Return To Tev'Meck

(Sequel to 'The Sigournate Virus')

- Chapter 23 -

Luchien's compatriots, Liamoto and T'Neeson, had taken Lieutenant Tawney Madison and Ensign Katelyn Wingate to separate huts, in order to isolate them from everyone else until sunset. Worse still, each Elder had managed to convince other Village Elders that Luchien was doing the right thing; therefore, each hut was heavily guarded. Neither woman was allowed to see anyone.

Lazarus was enraged by what his father and brother had done, causing the normally level headed Tev'Meckian to have to be restrained by both Laredo and Taggert.

"Damn it, Peter!" Lazarus seethed as he yanked yet again at the restraining hand that his commander had on his upper arm. "Release me now."

"Calm down, Laz," Taggart encouraged, to no avail. He then pulled his trump card. "As soon as we were alone, I contacted The Protector, and asked that current laws of your planet be pulled. There's got to be a loophole we've missed!" At the Tev'Meckian's dubious look, Taggart continued, with a smirk, "Well, we all know what's been on your mind the last few months...and it doesn't have anything to do with anyone's laws!"

Lazarus' face obtained a slightly pinkish complexion at this, but the look of worry was still there. "Yes, I know, but I can't just stand here and do nothing. I can't!" He growled.

"Look, Laz...I hope to hear from The Protector soon...and, the way things have been going, we're due for some good news for a change!" He added, "I mean, come on, at least things can't get any worse!"

As if to disprove Peter's last words, a commotion was heard outside. The two quickly rushed out, only to find that their hut was also heavily guarded. They were, however, able to see what appeared to be some Tev'Meckians, rushing to the aid of a fallen comrade.

It was, in fact, L'Tisha who had fallen, and had twisted her ankle. Her cry of pain reached Laredo and Lethe. The newly "engaged" couple quickly joined T'Hessen and L'Tisha.

"I've got my first-aid kit right here," Laredo said, quickly tending to the fallen woman. As he did so, T'Hessen brought Lethe up to date, mentally, on the events. "He's gonna do what?" Laredo exclaimed, in shock. It was at that moment everyone realized that Lethe and Laredo had, in fact, established a mental Bond.

Lethe's shock had carried, not only to Laredo, but also to the males in her family. Lazarus squeezed Peter's arm, allowing a brief smile of triumph to grace his features. Luchien and Lareth, on the other hand, were stunned by the knowledge that Ipthar had, indeed, allowed the Bond to form between one of their family, and yet another accursed human. The shock of the two Tev'Meckian males caused them to falter…and this gave Lethe, Laredo, T'Hessen, and L'Tisha time to reach the crowd. "You can't do this!" Laredo cried out. "It's uncivilized!"

"Not only that," added T'Hessen, "But it is now illegal!" Gasps were heard throughout the crowd.

At the entrance to their hut, Commander Taggart and Dr. Lazarus breathed sighs of relief and victory. They might make it back to The Protector unscathed, after all!

In another hut, Lieutenant Tawney Madison and Ensign Katelyn Wingate heard the visiting Elder's words, and hugged each other triumphantly. Even though the Ensign had been jealous of Tawney (and-if the truth were known-the reverse had been true, briefly, when the Lieutenant saw her C. O. flirting with the Ensign), thoughts of a fight, especially to the death, appalled her.

T'Hessen withdrew a communiqué from his robes; while it was from his Village, the decree applied to all Tev'Meckians. He addressed the crowd. "Yes, duels such as that which Luchien and Lareth had proposed, are now illegal…however, the punishment for propagating such an act is severe…." He gazed at Luchien. "…and the punishment is no less severe for those who force their thoughts upon an-other." He now gazed pointedly at Lareth, who felt his knees give way, in shock: His "assault" on the human lieutenant had been discovered!

Frantically, he searched his memory for the laws which applied to his misdeed. Recalling the words of his teachers, he paled. "Father, they wouldn't…would they?" He "begged", in terror. "I'm afraid they WOULD, my son," Lareth "replied", "…and, since I did nothing to stop it in your youth, I'll probably be subjected to the same thing…if not worse!"

L'Tisha spotted Lareth, as he fell to his knees…and felt his mind reaching for hers. "Please…you must stop them!" He "begged" his soon-to-be Bond mate, his eyes wide with terror…for the punishment he faced was to have his telepathic abilities ripped from his mind. All Tev'Meckian schoolchildren were taught this, as they learned their planet's laws. This particular punishment was said to be extremely painful, and was to be done, publicly, by all the wives of the Village Elders.

"Why should I…after all the times you forced your thoughts upon me, in our childhood?" was L'Tisha's immediate response…then, she felt her heart go out to the one Ipthar had decreed should be her Bond mate. "Very well, foolish man," She "scolded", "I will try…."

She then turned to her father…who had a gleam of triumph in his eyes. "Father…?" She "asked", fear clutching her heart. She knew her long-kept secret was soon to be revealed, and couldn't bear the thought that she would not have a complete Bonding with her Life mate.

"Not yet, my Daughter," He "replied". "Besides, if I have these Humans judged correctly, it will never come to that!"

L'Tisha gave her father a small appreciative smile before turning toward where Lareth, still on his knees, had his gaze trained intently on her. She swapped the appreciative smile for a reassuring one before glancing away and turning her attention to where the humans were approaching where they stood.

Tawney and Katelyn were both now rejoined with Peter and Laz and both couples were walking hand in hand with one another. Lethe and Laredo joined them through the crowd and at last the four Protector crew members and their loves were standing before their Tev'Meckian savior.

"T'Hessen, you have no idea how much we appreciate your help." Peter told the Elder with a large smile as he held out his hand to shake the Tev'Meckian's hand.

The visiting Elder became somber, while his daughter lowered her eyes in shame...for she knew what her father was about to say. A sudden thought struck Lazarus and Lethe, simultaneously, as they realized the reason for their brother's anguish.

"Laz?" Tawney questioned. Near them, Laredo looked a question at Lethe.

Lethe merely squeezed Laredo's hand, as T'Hessen spoke. "Yes, it is true. Lareth has violated the mind of another: He did so, apparently regularly, to my daughter, when they were young."

Tawney's fear at the memory of Lareth's assault on her resurfaced, and showed on her face. "Tawney...NO!" Peter exclaimed, just ahead of Laz's yell of outrage.

Peter found himself having to physically restrain his Chief Advisor as Lazarus launched himself at his own brother, intent on strangling him with his bare hands.

"Uh...I suppose I could be added to that list," Lethe spoke up hesitantly, before she recounted her action upon meeting Tawney in the Departure Hut.

"But you were welcoming me. Plus, you were under a great deal of stress, so I can't really fault you for forgetting to actually speak," consoled Tawney. Looking at T'Hessen, she added, "Right?"

"That is correct," acknowledged T'Hessen, "besides, it is customary for us to welcome visitors in that manner. As you've pointed out, Lethe was under stress...enough stress that she did not realize she was 'addressing' a Human. On the other hand, what Lareth did was done totally in anger."

"...and hatred," the visitors added silently.

"Uh...excuse me," Laredo spoke up. "What was this 'punishment' you were talking about?"

By this time, Luchien and Lareth had been brought forth by the Elders, save the two who had tried to spear Tawney to death...and Liamoto and T'Noseen were being dragged along by their wives, M'ianne, and L'Riss.

"Ah, yes... I heard what you two tried to do before we arrived," T'Hessen scolded his former friends, who-in failing to meet T'Hessen's eyes-convicted themselves immediately. "The two of you will face similar punishment."

"Which is...?" prompted Commander Taggart. Suddenly, he had a sick feeling in his gut.

"They will all be stripped of their telepathic abilities; they have lost the right to 'keep secrets' from anyone...ever again."

Laz then, briefly, explained the method; in his anger, he refused to meet his father or brother's eyes...and so missed the looks of horror on the faces of his shipmates. Tawney's gasp of shock caused him to raise his head. "No!" She cried out.

Ensign Wingate quickly agreed. "There has to be an alternative!"

T'Hessen suppressed his joy at this, but he "told" his daughter, "I knew they would not stand for this! Do not despair, Daughter! All will be well...eventually." Aloud, he said, "Yes...there is another option...if the Lifemate of Lazarus is agreeable."

At Tawney's enthusiastic nod, T'Hessen said, "Very well. The Elders' wives will inform you of the alternative." Here, he handed L'Riss a paper...although, he could tell from her wolfish grin that she already knew what it said. "Take them away!" commanded T'Hessen. Luchien, Lareth, Liamoto, and T'Noseen were immediately placed in the same hut previously occupied by Taggart and Lazarus.

"Come with us, please," M'ianne requested meekly...deceptively meekly, if Tawney was reading the Tev'Meckian's body language correctly.

"This could get interesting!" Tawney allowed herself to think. She then realized that, through no action of her own, her thought had not reached her Lifemate. "Oh, yes...very interesting!" She now thought, devilishly.