“Jay-cee,” he whispered. He got no answer. Fumbling around in the dark he up-ended his pack looking for his torch. As he did the tracking device fell out. It showed JC as being twelve miles further north than they were. Even though JC could move fast, he wasn’t that fast. So that meant someone else had the true reading and was hunting JC. Justin cursed himself for letting the lovely affectionate Sub distract him. His heart beating fast he found his torch and switched it on blazing a bright light over the surrounding area.
In the distance a rifle shot rang out and Justin leaped to his feet. “Jay-cee,” he screamed and began to sprint towards the sound.
The bullet ripped through JC’s thigh and the Sub hit the ground howling in agony. His razor sharp ears had heard the hunter approaching and he had slipped out of Justin's arms intending to lead the threat away and protect his new friend. Now he was in mortal peril. The pain consumed him as he crawled terrified, trying to find somewhere to hide.
He whimpered fearfully as two big black boots appeared before him and he looked up pleadingly, reverting to his own language in his terror.
The hunter aimed his rifle. “I win,” he said coldly as he applied pressure to the trigger.
“No,” JC whimpered. “Jay-cee good boy. No kill Jay-cee.”
Lance hesitated; he must be really tired his mind was playing tricks on him. He could have sworn the Sub had spoken. He lined up his sights again and the Sub curled up whimpering.
Justin burst into the clearing putting himself between Lance’s rifle and JC. He covered the trembling Sub with his body, holding him tight.
“What the fuck!” Lance exclaimed. “He’s my kill Justin, move aside.”
Justin squeezed JC tighter. “No,” he shouted back defiantly.
JC whimpered. “Jay-cee good boy Jus-in. No eat beetle. No kill Jay-cee.”
Justin rocked the injured man in his arms. “No Baby, No kill Jay-cee. Jay-cee safe with Justin.”
“What the fucks going on Justin?” Lance demanded his rifle still aimed at JC’s heart.
“He’s intelligent Lance, you heard him. He can talk. They lied to us Lance. The Sub's aren’t just animals, they have family units, and they show incredible affection and loyalty. Lance they have a language so complicated that I have only managed to pick up a few words where as Jay-cee can almost form sentences already.”
The older hunter still looked unconvinced and kept his rifle aimed.
“Please Lance; please just give him a chance. A couple of hours, that’s all I ask. If you’re not convinced that he is a man like us then I’ll stand aside. But you had better be prepared to kill me as well.
JC whimpered again against Justin's chest. “Jus-in, hurt Jus-in. Jay-cee not bad, stop hurt.”
Justin cussed as he saw the blood oozing from the wound on JC’s leg. “Its ok baby, Justin make better. Lance help me … please.”
Lance lowered his rifle unsure of what to do. The Sub had talked and if what Justin had said was true he had learned really fast, showing not only intelligence but extreme intelligence. Determined to find out for sure he looked JC in the eye and made a fist, hitting himself twice on his shoulder. “Lance,” he said, sounding his name out clearly.
The Sub looked up at him, his pretty blue eyes filled with tears of pain. “Jay-cee hurt Lance. No kill. Jay-cee good boy.”
Lance vomited. He fell to his knees retching violently. Thoughts of his trophy room caused him to heave more. All those heads, Sub’s he had killed in the name of sport, thinking they were unintelligent mutants, worthless creatures that were there to be hunted and sported with. He shook his head mumbling. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. God forgive me I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”
Justin laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “None of us did Lance. Help me; help me save Jaycee.”
Lance nodded and with tears rolling down his searched his bag for his medkit.
“Not here,” Justin said. “I have a camp set up not far from here. You carry the torch and I’ll carry him.” he encouraged Jay-cee to hold on to his neck and he lifted him with ease.
“When did you get so strong?” Lance asked, trying to lighten the situation.
“I didn’t he weighs practically nothing, which is pretty amazing considering how much he eats.”
The two hunters picked their way back to the make shift camp that Justin had been sharing with JC.
“He eats a lot then?” Lance asked curiously. “He must have an extraordinarily high metabolism.”
“Lance he eats anything! Beetles, grubs, he wanted me to eat flesh! Can you believe that?”
Lance shrugged, “actually I can. He didn’t grow up in a protected environment like us. Our history tells us that we were carnivores once. He is living on instinct alone. He’s the true hunter. We’ve been hunting his kind since the dome opened a thousand years ago, but he’s been hunting to survive. So yeah, I guess he would eat anything.
When they reached the campsite Justin laid JC on his blanket. The Sub's leg was soaked in blood and he whimpered and cooed as he tried to look at it.
Justin slapped his hands away. “No Jay-cee,” he ordered. “Justin look.”
Justin and Lance put their medkits together, checking they had everything they needed to remove the bullet lodged in JC’s flesh. Temporally left to his own devices the Sub rummaged around in the shrubbery that was within arms length. He plucked three or four leaves and put them in his mouth mulching them up and grimacing at their bitter taste. When they were fully chewed he spat them into his hand and spread them over his open wound.
“Jay-cee no!” Justin rushed to scrape the poultice off.
“Good,” JC insisted.
“No Jay-cee not good, bad.”
“Good,” JC said insistently. Justin got the impression that if he could have, he would have stamped his foot.
“JC sweetie,” Justin said calmly. “Not good. Justin make better.”
“Actually,” Lance said smelling the chewed up leaves. “It seems to have a medical smell about it. I’m willing to lay bets that it works as some kind of antibiotic.”
“You’re not helping Lance,” Justin complained as he scraped more poultice from JC’s mouth.
“Sorry,” Lance held up his hands in defeat. “Let’s get the bullet out.”
They decided playing a game of distraction was their best bet. Justin would keep JC entertained while Lance zapped him with a hypo-spray. Within seconds the Sub was hanging unconscious in Justin's arms. They worked quickly, neatly digging the bullet out of JC’s thigh and placing a healing patch over the wound.
Lance sat back and sighed. “There’s one more thing we need to so before he wakes up.”
Justin frowned unsure of what Lance was talking about until the Elite push their two trackers towards him. “We need to remove the chip and destroy it. My tracker is still showing a true reading but it’s only a matter of time before the signal rotates again. I’m a bad shot; Jay-cee may not be so lucky next time.”
Justin smoothed away the curls from JC’s face. “He looks like a child,” he said softly.
“It’s called innocence Justin. Let’s do it now, before he wakes up.”
Justin nodded and carefully rolled JC over, lifting his hair to reveal the back of his neck and head. Lance opened a clean sterilised scalpel from the medkit. He held the blade over JC’s flesh.
“You chose,” he whispered.
Justin swallowed and pointed to a spot on the nape of JC’s neck, just under his hairline. “It should be there. Not too deep, probably just under the skin.”
Lance took a deep breath. “Remember Justin it’s a head wound. Head wounds always bleed a lot. You’ll have to stay calm so you can pass me the healing pad.
Justin nodded again, licking his lips in apprehension. “Do it,” he said calmly.
JC woke up with a familiar smell reaching his nostrils. He sat up wincing from the pain in his leg and the back of his neck. He reached behind his head whining softly at the medi-pad welded to his skin. The smell reached him again and he began to coo gently, a small whimper blending every now and then into his sweet song of his call.
Lance stirred at the soft noise and opened his eyes. He froze as a buck Sub with facial hair slinked out of the trees carrying a small bundle of animal fur. Cautiously the buck approached JC, who whimpered with delight, his arms outstretched and his fingers wiggling with anticipation. The bearded buck placed the bundle in JC’s arms and leaned in cooing and nuzzling his face.
Gently Lance woke Justin, warning him to silence and pointing at the two Subs.
JC un-wrapped the fur and a tiny boy reached out, grabbing handfuls of JC’s chest. The blue-eyed Sub gurgled and cooed at the child, allowing him to crawl over him and eventually settle at his right nipple. The bearded Sub caressed JC’s face and nuzzled his nose into his. Their tongues touched softly, lovingly as they tasted each other. The bearded Sub then reached out touching the baby boy the darted back into the trees and vanished.
“He left the child,” Justin whispered. “Why?”
Lance looked over to where JC sat nursing, his long slender hands caressing and talking to the little boy.
“It’s Jay-cee’s baby,” he said excitedly. “You know what that means?”
Justin shook his head.
“It means JC is female.”
Justin's mouth dropped open. “But, but he can’t be. He has genitalia, male genitalia.”
“Outwardly yes, but I’m willing to place bets that he has female inside. The male genitals are camouflage so that only one of his own people would mate with him. Didn’t you see! the other Sub had facial and more body hair than Jay-cee? They don’t shave Justin. Jay-cee is female, look at him he’s feeding.”
JC had become aware of the excited chatter even then it was in hushed tones. He tried to cover the baby as if he thought he could hide him.
“Lance no kill,” he begged as he turned his body to protect his precious bundle.
Lance crept towards him. “No Jay-cee, Lance no kill.” JC relaxed slightly and eyed Justin warily.
The Elite gave a tiny laugh. “Justin no kill either,” he reassured the gentle Sub.
Convinced that the two Elite meant his child no harm JC allowed them to touch him.
“Jay-cee,” Justin asked. “Baby,” he pointed at the child. “Have name?” Justin groaned at JC’s confused look.
“Let me try,” Lance suggested. “Jay-cee, baby,” he pointed at the child, “have name?” he touched his shoulder. “Lance,” he pointed at the Sub. “You Jay-cee. Baby?” he asked pointing at the child again.
JC took Lance’s hand and traced the child’s name on his palm. Lance concentrated hard trying hard to understand the symbols. He took JC’s hand and put it back on his open palm to make the signs again, sighing when he still couldn’t catch them.
“I know they are letters,” he told Justin. “But I’m not sure which ones.”
“What if he draws them in the dirt?” Justin suggested.
Lance clapped his hands making both JC and the baby jump. He picked up a stick and passed it to the Sub. “Jay-cee, baby’s name here.” He pointed to the flat piece of earth. JC frowned and looked at the stick. Then carefully began to draw the symbols on the ground.
“Ju-cee,” Justin sounded out. “Jay-cee, Ju-cee amazing! He uses our alphabet to speak.”
Lance took hold of JC’s hand and started tracing shapes in his palm. JC lowered his head shyly then looked up through thick dark lashes. “Yes,” he said.
“What did you ask him?” Justin asked enthusiastically.
“I asked if the baby was his, did he give birth to him.”
“And he answered yes. Ask him who the man that brought Ju-cee was,” Justin prodded.
This time when Lance traced the letters on JC’s hand he sounded out the words. “Jay-cee who was man brought baby?”
Concentrating really hard JC mumbled “man, baby,” then using the stick spelt out the name he didn’t know how to pronounce.
“Jo-ee,” taking JC’s hand once more Lance asked, “who baby’s father?”
JC blushed and pointed to the name in the dirt. Lance patted JC’s hand. “Try to sleep now,” he traced, again for Justin's benefit he sounded out the words.
JC wrapped the baby tightly in the furs, tying him so he couldn’t move, and then lay down with him in his arms stroking his tiny face and cooing softly.
Lance drew Justin to the side. “I think I might have worked out what happened to the Subs, why they forgot how to speak.”
“Well are you going to tell me or do I have to guess,” Justin asked moodily. He was the one who had taught JC how to speak and now Lance was taking over the beautiful Sub.
Justin watched JC and listened to Lance. “I think that they were originally deafened by the explosion at the beginning of the holocaust. There would have been no one to teach the new babies spoken words so they evolved a sign language based on our original language.”
“How do you explain his, I mean her genitalia?” Justin asked.
“Evolution, women were probably in short supply and their bodies changed to protect them. It’s been over a thousand years.”
“People don’t evolve that fast,” Justin pointed out.
“Jay-cee is a mutant, changed by evolution and fall out. It’s the only explanation Justin.” Lance patted his friend on the back. “Get some sleep, tomorrow we have to meet Chris and the others.”
“But what about Jay-cee?” Justin asked in alarm.
“We leave him here, he’s ….she’s safe now.”
Justin shook his head. “I can’t just abandon him. He’s alone with a child.”
“She’s not your responsibility Justin. You saved her life now let her live it.” Justin shook his head. “Justin what do you think would happen to her and Ju-cee if you take them to the dome. They will be slaughtered so they can be studied. Then they will form hunting parties and round up the entire Sub population. They will slaughter all the males and take the females to mate with.”
Justin closed his eyes knowing that Lance was right.
“She’s better off here. Here she stands a chance.” Lance laid a comforting hand on Justin's shoulder then went to his bed roll to sleep.