"Captain," Nimil said, "I'm getting some sort of distress signal"
"Some sort?" Gral asked, moving behind the communication officer.
"It's very faint," he said. "It's the standard federation distress code. No voice, no details."
"Where are they?"
"Unknown. They're outside scanner range."
"Huar, if we pulse, what are the odds we'll be seen by anyone?"
"The only ones who'd notice anything would be ours. This far in our territory, there wouldn't even be human military in the unclaimed territories."
"Okay, give us a pulse then."
"Scans on main," Huar said. "Pulse in two, one, now."
Gral watched the pulse expand from them, and nothing showed for almost a minute, and then there was a blip. "Where is that?"
"Twelve or so light years from us, two deep within unclaimed territories. Checking the resonance signature. Nothing on file."
"Nimil, what exploration ship do we have out here?"
"None," he replied after a moment, "must be a private prospector."
"They're still suppose to register their planed exploration." Gral grumbled. "Set a course. Let see what the problem is."
* * * * *
Jeremy entered the cargo bay, "What do you need me for?" he asked Gral, who simply pointed to the small ship in the middle of the bay. Jeremy whistled. "That isn't one of ours, is it?"
"No, it's human."
Jeremy walked around it. "Small, solidly built, I'm guessing it's a one person ship, cockpit, living area and little else. It's an exploration ship, but a model I've never seen before. What happened to it?"
"Micro meteorite made it through the plating and damaged the engine," Erhik said, as she stepped out from the ship. "Do humans really live in such tight quarters?"
"All the time," Jeremy answered.
"Come on in, I need you to verify something for me." Once inside, the cockpit was immediately to his right, the pilot's chair and controls tightly packed. He'd have to climb over the chair to sit in it. Before him was a bed. To the left of the bed a minuscule kitchen and eating area. Beyond the kitchen the corridor opened up into a room. On his left were controls and readouts, in front the engine, and on the right, the generator.
Jeremy looked at it, four feet wide, and probably the same depth, and floor to ceiling. He could still feel the heat coming off it, even though it was turned off. "Well, we now have undeniable proof that humans have built an anti matter generator, against federation rules. If we bring this up, we can make sure they are never allowed in. Gods, what was he doing to need this much power?"
"He was flying fast." Erhik said. "I've gone over these engines and they are somethings I've never seen before, if I can find a way to adapt them for our fighters, they'll be even more deadly."
"Lets wait for the pilot to wake up and find out what he's doing this close to our territory," Gral said. "Before you start taking this apart. What's the generator like?"
"It's years ahead of what I was working with back on the station," Jeremy stated. "Which isn't surprising, it's been over fifteen years since I've looked at a human generator. Considering what we had back then, this is actually quite impressive, but nothing close to ours."
Gral nodded. "You're free to inspect it, but don't damage it."
* * * * *
Jeremy entered the brig. The human had managed to escape from the medical bay, and almost made it back to his ship before being caught. He fought hard against the guards who had brought him here. Gral figured that seeing another human might make him more cooperative.
The man was pacing, mumbling to himself. He stopped on seeing Jeremy and moved closed to the glass. He was wearing some jeans and a shirt, but he was barefoot. Someone had found clothing on the ship. His hair was black, long and wild, he hadn't shaved in a few days.
"What's your name?" Jeremy asked.
The man took a step back. "No, no, no. You can't fool me. You look right, but you sound wrong. I'm never going to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"You can't trick me!" the man laughed. "You can't trick me. I've spent too many years on this. I'll die before I tell you." He looked to the side. "No, I can't die. I have to report it. The plan won't work if they don't know about it"
"I'm not telling you," the man sang.
"Fine, at least tell me your name."
The man pressed his face against the glass. "Whats *your* name?"
"Ah! Jeremy, right, Jeremy." The man froze. "Jeremy?" He squinted in Jeremy's direction. "No, no. That's can't be. You don't sound right, but there are cats. Jeremy Krommer?" he asked tentatively.
"No, no, no. You don't sound right. You can't fool me. You're lying."
Jeremy opened his jacket, moved closer to the glass and showed him the thin scar on this throat.
The man looked at it. "Why?" he asked, horror on his face.
"So I can pronounce Kelsirian."
"Why would you want that? You're human!"
"No." Jeremy's tone was glacial.
"No?" the denial seemed to surprise the man.
"No. I'm kelsirian," Jeremy stated.
"Kelsirian?" The man started pacing. "He can't be kelsirian. No, he was dating a cat, he wasn't one." He looked askance at Jeremy. "He doesn't look like a cat. Can he be one, if he doesn't look like one?"
"What happened to you?"
"To me? Nothing. Why? Do you think something happened to me?"
"You don't sound like nothing happened to you."
"Ah! You try spending eight years alone in a small ship and see what happens to you mind!"
"Didn't you have anyone to talk with? Your ship has a working communication system."
"No! I can't talk. You can't make me talk. No one can know what I was doing. It's a secret." He started giggling. Then stopped. "You're Jeremy," he stated. "You have to help me. I can't stay here."
"Because I'm . . ." He started searching his pockets. "My things, my uniform. There's something in the pockets you have to see."
Jeremy looked up at the camera, and then back at the man. "Someone will bring it, in the mean time, why don't you tell me your name? I told you mine."
"My name is . . ." His mouth hung opened for a moment, than closed. He looked around, searching. "No, no, that isn't right. Right! My name's Adam, Adam . . . . Douglas? Yeah, that's right, Adam Douglas." He chuckled, "why didn't I remember it?"
"Alright Adam, why do you have to leave?"
"Do you have it?"
"Arrg. If you don't have it I can't tell you."
"Because you have to know."
"That I'm . . . .I'm . . ." He looked up and screamed. "That I'm like you!"
Jeremy was taken aback. What did he mean? He couldn't mean he was part of a kelsirian crew . . . Was it that he didn't consider himself human either?"
The door opened and Gral entered.
"Is that him?" Adam asked. "Is that your boyfriend?"
Jeremy glared at Adam, as a warning to watch what he was going to say next.
Gral put something in his hand, and Jeremy looked at it. It was silver, in the shape of a leaf, with a clip at the back so it could be attached to clothing. Why did it look familiar. Gral put another, identical, in his hand. Adam had two?
No. Jeremy remember now, one of them had been given to him the last time he'd been on Earth. He looked at Adam, eyes wide.
"Yes! Yes!" Adam did a little dance. "You have one too, I'm like you."
"You have sex with other males"
Adam sat, and his body relaxed as he let out a sigh. "Yes. I'm a Leafer, just like you."
"Leafer? That's the term you use for a male who has sex with males?"
"Or women who have sex with women, or family that support them, and people who help them. It's all part of the plan." Adam stood. "That plan! There has to be pressure. You have to apply pressure. The plan won't work if there isn't any pressure."
"Adam," Gral said. "We will help you."
"You will? Why?"
Gral held up the two pins. "Because we are like you."
"But for now, I need you to rest. Jeremy will come back tomorrow, and you can tell him how we can help."
"You need to apply pressure!"
"We will, but for now, rest." The two of them left the cell area. "Lower the lights so he can sleep." He told the guard. Then looked at Toom. "Did any of that make any kind of sense to you?"
"No, but are you surprised? Eight years without any contact, in that box they call a ship. It's amazing he's even that coherent. That human must have had a very strong mind when he set out on what ever this is."
"Come on, lets go rest ourselves." They left the brig. "Tomorrow I'd like you to reach out to your backroom contacts, see if any of them know what a human explorer is doing here."
"I will, but don't expect much. Politicians aren't really known for knowing who goes where."
Gral's paces slowed, until he stopped.
"Gral?" Jeremy asked.
"You two go ahead, the cubs will be missing us, you keep them entertained. I'll be there shortly, I have an idea who might have answers."