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Chapter 39

      Jeremy had been in the brig for a week, alone. On a ship like the Viper's bane, the brig was almost exclusively used to hold prisoners, so he wasn't surprised to be the only one held there. What surprised him, at first, was that no one came to see him. Then he realized that Gral had probably ordered the guards to prevent his friends from dropping by. So, for a week it had been lights on at six, three meals, and lights out at twenty two. With nothing to do.

      "Finally!" Jeremy exclaimed when he heard the door open. It wasn't meal time, so it could only mean he'd finally decided to come talk to him. "It's about time you decided to . . ." His words died as he saw it wasn't Gral.

      Jeremy looked over Toom's shoulder to see if there was anyone else, a stupid move, it wasn't like Gral would have been able to hide behind the smaller kelsirian.

      "The captain's not coming," Toom said.

      "Of course he isn't," Jeremy snorted. He sat back on the bench. "How long is he going to keep me locked up?"

      "Until we reach Kelser, there he's going to have you transfered to an incarceration center."

      "What? This is ridiculous. Gods, what does he think he's doing?"

      Toom eyes him for a moment. "What is he doing? What did you think he was going to do when he found out about that operation?"

      "He wasn't suppose to find out about it."

      "So, on top of everything, you think your Heart is stupid."

      "Come on, he can't be that mad. We didn't get caught, and I don't see the humans brining it up, ever."

      "Mad? You didn't see what he did to his office, after throwing you in here."

      "It's kind of obvious I didn't see it." Jeremy pointed to his surroundings.

      "And you're not taking any of this seriously," Toom said, with a sigh.

      "How am I suppose to take this seriously, when I don't understand what the big deals all about. Humans were operating inside our territory, I made it pretty clear to them they would leave, and I didn't hurt anyone."

      "You're wrong, people have been hurt."

      Jeremy frowned at him.

      "Even if I assume that you really did that to get them to leave, which I don't. I know you too well. It wasn't your place to do it. You should have brought the information to the captain, and he would either have acted on it, or passed it along to his superiors. You endangered all of us, again."

      "No, I didn't! I did it exactly this way to make sure the crew would be safe. If the humans ever managed to trace anything back, it would only lead to me. No one else. Gods, the crew's safe, the ship's safe. What is he so angry about?"

      Toom tilted his head. "You really don't see it?" the surprise in Toom voice perplexed Jeremy.

      "See what? What are you talking about?"

      Toom let out a small, sad, laugh. He put a hand on the glass separating them. "After all these years, I really though you'd finally get it." He turned and left.

      "Get what?" Jeremy screamed after him.

      * * * * *

      Jeremy was standing before the council, the second time he'd been in such a position. The first time had been less grim. He was showered, shaved and wearing prisoner's gray. His hands were no longer restrained - they had been for the entire shuttle flight and walk to the groundside military administrative center. Gral had been by his side the entire time, but he hadn't said a word, he hadn't even looked at him. It was the first time they had seen each other in a month, and his mate wouldn't even looked at him. Jeremy hadn't thought he could hurt much more than when he'd been thrown in the brig and ignored there. He'd been wrong.

      "Captain," the central councilor said, "we've read the files you sent us, but we're still uncertain why you requested this meeting." He was an older male, Jeremy could tell because even sitting he was stooping forward. His fur was still a vibrant golden brown.

      "I'm here to turn over this terrorist, for judgment." Gral replied.

      "What?" Jeremy yelled, looking at his mate.

      "The prisoner will be silent," a female said. He didn't see whom, because he was glaring at Gral, who continued to look in front of him. "Do you deny the accusation?"

      "I deny being a terrorist, but no, I don't deny what's probably in that file."

      "You haven't seen the file?" she asked. She was sitting left of center, and looked to be a little younger, even if her fur as light gray.

      "No. I haven't."

      "They why don't you tell us what you did?"

      "How much detail do you want?"

      "Just give us the over all hunt. If we need details we'll ask for them."

      Jeremy nodded. "The operation consisted of infiltrating a ship crewed by humans. One of my operative procured one of their uniform so I could move about undetected. Another infiltrated their computer system, he monitored my progress and gave me access to where i needed to go."

      "The captain was unable to find out who your operatives were, will you be naming them?"

      Jeremy couldn't stop himself form looking at Gral, in surprise. "No, sir. I won't. As operation leader, I take full responsibility for what was done. They were following my orders, nothing more." He didn't know why Gral hadn't included them in his report, but he wasn't going to give them up, if he hadn't.

      "Very well, continue."

      "I made my way to the office of the human general Walter Malcolm Concryte. I installed a bomb to his office chair. The bomb was set to become active when he sat down, and detonate if he left the chair. Once the general sat, I explained to him that he needed to leave me alone, and go home. Once I said what I had to say, I neutralize the bomb and left."

      "What I'd like to know," said another female, on the left, her fur was mate black with random white stripes. "Is why you took it upon yourself to give a message to human illegally operating within the federation. You should have given that information to your captain."

      Jeremy didn't answer immediately. "I had to make a point. Humans have kidnapped me twice, and attempted to kidnap our cubs. Which happened on the Sitory station, deep in Kelsirian territory, where no humans had any business being.

      "I had to make them understand that I didn't need my Heart to protect me, or my crew. I needed to show them that if they came after me again, *I* was going to make them pay. I believed that a direct operation against them was the only way to make that point."

      "Why didn't you involve your captain?"

      "He wouldn't have let me do it."

      "Would it have been because he didn't think you couldn't accomplish the operation?"

      "No. Like you said, I shouldn't have done it. I knew he would have force me to stay in the sidelines while an official response was mounted. I also didn't tell him, because I didn't want to the operation to be traced back to him and endanger the crew."

      Gral snorted, and Jeremy grated his teeth, fighting not to ask what that was about.

      "So you left the ship, and no one was hurt."

      "That is correct."

      "Did you do anything else to the ship?"

      "I had one of my operative install three minor programs in their system, to trigger and deliver a message as a reminder of what I'm capable."

      The five of them talked among themselves for a few moments. Jeremy noticed that a few of them consulted their pads during that time. When they were done they returned their attention  to the two of them.

      "Captain, based on the file you provided," the older kelsirian said, "and Jeremy's testimony, which corroborates your findings, we can't level a charge of terrorism against him. The Humans have not indicated that any such actions have been done against them, and since Jeremy's actions were not against any kelsirian assets, the best we can find is running an unauthorized operation. Which would normally fall under the ship's captain to resolve."

      Gral was visibly not happy about this.

      "If you insist, you can have Jeremy removed from your crew, and we'll find another ship willing to take him." He paused and studied the both of them. "If I can offer my advice, not as an admiral, but as someone who has lived a long time. What I read in this file, and how I saw you react to Jeremy's testimony, speaks of a problem that is deeper, and unrelated to the operation he ran. Wouldn't it be best if you both went back to your ship and worked it out, instead of trying to shut yourself our of each other's life?"

      "Is that an oder, sir?" Gral asked.

      "Do I need to make it one?"

      "No, sir."

      "Good." He looked at the other councilors. "Do we have anything else for them?" after a moment they all shook their head. "Alright, then, we're done here."

      Gral turned, and stormed off. Jeremy left at a more controlled pace. The two guards, standing just outside the chamber, looked at their captain's vanishing back, and then at Jeremy.

      "So, where are we taking you?" asked Breniel. "The captain didn't say anything as he passed."

      "The council basically said I was his responsibility," Jeremy replied. "So you'll have to check with him."

      "Why don't we start by getting back to the ship." Armoil commented. "We can have someone braver than us ask him, once we're there."

      "That works for me," Breniel said, and looked at Jeremy.

      "I have to go to the ship, so that sounds like a plan. Can we forgo the restraints?"

      "I don't see why not. The captain didn't say anything about having you wear them."

      * * * * *

      Gral rushed in Leiha's office. "What's wrong with Rudyum?" asked a the door closed behind him. "He was fine this morning." He saw who was sitting in one of the two chairs in front of Leiha's desk, and growled. He turned to leave, but the door didn't open. He slammed a hand on it. "Open the door."

      "No." Leiha said.

      "I am ordering you to open it."

      "Captain, as ship mentalist, it is my responsibility to catch situations that have the potential to put the crew in danger. When that happens, I have the authority to do what is needed, even ignore a captain's order. Now, please sit down." She indicated the vacant chair, next to Jeremy's

      "And where were you when he set his operation in motion? How come I never saw a report from you about what he was planing?"

      "I had to weigh which one was more dangerous. Letting him go along with it, while using that as leverage to get him to have regular sessions with him, or stopping him, and having his anger continue to build until it boiled out of control."

      "And you call hat he did being under control?"

      She studied him and then looked at Jeremy. "Would you tell your Heart what your initial plan was?"

      Jeremy sighed. "I was going to assassinate the general, and then send a message to the humans telling them what I'd done, and why."

      "That's insane!" Gral yelled.

      Jeremy winced. "I know," he growled.

      "Through the sessions with me, he was able to realize that, and changed his plans."

      "And you couldn't get him to abandon them outright?"

      "I didn't have the time. Please sit, captain."

      Gral sat, grumbling.

      "I'll start by pointing out that I didn't have to trick Jeremy in coming. You've been ignoring my requests, until now. He's willing to talk and try to resolve the problems."

      "Of course he is," Gral said, "it's his fault things got to this."

      "What's that suppose to mean, my fault?"

      "You know exactly what I mean, don't try to act like you don't."

      "Right, because I'm the one who threw his Heart in the brig and ignored him there for a month, only to have him taken out because he wanted to get him thrown into an incarceration center. Right. I'm the one who blew this up out of proportion."

      Gral stood and glared down at Jeremy. "And What did you expect me to do? Cuddle you? You're constantly lying to me. You took over a year planning an operation, and then carried it through without approval, you could have started a war!"

      Jeremy stood and glared back "what do you mean, 'constantly lying'? When have I ever lied to you!"

      "You said you'd come she her so she could help you."

      "I did, and she did."

      "Then why did you through with the operation!"

      "Because it had to be done! Didn't you hear anything I said to the council?"

      "Gods! You're like talking to a wall!" he turned to Leiha. "What do you expect me to say to him . . ." He stopped, looking at here, muzzle open.

      She looked back at him, over the sandwich she was holding. She finished chewing and swallowed. "Don't mind me," she said, "continue screaming at each other."

      "Aren't you suppose to be helping us?" Gral asked.

      "Yes, but you are screaming at each other. I figured that was going to go on for another fifteen minutes at least, long enough for me to finish eating."

      "Shouldn't you have stopped us?"

      "You weren't listening to each other, there was no chance you'd listen to me. Food sounded more appealing."

      Gral and Jeremy looked at her, baffled.

      "Does this mean you're done screaming at each other? That you're ready to sit and actually talk?"

      They both sat.

      Leiha sighed and put her sandwich aside. "Jeremy, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir says that you lied to him, have you?"


      "And yet, you haven't told him the truth either, have you?"

      Jeremy didn't say anything.

      "How about you? Have you told him why you were so harsh?"

      "Yes, because he put the ship and crew in danger." Gral's tone was controlled.

      "So, you're not willing to tell him the truth either."

      Gral glared at her.

      "Alright, I can tell that this is as far as we are going to get today. Jeremy, I want to restart your regular appointments. Captain, I want you to also come see me, within the next seven day. Don't make me have to hunt you down."

      Jeremy nodded.

      "How often do you expect me to come?"

      "At least once a week, and for as long as it takes to resolve this situation. When I feel the time's right, we're going to have another session with you together."


      "Good. Now. Here are some rules. First, you will consult with each other for every decisions."

      "Every decision?" Gral asked. "I have a ship to run, I can't spend my time running my decisions by someone else."

      Leiha thought it over. "You're right. For you, ship related decisions are excluded. And for you Jeremy, anything to do with engineering is excluded."

      "But for everything else, I have to check with him?" Jeremy thumbed in Gral's direction, Leiha nodded. "What's the point?"

      "The point is that the two of you need to start talking again."

      "We talk," Gral said.

      "Possibly, but do you actually listen to each other?"

      Neither replied.

      "Second rule. You live in the same quarters. You've been apart long enough, and you have cubs that need you both. You will live together, and sleep together.

      "Rule three, no screaming. If you feel like screaming at each other, I want you to come here. Wake me if needed, but you are not to raise your voice at each other, is that understood?"

      They nodded, reluctantly, but did nod.

      "Good. Finally, before going to bed, you will tell each other a reason why you are happy to be together. You'll do that each night, and you can't have repeats."

      "No repeats? That's not going to last long."

      "You're going to have to make it work, because I want both of you back here the morning you can't find something new to be grateful for. Now. I'll see each of you at your next appointment."

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Ok, for some odd reason, I didn't get the notification that this had a update until yesterday...  So I read the last chapter thinking that was my next chapter, a lot of spoilers...

And broken hearts beforehand...


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