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Chapter 53

      The Viper's Bane limped in at Paradise two month late. Jeremy couldn't wait to get his passengers off the ship, and at this point, they probably couldn't wait to be off. He wiped his brow, the temperature on the bridge was just this side of suffocating. Except for the living decks, atmospherics through out th ship were just barely working. Half the engines had been damaged beyond repairs, which didn't matter much, since their main generator had been pushed past its limit. They were on the backup, and it hadn't be designed to power the entire ship by itself.

      Everyone on the ship was cranky, the brig couldn't hold anyone, it was just to hot down there, so trouble makers had been locked in their quarters. It was bad enough that a few of his crew were also under arrest. The screen showed the planet, a ball of blues, greens, browns whites, and something black, and nasty, in one area. It also showed that there were eleven other ships parked in orbit, in a loose group.

      "Viper's Bane," came a voice over the com, "Hargral Glory here. Whose army did you take on?"

      "Very funny, Glory. The Human government decided they didn't want to let my passengers go, after all. How is the disembarking going?"

      "It . . . isn't." There was a silence. "Seems the humans can't decide who should be first to set foot on their new planet."

      "Gods, tell me you are joking."

      "I wish I could. We've been here three weeks. The Ridoshi ship twice that long, although they don't seem to mind."

      Jeremy looked at Korfas, whose fur was matted to his skin, like everyone one else. "Right now, that chair of yours sound like a great idea." He looked to Tamirik. "Get me in contact with all the captains."

      "Yes, sir." It took her a few minutes, during which Jeremy had to wipe sweat off his face constantly. "They're all listening."

      "This is Jeremy, of the Viper's Bane. Please give me all ship, I need to talk with your passengers."

      Over the next minutes he got eleven confirmations.

      He took a breath, he didn't want to make this decision for everyone else, but he wasn't staying in space any longer than he absolutly had too. "My name is Jeremy. This won't mean anything to most of you, but two of you know me. We met at a bar in the San Francisco space port, a long time ago. Please find a com, I need to talk to you, both."

      It took a few minutes, then someone said "Jeremy? It's good to hear your voice."

      "What's your name?"

      There was a moment of hesitation. "I'm Louis."

      Jeremy had remembered his name, but he wanted to make sure he had the right person, ultimately who had the honor didn't matter, but he felt wrong to have someone he hadn't met usurp it.

      "Please tell me your mate traveled with you. You two were apart long enough that you shouldn't have to come here on different ships."

      "I'm here," said someone else.

      "I'm glad to hear that, Patrick. Which ship are you on?"

      He heard them asking about for the name.

      "They are aboard my ship," cut in a voice, in very proper kelsirian, with clicks between the words, a ridoshi. "It is called." What followed was unintelligible.

      "Thank you in helping with the exodus," Jeremy said. "Louis, Patrick, you have the honor of being the first humans to set foot on Paradise, find a shuttle and get moving."

      "What? Why us?"

      "Because you guys have had weeks to work this out, and haven't. The atmospherics on my ship are barely working, so I want fresh air."

      "You should be the first one, you're the one who set things in motion."

      "I didn't do anything more than follow my Heart. And I'm not human. The honor belong to humans, not me. Now get going, because if I have to board your ship to get you down there myself, I am going to do it."

      * * * * *

      Jeremy relaxed the moment the shuttle doors open, the fresh air entered like it had been blasted in. He'd piloted it, he wasn't going to stay on the ship a moment longer, he also wasn't going to steal a spot from one of the humans. Once they were all out he left the cockpit, patting the other pilot on the shoulder.

      "go up for the next group. I'll relieve you when you get back."

      "Yes sir."

      Jeremy stepped out, and raised his head to the sun. He closed his eyes, and soaked in the heat. A lot of other people were doing the same. It had to have been because of the atmospherics on the ship. He never had this kind of reaction to going groundside before.

      After enjoying the heat for a time he opened his eyes and looked around. They were in a plain, with ankle high grass that was a little more yellow than it was on Earth, or Kelser. There we a few trees, here and there, one of which seem to have a fruit of some type. Parents already had to keep children form climbing them. In the distance were mountains. He couldn't tell how high they were, but seemed to touch the sky.

      "Jeremy!" someone yelled.

      He turned to see two males coming toward him. He didn't recognize them, but there's only two people they could be.

      "Patrick, Louis," he said, ignoring the offered hands, and hugging them, much to their consternations. "Which is which?"

      "I'm Louis," the shorter, bald one, said.

      "And I'm Patrick," his hair was black, heavily peppered with gray. "This place really is paradise."

      "Except for that black zone, what was that?"

      "As best as the explorer who found this planet could tell, it's a zone with a permanent storm. The government was led to believe that most of the planet is like that. And spun it to the federation as this place being rough, but livable. Since the federation was insisting they had to stop persecuting the homos, the government said they would relocate us here."

      "Well, no matter if this planet is rough, or not. You'll be winning from not being under their thumb anymore. You're free to be who you are, and be with who you want."

      "That's going to take some getting use to, as you can probably tell."

      Jeremy nodded. Looking around, almost no one was holding hand, or even standing too close to one another. "Yeah, I can tell it might be an adjustment. I was lucky I guess. When I found Gral, I found myself in an environment where everyone touched, so I didn't have to be afraid. Some habit did take a while to lose."

      "Like what?"

      "Well, having sex with someone other than my mate."

      Louis and Patrick looked at him, horrified. "They forced you to do that?"

      Jeremy laughed. "No, it wasn't forced. It's the way we are. For us sex as nothing to do with love. It just took me a while to realize it. Now, I can't imagine another way of being."

      Jeremy laughed again at the look they gave him. "Hey, this is your planet. We're not going to tell you how to live. You find what works for you guys."

      Patrick put a hand on his shoulder. "This is your planet too, you're one of us."

      Jeremy shook his head. "No, it isn't. I already have a home, on Kelser. Like I said earlier, I'm a kelsirian."

      "Are you sure? It can't be easy, being different from everyone else."

      "I'm not different."

      "How can you say that? You're . . ."



      "They don't see that. I mean, sure when someone meets me for the first time, they are surprised, but that doesn't last. Even people I've never met back on Kelser know who I am. Look, don't worry about me. I'm happy. I'm not making due, I'm actually happy. I have cubs, a mate, friends and family. I really wouldn't change any of it. You guys focus on your lives. Build a society that you will be happy with. If you see some things from other people you think will work, look into it, but don't force it on yourself just because it seems to work for them."

      Louis looked at him. "Are you sure I can't convince you to take charge of this place? You have the perfect outlook for it."

      "Gods no. I have enough with my ship, but feel free to steal those mindset, if you think they'll work."

      The shuttles returned with more people. Jeremy bid them goodbye and went to replace his pilot. Over the rest of the day the humans, and most of the crews, as well as equipment made it to the planet. Three ships were still unaccounted for, and Jeremy worried they had fallen into similar traps.

      As night fell, enough buildings had been erected so everyone could sleep indoors, not that anyone did. The evening temperature barely cooled, and once the sun set, the sky lit up with stars. Toom found him, and they had sex under them.

      * * * * *

      The next day a new ship arrived, but it wasn't one of the missing ones. No one had any idea what it was doing here, so everyone was tensed. Jeremy had a few of his hunters stand close to where the shuttle landed, ready for trouble.

      The door opened, and a lone human male walked out. He was in his mid forties, dressed in a black suit, hair slicked back. He looked around and waved. Jeremy could smell the political stink coming off him.

      Obviously he wasn't the only one, because others started jeering at him. When a rock almost hit the male, Jeremy had his hunters interpose themselves. There was more anger here than he had expected.

      "What the fuck are you doing here?" someone yelled.

      "You have no rights to be here!" someone else.

      "Haven't you hurt us enough already?" yet someone else.

      "Enough!" Jeremy yelled. He had no idea what this was about, but he wasn't going to have a war on the second day here.

      "You must be Jeremy," the male said, extending his hand to him.

      Jeremy whirled in his direct. "Don't think this means I like you. I don't like any politicians. So don't move until we've sorted this out."

      "Jack!" someone yelled. Jeremy looked over his shoulder to see a male running toward them. He shoved Jeremy aside and jumped in the other male's arms.

      "Brian, baby. I've missed you so much," Jack said, kissing him, tears falling down his face. The display seemed to baffle the humans watching.

      Jeremy didn't understand their reaction.

      Patrick made his way toward them. "Mister Kirby," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Patrick Monroe."

      Jack stopped kissing Brian, and, keeping an arms around him, he shook Patrick's hand. "I'm sorry," he said, studying him. "Are we suppose to have met before?"

      "No, but I'm one of the few people who knows what you did for us." Patrick turned to the crowd. "Senator Jack Kirby is one of us," he stated. Which got him booed and cursed. "Listen to me! If not for this man, none of you would be here right now."

      "You got that right!" someone yelled. "He's the guy who pushed for mandatory testing."

      "Do you know why he did that?" Patrick yelled. "Do you have any idea why this man stayed away from the man he loved for twenty years? Why he made sure we all hated him? It was so that when the time came for the government to decide what to do with us, they would have a reason to listen to his suggestion. If not for him, we would have been rounded up and killed."

      That quieted the crowd.

      Jack put a hand on Patrick's shoulder. "I don't expect you to like me," he said. "I knew what i was getting into when I set myself on this course of action. All I ask is that you let me and Brian live in peace. We'll stay away, as much as we can, if that's what you want, all we want, is our chance to be happy.

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