Chapter 6:

Harkin awoke his senses bristling. He peered from the tree at the side of his dwelling. The warmth of the night was too luxurious to spend inside his stuffy little bedroom, so he had scaled the tree in his garden. He had been happily asleep until some minute noise had called him from his slumber. It was out of place amongst the normal web of sounds of the night, and this is what had woken him. His ears swivelled to locate it again, and he slowly opened his eyes, which glowed a brilliant green in the last of the moonlight.

An upright form was creeping down the path. It was hunched over and it had something clutched to its chest. Thieves were rare but not unheard of and Harkin had no wish to be burgled. He had some very private secrets. Silent on his paws he dropped from the tree, and crouched low to the earth. From the posture of the figure, Harkin had assumed that it was a Caelium, but on a closer examination, it did not appear to have any wings and was also dressed very strangely. It was now approaching his own house. Harkin stole closer, ready to pounce if the creature tried to force entry of his abode. It did not. It glanced around it in a worried and distracted manner. Then it crouched down, and laid its burden inform of the entrance. It checked the bundle to see if it was all right, and then sprinted quickly away, as if it did not want to be caught. Harkin was baffled now. It was not any species he knew of, and yet it did not seem militant. It seemed cautious and scared. Harkin advanced to his own doorstep with care, keeping a close watch on the shape. It was prone and unmoving. It was not making any noise, so Harkin approached. What he saw gave him such a shock that he leapt backwards. He hurriedly recovered and reached out to the poor Lutra that was lying wounded on the stoop. It was a child, and seemed to be unconscious. It was in a terrible state, with a lot of scorched fur and raw skin. Harkin was horrified, as this was clearly the work of the mystery creature that had delivered him. Carefully he scooped up the infant and carried him into the house. He placed him carefully into his bed and began to work on his skin, administering treatments as best he could. The skin was raw and scorched by some unknown weapon and there would be permanent scar damage, but Harkin might be able to reduce it if he worked quickly now. The brunt of the attack seemed to have landed on the child's throat. The heat or ray did not kill him, but stunned and concussed him. Harkin needed to bring him to the medical facility for more sophisticated treatment, as the effects of the weapon were not understood, and might have consequences that Harkin was unequipped and unskilled at treating. In the morning he would go there, but now Harkin did his best to make the child comfortable.

He realised that he would also have to go early to the house of the youngster's carers. Children lived with a grown up and sometimes their spouse, however these were never their birth parents. The children from the project rarely had those. The children would never know who their parent's were and the parents would never have their offspring identified to them, although sometimes the mother could guess. Anybody in the community could have donated towards a child's creation. However parentage was still monitored and kept on file with all other secure or sensitive information, in the vaults in the depths of the Administrative Building, where only a few were permitted.

While he waited for some cooling lotion to sink into the raw skin, he called up the child's profile on the living room unit. As he saw the name, he felt conflicting emotions well up. This was one of the children selected from the new programme that Harkin was head of. This was a mixed blessing and would make Jaethen a unique study. But his reluctance in making the pain of this child into a scientific study was strong. He would have to think long and hard about this. And a meeting of the council would be called to discuss the mysterious visitor. It was vital that the children are safe and it seemed that programme was now needed for an even bigger purpose; if this frightening and militant species proved to be a threat to their world.

The doctors peered at the child asleep in Harkin's arms. Some moved to the data banks and began to tap in commands. Others were pulling on gloves and masks and assembling syringes and other dangerous-looking medical devices. A large screen over the examining table glowed and the file jumped onto it. It showed a curling strand of DNA that belonged to the child. The name was conspicuous because of its absence. The doctors were not permitted to know whom they were to operate on. This was a precaution to keep the experiment a fair test, and to prevent anyone accusing the surgeon of favouritism. Some of the staff at the highly advanced centre had worked so long and arduously on the DNA, that they were able to recognise the person by the strands on the big screen. However, they had the sense to keep it to themselves if they recognised their own handiwork.

Harkin was hovering nervously around the table. Large machines were being fired up. The head surgeon was barking out complex and unintelligible orders and took a moment to materialise at Harkin's shoulder. He softly and firmly asked for a description of the events that led up to the injury. Harkin knew that he could trust the Phelsuma, as he had been privy to many secrets before this. As he described the scene and what he had made of it, the doctor touched the different fields displayed on the screen. When Harkin was finished, he looked focused.

"It seems to be as you surmised; the result of the alien's weapon. We are unable to guess the effects at this time; though it may be the case that it has damaged the Lutra's vocal chords and respiratory system. He will have a full body scan and then we will remove the dead skin and aid the healing process. It seems unlikely to me that we will need to operate. We will do all that we can for him to leave him in a state where he can function normally. Are there any conditions he has that I should be made aware of, however insignificant?"

"He is a synesthete, Tityus. He has the projection of colours and tastes on his senses on hearing noises and sounds. It can be quite overwhelming."

"Then he will be truly unique," was all the doctor would say before forcefully propelling Harkin out of the theatre with a gentle smile.

Harkin had no problems with the youngling's carers. They were only mildly surprised to find him gone from his bed, and the visit from Harkin had them move gracefully from anxious guardians to gracious hosts. He explained to them that he had been wandering and had stumbled into Harkin, who had put him to bed in his home. Harkin was taking care of the lad, as he himself suffered from insomnia and had some ideas they could try together to overcome it. The old couple were quite willing to allow Harkin to take responsibility for their charge. They had no mistrust in their hearts, and Harkin felt bad deceiving them, but it was not so strong as to make him tell the truth. He promised to keep them informed as to their progress in overcoming to night, and bade them a warm farewell.