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Chapter 48

      "Captain," the com called, as Jeremy was going through the procurement requests. He knew he had to keep an eye on them, Xenial loved sneaking extra stuff in. He didn't want to stop everything, but there were some things he didn't want to see on his ship.

      "Captain?" the com called again.

      Jeremy me frowned. Why wasn't he answering them? "Gra . . ." His call died as he looked at the unoccupied desk. He needed a moment to be able to breath again.

      "I'm here," he finally answered the com.

      "We have someone who's interested in being our Anti matter Engineer."

      "Already?" He'd only posted the availability a few hours ago. "Alright, send me the information, I'll go over it."

      "Actually, sir, he's at the access."

      Jeremy considered it. It wasn't customary to just show up, but it did show initiative, and a confidence he could respect. "I'm on my way," he finally said. He could use a break.

      * * * * *

      Jeremy stepped off the ship and looked around. Further down, at the cargo bay, supplies were being taken in. In the other direction, was a male standing around, his back to him. He was wearing colorful pants, and no vest, his golden fur  broken up by black stripes. He looked familiar to Jeremy, even before he turned.

      "Alix?" Jeremy exclaimed, before hugging the male and nuzzling him. "What are you doing here?"

      Alix nuzzled him back. "I'm here because you need a good engineer."

      "How did you find out? The posting is still fresh."

      "I knew you'd need me, the moment I learned about Gralgiranselhelrarvnir. I knew he'd leave you the ship, and you're not such a great male that you can be both the captain and engineer."

      "The position's yours," Jeremy said. "What have you been up to? How did your hunt go? You never let us know how you were going, once you left the crew."

      "The hunt wasn't successful."

      Jeremy hugged him. "Don't give up, you'll find your Heart eventually."

      "I know, but I did find myself a mate in the process, so I'm comfortable putting the hunt aside for the time being."

      "Congratulation. Male or female?"

      "Female, and we have a cub."

      "Are they coming with you?"

      "Why? You want me all to yourself?"

      Jeremy slapped Alix's shoulder playfully. "You were the one after me, remember?"

      "No, I clearly remember you sneaking into my office and hoping to have your way with me."

      Jeremy barked a laugh. "Right, because I wasn't already scared enough of loosing Gral back then." Jeremy sobered up.

      Alix looked at him, and hugged him. "I'm sorry for stirring up memories."

      "Thanks, but it's okay. I have to learn to manage it. So, are they coming?"

      "Yes, they're coming, actually, there she is." Alix pointed to an approaching female, an the headed toward her.

      Jeremy paused for a moment, and then ran to her "Illsone!" he hugged her tightly.

      "Jeremy!" she replied. "It's great seeing you again."

      "You two know each other?" Alix asked.

      "She kept me out of the brig once."

      Illsone glared at Alix. "You didn't tell me you were going to be working on the Viper's Bane."

      "I didn't realize it mattered," Alix replied, defensively, "you said you didn't care what ship I worked on."

      "I don't, but if I'd known, I would have told you I knew it's captain."

      "You never mentioned you knew anyone from my old crew." Alix said.

      "That's true," she replied. "I didn't want you to think I was interested in you because you knew them." She nuzzled him. "I love you for you, and I worried you might not believe me, if you heard me gushing over how I'd met Jeremy and saved him."

      "Gushing?" Jeremy asked, "really?"

      "Of course," she replied. "You're the star of your very own romance Vid, remember?"

      Jeremy grinned. "Alix mentioned you had a cub. Any chance I can meet him or her?"

      "Her," Illsone led them to a small sitting area, where and older female was rocking a bundled cub in her arms. "My mother is looking after her."

      "Will she be coming with you?" Jeremy asked.

      "Oh no," the older female answered. "This is as far into space as I go. I leave the exploring for the young ones." She handed the cub to Alix. "I just wanted to see them off."

      "I'll take good care of them," Jeremy promised.

      "I have no doubt." She nuzzled Illsone and Alix. "Remember, I want you two to have a whole litter by the time you come back. Now I have to go catch my shuttle back down."

      She left without giving them time to reply.

      "How are you going to continue your advising work from the ship?" Jeremy asked as they headed back.

      "I no longer do on site advising. I got tired of always being on the move, and never being able to meet anyone. I now do the advising remotely. Much quieter work. And with being on your ship, it just means it's going to be easier for me to keep you out of the bring the next time."

      * * * * *

      "Admiral," Jeremy said as he appeared on the screen.

      "Captain. I'm happy I caught you before you left."

      "I can't go anywhere until you assign us a patrol route. What can I do for you Admiral Oturslgirnal."

      "I need a favor."

      Jeremy's datapad beeped. "You know I'll help in any way I can."

      "I'd like you to take an extra crew member. I know you've filled all the positions you had available, but I think this male can learn from you."

      Jeremy quickly went through the file he'd received. The male had good academy scores, had served on quite a few ships. "I don't see anything here that requires you asking for a favor, he could just have applied for one of the positions."

      "Check the name."

      He did so. "You can't be serious. You want me to take him on my ship? After the extent his mother went through to try to take it away from us?"

      "Yes. I've looked over his career, and from what I can see, he isn't a bad male. From what I can gather, the obsession with your ship is his mothers, not his."

      Jeremy shook his head. "What do you want me to do with him?"

      "I want you to make him a captain. If he doesn't have the temperament for it, find him a place he can be productive."

      "Alright, I'll do it."

      "Thank you, captain."

      * * * * *

      Jeremy observed the male as he walked up the ramp. His fur was mostly black, with brown and gray patches. He was close to Jeremy's height, and more muscular. He was wearing a vest and pants, both of which were utilitarian, rather than ornate. The male didn't know it, but he was already making a better impression than what Jeremy had expected. He had a bag over his shoulder, containing his personal belongings.

      The male stopped on seeing Jeremy. "You're . . ."

      "The captain," Jeremy finished for him.

      He straightened. "Yes, sir."

      "And you are mister Yankorfasbernipol. How do you prefer being called?"

      "Korfas, sir. My father's Yankor."

      Jeremy nodded, and turned to head deeper in the ship. Korfas followed him. "What position within the crew would you prefer?"

      Korfas shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me, sir."

      "What do you mean?"

      "Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it."

      Jeremy stopped and turned to face him. He'd been afraid of this, based on what he'd read in his file. "We need to clarify a few things right now, otherwise, neither one of us is going to enjoy your stay on my ship. I went through your file. You served on nine ship in the sixteen years since you left the academy. None of the captains you served under had anything bad to say about you, but they didn't have anything good to say about you either. From what I was able to hunt down, you did the minimum required of you, and nothing else."


      "Why do you think you're here, Korfas?"

      "I'm here to pass the time until I get my own ship," he answered, exasperation in his voice.

      "And what are you going to do, once you get your own ship?"

      Korfas shrugged.

      "Do you know what it takes to run a ship like this?"

      Another shrug.

      "Do you even want your own ship?"

      "Does it matter?"

      "Okay. Here's something you need to know. Your mother isn't the one who assigned you on my ship."

      "What do you mean?"

      "I mean, that you aren't here to pass the time. You've been assigned to my ship so you can learn something. When I return you to Kelser, you are either going to be qualified to captain your own ship, or you are going to know what you'd rather do instead."

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