7.1

Yik picked up the potato and examined it, “I do not know plants, but maybe Vortran does. She is of the dirt.”

“Why does he keep implying we want to hurt Calvin? The only one being aggressive was Sam and we stopped him. I don’t act like that lunatic, do I?” Mark was staring into the ship as he spoke. Yik looked from him to the potato and back again.

“You stay here in case the girl comes back. I will ask Vortran and the computer to find these plants.”

“He acts like I beat him when he was in custody, I just followed protocol.” Mark didn’t seem to hear him. Yik debated repeating himself but the storm wasn’t letting up and time was of the essence. He headed back to their ship, letting Mark stew in the rain outside the broken ship. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed since Vortran went to take a quick nap, but hopefully she was rested enough now. The ship opened up with a huff of recycled air and he poked his head in.

“I need help with a plant, are you awake?” He called out. There was no response at first, and then she emerged from her room, blinking in the light.

“What? Plant? Did you find her?”

“The shifter man says this plant may be where she is but the others are all distracted so I need to find it. Do you know where to find it?” He held the potato out to her and she took it, sniffing at it.

“It’s… a cooked potato. You find those in the kitchen usually.”

“Where do they grow normally?” Yik was getting a little frustrated and his tail thumped against the sides of the hallway.

“Wherever there’s good soil and sun. Why am I holding a potato?”

“Find me a good spot!” Yik pulled Vortran out of the ship into the rain and pushed her towards the woods.

“Yik, knock it off! It’s pouring out here and I don’t know where to look!” Vortran shoved him away and he frowned.

“You need to help me find the child, I made a promise.” He looked serious for a moment, despite the water dripping off his fur, “And breaking a promise is a slippy slope. I might break others.”

“Slippery slope… are you threatening me?” Vortran gave him a surprised look.

“No…” Yik blinked at her slowly, “I am just saying…”

“Well that woke me up a bit.” Vortran laughed briefly and gestured for Yik to follow, “I can’t see well in dim light so make sure I don’t fall in any rivers.”

“I will just catch you, you are not that heavy.” Yik smiled uncertainly as Vortran laughed again. Something he had said clearly amused her though he wasn’t sure what.

***

They had spiraled outward from the other ship for what felt like an hour before Vortran decided on a direction. They kept going until they hit a stream and followed it for a bit. The stream was churning over it’s banks with the influx of rain and they could see a few large branches floating downstream.

“What are we looking for?” Yik asked, scanning the bank nervously for footprints. If the child had fallen in and drowned he would never forgive himself.

“Clearings in the trees mostly. Soil near the stream should be good for nutrients and a clearing would allow other plants to grow.”

“There is a clearing that way.” He pointed upstream to a spot where the rain seemed heavier.

“I’ll take your word for it.” Vortran headed to where he had pointed and they found themselves in a tiny clearing, “I think this is the right place.” Vortran kicked at some churned up dirt and tufts of plants where someone had been digging. They both scanned the clearing but any tracks had been washed away by the rain.

“What if she is not here?”

Vortran gave him a worried look, “Just keep looking… Gods-dammit what was her name again?”

“Child! Are you out here?” Yik hollered into the woods. The rain dampened the sound so there was no echo.

“Jessie! That’s what it was! Jessie!” Vortran’s voice carried a little further and they listened hopefully but no response came, “Dammit, Yik…”

“What did I do?” He asked, alarmed. She shook her head and slumped down the side of the clear near the stream.

“Sam’s never gonna trust me with anything again after this. I had this one chance to prove I’m not just a waste of time. I’m not worth having in his life if I can’t even help save his kid.”

“This is not your fault.” Yik was staring off at the stream in the distance as he spoke.

“No but I got myself involved. I just wanted to show… Yik?” The Mr’Kana walked past her towards the stream, utterly focused on something he could see. Vortran struggled to her feet to follow and caught up as he stopped a few yards away, his tail dragging in the mud. She followed his gaze to a hollowed log that was wedged between rocks in a deep part of the stream, “Yik, what are you looking at?”

“Child! Jessie!” He called out suddenly, still staring at the log. Nothing happened at first, and Vortran started to speak but Yik shushed her with his hand, “Hello?” He called out again.

“Hello?” They could barely hear the response from inside the log and a head popped out of the end nearest them. The log dipped a bit low as the girl looked out and she quickly ducked back in before it could tip into the water with a frightened yelp.

“Hello, child! We have been looking for you!” Yik called out excitedly, “We can take you back to your father!”

“I’m stuck!” She called out not daring to peek out this time.

“Can you swim out and get her?” Vortran asked Yik, who looked down at the water. It was churning and looked far deeper here.

“I need a rope… Stay here and watch, I will be back.” Yik sprinted in the direction of their ship and Vortran stood nervously at the shore, watching the water lap at the girl’s hiding spot.

“Are you still there?” Jessie called out again.

“Yeah, my friend is going back for a rope and then he’s gonna help you!” Vortran replied.

There was no response at first, and Vortran moved along the shore until she could see the edge of the girl’s foot barely. “Did Misa hurt  Mr. Calvin?”

“No… no we stopped him before he could.” Vortran winced as she spoke, thinking of Sam hitting the ground after Yik knocked him out.

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