MORALE BOOSTER

(Written by me, with input from my friend, Oceana.)

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The sun was beginning to set as a tired young man stumbled down the mountain side. His clothes were torn and muddy, his skin green with grass stains and brown with dirt. His forehead and hair were wet with sweat, which he wiped away every now and again as he made his way to the relatively small clearing.

Sitting within this clearing was his ship. It gleamed in the setting sun and nearly blinded him as he walked towards it. He grinned as the door opened for him when he reached it, but his smile vanished as he climbed inside because of the cynical voice that awaited him.

But no voice came. All was quiet within the confines of the ship. None of the computers were on, and there was no trace of Uncle Virge, the virtual personality that ran the ship.

"Anyone here?" Jack Morgan asked of the darkness, taking a few steps ahead. He wasn't worried about bumping into anything; he knew this ship like the back of his hand. It had been his home for the last several years.

He made his way into the cabin area and was surprised to find a single light on inside, leaking out of the barely opened door. He slid the door open wider, cautiously at first, but let his caution evaporate upon seeing no enemies within.

Rather, there was only Jack's partner, the K'da warrior, Draycos. The large dragon-like alien was curled up on Jack's bed like a large dog. His head was resting on his tiger like paws, and he had one eye open, peering at Jack.

"Hey, you're back earlier than expected," Jack said casually, shutting the door behind him.

"Oh, no, Jack," Draycos said, raising his head and looking at jack with both eyes now. "I'm not early, you're just late." There was a slightly worrisome tone to his voice. Jack didn't know what it was. It didn't sound like the warrior ethic of the K'da. Far from it. It was a familiar tone, but it wasn't.

"Are you alright, Draycos?" He asked, walking towards the dragon.

"Oh, perfectly fine, Jack," Draycos sighed, stretching on the bed. He jumped onto the floor and padded the rest of the way to Jack. Though Draycos only came up around Jack's chest and the boy could look down at him, there was still something threatening about him. "Why, though? Just out of curiosity."
"You sound strange," Jack said. "Well, not strange, exactly, just different. Strange for you, though."

"Really? Really, Jack? Is it that noticeable?" The dragon was walking towards him again, his voice still strange. It was a sort of quite, soft voice, not at all like the business-like voice the K'da usually had about him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to spook you. Far from it. How was your day? Did you have any trouble after we separated?"

"No, it went fine," Jack said, trying to relax. He didn't want Draycos to know he was nervous. "What about you? Did you get into the files?"

"Of course, Jack, dear," The dragon laughed, his golden scales sparkling in the florescent light of the cabin. "Why wouldn't I?"

He began to ramble on about his adventure, but Jack wasn't listening. He was staring at the dragon in almost shock. Had he just called him "dear"? That was impossible. But he had, Jack was sure of it. What did it mean though? Certainly the dragon didn't have feelings for Jack, that would be one of the most outlandish things he had ever heard of! Even so, he doubted that the dragon would have called anyone or anything "dear", no matter what his feelings for him were.

"Jack?" Jack was brought back to the room by Draycos' voice. "Are you listening to me?" He moved closer to Jack and sat down on his hind end, like a dog or cat. "Are you alright, Jack?"

"Draycos," Jack was beginning to find it hard to breath. "What are you doing? What's going on? Is this a joke?"

"A joke? Whatever are you on about, Jack?" Draycos asked. The tip of his tail began to twitch back and forth, his eyes glinting. His voice sounded curious, but his eyes gave him away. There was no curiosity in them, he knew exactly what Jack was on about.

The human didn't like the way his companion was looking at him. The way his tail was moving, the way his eyes were staring…it was almost as if he were looking at prey.

"Draycos, I want to know exactly what's going on. Right now," Jack demanded. "If you don't tell me…"

"Dear, dear, Jack," Draycos chided. "Don't get your panties in a bunch, love. I'm sorry I'm scaring you. You probably think that there's something wrong with me--" Jack nodded his agreement. "--but, you worry much too much, Jack. There's nothing wrong with me. You see…Jack...I like you, Jack."

A long silence followed. Draycos just stared at Jack, his tail still twitching, but faster now. His eyes had that same look to them, but something else had crept in and mixed with it.

Jack looked at him in complete shock. Had the dragon been more like a human teenager, he would have assumed that this was a joke, but Draycos had a very serious personality. It was very doubtful that Draycos would joke about anything.

Jack noticed that he was backing towards the door, he tried not to show it, but it was too late. The dragon was padding towards him. He stopped about a foot away, and, just as Jack was about to make a run for the door, produced a small remote control. Jack didn't know where it had been, but Draycos hit one of the buttons on it with his paw and there was a quiet beep.

The door was locked. Try as he might, Jack couldn't get it to budge.

"Draycos," Jack gasped. "What are you…?"

"You made me a promise Jack," Draycos said, the tone was still there, but he was more serious now. "You said you would help me to save my people."

Was it just Jack's imagination, or were Draycos' scales changing color. It looked like the red at the tips were beginning to spread along the gold ever so slowly.

"Draycos, what are you doing? Stay away from me," Jack gasped, holding his hand out against the dragon even though he knew it wouldn't do him any good if Draycos wanted to attack him.

Drayco's stared at Jack's hand, as though it were something alien to him. He chuckled softly and reached out towards the hand with his muzzle. Jack flinched thinking that the dragon was going to bite him. Instead, the K'da gently rubbed his head and snout against Jack's palm, like a dog wanting to be petted.

"Draycos!" Jack exclaimed, yanking his hand back. He was beginning to sweat again and it mixed with the dirt and grime and ran into his eyes. His face was hot, and he was confused. He wished that Draycos or Uncle Virge would start laughing, that this whole thing was just a big joke.

Draycos coolly circled around Jack until the K'da was between him and the door. Jack couldn't' help it, he backed away from Draycos and found himself towards the middle of the room. The dragon sat on his haunches in front of the door. He looked very smug, like a runner who had just come in first place.

"I said that I would help you save your people, Draycos," Jack said. "But that's all. Now, you tell me what's going on."

"Isn't it obvious, Jack?" Draycos purred. "I want to save my people, I really do, but … I'm tired. And lonely. You're the best companion that a K'da could ask for, but there are some things that a partner cannot provide. Sometimes I find myself needing someone who is more than a partner…"

"Draycos…" Jack warned, trying not to show how freaked out he was. He knew he wasn't doing a very good job, but it didn't stop him from trying.

"You see, Jack, I'm a warrior and I try to give it my all, but, lately…I've been finding myself needing," he was silent for a moment, as if searching for the words. "I've found myself needing…a morale booster…" And he flicked off the light, bathing Jack in total darkness.