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Chapter 18

      "Bridge," Jeremy said, to the com.

      "Bridge here," came the reply. He through it was Haradrel, but he wasn't sure. He was trying to get to know everyone on the bridge, but recognizing voices still wasn't something he'd mastered.

      "Can we come to a full stop? I'm ready to do a test power up on the generator, and I want the backup offline, to avoid any chance of feedback messing up the readings."

      There was a conversation, one of the voice was Gral, that voice he could recognize easily. "We'll be in a zone we can safely power down in two hours and a half," Gral said. "You can do the test then."

      "Got it." Jeremy walked out of the office and went to the techs standing around the generator. "Okay, you guys are off work for two hours. Go eat, relax, have fun. Be back here on time."

      Nods and smiles were the response, as they headed out. Jeremy turned to get back to his office, but Thuruk grabbed his arm.

      "You said we all get to go relax for two hours, that includes you."

      "I have . . ."

      "No you don't. You have to relax, and I'm not talking about a night of sex with your Heart. There's someone I want to introduce you to."

      Jeremy grumbled, half heartedly, as Thuruk dragged him along. They went up half a dozen levels to a section of the ship Jeremy hadn't been to before. It looked like a mall. He stopped.

      "There are stores?" he asked.

      "Of course we have stores," Thuruk replied, "don't your ships do too?"

      "Not our military ships."

      "Then where do the people on those ship get what they need, what their families need?"

      "Military ships don't have families on them."

      It was Thuruk's turn to stop. "No families? Where do they go to at the end of their work? Who comforts them on rough day?"

      "They go to their bunks, I guess. And they have shrinks for those who have trouble dealing with rough days."

      "Your peoples are weird," Thuruk said.

      "I don't know, it seems pretty weird to me to have families on a ship you expect to go into battle, what if they get hurt?"

      "That's why the family units are located in the core of the ship, so every wall acts as extra protection, and that whole section is reinforce. If it get to bad, it can be jettisoned and it will home in on Kelser, and got there. But it'll be pickup before that. No that we'll ever let *that* happen."

      Thuruk pulled Jeremy inside one of the store. Males and females were standing around, talking. One of the walls was lined with beds, the rectangular kinds this time, and at waist height. He went to the group, moved behind one of the females without her noticing. He nibbled on her neck, just before wrapping his arms around her. "Can I pull you away from your team, love?" he asked tenderly.

      She turned and nuzzled him. "Of course you can." She looked up and saw Jeremy. "You finally brought him!" she let go of him and walked to Jeremy. She stepped around him, looking him over. "Please take off your clothes," she said.

      "Excuse me?"

      Thuruk grabbed her and pulled her into an embrace. "Calm yourself. At least, let me introduce you to him. Jeremy, this is Asarin, my Heart. She's been wanting to meet you since you joined the crew."

      "It's an honor to meet you," Jeremy said, "But I don't think this is a good idea." Beds, a group of people waiting for customers, yeah. He knew what this place was about. He'd figured out quickly the kelsirian were a lot more relaxed about sex than humans, he still couldn't stopped blushing at eh memory of the couple he walked in on, in one of the recreation rooms.

      "Why not?" Thuruk asked.

      "For one thing, you really should have told me what you were planning, for another. I'm with Gral. I know that you are comfortable fooling around outside of a relationship, but I'm not."

      There was a moment of confusion with Thuruk and Asarin, and then she brightened "Oh, sweets, I don't want to have sex with you." He looked him over. "Actually, I would like to, if you were so inclined, but this is about relaxation. I want to see your body because I'm curious about your musculature."

      "Asarin gives massages," Thuruk said, at Jeremy's confusion. "She owns the store, and she's been wanting to test her skill on your body. You won't regret it, I promise." He took off his clothes and climbed on one of the bed. One of the males in the group went to him.

      "I promise," Asarin said, "I simply want to massage your body. I wouldn't have sex here, it wouldn't be appropriate."

      Jeremy nodded, and watched as the male took a bottle from under the bed, poured liquid on his hand, probably oil, and start massaging Thuruk's back. Jeremy looked around, and turning beet red, took off his clothing, and lay on his stomach on the bed.

      "Does your clothes keep you skin from tuning red?" she asked as she moved next to him. He shook his head. She placed he hands on his back. "You are radiating heat." She paused. "You're embarrassed?"

      Jeremy nodded. "Undressed in public will do that to me."

      "Oh, Sweets, you shouldn't. Even without fur, nakedness is nothing to be ashamed of." Her hands started moving on his back. Her touch was light.

      "Having fur must make it easier. No one can see of you're blushing."

      She leaned in. "Look at the inside pavilion of our ears," she whispered, "that's where our blush is the easiest to see."

      Jeremy smiled, decided he liked her, and let her melt his back.

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