"How is he doing?" Gral asked.
"Physically, he's healthy," Gariel, the head medic said, looking over the information on the datapad she was holding. "What ever they did to him, it didn't cause any physical damage."
"What did they do to him?"
"I don't know for certain, other than it affected him on a mental level." She pulled up an image of Jeremy's brain. "As you can see, he is extremely stressed, even while being unconscious. From what I'm seeing, I can tell you that he is afraid, but I can't tell you why. I recommend that a mentalist see to him, other than that, if the techs can work out what was done to him, we might be able to come up with a treatment. Other wise all we can do is hope that you rescued him before there was any permanent effects."
"Thank you, Gariel."
She put a hand on his arm. "Don't worry, he will get better."
Gral wanted to nod, to agree with her, but she hadn't seen the fear in his little warrior. He had been terrified of him. "I'll go see what the techs have found out."
* * * * *
Gral looked at the pieces spread over the work table. "Have you figured out what they did to him?" He asked Thuruk.
"They injected nightmares directly into his mind using this." He waved at the parts. "The work that went into building this is impressive, disconcerting, and terrifying. I can't imagine how they tested it to make sure it would do what they wanted it, and nothing else." He looked up. "Are we really going to let the people who built this into the federation?"
"I can only hope the Gods will work against them. At least we aren't supporting them anymore. I can't see who in their right mind would support them either." Gral leaned back against the wall. "Do you know why I can't get close to him, while Saul was able to pick him up?"
"They made you the center of his nightmares. I think they were trying to turn him against all of us, but because of how close he was to you, they wanted to make certain you would never be together."
"Did they succeed?" he asked weakly. "Will I ever be able to hold him again?"
"I don't know. They had him for hours, but not for as long as they wanted. The program they were running had hours to go before it concluded, so that's in Jeremy's favor, but I have no way to know how advanced it was on the part that dealt with you. I wasn't as gentle as I should have been when I took the processing center out of their machine. It was all I could do not to smash it."
"I understand," Gral said. "I don't blame you, I blame them. I want to go back there and rip their heads off. Thank you for stopping me from killing them."
"Just following your orders," Thuruk smiled, but it didn't hold. "How hard do you think they'll come down on us?"
Gral shrugged. "There's no way to know. Jeremy's position on the crew and as my Heart is established, and no one's argued against him."
"Would anyone contest it?"
"I have enemies. If they can find a way to use that against me, they will. Gods, I hate politics." He headed to the door. "Keep working on it, send anything you find out to Gariel."
* * * * *
Jeremy walked through the corridor, greeting those he knew, and nodding to anyone he wasn't familiar with yet. He'd made this walk often over the last six month, and daily over the last two.
Getting back on his feet after what had been done to him, hadn't taken long. Being able to move about among the kelsirians, let alone work with them took longer. It had been a month before he stopped looking for the exit each time there was more than two of them in the room with him. Another two before he didn't have to force himself not to jerk away each time one of them touched him, and another one to stop jumping each time someone he hadn't noticed appeared in his field of vision.
Now, he was working on what he considered his last real obstacle. This time the shaking didn't start until he was standing in front of the door. He reached for the bell, and his stomach lurched. He pulled away and sighed, he'd try again tomorrow. He turned and headed for his quarters to get ready for work.
He stopped when he saw who was buzzing his door.
The older kelsirian turned and looked at him. "Jeremy, it's so good to see you again, but it's just Querik. I'm not an ambassador for the time being."
"Nothing, I just decided to take some time to focus on my family. With being posted on varying stations through the federation, I hardly got to see my mates."
"You have more than one? Couldn't they go with you?"
"Yes, two females and one male. If they weren't busy with their own careers they could, but they are successful in their on rights back home, so I decided to take a break and look after them for a while. I'm on my way home, actually, and I through I'd travel with you, since you're heading in that direction too."
"I didn't know we were head to Kelser, I've been spending most of my time in engineering."
"How are you adapting to being on the ship?"
Jeremy eyes Querik. "I've been here for over two years. I'm pretty comfortable."
"I'm glad to hear it. I worried that you'd miss your people."
"I am with my people."
"I'm glad you feel that way. I know the crew thinks of you as one of them."
"Why are you really here?"
"I'm here because I'm heading home, I swear."
Jeremy eyed him again, obviously not quite believing him.
"Since I haven't seen you since you first joined the crew, why don't you show me your favorite place on the ship?"
"My favorite place?"
"Yes, surely you have one, some place where you like to go to relax, where you don't have to concern yourself with what is going on outside."
"I, I guess I do."
Jeremy took Querik to engineering.
"This is your favorite place?"
"Well, one of them, it's pretty high on the list. I'm comfortable here, I'm in my environment."
"You have list?"
"Why don't you show me another place on that list?"
Jeremy took him to the mess hall, and then a few of the recreation rooms he liked going to, the one with the movies, the one with the games and the quiet one. All the while knowing that he wasn't doing what Querik had asked of him. Querik wanted to know what his favorite place was, not those close to the top of the list.
He took a breathe to calm himself and headed across the ship. Querik followed him silently, until they stood in front of a door. Jeremy tried to reach for the buzzer twice.
"What's here?" Querik asked.
"You wanted to know where my favorite place was." He reached for the buzzer and pressed it.
"Enter," the voice on the other side said, and the door opened.
Jeremy started sweating on seeing Gral behind his desk. He wanted to run away, a voice at the back of his mind saying that this was the monster who had hurt him and stolen him from his family. He took a step forward.
Gral looked up and stood on seeing who was in the doorway. "Jeremy? Are you okay?" He stepped around the desk and took a step toward him, but stopped.
The voice was louder now. 'He's coming to hurt you. Run, run away.' Jeremy closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around Gral, surprising him. The voice told him to move away, that he wasn't safe here. He only held on tighter. Gral gently wrapped his arms around him
"This, this is my favorite place on the ship," Jeremy whispered.
"Welcome back, my little warrior."
"I'm sorry it took me so long, and I don't know if I'll be able to do more than this."
"It's alright. If this is all I get, I'll be alive."