(I’ll let you figure out who these two characters are.)
Caite shuffled agonizingly slowly out of the hoverrail, her shoulders squeezing together as the other passengers pushed to escape the cramped compartment. Lucky for her, she had decided to come into the city during rush hour. But she hadn’t really had much choice in the matter. If she had stayed behind any longer, she would have surely been caught. And she really couldn’t afford that right now.
As soon as she peeled herself from the stampeding horde, Caite stood still for a moment to take a few deep breaths and get her bearings. She was at the hoverrail station in D-Sector of the city. It was only a few miles away from Galaxy Garrison Headquarters, but in order to take the shuttle bus to the base, she needed a special military pass, and Caite didn’t have one. So she would have to walk, then try to figure out how to get in. Terra may depend on her.
Caite exited the station and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians crossed back and forth in front of her, and hovercars littered the magnetic street. She looked left and right, getting a sense of direction, then turned left and began her trek. The disk in her jacket pocket was burning a hole right through to her chest, and she itched to get rid of it. But she had to find the right person first. And that person was Admiral Ricks.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t just call up and make an appointment. Ad. Ricks was a very busy, very important man. He was also the only person Caite could trust with what she had discovered. Caite would have to be very resourceful if she were to gain an audience with him. Conveniently, Caite was a very resourceful young woman. The fact that she actually held the disk in her possession proved that.
Caite glanced behind her and across the street every few moments to make sure she wasn’t being followed. She was positive that by now the others would have realized what she’d done and come after her. There was no way they could let her get away with what was on the disk, let alone what was in her own head. But there was also no way that Caite could let them stop her. Otherwise her fellow human beings, as well as other members of the Galaxy Alliance, may never know freedom again.
She quickened her pace. She hadn’t seen any of them following so far, but she couldn’t take any chances. She still didn’t know what she would do when she got there. She only hoped something would turn up.
* * *
Kayve casually strolled down the street with two of his friends. On his left was Lars, and grasping Lars’ left hand was his wife, Lena. All of them were wearing their "casual" Galaxy Garrison uniforms. Kayve had released the top two buttons of his jacket to give his throat a chance to breath, and he had his hands stuck in his pockets. But he still didn’t quite feel relaxed. He always felt uncomfortable being the third wheel.
Not that Kayve had trouble finding a date. Women were literally lined up to have a crack at him. Kayve had found it amusing, even fun at first, but now it was just a pain in the butt. None of those women could offer him what he wanted. And besides, he enjoyed a challenge, and they provided none.
Kayve had little time to spend on such frivolities, anyway. He was a very busy man, already a Captain at the age of 26 and very well known to military and civilians alike. Galaxy Garrison had already had him running missions when he turned seventeen. He had been only Lt. Commander at the time, but still had more talent than most of higher rank. Kayve had not had a substantial break from duty ever since. He already had his first command three years later when he got promoted to Commander, and now he had even more responsibilities as Captain. But the military was his life, and Kayve knew he enjoyed it, especially when he was out in space. There was only one thing missing…
"Terra to Kayve!"
Kayve blinked, startled out of his thoughts. He turned to see both his friends smiling at him in amusement.
"You looked like you vere in orbit for a moment," Lars commented, a sparkle in his eyes. He spoke with a well-defined Norwegian accent.
Kayve smiled, not too embarrassed. He was used to his friends teasing him for his daydreaming.
"Guess my mind didn’t touch down with the rest of my body," he replied.
This caused them both to laugh.
"Does it ever?" Lena asked. She too carried her husband’s accent.
"I hope you veren’t thinking about military business," Lars spoke up a moment later.
"Come on, Kayve," Lena told him with a knowing grin, "Dis is your vacation. You have to relax!"
"Yes," Lars agreed, throwing his free arm around his friend, "Tonight we celebrate your two days of freedom."
Kayve grinned and nodded, giving in.
"All right, all right" he acceded, "I’ll try to relax."
"Vat you need is to find a girlfriend to take your mind off work," Lena suggested wisely.
Kayve looked down, his grin not quite reaching his eyes. He looked up a moment later and opened his mouth to speak.
"Yeah, well when the right women comes you can…"
Kayve trailed off, his gaze settling straight ahead of him, his eyes widening in wonder as he stared hard at his target. She was an angel. Her strawberry-blonde hair was long and milky; he could tell even though it was tied behind her. Her face was pale and soft-looking, her lips full and red, her eyes a deep hazelnut that told him of the intelligence behind them. He could see just the hint of an incredible body underneath the drab gray suit she wore, as well as the determination in her gait.
And she was walking right toward him.
Lars and Lena glanced over at their friend, wondering about his half-finished sentence. They followed his gaze to search for what he was staring intently at. As soon as they found her, they both smiled and exchanged glances. Lena gently elbowed her husband, and he nodded to her.
Kayve never let his eyes leave her as the woman walked towards him. She was looking around, taking in all her surroundings and paying little attention to where she was going. In fact, if someone just happened to meander into her path, she probably wouldn’t notice until it was too late. With the hint of a sly smile on his face, Kayve ever-so-casually veered over to his right.
* * *
Caite sighed and brushed back a lock of her auburn hair as she continued on with her quick pace. She hadn’t slowed down since she started, except to stop for the occasional traffic light. She had already been walking for half an hour, and she was only halfway to the outskirts of Galaxy Garrison HQ. She still didn’t have a plan to get inside, but she wouldn’t let that stop her.
Caite turned her head to the right to scan the opposite sidewalk once again. So far she still couldn’t see anyone following her, but that did little to quell her suspicions. It was only a matter of time - a short time. The people who were after her had spies everywhere, and there was no doubt that one of them had most likely spotted her by now and informed the others. Caite knew it deep down. She could feel someone watching her.
Caite quickened her pace abruptly.
Caite gasped as soon the collision occurred. She was thrown off-balance and would have been propelled into the wall of a nearby building if strong arms hadn’t wrapped around her to hold her still. She instinctively grasped the person’s arms with her hands tightly, momentarily afraid they may have found her. But as soon as she looked up at him, her face cleared and she relaxed. She recognized him, and knew he wasn’t with the others.
The man smiled down at her, and she marveled at how handsome he looked when he was smiling, especially the warm, encompassing smile he gave her now. She straightened up, shrugged off his arms, and gave him a swift smile that didn’t reach her eyes.
"I’m sorry," she told him, pulling down her jacket to straighten out the wrinkles, "I wasn’t looking where I was going."
He looked down at her in amusement.
"That’s OK," he assured he good-naturedly, "I didn’t mind a bit. Actually, I found it rather exciting."
She looked up at him, trying to figure out his response. His grin seemed genuine enough.
"What’s your name?" he asked her.
Caite hesitated. She really wasn’t in the mood to exchange pleasantries with some fly-boy. But she didn’t want to be rude, either. And she wanted to look at his sparkling eyes just a little longer.
"I’m Caite," she told him finally.
He stuck out his hand, and she returned the gesture so they could shake. He held onto her hand a bit longer than necessary, letting their touch linger.
"I’m Kayve," he replied.
"Yes, I know," she told him.
His eyebrows raised in pleasant surprise.
"You do?" he asked.
"You’re a very famous member of Galaxy Garrison," Caite said, "It would be strange if I didn’t know about you."
Kayve then looked below her face and noticed for the first time the insignia over the left breast of her suit. His face cleared in understanding.
"Ah," he said, "You work for the Terran Consulate."
Caite frowned a bit at the mention of her work, then nodded, glancing disinterestedly at the insignia. When she looked up she looked past Kayve’s shoulder and saw two people behind him, just standing there watching them. They appeared to be a couple, very good-looking and both with dark hair and tanned faces. They seemed to be with Kayve.
Kayve noticed her gaze and glanced behind him sheepishly. The couple then stepped forward.
"Um, sorry," Kayve said, partly to Caite, partly to his friends, "Uh, Caite, these are my friends, Lars and Lena. Guys, this is Caite."
Caite tried to be as congenial as possible as she shook hands with Kayve’s friends. They appeared nice enough, and under any other circumstances Caite would be happy to stand there talking to them. But she had a disk in her pocket that was waiting very impatiently for her to deliver.
"Ve vere just going to have a drink," Lars told Caite, "You are velcome to join us."
Caite shook her head apologetically.
"I’m sorry," she told them, "I don’t drink." Actually, it was true.
Lars nodded in understanding, but Kayve looked a bit disappointed. Then he got inspiration and spoke up.
"Why don’t we go grab some latte?" he suggested hopefully, "There’s a little shop down the street."
Caite was about to make her negative reply when Lena beat her to it.
"I have a better idea," she said slyly, "Why don’t you two go get some latte, and Lars and I will amuse ourselves?"
Kayve looked at her gratefully.
"It vas nice to meet you, Caite," Lars told her as he and Lena backed away.
"I’m sure ve’ll see you again!" Lena added.
Caite’s mouth was still opened, her response still at the tip of her tongue, and watched in surprise as the couple disappeared, leaving her alone with Kayve. Slowly she closed her mouth and looked up to meet his gaze with some reluctance. He was still looking at her hopefully, and she noticed it made him look rather boyish.
"So what do you say?" he asked, slightly nervous as he waited for her response.
Any other time she would have been flattered by his offer.
"Look Kayve, I—" she began, trying not to meet his gaze.
Kayve cut her off and moved closer, putting a hand on her shoulder and smiling at her winsomely.
"Come on," he urged, "I promise you’ll have a good time."
She chanced to look up at him. He was rather good-looking. His dark brown eyes looked down at her expectantly, encouragingly. She suddenly got the urge to lose herself in those eyes, to brush back his unruly black hair, and to—Caite suddenly blinked her eyes and shook her head, breaking their eye-contact. She couldn’t afford be side-tracked by some handsome Galaxy Garrison Captain….Caite’s mind did a double-take and cleared as realization dawned on her. Kayve was a member of Galaxy Garrison, which meant he had free access to the base. It also meant he could probably get in to see Ad. Ricks if he really wanted to. Inspiration filled her. Maybe Kayve was her chance…
She looked back up at him. He was waiting patiently for her, his expression now gentle. She knew Kayve was now her best bet in getting in to see Ad. Ricks. She had been fooling herself before, marching towards Galaxy Garrison HQ without a real plan for once she arrived. Even if it meant delaying things a bit, Caite knew she had to grab this chance.
She smiled up at him. He returned her smile instantly.
"I think that sounds wonderful," she replied finally.
The smile in his eyes deepened.
"Great," he told her warmly.
Never keeping his eyes off her, Kayve steered them around towards the café.
* * *
Kayve was having the best time he’d had for what seemed like years. The smile had never left his face since meeting Caite, and even if his mouth froze that way, he didn’t care. He could have sat there at that small round table forever, admiring Caite’s face and gazing into her eyes. Of course, he enjoyed their conversation immensely as well. He was surprised she knew so much about him, but figured he shouldn’t be since she worked at the Consulate, after all. All those people in politics made every outstanding member of the military their business, and Kayve was one of them, having graduated from the Space Academy as Lt. Commander, and achieved the rank of Captain at age 24. He hadn’t been so glad for that fact until now.
"You know more about me than I do," Kayve remarked with a chuckle, taking a sip from his mug. They had both finished their first drinks over two hours ago. Kayve was now on his fourth, and Caite other third. Luckily they were caffeine and sugar-free.
He saw Caite blush slightly and look away, and was instantly amused by it.
"I’m assigned to the military section at the Consulate," she explained, "It takes care of all political movements that relate to Galaxy Garrison and the Alliance."
"Pretty big section," he commented, "And just exactly what role do you play in it all?"
Caite faltered, appearing uncomfortable at the question. This caused Kayve’s own smile to waver a bit.
"You don’t like your work?" he asked.
She quickly shook her head.
"Oh no, that’s not it," she replied quickly, then added, "Well, sometimes it’s not very fun. But I can’t really complain."
Kayve kept his eyes on her suspiciously. There was more, he could tell, but she was reluctant to continue. She looked up to meet his inquisitive look and hesitated. Kayve instinctively reached out his hand to place it over hers loosely. She looked surprised, but didn’t pull away.
"If there’s something wrong, you can tell me, Caite," he assured her in a tender voice.
Caite smiled sadly and shook her head.
"There’s nothing, really," she told him, trying to sound convincing.
He didn’t buy it and leaned forward closer.
"Come on," he prodded gently, "I know I’ve only known you for a few hours, but it’s obvious something’s been bothering you. You can trust me."
She gave him a strange look, then gently pulled her hand out from under his own. He reluctantly withdrew his outstretched hand, but kept his eyes on her. She appeared to be in indecision. He waited patiently, not wanting to push her. Finally she looked up and met his eyes.
"Kayve, I’d really rather not," she told him very politely, "I can’t bother you with my problems."
He gave her a small smile.
"I don’t mind," he told her.
She looked at him for a moment, then sighed. He leaned forward.
"If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s OK," he said quietly, "Just as long as you know I’m ready and willing to listen."
She managed a return smile and nodded.
"Thank-you," she said simply.
He leaned back and took a sip from his mug, looking at her thoughtfully.
"You know so much about me," he said, "but I know practically nothing about you, aside from where you work. Tell me about your life."
She rolled here eyes.
"Where shall I start?" she asked.
"From the beginning."
He watched her as she sat back in her seat, her face in an expression of thoughtfulness.
"OK," she started, "I was born on the planet Gua’Dhon and lived there for about eleven years before my family came to earth."
He narrowed his eyes at her.
"Are you part Guanese?" he asked.
She smiled and nodded.
"My grandfather was Guanese, but the blood line had thinned out a bit by the time I was born, so I don’t have a lot of it in me, which is why I basically look human. My mother looked a little Guanese, but not a lot of it passed on."
"What are your parents doing now?" he asked.
Her expression grew serious.
"They died on a scientific expedition to the Landon System," she told him, her gaze fixed on her mug, "It was about three years ago. They were in an accident. One of the pieces of equipment they were using was faulty and exploded. It took half the compound with it."
Kayve reached forward and covered her hands with his own.
"I’m sorry, Caite," he told her sincerely.
She smiled and shook her head, looking up at him.
"I’ve been OK," she assured him, "You shouldn’t be saying sorry, anyway. What about your parents?"
Kayve nodded. He had lost his own parents too, though not both at the same time. His father had been very old when Kayve was born, and had died more or less of old age about a year ago. His mother had died giving birth to him, so he’d never known her except for pictures and videos.
"Well now we know we have something in common," Kayve said lightly.
This made them both smile. Caite looked down at her mug, and Kayve noticed he still had his hands over hers. But as long as she didn’t seem to mind, he wasn’t moving them.
"So are you all by yourself?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"My grandmother lives here on Terra, not too far away," she told him, "Her family owned a small farm in the countryside, or what’s left of it. She lives there. I visit her once in a while."
"I’m glad," he told her.
He was smiling warmly at her, and their gazes locked. Kayve could feel his own hands growing warm at their contact with hers. Not only that, he could feel other parts of his body getting warm too as they held eye-contact. Caite seemed a bit nervous, especially when he started leaning in closer.
"Kayve…" she started, but didn’t finish.
He moved in closer, fully intent on doing what he’d been wanting to do from the first time he saw her. Just before he was about to close his eyes, he noticed her own eyes flicker to look at something behind him. Then they suddenly widened, and she immediately pulled back, jerking her hands away from his. He frowned, puzzled.
"I’m sorry, Caite," he began, "I—"
She was shaking her head and gathering her things.
"I have to go," she said quickly, standing.
He stood as soon as she did, and grabbed her arm.
"Look, maybe I moved too fast. I’m sorry," he repeated, "But you don’t have to leave."
She spared him only a short glance.
"Look, I’m sorry, Kayve," she told him, "But, um, something came up. I really enjoyed our talk."
With that she pulled free of his grasp, cast one last quick glance behind him, then hurried away. He stared after her, dumbfounded and more than a little hurt. He hadn’t been that out of line.
Kayve was about to sit back down to wallow in depression when he happened to glance behind him, curious at what Caite had been looking at. He was in time to see two men in dark suits walking quickly in the direction Caite had fled in. What caught Kayve’s attention was that they were wearing Consulate badges over their left breast pockets. They also appeared to be in a bad mood. Kayve watched as they disappeared around the corner, inevitably following Caite.
Kayve narrowed his eyes, suspicion dawning.
* * *
Damn! How could I have been so stupid, sitting right there out in the open! Caite silently cursed herself as she hurried along the busy sidewalk, once again fully aware of the small round disk in her pocket. She had gotten far too sidetracked with Kayve, acting as if her own personal interests were more important than that of the entire planet. She had been so tempted to tell Kayve her secret, but she felt too ashamed to tell him, too ashamed about her part in the whole conspiracy. Though she still wasn’t sure why his opinion of her was so important, she didn’t want him to know what she had done.
Caite glanced behind her and saw that the two men were still on her tail. She couldn’t let them catch her. But she didn’t know where she could go. No place was safe. Caite knew that if she just kept running in plain view, they would catch up to her eventually, or else send someone to intercept her. So she made a quick, rash decision and ducked down the next alleyway, hoping it would lead her to a side street or someplace she could hide. Unfortunately, as she soon found out, it did not.
Caite felt her frustration grow as she faced the ugly dead-end. She turned around, intent on returning to the street, when two figures blocked her path. They looked down at her with smirks on their faces. One of the men reached into his jacket and pulled out a pocket stunner.
"Just cooperate with us, and I won’t have to use this, Miss Sarrian," the man told her calmly, "Please, hand over the disk."
Caite backed away from them. There was no way she was handing over the disk. She soon found herself backed against the hard steel wall. The two men advanced slowly.
"There’s no where to run," the first man told her, "Give us the disk and come with us. Then nobody has to get hurt."
He was wrong, however, as a third figure ducked into the alley and grabbed the man from behind. Caite watched in surprise as Kayve, using skills he no doubt learned in the military, quickly and efficiently unarmed the man and knocked him cold with a single bare fist. When the second man went to help his partner, Kayve quickly took care of him as well, without even breaking a sweat. Once both men were down, Kayve looked up quickly at Caite, concern playing over his eyes.
"Are you all right?" he asked her.
Caite nodded mutely, still surprised he had come.
Kayve stepped forward, grabbed her hand, and pulled her out of the alley onto the sidewalk. As they walked, Kayve kept his hand firmly around hers and looked down at her questioningly.
"What was that all about?" he asked.
She hesitated, looking down, unwilling to meet his gaze. Kayve stared at her for only a moment before he reached over with his free hand and gently turned her head to face him. She looked up at him reluctantly.
"It’s a long story," she told him finally.
"I have all night," he replied.
Caite glanced around them warily. The sidewalk they were on was still busy.
"I can’t tell you here," she said.
"Then let’s go someplace where we can talk."
* * *
He took her to his apartment, which was very close to GG HQ. It was a very clean place, as most were in this sector of the city. Kayve’s apartment was rather small, with only a small bedroom, tiny kitchen and bathroom, and a main room that housed a couch, vid-screen, reclining chair, and not much else. As soon as they got in, Kayve sat Caite on the couch and got them two glasses of water before sitting next to her. Then he just looked at her and waited.
Caite sipped her water, still reluctant to meet his gaze. She sighed, set the glass down, and rested her hands on her lap.
"Before I start," she told him, "this is very important. Please promise you won’t tell anyone, yet."
Caite drew in a deep breath. OK, it was now or never, and she was pretty sure Kayve wouldn’t settle for never.
"I started working for the Consulate four years ago," she told him, "I got assigned to the military section only a year-and-a-half ago. At first I was only given little assignments. But I guess since they thought I was so good, they let me in on the big stuff. I was on the committee that took care of relations between Terra and the V’Ki race. I was supposed to help handle negotiations and make sure the V’Ki diplomats were treated well while they were on earth. It was supposed to be a great honor, being on that committee. Now I almost wish they hadn’t given me that assignment."
He kept his gaze on her, his interest growing at the mention of the V’Ki.
"There was this case file named Lukra V’Ki," she told him, "It means V’Ki Rising. I guess I wasn’t supposed to know about it. But when I found it, the others told me what it was all about. I guess I was so shocked at first, I didn’t know what to do."
"What was it?" he asked.
"It was a plan," she admitted, "A conspiracy between the V’Ki and certain members of both the Consulate and the Galaxy Alliance."
"The alliance the V’Ki have proposed is phony," she told him, "It’s a trick. They’re only pretending to be our allies. They’ve been using their peace treaty with Terra as a means to send their ships to our system. They’ve been sending war ships disguised as transports and diplomatic vessels. They plan on amassing an army in order to take over the planet. They’ve agreed to spare the lives and positions of their Terran conspirators in exchange for their cooperation."
Kayve let out his breath soundly, the gravity of her story obviously weighing on him heavily. Caite paused, hoping he would believe her, knowing her story sounded fantastical. She was surprised when he suddenly took her hand.
"So that’s why you ran?" he asked.
Caite looked down, suddenly ashamed. She pulled her hand away from his before continuing.
"That was months ago," she admitted to him, staring down at her lap, "When...when they told me, I was overwhelmed. I knew that if I didn’t go along with it, then they’d…So I agreed to help them."
She could feel his frown without even having to look up. She very badly didn’t want to have to tell him.
"I helped them to cover it up," she continued, "I knew what was going to happen. But, I didn’t think there was anything I could do. I didn’t even have any proof."
Caite reached up absently to wipe away a tear that had been threatening to escape her eyelids. When she brought her hand back down, she felt Kayve take it in his and looked at their clasped hands in puzzled silence.
"But you did the right thing in the end," he whispered to her, his voice surprisingly close.
Caite closed her eyes and nodded.
"Finally," she said, "but I don’t know how much it’ll help. I just couldn’t stay there anymore and help them. I couldn’t do that to my family."
Kayve put an arm around her and tried to pull her in for comfort, but she refused to be drawn into his embrace.
"No," she said, shaking her head. She finally looked up at him, tears still in her eyes.
"Look," she said, "I don’t deserve you helping me. I made a mistake and I have to pay for it. I have to turn myself in."
Kayve shook his head.
"Turn yourself in?" he asked in disbelief, "Caite, you didn’t do anything wrong."
"Yes I did!" she replied emphatically, "I helped them! I’m a part of that!"
"No, you’re not," he told her firmly, "Caite, you had no choice but to help them."
"I could have left," she said.
"Yeah, and get yourself killed," he said.
Caite looked down, shaking her head.
"That sounds so selfish, considering how many people the V’Ki will kill when they invade," she said.
Kayve cupped a hand under her chin and turned her to face him. Their eyes met, and he looked down at her tenderly.
"You risked your life today," he told her, "and you told someone the truth. That’s not selfish, Caite. I know you would never do anything to hurt your people."
She almost laughed.
"How do you know that?" she asked.
"I can see it," he told her, "just by looking at your eyes. You’ve never purposely hurt anyone. I doubt you could do it."
She blinked at him, suddenly entranced by his gaze. She found she had little control over her body as he leaned in close to her. She knew she should turn away and not let him get close to her, but her heart just wouldn’t listen to her mind. She closed her eyes and let him kiss her. His kiss was very tender, and very light, and she found herself wanting more as he slowly removed his lips from hers moments later. But she didn’t say so.
Their eyes met then, and his were smiling very warmly at her. His hand caressed her cheek softly. Caite brought a hand of her own up and put it over his for a moment, then pulled it away from her face. But he wouldn’t let go of her hand, even though it was obvious she was backing off.
"Sorry," he apologized again, "I couldn’t help it."
She didn’t reply, just looked down at their hands and sighed. He remained silent for only a few short moments before speaking up.
"So what was your plan?" he asked her.
Caite smiled humorlessly.
"I didn’t really have one," she admitted, "except to talk to Admiral Ricks. My decision to leave was more or less spur-of-the-moment."
"I can get you in to see Admiral Ricks," he offered.
She looked up at him quickly.
"Could you?" she asked hopefully.
He grinned at her cockily.
"Hey, I’m not the fleet’s number one pilot for nothing," he told her, "I do have my connections."
She smiled at him gratefully.
"I’ll even go with you," he added.
"You don’t have to—" she started.
He shook his head.
"I want to," he assured her, "Besides, he likes me. And this is important."
She just nodded. He still held her hands, and Caite was beginning to feel a bit nervous. She glanced down at their grasp once again, and noticed her timepiece. She then pulled her hands away and stood up. He followed her quickly.
"It’s getting late," she told him, "I should go."
"And where will you go?" he asked her.
Caite hesitated, not really having an answer. Kayve spoke up before she could make one up.
"You’ll stay here," he told her decisively.
Caite immediately shook her head.
"No, I couldn’t," she told him, "You’ve already done enough."
"I insist," he told her, taking her arm and guiding her to his bedroom, "You can have my room. I’ll take the couch."
"Don’t argue with me," he warned her good-naturedly, "I almost never lose an argument."
She looked up at him and returned his smile with a weak one of her own.
"You’re being very generous," she told him.
He gave her a wide smile.
"Hey, it’s not every day I get to have a beautiful woman sleep over," he said.
She smiled nervously and looked down, trying not to blush. Other men had called her that before, but coming from Kayve it somehow meant a lot more.
Kayve leaned in and gave her a light peck on the cheek.
"Good-night, Caite," he told her quietly.
She looked back up at him.
"Good-night," she replied.
He gave her one last warm smile before backed away out of the room. The door automatically shut behind him. As soon as he was gone, Caite let herself fall on the bed. It was the first time that day she had been able to relax. She was relieved for the most part that she didn’t have to keep her horrible secret all to herself. She now had someone to share it with. But she only wished she didn’t have to drag Kayve into it. He had been so kind to her from the start, she didn’t like imposing on him. But she had to remind herself that he had been the one to insist.
Cite patted her pocket, feeling the disk underneath the thin fabric. She hadn’t told Kayve about her proof. The less he knew about the disk at this point the better. Once it was safely in the hands of Admiral Ricks, then everything would be OK. But until then, Caite had to protect it, even if it cost her her life. She owed her planet that much.
Feeling more weary than she ever had in her whole life, Caite barely managed to shed her shoes and jacket before she snuggled into the bed and fell fast asleep. She hadn’t even bothered to use covers.
* * *
When Caite woke up the next morning, she felt very disoriented. She knew right away she wasn’t in her own apartment. It took her a few moments to realize where she was. She sat up in the bed, throwing off the blanket that had somehow been spread over her sleeping form. Caite didn’t remember covering herself last night. She sat on the edge of the bed, putting her bare feet down on the hard floor.
Caite jumped at the knock at the door.
"Come it!" she called shortly.
The door slid open, and Kayve appeared. He was barefoot, wearing only a pair of uniform pants and a thin white undershirt. His hair was wet and uncombed. He looked very appealing. Caite had to make an effort to tear her eyes off him.
"Did you sleep OK?" he asked.
He came around and sat next to her. Caite unconsciously raised her hands to fix her hair, which probably looked horrible. She had forgotten to take it down the night before, so she let it loose now, trying to comb her fingers through it to bring it to some semblance of order. Kayve watched her.
"I have a shift this morning," he informed her finally, "I’m going to try to get an appointment with Admiral Ricks. I should be back sometime late this afternoon."
"Thank-you," she repeated.
He smiled and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"No problem," he told her, "This concerns me too."
She turned and looked up at him. His smile was warm. He moved his hand to caress her cheek, and she shortly turned away and edged away just a little bit. He frowned slightly, but was undaunted by her sudden rejection. He stood up and started rifling through his drawers for socks.
"You remember Lena, right?" he asked her as he pulled them on.
"From last night?" she asked.
"She’s coming by later," he told her, "She gonna bring you some clothes. I don’t want you to go back to your apartment."
She nodded mutely, too tired to argue.
As soon as he finished dressing in his uniform, Kayve turned back to her.
"Don’t go anywhere," he told her, "I’ll hurry back as fast as I can."
Again she nodded mutely. Kayve stepped forward and started to reach out a hand, then thought better of it and stepped back. He gave her a small smile.
"Later, then," he said.
He gave her one last look before leaving the room. Caite got up to watch him leave. She waited until he had been gone for a few minutes before she went back into the bedroom and started gathering her things. A few minutes later, Caite left Kayve’s apartment and headed back towards the city.
* * *
Kayve was very impatient for his shift to end. The afternoon hours seemed to drag on forever. He was relieved when it came to four o’clock and he could finally leave the GG HQ. On his way out, he ran into a friend.
"Hey, Lars," Kayve greeted his friend, who was just coming in for his shift.
"Good afternoon, Kayve," Lars greeted him back.
"Have you talked to Lena lately?" Kayve asked.
Lars’ amiable expression turned to a slight frown.
"Yes, I spoke to her an hour ago," he admitted.
"Did she get to the apartment OK?"
"Yes, she did."
"So did she say how Caite was doing?"
Lars’ frown deepened.
"I am afraid she could not."
Now Kayve mirrored his friend’s frown.
"Why not?" he asked warily.
"Because Caite vas not there," Lars replied.
Kayve stared at him.
"She’s gone?" he asked.
"Did it look like maybe someone broke in?" Kayve asked anxiously.
Lars shook his head.
"No," he said, "Lena thinks Caite left on her own."
"Damn!" Kayve swore softly, appearing very frustrated.
Lars looked at his friend with both confusion and concern.
"Can you tell me vhat is going on?" he asked.
Kayve looked at him and hesitated.
"Sorry, Lars, but I can’t," he said apologetically, "at least for now. I promised Caite."
Lars nodded understandingly.
"OK," he said, "If you ever need any help, you know who to ask."
Kayve smiled gratefully and patted Lars on the shoulder.
When they parted, Kayve hurried to his vehicle and drove off GG grounds quickly He had to find Caite before she got herself into trouble. And he had a fairly good idea of where she would be.
* * *
On toPart Two