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Chapter 34

      Jeremy was sitting in the chair, sipping a drink. The chair was the some one he'd been lounging in, not thirty minutes before, but it didn't feel comfortable anymore. It felt confining. The drink was something he called Ridoshi scotch. The ridoshi had another name for it, he didn't know how it was made, and it didn't even taste like scotch, but in his years within the federation, it was the closest thing he'd found. Right now he needed it. He was sipping his second glass, waiting for Gral to come back from what he was working on.

      That wasn't what he wanted to do. He wanted to get out and hunt down the person who had ordered his cubs be kidnapped, but he couldn't leave them without protection. They were sleeping, he knew because he could hear them breathing lightly. He couldn't look at them, when he did his anger flared almost beyond his control.

      The door opened, and Jeremy heard the bustle coming from the other room. Seemed that someone had finally noticed something, and called in security. Gral entered, worries etched on his face. "What happened?" he asked.

      Jeremy finished his drink, and stood. "Someone tried to kidnap our cubs," he answered, keeping his voice low.

      "Are they okay?" Gral asked, also low, looking at them over Jeremy's shoulder.

      "Yes. Rudyum hid with Tamirik."

      Gral sighed in relief. "What happened to the kidnappers?"

      "I took retribution," Jeremy stated.

      Gral frowned. "I saw the bodies, you sliced the taournians throat. What you did to that human, that wasn't retribution. You can't . . .."

      "Don't you dare." Jeremy glared at him. "Don't you dare, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir, tell me that I couldn't do what I did. They were here to take our cubs. The only reason for that is that they are still trying to get to me. I won't let that go unanswered. I can't. I did what I had to do to get what I needed." He sidestepped Gral.

      "Where are you going?" Grak asked.

      "Out." Jeremy replied. "It's your turn to look after our cub." He didn't look at his handy work in the room security was buzzing about. They didn't look up at him. He figured that it was only a question of time before they hunted him down. He didn't care. Right now all he wanted to do was find someone to hit. The person he desperately wanted wasn't within his reach. He was on a ship, out in space, somewhere he had no business being, according to the information he'd gotten.

      He stormed through the crowd, waiting, wanting one of them to make an issue of being shoved aside, anything for a reason to hit someone, but no one did. His wandering led him back to the market, and at the edge, he saw a fighting room.

      No one was in it. A large fighting mat was in the center of the room and various size training bots lined the walls. He went to one of the larger one, raised its proficiency level and started hitting it. It wasn't a person, but he didn't care, it was something to hit, that could hit back.

      He lost himself in the fight, training bots were programmed to learn from their opponent and adapt, increasing the difficulty of the fight. It wouldn't put him in any danger, but it forced him to focus on the fight, pushing everything else to the back of his mind.

      Out of the corner of his eye he saw an attack coming. He blocked it, attacked back. Another one came, he dodged that one and struck. He was blocked. He pushed forward, striking as hard and has fast as he could. He was blocked and dodged, but one strike went through. Then he was on the defensive, blocking, parrying and dodging. He as hit once, and then it all stopped.

      Jeremy was in the center of the fighting mat, a ridoshi quickly backing away, until it was off the mat and its three pairs of legs clicked on the metal floor. It lay it's three part body on the ground, stayed there for a moment an then stood. Crossing its three pairs of arms in front of hits upper segment. The head on top of that seemed too small for the rest of the body.

      "I recognize your skill," it said in broken English.

      Jeremy looked around, not understanding how he'd gotten to the mat. He had no recollection of moving from fighting the bot to fighting the ridoshi.

      "What did you say?" he replied in Kelsirian. It had been so long since he'd heard English that his mind hadn't registered that he'd understood it.

      "You speak Kelsirian," it said, speaking it much better, the words being only broken by some clicking the ridoshi didn't seem to be aware it was making. "I said that I recognized your skill."

      "I'm sorry I attacked you."

      "My responsibility. I needed to be more aware of your fighting blindness."

      "Fighting blindness, I guess that's apt. Still I am sorry. I attacked you when you were just trying to what? Get my attention?"

      "I needed to tell you the cost of fighting."

      "Of course," Jeremy replied. "I didn't mean to use the bot without paying. I didn't see any where to pay when i came in."

      "My responsibility. No one comes this time. Went eat."

      "How much do I owe you?"

      Jeremy paid, and turned to leave, he felt better now, having worked off some of his anger, and waked right into three rifles, pointed at him. The reoseph holding them wore station guard uniforms, and they barked commands at him he didn't understand, although he thought he heard something resembling his name in there.

      "The guard demands if you are Jeremy." The ridoshi's pronunciation was better.

      "I am."

      The ridoshi told the guard, who barked more orders.

      "You are expected to follow the guards. They must take you to station head. You have committed . . . Death." He looked at Jeremy. "Is this true?"

      Jeremy nodded.

      The guard barked something, but the ridoshi made a gesture and the guard grumbled something under his breath.

      "You are not preparing to fight. You are making . . . Taking responsibility for death?"

      "I killed them, yes, so no, I'm not going to fight the guards."

      "Were the death expected?"

      "I don't understand."

      "Did the dead bring the death on to themselves?"

      "Yes, they did."

      The ridoshi nodded. "Then, you do not need fear judgment. You were the instrument of their acts. You need not take the responsibility for them." He said something to the guard, who barked in exasperation, and motioned for Jeremy to come with them.

      With one guard in front and two on each side, he was escorted through the station, and to a room where three garans sat, listening to a group argue. The guards had him sit while they remained standing, next to him.

      Jeremy didn't pay attention to what was happening. He figured it would be his turn soon enough, and prepared himself for what they might do to him. He wasn't familiar with garans law, other than the fact that it mostly followed federation law, but he knew that the plump, hairless beings weren't ones to negotiate, or accept excuses.

      A young saladin sitting a few seats away from him pointed and him and showed his data pad to his neighbor. When he moved it back, Jeremy saw a picture of himself on it, and then of the room where his cub had stayed, blood and dead bodies included.

      An hour later, the guards had him stand, and escorted him before the three garans, where a table and chair had been placed. They sat him there.

      "You are Jeremy Krommer, is that correct?" the central garans asked, in surprisingly good English.

      Jeremy nodded.

      "Please give your answer vocally. Your answer needs to be recorded."

      "I am." Where had he learned English, Jeremy wondered, and why? As far as he knew, he was the only native speaker to move about freely within the federation. He hadn't seen any indication that humans had businesses here.

      "You have been recorded taking two cubs out of a room. In that room it was discovered that you had attacked three member of the federation, with no indication of provocation. Is that correct?"

      Jeremy was surprised at how calm he was at hearing the lie. He hadn't known how he was going to react at being accused of killing the Taournians, he had done that, and as much as he hoped to find a way to avoid what ever fate that would bring on him, he wasn't going to lie. But they lied, shouldn't he be angry about it? Maybe the fact the the garans spoke English so well was clueing him onto something. Was he in on it?

      "Well," the garans said, "what is your response?"

      "The cubs are mine," Jeremy said," I was taking them back to my room to keep them safe."

      Before the garans could reply, sound from the audience caused Jeremy to turn. A female kelsirian was pushing the guards at the entrance of the center dais out of her way. She had pale yellow fur, with slightly darker sports, she was wearing white pants and a loose vest of the same color. Jeremy tried to remember if she was one of the crew. He didn't think she was.

      "Identify yourself," the garans stated, in perfect kelsirian.

      "I am Illsone, professional counsel. I am here to speak for the accused."

      "This is not a court of law, counsel. Your presence here is not required."

      "As per the Federation-Kelsirian Treaty of two-oh-eight, any kelsirian citizen, accused of a crime that falls under such as per Federation law, is required to have a counsel. I see you haven't appointed him one, so I am appointing myself." She motioned for one of the ashen looking garans standing to the side to bring her a chair. Which it did. She sat, put a pad on the table and squeezed Jeremy's hand, whichile the garans talked among themselves.

      "Please let me do the talking," she whispered.

      "Who are you?" he whispered back. "Why are you helping me?"

      "Do you mind if I answer that after this?"

      Jeremy didn't have time to reply.

      "Do you have evidence that the human has kelsirian citizenship?"

      Being referred to human angered him, but he kept himself under control.

      "Jeremy's acceptance in kelsirian society is on records, as of eight years ago. If you take the time to verify the federation registry you will see that. Also, he renounces his human ties, so please refrain from addressing him as 'human'. He is kelsirian."

      More talk among the three.

      Jeremy looked at her. He was certain she wasn't one of the crew, yet she knew how he hated being reminded he was human. She gave him a comforting smile.

      "Very well," the garans said. "We have confirm your statement."

      "Thank you. There for, Jeremy will be treated as per the treaty I mentioned before, I expect you are familiar with it. If not, I'm certain we can wait until you are."

      "Indeed, I am."

      "Good, now. What is Jeremy accused of."

      "Jeremy is being accused of assaulting three federation members."


      The garans looked at her, visibly annoyed at the interruption.

      "He only attacked two federation members. Humans have not been granted entry in the federation, therefor they can not be grouped with the two Taournian he killed."

      "Very well. He assaulted two federation members without provocation, whom he killed, as you stated yourself. He caused an unacceptable level of pain to a member of a species waiting entry in the Federation, also without provocation. We have evidence of such."

      "Doesn't the attempt to kidnap his cubs count as provocation?"

      "We have no evidence to that effect."

      "Which ones? That the cubs are his, or that there was an attempt to kidnap them?"


      She tapped something on her pad. "I have just sent you the forms, indicating that Jeremy, and his Heart, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir, took in Rudyumdamselhelrarin and Tamarik. Please take the time to look it over, you will see that it is proper, as per kelsirian law, which is supported by the treaty."

      "Very well, the cubs are his," the garans admitted once he looked the information over.

      "Good. Then, as for the kidnapping attempt, of which you claim there is no evidence. Can you justify why three males, in military armor and armed with," She consulted her pad, "Srinovak hand canons, bypassed the lock on the door leading to the room where his cubs were residing?"

      "There is no evidence of such act."

      "There isn't? You have evidence of Jeremy carrying his cubs to his room, yet you don't don't have any evidence of them while they are tempering with the the door access? And while we are on the subject of evidence, how did those three males get on your station? I went through the logs going back a month, on my way here. I saw no indication that a human was allowed on the station, let alone permitted military grade equipment. When did garans security become so lax?"

      The garans on the left became flustered, his ashen skin becoming almost luminescent white. He said things Jeremy couldn't hear, and the central one responded harshly.

      "You do not make accusation of the station." He said to Illsone.

      "I didn't make accusations. I asked questions that pertain to the accusations you have put on Jeremy."

      "How those males got on the station has no relation to the accusations. It does not matter how they came to be on the station, the evidence still shows that Jeremy assaulted them."

      "With provocation."

      That silenced the garans.

      "Three males entered the room where his cubs are residing. Those males are armored and armed. Do you deny that to a father, this would look like they intend harm to his cubs?"

      "No, I do not deny such." The reluctance in his tone was thick. "But that does not absolve him of the death or pain he caused."

      She tapped her pad again. "I've just sent you the Federation ruling on Hardsamitar versus Tilen of the Dromian. Where the Federation recognized that kelsirian are a race of warriors, and as such, it must be accepted, that if they feel that they, or close members to them are in danger, they will go to all possible extant to remove that danger. Please read it."

      She consulted a few entries on her pad while they read. Jeremy had to stopped himself from staring at her. How was she blocking them so easily?

      "You can not apply this judgment here. All you have to do is look at him to know that is isn't."

      "Be very careful, station head," she said, a tight smile on her lips. "If you want to attempt to deny citizenship to someone, you need to have very solid proof."

      "I do not deny his citizenship. But the judgment apply to those born of Kelser, you only have to look at him to know that it isn't so."

      "Plenty of kelsirians are born off Kelser, the judgment protects them also. As for what I see." She took a moment to study Jeremy. "I see the engineer on the Viper's Bane. I see the Heart to the captain of said ship. I see a Hunter trained, and proven at he battle of Yarvir. I see a male who took two cubs in his family, who risked his life to protect them, who made sure that threat would not come back." She looked at the garans. "I don't know what you see, station head. I see a kelsirian."

      * * * * *

      "Thank you, for getting me out from under this," Jeremy said to Illsone, stopping her as they left the room, and pulling her to the side.. "But I need to know why you did this, you're not from my ship."

      "I explained it to them, every kelsirian has to have counsel."

      "But how did you know I'm kelsirian?"

      She regarded him. "Everyone who pays attention to the news casts knows you, Jeremy. You are the furless kelsirian, you went against the human government to join your heart. You over came attempts after attempts by them to force you back within their control. Your story is told by anyone who still believes that our Heart is out there, if we're only willing to fight for it."

      Jeremy stared at her, and found he had to lean against the wall. "Let me get this right, my life is a romance vid?" he couldn't stop himself from laughing.

      Illsone looked at him for a moment, and then smiled. "Yes, I suppose it is." Once he'd stopped laughing she continued. "But I have a personal reason for helping you. I have family on Yavnir, uncles, aunts and a few distant relatives. You and your crew were instrumental in stopping the invaders. My family there lives because of you."

      "Instrumental is a bit of an exaggeration. We were one of eight ships there."

      "That doesn't matter, you were there, you helped."

      "Okay, and you just happened to be here to save me?" Jeremy wasn't sure if he was bordering on being ungrateful for her help, with his questioning, but she didn't seem to mind them. He hadn't interacted with many people outside the ship in his years in kelsirian space, maybe the appreciation for curiosity he'd encounter there wasn't something Gral fostered, but a racial trait?

      "I'm here regularly. I represent a few kelsirian companies who have assets in the region, and I provide them with legal counsel. I was waiting to leave the station, my ship was delayed due to some mechanical failure. It's still not repaired. When I saw you on the news cast, I looked into it, they only talked about the death and torture. It didn't take me long to piece enough of what could have happened for me to rush here to help you."

      "Alright, how did you know how I feel about being referred to as . . .."

      "I'm a mentalist. A rather weak one, I can't enter someone's mind, I can just sense emotional outburst. When the garans called you . . .. I felt your anger. I knew they would play on that. Garans don't like uncertainty, they like things to be one or the other. You should be what you look like. What I don't understand, is how they would miss details like the taournians and human getting on the station illegally, or not having any evidence they force their way into your cubs room."

      "I don't think they missed anything," Jeremy said out loud, without meaning to.

      "What do you mean?"

      "Please forget I said anything." He said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you for helping me. I know you said you owed me, but if you ever find yourself needing my help, call me. Right now I owe you, big time." She smiled at him, her ears turning red. "Now, I need to go. There are more consequences I have to deal with, and you can't help me with those."

      He walked with her until their path separated. He mused quietly for some time, before looking up, feeling silly at the motion, he didn't have to look in any specific direction to talk to them. He also felt a little apprehensive, in all the years he'd been kelsirian, he'd grown comfortable with the idea of Gods, and their meddling ways, but address them . . .. He didn't know. "Alright," he still said, keeping his voice low, "which one of you he looking out for me? And more importantly, why?"

      He didn't expect a reply, and he wasn't disappointed. He had no other choice, these days, ships didn't just breakdown, engineers and techs were constantly looking over them, and they had redundancies. Only the main power generator didn't have any, and those things didn't breakdown, short of sabotage. He also believed she was honest in her motives to help him. He didn't think she was some agents with plans to use his debt toward her.

      Which left only the Gods.

      His musing took him to his room. He opened the door without hesitation. He had been kept with his family. He wasn't going to belittle what had been done by not facing what he had coming. Gral put Rudyum down on seeing Jeremy, and went to him.

      "How are you?" he asked, his tone was neutral, but Gral's eyes were angry.

      "I'm okay," Jeremy replied, softly.

      "Pa?" Rudyum said, half hiding behind the chair. "Is everything okay?" his voice was weak, and filled with hesitation.

      Gral looked at his son, in amazement, while Jeremy went to him.

      "Yes," Jeremy said, "things are okay." He smiled for him, even if he knew it was just a question of time before Gral let him know just how unhappy he was.

      "Is father angry with you?"

      Jeremy simply nodded, and looked over his shoulder.

      Gral stood there for a moment, watching them, then went to pickup their daughter. "Let's go back to the ship."

      Jeremy didn't argue. He didn't feel like staying on the station. The walk back was uneventful, Gral talked with Rudyum, obviously very happy to hear him talk. Jeremy was quiet, he was preparing himself, steeling himself.

      Once on the ship they went directly to their quarters. Gral took their son and daughter to her room, which was on the left side of the living room in that centered their apartment.

      "Rudyum," Gral said, once he'd place Tamirik in her crib. "I need to talk with Jeremy. I want you to say here, is that understood?"

      "Are you going to fight?"

      "I hope not," he sighed.

      "Pa saved us."

      "I know. And I'm happy he did, but he did other things, and I need to discuss them with him. Will you stay here?"

      Rudyum nodded. Gral kissed the top of his head. He closed the door on his way out. Back in the living room, he put a hand on Jeremy' shoulder and pulled him into their bedroom, on the opposite side of the living room. Once he'd closed the door, he rested his head on it, not looking at his Heart.

      "Do you have any idea what you did?" Gral asked through clenched teeth.

      "I protected our cubs," Jeremy stated.

      Gral let out a bark. "Is that what you're calling what you did?"

      "Three males break into our cubs room. I did what I had to, to get them out safe."

      "What about after? I saw that massacre on my way in. Before the news cast started showing vids of it. You murdered two Taournians."

      "It isn't he first time I've had to. . . ."

      "Without orders! You killed them without orders. That means you're responsible. What do you think is going to happen when they come looking for you? When they want to drag you to an adjudicatory?"

      "I'd like to see them try," Jeremy replied with a snort. "I'd like to see them justify a human equipped with military grade armor and weapon this deep within the Federation, when there's currently only three stations where they're allowed to bring that kind of things aboard, and none of them are any where near here."

      Gral grabbed Jeremy by the shoulders. "Gods, will you stop and think. You can't make this a vendetta. We have operations we need to run, and I can't let you endanger them this way. You may already have jeopardized this one."

      "Vendetta? I'm not the one on a vendetta, they are!" he shook himself free. "They're the ones constantly after me, you know damn well that the kidnapping was to get to me. They are monsters, don't you get that? We can't treat them like civilized beings, because they aren't."

      "They aren't all like that," Gral said, keeping his tone calm.

      "Yes! They are! The lot of them should be wiped out, believe me when I tell you that if we let them in, they won't do anything but bring about our destruction."

      Gral went to him, and cupped his hands on Jeremy's cheeks. "I know you can't mean that. Your mother is human."

      Jeremy's eyes grew wide, what he'd implied sinking in. He tried to say something, but nothing would come out. Eventually he looked at his feet. "I did what I had to. You can't tell me that you would have done anything differently."

      Gral didn't reply immediately. "I don't know," he finally said. "I wasn't there in the moment, so I don't know what I might have done. What I do know, is that you are a hunter. You didn't have to kill them to keep our cubs safe. What did torturing that human get you?"

      "It got me the name of the man who gave him his orders." Jeremy answered. He didn't feel comfortable not telling him the whole truth, but he didn't want him involved in what he was planning. Gral had too much at stake with the ship, Jeremy couldn't ask him to put that at risk. "I gave the information to the station head, during the trial."

      Gral was visibly relieved. "Good, then we'll let them investigate that." He caressed Jeremy's cheek. "I can't let what you did go unpunished. You might have been lucky enough to avoid charges from the station, but you committed a crime. I'm not going to throw you in the brig, which is the strict minimum I should do for murder, but I'm confining you to quarters. Guards will escort you when you go to your office."

      "What? You're putting me under guard?"

      "Yes, I am. Don't you understand that if you weren't my Heart, if you were anyone else on this ship, I'd send you to Kelser on the most direct flight, under guards to answer for the crime? So you're going to have guards posted at this door when you're here, and at your office when you're working there."

      "No! You want guards to follow me where ever I go. Fine, but I am not going to have them within engineering. You can have them stand by that door. It isn't like there's more than one way in and out of there." Jeremy as fuming.

      "Alright. They'll stand by engineering."

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