“Something is off about this situation,” Lucy said. “Definitely.”
“Okay,” Ophelia said. “What exactly convinced you of that?”
“I tried to follow Paul and Uras,” Lucy answered. “But it seems that everywhere they went there were Ca’urrs determined to block my path to them. At least until I lost them.”
Ophelia scratched her head. “Are you sure it’s not just a coincidence? Their culture is very heavily into the whole approaching people as friends thing.We were approached by quite a few ourselves while you were investigating.”
“It wasn’t that,” Lucy insisted. “There was a definite purpose behind their movements. They didn’t want me to see where she was taking him.”
“All right,” Ophelia said. “Let’s say that you’re right about this. Let’s say that the Ca’urrs deliberately blocked your path. What exactly might Paul and Miss Uras be planning?”
“Hard to say,” Lucy answered. “I’ll have to question the good doctor when he gets back.”
“Three patients coming through. Two of them are in critical condition.”
“We’ll prepare the operating rooms quickly.”
Uras followed Paul’s stretcher. He was in a bad way, she knew and it was her fault. She’d brought him here, established his cover and failed to protect him.
His hand weekly reached up and beckoned to her.
“Don’t try to speak,” she whispered. “You need to save your strength.”
“C… can’t wait,” he gasped. “I… I know how t… to find your saboteur.”
He managed to whisper four words to her before losing consciousness.
“We need to get him into surgery.”
Uras nodded. “Do everything that you can for him.”
“Commander,” Uhthli saluted. “Request permission to aid the investigation.”
“At least let them examine you,” Uras ordered.
“What will we do now?” Uhthli asked. “We need to catch this villain quickly. Otherwise the engineers will keep ending up like Tyler.”
“I have a backup plan,” Uras said. “I’ll brief you on it once they clear you.” She looked towards the emergency room. “Let me know about their condition as soon as you learn anything. I have to go and begin the preparations for the backup plan.”
She headed away, hoping that Paul’s idea would work and she wouldn’t have to return with yet another comrade on a stretcher.
Leon, Grace, Farah, Kat and Allison sat around a table. It was filled with a variety of meats as well as some fruitand there were a few things Farah couldn’t identify.
“He didn’t come back last night,” Leon muttered. “He didn’t come back last night.”
“I’m sure he was just looking after the pup,” Farah reassured him. “He’ll be back before you know it.”
“Farah,” Kat said. “I know you’re trying to help but just drop it for now. Leon is surprisingly needy. He won’t feel better until he looks into Paul’s eyes.”
“It’s almost a wonder that he can separate from him for long missions,” Allison added.
“That’s different,” Leon said. “When I’m on missions he’s on the ship with people I can trust. But he’s off on his own right now. What if the worst happened? What if he’s hurt? He has a terrible sense of direction. What if he got lost?”
“What if someone’s captured and doing unspeakable things to him?” Allison stated.
Leon’s eyes went wide and he started sniffling.
“Calm down” Kat said. “She wasn’t serious. Remember, this is Ca’urrg. That wouldn’t happen.” She glared at Allison.
“I didn’t think he’d cry,” Allison said, defensively. “I thought he’d get really mad and yell something about murdering them and their families.”
“That wouldn’t really be any better,” Kat said.
Farah felt a tap on her shoulder. She looked over at Grace who nodded towards the exit. Nervously, Farah excused herself and followed her.
“Did you need something?” Farah asked, looking at her feet.
“You can relax around me,” Grace said. “I won’t bite, unless you ask me to, anyway. I just thought you might like to leave the awkward situation and help me take Wolfgang for a walk.”
“Oh, sure,” Farah said. “I think I’d rather like that.”
“I thought you might,” Grace said. The two went to Grace’s room and picked up the little dog along with his leash. He followed them happily, wagging his tail and stopping to sniff things.
“There’s a forest over there,” Farah said. “I bet he’d like it there.”
“Then let’s go,” Grace said. “You want to hold his leash?” She held it out to Farah, who accepted it.
“I love dogs!” Farah declared. “They’re so cute and fuzzy.”
“I love em too,” Grace said. “Remind me to show you Wolfie’s hologram album later.”
“He has a hologram album?” Farah asked.
Grace nodded. “I’ve put him in all kinds of fun costumes. He’s very good about it.”
“Hi!” Uras jumped out at them. “It’s so good to see you again! Come on, let’s play!” She grabbed Grace’s hand and practically pulled her away. Farah was left holding the little Baron’s leash and looking perplexed.
“What are you doing?” Grace demanded. “Take me back. I was…”
“Your brother is in hospital,” Uras said.
“He… what?” Grace stuttered. “H… how did he… Really?”
“I’ll explain,” Uras promised. “We just need some privacy first. I… I’m going to have to let you in on some secrets.”
She took Grace to a large building and into a sound-proofed room. “Do you need anything to drink?” Uras asked. She was using a small instrument to check for bugs.
“No, thanks,” Grace said. She noted the precision with which the Ca’urr woman worked. And how this whole situation was unlike anything she’d seen from them.
“We wouldn’t normally let outsiders know about this,” Uras explained. “Only a few trusted friends, like your brother, are aware of it. But he suggested that you could be trusted and I don’t have many options. But not even your own pack can know of this.”
“I’ll keep your secret,” Grace promised. “Once you get around to telling me what it is.”
“There’s a device that keeps Ca’urrg peaceful,” Uras began. “Keeps us safe from potential offworlder invasion. It’s called the Queller. The Queller suppresses violent impulses, at least those of non-Ca’urrs. But there’s a problem we’re facing right now. Our mechanics have been stealthily attacked and the Queller is quickly starting to lose power. If it stops functioning while the Pacifians are here…”
“They will get medieval on your asses,” Grace said. “But I thought this thing suppressed violent impulses. How did someone manage to attack your people?”
“It has to be one of our own,” Uras stated. “At first, I thought it was an Offworlder with an inhibitor device. However, the last couple attacks have been in the Queller facility itself. With no Offworlders present, save Paul during the last one.”
“And you need my help?” Grace asked. “My engineering prowess?”
Uras nodded. “I won’t lie. It will be dangerous.”
“That’s fine,” Grace said. “I’ll just need two things and we’ll see if we can’t beat this traitor of yours.”