The Draedean Threat

{Habitation-Hanson Family Home}

Chapter 10 - "No, you'll bark at 'em..."

Zac began his annoying tapping again that had been brought to a halt by his mother's interrogation. Isaac sighed and buried his face deep within his hands.
"The stress is really getting to you huh Ike?"
A silent 'yes' came about when Isaac nodded through his hands.
Zac smiled knowingly. He knew his oldest brother hated to lie to his parents, but if it kept Tay's homecoming a secret, he would lie all the way.
"Hey Ike.we're keeping Tay a secret for a surprise for mom and dad right?"
Isaac's eyes bulged as he snorted, "No! Why would I wanna keep a surprise like THAT from them?" He stood up and placed his hands on his hips as he started to pace.
Zac's face drew inwards, wrinkling his eyes as he shrugged, "I dunno.to make mom and them happy?" He looked uncertain of himself.
Isaac kept his patience in check, barely, "No... what happens if Tay backs outta this and we told mom and dad? How crushed would they be? How awful would Jessie, Avie, and Makie feel?"
Zac's eyes dawned realization as he nodded sullenly. He would like to say that it wasn't true, but he knew better. Taylor had broken so many promises over the passed year and a half plus all the promises that were made in childhood to be carried out later in life. Zac shook his head to rid himself of the memories and focused on Isaac.
"So… what's left to do to Tay's room?"
Isaac thought over that question, going over an internal checklist before saying, "We gotta get some of your stuff in here so mom doesn't get suspicious. Make sure to keep it kinda messy but make sure you can pick it up quick if Tay comes."
Zac realized something, "Hey… what happens when Tay does get back though? The whole room changing.that'd be kinda coincidental don'tcha think? Mom and dad would know that we knew before he even got here."
Isaac brushed it off, like water beading off a capra's back, "Who cares? That's why we'll call it a coincidence. Nothing more.nothing less. We just gotta cover Tay's tracks for awhile."
As if Taylor knew he was being talked about by his brothers, the viewer in Zac's room beeped out his code quietly, announcing his intentions to talk. Isaac scowled at the machine as Zac tumbled over his shoes, rocking off balance momentarily before hitting 'receive' and he jumped to his feet as the image sprang on screen clearly. Isaac motioned to the door and Zac nodded agreeably. A moment later the door was shut securely and Taylor's pale face was the focus of the room.
"Hey guys." His voice sounded hoarse as he croaked a greeting. His expression was one of extreme worry and grief. Neither brother could blame him.
"Hi… how's it going?" Zac questioned softly. Isaac crossed his legs and leaned back against a wooden post from Zac's bed, content to listen.
Taylor cheeks puffed up and he ran his hands through his hair, both at the same time, "Been better... I'm loading Clep up with supplies. That stupid lagamorph... God I'm pissed!" He yelled, slamming his fist against the metal wall.
"Shhhh! Tay keep it down! Mom and dad don't know... don't yell, geze." Isaac grumbled.
Taylor frowned sadly. Isaac was still upset with him.
"Sorry." He squeaked out, "Uhm… yeah, so is it ok for me to come home still?" His request wasn't directed at anyone verbally, but Zac knew the question was meant for Isaac and Isaac alone.
Isaac knew this too and he licked his lips nervously. Bringing Taylor home would confuse the younger children and break everyone's hearts again once he left. He knew his younger brother wouldn't stay indefinitely and he didn't want his family to go through the heartbreak all over again after they were just getting used to not having Taylor around. On the other hand, Taylor was his little brother; it was the older brother's job to take care of the younger kids in the family. He couldn't just leave Taylor to die from some heartless Draedean when he could find a safe place to hide out for awhile. A safe, place like home. But then there was Zac. He feared his other little brother would join Taylor the next time he jumped aboard a starship. Zac's interest in a thieving life wasn't hidden from his expressive eyes very well and the shining admiration in his eyes when he looked upon Taylor were clue enough for Isaac.
"Decisions, decisions."
He waved his hand in indifference, "Do what you want. Just don't get us killed over your stupidity."
Though it sounded harsh, Taylor beamed, "Thanks Ike!"
Zac busied himself with staring at his hands as he perched his left thigh and buttocks on the arm of a chair.
"Do you have a plan?" His deep voice rumbled.
Taylor took a sip of water and mumbled as he swallowed, "Mmm, yeah actually I do. Clep ordered some supplies that'll be stored in the cargo bay and they should be here in a few minutes. After that.I think I'll stop by the Gheldeth and pick up some perishable stuff. Man, I thought my first run was gonna be TO the Gheldeth. My informant told me wrong." He chuckled grimly.
"The Trade Ship Gheldeth?" Isaac spoke up, his full eyebrows raising up a notch.
Taylor nodded quickly, "Yes sir. It's huge Ike man! The first time I lifted credits there I wasn't even a suspect cause the crowds are so huge!" He bragged unintentionally.
Zac butted in, "Is it easy to steal stuff like that?"
Taylor looked confused, "How do ya mean? Like emotionally? Not really, you feel bad and all but it's just a way of..."
"No, I mean 'how' you lift em." Zac pressed.
Isaac grit his teeth, deciding against saying anything for now.
"Not really... I was lucky enough to find somebody who was good. Like GOOD good and he kept me outta trouble. He taught me the ropes and made sure I didn't get myself killed early on. It's harsh though, I thought it'd be a lot more glamorous. It's an art, though.it's challenging." Taylor's eyes fogged over with memories.
Zac pulled at a long strand of hair, "Is it something I'd wanna do?"
The fog evaporated and dispersed hastily as Taylor's over expressive hands and arms began waving frantically at the view screen, "No... no, nothing you would like. I hate it Zac. It's awful but it's the way of life I chose to live."
"Then why do you do it if you hate it so much?" Zac asked sharply.
"I don't hate smuggling… that's a different rush. With the black-market I'm not stealing from people, I'm doing runs for big credits. I'm not stealing anymore, I'm not stealing." Taylor tried to make them see the difference clearly.
Isaac nodded once, feeling a twinge of happiness piercing the vast darkness of anger and disgust. At least Taylor was trying to get Zac to be a good boy. But if Zac had his mind set to something. watch out, there'd be trouble on the view screen news later.
"But if it's ok for you to do it then why can't..."
"NO Zac. If you try it I'll put dirt all over your name. Rumors, everything. Nobody'll wanna work with you or train you except for the clone-workers and trust me, you don't wanna befriend one of them." Taylor glowed in anger at the thought.
"Clone-workers?" Isaac broke into the lecture.
"Hi, I'm your little friend Z-9239. I'll take you in and keep you warm. I'll feed you and teach you how to live on the streets. Come in, come in." Taylor assumed a high pitched voice and changed the dialect to suit his needs, "You don't wanna know what a clone-worker is. They take you, strap you to a table, and take all the samples from you they want and sell whatever they make from you onto the black-market. You stay there until you die… until they kill you." Taylor's voice sounded trembly.
"Do I know that? I met a guy right when I got in the settlement, we both shared a slum together and brought in whatever we could steal food, clothes, whatever. Some freaky looking guy, all these wires poking out his neck and chest, he came up to Grim and asked him to be his apprentice."
"Is Grim the guy?"
A nod, "Anyway, he got Grim and screwed him up. SCREWED him up bad and sold him off as an 'experiment-gone-wrong'. I don't know where he is anymore. I know how bad he looked because I was the one that packed him off."
"WHAT?" Ike and Zac exclaimed together.
Taylor held his hands up in defense, "Hear me out. I didn't know I was packing him out to be sold. I guess he was in a crate. I found out after though." He shook his head to dispel his thoughts, "Point is… don't leave home. Mom and dad need you and so do the kids. I don't wanna see you like Grim."
"Whatever." Zac whispered, not making eye contact.
"Zac don't!" Taylor warned, "I will kill your name. I will make you a germ that nobody wants to take in if I have to. You aren't smuggling."
"Who said I wanted too to begin with?" Zac snapped, "Can we talk about something else?"
Isaac made a quick head shake to Taylor who looked ready to press the subject, "What's the time frame for you getting home?"
Taylor crossed his legs at his ankles as he leaned against the metal wall behind him, "I should think two weeks max, a few days more if I stop at the Gheldeth."
"What's up with a few more days there? Don't you wanna get home ASAP?" Isaac asked.
Taylor pinked, "Yeah, but I know a few girls I haven't seen for awhile. I wanna meet up with em and.visit for awhile."
Isaac smiled like a proud father while. Zac shifted uncomfortably but grinned none the less. Neither wanted to think of Taylor doing that but they couldn't help the teenage pride that swelled within.
"Go lover-boy. Are you sure that's the best idea? What if Sankt finds you?"
Taylor looked at Isaac, who had spoken, "He won't. Clep delivered my message already. I'm in cryo-freeze and on my way to his office right now." He grinned evilly, "That gives me lee-way remember?"
"Oh.. right… forgot. We want you home soon, mom and dad are suspicious."
"Of what? They don't know I'm coming home."
Zac fought to cover up the room decorating escapade, "The... the com-link from earlier, they wanted to know who it was and we didn't say."
Isaac nodded convincingly, "Yeah… yeah totally, that's it."
Taylor narrowed his eyes, "K… is my room still set up for me?"
"Damn." "No, we took it down right after you left and got some new stuff for it. Mom and dad put it in storage though. We'll take it out when you get back, we can't do it right now." Isaac stated.
"Why not?" Taylor looked hurt.
"If you woulda stayed around longer, you would know we're in the middle of a hydro-harvest and getting a day off isn't easy."
"Just ask dad. He'll let you."
Isaac chuckled, "No Tay... he won't, he really buckled down after you left."
Taylor's blue eyes looked troubled, "That sucks. Sorry 'bout that guys."
He took another sip of water. A loud alarm sounded a mere foot from Taylor's head as he ducked away and covered his ears, "Damn it Clep! Shut it off!"
"Yes Taylor sir." A meek voice replied.
The alarms cut off in mid-wail.
"Cool." Zac stated at the efficiency of the on-board computer.
"I doubt you could've taken longer." Taylor muttered, "Hull cameras up Clep, who's out there?"
"The suppliers Taylor sir."
"Uh, let them in at the bay door, pressurize the hold if it isn't."
"Yes Taylor sir."
"Good." Taylor turned back to his brothers, "Well... I'm gonna help load up."
"No, you'll bark at em for hitting your ship all the time." Zac piped up.
"Exactly, I'm gonna go help load up." Taylor grinned smugly, "I want you guys to com me every day, whenever you can. If I refuse the transmission just tell Clep to keep trying, she'll listen."
"Sure, talk to you tomorrow night then, after dinner while mom's doing the dishes and dad's sleeping with his hands down his pants. Gotcha." Zac cocked a 'laser-gun' at Taylor and clicked his tongue as he pulled the 'trigger.'
"He still sleeps with his hands down his pants? Ugh, I feel for ya guys. Listen, I gotta go. Keep me in your prayers, later on." Taylor waved.
"Love you Tay." Zac called, Isaac merely waved.
"Love you too, over."
The two brothers stuck on Denabux watched Taylor's lanky frame lean over a com-board and shut down the array of transmitter buttons before the screen suddenly blackened.
Although billions of miles apart, all three brothers sighed simultaneously, and went their separate ways for the evening. All of them found peace, the last to be felt for a long time to come.

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