"This will be your room," the Saladin said. "If the human will follow me, I will show him his room, in the human quarters." His kelsirian was impeccable
"No," Gral said.
The smaller, furless, being looked at Gral with it's large black eyes. "Surely the human will be more comfortable among his own kind."
"No, I won't," Jeremy said. "I'm staying with him."
It wrung it's hands nervously. "Are you certain I can not convince you? We had not made arrangement for a double occupancy."
"I said, I'm staying with him."
The Saladin quickly took up his datapad and looked at it, tapping it a few times. "This will take some time to resolve," it said, looking around furtively. "Please do not move."
"Did he really think I'd want a room with other humans?" Jeremy asked, watching the alien's skin quickly change hue.
"Saladins always play it safe. They have a phobia about offending other races. I wouldn't be surprised if the humans implied you'd want to be with them. What you're seeing now is what they look like when they get flustered."
"I can see why they try to avoid it." It's skin went from pallid blue to green then reddish brown. "They must really hate negotiations."
Gral shrugged. "Querik would be able to tell you about them. I've never had to deal with them, other than situations like this. They are a peaceful race."
The saladin came back, his color not back to a very pale blue, and beckoned them. "I have found a double occupancy room for you. Follow me." He lead them to a different section of the station, opened the door for them, and then hurried away.
Jeremy entered, and looked around. "Wow, this is pretty nice. Are all the rooms this nice on government stations?"
"No. You only get something this nice if you've been summoned to appear before the council. The others will have rooms in the crew quarters." Three others of the crew had escorted them on the station, while the ship orbited. The federation forbid having ships dock for extended periods to any station which serve its administrative purposes. "They have to give us a few perks, otherwise no one would want to respond to their summons." Jeremy cocked an eyebrow. "You'll see what I mean when you have to appear before them.
* * * * *
Gral walked into the council chamber, and was indicated a seat along the inner ring of the chamber. Only two others were seated in the ring, since only people with dealings with the council could sit here. Behind him, in the miltiple rows of the outer ring, sat the spectator. Gral didn't understand hy those rows always seemed to be full, did people here have so little to do they could spend their time here?
The middle of the room had a large circular table. One third was occupied by seven of the eleven species that comprised the federation, with four empty seats. It was rare for all the seats to be occupied, Gral only knew of that happening once, when he was still at the academy, there had almost been a war, and everyone had come together to avoid it.
Even here, on Multitude, the largest of the Federation administrative stations, each race had one in their territories, a turnout of seven representative, was impressive. Gral wasn't surprise to a kelsirian at the table, Kelser made sure to have at least one ambassador at each stations, and because of how busy they were here, they had six, last time he had checked.
There was also a taournian, a reptilian race, with a reputation for thievery, which they kept fighting, but Gral knew it was earned, at least half the pirate ships he stopped had Taournian crews.
There was a saladin, although they almost never participated. They were much better as liaisons, then diplomats.
The ridoshi was seated next to it, and like the saladin, it was impossible to tell if it was male or female. While gender was a concept the saladin didn't understand, the ridoshi understood, they just didn't want to talk about it. They were insectoids, with a three segment body, with three pairs of legs on the lower segment, and three pairs of arms on the upper segment, above that a small head. Three was a very important number in their society. They also were the ones with the most fluid personality. They lived the universe in shades. They could spend hours questioning the reasons why something was done, or should be done. While Gral didn't mind dealing with them, he stayed away from philosophy.
The garans were the closest to kelsirian physically, being a furred race, although they tended to be smaller, and most had much longer fur. Their head was similar, but their muzzles were longer and more pointed, their ears rounded, where kelsirians were triangular, and they had whiskers. They administered the station, as well as most through out the federation, they had a knack for managing large organizations.
The reoseph were another race Gral tried to avoid, they were to strict for his taste. They only saw the world in extremes, people were either good or they were bad, no room for compromise. It made them very difficult to deal with.
The last representative there was dromian. Gral didn't know much about them, they almost never left their territory. They were tall and very thin, and he couldn't tell what they were made of. They didn't have fur, but they didn't look to have skin either, it looked too rough and patchy to be that. Just looking at them made him uncomfortable. They also didn't participate much in politics, so he was surprised to see one here.
Gral had plenty of time to observe them during the hours he sat, waiting to be called to the table. This was the main reason he didn't like being summoned by the federation. He always had to wait. The other reason was they they never said why he was being summoned, although he had a good idea why, since he'd been ordered to bring Jeremy to the station, but this meeting was without him. His suspicion were confirmed when a contingent of humans entered the chamber, to sit at the inner ring, after Gral had been waiting for five hours. He wished Toom had been able to find out something more, but none of his backroom contacts had anything.
Finally his name was called, as well as the human party. He sat on one side of the open half of the table, and the humans on the other.
"The human representatives have lodged a complaint against," The saladin mangled his name, as usual, and Gral did his best not to wince. "Captain of the Viper's Bane. The humans can explain their complaint."
The human stood. "We are accusing the captain of attacking one of our station, and kidnapping one of our experts on anti-matter technology." He stood rigid, wearing black clothing, with a patch of white beneath his neck, which itself had a line of red on it. They all seems to be different fabrics. He'd have to ask Jeremy what the uniform represented.
"If the human will pardon me." The garans barked. "How is it you have an expert on a technology you do not possess? As a probatory species, you are not allowed anti-matter technology."
"We're still allowed to do research, and work on virtual systems. Just not build any of them."
"Human's right," the Taournians said.
"Negative," the reoseph interjected, "research equals knowledge, knowledge forbidden to humans."
Gral groaned inwardly. Another reason he hated these. They could never stay on the subject. The human didn't seem to mind. They had probably sent someone used to this environment, but he was just a captain.
It took them forty-five minutes to come to an agreement that it was fine for humans to do research, so long as they didn't build anything.
"What does the captain have to say about the accusation?" the kelsirian ambassador said.
"I didn't attack the station, or kidnap anyone. Jeremy wanted to leave, they're the ones holding him against his will."
"You dock to the station under false pretense. That constitute an attack."
"Not if the deception was ordered by my superiors." He looked at the kelsirian ambassador. "I had orders to surreptitiously verify if they were building an anti-matter reactor. My orders are on record."
"Were you able to find out if they were?"
"No, I wasn't. We had to leave before we finished the scans."
"You have one of their expect on the subject, surly you were able to question him."
"Because Jeremy didn't leave his people to become a traitor. He left to be with me."
"That's a lie! No human would ever willingly *be* with another man. It is unnatural. And I have proof that you forced him."
"Produce proof." The reoseph said
The human took a data slate out of a pocket and inserted it into the reader on the table. The space above the table shimmered and was filled by the image of him, his squad as well as the station's commander and his guards. Gral had his weapon pointed at the human's face.
"Get him here now! I want him! If he isn't here in five minutes I'm going to start shooting your men."
The commander told one of his men to go get Jeremy. When he returned with him, Jeremy looked scared.
"Come over here," Gral said, motioning with is weapon. Jeremy shook his head and took a step back. "Get here, or I'm going to kill someone." Jeremy bowed his head and crossed the corridor. The squad formed up around him, and they retreated.
"This is your proof?" Gral said.
"You can see exactly what you did."
Gral rolled his eyes. "Give one of my tech ten minutes with this vid, and it'll show that the commander begged me to take Jeremy." He looked at the ambassadors. "Vids haven't been allowed as evidence for over a hundred years. Why are you accepting it now?"
"Not know evidence was video," the reoseph stated.
"Fine, then I'm done here." Gral stood.
"No! You can't leave. We're not done! We have more evidence of the deceptions you perpetrated."
"More vids? Where are your witnesses? How come they aren't here to be scanned? Why don't we call Jeremy, so he can give his own version of what happened?"
"No. We will be addressing Mister Krommer tomorrow, without your presence." The human representative said.
Gral looked at the kelsirian ambassador, who nodded. "The captain does raise a good point," the ambassador said, "where are the witnesses?"
"They're terrified of him. We couldn't convince them to come."
"Right. Well, if you come up with actual evidence for your accusations, contact me. I'm going back to the room."
Gral didn't listen to the shouting that followed him until the door closed. He fumed all the way back, they where wasting his time with these fabricated charges. What the humans felt they could accomplish with them was beyond him.
The door to the room opened, and he had his answer. The place was a shamble, someone had put up a fight, before being taken out.
"Come to my location," he told his escort over the com. Then he contacted his ship. "Jeremy has been taken. Find him."
"Sir, this is an administration station, it's against protocol to scan it."
"I don't care. Scan it, break into its system. Houlin, you are going to do anything you need to find him."
He paced while he waited, his claws extending and retracting. Thuruk and the two others entered the room. "Look around, see if they left anything that can tell us where they went with Jeremy."
They did a thorough search of the room, but came up with nothing.
"Captain, I found him. He's in one of the human quarters."
"Guide me," he said, and then turned to the others. "No death, but if anyone gets in our way, take them down."
They crossed the station, and they didn't have to take down anyone. One look at them and they moved out of their way. They reached the room and the display indicated it was locked.
"Yes sir," the reply came after a long silence. A moment later the door opened, and Jeremy's screams stunned him. The others moved around him and subdued the humans.
Gral went to the chair on which Jeremy was secured and ripped of the cables attached to his head, and then ripped the restrains off. Jeremy stopped screaming, and panted.
"Jeremy," Gral said, "it's over. You're safe now."
Jeremy looked at him, eyes unfocused. He shook his head and looked at him again. His eyes focused and he yelled, bolting away until he was curled up in a corner.
Gral went to him, and reached out.
"Stay away!" Jeremy yelled.
Gral took a step back, in surprise.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but stay away, please." Jeremy curled himself into an even tighter ball.
Gral looked around the room and his eyes fell on one of the human. He headed toward him. "What. Have. You. Done. To him." He reached for the human, claws extended, but someone grabbed his arm. It was Thuruk. "Let go of me!" someone grabbed his other arm. "I'm ordering you to release me! He has to pay for what he did to my Heart!"
"You said no death captain. We can't let you do that."
Gral roared and turn to bite Thuruk's arm, but he saw Soal gingerly pickup Jeremy.
"I have him, captain."
The sight of Jeremy crying and shaking like a cub burnt his anger away. Thuruk released him and went to the chair Jeremy had been secured to.
"Lets good home," Gral said.