It was not that they tried to hide their union from their mothers, but all attention was spent on their injured siblings and Mathius. But his mother had finally noticed as did Monai. They both stood over them in the dining hall in the medical institute. Monai’s expression was one of disdain and Domic wondered how much of that look was for him. Sharri’s mother was a proud and fierce cat and tended to expect her clan to rise to her standards. He and Sharri had broken the traditions of all the clans. He suspected that his mother was more upset with the fact that she was not part of the union ceremony.
Monai said, “Sharri why couldn’t you wait till after your rite of passage?”
Sharri looked down at the table and did not answer her mother at first. Then she looked over at Domic and said “We have always meant to be together. I have known it for some time. I was only waiting for my soul mate to realize our connection. So my rite of passage really had little to do with what I already knew would be. I just needed him to accept it.”
Monai scoffed and retorted “Romantic nonsense!”
Dutchess looked at the Anikawi clan chieftess and opened her mouth to disagree when Domic spoke up boldly. “You’re right! Romantic nonsense had nothing to do with it. But, natural selection most likely has everything to do with it.”
Both his mother and Sharri’s looked questioningly at him. So he continued with a brief glance at his mate. “Shari and I can see outside of typical feline and human visual spectrum. We can see your auras.”
Dutchess asked, “Wait you’re saying that you think that Leakey programmed you two to be together?”
“No. Something far older in our genetic structure that she may have enhanced in your creation.”
Dutchess looked over at Monai to see if she understood her son. The look on her furred face was that she didn’t. Dutchess ventured, “You’re suggesting that our instincts are pushing us to look for the best mate that will increase higher quality offspring?”
Both Sharri and Domic nodded.
Monai scratched the back of her left ear and pulled on the gold loop that pierced it. “I’m tempted to asked the Doctor.”
Dutchess looked at the chieftess and raised an eyebrow at her. She commented, “That woman has had enough involvement in my family for a lifetime. I for one will hold off on inquiry to her.” Monai shrugged her acceptance.
Monai stepped over to Sharri and gently lifted the gold loop that hung from her daughter’s ear. She asked, “What’d you give Nausey to keep him quiet?”
“I didn’t give him anything.”
Doubt colored her response, “Auh hu. That is kind of hard to believe.”
Sharri defended, “Nausey likes me. Says I remind him of himself when he was younger.” Sharri could see that this line was not making points for her with her mother, but she continued, “You have to admit that I even have a lot of his same coloring.” She could feel Domic pressing on her mentally. Silently to him she said, “I don’t understand why she must deny that he is likely my father. After all, they were lovers once.”
Silently back he responded, “Maybe it is to preserve hers or your clan chief’s honor. It doesn’t matter she is only getting angry.”
Her mother let go of the ear loop and stepped back. Domic was right. The clan chieftess was angry with the implications of Sharri’s father not being the clan chief. Sharri reasoned to her mother, “Look, mother, I know deep in my soul Domic, and I are meant to be together. Whether it is something, Leakey did or something older in our genetics or karma. It just doesn’t matter now. We are united.”
Sharri’s mother raised a speculative eyebrow, and Sharri quickly added, “And no, I’m not. Domic and I have things we want to do first.” Sharri watched her mother’s stance relax a little and the anger melt away.
With an exaggerated sigh, “Fine.” She looked at Domic and said, “You’ll be a good asset to my clan. Welcome.”
Domic looked at his mate and said, “We’re not coming back, least not right at the moment.” Sharri nodded her agreement.
Monai asked, “What, why?”
He looked at his mother for support and answered, “We’re going to help Doctor Quinn with the rescued Ōkaminingen, and Mathias wants to try and find out who he was before his transformation.”
Dutchess offered as a statement and confirmation, “Then you feel that your rite of passage is not yet completed.”
Sharri affirmed, “Exactly.”
Dutchess glanced to the Chieftess, “Well I guess that’s settled for now.”
Inwardly Domic sighed. He knew his mother well enough to know the inquisition was over. She, if need be, would distract and turn Monai away to another subject. Domic sometimes wondered if maybe his mother shouldn’t have called Dohi Aleutsi. But that title of Peace Mother was reserved for Mother Lacey. She was a neutral, unbiased member of all the seven clans through the forest. She was on occasion, asked to judge over disputes. Surprisingly, everyone found her judgments fair, even the judged. Domic was aware of no one that had questioned her resolutions. He wondered what is was that prompted such obedience was it that she was human, taller than all of the Otokononeko, or maybe her true caring nature for all their well beings. She usually presided over all the unions, as a spiritual leader or shaman. Domic then realized the real reason for mother’s discontent.
He said as his mother and Monai were turning to leave, “Sharri and I will reaffirm our vows with Dohi Aleutsi.”
His mother turned to look at him. “Good idea. It will make others appreciate the importance you place in the clan customs.” Monai even nodded her agreement.
Domic felt under the table Sharri’s hand squeeze hi leg. He glanced at her to see her smiling at him. In his head, she said, “You’re quite the diplomat.”
“Thanks, I think.”
She smiled and purred at him. “I love you.”
“I know you do, and I love you too.” Domic finished last of his food and stood taking his and Sharri’s dishes to the recycler. They headed back to the part of the medical center where the Ōkaminingen were being cared for.
In the opposite direction in a comfortable patient room sat Tomiroc and Kaniko on a small couch. Tomiroc was stroking one of his ears. Kaniko eyed him a sardonic expression touched her feline face. She said, “Your ear is fine.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is.”
He frowned at her and tugged on his ear for emphasis, “No it’s not. My notch is gone.”
She laughed at him. “You mean your squirrel bite?”
He grimaced at her, “It was not a squirrel but a badger!”
She reached across and brushed the edge of his repaired ear and said, “If you want I’ll bite it for ya.”
His demeanor softened a little, and he gave her a slow blink. He continued to look at her and after a long silence he asked, “How is this all going to work?”
She raised one whiskered eyebrow at him. “Is what, all going to work?”
“Pussycat you’re going to have to be more specific.” She really knew what he was talking about, but she didn’t know what to tell him.
He pressed on, “You, me, Mathias. Our relationships.”
She actually sympathized with his dilemma. The last three days of healing from the nearly fatal knife wound from him in the pit while he was under the influence of lycanthrope cocktail dart had put all three of them in a holding pattern. She found she wanted them both. Tomiroc for he was Otokononeko familiar and they had known each other since they were kittens. Mathias, he was different. Once human but now something else. Between them was a deep sense of loyalty where there should be none. Mathias wasn’t like the other Ōkaminingen for he didn’t have their overt brute mentality or aggression. Without a doubt, he was capable of great ferocity but to her he was gentle kind caring and protective.
She smiled to herself at the memory of her first born brother Jamel on the floor at the Treehouse. Domic had mentioned that Mathias had literally scared the pee out of Jamel that day. Her thoughts drifted to Jamel. He and Toke had left right after she woke up from her injuries and had been gone. She was worried that he and she still had things to resolve. When she asked about him, her mother had said that they were helping Governor Leakey with some clean up of the Pit Gang as they were now being called by the media. Kaniko could sense that there were changes in the air. She wondered how much of it would involve the Otokononeko race and now the Ōkaminingen.
Mathias stepped into the room and pulled her away from her thoughts. He came to the couch and said, “Oliver has some new information he would like to share about the Ōkaminingen.”
Kaniko raised her paw up for him to help her up off the couch. She was still a little sore and stiff. Oliver had slowed her medanites healing processes down over concerns that they were using too much of her body mass to repair her injuries. She groaned a little as he pulled her up. She said to Mathias, “You know it’s not fair that you and Tomiroc are healed, and I still have to suffer.”
Tomiroc said, “Our wounds weren’t as grave as yours.”
“Mathias was shot three times!”
Tomiroc countered, “He has more body mass than you and I put together.”
She looked at her tall canine friend. “Still not fair.”
Leaning a little on the big wolf and with Tomiroc on her other side they walked to doctor Quinn’s office.
The door was open, and they could hear her brother saying something to the physician. The sensitive ears of the three picked up, “So, you’re saying that they couldn’t have been using that lab to build the Ōkaminingen? Which then begs the question where were or are these Mod-humans being constructed?”
The trio entered the office, and Domic and Sharri turned toward them. Domic stood up and proffered his seat to his sister. She accepted the chair gratefully for the walked to Oliver’s office had been tiring. Settled she asked, “So, where are the Ōkaminingen coming from?” She made eye contact with the blue skinned purple eyed syntec doctor.
Oliver, not missing a beat said, “The lab where you were held doesn’t have the necessary equipment to program medanites for such dramatic gene resequencing.”
“But Mathias remembers being changed there.”
“Yes, I’m sure the injection of nanites might very well have occurred there. But the programming came from someplace else.” One of the syntec’s hairless eyebrows rose up, and he added, “There has to be a black marked connection.”
Domic asked, “Just how much of a black market could exist here.”
From the office entrance, Keelee answered, “Very little actually. Fresno is just a stop on the route.”
Everyone turned to see the tall, sleek gold and brown brindle colored female standing in the entrance. She surveyed everyone in the room and continued, “Lynn’s lieutenant had informed me that a black market trade route between Heaven’s Gate and San Fran had formed in the last five years. Apparently, all attempts to break the route have failed miserably. According to Lieutenant Geiger the black tech is coming from an underground government at Heaven’s Gate. But he can’t confirm that with any reliability. It is just conjecture, at this time. But his San Fran investigation force has discovered several black market cells. They’re hoping to locate the trade sources and trace them back to Heaven’s Gate. The Underlord’s gang has been one of the first found in a possible trade route.”
Kaniko asked, “So that means we didn’t stop what has happened to Mathias?”
“It would seem so,” Keelee responded.
Domic said, “Then the Underlord was one small piece in a larger slave trade?” Keelee nodded.
Kaniko looked at Mathias and asked, “So does this suggest that Mathias came from Heaven’s Gate?”
Oliver answered, “I think, what Keelee is suggesting is that the medanites are coming from Heaven Gates. They’re being implemented in places like here San Fran and Orange City.”
Tomiroc questioned, “What percentage of the Fresno population is in your medical database?”
Caught off guard by the question Doctor Quinn stammered, “Uhm, maybe less than twenty percent. I tend to cater to the more affluent members of the city.”
Tomiroc asked then, “Have you looked to see if any of the twenty percent are a close match to what is left of Mathias’ human genes?”
Kaniko turned and looked at her friend. His expression of serious and she could see a determined look in his eyes. She turned to look at the doctor. His purple eyes flicked left a couple of times at something invisible.
He focused back on the people standing or sitting in his office. “No one in my database is a close match.” Tomiroc sighed. Then Oliver added, “But, in Lynn’s database I found a partial match. Mind you it doesn’t mean they’re actually related it just means they share some family markers.
Domic turned to Keelee. “Did you find anything out from that crazy scientist guy what was his name again?”
Doctor Quinn answered, “He was Doctor Preston Piper.”
Domic commented questionably, “Was?”
Keelee answered, “He dosed himself with the lycanthrope drug and he was killed. The tranquilizers didn’t work. But I suspect he had so much of that stuff in him that he was dead anyway.”
Kaniko turned in her chair, to face the tall brindle cat. “So who is left. The two knucklehead cyborgs that survive wouldn’t know anything. What about Naoki?”
Keelee smiled. A glint of light shined in her eyes. “Nonna got her talking.”
When she didn’t continue Domic queried, “Aunt Keelee?”
“She said the fresh meat was being transported in from all along the coast. Then once transformation, training, and control were established, they were to be shipped south to Orange City and north to San Fran.”