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Chapter 45

      Jeremy entered the hangar, and looked over what had become something of a camp for their refugees. He didn't particularly want to be here, but he had reached the point where he couldn't stand being locked up in his quarters. He decided that was a good time to take his captain duties back from Toom, which meant dealing with this.

      He wandered through them for a moment before finding Eugene. "I'm sorry I haven't been here before," Jeremy said, "I've been dealing my Heart's death." Eugene gave him a curious look. "My mate, husband, in human parlance."

      "My condolence. I didn't realize you were a leafer too."

      "I am, but we don't use that term."

      "What term do you use?"

      "We don't have one. I'm just a male who has sex with other males."

      "How do you know who's safe to approach?"

      "What do you mean?"

      "How can you tell if you can . . . You know."

      "Have sex with him?"


      "I ask him." Jeremy replied simply. "But before we get sidetracked by an explanation of the difference between our species' behaviors toward sex. I'm Jeremy Krommer," he had to pause for a moment. "I'm the ship's captain. I'm here to inform you of the situation we're now all in, so we can decide what we can do. Do you mind if the rest of your people listen in?" Those closer had already formed a circle around the two of them.

      "I don't."

      "Bridge, Override all the datapads in the hangar. Broadcast our conversation to anyone not within easy earshot."

      "Done, captain."

      Jeremy took a breath to steel himself. "Okay. Because of the destruction of your mining planetoid, you are currently homeless. We don't have the resources to help you settle another one. And you'll agree with me that taking you back within human territories isn't a good idea." Eugene nodded. "We contacted other ships we know to be sympathetic to your plight, unfortunately none of them can take your whole group. At best each ship could take, two families." A murmur and shaking of heads spread through the crowd.

      "I think it's best if we stay together."

      "Alright. The reason I looked for another ships for you to go on, is that the Viper's Bane is a military ship. Things are quiet now, but it's only a question of time before we get called to a fight. You are civilians, I can't force you to take part in them, but you have to understand that by staying with us, you could become targets."

      "Can I have some time to discuss this with my people?"

      "Of course. You can communicate with everyone over the pads. I tell the bridge not to listen in."

      "That won't be necessary. Our discussion isn't secret. I just want to make sure everyone is okay with staying here."

      "Very well." Jeremy found a crate to lean against. He was surprised he was still standing. It had taken a lot of will to keep himself from shaking when he mentioned the planetoid. Now he felt like he'd run the entire training course.

      "Captain," Tamirik's voice sounded in the ear piece, "What do you want me to do with their conversation?"

      He took a moment to consider it. "Log it apart of the rest, just in case there's trouble down the line and we need to study it to see if this was part of the cause. Other than that, unless you hear something that you feel is a treat to the crew, I don't need to know what they are talking about."


      Eugene spoke with his people for twenty minutes, and then came back to him. "We need your assurance that you will not purposely put us in danger," he said once he rejoined Jeremy.

      "You have it. You are civilians. We have security zone where family members go to if we get into a firefight. You'll be told where the are."

      Eugene nodded. "Then we're satisfied with staying here.

      "Alright. Now, as for accommodations. You won't be staying here. We'll be moving some of the crew so you have a sections to yourselves." A sigh sounded through the crowd.

      "Actually," Eugene said. "I'd prefer that my people have quarters mixed within yours." Jeremy straightened, and Eugene raised his hands to placate him. "Nothing nefarious, I promise, but what this last week or so living here, clusters and apart, showed me, is that we insulate ourselves. I don't think anyone did more than poke their nose out the doors, even though there were no guards and they weren't locked. We have to stop living afraid. I believe that the best way to do that is to mix in with your people."

      Jeremy eyed the older man, and then leaned back against the crate, relaxing. "Okay, we can make that happen. Tamirik, get . . ." He paused as he tried to figure out who to give the logistics of housing all of them.

      "I have it captain, when we come off duty, me and the rest of the bridge will handle it." Multiple acquiescences came over the com.

      "Thank you, everyone." Jeremy's pride in his crew rose, especially in his daughter. "When you find out their preferences make sure you check if anyone is willing to share quarters with a kelsirian, and also check on our side who's willing to take in a human."

      "What about those of us who have families?"

      "We have sections of family units, they'll be locate there. They are suits of four rooms who are linked with six other suites via a shared kitchen. That way you don't have to depend on the mess hall for your food.

      "This leads to something else. Tamirik, put the symbol for the recreation rooms on the pads. On all of them appeared a six tier spiral which ended with a flower on top. The symbol for Danirag, the God of pleasure. "When you see this symbol next to a door, it means that the room is for recreation. They aren't all setup the same so when you want something specific, you may have to search around, until you're familiar with them.

      "The reason I bring this up is that it helps illustrate one of the biggest cultural difference between humans and kelsirians. One thing that you will see happen there, is sex." There was a shocked gasp. "For us, sex isn't something to hide from others. Obviously, we won't do it in the middle of just any public spaces." Jeremy reminded himself to send out a memo to his entire crew, reinforcing this order. He didn't want to have to deal with traumatized humans, just because a couple felt playful and thought they were alone in the loading bay. "But recreation rooms aren't 'just any public spaces'. I have to admit that I'm not familiar with human sexual cultures, but I have read human porn. I have to warn you. A couple having sex there, isn't an invitation to join them. If you don't know them, wait until they are done to ask them questions, be it to join them next time, or what ever questions you might have about our sexuality. You might manage to embarrass them, but I can promise that you won't anger them. If you are interesting in having sex with someone, just ask politely. If he or she refuses, don't be offended. It won't be personal. One final thing, jealousy is almost unheard of among kelsirians, this is something I know humans have difficulties with. We have no interest in breaking up the relationship you are in. If you and your partner are in an exclusive relationship, just tell who ever propositioned you, and they will move on. Right now, you are a novelty, and I have to admit that we have a lot of curiosity when it comes to sex. If for some reason one of my people keeps insisting, after you're told them no, contact me. Unless I'm in the middle of an emergency I will come and resolve the issue.

      "And one last thing on this subjects. Kelsirian cubs become sexually active between the age of six and nine. That means that you will see, at times, people you consider under age having sex."

      "You mean with an adult?" someone said.

      "Possible, but that isn't common. Cubs usually prefer staying close to their age group. You have to understand, that this is how things are for us, and not apply human morals on us. I will make sure that everyone on the ship knows it's different for humans. We all have to understand that this one point is probably going to be the one that causes the most friction, and we will all have to work at minimizing them.

      "Now, the bridge crew gets off shift in about 3 hours, so take that time to discuss how you want your living arrangements to be. If there's and problem, contact me." Jeremy turned to leave.

      "Wait," Eugene said, "there's something I need to discuss with you."

      Jeremy stopped and turned. "I'm listening."

      "We are immensely grateful that you and your crew rescued us, and thankful that you are taking us in, but we don't want to be your guests. We want to be working crew."

      "That isn't necessary," Jeremy said.

      "I know, and you probably don't want humans working kelsirian systems, but we have technicians, engineers. We have cooks and doctors, and those of us who don't have skills you can use, we aren't afraid of hard work. We've spent our lives working hard in the mines, we aren't people comfortable with nothing to do."

      Jeremy studied him, and then looked over the crowd, which was nodding in agreement. "This is something I need to talk over with my superiors. I can't offer you any promises."

      "I understand, and we will accept your decision, when you make it."

      Jeremy looked them all over again, before leaving.

      * * * * *

      "Captain, the council is returning your call," the com told him.

      "Route it to my office."

      The space in front of him, over the desk, shimmered and the council symbol appeared. He moved it to the side. He hated having the screen form right in front of him. He'd tried for years to change it so it would appeared to the side, but he couldn't make it happen. The symbol disappeared and was replaced by a face.

      "Thank you for taking my call, councilor . . . Querik?" It took him a moment to recognize his old friend. "They made you councilor, congratulation."

      Querik waved it aside. "When you reach a certain age. It's the only thing they can do with those of us who aren't ready to leave the service and bask in the sun. How are you holding up?"

      Jeremy opened his mouth to answer, but his voice caught in his throat. He closed his eyes and took a moment to get his emotions under control. "I am managing," he said finally. "I'm trying to remain busy right now, it's helping. And that's why I needed to talk with someone from the council. Have you read the report I sent?"

      "Yes. The humans you rescued want to work on the ship."

      "Which means some of them would be exposed to our systems."

      "Have you seen if anyone else can take them?"

      "Yes, unfortunately no one I'm willing to trust can take such a large groups, and they are leafers, so I can't return them to human space."

      Querik though for a moment. "We could find space for them planet side."

      "Is that wise? Groundsiders aren't exactly used to other species. I get stared at each time I'm down there. I'm just an oddity, but what's going to happen when a hundred human show up. It's going to make people nervous. We like to think of ourselves as enlightened, but there are still a lot of old ideas ground side, furless beings who steal cubs in the night and work for the lord of darkness.

      "And how are the humans going to cope on a world where almost no one speaks their language. Almost everyone here knows enough English to hold a conversation, and we're used to dealing with other species. This minimizes the chances of frictions."

      "Which just leaves the issue of our technology. What is your opinion about them? Can they be trusted?"

      "They're leafers, so they don't have much allegiances to earth. While here, they can't broadcast anything they learn, and by the time the plan comes to fruition, who knows what the situation will be. Speaking of which, have you heard anything about it?"

      "The rumors circulating in the back rooms hint that everything should be ready in a few years. I'm registering my support for whatever decision you make. You're on site, so you're the best person for it."

      "Thank you councilor." Jeremy reached to end the transmission.

      "Jeremy, the next time you're in system, come see me."

      "I will."


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