Jeremy looked around the meeting room, as he was being wheeled in, and started worrying. Were they going to try to take away his ship again? He frowned, no, that wasn't right. This room was too big, there were too many people, it wasn't a meeting room on Kelser. Was this when he had been accused of murdering those two taournians? No, that couldn't be right, he'd been seated to the front, not an elevated balcony, like he was now.
He stopped moving, and a female moved in front of him. "Are you certain you want to be up here, grandfather? You should be down there, you were part of it."
He snorted, which probably looked silly on a male his age. "I just helped a little," his voice was weak, and trembling. "It's their time, I don't want to intrude."
The female took a blanket out of her bag, and spread it over his legs. "There, you won't get cold now."
"Thank you Tamirik, that's very nice of you."
Her smile dropped, just a little, and Jeremy cursed internally.
"I got it wrong, didn't I?"
"I'm Shimilion," she told him, "I'm Asheter's daughter."
Asheter, that named sounded really familiar, where had he heard it before, then it came back to him. "That's Alix's son."
She smiled at him.
"That makes you Alix's grand daughter." He patted her hand. "That's good. You should probably sit down now, they're about to start." He could tell, because a holographic projection of the table, and its occupant had just appeared in the air, at their level, much larger than normal.
She sat next to him, and he noticed that there were many other kelsirian on either side of him. For a moment he worried that he was in the wrong section, but before the panic could set in, he remembered they were his family.
The people around the table started talking, and their voices were projected so he could hear them, not that he was paying attention to what they were saying, this was just ceremony, the important event had happened an hour before, behind closed door. That's when Paradise had become the only human settled planet to become a full member of the Federation.
This show was for the vids. They never liked the simple signings, they wanted something bigger than life. So every current members were now giving speeches, probably about how an asset the new member was going to be. What he wanted to hear, was the taournians. He really wanted to find out what they were going to say, considering they had allied themselves with the humans, and had tried to ruin Paradise.
Oh, the humans had been livid when they found out that the Leafers weren't just surviving, they were thriving, building trade with the kelsirians, and anyone else willing to do business with them. Paradise had turned out to have very fertile soil, and the area near the black storm proved particularly good to grow coffee.
They hadn't been able to say anything when they found out they had been conned into believing the planet was mostly inhospitable, since they had turned around and spun a story about how the planet was rough, but habitable.
And now, with Paradise being inducted, more human colonies were breaking away from their government, in the hopes of joining the Federation.
Jeremy yawned and looked around. Why was everyone looking at that projection? He wondered. He thought about asking the male to his right, but he was watching intently, so he decided not to bother him. He just settled in his chair comfortably, and watched, maybe he'd figure out what it was about.
* * * * *
"It's time to leave, Jeremy," someone whispered in his ear. He opened his eyes, not having realized he'd fallen asleep, and before him was a hand, covered in chocolate brown fur. He took it, was pulled up, and found himself gazing into deep amber eyes. He sighed, it had been so long since he'd been able to lose himself in those eyes.
"What are you doing here?" he asked. "Shouldn't you be on the bridge?"
Gral tilted his head at him.
That wasn't right, Jeremy realized. Tamirik was captain now, she'd taken over when he'd retired, and he'd become the captain when Gral . . .
Jeremy pulled away slightly, and looked at his Heart's face. He looked younger than he remembered, younger than the first time he'd met him even. Jeremy turned, and looked at where he had been sitting. In the hover chair, his body looked like he was sleeping. He raised a hand, it looked young, no wrinkles, no blemishes.
Gral wrapped his arms around him. "You really lived up to being my little warrior," he said. "Tutecamongartin tried to bring you home three times, and you fought him each time."
Jeremy could hear the pride in Gral's voice. He tried to recall the last time he'd been sick, didn't he remember a male standing there, completely black? Yes, he thought he did, and he also thought he remembered feeling angry, and a little bit afraid of him.
"Why are you here?"
"Tutecamongartin didn't want to have to deal with another fight with you. He though you might be more receptive if I was the one asking you to come home."
Jeremy turned to face Gral again. "Home?"
Gral nodded. "The Gods honored you."
Jeremy's eyes grew wide.
"You didn't think they wouldn't, did you?"
Jeremy wanted to tell his Heart that he hadn't, but it had been one of his deepest worry, that he'd never be honored by Them, and therefor kept away from his Heart.
"There wasn't even any argument, not that I was going to let any one of Them refuse you. So, my Heart, a you ready to come home?"
Jeremy looked at him, eyes wet, but looked behind him, at the projection, where Patrick was now standing and talking. His gaze dropped to the kelsirians seated on either side of his body.
"What about them?" he asked.
"They are going to go on living, until the Gods honor them."
"Will I see them again?"
"Possibly, that'll depend on what they decide to do."
Gral nodded. "The life after the Gods have honored us is what ever we want it to be."
"And what is our life going to be?"
Gral smiled, and stepped to the side. Behind him, there was an open doorway, hanging there, in the middle of the lane. In the doorway, he could see the Viper's Bane's bridge.
"It's going to be space, hunting down pirates, being in the way of the taournians, and the humans."
The male in the pilot's seat turned, and smiled.
Jeremy's heart swelled. "Toom's there."
"Of course he's there. He's been waiting for you to come home as much as I have. Most of the crew's there." Gral stepped through the doorway and extended a hand to him.
Jeremy took it. "How long will this last?"
"As long as we want it."
"What happens afterward."
"Once we're tired of the hunt, we come back."
Jeremy looked at him, worry in his eyes.
"Don't worry, we'll come back together. We will never be apart again. I exacted that promise from Them."
Jeremy nodded, and stepped through the doorway, which then disappeared.
* * * * *
As the ceremony ended, and everyone stood and applauded to welcome the new Federation member, Shimilion noticed that grandfather didn't stir. She touched his cheek, when he didn't move she placed a finger against his neck. Not feeling a pulse, she shed a tear and kissed his head. "Goodbye grandfather, Good hunting."