Toom rejoined him as Jeremy was heading to the ship's berth. He'd stepped away to answer his com. They could have stayed groundside, the family had wanted them to. Roumalger had been most insistent, but to Jeremy, he looked too much like Gral. As much as he'd enjoyed having sex with him in the past, and knew that once he'd finished mourning, he would again, right now it would be too much a reminder of who he had lost. So Jeremy had decided to go back home, to the ship, his ship he had to remind himself, still not use to it.
Jeremy wrapped an arm around Toom's and rested his head on his shoulder. "All I want to do is curl up in bed with you." That Toom didn't immediately reply made Jeremy look at him.
"I wish we could, but we need to talk."
"Not here. Lets go to your office."
* * * * *
"Okay, what is wrong?" Jeremy asked, as soon as the door closed behind them.
"You're going to want to have a seat."
Jeremy sat, constantly looking at Toom. "You're making me really nervous."
"Sorry. I was hoping I'd have more time before this happened." He stopped Jeremy from saying anything with a gesture. "You probably didn't know this, but Gral had enemies. I know he was careful to keep this from you."
"We're hunters, considering the number of people we've sent to the colonies, we've all made enemies."
Toom shook his head. "No, within the fleet. One of the reason Gral spent so much time away from Kelser, is that each time he'd came back, they'd try to take the ship away from him."
"The why can be summed up by: politics, which he hated, the how, by promoting him to a position that wouldn't allow him to captain."
Jeremy looked at Toom, thoughtful. "Why do you need to tell me this now?"
"Because you've inherited his enemies."
Jeremy straightened up. "Why? I haven't done anything to them, who ever they are?"
"It isn't really about you, not anymore, it's about the ship. What you need to know is that you're going to be called in to see a military council. You can't refuse to go, since you're not currently on a mission, or on patrol."
"I take it, it's too late to leave now."
Toom gave him a sad smile. "You wouldn't be able to get authorization to leave the station, let alone get a patrol route assignment."
"How do you know this is coming?"
"One of my contacts in that chain of orders owed me a favor, and he repaid it by informing me. And now I have to do my best to prepare you for what ever they will try. They can't promote you, so they are going to try something else. The thing to remember, is that they will make it seem like they are doing it for your benefit. Also, they can't force you to give up the captainship, not yet anyway."
"Alright, so they have to convince me to step down."
"Yes, and if you do it, even temporarily, getting the ship back would be almost impossible."
"Do you know who I'm up against? Why they want the ship, and what I can use against them?"
Toom eyed him.
"Gral never asked for armament against them."
Jeremy nuzzled him. "You need to have your eyes examined, I look nothing like him." Jeremy had to dry his eyes, as did Toom.
"The council will be composed of five people. Only one of which may be an ally."
* * * * *
"Admiral Oturslgirnal, what a pleasure it is to run into you," Jeremy said, sitting at th admiral's table. The restaurant wasn't exactly cheap, and he was happy he wasn't going to be staying.
"Captain Jeremy," the admiral said, not too happy to see him. "What is the meaning of this."
"Well, if you hadn't spent the last two days dodging me, I wouldn't have to resort to hunting you."
"How did you know where to find me? This isn't on any of my calenders."
"I'm a hunter, Admiral. We have our ways."
The server came next to Jeremy, but he waved him away.
"I'm going to make this quick, since I know you're expecting the rest of your party in twenty minutes. I know I'm about to be called for a meeting. I also know who's going to be on that council, and that four of them want my ship. Having found out I inherited my Heart's political enemies, I need to know if I inherited his friends."
The admiral looked at him for a moment. "Friends might be too strong a word for what Gralgiranselhelrarvnir and I shared. Our interests were aligned, that's all."
"Are they still?" Jeremy studied the male opposite him. "Or are you worried that because I'm human born, my loyalties might waver."
The admiral laughed. "I read the reports of what you did when humans tried to abduct your cubs. And the extent you went to to send those humans a message. No, I don't doubt your loyalties."
"Then, what do you doubt?"
"I've read those reports, all of them. I know the kind of hunter you are. That is supported by you just showing up here at my table. That's what concerns me."
Jeremy nodded, and then was silent. "Do you know one of the things Gral loved about me?" Jeremy asked, and waited for the admiral to shake his head. "He loved how determined I was. I'm not afraid to go after what I want, I'm also not afraid of the consequences. That's the kind of hunter I am."
It was the admiral's turn to study him. He drank from his glass. "I will not say that I am your friend, not yet. But I am not your enemy, I will give you that."
Jeremy nodded, and stood. "Thank you." He left.
* * * * *
Jeremy entered the council chamber. It was his first time, in one of them, on Kelser. It was much smaller than those the federation had. The room only had the curved table, behind which the five people sat, and a space for him to stand, before them. No room for an audience.
The only thing that didn't belong, from what he'd read, was that there was a chair placed where he would normally stand.
"Why is there a chair?" he asked.
The female occupying the center seat smiled at him. "We thought that after what you've been through, you might prefer sitting during this meeting." She was Faraldinortelshel, she was currently on the planetary board of leaders, which meant that she really shouldn't be here, such a meeting was far below her station. She had been behind many of the attempts to take the ship away from Gral in recent years, in the hopes of giving the captainship to her son, who still hadn't achieved it on his own.
The ploy was clever, Jeremy had to admit, if he accepted the offer, he would be in a bad position to deny he needed rest. "I'll stand, as is protocol." He pushed the chair with a foot and took it's place. He took a comfortable stance, and held his hands behind his back.
"First off," said the male on her right. General Turkamilrir. He, and Snifurnolkah, a politician, sitting to his right, were part of a faction that wanted to take the ship and send it to the combat lines in Alamir, and used its reputation as a moral weapon. "We want to start by offering our sympathies, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir was a great hunter. He will be missed by all, and most profoundly, you."
"Having said that," Konserafin, another politician, this one's faction wanted to retire the ship from active duty and turn it into a propaganda piece. How they could think that would help anyone, Jeremy couldn't figure out. "We believe that you might want to stay planet side for some time. Give yourself the time to grieve."
"What Konserafin means," Faraldinortelshel added, "is that since you lost your Heart, you haven't had time to pause and take in what has happen. And we would understand if you thought some time under the sun might be helpful. I understand that your Heart's family would be more than happy to take you in while you rested."
Jeremy was really happy Toom had warned him. If not for that, their offer would seem reasonable. "I appreciate the offer, but I can't abandon my post. Yes, the lost has hit me, but I'm hunter. Lost is something we all to deal with as some point in this work. I also have a hundred and fifty-nine humans on my ship. I wouldn't feel right passing them along to a captain who isn't used to working with them."
"The report we read said you had a hundred fifty-seven," she said
"That's correct. We had two birth in the month getting here."
"Birth? I was under the impression you had rescued Leafers."
"Aren't Leafers humans who have sex with the same gender?" asked Konserafin.
"Leafers also include family who support them, as well as anyone who helps them and their cause. Only eighty-three of the rescued are people of have sex with the same gender, but not all of them exclusively. Some are like us, and will have sex with either gender. We currently have three pregnancies in progress."
That left them silent for a moment.
"There is some concern over your methods," Snifurnolkah said, reading something on a pad. "The event on Herontig Station are disconcerting."
"Are you arguing my right to protect my cubs?"
"Of course not, but the severity with which you enacted that right . . . Then there's the incident that followed that. You illegally infiltrated a ship and placed a bomb near a military leader on that ship."
Jeremy eyed the politician steadily. If he'd hoped to unnerve him by bring him this back up, he was out of luck, Jeremy had come to terms with what he'd done.
"Ignoring, for a moment, that it happened years before I was given the captainship. That military leader was human, in our space illegally. I didn't actually harm him, I just gave him a message, to pass along. Also, this was already brought up to a council. It was decided that it was up to my captain to punish me."
"And what did he do?"
"He made me paid for it." Jeremy's tone was glacial.
"Well, yes. Still, it does bring up your competency to captain a ship."
"I see. So this meeting is about taking my ship away from me."
"It isn't your ship," Faraldinortelshel stated.
"It is," Jeremy countered. "As per Kelsirian Military protocol, establish by General Liamtirfelselportamir, and approved by the planetary leaders. Upon a captain's death while on duty, the ship will be passed to a person of his choosing. If that person accept the position, he, or she, has two years to demonstrate competency." He paused. "At most, I've been captain for a month. You have no justifications, or rights, to take my ship away."
That left them speechless.
"I like to read," Jeremy explained.
Faraldinortelshel looked to admiral Oturslgirnal. "You haven't said anything admiral, don't you have something to add?"
Oturslgirnal looked back at her. "I do. I want to know why this council is obsessed with taking a ship away from the people the Gods have assigned to it."
"What?" She exclaimed. "I thought you agreed with me."
He snorted. "I did. You said you wanted to make sure the right person captained the Viper's bane. That right person is Jeremy, not your son. You want to try to take the ship away from him? You're going to have to wait two years, but I can promise you, you won't be able to find a reason to take it away. This farce has gone on long enough." He stood. "Captain Jeremy, you are free to go."