"Captain," the older kelsirian said, a moment after his image appeared on the screen
"Admiral Oturslgirnal, thank you for taking my call so quickly."
"I wasn't going to keep the Hunter at the Line waiting," he replied, smiling warmly. "What is the reason for you call?"
Gral kept the grimace from showing, he hated that title. He'd acquired it after the general had fabricated a vision that let Gral continue to patrol the kelsirian-human border. He was grateful to the Admiral, but he didn't like the reminder of the fabrication.
"I think we need to meet," Gral said.
"A meeting? Are you close to Kelser? You could have arranged that through my secretary."
"I'm not. And I'm not sure you want this to go through channel. We've come across . . . something."
"Isn't that a little presumptuous of you? Requesting a meeting, just because you found something?"
"I'm confident you don't want me to file a report on this, considering you're the one who assigned me this patrol route."
"I didn't assign you anything, you have Freedom of Hunt."
"When I'm pursuing a quarry, yes. The rest of the time I follow my assigned patrol route, and you are the one in charge of assigning those."
The admiral leaned back in his chair and eyes him. "You're certain this is that important?"
"Be in your sensor lab in ten minutes, you'll get a message there."
The communication cut, leaving Gral perplexed. "Huar,"
"Meet me in your lab in five minutes." Gral left his office.
* * * * *
The sensor lab wasn't much to look at for Gral. A reasonably sized room, with more readouts screen lining the walls that he could count. He knew Huar could find out the state of any individual sensor from here, he also knew he didn't spend much time in this room, preferring to do visual inspections.
They had been waiting for a few minutes, when a message arrived. A string of number that was meaningless to Gral.
"That's a frequency setting," Huar said, "but that isn't within sensor range."
"Can you get the sensor to reach it?"
"Sure, I can adjust the sensor to 'see' anything, it's just surprising. There's nothing in that range." He typed commands, and then entered the frequency he had received. "I'm brining up on screen, but we're not going to see anything."
The admiral's face appeared.
"Gods," Huar exclaimed, "how is that possible?" he started typing.
"Leave it, Engineer," the admiral ordered, and Huar stopped. "We're using the frequency as a sub-carrier wave. It's outside standard scan ranges, and even then, it's almost undetectable. I'd appreciate it if you didn't look into it any deeper."
"Yes, sir," Huar replied.
"Please leave us," Gral said, and Huar left the lab. The Admiral made a sign, and Gral saw shadows move, heard a door open and then close.
"Now, captain. What's so important."
"I have a human exploration ship, and its pilot. Which isn't a surprise to you, I take it," Gral added, at the lack of reaction from the admiral.
"It isn't, humans have been been exploring unclaimed territories since before we met them."
"So have we. But I'm guessing you know more about this ship than any of the others, am I right?"
"You are," that admiral said, after a moment. "What state is the ship in? And it's pilot?"
"The ship's engine is offline, damage cause by a micro meteorite. The pilot is physically fine, but his state of mind is dubious, at best. He spent eight years in total isolation, from what I saw, even humans can't take that much."
"I need you to repair his ship, but in a way that can't reveal you did it. Then you need to send him back to the humans."
"He's part of a group that's working to free a subset of their citizen from their government's oppression."
"The silver leaf pin."
"You know about it?"
"Yes, I ran across it when I escorted Jeremy to see his mother."
"I don't recall this being mentioned in a report."
"I didn't think it was relevant, just two males, accosting us in a bar, giving us the pin, and mentioning something about a plan. I thought they were just part of a small group wishing their situation was better."
"Their group isn't small. We don't have any numbers, but there are a lot of them. The human government calls them 'Homos'
"They call themselves, 'Leafers'." The surprise on the admiral's face told Gral he hadn't known that. "The human pilot, Adam, told us."
"They have placed some of their people in positions of power, and they are working toward something they call 'exodus'."
The word was human, and unknown to Gral. He'd ask Jeremy about it. "How are they infiltrating their own government?"
"By being careful not to be noticed. If no one knows about their preferences, they are invisible within their society."
"What does an explorer who's been away from human space for eight years have to do with their plans? The only thing in his databanks are scans of planets."
"I don't know. Maybe you can get him to tell you that. All I know is that he and a few other explorers are very important to them."
Gral nodded. "Adam mentioned something about applying pressure. Do you have any idea what he means?"
The admiral though it over and shook his head. "No, but I'll pass the information to the ambassadors working close with the humans, they may know. Is there anything else?" Gral shook his head. "Then, good hunting, oh and thank your mate for the upgrade he came up for the sensors. What's how we have this sub carrier wave." The admiral cut the transmission without explaining further.
* * * * *
"Hello Adam," Gral said, as they stood before his cell. "I'm Gral, I'm the ship's captain. You remember Jeremy, my mate, and this is Leiha, the ship's mentalist."
Adam was sitting on his bed, nervously looking at them. "That's a mentalist? So I want to know? Am I suppose to know?"
"I help people who have problems with their minds," she answered.
"You're a mind doctor," Adam stated, regarding her suspiciously.
"That would be an appropriate description."
"I don't like mind doctors. They do things, they try to change you. To make you 'normal'."
Gral and Jeremy exchanged a look.
"I do nothing of the sort," Leiha said. "I help people quiet their mind, so they can know who they are. If there is something in their mind that hurts them, I help them find out what it is, and come to terms with it."
"Where are your machines? Mind doctors always have machines. Big machines, small machines, painful machines."
Leiha looked at Jeremy, who wasn't showing any of the discomfort he was feeling. She could tell that he was now wondering if Adam's problems had been caused by those doctors, instead of the isolation.
"I don't use machines, it's only me, and you."
Leiha nodded. "The captain and his mate have questions for you. And if you'll let me, I'd like to help you answer them."
"No, I'm not suppose to tell anyone. The plan won't work if they know."
"Who's 'they'? Jeremy asked.
"No, no, no, no! You won't get me to tell you!" He put his hands over his mouth.
Gral crouched before the glass. "Adam, we want to help you. My ship's structural engineer is repairing your ship. When that's done, we'll send you back toward human space, even if you don't tell us anything. But we want to help you, and it's going to be easier to do that if we know what's going on."
"Why? Why would you want to do that? No, no. No one whats to help. They just want you to be normal. Being different is wrong." He had pulled his knees to his chest an he was rocking back and forth.
"Adam," Leiha said, "tell me about Robert."
"Robert?" Adam stopped rocking, and his features softened. "Robert's an accountant, he lives across the hall from me. He helped me forget the nightmares, he's waiting for me to come home."
"What happens once you get home?"
"Nothing," Adam sighed. "He going to have to ignore me. I'm going to be too visible, I'm going to be on tv a lot. We're going to have to be apart until e leave."
"Why do you have to remain apart?" Gral asked, before Jeremy could stop him.
"Because if they find out about us, the doctors are going to come back. I don't want the doctors anymore. I don't want them to know about Robert."
"Adam," Jeremy said softly. "What can we do to help you and Robert?"
"You have to send me back. I have to go home, and be ignored by him, even if that's going to hurt."
"Because I found it. I found the place where we can go to. He got off the bed and leaned against the glass. "And you know the best part?" he whispered. "They are going to send us there willingly."
"Why will they do that?"
"Because they're going to think they are sending us to hell, when in reality they are sending up to paradise."