"What?" Demanded James. He jumped to his feet, sending his chair crashing to the floor.
"You can't!" Brendan yelped as he scrambled to his feet.
Grabbing Jessye's hand, Melissa asked, "What does that mean?"
"No!" cut in Ian. "We'll find another way! How can we save Shay by losing you?"
Everyone was hovering over Jessye, protesting. For a second Jessye just looked at them.
"My god," she thought in amazement. "Look at them. They really do love me."
Swallowing the lump in her throat Jessye waived them back to their seats.
"Calm down, its not as bad as it sounds. Its not as if they want me to be their love-slave or anything. They want me to come back and work for them," she said.
"You said they owed you. Why do you have to work for them if they owe you?" asked Brendan.
"They told me, to do something as dangerous as go against the Dragans, they needed an invested interest. A reason to make this their problem." Jessye said with a snort.
Crossing her arms and rolling her eyes, Jessye continued in an aggrieved voice,
"Jerks! Invested interest my ass. They're just ungrateful. When I think of the things I did for them."
"I don't understand. What kind of things? What do they make you do?" Margaret asked in a suspicious voice.
Laughing softly, Jessye said. "It's nothing bad. I swear. Just running messages and delivering packages."
Jessye made her best innocent little girl face and added, "You know, going unnoticed. You'd be amazed how easy it is for me to move around without being noticed by the adults."
Looking down at her flat chest she sighed,
"I guess I am a bit uninteresting. Half the time when they do notice me they think I'm a boy. It's a good thing I was good at it and they want me back. But the few weeks I worked for them, they treated me ok and I had a place to stay and food to eat, I even got tips sometimes. I'll be all right. Really."
"I don't care what they want you for or how they treated you. You're family now and we won't let you do this." Stated Margaret firmly.
Listening to the others agreeing, Jessye stood up and walked to Margaret's side.
"Oh, Margaret. I love you guys."
Taking Margaret's hand, Jessye continued "I don't want to leave, but how could I live with myself if Shay died when I had a way to save him?"
Looking at her friends, her precious new family, Jessye smiled sadly. "If some one can think of another way, please, tell me now."
No one answered. They had tried to think of something, but no one could think of a way to get to Shay.
"See, this is the only way. " Jessye said softly.
In a resolute tone Jessye added, "Besides, I wasn't asking for permission. I've already made the deal. I'm doing this. For Seamus."
Sitting back down at the table, Jessye watched the faces of her friends as they digested that statement. When she thought it had sunk in deep enough she continued.
"What you have to do for me is to never let Shay know that I left for him. He'll imagine horrible things happening to me and he'll feel guilty. If…I mean when, when we get him back, I won't have to leave for two days. I'll think of something to tell him."
"Where would you be going, Jess? We could still see you, couldn't we? Asked Brendan.
"Yes, added Melissa with hope in her voice "You wouldn't have to work for them forever. You could come back right?"
"That's the part that sucks. I wouldn't mind it so much if I could still keep in touch with you but …… they are going to be leaving Earth in a few days. Somehow they managed to get a small ship and bribed a Dragon for a transit pass; I don't know exactly what they traded for that. Probably their souls. I was lucky they hadn't already left. So when I go, I go forever. I won't ever come back."
With that statement the group fell into a depressed silence.
Looking at the clock on the wall Jessye stood up.
"I have to go. With luck I'll be back before dawn. I, um…." looking down at the ground Jessye tried to find the words, "I just wanted you all to know, I'll always think of you as my family, no matter where I am. Nothing can ever change that." Afraid that they would try to stop her Jessye didn't wait for a response, she just ran out the door.
The first thought to register on Shamus's brain was FIRE! I'm on fire!"
As consciousness took a stronger hold he realized there was no fire. Opening his swollen eyes as best he could he realized it was the course blanket wrapped around his body that was causing the burning sensation. His whole body was covered in cuts, bruises and electrical burns. The covering was snagging each gouge in his tender flesh. As his mind began to focus past the pain, he realized someone was carrying him. He was slung over someone's shoulder. From his position he could barely make out the bone blades in the mans forearm. He could here his footsteps echoing as he was carried through the garrison.
"Dragan Bastard! Where, are you taking me?" he thought
He wanted to scream it. He wanted to kick and scream and claw and fight. But he was so tired. So weak, he couldn't even lift his head more than an inch. And all that came out of his mouth was a low moan.
A male voice hissed, "Keep quiet, kludge!" Don't make me punish you."
After a few minutes the Dragan stopped and pulled something out of his jacket.
As Seamus was shifted into the light he was able to make out the front gate to the garrison.
"Why does the commander want the kludge moved tonight?" asked the guard as he signed the release papers. "Only a few hours and they want him strung up? He hasn't been punished nearly enough."
"This one is to be crucified," sneered the tall, muscular Nietzschean. "Commander Quitemic wants him screaming when they drive the nails in," he added with an evil laugh.
"No,no,no! They can't do that. Oh, god." Seamus thought as he started to struggle weakly. "I am not going out like that."
At that moment a ground transport pulled in front of the gate.
"Good, my crew is here," said the Nietzschean carrying Seamus.
He walked quickly to the transport and tossed his squirming, whimpering bundle into the back compartment. Circling to the passenger seat the dark haired Nietzschean entered the cab and the transport drove away in the direction of the ghetto.
Jessye watched the transport roll to a stop. Hidden in the shadows she waited as the tall muscular Nietzschean exited the vehicle.
Stepping into the moonlight, she whispered softly, "Well Mackie, did it work? Did you get him?"
The Nietzsche walked over to her. Looking down at the slim girl he nodded. "It was easy. Those Dragan fools didn't suspect a thing," he said with disgust.
Walking to the rear of the transport Jessye peered into the rear. "How is he? Did you get him out before they did too much damage?" asked Jessye.
A small curvaceous woman jumped out of the drivers seat. She called, "Jess, don't!"
The petite woman walked to the rear of the vehicle.
"He's in pretty bad shape but he'll live," she said.
Placing her hand on Jessye's shoulder she said, "You don't want to see him like that. Trust me."
Pushing the woman away, Jessye laughed mockingly, "Ha, that's funny, Estrella. Especially coming from you. It's a little late in the game to try to protect me. You're the one who got me in this mess in the first place!"
Scowling at the woman, who was only a few inches taller, she continued her rant.
"I never wanted to come back to Earth. And now that I have people I care about, I have to leave."
Turning away, Jessye climbed into the transport. She knelt down next to Seamus. He was still wrapped up in the blanket. Pulling the blanket away from his body, she gasped.
"Damn it, they only had him for seven hours. Don't they have anything better to do with their time than beat up on kids?" Jessye asked, outraged.
Swallowing back the lump in her throat and blinking back the tears, she examined his naked body carefully.
"Well, he's lacerated, battered, and bruised. Plus burned a bit," Jessye said softly. "But it looks like they were expecting to play with him for a while. At least we got him before they got to the really gruesome stuff," she said as she softly ran her fingers through Seamus' hair.
Leaning against the transports open rear door, the Nietzschean said, "I cleaned him up as best I could. He was in pain and agitated, so I tranked him."
Nodding her head, Jessye said, "That's just as well, the less he sees and hears, the better."
Reaching past Jessye into the back compartment he pulled out a package. "I grabbed his clothes, but I was more concerned with getting him out fast," he said. "He freaked out when I tried to dress him," He added.
Snorting, Jessye rolled her eyes. "Gee, I can't imagine why," she mocked.
Gesturing for the Nietzsche to join her Jessye undid the bundle of worn and torn clothes. Together they began to dress Seamus.
Estrella sat on the edge of the opening and watched the two. As they finished dressing the unconscious boy she asked, "Jessye did you do it?"
"Of course I did! You know I did." Jessye said angrily.
Looking from one to the other the Nietzschean asked, "What? Did what?"
Exiting the transport, Jessye pointed towards a post on the side of the road.
Walking over to the post, he gasped. "Jessye? This wasn't part of the plan."
Turning to the two females he demanded, "Why?"
"Oh, this was always part of the plan Mack, just not yours" Jessye said, with simple aplomb.
Moving to each side of him, the girls looked up at the post. Eight feet up was a crucified body. The body was of a young human male.
"Those orders from Quitemic were real," Jessye, said. "They were planning to crucify Shay. We just moved the date forward. Did you really think we could snatch Shay and disappear?" she asked.
Estrella looked up at the handsome man. Frowning she said, "Your not from Earth and you've never had to claw your way through life, so I'm going to enlighten you. A successful scam is one in which the victim doesn't know he's been scammed."
"If the Dragans think they've been tricked they will tear the ghetto apart. They would look for Shay and the people who took him," Jessye said.
Pointing towards the buildings around them she continued, "All the people here would suffer."
"We didn't tell you or the others because we knew you wouldn't be able to handle it. We didn't want you to try to stop us," said Estrella.
"But to kill one child to save another, how can you justify that?" he asked angrily.
Stepping in front of the Nietzschean, Jessye looked up at his outraged face.
"I'm not a monster Mackie," she said sharply. "I didn't kill that poor boy! Finding fresh corpses isn't as hard as you would think. Not on Earth."
Turning to stare at the hanging boy, Jessye shook her head slowly. Rubbing her face with both hands, she added in a soft quivering voice, "I spent the last few hours checking flash houses. They just sort of toss out the overdose victims. Dead bodies were easy to find, boys the right age were a bit harder. I paid a flasher to carry the body here and help me hoist it up."
"Oh! That's just, just…….., he stammered.
Gruesome? Welcome to Earth." said Estrella.
"Come on handsome," said Jessye. Linking her arm in his, she led him back to the transport. "Lets get Seamus home."
After a short ride, the transport arrived at its destination. Estrella parked the transport in an alley. Jessye and Mack exited the vehicle.
From the drivers seat Estrella handed Mackie a shirt with long, full sleeves. "Put this on. It'll cover your bone blades. If they see you're a Nietzschean they'll freak," she said.
Walking to the back, Jessye opened the door and checked on Shay. Seeing him thrashing about and moaning she laid a hand on his forehead. "Shhhhhhh," she soothed, while stroking his face gently. "It's all right, your safe. You just rest Shay."
Moaning softly Seamus fell back into a fitful sleep.
"Mackie the drugs are wearing off. We've got to hurry." Jessye called.
Walking past Jessye, Mack reached into the transport and gently pulled Seamus out. Holding him in his arms he looked down at the young human. " He's so small. Sometimes I am ashamed of what my people have become. This is not the work of superior beings," he whispered softly.
Side by side they walked through the dark streets toward the Harper house.
As they approached the house, Jessye hesitated.
Looking at the Nietzschean she said, "This isn't going to work. Even with your arms covered its obvious your not one of us. You're too muscular and your clothes are too nice and new. At best they'll label you a collaborator. Besides, they would want to grill you about your intentions towards me and you aren't a very good liar. That will give my lies away and I don't want them to remember me like that."
Shaking her head she turned to him.
"I can't do it anymore. Not for one more day. I have to get away from here. It's breaking my heart," she cried.
Taking a deep breath, she said, "Lay him on the stoop."
The Nietzschean put the boy down and stepped back. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" He said kindly.
"I didn't want to do any of this. But life rarely lets me do what I want. Just go, I just want to say good by to Shay, then I'll meet you at the transport," she said, waving him away.
Shaking his head, Mack turned and walked into the night. Before he had gotten more than a block, he heard an exclamation as the door was opened and the two children were discovered. Seeing them being pulled into the house, he smiled and continued on his way.
Two days later Jessye sat on a chair facing the sleeping boy.
"Shay, wake up," Jessye said as she gently shook him.
Moaning he opened his eyes. As his mind started to focus he cringed away from the figure hovering above him.
"Shay, its me Jessye. Your safe," she said, in a soothing voice. "Every things ok. Look, your home." Jessye said softly.
In a barely audible croak he asked, "Home? Safe?" Looking around the room, his tense body relaxed. "Home," he repeated to himself.
"Don't fall asleep Shay. I want you to focus. I have something to say and I don't have much time. I have to do this while everyone's out of the house," Jessye said.
"Shorty?" Seamus asked, sleepily.
"Don't call me, Jessye started to say. Smiling down at him she said, "Never mind, you can call me that if you want."
"I'm going away, Seamus. I'm leaving and I need to say goodbye," she said.
" Leaving? Goodbye?" he repeated in a confused voice.
"I know your tired, and you have a fever but I can't wait any longer to say goodbye. Just listen and try to understand," she said.
"I'm leaving. I've got a chance to leave Earth and start a new life." Jessye said, trying to sound happy.
Looking into his unfocused eyes she thought, "Oh, what the hell! He's not going to remember this anyways." Looking around to make sure no one else was there, she leaned close to Shay and whispered, "Shay, I'm leaving Earth and I won't ever come back, but I want you to know I will always think of you. I love you and I will always love you."
Looking at Shay she could see he had drifted off to sleep again. Sitting up, she checked to make sure there was still no one in the house.
Leaning back in, she continued, "Someday you'll leave Earth and you'll be a great man. You'll do important things." Smiling she stroked his hair. "I'm going to find you again Seamus Zelasney Harper and when I do, I'm going to make you my sweetheart; or my love slave, I haven't decided yet."
Pressing her cheek to his chest, Jessye listened to his heart beating. The tears she had been holding back since his rescue finally broke through. Letting her defenses down, she let them flow. She wept for all the things she should have said, but didn't. She wept for the things she wanted so desperately to change, but couldn't. Mostly she wept for the incredible unfairness of it all.
After a while Jessye stood up and wiped her tears away. She stared at his sleeping form, watching him breath. Taking his hand and pressing it to her cheek, she whispered, "Shay, things are going to get bad. Do whatever you have to do. Don't ever give up."
Standing over his sleeping form, Jessye bent over and placed a gentle kiss on his warm brow. " Goodbye, my dear, sweet friend. My treasure. Don't forget me," she whispered in his ear. Walking to the front of the house, Jessye picked up her bag from the couch, took one last look at this simple home that had meant so much to her and walked out the door.THE END