath. "Besides, someone assigned this babysitter to me and so far, I havenít been able to shake him." Kyle smiled.
Steve didnít. But he forced a wry smile, knowing Kyle was joking. "Whatís the address?"
The shopping center was a cavalcade of light, music and laughter. Working like none of the other places in his home town on Cybertron, Kyle found he liked fewer parts of this center than he cared to admit. Most of the shops resembled more of an entertainment booth, offering things like gimmicks and candy rather than actual merchandise. Even the book stand demanded you listened to some cheesy, pushy salesman before being allowed to browse through their stock. Steve was willing to stand and listen to the hard-pitch sell, but Kyle didnít have patience for it and pressed his way through the crowd of ladies and by-passers toward what looked like a coffee stand. The noise was annoying and Kyle tried his best to ignore it. Steve finally caught up with him and handed him a flimsy paperback made of large waxed green leaves bound by soft leather.
"The guy said it was supposed to bring luck."
Kyle eyed him with an ĎIíll-betí expression. "A book made of over-sized leaves is supposed to bring luck? What kind of culture is this, anyway?"
Steve grinned. "It canít be worse than Earth." He answered lightly. "Especially the food."
"Here!" Someone shouted before Kyle could answer, "you two, Tentchi!"
As if the womanís voice called them by secret name, Kyle and Steve turned right to her, and with their eyes, followed her into an old weather-worn wooden building. She waved for them to follow her inside and with a glance, Kyle beelined first.
Steve followed, a bit wary and surprised at his own behavior.
The store smelled of old books and older wood. Glass and wood cases containing odd statues, bowls or candles stood, locked to would-be shoplifters. Books burdened tables and shelves and a large white Manx cat lay atop a counter near a cash register, its huge round eyes carefully considered the two Humanoid Interfaces with some suspicion.
"In here." The womanís voice called from behind a curtain.
Kyle glanced at Steve as though asking permission to proceed, but Steve just stared at the curtain, moving toward it as though drawn. They peeked in, beckoned again only by the womanís insistent hand. Kyle took one of only two chairs in front of a table, Steve finally found his way into the other.
The little dark room lit up the moment the woman blew on a candle and Kyleís eyes shot wide. He had never seen anything like it before and he instantly thought about leaving.
"Donít be afraid." The woman quickly held up a hand. "I am not here to harm you."
Steve vaguely recalled something similar from his own home world and relaxed a little. "Prophetess Alandra, I assume." He guessed quietly.
A thirty-something woman, light grey of skin, dark hair, smiled kindly. She brushed a few strands of hair from her eyes, the multiple bracelets on her writs tinkled as she moved. "I felt your presence in the square, but had to wait until you were close enough to hear my voice."
"This is rather theatrical." Kyle blurted. "Who told you we would be here?"
She smiled knowingly. "I noticed your armor. It marks you plainly from the citizens. You should not come to such places as this in such an obvious fashion."
"You didnít answer my question." Kyle calmly repeated.
"Doctor Scott, I think you can answer that for yourself. As for what Iím after . . . I have chosen to answer your other question."
"I canít handle this." Kyle took to his feet.
"Kyle, just wait a minute." Steve ordered quietly. He waited until Kyle took his seat again then turned to Alandra. "What do you know or remember of Beth DíChlavic?"
"She was in terrible danger. I told her she had to burry the thing she stole from the site."
Both Human Interfaces blinked simultaneously. "And she didnít." Steve assumed.
"Not in time." Alandra answered just as quickly. "They and their guardian now stalk prey."
"Who?" Kyleís heart rammed into his throat.
"I canít say." Alandra replied quietly.
"Canít or wonít?" Steve asked directly.
"Canít. I donít know the spirits. I donít know their personal history. But they have traveled these streets before and many have died because of their crusade. They seek blood, and they also seek life and none have been found worthy in their eyes. So they steal the life force and kill for pleasure." Alandraís dark eyes turned to Kyle and he looked away, unnerved. "They have touched you, Doctor. They were going to kill you but I think they found you worthy."
Kyle paled, his stomach knotted and he could not even look at Steve.
Steve glanced at his friend and knew he needed to get Kyle out, but he had one last question. "What did you call us? You called us something."
"Yeah . . ." Steveís eyes narrowed. "I know that word."
"It is the ancient description of your soul, what you are now, your species." Alandra answered plainly. "You and your Interface are Tentchi-Dokiah, one inside the other. Your partner is Dokiah. You are Tentchi. You asked how I knew you. You are the new species in the universe. The universe recognizes you now as a new creature and you may soon find others who will become Tentchi-Dokiah. Every new species must be given permission to exist."
"You said it was an ancient word." Kyle managed to recover enough to listen in.
She turned to him, a light entered her eye. "There have been other Tentchi-Dokiah, but they have passed on, their existances long forgotten by younger races."
Steve blinked. "You mean there have been other Interfaces in the past?"
"Not like yours. Your robotic friends were not supposed to exist like this, but sometimes when someone plays with the laws of nature, they backfire."
Steve stood, knowing this was spooking Kyle. "Alandra, thank you for your help."
She leaned forward, arms over her table. "Bethís family would love a visit from you. They are ill over her death and your visit would give them peace. What happened to Beth was not her fault. Trust your Dokiah, Doctor. He loves you deeply." Alandra sent Steve a knowing smile and Steve interpreted it as though she knew he knew Mid felt the same.
The neighborhood surrounding 39589 Sideline Road presented the two Cybertronians with kids, some light traffic and a few dogs. Tall slender trees stretched above them, their red-and-gold leaves seemed rather out of place to Kyle and Steve who were more accustomed to the greenery in the hydoroponics-influenced Human Communities of Cybertron. The grey skin of the Chenobian population also made the two men stop and stare several times. It was like watching a black-and-white movie, but everything else was in color.
Steve approached the door of Beth DíChlavicís home first and rung the bell. His eyes scanned a shallow porch covered in spider webs and a neglected wind chime. He glanced at Kyle whose lips were drawn in a tight, nervous line. He himself found his feet shifting and Parker drew a deep breath, willing his body to control itself.
A young girl answered the door. Her dark, dark eyes shot at them with surprise, her mouth betraying the same shock. She gasped and swallowed air. Kyle knelt to her eye-level and smiled kindly. "Hello, there, young lady. Is your daddy home?"
Her eyes grew even wider. "Daddy!" She cried. "We have aliens at the door!" And she slammed the door shut.
Kyle blinked once then met Steveís eyes. Steve sniggered. "Iíd guess we would be aliens, Kyle."
The widower opened his door and welcomed them in. He offered them a drink but both declined.
"Mister DíChlavic," Kyle extended his hand for a shake. "Iím Doctor Kyle Scott. This is Steve Parker. I was brought in from Cybertron regarding your wifeís condition."
The manís eyes darted from Kyle to Steve and back. "Didnít they tell you? My wife passed away little over two months ago."
Kyle nodded, having already noted the poor manís grieving state. He was a mess, hollow cheeks, bags under his eyes. The house was a shambles and on a table, bills sat piled, untouched. "Yes, sir." Kyle replied sympathetically. "I-I was present at the scene."
"She didnít kill herself." The man insisted. "No matter what the reports claim. Beth lost her memory, but she wasnít schitzo. She . . . she didnít remember me or the kids and Iím telling you, she just wasnít the same person."
"Thatís what weíre here for, Mister DíChlavic." Parker added softly. "Weíre also wondering what could have happened. What caused your wife to lose her memory to begin with? What exactly killed her?"
DíChlavic shrugged and heavily sat on a footstool. He pointed his grey hand toward the rest of the furniture. "Uh, Whyler. And please, have a seat." He watched the suited strangers take a place at the sofa. Parker concentrated on him. Doctor Scottís glance took in the rest of the house and winked at Whylerís little girl who played a private game of peek-a-boo.
The poor man stood on the verge of tears. Steve knew he needed to handle this delicately. "Could you tell us . . . anything about Beth, perhaps symptoms or things she said, did, or unusual events?"
"It was all pretty obvious to me." Whyler blurted. "I donít know why no one else saw them. I saw those things. I knew what was attacking her and no one else did. Iíd seen it many times. Itíd come in the living room, this thing come right through the walls . . . next thing I knew, Beth was screaming and choking and she called my name and reach for me and I didnít know what to do. I just grabbed her and held her and then the attack was over but there she was, bleeding." His voice choked at that point and Steve turned to Kyle so as not to see Whyler cry.
Kyle had already left his seat, studying a dusty wood-and-glass case containing odd little bits of finds; tiny ceramic ceremonial bowls, carefully hand-painted in white and green. A tiny doll made of animal bone and skin, her face painted in a simple two dots and a smile. Several hand-made weapons of rock and wood lay on a separate shelf and among them lay a knife made of finely polished glass. Kyle couldnít take his eyes off it.
Parker took to his feet, finally noticing several framed photos of Whyler, his wife and children and several other photos of men at some kind of excavation. Steve glanced at Kyle who silently turned to him and observed the pictures from where he stood.
"Whyler," Parker called after a moment. "Are these the men she worked with? Are these your wifeís business associates?"
Whyler wiped his face and sniffed, nodded vigorously and approached the collection. "Yeah. See, thatís Rychal, the director. Left of him is Brundt. Thatís olí Crames. He was a card. And thatís Tenn. But Tenn wasnít there at the final dig. He took sick."
"And whoís this?" Parker asked pointing to another photo with other people.
"Thatís Lell. Beth didnít like him. She said he gave her the shivers. Thatís, of course, Rychal, his brother and of course, Crames."
Kyle stepped over, gazing over Steveís shoulder, "Whyler, can you give us Rychalís address? Maybe he can answer some questions-Ď
"Canít do it." Whyler answered.
"Why?" Steve asked softly
"Rychalís dead. They found his and his brotherís bodies pinned to a cave wall. At least, they found their skins pinned to the cave wall. Never did find anything else."
Kyle blanched. Steve said nothing. Whyler just kept staring at the pictures. "Beth really hated Lell. Said he kept slicing her with that stupid knife of his . . . he kept insisting it was accident. But Bethís no fool. She said ghosts danced in his eyes."
Kyleís eyes narrowed. "Whyler, did Beth ever discuss visiting a woman named Prophetess Alandra?"
"Eh? Alandra? Yeah. I said it was a dumb idea. I told her not to go messing with people like that . . .witch doctors and the sort and that she should . . . why are you asking?"
Kyle took another step closer, "Whyler, did Beth ever bring things home from her last assignment . . . ancient scrolls, a treasure chest or something of that nature?"
"Yeah." DíChlavic crossed his arms. "Beth always brought stuff home. Not supposed to. Sheís supposed to turn them over to the museum. Whatís that got to do with it?"
Steve also crossed his arms, keeping his face cool. "We think there might be a connection between an article or an item she or one of her teammates might have uncovered and the dog-beasts."
Whylerís eyes shot wide. "How do you know about the dogs?"
Steve gazed at his companion and Kyle undid that part of his armor and the bandage around his right hand. He held the back of his hand to Whylerís vision while blood slowly fell from the unclosed wound.
Whylerís pasty expression turned paper-white and Steve thought for sure the poor man was going to faint. Whyler caught himself on the wall, his dark eyes remained fixed on Kyleís stigma.
Kyle mutely nodded. "She had something like this, didnít she? Beth came home with wounds that didnít heal. And Rychal and his brother were devoured by something that looked like a dog made of water and blood."
"Your wife did not commit suicide." Steve added while Kyle rewrapped his arm. "The team found something, or brought something back with them and it systematically killed them all one by one. Beth was one of the last ones killed, wasnít she?"
Whyler stumbled back to the footstool and nearly collapsed onto it. Steve felt sorry for opening such emotional wounds. Whyler gasped for breath, for composure. "They closed off the dig there. They wonít let anybody near there. Not after the government men disappeared."
Kyle approached him and squatted in front of DíChlavic. "Whyler, I am so sorry for the death of your wife. I am so sorry we have to ask you these questions. But if we donít find an answer, if we canít stop whatever it is thatís committing these crimes, many, many more people will die. All we need from you is a starting point. Names, places, dates. Anything that will give us a head start."
Whyler stared at Doctor Scott for a long moment, carefully weighing the words. He finally smiled. "Beth was a good woman. She was strong, smart and brave." But tears welled in his eyes, "She married me. She married me." Whyler sniffed and wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve. His frame straightened, a light of determination sparked in his eye. "Okay. Names, dates, places. I got it. The Ďthorities asked for her journal. Beth always kept two journals just in case something happened to one of them. I got the Ďriginal. They got the copy. They asked for the other, but I hid it in the kidís room. It was all I had. If it helps at all . . ."
Steve set a hand on Kyleís shoulder, staring intently at Whyler, "We promise to bring it back to you."
Whyler nodded. His back straightened. Some kind of hope had given him strength to move on.
Steve and Kyle returned to the town square in silence. Kyle wondered where this was leading them. Steve silently discussed the situation with Mid and informed him they were ready to return to Cybertron.
Steve and Kyle stepped to the port and waited for Midnight to return them to Cybertron. Midnight silently admonished himself through the link. He could not be immediately available to pick them up just yet. But Steve insisted he was fussing over nothing. They could wait. The Interface-and here Steve smiled at Alandraís phrase "Tentchi"- checked the time. "We have an hour before transport." He informed. Kyle gazed at him without expressionate response. "Coffee?" Steve lightly suggested.
Kyle finally smiled. "Coffee."
They found a cafť nearby (if thatís what it was) resembling a conglomeration between a coffee shop, a bar and gift shop. Steve sipped his coffee and bounced his brows, surprised how much better it tasted than the imported stuff on Cybertron. Kyle just stirred his in silence. He had grown distant, somber. Bethís used and tattered journal sat at his hand, but Kyle did not touch it.
Steve knew this visit was hard on his friend, more so than what Kyle was willing to admit to himself. "Kyle," he softly called.
Kyle drifted from the untouched coffee to Steveís eyes. But he still said nothing.
"If you were stranded on an tropical island, what three things would you hope to have?"
Kyle continued to stare at him, his face a total blank. Then he blinked, his mind finally working its way from his problem to Steveís question. The solemn expression gave way to some puzzlement and Kyle creased his brows. "What would I be doing stranded on a tropical island?"
Steveís jaw dropped a little, surprised that Kyle missed the idea entirely. "Just . . . pretend that somehow you were stranded on an island and you had to choose three things with which to survive." He gave Doctor Scott a wry smile.
Kyle couldnít understand why Steve would be asking such an odd question. Was it a test of sorts? "Does the island have food and water?"
Steve smiled but disbelief filled his expression. He forced himself to be patient. "Yes, Kyle. Food and water."
Kyle tried to think again. His mind tried to squeeze everything he needed into three items, but his stressed mind wouldnít let him go that far. He finally shrugged. "Some kind of survival gear-"
"Kyle." Steveís voice strained to gently admonish his friend rather than laugh at him. "This is for fun."
"Oh." Kyle felt silly, forgetting his tendencies to overthink. He relaxed and a smile touched his lips: "My laptop, my stereo and a caseload of Ďchocolate bunniesí."
Steve smiled broadly. "Me too."
Kyleís eyes drifted from him and finally he withdrew the spoon and sipped his coffee. Chocolate bunnies, he thought to himself and remembered the day Steve brought in the sheets of chocolate bounded by a book cover displayed as though it were a Ďmenís magazine.í Steve always seemed to know how to cheer someone up. And that thought brought up another memory for Doctor Scott and he chuckled quietly to himself, taking another careful sip of coffee.
"What?" Steve suddenly asked.
"What?" Kyle echoed. "What?"
"No. I asked you first."
"About what?" Kyle blinked and sipped again.
"You were laughing." Parker cleared. "Whatís funny?"
"Oh. Nothing." Kyle set his cup down, his eyes followed, but the smile did not leave his face.
Steve blinked. "Itís a memory, isnít it? You remembered something."
"Itís nothing, really, Steve."
"Neeeeeep." Parker answered, sounding like a buzzer. "Wrong answer. Strike one. You get three strikes. You hit strike three and I get to pull a prank on you when we get home."
Kyleís smile broadened. "No you wonít."
"What were you laughing about, Kyle? What did you remember?" Steve pressed.
"Nothing." Doctor Scott insisted. "It was-"
"Neeeeeeeep! Strike two! Youíre running out of options, Doctor. Better think fast and careful." Parkerís striking blue eyes refused to let up and Kyle found himself locked into them. But the doctor himself wasnít ready to be intimidated yet.
Kyle shook his head, decidedly insistent. "Steve-"
"Okay! Okay!" Kyle finally laughed. "You win!" He sat back, a little uncomfortable. "I was just remembering how often you would end up in the ward, more incidently under my supervision than anyone else. So I decided I would have a room reserved for you."
Steve slowly blinked, wondering where this was leading. "Yeah." He replied slowly, struggling to recall how many times he had ended up in Ďthe ward.í
"Well, I purchased that one room for you." Kyle sipped his coffee, this time his eyes reflected a slight case of guilt.
It took a moment for the idea to register. Steve blinked again then realized what was so funny. His blue eyes narrowed, piercing Kyleís dark brown eyes. "You did not!" He playfully snarled.
Kyle smiled warmly. "Yes I did. Room 204. Section B. Everybody knows it. Thatís why youíre always complaining about the view being the same."
"I do not believe you!" Steve shouted. "Kyle!"
"What?" Kyle chuckled lightly.
"Thatís a lousy choice of rooms!" Steve watched as his friend set his coffee down again and laughed quietly. But a sparkle of gratitude touched Steveís eyes. Outside a slight case of shyness and some loss of self confidence, Kyle Scott had not changed. He was very much the same quiet gentle person Steve had known for hundreds of years. Steve silently vowed to save his friend from whatever evil had touched Kyle.
Doctor Scott averted his eyes back to the coffee. He was glad to be going back home. He hadnít been a few hours away from Cybertron and already he missed Voodoo. Kyle made a note to examine Bethís journal at Medlab. There he could use more than good reading light. He set the cup down, silently wondering how Voodoo was doing. He heard nothing from his friend and hoped all was well.
Kyle was about to lift his cup again when his eyes contacted a tall figure dressed in a long dark coat. A hat concealed the head, gloves covered the hands. It walked (floated?) across the cafť/bar with uncertainty, gazing into the face of every customer there. A sense of familiarity struck Doctor Scott, but he could not remember where he had seen such a figure before.
Steve caught the deeply troubled expression on his friendís face and turned around, trying to follow Kyleís gaze. He too spotted the tall coated figure and wondered why it disturbed Scott so. Parker glanced back at Kyle, his gaze fixed as though he were in a trance. Kyleís right hand twitched and he unconsciously rubbed it.
He needed to get his friend out of there. "Kyle." Steve softly called. "Kyle."
But Doctor Scott heard nothing. He stared at the figure as it slowly made its way toward them. Stay, a voice told him. Oh, stay and wait, my friend! You know you want to! Kyle found he could not take his eyes off the figure. His right arm hurt, but he could not move.
Steve stood and grabbed the journal first, then tugged at Kyleís arm. "Come on, letís get out of here."
But Kyle remained unresponsive.
Steve sighed and turned back, suddenly facing the stranger eye-to-eye. It had no face to speak of, say for a bubble of water outlined in red. Then gradually a dogís face made its way to the shapeless feature. Parker gave it a hard right cross but didnít wait to watch it fly against the nearby table. He turned back to Kyle who acted like someone waking from a bad dream. He tugged at Kyleís arm again. "Kyle! Come on!"
Kyle realized his mind went blank for a moment and he blinked. He dumbly followed Steveís demands, sliding out of the booth seat. He did not take notice of other peopleís staring eyes. Nor did he or Parker see the attacker as it flew back for them.
The coat was cast off and a shimmering stream of water and blood rushed its way toward them. It slammed Steve in the back, shoving him against the table, bucking his knees out from under him. Steve thought he could hear it growl. He landed hard on his back and he rolled, trying to protect himself from being hit on the front side.
Kyle flipped an empty table over and scrambled out of the way as the creature smashed it into a million pieces. Parker stood and produced a short-range phaser from subspace. He fired at it as the alien life force shot from one end of the room to the other. People ducked under tables or kissed the floor as Steve tried to kill it with conventional laser fire. But as it approached them, it split itself in half, knocking Kyle off his feet and against the edge of a nearby table, then slammed into Steve head-on, pounding him into the floor. It reformed itself into the physical shape of a human, its face still that of a dogís. Parker struggled with it for a second, determined to throw it off. But it conquered him with a deep bite in the back of his left shoulder. He groaned as icy teeth sunk further into him and Steve threw up shields to protect Midnight. The alien entity raced away then reversed, determined to attack Steve a second time.
Kyle managed to stagger off the floor; blood streamed from his head. He reached above the table next to him and snatched up a wine glass. He broke it and when the watery red shape came for Steve again, Kyle struck out at it. A howl of pain raced across the restaurant and the entity washed away.
Kyle waited, his breath not coming at all, his eyes wide with anticipation. The other customers stared at him, their eyes bulging. A woman finally got smart and ushered her two children out of the cafť. A tall elderly man followed.
But nothing else happened for several long moments. Kyle wasnít about to let his guard down. He waited while his hand bled and twitched.
The moment seemed to die down. The cafť employees called for emergency assistance and other customers wisely left the cafť, others stayed to watch. Kyle slowly knelt before his friend. He wiped blood from his face and tried to suppress his fears. Without realizing he automatically remembered how to use his armor, Kyle produced a med scanner from subspace but it registered nothing.
Confused, Kyle bounced his hand against it.
"Dammit!" He shouted at the scanner. Kyle bent over and frantically searched Steve for physical life signs, moving from one side of his body to the other. But Steve lay still and cold. "Steve!" He called. He checked Steveís pupils, Parkerís face wet and cold under his hands. "Steve!" He rasped. Kyleís body started to shake. He checked Parkerís pulse for the third time, finding nothing. He bent over, trying to control his slowly-rising panic. "Steve!" He called again. Kyle thumped his fist once against the armor, his mind racing to remember how to unfasten it. He found the shoulder latches and disconnected them, but the armor was designed to be difficult to removed and Kyle gritted his teeth, exasperated. His hand throbbed unmercifully, adding to his agitation. "Donít you die on me, Steve Marcus Parker. Or so help me, I will kick your ass!"
Steve drew a pain-filled breath while Scott tried to figure out how to remove the breast plate. Kyle didnít see Steveís hands twitch or open his eyes a moment. Parker took in his surroundings, finding everything doused in a terrible red haze. He closed his eyes again. His shoulder throbbed, shooting waves of pain into his stomach. He wondered how his attacker could have possibly penetrated the armor. Terrible cold bit into him and just then Parker realized Kyle said his whole name and cussed all in one breath. Steve couldnít help but smile while his breath came in gasps.
"Kyle?" Steveís voice weakly trailed to Doctor Scottís ears.
"Steve?" Kyle gasped in surprise and relief. He decided the scanner was obviously defective and he suppressed a shout of excitement.
"Midnightís gonna kill me for getting into trouble." Steve groaned.
"No he wonít." Kyle smiled, relief washing over him. He wanted to check Steve over, make sure he hadnít been seriously injured. But he didnít want to move Parker, either.
"Yes his will." Steve insisted. "And then Voodoo will kill me for allowing you to get into trouble."
"Youíll be just fine."
"Ah-huh. And then Iím going to kill you." Steve felt Kyle swiftly but gently check him for injuries. "Itís my shoulder, Kyle." He answered his friendís unspoken question. "I think it bit me." Pain washed under his skin and Steve started falling asleep. His shields were draining him. He gazed back at Kyle who shook his head, unable to decide what to do. Then Steveís eyes shot wide. The creature faded back in, practically from nowhere. Its shape now reformed, towered high above Scott, poised to strike. Steve gaped, trying to warn his friend, but the words didnít come fast enough and the monster sunk a water-and-silver blade straight into Kyleís back, sliding all too easily through his armor.
Like a sheet of ice, the monster sliced under his skin and through his chest. Kyle gasped and froze as the cold bit down, down into his body, sending him straight into shock. Steve weakly lifted his arms and laid one hand on Kyleís back the other against his blonde-white hair as Kyle collapsed on top of him.
The entity shot up the cafťís ceiling and spread itself out like a cloud of water and blood. Then it plummeted upon the cafťís remaining customers and workers. Steve heard their screams and shrieks as they lost their lives. Then he closed his eyes and lost consciousness.
Parker woke in pain. His eyes failed to focus clearly, but he didnít need good perception to tell who else was in the room with him. He heard someone work with a needle (heíd been in hospitals often enough to tell what was going on) then scribble on a chart. He closed his eyes again and sighed.
<<Is Kyle okay?>> he asked Midnight who sat in the room, watching him.
<<Heís in no danger. They couldnít find any wounds on him at all.>> Midnight paused. <<And Iím going to kill you.>>
Steve weakly smiled. <<I know. But at least we made it off-planet alive. When did you pick us up?>>
Midnight said nothing, but Steve could feel the Sentinel leader vibrate through the link. Mid wasnít at all happy about something, he was in one of those moods where just about anything could set him off.
<<Theyíre all dead, arenít they?>> Steve asked, meaning the other people in the cafť/bar.
Midnight didnít say anything. He didnít need to. Steve could tell by his silence the scene wasnít a pretty one. He decided he didnít want to know more about it.
"The book?" Mid asked out loud. The nurse in the room startled and shot a cross look at him as though he were talking to her.
"In the suit." Steve answered out loud. He didnít open his eyes. He could hear the tinkling sound of water as the nurse filled a basin. Parker forced himself to relax while she proceeded to give him a sponge bath.
<<Did they find anything on my shoulder Mid? I canít feel any wrappings.>>
Midnight again remained silent for a long moment. His sullen mood reflected hard on Parker and Steve frowned. <<Itís there.>> the Sentinel leader answered sadly. <<They tried all the same stuff they did with Scott. No results.>>
Steve lifted his chin as the nurse trailed the sponge down his neck and over his chest. It was there that Parker realized the bandage sat, wrapping completely around him. He opened his eyes when Midnight also Touched him there. But the touch came with sorrow. Steve mentally embraced Midnight, comforting his friend and insured him things would be alright.
<<After all,>> he added, <<Kyle and I are still alive. That thing didnít kill us.>>
<<Itís the one thing that has me greatly concerned, Steve. Why? Why didnít it kill Kyle when it had the chance? Where did it come from? And how did it manage to injure you without damaging the armor?>>
<<Have you talked to Voodoo?>>
<<He just got back an hour ago.>>
<<Why donít you go talk to him, find out what happened that day Kyle disappeared?>>
<<Iím not leaving you right now.>>
<<Do I look like Iím in danger? Does it look like Iím going anywhere?>> Steve opened his blue, blue eyes and stared at Midnight meanfully.
Midnight finally smiled. "Iíll be back in a while, Steve." he promised.
Steve mutely nodded and eyed his nurse as she prepared to redress his wound. He wondered why he hadnít suffered amnesia like Kyle did. He wondered about many other things.
"By the way," he asked the nurse, "What room am I in?"
"204." She answered simply.
"It looks different."
"We changed the bed around."
Kyle slept a great deal longer than Parker. Voodoo broke every speeding record he could think of to get back to West Central. He arrived just forty-five minutes after Midnight brought Kyle and Steve in from Chenobis and he hadnít left Kyle since. Voodoo cursed himself repeatedly for not listening to his own instincts. He should have taken Kyle with him instead, or stayed and taken Kyle and Steve to Chenobis or . . .
Although Doctor Gatchel insisted there really wasnít anything wrong with Kyle, Kayla attended him closely and took several trips to keep an eye on Steve at the same time. It annoyed Gatchel that Kayla, unlike most of his staff, was not under his authority and could more or less work freely. Voodoo at least took comfort in knowing that Kayla would not let Gatchel interfere with "Sentinel Community" affairs, as he put it.
Kayla checked Kyleís temperature for the umpteenth time and sighed with a shake of her head. "It would be more helpful if I knew what happened." She spoke more to herself rather than Voodoo. She turned examined his tense frame. "Have you been able to talk to him yet?"
"Heís unconscious, Kayla." The Sentinel reminded.
"I know heís unconscious, Voodoo. But you should still try to reach him."
Voodoo stared at Kyleís silent form for a long moment then glanced at Kayla. The tall womanís dark eyes did not move from him. He gazed back at his Interface and concentrated, struggling to find his way to Doctor Scott through their link.
Silence intensified the moment. Where was Kyle? He wasnít responding to any means of communication. Where did he go? Voodoo shook his head. "Zippo. Iím not getting anything. Heís unconscious."
Kayla wasnít satisfied. She laid her long taloned hand over Kyleís forehead and closed her eyes. For all they could find, there were no open wounds on Kyle, save that damnedable mark on his right hand. Yet he remained unconscious. The empath sighed and gazed back at Voodoo. "You are his Interface partner, Voodoo. Youíre the only one that can reach him. You need to try harder."
"By doing what?" Voodoo snarled. "Iím not telepathic, you know."
"Neither am I. But you do have a connection to him. That makes you more qualified than me. Youíre just going to have to try harder."
Voodoo glared at her the only way he could. But he gave in and tried again. Voodoo blocked everything out of his mind, concentrating solely on his partner. <<A sixty-percent link doesnít cut it at this level!>> he growled to himself. He mentally pressed forward in the link, searching for any visible signs of Kyleís mind.
A cold blue-white image of a sheer-sided ice glacier shot into his mind. Its razor-sharp surface cut into him and Voodoo gasped and would have fallen had he not already been sitting. He bowed over in slight pain and mentally drew back. He caught his emotional balance and studied the thing before deciding whether or not to withdraw completely.
It was a memory. Something from the outside or someone else had planted it there on purpose and used the link to stabilize the image as a permanent reminder.
<<Kyle.>> Voodoo called. <<Kyle?>> He realized in order to reach his friend, Voodoo would have to remove the memory-glacier or adjust it so that he could move around it. He settled a little more comfortably on the hospital room floor, aware that Kayla was monitoring both of them. Voodoo concentrated on the memory and tried to think of it as an image on a piece of paper. It was hard because the steadfast vision seemed so vast and so cold. But he kept chipping away at it, concentrating on making it no more significant than a two-dimensional picture on a computer monitor, something easily reduced in size then deleted. The memory fought his will, reestablishing its place, although it shrank in size every time it tried to reset itself in the link.
But it was Kyle that managed to push it away. He briefly acknowledged Voodooís presence, but did not communicate. He mentally turned and hid away.
Voodoo pulled out of his trance and sighed heavily. Kyle had to relearn to use his shields and while Voodoo could still communicate with his partner, the Sentinel realized Kyle needed space. "Check him now." He ordered Kayla.
He wasnít aware of it, but four hours had passed and Kayla had drifted in and out of sleep waiting. She sprang to her feet the moment Voodoo spoke and scanned Kyleís life signs. Kyle opened his eyes once then fell back to sleep.
Voodoo merely stretched out by the bedside and shut down.
// The shadowy figure smashed a few more cars and an explosion from an anti-gravity pickup truck shot metal in every direction. People escaped their vehicles as the dog-beast howled and plucked two people from the street and swallowed them whole. One female ran for dear life and just for sport, the beast, the mighty beast, whacked at her, tossing her frail body like a rag doll across two cars and into the window of a nearby dress shop. He was their god. He could do whatever he pleased. And in this manner, in like manner here on the planet called Cybertron, there were Ďlittle onesí who needed to acknowledge his superiority. Doctor Kyle Scott did. He respected, but he didnít always obey. Thatís why Ptysar punished him in the shop. Of course, Xesnex would not be happy about it. But after all, Ptysar did not kill the good doctor, just shook him up a bit. Ah! It was time to finally feast and make merry!//
Steve woke, groggy and emotionally upset, but he could not recall why. Midnight sensed it and wrapped himself about his Interface, saying nothing.
Kayla had ordered breakfast for Parker, but he couldnít eat. He played with his food, frowning. Voodoo stepped in through the doorway and wiggled his fingers at Midnightís Tentchi in greeting.
"Hi." Steve invited without his usual cheerful voice.
"Youíre not going to throw anything at me, are you, Steve?" Voodoo asked carefully.
Steve gave him a wry smile. "Only if youíve decided not to kill me."
"Oh. Well, Iím still considering it."
Steve nodded, forcing himself to smile. "Howís Kyle?"
"He wonít talk to me."
Steveís blue eyes shot at the Sentinel and blinked. "What did you say to him?"
"Nothing." Voodoo grunted. "Heís mad."
"With himself, I think." Voodoo sat on the floor by the doorway and stared down. "He does this, you know. Heíll get mad, but wonít admit heís mad and he clams up tight." Voodoo shrugged. "Iím used to it."
"Does it hurt?"
"Yes. But thereís nothing I can do until he calms down." Voodoo fell silent for a moment. "What happened there, Steve? What went wrong?"
"We were attacked by that entity thatís hunted Kyle. It attacked me first. Then . . ." Steve blinked when he realized something he hadnít thought of before. "Then . . . Kyle took a drinking glass and sliced at the creature." Parkerís eyes narrowed. "Voodoo, has Kyle said anything about a weakness he might have found in the creature?"
"No. Not to me. He might not have remembered it, either. He was pretty upset and in shock when I found him in that abandoned transport station."
Voodoo looked away from Steve and Parker could tell the memory hurt the Sentinel. He almost lost his Interface there. Tentchi, Steve corrected himself. Itís so much more powerful than Ďpartnerí. Voodoo loved Kyle, in spite of their constant bickering. "Voodoo, would you like me to try to talk to Kyle?" He offered.
"I donít know what more you could say that I havenít, Steve. I beg him to talk, but he wonít."
Steve thought hard, struggling to recall the event. The corners of his mouth tightened. "He might be blaming himself for what happened. All those people died, you know."
Voodoo said nothing.
"Why donít you just take him home and wait?"
Voodoo finally looked at him.
Steve nodded. "Thereís nothing else wrong with him, is there, Voodoo?"
"Take him home. Make him eat something."
Voodoo smiled at Parker who still hadnít touched his breakfast. Steve caught that smile and pointed at the huge robot. "Not a single word." He warned Voodoo. "Iíll get it later from Midnight. You just tend to your own Tentchi."
Steve shook his head. "Something I picked up from Chenobis. Now go on. Go take care of Kyle."
Voodoo took to his feet then gave Parker a final glance. Steve poked at his bagel, but still didnít pick it up. "Steve," he called. "Thanks."
Kyle awoke in his own bedroom late the following morning. He found Voodoo sitting against the opposite wall, watching him closely. Kyle frowned.
"What are you mad about?" Voodoo quietly asked.
"Not Mad." Scott muttered.
"Yes you are."
Kyle sighed and rolled over to face the wall. "No Iím not."
"Yes. You are." The huge robot insisted.
Kyle glowered back over his shoulder. "No. Iím not."
Voodoo smiled. "Yes, Kyle. Youíre mad about something."
Kyleís eyes shot wide, his teeth clenched then he digressed and suppressed his reaction. "I AM NOT MAD."
Doctor Scott sprang from under the covers, standing on the bed in nothing but his boxers. "OKAY!" he shouted. "IíM MAD! IíM ANGRY. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?"
Voodoo did not smile. He studied the doctor in solemn silence then repeated: "Kyle." He kept his voice level, soft.
Kyle heavily sighed and leaned against the wall, arms crossed. "Why do you always pick fights with me?" He asked wearily.
"Because, Doctor," Voodoo snarled, "you can never be honest with yourself." Voodoo glared at him, "You always deny the fact that youíre angry or upset, or that something annoys you." He threw his arms in the air, "You go right on through life denying the negative side of Humanity."
Kyle couldnít look at him.
Voodoo pierced the doctor, focusing all his attention on his Interface as though he were a sword. But Kyle made no move to snap back. Voodoo found it even more annoying that Kyle refused to shout back. But it was just one of those moods of his. Voodoo continued, his tone dangerously soft, steady. "Anger is a bad thing. But denying it is worse and someone has to take that blinder off you once in a while. Just to remind you . . . youíre only Human and you canít be anything less."
Kyle still couldnít look at him. His face finally revealed a burdened emotion he had contained for the past several weeks.
Voodoo felt compassionate for his love. Kyle hurt but could not admit to himself how he felt. And he most likely did not remember, but he and Voodoo had gone through this before. Voodoo cautiously approached the bedside, staring at his friend with a hidden set of optic sensors. "Right now youíre angry at yourself because you feel vulnerable. Kyle. . . being vulnerable isnít a crime. But being angry then denying it, is."
Now Voodoo fell silent, knowing Kyle needed time and silence to think. The doctor slid down the wall, sitting on the bed, his eyes kept away from his partner. "I thought I lost Steve. I thought it was my fault. And she said they were going to kill me but found me worthy . . . I donít know what that means, Voodoo." Kyle brought his knees up, his cheeks flushed with guilt.
Voodoo simply remained quiet. Although he had not heard the whole story regarding Kyleís and Steveís visit to Chenobis, he knew what Kyle meant.
"Steve could have died. And he took the risk of coming with me-"
"Well, he was supposed to keep you out of trouble." Voodoo crossed his arms too and seemed a bit indignant.
Kyle slowly looked at him and a smile took its time to cross his face. "Oops."
"Ah-hu. No wonder they keep you at the hospital." Voodoo paused another moment then, "Kyle, do you have the diary?"
"The diary. That book that you said DíChlavic wrote."
Scottís eyes shot wide. "Itís, um, Steve has it."
"And when are you going to get something to eat?" Voodoo asked.
"When I get around to it." Kyle brushed. He idly picked at the sheets on his bed, feeling Voodooís presence press against the link, staring at him mentally as much as physically. It was a tease and Kyle finally smiled again. "In about two minutes." He corrected.
Voodoo left later for a meeting with a construction crew in South Port. He really never said much about his work, except that it was pretty much routine and dull. But Voodoo never really knew what he liked to do. Exploring was boring because of all the rules he had to follow. And Voodoo was not one for following orders very well. He agreed to assist in South Port because all you had to do was yell at demolition teams and tell them where to Ďblow the buildingsí. That pretty much left Kyle on his own.
Doctor Scott made himself a couple slices of toast and listened to a music tape while he gathered laundry, not really sure what Voodoo did with his laundry. All Kyle knew was that his laundry disappeared three times a week and came back in nice neat little piles for him to put away in his chest of drawers. The dishes also were done frequently and Kyle wondered why Voodoo spent so much time cleaning up after him.
The music ended and Kyle rummaged through other pieces of his vast collection. He found one tape void of any titles save a series of numbers. He shrugged, taking a swallow of vegetable juice and slipped the tape in and waited for a new piece of music to start. Ever since he lost his memory, Kyle spent all his time trying to regain his life. He found old calendars in his desk, other photographs of people he knew he should know. He found magazines and hidden in the wall stood three huge book cases in addition to the two already standing proudly next to his stereo.
"*Sigh*. Uhm . . ."
It was his own voice. Doctor Scott blinked and stared at the stereo as though it had come to life.
"Date . . . Chegnon 36 . . . I think. It might be the 37th, today. I donít remember. More victims of Braintrustís experiments have been found on that alien ship. *Sigh*. Gods Iím tired. Rayan tells me *Yawn* he might have found children in one section. I hope not. All this is making me sick. Voodoo keeps bitching about mine not sleeping . . . but how can anyone sleep with what Iíve seen? Iíve diagnosed about fifteen people, four of them suffered massive head trauma from raw electric shock. There was nothing left of one poor fellowís head. *sigh* Why the hell did I become a doctor?"
Kyle raced over and shut the thing off. Chills raced down his back and he stepped away from the stereo.
<<Kyle? What is it?>>
Scott blinked, having forgotten Voodoo could Ďtuneí into his emotions. <<A recorded diary.>> he answered mentally. He pulled the cassette out of its pocket and stared at it. <<I didnít know I made these.>>
<<Yeah. Youíve got quite a collection of them.>>
Scott gazed at the rest of the tapes and discs and crystal memory chips littering the floor and shelves. <<Why didnít I put this one back?>>
<<It was left with the rest of my music . . . do I have others?>> he felt Voodoo laugh and frowned.
<<You should look for the more recent stuff. Youíve got one in there about Steve->>
<<Youíve listened to them?>>
<<Hello!>> Voodoo retaliated, <<Most of them youíre talking to me! I AM your Interface, remember?>>
Kyle didnít answer. He slowly sat down, staring at the tape in his hands. Confusion slipped its way inadvertently down their link. Why did he become a doctor? How many horror stories had he mentioned in this collection? Kyleís eyes closed when Voodoo brushed his presence against the link, kindly wrapping himself around his partner.
*Tentchi*. Kyle reminded himself. Because Voodoo was inside him, all the time. It didnít matter where he was, who he was with. Voodoo was there, too. Voodoo was a warrior. Scott was a doctor. What a contrast!
<<But you fight with me.>> Voodoo answered softly.
Kyle tossed the tape onto his new glass table and sat back, crossing his arms. <<How? How could I kill one person and try to save another personís life? Isnít that a bit hypocritical?>>
Then why did he become a doctor to begin with? He remembered the armor Parker forced him to wear on Chenobis . . . a doctor wearing battle armor? Wasnít that a bit odd? First Aid was a pacifist, through and through. He wouldnít hurt an insect, if any survived on Cybertron. But then why was Doctor Scott himself not in the same position?
<<You never saw it that way. We all had to fight to survive.>>
Kyle pouted. <<But, Iím a doctor, arenít I?>>
<<Itís not that simple, Kyle. It never has been.>>
<<But . . . how . . .>>
flashes of events passed through his mind. Voodoo sent him images of memories; battlefields and destroyed fortress-cities. An entire population of people, killed by the Seekers. One battle after another, after another, and another. All in the name of survival. Braintrustís experiments had lost all means of sanity. One species after another were Ďcollectedí and systematically terminated as the insane Seeker sought a forced Interface.
Kyle curled up on the couch, feeling the pains of old anger rising from his partner. The death of Thon Roque, the death of allies and friends . . . Midnight. Kyle rested his head against the back of the couch, exhausted.
Voodoo stopped sending memories, realizing he was endangering his friend with emotional overload. He wrapped his mind around Kyle and softly bade him to just sleep it off.
Kyle woke very early the following morning. Someone clattered about in the kitchen, running water then shutting it off. A couple of plates snapped against each other and Kyle rolled over in bed, groaning. He really should be up, anyway.
"Voodoo," he called. "Donít worry about the dishes. Iíll do them." He frowned. "I should do them, anyway. I made the mess." He muttered.
No response. But the puttering in the kitchen continued and Kyle moaned again and forced himself out of bed. He ruffled his white-blonde hair and stumbled into the livingroom in his boxers. "Voodoo, you donít need to clean up after me. Iíll get around to it."
"Most certainly not!" Came an unfamiliar feminine voice.
Kyle about jumped out of his skin. He swallowed air and when an unfamiliar figure stepped out from behind the wall, Kyle grabbed a pillow off his couch and tried to hide behind it. "I-I thought you were my-Voodoo." He stammered.
"Hmph. Thatís an insult, if I ever heard one!"
Kyleís eyes narrowed, trying to make out a femaleís features through the inadequate light. "Who are you? What are you doing here?"
The female with light green skin and black hair looked very indignant. "Your housekeeper!" She snapped. "I am most certainly not that overbearing braggart Interface of yours, Doctor Scott! He couldnít clean his own hands unless someone gave him clear simple instructions!"
Kyle scratched the back of his neck. "I have a housekeeper?"
"Who do you think has been picking up after you? Washing your laundry? Wiping down counter tops and putting your tapes back after you insist on taking them down?"
"I-I-Iím sorry. I wasnít even aware . . ."
She glared at him. "Havenít even been out of the hospital more than a month and already you forget me. Maybe youíd prefer a better maid!"
"No!" Kyle objected. "No! I just . . . forgot." He stared at her, bewildered.
Her hard angry face softened and she leaned against the counter. "Come and sit down, Doctor. Iíll make you some breakfast." She turned away and started to make coffee.
Sheepishly, Kyle turned back to his room and slipped on a pair of jeans. He sat at the table, very confused and guilty. She set the coffee in front of him then a bowl of oatmeal and another bowl of sliced pears. She sat opposite of him, the same meal in front of her. She smiled and gestured her hands, waving them from the sides of her head to the meal before her as though praying.
Kyle watched silently, not sure how to proceed.
She eyed him, then smiled and sipped her coffee. "I hope the coffee is alright. You ran out yesterday and I had to order more. I didnít remember the brand . . ."
Kyle sipped it and gave her a smile. "Itís just fine." he accepted. "Thank you."
She batted dark eyes at him, long eyelashes brushing the air. "Oma." She answered. "My name is Oma, Doctor."
Kyle pressed his lips, frustrated that his mind still would not recall much of anything. He stirred the cereal and took a spoonful.
She did the same and mixed her fruit in with it. "Iím sorry for blowing out like that. You donít seem to acknowledge much of anything lately. I thought you were just preoccupied."
Kyle shook his head. "I thought Voodoo was doing it. Heís spent many nights here."
She forced a smile. "Well, I come in extra early in the morning since I have three other places to take care of."
He nodded in acknowledgment.
She studied him a long moment, spooning her cereal. "You really donít remember me, do you, Kyle?"
His dark brown eyes scrutinized her, sorry for not having any words to say. Kyle swallowed hard and took another sip of his coffee. "I seem to be missing a whole life, lately, Oma. Iím sorry."
She ruefully smiled. "Youíre responsible for mine still being in this life, you know."
He gaped at her.
"That wasnít more than eight months ago. My son . . ." she gulped. "I had to drag him into the emergency late one evening. He suffered a broken arm and nearly lost an eye." She looked away with a pain-filled face.
Kyle gave her a sympathetic smile. "You donít have to tell me, Oma." He said gently, "Itís okay."
She wiped her tear, shook her head. "My husband . . . thought he was man enough to Ďtrainí Shaun and me . . ." Her eyes fell to her lap. "I took Shaun in for treatment. I didnít have any money. I told them I didnít need any help, though I was bleeding badly. Elthon come storming into the entrance as I was leaving. I was going to come back later and pick Shaun up. He hit me. And you came in . . ." now she faced him, her eyes sparkled. " . . . Itís not often I come across a doctor whoís also a good shot. Elthon was going to hit me again and you pushed him away and he jumped for you and you pulled a gun on him . . . gods, I never saw him look so mad. I never saw anyone pull a gun as fast as you did, either."
"I pulled a gun on someone in the hospital?" Kyle whispered, wondering what the heck possessed him to do that.
Oma nodded. "It was a good thing. He was ready to kill you for gettiní in his way. I fainted, though. That nurse of yours
. . . Kayla . . . she told me you stunned him because he ran for you."
Kyle struggled, but failed to remember any of it. Obviously it happened because here Oma was. And apparently he had hired her as a housekeeper so that she would have some means of personal income. And that too gave him the answer to his question. His ability to fight was indeed just as important as his ability to heal. Freedom fighter, he thought.
"Better eat your oatmeal, Doctor. Itíll get cold." She softly admonished.
Kyle slightly startled at the voice, but grateful nonetheless. "Yes, Maíam." He answered politely.
Kyle dressed and took a trip to Medbay where Steve still resided. At least Scott could take heart Doctor Gatchel was not the kind to lower himself to work as early as five-thirty. Three nurses eagerly greeted Kyle with bright faces and giggles as he stepped onto the floor. They asked when he was going to come back on a regular basis. Sadly, Kyle did not know himself. Dilah, a Game refugee, gave him as broad a smile as her purple-spotted lips permitted. "Best make it soon, Doctor Scott." She warned teasingly. "Some of the girls are already plotting your abduction."
Kyle smiled sheepishly. "Iíll bet." He answered modestly. "Is Parker still here? Or did he manage to talk Midnight into taking him home?"
"Noo!" Gayle declared with her British accent. "Midnight knew tíwould tick Steve off if he didnaí sign him out early. Heís still here."
Kyle barely suppressed a laugh. Can you give me a blank folder and stuff it with useless paper?"
The nurses glanced at each other. "Why?" Came the question.
"I owe him a prank."
They smiled knowingly and managed to scrounge one together, adding several bogus billing slips to the Ďgutí of the folder and falsified other papers. Kyle took that and made his way down the haunted corridor. It seemed odd to walk though Medbay in such silence and the doctor found he missed his work very much.
He passed an elderly man slowly walking with his IV machine. The poor man apparently had insomnia. Kyle stopped abruptly and turned to the man. "How is everything for you today?" He greeted cheerfully.
"Might be better if I could sleep." The old man answered. "Keep having dreams, images that make sense, but not something Iíd ever seen."
Kyle stared at him compassionately and read the manís name at the top of the IV. He would look into it in a moment. "Perhaps I could have someone give you something to help you sleep." He offered.
The old man waved a hand down. "Forget it, Doc. Iíd rather not sleep."
Kyle nodded, but made it a point to check up on him later anyway. He proceeded to Parkerís room and peeked in carefully. The light was on, but Steve often slept through anything. This time Kyle found his friend awake, flipping through TV channels.
Parker gave him a second glance before realizing who his visitor was. He gave Kyle a rueful smile and switched the TV off. "Look who decides to come down from his lofty place to visit me."
Kyle wordlessly handed Steve the folder.
Steve automatically assumed it was work. He narrowed his eyes at Kyle, took the folder and set it on his tray. "You are a cruel and unusual person, Kyle Scott." He pouted. "I thought you were coming to cheer an old friend."
"Old friends deserve only the best." Kyle quipped. He smiled and aimed for Steveís chart.
"DONíT EVEN TOUCH THAT!" Steve growled. "Iíll break your hand!"
"My goodness!" Kyle mocked. "The nurses were right! You are in a mood!" He watched, standing on the brink of laughing. "Well, cheer up, Steve. Iím sure when Gatchel remembers he works this ward, he might consider releasing you today."
Parkerís eyes narrowed. "Why are you so cheerful?"
Kyle grinned, his dark brown eyes sparkled. "I have a housekeeper."
Parker stared at him suspiciously. Then he blinked. "No one told you . . . you mean after all this time you didnít realize . . ."
"Voodoo never said anything about Oma. I thought he was responsible for keeping the place clean."
Parker broke out laughing. "No!" He cried. "Stop!" His blue eyes fell on Kyle again. "You really have lost it, Scott! Voodoo! Doing laundry!" And he broke out laughing again.
Kyle grinned, looking rather bashful. But he took it in stride. Then he remembered the real reason for the visit: "The book, Steve. Do you have it?"
Steve calmed down and drew a deep breath. The smile did not fade. "No. I gave it to Jill."
Kyle nodded. "Okay. Iíll check in on you later, Sunshine." he teased.
Steve swept up the folder. "And take this with you!" He snapped.
"Na-hu." Kyle objected. "Thatís your present. You get to keep it." And he stepped out the room, knowing Steve would set it aside and pout in front of the TV for another hour before examining the Ďgiftí.
The large clock in the cafeteria struck six A.M. More and more Medbay staff passed through the cafeteria doors to sweep up donuts, coffee and other early morning wake-me-ups. Kyle knew Jill would be here, even this early in the day. And sure enough, there she sat, a cup of coffee steaming in front of her, an electronic notepad on one side, a translation/dictionary on the other side and in front of her sat the old, well-used diary of Beth DíChlavic. Jillís hair, usually bound back for medical reasons, now hung loosely about her shoulders. A set of headphones hugged her ears and she softly hummed as she read the diary and scribbled a note. She tucked her arms under the table and read more, unaware of Kyleís gaze.
Kyle smiled, reached over and removed her cup of coffee.
Jillís eyes shot crossly at him, "Hey-" she protested, but she broke off, seeing who was teasing her and her face turned up in a smile. "Kyle!"
Doctor Scott smiled kindly at her and replaced the coffee as he sat across the table. "Must be very interesting material for you to want to shut the world out, Jill." He pointed to the headset.
She turned it off and flipped through the pages. "Kyle, this is really great stuff. The woman should have been a writer. Listen to this: ĎPlebaí-thatís their seventh month-Ď17, 684794. The expedition goes well. We were given a larger grant than we originally hoped. Whyler is really excited and hopes I can take he and the kids along for the summer. I hope so, too. The kids would love it. The site is gorgeous. It sits right by the ocean side and all night long we sit at the fire and listen to the waves as they slam against the steadfast rocks below us. We never see any stars, but with the sound of the sea and all the fresh fish, who could ask for anything better?í" Jill smiled at Kyle, a kind of wishfulness crossed her face. "I wish I could have met her."
Kyleís smile died a little. What he remembered of Beth DíChlavic was nothing of the same woman who wrote the journal. "Me too." He confessed.
Jill leaned forward, closing the book over her hand. "Kyle, this womanís work was amazing. Just by herself she had uncovered forty-three historical sites and found three cities. But thatís not the best work she had come across. Are you ready for this? Let me find it here. . ."
Jill turned to a place already marked by note paper. "Ready?"
Kyle mutely nodded. "ĎI was right. I was damned right. I argued with Rychal about the strange oil-and-dirt mixture we found at the twenty-ninth strata. He kept insisting it was just plant oil. But I insisted on digging and sure enough, I was right. It was manufactured oil-and we found the space ship!"
Kyle lost his breath. "They found a space ship?"
"Apparently it was in the very same vicinity as the city they were currently uncovering by the coast. I havenít gotten much further-Chenobian isnít easy to translate, you know."
"Jill!" Kyle whispered. "What does that mean? How could that fit into their history?"
McKennan shook her head. "Havenít gotten that far yet, Kyle."
Jill and Kyle looked to the entrance as a slender, tall half-Human/half alien woman entered the cafeteria. A lump of books burdened her arms and she practically dropped them on the table. "Oh good gawd!" She repeated, running her fingers through short thick black hair. She practically danced to Kyleís side and embraced him as tightly as her slight frame permitted.
Kyleís bewildered expression moved from the girl to Jill.
Jill smiled sadly. "Uhm, Iím sorry. I know no one had said anything . . ."
"ForawhilethereIthoughthewasdead or something worse buthere heisnow and Icanfinishmypapers!" Her squeaky voice was not pleasant.
Kyle stared at Jill, waiting silently for an explanation.
Jill tried not to laugh. "Uhm . . . Lelel, Doctor Scott has trauma-induced amnesia. He may not remember you."
Kyle stared at the tall girl but could not tell whether or not she was human. Her body said she had to be somewhere in her older teens, early twenties. Her voice said early teens. He gazed back at Jill, confused.
"Awe." Lelel sat beside him and crossed her thin legs. Her miniskirt didnít seem to accommodate her position very well. "Well, wecanfixthat, canít we, Doctor Scott? Itwonítbelong beforeyouíllrememberme. I was writingapaperbasedontheInterface phenomenonandIaskedyoutohelp me out, cause I knowyouhadwritten volumesofmaterial. ButIreallydoníthavetimetogothroughallthat stuffandItalkedyouintogivingmethegistofitall. I brought my stuff with me!" She jumped to her feet while Kyle still tried to untangle the sudden mass of information she rattled. She sat next to Jill and produced a thin notepad. Lelel concentrated hard, jotting down a date and time then stared expectingly at Kyle.
KyleĎs face remained a complete blank. <<Not her again!>> Voodooís thoughts tumbled through the link. <<Sheís a pain in the afterburners!>>
"Now," Lelel batted her eyes, half hidden behind a set of glasses. "Iíve done my report, but thereís something else I was wondering. Whatís it like . . . I mean, to be so small and to be connected to someone whoís so huge . . . so much bigger than you? I mean, arenít you afraid of arguing with them? Donít they frighten you?"
Kyle lightly smiled when Voodoo groaned. "Lelel, how long have you been on Cybertron?"
"Uhm .. . about most of my life. About twenty-three years."
"Have you ever heard any newscasts of Humanoids accidently getting stepped on by a Transformer?"
She batted her eyes again. "No."
"Thatís your answer."
"I donít get it."
Kyle remained cool and patient. "Their awareness prevents them from harming us, Lelel. They are every bit as much aware of us as they are of each other."
<<Moreso.>> Voodoo sent a powerful warm embrace that caused Kyle to close his eyes a moment, lapsing into the link. For a moment, Doctor Scott thought he was going to go right to sleep. It was as though he were breathing Voodooís very presence. But he managed to pull himself out of it and found Lelel staring. Jill already put her nose back in the journal, her music in her ears.
"Does that hurt?" Lelel asked carefully.
"The Link. When they link up with you, I mean."
Kyle stared at her. He didnít know what to tell her, or how to say it, what little he could say. Doctor Scott shook his head. No one could really understand. "Lelel," he said gently but firmly, "I suggest you take a good hard look at the people youíre writing about. The Community is a species all their own. And what is considered good and beautiful and sacred to us, will be misunderstood, despised and regarded sacrilegious to the outside world." Kyle cast his gaze on Jill as she reached for her coffee and sipped it. She shook her head and reached for her electronic translator.
Puzzled, Lelel stared at Doctor Scott, then at Jill. She covered her face then bit her lip, thinking over Kyleís words, her dark eyes seeming to turn inward. The young lady closed her notepad and prepared to excuse herself.
"Hey!" A masculine voice sounded from behind Kyle. Nickís cheerful face came into full view and Kyle gave him a wry smile. The tech sat on the bench next to him and held up a right arm, the bandaged wound was bound a bit too tightly. "I get a scratch and Tornado sends me straight to Medbay. Do not pass ĎGoí, do not collect two-hundred dollars. Itís just a scratch."
"And all the nurses just fussed over you." Kyle added.
"Well, sorta." Nick shrugged. "They sent me straight to you and said I had to have your okay to leave."
"They did not." Kyle argued.
"Yeah they did." The tentchi ĎTechno-wizardí insisted. "Besides, unless I get yours or Doc Gatchelís blessing, Tornado will assume Iíve escaped the hospital and heíll bring me right back here."
Kyle eyed him, the smile not fading. "Be grateful itís Tornado youíre dealing with and not Midnight."
Nick shrugged and batted his beautiful grey eyes. It was then that Kyle realized Nick was wearing his armor.
"What have you been up to, anyway?" Doctor Scott asked.
"Nothin." Nickís face turned bashful. Obviously it was something he wasnít supposed to do.
"Reconstruction in sector B-14." Jill tattled. She did not meet either of the menís gaze.
Kyle shot a parental look at Nick. "Well, I donít know what B-14 is, but you should be leaving demolition to the Dinobots!"
"It was something to do." Nick replied shyly.
Kyle blinked. "Shanís going to kill you."
Nick drew a deep breath and stretched. "Yup. Sheís already struck up the bar-B-Q."
Kyle shook his head. "Well, let me see your arm." He examined the dressing on Nickís right forearm and shook his head again. "Normaís work. I keep telling her she doesnít need to wrap tightly." He proceeded to undo the tape while Jill and Nick exchanged a knowing smile. Kyle lifted the dressing and reset it over the open gash. It wasnít a terribly bad cut, but deep enough to make the doctor cringe a little. He rewrapped the tape then gazed at Nickís eyes in a silent question.
Nick smiled. "Thanks, Doc. Howís V?"
Kyle smirked at Voodooís nick name. "V is doing just fine, Nick. Thank you. Now get out of here before I have you submit to a physical examination."
"Kyle." Jill called softly. "I-I think I should take this book downstairs." Kyle and Nick stared at her. She blinked her soft brown eyes once. "I donít want anyone else to hear this."
"Well, that counts me out." Nick jumped to his feet. But Kyle grabbed his hand.
"Come with us, Nick." He invited. "You always liked tales of mystery and suspense."
Nick thought it over briefly. He would still be staying at Medbay and out trouble. "Mmmm . . . okay." He accepted.
ĎDownstairsí meant the resource center. Half that part of Medbay curved outward and kissed the garden sitting just outside. Huge picture windows allowed visitors full view of the very garden Kyle and Steve visited a few weeks ago. The dome above hummed as the sprinkler system rotated and whirled in a showering frenzy. The Resource Center consisted of several private conference rooms and three huge libraries not open to the public. A cafeteria stood at the front end of ĎDownstairsí and restrooms were conveniently located down each corridor. The Resource Center, designed for both Humans and Robots, stayed open all hours of the day and night (such as they were on Cybertron) and visitors were required to possess at least a Level Three clearance to enter the libraries.
Jill and Kyle both spent a great deal of time here, seeking help on alien physiology, adding to the library through experience, or just to get away from the insanity of the upper floors.
Jill led her two friends to her favorite conference room. Fine wood panels lined three-quarters of the walls here, the remaining wall was all glass and overlooked the garden. An ancient battle axe hung above a series of short bookcases and a huge stereo system. The room came complete with a large table, coffee and other condiments were available in the cupboards and a TV and video system sat at one corner of the room. A holoprojector sat in the center of the conference table, its controls next to a nearby chair.
The three entered the room just as Kayla turned, startled to see them. She cringed with a smile and peeled off a set of huge headphones. "Hi." She greeted, tousling her dark brown hair. Kayla tucked her hair behind her horns and flushed.
"Hi, Kayla." Scott quietly greeted. He and Jill took a place at the table while Nick went for the cupboard and started a pot of coffee and scrounged for munchies.
"Whatchya guys up to?" Their friend asked.
"Iíve been reading Beth DíChlavicís journal since last night." Jill swiftly explained. "I just came across a few things I thought Kyle might want to hear."
"Oh." Kaylaís eyes darted to the door. ĎWell, did you want me to leave?"
"No." Jill answered simply. "Itís not top-secret. I just didnít want to broadcast it across the hospital, thatís all." She gazed thankfully at Nick as he set a fresh cup of coffee in front of her. He silently pointed to Kyleís would-be cup and raised a brow at Kayla.
Kayla nodded, accepting his offer.
Jill settled in her chair and opened the book, then turned to Kayla, hoping she would sit down.
Kayla read the unspoken question in her friendís eyes and sat at the end of the table, Nick followed suit after another moment.
"First of all," Jill started in, "the government gave Beth and her team all the financial support they needed. Then the museum became seriously involved. Then came the first accident."
Kyle waited then decided to take the first sip of coffee. He cringed inwardly, displaying no emotion. Distantly he could feel Voodoo curse about something. He inquired, using nothing more than his presence and received a resolute: <<IíM FINE!>> Doctor Scott blinked and left his friend alone.
Jill continued. "There wasnít supposed to be any extra fuel tanks left in any of the cars. According to Beth, they had emptied all the vehicles the night before and double-checked their supplies. Then three nights later, after the camp was set, one of the vehicles somehow got out of lock and hit one of the groupís assistants. He would have been okay, had not the vehicle suddenly blown up."
"Sabotage?" Kayla asked.
"Beth thought so." Jill pulled out three sheets of loose-leaf paper and handed them to Kyle. "Youíll find that government contract, a letter from Whyler and a drawing."
Kyle unfolded the first blue paper, amused at its length. Certain fees and stipulations described exactly what the government was looking for, what they were willing to pay and what benefits would be provided in exchange for-Kyle looked up "Anything concerning ancient crystal technology?"
Jill nodded. "I looked that up, just this morning. Apparently the Chenobians have lost a great deal of their own technology. Every so often a terrible world-wide plaque or disaster takes place that wipes out their scientific communities."
Kyleís brows furred, "What?"
"Itís really, really bizarre. The main reason Beth was able to get good government funding is because Chenobians are searching for their past. They had technologies at one point that rivaled the Quintessons. But it doesnít exist anymore because some kind of Ďred plaqueí spread and killed millions of people. That was three centuries ago and these people are still recovering."
Nick noisily sipped his coffee and sunk his teeth into a powdered donut. "Whatís this Ďcrystalized techí stuff supposed to be?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." Jill shrugged.
Nick leaned back in his chair, his grey eyes already considering the possibilities of using crystals.
Kyle opened the second piece of paper, the drawing. He turned it one way, then the other, unable to ascertain its meaning. "Iíve seen this before." He mumbled.
Jillís brows slid together. "Where?"
"I donít know. I just remember seeing it somewhere."
"On Chenobis?" Kayla asked. She leaned forward on the table and tapped its surface with her taloned finger.
Kyle thought hard. His gaze fell distant as he struggled hard to recall where he had seen it. It was a man . . . holding a sword. He laughed as he parried and aimed, slicing the air. Kyle shook his head. "It must have been a dream or something-" his memory shot him with a picture depicting someoneís death. Their blood slammed against a wall and there the mark stayed. Someone screamed.
Kyle folded the paper back, his mind now confused between a dream and reality. "Itís nothing." He added swiftly. He knew the others stared hard, expecting some rational explanation. But he could not even give one to himself. Kyle quickly swept up the last piece of paper and expected the letter from Whylar. Instead, the paper, a letter from some museum, had ink marks all over it. PTYSAR IS HERE, it said. PTYSAR IS HERE, FOR ME. TELL WHYLER I LOVE HIM AND THE KIDS AND THAT THEY SHOULD JUST MOVE ON. MOVE ON, BABY. MOVE ON.
Kyle dropped the wrinkled sheet of paper, his frame frozen in fear.
The door opened and a pair of booted feet stomped in. Doctor Scott smiled, knowing that walk pattern. A folder stuffed with bogus bills and paper work slammed on the table next to him. "Well!" He greeted Steve without looking at him. "Isnít it my favorite patient coming to grace us with his presence!" Kyle looked up and connected to Steveís icy glare.
Steve shot his left brow up. "Thatís not funny." He growled.
Nick laughed and drained his coffee cup. "Careful, Steve, Kyle already threatened to send me in for physical exam this morning. More coffee, Doc?"
"Is that what youíre calling it?" Kyle returned.
"Whatís this?" Steve dragged out a chair and sat next to Kyle. He swept up the paper Kyle dropped and winked at Jill. "Are you starting to scribble again, Kyle?"
"Professionals never scribble, Steve." Kyle corrected. "We merely make our mark on the paper."
"Uh-huh." He read the paper, glanced at Kyle and read it again. "Whoís . . . how you pronounce that name?"
"The P-T is pronounced like a ĎTí, Steve." Jill answered. "Ty-sar. And how are you able to read Chenobian?"
Steveís eyes went wide. He shrugged. "I didnít know it was Chenobian . . . it looks Akhrian, or one of the major languages to me."
Everyone stared at him. He shrugged as Jill flipped through the journal and randomly picked a page. "Read this." She slid the book across the table and Steve picked it up.
"Mordi 17. Weíve broken through. Thereís furniture and an alter, bowls, vases and jewelry. We found the alter is a false alter with a secret door just behind it. We open that in two days after taking inventory." His eyes met Jillís, seeking an approval and an answer.
"Thatís impossible." Jillís face fell blank. "Itís taken me all morning just to translate what I have read. Kyle, I know, picks things up ten times faster than me. He was reading Chenobian before he and Voodoo came back. But . . . youíre seeing it as Akhrian Script?"
"Yes." Steve insisted. "Here," he took the book again and flipped another page: "Dead. We found three dead cats in the alter and a beautiful dark blue glass jar. How it was made is unclear. There are symbols all around the jar painted in red. I really want to take it home." Steve handed the book back to a breathless Jill.
"Kyle," Jill drew a deep breath. "Did you or Steve encounter anything strange before you were attacked in the restaurant on Chenobis?"
Kyle gave her a second look. His eyes went wide with shock and he jumped from the table.
"What?" Jill asked, bewildered. "What did I say?"
Steve jumped to his feet too, pointing at the wall behind Jill. "I donít think itís you, Jill!"
She and Kayla turned simultaneously as the wall behind them bled and a watery, red creature oozed past the metal. A dogís head phased through the wall and snarled at Kayla. Kyle grabbed her arm and practically dragged her across the room, out the door and down the hallway. The others followed them closely as the dog-beastís watery paws slapped and stamped the metal floor of the hall. It barked once and Steve winced in pain, holding his ears.
"Keep going!" Parker ordered.
Kyle dragged Kayla through the Spherical Library where three-quarters of most rooms were encased in glass extending into Medbayís garden section. Here the glass doors were circular and closed partly over one another. Kyle brought Kayla through the section and waited while their friends came through and he closed that part of the corridor.
The dog-beast, not seeing the glass doors roll between it and its targets, slammed the glass with a terrible thud. Kayla startled, fingers touching her lips. The creature closely eyed the doors and walls, finding no point of access to its prey.
"What is that thing?" Jill demanded, her eyes wide with terror.
"I donít know." Steve huffed. His wounded shoulder had stolen more energy than what he could produce in a sprint. He watched as the creature pawed at the glass, pawing, he noticed, in Kaylaís direction. Kyle sighed in relief, but his dark eyes remained locked on their attacker.
The beast snapped its head left. Its watery, bloodied eyes caught Kyle in a frightful, iron-gripped gaze.
Frost shot through Doctor Scott. He could not so much as draw another breath. Every shred of strength drained from him at such a terrible speed that it left him once again in shock. And it wasnít until the dog-beast looked elsewhere that Kyle finally crumbled to the floor.
"Kyle!" Kayla cried. She fell to her knees, automatically checking his pulse. Her hands trembled over his frozen skin.
Nick drew his weapon from subspace but Steve slapped his hand down. "No!" He shouted. "Youíll break the glass and give that thing access. We need to get Kyle back upstairs."
"No!" Kaylaís dark eyes shot him. "The 3-D library is just two doors down. It has a medical kit."
Steve turned to Jill who nodded in agreement. He wove his way to Kyle and tried to half-lift him but Nick nudged him.
"I got him, Steve." He said softly. Nick gently lifted Scott off the floor, Kayla following closely. She glanced once over her shoulder at the beast, knowing full well it punished Kyle for saving her.
The library Kayla described basically was a glass dome overlooking the garden. To one side, luxuriant plants grew at their own will, creating a small forest. To the other side, a pond bubbled from a small rushing waterfall. A walkway rounded that and disappeared between tall trees and shrub. Jill locked the door as they entered and Nick gently laid Kyle on the couch. He withdrew, allowing Kayla room to work.
Jill approached, ready to help. Her grey eyes met Kaylaís and she blinked.
"Heís breathing." Kayla reported. "Iím getting a pulse. I just donít know what that thing did to him."
Jill silently handed Steve the journal and opened a panel in a nearby metal cabinet and withdrew a large med kit. Steve sat uneasily in a deep-cushioned chair. He stripped off the afghan draped over the topside and tossed it aside. He idly nosed through the book, waiting while the two ladies rummaged through the box and Kayla found a hand scanner. Steve felt awful. They really had no idea what they were up against, if there was anything that could be done.
<<Steve, whatís wrong?>> Midnight came through. <<I was just told Voodoo nearly passed out.>>
<<Kyle was attacked.>> Parker answered simply.
<<Here at Medlab.>>
<<Gods. How is he?>>
<<Kayla says heís breathing. Theyíre checking him now.>> Midnight didnít say anything more. Parker solemnly kept flipping through the pages of the book until his blue eyes stumbled over the phrase "Keepers of the alter" and a small drawing depicting a pair of dogs. Steve sat up and paid a little more attention. He back tracked about two pages and started reading. "Jill." He called.
The girlís fine white hair flowed as she turned to him, her face set in deep concern for her friend. She said nothing.
Parker stood, reading word-for-word. "I call them the Watchers. We found their statues in the alter itself after lifting the stone slab. Theyíre ugly, if you ask me. The two dogs have empty eye sockets and their stomachs have been carved out. I think there must be a significance there. The freakiest part of the alter find is the skin scroll tucked away in the little ceramic box. I know guessing is a bad thing in this business, but the ink used in the scroll is actually blood and my guess is that this was a contract. The word ĎZhagkí in the ancient language means Ďdemoní. Could this be a contract with a demon? If so, that would explain the Keepers of the alter and the One they were protecting. He must have been a prince or a king at one point."
"Seeking prey." Kyle weakly slurred.
"Ssshhhh." Kayla laid a finger across his lips.
Kyleís weary eyes turned to her and he tried to smile without success. "Iím cold, Kayla." He moaned softly. She swept the afghan up from the floor and gently laid it over Kyle as he fell back to sleep.
Nick stared through the glass wall to the garden outside. He turned to Steve, his eyes steeled in thought. "That thing that attacked us must be one of the Keepers then. Donít you think?"
"This is all a guess." Parker stood and tossed the book carelessly on the table. "Conjecture. For all we know, DíChlavic might have just lost her mind."
"She thought she had lost her mind." Jill pointed to the journal. "She couldnít believe what was killing her and because of her disbelief, she died. Kyle seems to know, or at least accept what he thinks is true."
Steve fell silent, staring at the worn and tattered book. He suspected they would have to go back to Chenobis. But no one would hear of it; not Voodoo, not Mid, not Kyle. "What do we do about it, then?" He finally asked.
Kayla and Jill merely exchanged a weary glance.
Kyle half-woke later, uncertain of the time or day. Dim lights greeted his eyes, making it hard to see. But telling by the position of his body, someone with over-sized hands held him. They, or rather he gently lowered Kyle into a bed and snugly covered him with heavy blankets. Kyle stared at one side of the room, finding himself in his own bed in his own quarters. The darkness revealed only vague shapes and no sounds. Drained of all possible energy, Kyle didnít even have the strength to lift himself up for a better view of his surroundings. He adjusted his right hand so that it lay over his chest and his mind passed back into darkness.
Voodoo waited a moment after, scanning and linking to make sure Kyle was comfortable. Satisfied, he lay on the floor and drifted into recharge.
Kyleís eyes finally opened as Oma drew back the metal plates covering a huge set of windows. Kyle wasnít even aware that he had windows in his room. The light outside seemed a little brighter than the usual darkness covering Cybertron. More city lights, and a great deal more aerial activity greeted his otherwise dead senses.
Her eyes met his and her face brightened. "Good morning, Doctor Scott!" She greeted. "How are you today?"
Enough strength had returned to Kyle so that he was able to move, albeit slowly. "Exhausted." he answered quietly. "What time is it, Oma?"
"Eleven-thirty, Standard time."
Kyleís face turned puzzled. "Donít I have an appointment today?"
"That was yesterday, and they already canceled." Oma stood before him, her face a mask of concentrated patience.
Kyle had to think that over carefully. The appointment wasnít for another day. But if it were yesterday then - "Iíve slept for two days?"
Kyle glanced at the floor and he could have sworn he wasnít the only occupant in the room earlier. "Whereís Voodoo?"
"Had to leave bright and early this morning. Thereís a new section they have to tear down in order to reach some new level or other. I didnít catch the whole thing. You should try to talk to him."
"Oh, yeah." Kyle answered softly. But when he did, he was met with a shield. He frowned. "Guess heís busy right now."
"Well, come on into the kitchen and Iíll fix you something to eat."
Kyle really wasnít hungry, but he complied anyway. He slowly undid the blankets around him and the cold hit him like a wave. He shuddered and rummaged through his dresser. Kyle took his time reaching the kitchen. Oma had already prepared something simple and added coffee to it a moment later. He waited until she joined him. She unfolded a towel and sipped a small glass of juice. Kyle silently dipped his spoon in a bowel of hot, fine white cereal, struggling to recall what it was.
The moments passed on in terrible silence. Kyle really didnít want to be out of bed. The idea of finding a small dark corner and hide for the rest of the day appealed to him and he considered just staying home away from everyone. He sipped his coffee and his eyes darted round the little place (and wondered why he lived in such a small place). Eight plaques declaring doctorates degrees from other universities hung from the wall in the kitchen. The painting Voodoo gave him hung just to his left. Photographs of people he knew, or was supposed to know decorated his computer and the top of his stereo system.
They were people he was sworn, as a doctor, to care for.
Depression settled over him. He suddenly remembered what led to this, why he slept two days straight.
Oma was asked to keep a close eye on him, to report to Medbay should anything odd happen, or if Scott tried anything Ďstupidí. She considered calling them to let them know of Doctor Scottís somber mood. It wasnít something she was accustomed to. Kyle had always been a cheerful, up-beat individual, looking forward to his work. The silence in the house was killing her. She respected Scott enough to be patient. But when Kyle started to just sit and stir the cereal, she laid a hand on his right arm, taking note of the messy, bloodied bandage. "Kyle," she whispered softly.
He stared at her, his eyes betraying a sense of uncertainty. He forced a smile, realizing what he was doing and ate a little. She said nothing more, but scrutinized his moves.
The soft cereal tasted sweet and buttery. But it did nothing to lift his mood. By about the third spoonful, Kyle had made his decision. Somehow, he suspected Oma was given orders to keep an eye on him. Any hint that he might do something Ďstupid,í might be phoned either to Medbay or, worse yet, directly to Steve.
Voodoo had been trying to talk to Kyle all morning. But Kyle kept a shield between them, apparently in a mood. The Sentinel zipped across a block of ruins in the South Continent, relaying his visuals to the wrecking crews and scanned for power leaks or other dangerous situations wrecking crews had to be aware of before stepping onto the ground.
He found a leveled area, transformed and landed hard. Kyle was not in the mood to talk, obviously pouting over the incident at Medbay. What a pain in the turbines!
Voodoo forced his sensor inputs to relax. The harder he tried to contact Kyle, the more pain the shield gave him. What the hell was wrong with Kyle? He should know better than to do this! Jerk!
Then the word ĎChenobisí came through somehow. Voodoo concentrated on it, trying to trace the thought through whatever part of the link was not blocked.
But it was all he could get. The corners of Voodooís lip components tightened in a resolute vexation. And unfortunately, he was too far away to immediately do anything about it.
He was going to kill his Interface.
Steve ran another lap around the hydroponicís park. He forced himself to sprint up the hill, swing lightly on the treeís lowest branch and dropped. He paused to catch his breath, gently rubbing his injured shoulder. He ran down the hill and slowed his pace.
Midís voice was so sudden, Parker slid in his tracks and flinched. He had to wait a minute to regain his balance and remembered he had stopped breathing. He coughed and bent over, trying to catch his breath.
<<Iím sorry.>> Mid added sadly.
Parker merely rolled his eyes, but listened in.
<<Voodoo just contacted me. He said Kyle has refused to talk to him all morning and heís too far away to get to Kyle at the moment. Would you look in on him?>>
Steve blinked, wondering what was going through Kyleís head. Then a possibility hit him. <<Iím there.>> he answered simply.
Kyle double checked his armor. Decided this time he would be a little less conspicuous; he wore his long leather trench coat over it accompanied by a dark grey fedora hat. Oma had finally left a couple of hours ago, thinking Kyle was resigning himself to moping around the house all day.
But unfinished business called to him and Kyle instinctively had to complete what was started on Chenobis. He double checked his back pack, counting on a few pieces of equipment, some special gear and request forms. He hoped to somehow find a way to investigate the excavation site himself.
Then he remembered he hadnít checked his mail. He moaned irritably and swept up his keys, leaving his pack on the couch. Kyle opened the door and there stood Steve, ready to ring the bell. The two men blinked, surprised.
"Steve!" Kyle greeted first.
"Kyle!" Steve mocked in turn.
"What are you doing here?"
Steve blinked. "Where are you leaving from here?"
"Downstairs to check my mail." Kyle knew it was a wrong answer.
Steve leaned against the doorpost, left brow raised. "Dressed like that? Afraid someone is going to jump you?"
Kyle glanced away, a dead giveaway for someone who knew him like Steve. "I donít want to argue about this, Steve." Kyle said quietly.
"Good!" Steve shouted a bit loudly. "Iíd hate to resort to uh, chaining you to your own quarters."
Kyle hesitantly shook his head. "I have to go back. You know that."
Parkerís expression bounced in an inward shrug, then his blue eyes pierced Kyleís. "Okay." He accepted easily. "Lemme get my gear."
"Alone." Kyle emphasized.
Steve clenched his jaw. "I canít allow that. You should know that by now."
Kyleís face set itself in determination. "I am not . . . going to argue about this." He repeated firmly. "No more deaths. No more surprises. I am not going to stand by while this creature attacks anyone it chooses."
Steve ran his tongue along his teeth, his eyes remained steadfast on Doctor Scott. "If my memory serves me correctly, it attacked you last."
"Because I got in the way." Kyle retorted, his voice never rising. "It was after Kayla. Itís wrong, Steve. I took an oath as a doctor and staying here endangers everyone around me. I will not have anyone endangered on my account."
ParkerĎs eyes narrowed dangerously, "You are every bit as important as the next person here, Kyle Scott. We are a family and we take care of each other. I will not stand by and watch anyone die without a fight."
"No!" Kyle mourned in desperation. "If you come with me, if you return to Chenobis, you will not come back, Steve. I will not suffer anyone to go through what I went through. Youíve been marked. I know it. No more deaths . . . especially yours."
Steve lost it. He shoved Kyle against the nearby wall, his left arm pinned Scottís neck, his right arm held Kyleís arm behind him. He moved so fast, Kyle had no time to counter strike. "We can do this one of two ways, Doctor," Steve hissed. "Your way, or mine. Weíre going to do this my way. Otherwise, I WILL chain you to your own quarters!"
Kyle shuddered under his grasp. He was trying to protect his friends but they werenít making matters easy for him. Scott drew a breath, his eyes wet with on-coming tears. "And force me to break an oath?" He whispered harshly. "How could you?"
Steve sympathized. Kyle was just as determined to protect them from his fate, as Steve was to save him. Parker swallowed hard. Fear for Kyle tempted him to embrace his friend. "Kyle," he whispered, "This is no easier on me than it is on you." He swallowed hard, "Iíve already lost Rayan and Michael. Iíll be damned if I stand by and loose you too! You guys, you and Jill and Shan and Rhyan and Jeff, Nick . . . all of you are my family. Youíre the only family I have."
Steve slowly released Kyle, so sorry for his rash actions. He turned away as tears choked him inconsolably. He didnít mean to frighten Kyle. "Besides . . ." He added with effort, ". . . some how I finally get to sort of repay you for all the times youíve literally pulled me out of the grave."
Kyle looked away, trying to give Steve a moment of privacy. He swept up his fallen hat and traced its circular rim. He swallowed hard, trying to think of something that would save the moment. They both felt passionately about one anotherís lives. But Steveís argument seemed far more valid than his own. Kyle would have acted the very same way. "There . . . is a cafť on Chenobis I think Kayla would like to see . . ."
Parker didnít look at him right away. He fought with his own shame, drawing two breaths and wiping a tear before turning back to Kyle. He forced a smile and nodded, accepting Kyleís offer.
Kyle hesitated a moment then reached up and brushed Steveís moistened face. He opened his arms and hugged his friend, mindful of Steveís injured shoulder.
They withdrew and Steve acquired a more relaxed breath. "Give me forty-five minutes. Promise?"
Kyle nodded and blinked. "I promise." He swore.
END PART 1