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Found 57 results

  1. Kindar

    Chapter 57

    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." "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."
  2. Kindar

    Chapter 56

    Jeremy walked through the ship, alone. He was the only on in it. The repair crews had left, now that they were done. On top of repairs, upgrades had been done. The two generators had been replaced with the newest models, more powerful, more efficient. He could already hear Alix cursing. One of the cargo bay had been modified to house twelve fighter ships. He'd need to find pilots for them. They were turning his ship into a full military vessel, not just a patrol ship. Probably the most galling thing they had done, was to put a captain's chair on the bridge. He wasn't *that old. When he could no longer stand on his own two legs, he'd pass the captainship on to Tamirik. As soon as his crew was back on board, he'd get Sayane to remove it. The walk through confirmed what he'd suspected. The ship didn't feel the same. It wasn't just the modifications, he no longer felt Gral walking the halls with him. He step into their room, currently empty. He hoped that when their things were back in, he'd feel Gral again, at least here, because, as far as he could tell, the ship's Heart was gone. * * * * * "You don't have to do that, Pa," Tamirik said, standing in the doorway. Jeremy looked up at her, while continuing to pack the few things on the desk. Gods, she looked amazing, she was tall, proud, a captain. "I don't mind going back to being communication chief, until you're ready to hand over command to me." "And demote Rasilin? I don't think so, he worked hard to get there. It wouldn't be fair to him." "This isn't fair to you either, this is your ship." Jeremy shook his head, and paused. "To tell you the truth, the ship hasn't felt like mine since the repairs. Those last six years have been, difficult." He ran a hand through his hair, which was now more gray than not. "I'm happy to hand it to you." "What will you do now? Retire groundside?" Jeremy laughed. "Groundside? Me? Can you really imagine me just lying in the sun days in days out. No, I belong in space. Anyway, unless you're kicking Toom off the ship, I'm staying with him." "Gods no, I'm not kicking my near father off. He's still the best pilot I've ever seen." "Good. And I can be useful, I can watch over your cubs, I can't believe you managed to raise three of them, and still left the Academy with the highest honors. I can't remember getting much sleep when you were that young." "Rostol helped, as did Xenial, before the ship was ready." "Xenial helped with cubs?" Jeremy asked, surprised. The male had never mentioned that. "He was quite good with them. He would have been near father to them, if he'd been willing to stay groundside with us." Jeremy sighed, and missed his friend. "The Gods honored him," he said. "Only until he made off with their possessions," She added, with a wry smile. "He is going to make their lives interesting." Jeremy smiles wistfully. "No, your father is going to keep him in check." He forced himself to back to the present. "I can also help with dealing with the humans on Paradise, if you're planing on keeping the patrol route I had." He'd been offered, and had accepted, a new patrol route, which included Paradise. It allowed him to be back there every year, and he saw their settlement grow and prosper. The patrol had become vital when the Human government realized that not only were the leafers on Paradise surviving, they were thriving. Building an economy and trading with the federation. The humans had complained that they had been tricked, but that didn't last long, since they would have to reveal their own trickery to explain it. They settled on discreetly trying to disrupt trade, which had lead to putting more ships to patrol the trade routes. Jeremy had smiled when he learned that Patrick had been made leader of the settlement, much to the male's bafflement. Jack had outright refused. He was done with politics. He spent what time wasn't taken up with his mate advising Patrick, but that was the extend of his involvement. "I'm keeping it. I don't trust the humans not to do something stupid." "At least they aren't part of the Federation." "Yet. The Federation council is still seeing them allowing the exodus as a good gesture. Talks, to restart the process, are on again." "Gods," Jeremy sighed. "Nothing good will come of that." "I agree. That's why I'm keeping the patrol route. The Leafers are about the only good thing to come from the humans, they need to be protected." Jeremy agreed. * * * * * Jeremy settled quietly into retirement. As he'd promised, he looked after Tamirik's cubs, when needed, as well as anyone's cubs. He still took the bridge, when she needed him to, and he found himself regretting having the chair removed. As he aged, remaining standing became more of task than it had been. Over the years, his title went from captain, to grandfather, and he found he enjoyed it. He and Toom became the ones to take care of the cubs, entertaining them with stories of their lives, bringing Gral back to life for them. The humans eventually left the crew, to settle on Paradise, first the unattached ones, and eventually even those who had built relationships with kelsirians. Alix's Heart was the last one to leave, when one morning, Alix didn't wake up. Jeremy didn't hold it against any of them. The crew had never been their family, like it was his. Even with the change in personnel, he could never leave them, and they wouldn't want him to. One day, Toom fell sick, and none of the wonders they possessed made him better. Jeremy almost lost his will to live then, but the crew rallied around him, and he remembered that he wasn't alone. He was even more surprised when Roumalger joined the crew. Jeremy still wouldn't be his mate, but that didn't stop the male from moving in with him. Jeremy found another reason to live when he learned that the Federation was considering making Paradise a member colony. He found that he needed to be there to see that happen, no matter how long it took.
  3. Kindar

    Chapter 55

    Jeremy leaned on the railing, looking at his ship. From where he was, he could see the three aft decks that had been destroyed, two sections deep and twenty long, six guns. Fortunately, the casualties had been minimal, but that didn't make him feel any better. He hadn't wanted to look at the damage while being on Paradise, he knew it would have ruined his stay there, and he had dearly needed a respite. The two months there, helping the settlers buildup their infrastructure had been a balm on his aches. He had been tempted to stay there longer, just so he wouldn't have to see this sight, but he had a duty to his crew, who had taken that time to make as many repairs as they could. Still the two months trip back to Kelser took them eight. And now his ship was at dock, to be repaired and refitted. No one knew just how long that would take, so he was grounded until then. If he still had his ship by then. He could just imagine how those who wanted to take it away from him would use this incident to justify it. "You don't have to be so gloom," Toom said, as he stopped next to him. Toom was the only one of the crew left on the station, as far as Jeremy knew. Korfas had been the first to request permission to leave, which Jeremy had granted. There were no reasons to keep anyone on the ship once docked. "We only retrieved twenty of the twenty-eight dead," Jeremy said. "The families understand." "I know, but how can they be properly mourned, if they aren't burned? Are the Gods going to honor them, if their bodies are floating in space, somewhere?" "Of course, the Gods are going to honor them," Toom said with a chuckle, "you'll see." "Will I?" Jeremy let out a long sigh. "Will the Gods honor me?" "Why wouldn't they?" "Look at me Toom, I'm human. I hate it, but I am human." Toom did look at him. "You're not human. You body might be, but you have Gralgiranselhelrarvnir's Heart, that makes you kelsirian, and that is what the Gods will see." He put an arms around Jeremy's shoulders, and pulled him close. "I think we should head out, staying here is making you morose, and they should be arriving to get us soon. Jeremy let Toom lead him away, and he did start to feel better, once he could no longer see the sorry state of his ship. As soon as they got to the shuttle docks, someone yelled his name. Jeremy looked in the direction the yell had come from, and Toom stepped away from him just in time for Roumalger to hug Jeremy and spin him around. "I'm so glad you're back," He whispered, while nuzzling him. "I'm glad to see you too," Jeremy replied, as he was put down. "Are you finally mated?" "Ah! No, I'm not." "When are you going to finally settle down?" "As soon as you agree to be my mate." Jeremy's smile cracked a little. "You do know that's never going to happen, right? I like you, but I can't be your mate." "You're just being stubborn," Roumalger said, going to hug Toom. "It's good to see you too." He nibbles his neck. "Do me a favor and talk some sense into that mate of yours." "Why are you so damn interested in me anyway?" Jeremy asked, before Toom could say anything. "Because you're exotic, and a the most fantastic lover I've ever had." "He does have a point," Toom said. "You don't get to say that," Jeremy said, pointing at his mate. "You've had sex with Xenial, so you know I'm not the best out there." He put an arm around each of them. "You know Roumalger, if it's exotic you like, you should take a trip to Paradise, there are a lot of humans there." "Really? Maybe I will, that way I'll be able to find out if it's humans who are such great lovers, or just you." Jeremy rolled his eyes. "Let's go join our parents, I see them, and I'm pretty sure they are getting impatient." "No, they just didn't want to follow me and be witness to all the embarrassment I put you through." "At least they are considerate," Toom commented. Parkiler and Marsef hugged and nuzzled both of them. "Welcome home," Marsef said, ushering them inside the shuttle. "I'm sorry it was under such circumstances, but we're happy to have you over. Do you know how long you'll be staying?" "No," Jeremy replied, "but we won't be spending all our time with you, we'll be visiting Toom's family also." "That's good," Parkiler said. "I don't remember seeing them at the cremation." "My father couldn't make it. He couldn't afford to close his shop, and my brothers didn't come, they don't agree with me becoming a spacer, they believe I should have stayed and help father with the shop, just like they did." "But you're father is fine with you being in space?" "Yes, he's happy for me. He knows I couldn't stay limited by the atmosphere." "Where is your family from?" she asked, turning to look at them, in the back. "Roumalger! What have I told you about having sex in the shuttle?" Roumalger had been nuzzling Jeremy, with hands roaming all over his body, and he had turned toward him so he could grind against him. Roumalger let out a sigh, and seated himself properly, but he didn't do anything to hide the tent in his pants. "Don't you have any self control?" she asked him "Not around Jeremy, I don't." "I'm sorry," Jeremy said. "Don't be," Marsef replied. "It's isn't your fault. It's that son of mine. He has sex with anyone willing. Although in you case I can understand his lack of restraint." Jeremy raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you were interested." "Who wouldn't be?" he replied with a chuckle. "Why haven't you initiated anything then?" "I'm forty years older than you. I couldn't see you being interested." Jeremy smiled. "You won't know unless you try it." Parkiler slapped her mate's lap. "See, I told you he wouldn't mind." "Mom, Dad. If you want me to keep my mind off sex, could you not talk about dad getting it on with Jeremy, that isn't helping." "What's in the crate?" Toom asked, to change the subject. "Oh, that's just something Marsef picked up while we were waiting for you," Parkiler said. "Yeah," Roumalger added, "I think it was delivered by someone from your crew." "My crew?" Jeremy asked, and then realized something. "Okay, no one say anything about the crate. As a captain, I'm required to report any contraband." "Except," Toom said, "that technically, you aren't currently a captain, you sort of need a working ship for that." Jeremy thought it over. "You know, you're right. So, Marsef. You finally got your hands on some coffee plants?" "Yes, the contact you gave me all those years ago finally came through. There's a one year old plant, six seedling, seeds, and also some coffee grains. He said I could use those to bribe your silence." * * * * * Jeremy was standing before the council table. He and the four members seated behind it were waiting for the fifth person to arrive. He wondered if she was doing this on purpose, making him wait. At least, they had had the courtesy to tell him a month ahead of time when the meeting would be. He didn't have to stress every day, wondering when he was going to be called. It also gave Toom time to look into who would be there. He knew the two on the right, Turkamilrir and Snifurnolkah. The general and politician who had been present at the last meeting. Both were looking to take the ship away from him. The two on the left were new. An admiral Tirak, just that. He had the shortest name Jeremy had ever come across among kelsirians, And a general Lancasgirakil. Toom couldn't find any indications that they had any sort of agendas toward the ship. So it was two against him, and two who might see reason, plus her. This wasn't going to go well, but if she was expecting him to just give up the fight, she had another thing coming. He was going to fight her as hard as he could. The door at the back finally opened, and admiral Oturslgirnal entered, to Jeremy, Turkamilri and Snifurnolkah's surprise. "Please forgive my tardiness, there was a last minute change. I came as quickly as I could." He put his datapad on the table and sat in the center seat. "This meeting is to go over Captain Jeremy's initial two year, well, almost three now, as captain of the Viper's Bane, to find out if he will remain captain. Who wants to start?" "Why don't we just retire the ship?" Snifurnolkah asked. "Why would we do that?" Tirak countered. "Have you seen the list of repairs it needs? It might be best to just give him a new ship." Jeremy kept his mouth shut, but the moment he was allowed to speak he was going to argue against that. He wasn't going to captain a different ship, this was his last tie to Gral, he wasn't going to lose it. "Really? I don't remember you saying that when the Revenge came in for repairs. I remember you there, you were awake, weren't you?" "Of course I was." "It's damage was more extensive, and you let it be repaired. The Bane is about the same age, a little younger actually," he corrected after checking his pad, "Is there something I don't know about it that makes it unsuitable for repairs?" "I'm just not sure continuing to spend money on repairs is wise, that's all." "That's what the military budget is for," Lancasgirakil said. "Maybe you need to stop trying to tell us how to manage our fleet. And focus on keeping your promises, that station is still waiting for you to approve those expansions you promised them." Snifurnolkah didn't reply. "I don't particularly care about the state of the ship," Turkamilri said. "I'm more concerned about the deaths." "Really?" Lancasgirakil asked. "Why?" "Twenty eight deaths, of which . . ." Turkamilri checked his pad. "Twenty seven hunters and one crew," Jeremy provided. "Ahh, yes, and I see there was a human death." "That was the crew member. He was a structure tech, and chose to continue the repairs he was doing, instead of evacuating, as ordered." "You had a human as part of the crew?" "I have forty six." "That is unacceptable, we can't have humans getting access to our technology. What's to stop them from sending the information back to Earth?" "Those are my humans, not part of the passengers we carried to Paradise." He didn't mention Alix's Heart, that was none of their businesses. "I don't care. You don't have the authority to make a decision like that. You should have contacted us." "Jeremy did contact the council," Oturslgirnal said. "He spoke with," he glanced at his pad, "Councilor Querikdarfingalse, who approved his decision." "How can he have approved such a thing?" "You'll have to take that up with him. All that matters right now, is that Jeremy proceeded as expected." "Fine. There's still the matter of the deaths. "I don't get what you problem is with that," Tirak said. "They are hunters." "We die, so our people live," Jeremy said, by reflex. Tirak looked at him. "I didn't know anyone still knew the creed." Jeremy just nodded. "So?" Turkamilri asked. "It isn't because they are hunters that their lives should be thrown away." "Thrown away?" Tirak eyed Turkamilri. "Exactly how do you define throwing away a life? Captain, how did your people die?" Jeremy took a deep breath. "Nineteen gunners died when we took fire during the pursuit, after the ambush. Eight hunters died in the aft breach." "Where the gunners needed?" "Yes, we were firing on the pursuing ships, trying to disable them enough to make it to kelsirian space alive." "The hunters?" "The hunters were keeping fires under control. Those fires occurred when a missile breached a section, early in the pursuit. The electrical system overloaded, and the fire suppression system didn't respond. If I hadn't sent them there, fire would have spread along the power conduits, without any way to know how extensive the damage would have been." "And you said the tech had been ordered to leave." "Yes." Tirak looked at Turkamilri again. "You call that throwing lives away?" "You find twenty-eight deaths acceptable?" "Are you serious? Are you telling me you didn't have any deaths during your career? Never mind. I don't want to know how you went up in ranks. Lancasgirakil, you read the report about the ambush, and pursuit. How many deaths would normally be expected in such a situation?" "Considering the opposing force the Bane was up against, and the sabotage they had been subjected to," he paused for a moment, "at the very least, I would have expected a third of everyone one on board to have died, and if I was running this as an evaluation scenario, up to half would still be acceptable." "So, how would you judge twenty-eight deaths, all crew, no civilians." Lancasgirakil chuckled dryly. "We don't have enough medals to show just how amazing that was. And to address general Turkamilri, no, that does not constitute throwing away lives. That is exactly the opposite. Now shut up, you're making the rest of us look bad." Turkamilri glared at Lancasgirakil, who ignored him. "What does concern me," Lancasgirakil continued, "is this human hunter squad you formed. Twenty-two humans, who were trained in our hunting ways. I understand they are trusted, but they aren't kelsirians, would they really do our ways proud?" "The squad was formed for the purpose of infiltrating the passengers. By that time it was obvious we were the subject of sabotage, but we couldn't get those humans to trust us, they would only open up to other humans. They didn't get full training, and I made them hunters so they would receive the protection accorded to us, should things escalate. I didn't want them to be abandoned, if it came down to that. "Before you bring them up, six of them were cubs. We chose them, because they were old enough to be responsible, but looked young enough for other humans to feel protective of them, humans have a tendency to open up more to cubs than to adults. The cubs volunteered, and their parents gave their permission. Also, everyone was under strict orders to keep them away from the worse of the dangers. The use of the human hunter squad led to the capture of four of the six saboteurs." "What happened to the other two?" "They chose suicide over capture." "And the squad?" "I disbanded it once the mission was accomplished." Lancasgirakil nodded. "I still question the use of cubs, but none of them were hurt, and only six of the human hunters were hurt. They can't be considered civilians at the time of the mission." "Do we know that Jeremy didn't force them to join the squad?" Snifurnolkah asked. Lancasgirakil sighed. "Did you actually bother to read the reports? Or are you too busy repeating what you're handlers tell you?" Snifurnolkah opened and closed his mouth, trying to say somethign, but failing. "Each human on the squad wrote a report describing what happened. While the translation makes for something of a funny read, there is no indication they were under duress at any time." He looked at Jeremy. "Thank you for answering my questions. I'm satisfied you showed good judgment in your decision." There was a moment of silents. "Does anyone have anything to add?" Oturslgirnal asked. Lancasgirakil and Tirak shook their heads. Snifurnolkah and Turkamilri remained silent. "Then, I'm happy to say that they ship is yours, Captain. As soon as it's fit to fly, you're free to go back where you belong." "Thank you admiral." He nodded to each of them, in turn, left, and almost walked into someone as the door closed behind him. "Kosfas, I wasn't expecting you here." "I wanted to make sure things went well." "It did, your mother wasn't there." "Good." "I take it you had something to do with that?" "I told her to stop meddling in my life. She not the Gods, so she doesn't have the right to do so. I'm happy she listened." "Thanks." "No, I'm the one who needs to thank you. Until you took me in, I had no idea that I wanted this. I was just doing what mother told me. I'm actually terrified to think what would have happened if she had succeeded in getting me a captainship." He surprised Jeremy by giving him a tight hug. In all the time he'd trained him, they had never hugged. "I won't be returning to the ship. I've been accepted the to Command Academy. So this is goodbye." "Congratulation. I'm certain you'll excel." "Thank you." Korfas turned and left. Before Jeremy could also leave, the door opened and admiral Oturslgirnal stepped out. "Captain, I'm glad I caught you before you left." "Korfas was just informing me he was accepted in the Academy." "Yes, I saw his application, and pushed it through. I also saw that your daughter applied. Do you want me to push hers through?" Jeremy shook his head. "No. I appreciate the thought, but she will be accepted by her own merits." "Very well. What will you be doing while your ship is being repaired?" "I have no idea. I've never been groundside this long. At this point I'm counting on Toom to keep me from going stir crazy." Oturslgirnal put a hand on his shoulder. "If you get too bored, you can always consider spending some time at the academy, teaching." Jeremy looked at him in horror.
  4. Kindar

    Chapter 54

    The door buzzed. "Come in," Jeremy said, finishing reading the report before looking up. Repairs were coming along. The ship wouldn't be back to how it was before the ambush, but at least it would run better. At least the atmospherics were back online. "Erik," Jeremy said, surprise to see the human. He worked in Engineer, Alix was teaching him. "What can I do for you?" Erik looked from Jeremy to Korfas, "Can, can we speak in private?" Before Jeremy could say anything Korfas shutdown his screens and grabbed his pad. "I need to go talk with procurement." He stood. "They're suppose to have done checks on the vegetation on the planet, to see if we can eat any of it." He left the room. "Have a seat," Jeremy offered. Erik sat down, looked at the floor for a moment. "I think It's going to be best if I leave the crew, and settle on the planet." "That's entirely your right, you know they'll be happy to take you in, and I already said anyone who wants to stay, can. You didn't need to come see me for that." Erik stood and started pacing. "It's Alix, I don't know what to do about him." "Is he being unreasonable in what he expects you to do?" "No, no. It's just . . . He keeps looking at me. Sometime he gets this, I don't know, hungry look on him." He sat down. "He makes you uncomfortable." Erik nodded. "Have you told him to stop?" Erik looked at him, eyes wide. "No! I don't want him to stop! That's the problem." He put his head in his hands. "God, I think I'm falling in love with him." "That's good." "Good? How can that be good? He has a wife and a kid. I don't want to be a home wrecker." He took a deep breath. "That's why I need to leave." Jeremy had to work very hard at keeping his face still. He couldn't believe that some humans were still stuck in such a narrow mindset after being on his ship for a few years. Granted, these last month, over crowed with humans from earth probably had something to do with his humans regressing. Once he know he could open his mouth without laughing, he punched the com. "Alix. My office. Now!" With the order given, he stood and opened the cabinet in the corner of the room. He poured a finger of the drink in the black bottle, and handed Erik the glass. "What is it?" he asked. "A ridoshi drink. The closest thing to scotch I've been able to fine. You look like you need to calm your nerves" Erik down it, and then gasped. "My god, that stuff's horrible." "It's an acquired taste," Jeremy confirmed, sitting. Alix might be a while, he and the other repair crews were the only ones on the ship. Everyone else was enjoying their time groundside. Jeremy would get back there himself, once he was done with his work. The door opened and Alix stood in the doorway, panting. "Reporting, captain. What's the problem?" He looked at the human. "Erik, what are you doing here?" He looked at Jeremy, "Captain, if he's done anything wrong, I can take care of it. He's a good engineer, he's just still learning." His ears folded back, then forward, sideways. Jeremy had never seen Alix be that nervous. Jeremy canted his head to the side. "Tell me, Alix, when did you become so timid?" Alix stared at him. "What?" "Erik's been telling me how you look at him, sometime hungrily." Alix's ears turned red. "How come you haven't made any advances on him?" Erik stared at Jeremy. "He's human, I. I didn't want to make him uncomfortable." "You screwed up. You've been making him uncomfortable enough that he wants to leave the crew." "What?" Alix went to Erik. "You can't do that. Please, you've got to stay. I've been looking for you for too long, you can't leave now." Erik leaned back away form Alix, and looked at Jeremy. "What doed he mean, he's been looking for me?" Jeremy just nodded toward Alix, who was now on his knees. "I'm sorry I've made you uncomfortable, it really wasn't my intention." He took Erik's hand in his. "I've been hun . . . looking for my Heart since I've been a cub. I went to space still looking. You're him, Erik. You are my Heart. Please don't leave. I love you." Erik stared at him. "You can't love me! You have a wife!" Alix looked at Jeremy, confusion on his face. "Your mate." Alix nodded and looked back to Erik. "I can still love you." "No you can't! You're committed to her! I'm not going to have you leave her for me!" Erik tried to stand, but Alix forced him back down. "No. Erik, I am not letting you go that easily. I'm not human. I don't follow your rules. I am not limited to loving just one person. Please look at me." He said, and slowly Erik looked at him. "This is why I didn't do anything. I was trying to find a way to make sure you understood that we did things differently. I remember how Jeremy was those first few years. It took him time to come to terms with our customs. I'm not going to ask you to move in with us, all I ask is that you stay. Please stay, give me time to show you we can make this work." Erik looked at Jeremy. "What should I do?" "What do you want to do? Not what you think you should, what do you want?" Erik looked at Alix again. "I want to stay," he whispered. Alix hugged him tightly, which made Erik tense. He pulled away. "I'm sorry, too fast, I know. I'll keep my distances. I'll see you back at work." Now, Jeremy couldn't hide the smile, as Alix rushed out. "What's funny," Erik said, still stunned. "Sorry, I've never seen Alix act like a cub in love for the first time before." Erik was silent for a moment. "Am I making a mistake?" "If you're referring to breaking them up. It won't happen. As I've explained before, we don't limit ourselves to loving just one person. Don't force yourself into something you aren't comfortable with, Alix won't force you to either. Just follow your Heart, it will lead you true.
  5. Kindar

    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 . . ." "Furless?" "Yeah." "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.
  6. Kindar

    Chapter 52

    "Captain," the com said, it was Korfas' voice Jeremy growled. What did the gods have against him? Couldn't he get one day to himself, with Toom? After four months of dealing with all those humans making a mess of his ship, didn't he deserve one day of peace and quiet? He'd been sure Korfas could handle having the bridge for the day. He'd grown in the half year since he'd come on board, and he was more level headed when dealing with the humans, these days, than Jeremy was. With a sigh he turned over, and away from Toom, and grabbed his com. "Yes." It took a lot of effort to keep his annoyance out of his voice. "You need to come to the bridge, sir." "Are you sure you can't handle this yourself?" "Yes, sir, I'm sure." "Alright. Let me grab a shower, and I'll be right there." "I . . . I think we can handle the scent of your mate being over you." That made Jeremy sit up. It wasn't exactly proper etiquette to show up to work smelling of sex. For Korfas to say it would be okay meant he was worried. "I'll be right there." Jeremy got out of bed. "Where are you going?" asked a sleepy Toom. "The bridge." "Aww, let Korfas deal with it. Come back to bed." "I can't, he's worried about something." Tomm let out a jaw cracking yawn. "You want me to come?" "No, go back to sleep, one of us should get to fully enjoy his day off." He put on a clean pair of pants, grabbed his jacket and was out the door. * * * * * "Alright," Jeremy said as he entered the bridge, "what's happening." "We have . . . something on the scans, about half a light year away." "Something?" half a light year was at the edge of their range, but they should get more than just 'something'. Korfas nodded to the tech seated at the scan board, and the main screen was filled with the vastness of space, with something in the middle of it. Jeremy frowned, what was that? The only way he could tell there was something there, was the distortion it caused against the stars behind and near it. Korfas joined him, and quickly sniffed the air. "You said I shouldn't bother with a shower," Jeremy remarked, not taking his eyes off the screen. "Sorry. It's not emitting anything we can detect, the scan results are as fuzzy as the image the cameras are giving us." "Any idea how big it is?" "As best as we can determine, the distortion is close to a hundred meters across, but we have no way of knowing if that's the size of something within it, or even if there is anything inside." "As anyone been by here before? Any reports of strange phenomenons?" "No, we're inside the unclaimed territories, if anyone has been here before they haven't reported it." Jeremy went to the communication board. Tamirik sniffed once, before saying. "Hi, pa." "Hey Tamirik. I know, I smell." He looked through the directory. "It's okay, I'm used to it. I lived in the same quarters as you for years, but it's strange just smell Toom on you." Her voice was wistful. "I miss him too." He found the sensor lab and called it. "Huar." "I'm here," the male said, entering the bridge. Jeremy looked up, surprised. "I called him, right after I called you," Korfas said. "Good call," Jeremy commented. Huar took the tech's place at the board. "Before you ask. This isn't caused by the sensor. I did a check before coming here. What ever problems we've been having on the ship has not affected them. I'm preparing to cycle a pulse, if there's a generator in there, powering the field, it'll tell us." "When ever you're ready," Jeremy said. "I've set the result to over impose on the main screen. Pulse is go." Jeremy, and everyone else, watched the distortion, waiting to see what would happen, so they were caught by surprise when six points lit up around the distortion, instead of anything happening there. "Huar, run the harmonics against the database!" he quickly dialed the gunner Chief. "Girgan, I want all the guns maned." "Yes, sir." Next he dialed 'all ship' "this is the captain, we will probably come under attack. All civilians are to go to the core. All military personnel, go to your position. This is not an exercise, I repeat, this is not an exercise." "Get ready to field calls," he told his daughter. It had been a long time since they'd had to do this. With this done he went back to the center of the bridge, looked at the screen, where Huar had brought back the six lit points. Six generators, that meant six ships. Who could they be? They had to be humans, nothing else made sense. "Huar, who are they?" "I don't know, sir. The harmonics aren't matching up with anything, and there's something strange about them. Like they're distorted. I've never seen anything like that." "How can they not be in the database?" Korfas asked, moving next to Huar. "I thought we'd pulsed everyone one over the years." Six ships, humans. Why here, why now? "We have," Huar answered. "If it was just that they wouldn't in the database, I'd say they are brand new ships, but this distortion, this is new. Even a new ship shouldn't show anything like that. I'm going to cycle another pulse, maybe I can get more precise readings, now that I know what to expect" Why? They were after them, that was obvious. Why draw them to this distortion? Humans were devious. They never attacked facing you, if they could find a way to stab you in the back. They would prefer to hide and ambush you . . . "Don't!" Jeremy yelled. "Don't pulse." He went back to the communication board. "Girgan, do not power up the weapons. Have them manned, but powered down, until I give the order." Everyone on the bridge was looking at him. "Captain?" Huar asked, "I need another pulse, to get an idea of what's causing this." "They're shielding their generators." That got him strange looks. He indicated the empty space on the screen. "They found a way to make themselves invisible to our sensors, so they had to do the same for the generators." "It didn't really work then, we still saw something, even if it didn't make any sense." "Yes, but I don't think they know that." Huar's eyes lit up. "They haven't been able to test the shielding. They don't have pulse tech, since we haven't make it available to anyone else in the federation." "So," Korfas continued, "if we do a second pulse, we'll reveal we saw them, since that would be the only reason to do so. What do we do then?" "This is an ambush," Jeremy stated. "The only advantage we have, is the element of surprise, so we need to maximize that." The door opened, and Toom entered. "I though I told you to stay in bed," Jeremy said. "You know I hate sleeping alone," Toom answered, giving him a nuzzle, before heading for the pilot's chair. "I was done with my shower when the 'all ship' went through. We're in trouble, this is where I belong." "Alright, then take us toward the anomaly, at a very safe speed. That's why it's there, to attract us, kelsirian curiosity, and all that. So lets go see what it is, assuming it could be dangerous. That will give us time to figure out something. Huar, keep scanning it. Let them think we don't know about the ambush." Everyone focused on their boards. Tamirik was fielding calls, mostly from humans, based on her English. Korfas and Huar were talking. Jeremy looked at the screen again. Six ships, completely unknown, there was no way they could take them on, they needed to run. But without knowing what they were facing, he couldn't know what they could do. Someone said something that didn't quite register to Jeremy, but was enough to make him look around, and then at Huar and Korfas. "What did you just say?" Both of them looked at one another, and then at Jeremy. "You were talking, what did you say?" Huar hesitated a moment. "I said, that I wondered how they were fooling our sensors" "And I said," Korfas continued, "that I wonder if it's only elecronic sensors that are fooled." "Right!" Jeremy exclaimed. "Tamirik, get me Thuruk." "Thuruk here," his voice came over the com after a moment. "Thuruk, I need you to send someone in each of the recreation rooms that has a view of space." There was a long silence. "They're on their way. Why am I sending them there?" "There are six ships before us, that our sensors can't see. I'm hoping that organic sensors aren't affected." "As soon as they are in place I'll let you know what they see." Jeremy nodded to himself, as the communication ended. "Do you know who they are?" Korfas asked. "Humans. It has to be the humans." "Why would they ambush us?" "Ignoring the vendetta they've had against me for decades, we have over three hundred Leafers." "Which they wanted us to take off their hands." "Yes, but that doesn't mean they want them to live. Leafers are proof of how they've been subjugating some of their people. They would rather destroy all of them, then letting them settle peacefully. We're in the middle of nowhere. There aren't any trade routes near here. They destroy us, and it will be years before anyone figures out what happened. We'll just be another lost ship. If they're clever about it, they could even arrange it so there aren't any trace of the attack." "How could they do that? Weapons leave distinct impact marks." "They could weaponize debris, or even small meteorites, then it looks like just another accident." Korfas shivered. "Humans really are that devious?" Jeremy nodded "No wonder they get along so well with the Taournians." "Any idea on how we can get out of this?" "We can always wait for the Gods to intervene." Jeremy looked at Korfas to confirm he wasn't serious. "Lets consider that the backup plan." "Until we know more about the ships, we can't plan much." "Captain," Thuruk said. "We have visual on six ships, of a design I've never seen before." "What are they doing?" "They're moving away from each other. The logical move is for them to encircle us." Jeremy wasn't happy, but he wasn't surprised either. "Let me know if things change." He looked at the screen. "The one advantage we have, is that they want us alive for the moment." "Why?" "I don't know. Maybe they want to torture them, or 'cure' them. But you can be sure that what ever else they are planing on, destroying us is part of it." "Captain," Toom said. "I know Thuruk said he's never seen those ships before, but there's only a specific numbers of ways to can build a ship. Someone from Structure might be able to determine what they can do." "Good idea." He nodded to Tamirik, who nodded back after a moment. "Sayane." "Here, captain." "Contact Thuruk, get your people with his, I need you to figure out what we can do against the ships surrounding us." "Yes, sir. What kind of readings do we have?" "None. Our scanners aren't getting anything from them. It's going to have to be entirely visual." "Seriously?" "Seriously." "That isn't going to make the work easy." "What can I say, I thought you could use the challenge. Bring in Alix, he might be able to help pinpoint where their generators are." "Can't we use a pulse to find out where they are?" "Not without having the ships on sensors first," Huar said, before Jeremy could. "How far from the distortion are we?" "About a quarter of a light year," Toom answered. "We're going as slow as we can, without making them think we're afraid of it." "Anything on the distortion?" "Still too far to get anything precise, but I'm confident that what ever is in it, is smaller than the distortion." Jeremy nodded. "Is there any way we can use a pulse to blind them?" Huar thought it over. "I don't see how. The pulse itself is a fraction of a second. I guess that in theory, it would be possible to boost the duration, and the power of the pulse, but I couldn't even make an attempt at it in the time we have." Korfas sighed. "This is when I think a chair would be a nice thing to have on the bridge." "You can have one on your own ship," Jeremy replied. "I happen to believe we think better on our feet." He looked at Tamirik. "Get me Sayane." "Here captain." "Quick question. If we were to ram an object, about a hundred meters all around. What kind of damage to the ship should I expect." "Depends what kind of object, what is it made out of?" Jeremy looked at the distortion. "Let's say it's a shuttle." "At full speed? It might pierce the hull. You'd want to make sure all the personnel has been evacuated from the impact area, maybe two section deep, just to be safe." "Thanks." "What are you thinking?" Korfas asked. "That not matter what, we can't take them on in a direct fight. We need to run. I'm remembering that over all, humans like to play it safe. They have an expression: 'to err on the side of caution'. They see an obstacle, and they do their best to go around it. I'm thinking that they won't expect us to ram whatever is causing the distortion." "They can still chase us." "That's why we need to cripple them." "What if we can't find anything vital to shoot at?" "Their engines are still visible. In fact, so long as they are moving toward us, they have to remain visible, and parallel. Toom, how much time to you need to get us to full speed?" "Depends on how much power Alix can give me." "Alix?" "Here." "Forget the enemy ships. I need you to give us as much power as possible, both generators. Bring down anything outside the core to the bare minimum." "Yes, sir" "Tamirik, have the front of the ship vacated, four section deep." "The gunners?" Jeremy cursed. "No, they have to remain at their post." Hopefully hitting the distortion wouldn't kill any of them "Girgan." "Here." "Anyway to give your gunners a visual without powering the guns?" "No, sir. The guns point inside when powered down." "Alright. Instruct the gunners to aim at the engines. Our goal is to cripple them. We have no way to know how fast they are, so the more damage to their engines the better." "I'll instruct them and wait for your signal." "Thuruk." "Yes, sir." "Where are the ships?" "One is in front of us, slightly higher. The other five are coming along side." "Alix! Time is of the essence here." "I know! I'm working as fast as I can. If you're not happy with my performance, feel free to come do the work in my place." "I take it, by your tone, that you haven't out done my improvements to the generators, then." The expletives that came over the com made Korfas' jaw drop, and many ears on the bridge turned red. Jeremy just chuckled. Five minutes later the light on the bridge dimmed. "There, you have everything I can spare. Just don't breath too heavily, you might over load the atmospherics." "Thuruk, tell me when most of the enemy's engines are visible to our gunners." "Well, except for the ship in front of us, now would be a good time." "Girgan! Fire at will!" A moment later the main screen indicated the battery of missiles being launched. "Captain?" Toom asked. "Not yet," Jeremy replied. "Thuruk, I need to know when we've done significant damage to their engines." The ship shook. "In case you haven't noticed," Thuruk said. "We're taking fire." On the screen, one of the enemy ship became visible. "Huar, give me a scan of it!" "On it." The ship shook again, and something, in the distance, exploded. "We've lost two section on the port side," someone said, "nothing vital, no casualty." Gods, Jeremy hoped that had been enough time. "Toom, maximum speed. Ram the distortion and get us out of here." Jeremy didn't feel anything as the ship sped up. That was good, meant the gravitics were intact. Based on the scan Huar had done, the enemy ships were about the same size as his. While he didn't know how fast they could go, he had the advantage for the moment, they had to turn around, even without damage, that would give him the lead. The question was, could he maintain it. "How far are we from our territory?" "Twelve light year," came the reply. Then the ship shook. "That was the distortion," Toom said. "I got a scan of it," Huar added. "It was a bouyee, ten meters across." "At the speed we're going, the damage is still going to be significant," Toom added. "Any pursuit?" "They're out of sensor range." "I'm running a pulse sequence. On main." Every second a pulse went out, and updated the positions of the enemy ships. "Two are still shielded, the other four aren't, I'm registering the harmonics." On the next pulse there were only five ships. "Looks like one blew up." "I think the Gods meddled," Korfas deadpanned. "You can thank them for me." Two of the ships were in pursuits. "Toom, how's our speed?" "We're maxed out, I think." "How long until we're in kelsirian territory?" "Four hours." "Send a distress call ahead." Jeremy said to Tamirik, and then looked at Korfas, "while you're thanking them, see if you can get them to put a patrol ship close by. Because I really don't think they are going to respect the border markers." "I'll see what I can do, captain."
  7. Kindar

    Chapter 51

    "Him and his furball of a boyfriend tried to rape me!" the human said, hands on the desk and glaring at Jeremy. "Why is that cat sitting here instead of being in prison!" Jeremy looked at the human, flatly. "Mister Diamond, why don't you sit down." "I don't want to sit down. I want to know why you haven't taken cared of that!" He pointed to the kelsirian seated before the desk. His fur was lack luster, eyes bloodshot, and he looked like he was going to be sick any moment. "Mister Diamond, you've just spoken three phrases, and manged to insult me and my people in each one of them. So I recommend that you sit down, before I sit you down myself." "You?" the surprise on the human's face was genuine. "I didn't insult . . ." "Sit down!" he didn't want to have to deal with this right now. Only one month in the trip and he already had enough other troubles around the ship, he was regretting agreeing to ferrying those humans. Mister Diamond was seated. "Good. Now, don't let the fact that I look like a human mislead you. I am kelsirian. I'm intervening, because you are accusing one of my people of attempted rape, something I won't stand for, but I'm not your ally. Do you have anything to add?" The human shook his head. Jeremy looked at the kelsirian. "How are you feeling, Dalfin?" He kept his tone neutral, even if he was hurting at seeing him in such a bad state. "I'm managing, I'm doing better than Ullallar, but I'm to go back to the medical bay after this." Jeremy nodded. "Tell me what happened." He raised a hand to prevent the human from speaking, and looked at him. "If you disagree about what he says, you can interject, otherwise, I want you to remain silent, understood?" The human nodded. "We met George at the mess. He has a large collection of human vids, and you know how I am about Vids. He invited us back to his quarters so he could show some of them to us. The one we were watching was amusing, but somewhere during it, I don't really remember when, I started feeling, well, amorous. I started nuzzling him, Ullallar must have felt the same, because he had his hands roaming over his body. I don't know why we didn't stop, I swear to you captain, I don't. If Ullallar hadn't fallen over, sick, we would have forced ourselves on him." He put his head in his hands. "Gods, we would have forced him to have sex with us." He looked even more sick. Jeremy waited for him to continue, but he didn't. He looked at George. "Do you disagree with what he said." He opened his mouth, but seemed to think better of saying whatever he had planned on. He shook his head. Jeremy nodded. "I have some questions." He'd read the preliminary report on Ullallar, and he knew they had omitted something. "Did you eat or drink anything while in George's room?" "We had a few beers," George said, "you know, the regular for watching a movie." "How many did each of you have?" "I had one bottle," Dalfin said, "I'd opened a second, but I didn't drink any before . . ." He looked at his feet for a moment, and then back up. "Ullallar finished at least two of them. He might have been partially through a third bottle. Jeremy looked at George. "I had two. What does that have to do with what they tried to do to me?" At least he kept his tone civil. "What kind of beer?" "It's called High Crown. My cousin makes it." "What's the alcohol content?" Just a few bottles didn't explain the readings that was in the report. "Twelve percent," George said. "What?" Dalfin exclaimed, pushing the chair back as he stood, and then had to lean on the desk to avoid falling over. "What?" George asked, surprised at the reaction. "It's beer what did you expect? It said it right on the bottle." "This explains one thing," Jeremy said. "We don't have strong alcohol. At most our drinks have one percent alcohol in them. Consequently, we don't have any tolerance for it. That's why Dalfin and his mate lost control." "They should have said something," George said, defensively, "it was written on the bottle." "Do you read kelsirian?" Jeremy asked him. "What? Of course not." "Then why are you expecting them to read English?" "They speak it." "But they don't read it. I'm the only one who's capable of reading English, here. Now, are you willing to let this go let this go as a loss of control do to an accidental over consumption of alcohol? Or do you want to push this further?" George looked at Dalfin, then at his feet, and back at Dalfin. "Yeah, I'm okay with this being an accident. I'm really sorry, I didn't know you didn't drink alcohol, or that you'd have such a back reaction to it." "It isn't because of the alcohol that they're sick. The hops in the beer poisoned them." George looked at him, eyes wide, mouth open. "You had no way of knowing, so I'm not accusing you of anything. This is the first time we've been exposed to it, so it's also an accident. Dalfin, go back to the med bay. George, you're free to go, but I don't want you to offer your beer to anyone of my crew, is that understood? If you do, I won't be kind." George needed before helping Dalfin out. Jeremy looked behind him, at Korfas, who stood still through all that. "Send a notice to the crew, human alcohol is off limits." "All of it?" "Yes. Humans make alcoholic drink for the mind altering effect. They don't have anything that going to be safe for the crew." "Very well." Korfas continued looking at him. "Yes?" "Do you drink human alcohol?" "No," Jeremy said, "human products are banned, remember?" "Your coffee is a human product," Korfas pointed out. "Yes, but coffee is worth smuggling in. To answer what I think you really meant, yes I do drink the strong stuff. The ridoshi make something I've grown the enjoy. But I rarely drink it, and only in small quantity. When I've had a really bad day." Jeremy looked at the door. "At this rate I'm going to become addicted to the stuff by the time we reach Paradise," he grumbled. * * * * * Jeremy looked at the chiefs sitting around the meeting table. This wasn't how he normally did his meetings, he preferred one on one, but circumstances were calling for something drastic. "Alright, I'm hoping we can make some headway into resolving these problems, because we still have four months to go, and at this rate, I'm starting to worry the ship will fall apart before we get there. Pernic, what's the status of the brig." "We're at capacity, sir. I've had to increase guard duties to be able to keep the peace, I've even had to borrow some of the hunters, to give my people some relief. The humans are constantly causing troubles." "All the humans?" Jeremy asked. "No, our humans are behaving, mostly, I've had to put a few of them in the brig, for getting into fights with the other humans. I don't understand, they're all Leafers, they should be getting along, shouldn't they?" Thuruk glanced at Jeremy, who ignored it. He would be dealing with that later. "Humans can be confrontational, and lets remember that quarters are cramped, that's not going to help keep tempers calm." "I thought humans liked small spaces." "Only if they're alone in them. What's the reasons for the fights?" "Over all, it's the humans over drinking, then getting into arguments, which escalate into fights." "Maybe we should take away the alcohol," Alix commented. "That's going to make them angry," Jeremy replied, "which is just going to make matters worse." "I'd have thought they would have drank all of it, by now," Thuruk said. "You'd have thought. Sayane, can we turn one of the cargo bay into holding cells?" "Certainly," she answered, "I can probably double the numbers of cell we have, just by using one of the smaller bays." "Alright. You and Pernic work it out together. Janilan, what is the food status." "If things continue as they are, not good. Food is disappearing, not that we're eating more than expected, someone is stealing it. The refrigerated storage failing is going to make things worse. We are already getting close to having to ration food." "We're working on fixing the storage," Retik piped in. "Janilan, run calculations, and start planing for rationing. Keep in mind that cubs and pregnant females are to be excluded from it. We can't risk their health." Janilan nodded. "Thuruk, get some hunters looking into the theft. I know that would normally be your field Pernic, but your people are already being over worked, and we can't afford for those theft to continue." Both males nodded. "Retik, what caused the storage to fail?" "A power relay exploded." "Exploded?" Jeremy repeated. "How does that happen?" "An energy spike." "I've scanned the whole ship," Alix interjected, "there haven't been any spikes that could have blown out a relay." As he finished talking, the lights dimmed and brightened back to normal. "Can someone cause a specific relay to explode" Thuruk asked. "Not through the system," Retik replied. "How about from outside the system?" Jeremy asked. "Can someone manually cause a relay to overload?" Retik thought for moment. "Yes." "We have what's needed to make that happen?" "In storage." "Xenial, I need you to do a full inventory. Something's going to be missing, I want to know what it is." Xenial nodded. "Alix, have you worked out what's causing the power to fluctuate?" "No, not yet. It shouldn't be happening, the generator is running fine, and not at capacity, but if we don't find the drain, we're going to need the backup to keep up." "No, the backup stays offline," Jeremy stated. "Sir, if we don't find the drain, we will run out." "Then we ration the power, if it gets to that. I don't think it will, but the backup stays offline. That's final. Sayane, how's the ship's structure?" "That's fine. Seems to be the only thing that's not having troubles." "I'm not surprised," Jeremy mumbled to himself, but still drew looks from Korfas, seated to his right. "Brafern, how is medical?" "There's been an increase in minor injuries, the older female answered, "but that's to be expected with the increase in fighting. We have a few theft of medicine, but that's stopped. I think who ever it was, discovered that it didn't work as expected with their biology." "Alright. Does anyone have anything to add?" shakes of the head all around. "Then we are done." Everyone but him rose. "Thuruk, please stay." Korfas started sitting again. "I need you to leave," Jeremy told him. "Why? I'm suppose to be learning from you." "I know, but I can't have you here right now." For a moment it looked like Korfas might argue, but then he left. Jeremy leaned back in his chair, and ran a hand over his face. "Gods, I need a scotch." "Already out?" "No. But if I drink one each time I need one, I'm not going to be able to do anything. So, we're both thinking sabotage." Thuruk nodded. "Even crowded like we are, we shouldn't be having failures like this. They are being manufactured. I just don't know how to find out who is doing it, other than catching them in the act." "That's what I want to talk to you about. Among our humans, how many of them would you trust with your life?" "With my life? Maybe a dozen. They're all good people, but those are the only ones I know well enough for that." "Just twelve? I don't know if we'll be able to do this with only twelve." "What are you planing?" "I want to form a human Hunting Squad." Thuruk's ears folded back. "Train humans to be Hunters? I'm not so certain about that." "I'm not thinking full training, just make them into a squad, and have them infiltrate the new humans. We can't get close enough to them to find out who is sabotaging my ship, but humans could." "That's why you want some we can trust." "Yeah." "I have a few squad leaders under me who've gotten close to our humans, they can probably give me more we can trust with this." Thuruk was silent for a moment. "How do you feel about putting cubs into that squad?" Jeremy had an immediate reaction against that idea, but he forced it aside. "What do you mean?" "I've noticed how humans tend to be more open toward cubs, they could help with the infiltration." Jeremy forced himself to consider it. "How old are you thinking?" "Around fourteen. Older than that, and human cubs are sometime treated as adults." "Fourteen," Jeremy whispered. It's wasn't like with their cubs, who at fourteen would already be working on ships, or be in the process of being trained to become hunters. At fourteen, a human cub was still a cub, it would be at least two years before he would even think about doing adult things. "Are you sure? I'm not comfortable with them being that young." "I might be able to find a few who are older, but look young, but I really think that's the best age. I'm not willing to bring in younger cubs." "Okay, and you think you'll be able to find enough of them you can trust?" "With ease. The influx of new humans has caused a lot of frictions between their cubs and ours. Seems one groups thinks it deserves to be treated better, even if they have just arrived." "Alright, but the moment it looks like things might go wrong, you are pulling them out. I don't want them put in immediate danger." "Agreed." "Get to it." Thuruk left, and Jeremy sighed, enjoying the silence. The lights dimmed, and he growled. He left the room, only to find Korfas waiting for him. "You don't trust me, that's why you didn't want me there." Jeremy sighed. He didn't want to deal with him right now. He wanted to go find Toom, pull him from what whatever was occupying him, and go to bed. But Korfas deserved an explanation. "If this had happened four month ago, you would be correct." Jeremy started walking, and Korfas fell in step with him. "To tell you the truth, back then, I didn't think you'd stick with this. I thought you'd realize this isn't for you and focus on something more appropriate." He looked at him. "Now, though, now, I think you're going to make a good captain, eventually, and I do trust you. I didn't include you in the discussion to protect you. What we agreed to do in there might not be entirely legal. If you know the details, you could be held accountable." "Shouldn't that have been my decision to make?" "No. A captain's duty is to protect his crew. That doesn't always means keeping them away from danger, sometime, it means keeping them ignorant of what's happening." "I don't agree," Korfas said, "we know what we are embarking upon when we sign up. We're here to support our captain, to help him however we can." Jeremy smiled. "You're going to make a very different captain then I am, Yankorfasbernipol, And that is not a slight on you."
  8. Kindar

    Chapter 47

    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." "What's wrong?" "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." "Why? How?" "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. "What?" "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." "Thank 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." "We did." "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."
  9. Kindar

    Chapter 42

    "Captain," the older kelsirian said, a moment after his image appeared on the screen "Admiral Oturslgirnal, thank you for taking my call so quickly." "I wasn't going to keep the Hunter at the Line waiting," he replied, smiling warmly. "What is the reason for you call?" Gral kept the grimace from showing, he hated that title. He'd acquired it after the general had fabricated a vision that let Gral continue to patrol the kelsirian-human border. He was grateful to the Admiral, but he didn't like the reminder of the fabrication. "I think we need to meet," Gral said. "A meeting? Are you close to Kelser? You could have arranged that through my secretary." "I'm not. And I'm not sure you want this to go through channel. We've come across . . . something." "Isn't that a little presumptuous of you? Requesting a meeting, just because you found something?" "I'm confident you don't want me to file a report on this, considering you're the one who assigned me this patrol route." "I didn't assign you anything, you have Freedom of Hunt." "When I'm pursuing a quarry, yes. The rest of the time I follow my assigned patrol route, and you are the one in charge of assigning those." The admiral leaned back in his chair and eyes him. "You're certain this is that important?" "Yes, sir." "Be in your sensor lab in ten minutes, you'll get a message there." The communication cut, leaving Gral perplexed. "Huar," "Yes captain?" "Meet me in your lab in five minutes." Gral left his office. * * * * * The sensor lab wasn't much to look at for Gral. A reasonably sized room, with more readouts screen lining the walls that he could count. He knew Huar could find out the state of any individual sensor from here, he also knew he didn't spend much time in this room, preferring to do visual inspections. They had been waiting for a few minutes, when a message arrived. A string of number that was meaningless to Gral. "That's a frequency setting," Huar said, "but that isn't within sensor range." "Can you get the sensor to reach it?" "Sure, I can adjust the sensor to 'see' anything, it's just surprising. There's nothing in that range." He typed commands, and then entered the frequency he had received. "I'm brining up on screen, but we're not going to see anything." The admiral's face appeared. "Gods," Huar exclaimed, "how is that possible?" he started typing. "Leave it, Engineer," the admiral ordered, and Huar stopped. "We're using the frequency as a sub-carrier wave. It's outside standard scan ranges, and even then, it's almost undetectable. I'd appreciate it if you didn't look into it any deeper." "Yes, sir," Huar replied. "Please leave us," Gral said, and Huar left the lab. The Admiral made a sign, and Gral saw shadows move, heard a door open and then close. "Now, captain. What's so important." "I have a human exploration ship, and its pilot. Which isn't a surprise to you, I take it," Gral added, at the lack of reaction from the admiral. "It isn't, humans have been been exploring unclaimed territories since before we met them." "So have we. But I'm guessing you know more about this ship than any of the others, am I right?" "You are," that admiral said, after a moment. "What state is the ship in? And it's pilot?" "The ship's engine is offline, damage cause by a micro meteorite. The pilot is physically fine, but his state of mind is dubious, at best. He spent eight years in total isolation, from what I saw, even humans can't take that much." "I need you to repair his ship, but in a way that can't reveal you did it. Then you need to send him back to the humans." "Why?" "He's part of a group that's working to free a subset of their citizen from their government's oppression." "The silver leaf pin." "You know about it?" "Yes, I ran across it when I escorted Jeremy to see his mother." "I don't recall this being mentioned in a report." "I didn't think it was relevant, just two males, accosting us in a bar, giving us the pin, and mentioning something about a plan. I thought they were just part of a small group wishing their situation was better." "Their group isn't small. We don't have any numbers, but there are a lot of them. The human government calls them 'Homos' "They call themselves, 'Leafers'." The surprise on the admiral's face told Gral he hadn't known that. "The human pilot, Adam, told us." "They have placed some of their people in positions of power, and they are working toward something they call 'exodus'." The word was human, and unknown to Gral. He'd ask Jeremy about it. "How are they infiltrating their own government?" "By being careful not to be noticed. If no one knows about their preferences, they are invisible within their society." "What does an explorer who's been away from human space for eight years have to do with their plans? The only thing in his databanks are scans of planets." "I don't know. Maybe you can get him to tell you that. All I know is that he and a few other explorers are very important to them." Gral nodded. "Adam mentioned something about applying pressure. Do you have any idea what he means?" The admiral though it over and shook his head. "No, but I'll pass the information to the ambassadors working close with the humans, they may know. Is there anything else?" Gral shook his head. "Then, good hunting, oh and thank your mate for the upgrade he came up for the sensors. What's how we have this sub carrier wave." The admiral cut the transmission without explaining further. * * * * * "Hello Adam," Gral said, as they stood before his cell. "I'm Gral, I'm the ship's captain. You remember Jeremy, my mate, and this is Leiha, the ship's mentalist." Adam was sitting on his bed, nervously looking at them. "That's a mentalist? So I want to know? Am I suppose to know?" "I help people who have problems with their minds," she answered. "You're a mind doctor," Adam stated, regarding her suspiciously. "That would be an appropriate description." "I don't like mind doctors. They do things, they try to change you. To make you 'normal'." Gral and Jeremy exchanged a look. "I do nothing of the sort," Leiha said. "I help people quiet their mind, so they can know who they are. If there is something in their mind that hurts them, I help them find out what it is, and come to terms with it." "Where are your machines? Mind doctors always have machines. Big machines, small machines, painful machines." Leiha looked at Jeremy, who wasn't showing any of the discomfort he was feeling. She could tell that he was now wondering if Adam's problems had been caused by those doctors, instead of the isolation. "I don't use machines, it's only me, and you." "And them." Leiha nodded. "The captain and his mate have questions for you. And if you'll let me, I'd like to help you answer them." "No, I'm not suppose to tell anyone. The plan won't work if they know." "Who's 'they'? Jeremy asked. "No, no, no, no! You won't get me to tell you!" He put his hands over his mouth. Gral crouched before the glass. "Adam, we want to help you. My ship's structural engineer is repairing your ship. When that's done, we'll send you back toward human space, even if you don't tell us anything. But we want to help you, and it's going to be easier to do that if we know what's going on." "Why? Why would you want to do that? No, no. No one whats to help. They just want you to be normal. Being different is wrong." He had pulled his knees to his chest an he was rocking back and forth. "Adam," Leiha said, "tell me about Robert." "Robert?" Adam stopped rocking, and his features softened. "Robert's an accountant, he lives across the hall from me. He helped me forget the nightmares, he's waiting for me to come home." "What happens once you get home?" "Nothing," Adam sighed. "He going to have to ignore me. I'm going to be too visible, I'm going to be on tv a lot. We're going to have to be apart until e leave." "Why do you have to remain apart?" Gral asked, before Jeremy could stop him. "Because if they find out about us, the doctors are going to come back. I don't want the doctors anymore. I don't want them to know about Robert." "Adam," Jeremy said softly. "What can we do to help you and Robert?" "You have to send me back. I have to go home, and be ignored by him, even if that's going to hurt." "Why?" "Because I found it. I found the place where we can go to. He got off the bed and leaned against the glass. "And you know the best part?" he whispered. "They are going to send us there willingly." "Why will they do that?" "Because they're going to think they are sending us to hell, when in reality they are sending up to paradise."
  10. Kindar

    Chapter 40

    "Pa! you're home!" Rudyum ran to him, and jumped in his arms. Jeremy caught him and twirled him around. "How was you day?" he asked his son. Rudyum had been greeting him this way since he'd first return, six day ago. Jeremy could tell that Rudyum hadn't taken his absence well, and that he was worried Jeremy wouldn't return from work one day. Jeremy did his best to comfort him. "Today we learned all about Thuruksamian, did you know he created everything?" "I remember reading about that," Jeremy replied, putting him down. He wasn't going to be able to pick his son up like that for much longer, he was growing fast. He went to his room to change out of his work clothes. He came back to the living area to Tamirik reciting 'dadadada," as she waddled toward Gral, who had just entered their quarters. Gral picked her up, and nuzzled her. "Hi dad," Rudyum said. Gral had gone from father, to dad when Tamirik started speaking and calling him 'da'. There use to be a lot of warmth when he said that. Now his face was cold. What Jeremy and Gral had one through had affected their son, and he could only hope that as they healed the rift, Rudyum would start warming up to his dad again. "Welcome home," Jeremy said, before heading for the cooking area. Gral deposited their daughter back among her toys, and sat down in his favorite chair to read. She went back to playing. "What do you think I should make for the meal, hatary? Or kourren?" Jeremy asked. "Doesn't matter to me," Gral replied, not looking up for his pad. Jeremy stifled a sigh. "Please Gral. You know that's not how this works." Gral was still being difficult about this. Jeremy didn't miss Rudyum, looking from him to Gral, frowning. "Tary, tary, tary," Tamirik sang form where she was sitting. "Can we, pa?" Rudyum asked. "Can we have hatary?" Jeremy looked at Gral, ho didn't look in his direction, but at least put the pad down. "Yeah, hatary sounds good, we haven't had that in a while." "Hatary it is." Jeremy started taking the ingredients out of the cooler and pantry. Rudyum's face lit up, and Tamirik continued with her chant of 'tary, tary, tary.' He was halfway through preparing the meal when the door opened. Tamirik stood unsteadily, and then waddled her way to the new commer. "Toomtoomtoomtoomtoom." Jeremy found himself wishing she would greet him the same way, but at least she was no longer looking at him wearily. Toom picked up as soon as she was within reach. "And how is my Tamirikaniesoulima," he asked, nuzzler her. "Soulima!" was her reply, and then she giggled. Tamirik was to the stage where she could do more than string single words together. "Toom," Gral said, putting his pad aside, and standing. "This is a surprise." He hugged them, Tamirik squeeing. "I missed my favorite little female," Toom replied, wrapping his free arm around Gral. Jeremy looked at them, and smiled. He was happy to see that Gral could still smile, a genuine smile, not the things he forced once in a while when looking at Jeremy. Gral looked up at him, and gave him this genuine smile. A moment later, it was gone and Gral's eyes clouded over. Jeremy focused back on preparing the meal. "How are you doing?" Toom asked him, standing on the other side of the counter. "As well as can be expected," Jeremy replied. "I wanted to give you both some space, I hope I'm not intruding." "Of course not." Jeremy reached over to pull him closer into a nuzzle. "You're always welcome here, you know that." Toom smiled and licked him on the cheek. "Thanks. How are the two of you doing?" "I don't know. Better, I hope. I know he saw Leiha yesterday. But he's still being difficult on some of the things she wants us to do." He looked over toom's shoulder. Tamirik was on Gral's lap, and he was making faces at her. "Have you seen her?" "My session is tomorrow." Toom put a hand on his. "You're going to get through this" "I know," Jeremy said, smiling at him. "The Gods worked too hard to bring us together, I'm not going to let that be in vain." For a moment it looked like Toom was going to say something, but Rudyum wrapped his arms around his belly. "Are you going to eat with us?" Toom rubbed his head, and scratched at the base of an ear. "I probably shouldn't, this is a time for your family to be together." "Even more reason for you to stay," Jeremy stated, "you're family." "Jeremy's right," Gral said. "You're as close to a near father to them as anyone of the ship." "Thank you, both of you. I'll be honored to eat with you." * * * * * The meal was good, both the food and the atmosphere. There was laughter, and stories. Rudyum told them what he'd learned about Thuruksamian. Gral recounted a story of when he was a cub himself, and managed to get tangled into one of his father's tree, trying to go after the biggest fruit on it. Toom's story was about his first operation, a rescue, where he not only didn't come back with the right person, but he'd ended up bringing back his commander's mate. Jeremy talked about his family, his brothers, who loved to play tricks on everyone, his sister, who could make you feel like she was reproachful, even when she was giving you a compliment, and his mother, who loved everyone she knew, as unconditionally as she could. At no time during the meal did Gral speak directly to Jeremy, but he did glance at him, and the smiles were genuine. This was the first meal that had felt normal since his return. After the meal the five of them sat in the living area and continued talking, until the cubs had to be taken to bed. After that, Toom excused himself, needing to go back to his quarters for the night. Jeremy wanted to ask him to stay, He was part of their family, and he shouldn't have to sleep apart from them, but he didn't. It wouldn't be fair to Toom to bring him in while he and Gral still had so much work to do. He nuzzled him, and wished him a good night. After that, silence descended on their quarters. Gral went back to his pad, and Jeremy pulled up reports from engineering that had come in after he'd left for the day. When bed time arrived, they both undressed and sat on the edge of the bed, on opposite sides, their backs to each other. Jeremy closed his eyes. "I love how safe I feel when I'm with you." It wasn't a lie, not so long ago, being in Gral's arms had been the safest place, and he knew that it would be the same, one day. He didn't move. There was a deep breath form Gral. "I . . . I love how determined you are. How you will keep to a hunt once you set your mind to it. How you will confront what ever obstacle that finds itself in front of you, that you will stay the course, regardless of the consequences." He got in the bed. Jeremy turned before sliding in. Gral's back was to him. This hadn't been Leiha had instructed them to say, but he didn't care. He could tell in the tone that it was genuine. Normally he'd sleep with his back to Gral, but he found he didn't want this time. The bowl shape naturally moved him so he was pressing against his back, and he tentatively put an arm over Gral's side. When his Heart didn't shake him off, he pressed a little closer. "I miss you," Jeremy whispered. After a moment, Gral took his hand, and squeezed it. * * * * * Jeremy and Gral were panting on the bed. The sex had been amazing, as it usually was. It wasn't the first time, it had taken them six month to reconcile enough that sex together became a regular part of their lives again, and for the year after that, it had just gotten better, but this time, it felt different. Jeremy couldn't say why, but now that they were catching their breath, covered in sweat and bodily fluids, he felt more at ease in his Heart's arm. "I'm afraid of loosing you," Gral whispered. Jeremy looked up at him, that was a strange thing to say. "I'm not going anywhere." Gral shook his head. "When you hurt those males, who tried to kidnaps the cubs, the idea that you might be taken from me hurt. After the operation you ran, I was afraid the humans would take you, and find a way to make you hate me. It hurt so much I didn't know how to deal with it." "It's alright, they won't take me, ever." Gral smiled at him. "It doesn't matter. I'm terrified of how much it will hurt if I do lose you. I'm so afraid of it, that I want to lock you away, someplace no one, not even the Gods will be able to get to you." He was silent for a moment. "I know it's stupid. I'm not really going to do it, but that fear is always at the back of my mind." "I wish I could tell you that I'll never leave, but we're hunters, we live dangerous lives. All I can do is promise that I'll do my best to always be here for you." "Thanks," Gral nuzzled the top of his head. "That operation I ran, against the humans. The reason I did it, was because I'd realized that you and the cubs were in danger because of me. I was scared that if I didn't make the point hard with the humans, that they would keep coming and one day I'd lose one of you." They were silent, and Jeremy realized that he felt a weight lifted from him, now that he'd admitted why he'd done what he'd done. * * * * * Jeremy was preparing some tatsuro. He didn't particularly like the dish, but he wasn't doing this for himself. The door opened, and Toom ran in, panting. "What's wrong?" Jeremy looked up, and stifled a smile, Toom's pants were on backward. Gral calmly stood from his chair. Toom looked from one to the other, confused by their calm demeanor. "I got a message to come here urgently." Jeremy washed his hands. Gral was next to Toom now. "What's wrong," he said, "is that we were wondering why you weren't home yet." Toom frowned. "I was home. I was almost asleep when I got the call." Jeremy joined them. "That isn't home," he said, putting a hand on Toom's cheek. "Your home should be here." Toom was obviously confused. "I don't understand." Gral nuzzled him. "We're told you over and over, you are family. You are our family." "You, you want me to be your mate?" "Yes," Jeremy answered. "The cubs already treat you as their near father, an we both love you. If you'll have us, we want you to be our mate." Toom hugged them tightly, and rubbed his muzzle against both their face. "Yes," he whispered. "The Gods be praised, yes."
  11. Kindar

    Chapter 39

    Jeremy had been in the brig for a week, alone. On a ship like the Viper's bane, the brig was almost exclusively used to hold prisoners, so he wasn't surprised to be the only one held there. What surprised him, at first, was that no one came to see him. Then he realized that Gral had probably ordered the guards to prevent his friends from dropping by. So, for a week it had been lights on at six, three meals, and lights out at twenty two. With nothing to do. "Finally!" Jeremy exclaimed when he heard the door open. It wasn't meal time, so it could only mean he'd finally decided to come talk to him. "It's about time you decided to . . ." His words died as he saw it wasn't Gral. Jeremy looked over Toom's shoulder to see if there was anyone else, a stupid move, it wasn't like Gral would have been able to hide behind the smaller kelsirian. "The captain's not coming," Toom said. "Of course he isn't," Jeremy snorted. He sat back on the bench. "How long is he going to keep me locked up?" "Until we reach Kelser, there he's going to have you transfered to an incarceration center." "What? This is ridiculous. Gods, what does he think he's doing?" Toom eyes him for a moment. "What is he doing? What did you think he was going to do when he found out about that operation?" "He wasn't suppose to find out about it." "So, on top of everything, you think your Heart is stupid." "Come on, he can't be that mad. We didn't get caught, and I don't see the humans brining it up, ever." "Mad? You didn't see what he did to his office, after throwing you in here." "It's kind of obvious I didn't see it." Jeremy pointed to his surroundings. "And you're not taking any of this seriously," Toom said, with a sigh. "How am I suppose to take this seriously, when I don't understand what the big deals all about. Humans were operating inside our territory, I made it pretty clear to them they would leave, and I didn't hurt anyone." "You're wrong, people have been hurt." Jeremy frowned at him. "Even if I assume that you really did that to get them to leave, which I don't. I know you too well. It wasn't your place to do it. You should have brought the information to the captain, and he would either have acted on it, or passed it along to his superiors. You endangered all of us, again." "No, I didn't! I did it exactly this way to make sure the crew would be safe. If the humans ever managed to trace anything back, it would only lead to me. No one else. Gods, the crew's safe, the ship's safe. What is he so angry about?" Toom tilted his head. "You really don't see it?" the surprise in Toom voice perplexed Jeremy. "See what? What are you talking about?" Toom let out a small, sad, laugh. He put a hand on the glass separating them. "After all these years, I really though you'd finally get it." He turned and left. "Get what?" Jeremy screamed after him. * * * * * Jeremy was standing before the council, the second time he'd been in such a position. The first time had been less grim. He was showered, shaved and wearing prisoner's gray. His hands were no longer restrained - they had been for the entire shuttle flight and walk to the groundside military administrative center. Gral had been by his side the entire time, but he hadn't said a word, he hadn't even looked at him. It was the first time they had seen each other in a month, and his mate wouldn't even looked at him. Jeremy hadn't thought he could hurt much more than when he'd been thrown in the brig and ignored there. He'd been wrong. "Captain," the central councilor said, "we've read the files you sent us, but we're still uncertain why you requested this meeting." He was an older male, Jeremy could tell because even sitting he was stooping forward. His fur was still a vibrant golden brown. "I'm here to turn over this terrorist, for judgment." Gral replied. "What?" Jeremy yelled, looking at his mate. "The prisoner will be silent," a female said. He didn't see whom, because he was glaring at Gral, who continued to look in front of him. "Do you deny the accusation?" "I deny being a terrorist, but no, I don't deny what's probably in that file." "You haven't seen the file?" she asked. She was sitting left of center, and looked to be a little younger, even if her fur as light gray. "No. I haven't." "They why don't you tell us what you did?" "How much detail do you want?" "Just give us the over all hunt. If we need details we'll ask for them." Jeremy nodded. "The operation consisted of infiltrating a ship crewed by humans. One of my operative procured one of their uniform so I could move about undetected. Another infiltrated their computer system, he monitored my progress and gave me access to where i needed to go." "The captain was unable to find out who your operatives were, will you be naming them?" Jeremy couldn't stop himself form looking at Gral, in surprise. "No, sir. I won't. As operation leader, I take full responsibility for what was done. They were following my orders, nothing more." He didn't know why Gral hadn't included them in his report, but he wasn't going to give them up, if he hadn't. "Very well, continue." "I made my way to the office of the human general Walter Malcolm Concryte. I installed a bomb to his office chair. The bomb was set to become active when he sat down, and detonate if he left the chair. Once the general sat, I explained to him that he needed to leave me alone, and go home. Once I said what I had to say, I neutralize the bomb and left." "What I'd like to know," said another female, on the left, her fur was mate black with random white stripes. "Is why you took it upon yourself to give a message to human illegally operating within the federation. You should have given that information to your captain." Jeremy didn't answer immediately. "I had to make a point. Humans have kidnapped me twice, and attempted to kidnap our cubs. Which happened on the Sitory station, deep in Kelsirian territory, where no humans had any business being. "I had to make them understand that I didn't need my Heart to protect me, or my crew. I needed to show them that if they came after me again, *I* was going to make them pay. I believed that a direct operation against them was the only way to make that point." "Why didn't you involve your captain?" "He wouldn't have let me do it." "Would it have been because he didn't think you couldn't accomplish the operation?" "No. Like you said, I shouldn't have done it. I knew he would have force me to stay in the sidelines while an official response was mounted. I also didn't tell him, because I didn't want to the operation to be traced back to him and endanger the crew." Gral snorted, and Jeremy grated his teeth, fighting not to ask what that was about. "So you left the ship, and no one was hurt." "That is correct." "Did you do anything else to the ship?" "I had one of my operative install three minor programs in their system, to trigger and deliver a message as a reminder of what I'm capable." The five of them talked among themselves for a few moments. Jeremy noticed that a few of them consulted their pads during that time. When they were done they returned their attention to the two of them. "Captain, based on the file you provided," the older kelsirian said, "and Jeremy's testimony, which corroborates your findings, we can't level a charge of terrorism against him. The Humans have not indicated that any such actions have been done against them, and since Jeremy's actions were not against any kelsirian assets, the best we can find is running an unauthorized operation. Which would normally fall under the ship's captain to resolve." Gral was visibly not happy about this. "If you insist, you can have Jeremy removed from your crew, and we'll find another ship willing to take him." He paused and studied the both of them. "If I can offer my advice, not as an admiral, but as someone who has lived a long time. What I read in this file, and how I saw you react to Jeremy's testimony, speaks of a problem that is deeper, and unrelated to the operation he ran. Wouldn't it be best if you both went back to your ship and worked it out, instead of trying to shut yourself our of each other's life?" "Is that an oder, sir?" Gral asked. "Do I need to make it one?" "No, sir." "Good." He looked at the other councilors. "Do we have anything else for them?" after a moment they all shook their head. "Alright, then, we're done here." Gral turned, and stormed off. Jeremy left at a more controlled pace. The two guards, standing just outside the chamber, looked at their captain's vanishing back, and then at Jeremy. "So, where are we taking you?" asked Breniel. "The captain didn't say anything as he passed." "The council basically said I was his responsibility," Jeremy replied. "So you'll have to check with him." "Why don't we start by getting back to the ship." Armoil commented. "We can have someone braver than us ask him, once we're there." "That works for me," Breniel said, and looked at Jeremy. "I have to go to the ship, so that sounds like a plan. Can we forgo the restraints?" "I don't see why not. The captain didn't say anything about having you wear them." * * * * * Gral rushed in Leiha's office. "What's wrong with Rudyum?" asked a the door closed behind him. "He was fine this morning." He saw who was sitting in one of the two chairs in front of Leiha's desk, and growled. He turned to leave, but the door didn't open. He slammed a hand on it. "Open the door." "No." Leiha said. "I am ordering you to open it." "Captain, as ship mentalist, it is my responsibility to catch situations that have the potential to put the crew in danger. When that happens, I have the authority to do what is needed, even ignore a captain's order. Now, please sit down." She indicated the vacant chair, next to Jeremy's "And where were you when he set his operation in motion? How come I never saw a report from you about what he was planing?" "I had to weigh which one was more dangerous. Letting him go along with it, while using that as leverage to get him to have regular sessions with him, or stopping him, and having his anger continue to build until it boiled out of control." "And you call hat he did being under control?" She studied him and then looked at Jeremy. "Would you tell your Heart what your initial plan was?" Jeremy sighed. "I was going to assassinate the general, and then send a message to the humans telling them what I'd done, and why." "That's insane!" Gral yelled. Jeremy winced. "I know," he growled. "Through the sessions with me, he was able to realize that, and changed his plans." "And you couldn't get him to abandon them outright?" "I didn't have the time. Please sit, captain." Gral sat, grumbling. "I'll start by pointing out that I didn't have to trick Jeremy in coming. You've been ignoring my requests, until now. He's willing to talk and try to resolve the problems." "Of course he is," Gral said, "it's his fault things got to this." "What's that suppose to mean, my fault?" "You know exactly what I mean, don't try to act like you don't." "Right, because I'm the one who threw his Heart in the brig and ignored him there for a month, only to have him taken out because he wanted to get him thrown into an incarceration center. Right. I'm the one who blew this up out of proportion." Gral stood and glared down at Jeremy. "And What did you expect me to do? Cuddle you? You're constantly lying to me. You took over a year planning an operation, and then carried it through without approval, you could have started a war!" Jeremy stood and glared back "what do you mean, 'constantly lying'? When have I ever lied to you!" "You said you'd come she her so she could help you." "I did, and she did." "Then why did you through with the operation!" "Because it had to be done! Didn't you hear anything I said to the council?" "Gods! You're like talking to a wall!" he turned to Leiha. "What do you expect me to say to him . . ." He stopped, looking at here, muzzle open. She looked back at him, over the sandwich she was holding. She finished chewing and swallowed. "Don't mind me," she said, "continue screaming at each other." "Aren't you suppose to be helping us?" Gral asked. "Yes, but you are screaming at each other. I figured that was going to go on for another fifteen minutes at least, long enough for me to finish eating." "Shouldn't you have stopped us?" "You weren't listening to each other, there was no chance you'd listen to me. Food sounded more appealing." Gral and Jeremy looked at her, baffled. "Does this mean you're done screaming at each other? That you're ready to sit and actually talk?" They both sat. Leiha sighed and put her sandwich aside. "Jeremy, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir says that you lied to him, have you?" "No." "And yet, you haven't told him the truth either, have you?" Jeremy didn't say anything. "How about you? Have you told him why you were so harsh?" "Yes, because he put the ship and crew in danger." Gral's tone was controlled. "So, you're not willing to tell him the truth either." Gral glared at her. "Alright, I can tell that this is as far as we are going to get today. Jeremy, I want to restart your regular appointments. Captain, I want you to also come see me, within the next seven day. Don't make me have to hunt you down." Jeremy nodded. "How often do you expect me to come?" "At least once a week, and for as long as it takes to resolve this situation. When I feel the time's right, we're going to have another session with you together." "Alright." "Good. Now. Here are some rules. First, you will consult with each other for every decisions." "Every decision?" Gral asked. "I have a ship to run, I can't spend my time running my decisions by someone else." Leiha thought it over. "You're right. For you, ship related decisions are excluded. And for you Jeremy, anything to do with engineering is excluded." "But for everything else, I have to check with him?" Jeremy thumbed in Gral's direction, Leiha nodded. "What's the point?" "The point is that the two of you need to start talking again." "We talk," Gral said. "Possibly, but do you actually listen to each other?" Neither replied. "Second rule. You live in the same quarters. You've been apart long enough, and you have cubs that need you both. You will live together, and sleep together. "Rule three, no screaming. If you feel like screaming at each other, I want you to come here. Wake me if needed, but you are not to raise your voice at each other, is that understood?" They nodded, reluctantly, but did nod. "Good. Finally, before going to bed, you will tell each other a reason why you are happy to be together. You'll do that each night, and you can't have repeats." "No repeats? That's not going to last long." "You're going to have to make it work, because I want both of you back here the morning you can't find something new to be grateful for. Now. I'll see each of you at your next appointment."
  12. Kindar

    Chapter 50

    Korfas let out an exasperated yell and threw the datapad on the desk. "Why do I have to read all those?" Jeremy looked through his screen, at the male seated at his old desk. Jeremy was at Gral's desk. It hadn't been easy for him to move to that desk, he hadn't wanted to. If he hadn't agreed to train Korfas, he'd have left this desk untouched, but life had required he moved on. "You need to know what's going on." "What do I care if six gunners are sick, or if some of the food has gone bad?" "What are you going to do if you get in a firefight with some pirates, and only discover half your gunners are in the medical bay when you can't shoot back at them? Or that you're running out of food, because it spoiled, when you're weeks away from the nearest station?" "That isn't my job," Korfas growled. "It's the Chiefs jobs to make sure everything's running correctly." Jeremy sighed. That's what came of putting someone on ships he didn't care to be on, with captains who didn't care to have him there. Years in space, and he didn't even know the basics of running a ship. "Being a captain isn't all about standing proud on the bridge, making threats to your enemies, and giving orders. If that's what you're looking for, become a vid actor. The Chiefs don't decide where the ship goes, the captain does. They update you on how things are going in their department, so you can decide what the ship needs to do. I don't like doing management and more than you do. I'd rather be buried in the generator, than sitting here, but I'm the captain, so I put my ass in this chair and read data. If you are serious about being a captain, this is something you need to learn to enjoy, or at least tolerate. If you don't think you can, you might want to consider doing something else." Korfas grumbled under his breath. "Tell me something. Who is after my ship. You or your mother?" The male looked up at him, "What?" "Your mother, then." Jeremy nodded to himself. "Do you actually want to be a captain?" "Of course I do. It's just that no one's ever told me any of this was involved in it." "Didn't you take the Command Courses at the academy?" Korfas shook his head. "Mother didn't feel it would be worthwhile, she felt the best way to learn was to be assigned to a ship." "Sounds like the captains you were assigned to didn't particularly want you around. What did they have you do?" "Relay orders, fetch drinks, watch over the shoulders of each boards." Jeremy stared at him. "Sixteen years of playing gofer? And you never questioned it?" "I asked mother about it, but she said it was fine, that I'd get my ship eventually." "She meant you'd get *my* ship. I don't know why, but she's obsessed with giving it to you. You're not getting it, by the way. I'm not saying that to discourage you. It's just that by time I'll be passing my ship on to its next captain, I'm hoping you'll have been captain of your own ship for a long time already. If you end up decide that the captainship isn't for you, that's fine too, what ever your mother might think. Your academy records show that you're good in combat, so I can put you with one of the hunter teams, and you could probably rise to leader." "As captain, wouldn't I lead all of them?" "If that's how you decide to do it, yes. My Heart lead them, I don't. I'm a good hunter, but I leave that side of the leadership to someone who is better at it than I. Just remember, this is your life. Make sure you're going to be happy with it, because you're the one who will have to live it, not your mother." Korfas nodded, made a face as he looked at the datapad, but picked it up again. "Captain?" the com asked. "Here." "We're in range." "I'm on my way." He shut down his computer. "You want to stay with the reports, or shadow me?" Korfas looked at his pad, and then to Jeremy. "What do you want me to do?" "I told you before, you have to make your decisions yourself. You're not here to pass the time. You're here to learn how to lead a ship." He kept his gaze on the male. Korfas was silent for moment. "Will it count against me if I decide to shadow you?" "No. So long as you go through those reports in a timely manner, and write a summary of them, with your opinion as to what needs to be done about them, I'll be happy." Korfas put the pad down and stood. * * * * * "On screen," Jeremy said, as he entered, and took position in the center of the bridge. On the main screen, a station appeared. It was toroid shaped, with spokes connecting a central cylinder. Jeremy smiled. It had been decade since he'd seen it. He hadn't thought he'd ever be back here. Even without considering the ban on kelsirian ships within human territory, Jeremy had never planned on coming back here, where he'd spend his last fifteen years within human space. "You said you're familiar with the boards?" Jeremy asked Korfas in a low tone. "Yes sir," he replied. "Look them over and give me your report." Korfas left his side. "Have they hailed us?" Jeremy asked, in a normal voice. "No, sir," Tamirik answered. "Alright. Initiate contact with the station." Tamirik nodded to indicate she'd done it. "Station, this is the Viper's Bane, please respond." Korfas rejoined him. "The station's weapons are powered down, their sensors are going full strength, no military ships within sensor range. No unusual chatter on the com." "Opinion?" "They didn't know we were coming?" "They knew. If you had surprised them, their weapons would be hot. Remember, if not for our orders, we'd be breaking the ban." "Viper's Bane, this is Newton's Station. State your purpose here." "As per the relocation order, we're here to pickup two hundred and twenty-three humans. You guys must be pretty crowded right now." "Yeah, we are. We're going to be happy to get rid of those perverts." Jeremy kept his mouth shut, even with the look of dismay Korfas was making. Arguing wouldn't resolve anything, and just delay their departure. He wanted to be out of here as soon as possible. "Where do you want us to dock?" "Dock? No one told me anything about you docking." "How do you expect the passengers to board my ship, walk?" "That works for me. They might even be able to hold their breath that far." "Look, are you, or are you not, going to assign me a dock?" "Like I said, no one gave me any indications that you're allowed to dock." Jeremy sighed. "Bring the weapons online." The weapons board lit up, and Shoriden moved to it. "What are you doing?" the station asked. Korfas was eying him suspiciously. "I'm pointing out that I have the superior fire power. And indicating that I have very little patience for human stupidity. Now, I'm here under federation orders, so you are going to assign me a dock, or I'm going shoot the doors off one and storm the station." He motioned for Tamirik to disconnect, and the voice was cut in mid protest. "Toom, give them five minutes. If they haven't assigned us one by then, pick one and head for it." "Is this wise?" Korfas asked, "sir?" "We're here under orders, they know it, they're just being difficult because they can. And don't worry, as much as I'm tempted to do so, I'm not going to open fire on them." He paused. "At least, not until all the Leafers are on board." * * * * * Docking had been uneventful. They were at the dock that had been assigned to them. Jeremy was standing in front of the access, waiting for the Leafers to arrive. A group walked toward them, but they weren't Leafers, he recognized the human leading them. Jeremy's smile took on a vicious tint. "Commander O'neil," he said, walking toward them, hand extended, he had to remind himself of how humans greeted each others. "It's such a pleasure to see you after all these years." He indicated Korfas, "this is Korfas, I'm afraid he doesn't speak English." The human glared at him, at the offered hand, and ignored Korfas. "What the hell are you doing here?" "When the exodus was announced, and my ship drafted, I requested to be the one to come here. I have to say, I would have expected you to have been promoted out of this hole, after all these years? Still paying for letting me go, I see." The human was livid, which only made Jeremy smile wider. "Get the fuck off my station." "I'll be happy to do so, as soon as all the Leafers have boarded. Are the armed guards really needed?" He turned to Korfas, and said, in kelsirian. "Go in, and get me some hunters, armed. Don worry about armor. Aim to match the humans one for one." Korfas nodded and left. "What did you tell him." "I told him that it would be dishonorable for us not to match your honor guard. He's gone to fetch some, after all, we wouldn't want any kind of misunderstanding to happen, would we? Although I have to wonder, which will look worse on your file. A firefight? Which you'll lose, or letting all those Leafers escape human control?" The jab actually made the commander smile. "Oh, you don't have to worry, I have no intention on preventing them from leaving. I want them to settle on their pervert world, what's in called, of yeah, Paradise. Let them settle there, and reap what they sowed." If Jeremy didn't know what he knew, that would have worried him greatly. Armed kelsirians formed a corridor from the ship's access to the a third of the distance to the cargo bay's entrance, where people were starting to file in. Jeremy looked at them, males and females, of a wide range of age. Fear and worries on their face. Hopefully, his human crew would be able to calm and comfort them. His ship was going to be crowded for the six month it would take to reach paradise.
  13. Kindar

    Chapter 46

    Jeremy stood next to the container in which Gral's body lay. It was a cryo unit, to prevent the body from deteriorating, until it was time for the ceremony. The container was etched with signs of Gral's name sake, the Hunter - a stylized animal with an arrow in it. The room was kept dark, in case the deep one sent one of its minion to steal it. Jeremy held a light, knowing that if one of them should appear it would be his duty to defend Gral's body. Outside the light were banners, with names, the names of anyone who had been affected by Gral's life. It had started with everyone on the ship, and, as news of his death spread, others had contacted them, to have their names added. Except for the path to the door, the entire room was filled with those banners. Outside the door, two guards stood. The room was never without guards, to keep enemies from taking the body. The Gods had warned that anyone who stood for them, who helped advanced their plan would make enemies, and those enemies might come looking for revenge. Jeremy looked at the container. He'd been here, in this hastily converted cargo bay, every day since he'd been able to pull himself out of his room. He'd been here trying to say something, but he never could. Now this was the last time he'd be alone with his Heart. They had docked and the main station orbiting Kelser, and they were waiting for Gral's family to arrive to take him. "I'm angry Gral," He stated. "I'm angry you died, I'm angry that you wont get to see Samilor grow up. I'm angry they took you from me. I'm angry I couldn't save you." He thought he might cry, but he was cried out. Even the anger he felt was just a low fire. He didn't know if he'd have the energy to go through what was coming. "I know I'll be saying goodbye to you groundside, but I wanted to tell you what you meant to me, Gral. You didn't just save my life, you saved my spirit. I know I didn't always make your life easy, but ultimately, you were always there for me. I will miss you, but you asked me to go on, so I will. I'm not sure how I'll do that, and I know Toom isn't sure he can support me like you've done. Maybe you call find a way to tell him I don't need him to do that. Just having him in my life is helping, and I know he misses you as much as I do." He put a hand on the container. "I'll see you groundside. Your parents should be here soon to take you." He stepped out, momentarily blinded. "Pa?" someone said. Jeremy turned to the voice. "Rudyum!" he went to him and hugged him tightly. "What are you doing here?" "I wanted to make sure you were okay." "You didn't have to wait out here, you could have come in." "I know, but the guards said you liked being alone with him." Jeremy nodded. "Do you want to see him?" "No. I'll say goodbye to dad one we're on Kelser." "How did you get here so fast? We only docked a few hours ago." "Tamirik contacted me as soon as you docked, and I jumped on the first shuttle heading here. How is she? I didn't get a chance to talk to her." "She's taking his death hard, but her mates are supporting her. How about you, I know you'll say goodbye later, but how are you handling this?" "I'm sad he died, that he isn't with you, but as much as I loved him, we were never . . . close." "It's okay. You know he loved you too." Rudyum nodded and wiped his eyes dry. "Why don't we go wait for your grandparents, they should be here soon." * * * * * They all stood outside, in the center of the orchard. Marseforderiven stood before the pyre on which his son lay. The wood was only symbolic now. The body wouldn't be burnt, it was going to be disintegrated by the unit resting under Gral's body. "Thuruksamian made our bodies from the rocks and the soil," he began, looking over those assemble, Gral's immediate family. "He took the air, and gave us breath. He put fire in us, so that we would know passion, and he added water, so that we could express sorrow. He gave us only one command - Live. And my son lived. From a young age, as he ran through these trees, and hurt himself falling out of them. When he threw himself in his studies at the Academy, As he fought to earn his command, and as he defended us. He lived. He rejoiced in what he had, in what he accomplished. And he was fortunate enough to find his Heart. Thuruksamian gave life to my son, and today we will be returning the components back to Him. "We are here to say goodbye to him. Even though his spirit is already with the Gods, through his body, he will hear us, one last time." Marsef motioned for Jeremy to take his place, and once he was standing before Gral's body, he forced himself to look at it. It was the first time he'd seen it, the container had been opaque, and it was damaged. Unlike humans, who prettied up a body, before it was seen, kelsirian left it in the condition it was at death, so that people could see how valiantly death had been fought. Gral's death hadn't been pretty, part of his face was caved it, and fur had been scraped off an arm, and the other had a bone piercing the flesh. He looked up, and forced himself to remember that those injuries were because Gral had been saving lives. "Gral saved my life. Everyone here knows how we met, and what he saved me from, more than once. Before him I didn't know I could live, that I could be happy. And through him I met you, who added to my happiness. Gral said we'd always be together, and while I'm angry he died, I know he didn't break his promise. I have his Heart, I just have to be patient until he come back to claim it." Jeremy stepped down, so someone else could say their goodbyes. Toom held him tightly, and Roumalger hugged them both. Jeremy tried to listen to what the others said, but he found that all he could do, was remember his Heart and the life he lived with him.
  14. Kindar

    Chapter 44

    "Captain, you're needed on the bridge." Gral looked up from the pad he as working on and in Jeremy's direction. "Go ahead," Jeremy said, "you deal with it. I'll handle balancing the rest of the accounts." Gral stood and stretched. "I'll be back as soon I've dealt with this." He kissed the top of Jeremy's head and turned to head out. "Not so fast." Jeremy caught his arm and pulled him back, planting a kiss on his lips. "This is a proper 'I'll be back in a while' kiss." He let go of his Heart, and Gral just shook his head in amusement and headed to the bridge. "What's the situation?" he asked as the door closed behind him. "We're receiving a broadband distress signal." Nimil pressed a key and a male voice spoke in English. "This is Eugene Lincoln, head of the Lincoln mining facility. We are in dire need of assistance from anyone receiving this message. We've had tremors and cave-ins. We don't know how long the planetoid will hold together. Please, we have families with children, we need to be evacuated." The voice stopped. "The message repeats after that," Nimil said. "Origin?" "Unclaimed territories." Gral thought the situation over. Humans in unclaimed territories could mean anything, from prospectors to pirates, and too many things in between. It was impossible to fully keep tract of what was going on in those. It could be a trap, relationships between earth and Kelser were not good. "Toom, how far are we?" "Close to three hours, at top speed." "Tamirik, what's a scan of our patrol route look like?" "It looks clear, captain," his daughter answered. "No suspicious chatter, or out of place energy signature." He nodded "Toom, set a course. Nimil, establish contact with them. I need more information. I'll be in my quarters, let me know when they reply." He turned and head to the door. "I have them," Nimil said, as the door opened. Gral stopped. Already? He frowned. It either meant things were quiet enough they could afford to leave someone by communications, or so desperate they couldn't afford to leave the post unmanned. "This is Viper's Bane, responding to your distress call. My captain is waiting to talk with you." Nimil's English was unbroken, but heavily accented, he hadn't had the occasion to practice it much. "Hello?" a male said. Gral couldn't be certain if it was the same one, through the static. The screen burst into light and then broke to static. "Damn this thing." The sound was clearer now and it was the same male as in the distress call. Something was hit multiple time, and an image appeared on the screen. The man had dark skin, with short cropped frizzy gray hair. He was clean shaven, as humans tended to prefer, was Gral's observation, after dealing with many of them over the years. Even Jeremy was unwilling to let his beard grow. He wore a faded brown jacket, with a silver leaf pinned to its lapel. Gral eyed it for a moment before speaking. "Are you Eugene Lincoln?" "Yes, i am." "Call me Gral, I'm captain of the Viper's bane. What is your emergency?" That pin changed everything in his mind. "The planetoid is breaking apart, and we don't know why?" "How many have you been able to take out with your own ships?" "We don't have any. He settled here fifteen years ago and have been mining since. We never expected to have to leave in such a hurry." "How many people do you have?" "A hundred and sixty two, thirty one of whom are under fifteen of age. We really need your help." "Get everyone to the evacuation point. We'll be there under three hours." "Thank you. God, thank you. We'll be ready." The screen went blank. "Jeremy," Gral said, through the com, "I need to you to give me as much power from the second generator as you can." "Really? I don't know that's wise, we're running to the limit on our fuel usage." "That doesn't matter right now. Lives are depending on us traveling as fast as we can." There was a moment of silence. "Give me ten minutes to run the calculation and set it up." * * * * * Two hours and twelve minutes later they were docked to the planetoid. Gral and Jeremy had a squad of medics with them as the large access doors slid open. Humans started pouring through and they were guided deeper in the ship, and they both noted that a large number of them wore the silver leaf pin. The last one in was Eugene. "Is this everyone?" Gral asked. "No. Just before you arrived there was a tremor and one of the doors closed and locked for safety reason. There's a dozed families trapped on the other side." He pulled a pad and it projected a 3-D image of the section. "Can you over ride it?" "Yes, but we can't tell what the conditions are on the other side. I don't even know if anyone's alive." Jeremy took the pad from Eugene and plugged it in the ship's system. "Tamirik, I'm uploading part of the planetoid to your screen. We need a scan of that section. Life forms, oxy-levels, exposures to void." "I have thirty eight life forms, they are clustered at the far end of the tunnel," his daughter answered after a moment, and the pad's image changed as she sent it the information. "It's the only place with any oxygen left. There's hard exposures to the void, the cracks in the stone are all under a centimeter in width. So long as there aren't any other tremors the section is stable." "Any idea on when there might be one?" "No. I'm running scans now to try and figure out what's causing them." "Thanks." Jeremy handed the pad back and looked at Gral. The captain looked over the people he could see. "Thuruk! Get six of alpha here with portable breather for the eight of us plus thirty eight. We're going in for a rescue!" Thuruk ran out, pushing people out of his way, and minutes later he was back with five others, carrying tanks and masks. "Eugene, take us to the locked access. We'll go rescue your people." * * * * * Eugene led them through the hangar and processing area and then to the mining section and called the lift they were standing before. "This will take us down to their level. Fifty meters further is the locked access." "Can you unlock it remotely?" Gral asked. "Yes." "Good, then stay here. We'll send them up and you make sure they head to the ship." The lift took them down. They put their masks on, and made sure their bottles were secured. Each one had the standard two hours of oxygen required by military protocols. "We're ready for you to unlock it." He said when they stood before the access. "It's unlocked." The control turned green as confirmation. Gral looked at his males. "The targets are at the end of the shaft. We know they are alive, in an oxygen zone, but not what conditions they are in, we can expect them to be hurt, or even incapacitated. This may take more then one trip, so no looking around. Stay target focused." Everyone nodded, he opened the door, they went through and he closed it behind them. Silently, and quickly they crossed the close to five hundred meters to the living quarters where the families had taken refuge. Why anyone would want to live this deep under the surface was beyond him, but Gral had to admit that decision had saved lives. The door was locked. He looked in the view port and saw a group of people in the middle of the room, from what he could tell they were trying to keep the children calm. He banged on the door and as one they jumped. One of the males ran to the door and shook his head. "We can't leave." His voice was muffled by the thick door. "There isn't enough oxygen to fill the shaft." Gral lifted the tanks he had in his hand so the male could see them, then moved out of the way so he could see that everyone had them. The male hesitated a moment, then went to the others. Quickly they disappeared from view. He came back, opened the door and quickly backed into the room. The eight of them entered and closed the door behind them. Gral offered a mask to the male. "We're okay in here. This section generates its own oxy." "Good. We have oxygen for everyone. Is anyone injured?" "No, nothing serious, but we have three elderlies, I don't know that they'll be able to move very fast." "We'll carry them. But the first step is to make sure everyone can breathe." It took them thirty minutes to ensure everyone had a mask, their tank was secured, and could comfortably breathe. The elderlies had two alphas each helping them. Jeremy and Gral took the rear and they headed to the lift. The journey was again in silence, but slower. The lift was still waiting for them. The elderlies and their escorts went in first, then, as many of the children they could put in without crowding them. When the lift came back, Jeremy took the rest of the children, and as many of the adults as he could. Gral only had five left with him. Jeremy nodded to him as he closed the lift, and then he picked up the child next to him. "It's going to okay. Soon we're going to be on a ship, and away from here." The girl nodded, just as the lift shook. She grabbed on to him tightly, and worries echoed from everyone. "It's just a small one, everything is fine." He said. There was a second small tremor, then the doors opened. Waiting for them was Thuruk, and another alpha. "Eugene took the other group to the ship," Thuruk said, "Amadila is going to take this one, and we'll wait for the captain." Jeremy nodded and handed the child he was holding to her, while Thukuk sent the lift back down. A moment later everything shook, making everyone fall. Sound of snapping came from the lift, and then a rockfall. "Gral!" Jeremy screamed as he got up and rushed to the lift. The door wouldn't open. "Gral!" he screams again, this time over the com. "Are you okay?" "We're okay. The doors prevented the rocks from leaving the lift. But we're not going to be able to leave that way. Tamirik, is there another way to the ship from here?" She didn't reply immediately. "I don't know," she finally said, angry. "I only scanned your immediate area, but you have another problem. This last tremor has made that entire section of the planetoid unstable. The next one is going to bring everything down on top of you and Jeremy." She sobbed. "I don't know what to do." There was a long silence. "I'm coming down," Jeremy said. "Have Danyl and Relio bring the drilling equipment." "No," Gral stated. "I won't have you die with me." "What? Don't you dare give up now." "I'm not giving up. I'm accepting the inevitable." "Sir," Thuruk added his voice. "We can do this. If we get enough hunters here we can dig you out." "No. That is out of the question., i won't have anyone on the crew endanger themselves to save me." "We can't lose you," Thuruk whispered. "We are hunters," Gral said. Thuruk didn't say anything. "We. Are. Hunter." Gral growled. "We die so our people live," Thuruk finished, crying. "Good. You know what to do." "No!" Jeremy yelled. "I won't accept that. Do you hear me. You swore to me that we would always be together. Don't you dare go back on your promise." "Jeremy, my Heart is yours. It will always be with you. Take care of it for me. I will come back for it, one day, but you need to live. The ship's yours now, and the crew will need you. If you die here, who will look after them?" "Who will look after me?" Jeremy pleaded. Thuruk put a hand on his shoulder. "We will." He pulled Jeremy to him. "We need to go." He guided him away, gently at first, but then faster, as the ground started shaking and pieces of the ceiling falling. Jeremy let himself be lead until they were in the ship. Once there he shook Thuruk off and headed directly to the bridge. "Tell me who did this," he ordered as he entered. Everyone looked at him, surprised. "I don't understand," Tamirik said, her eyes wet. "Who sabotaged the planetoid so it would become unstable." "No . . . No one." "I refuse to accept that. Scan it again., you must have missed something! That colony was full of leafers. So it must have been the Humans, or the Taournians. Tell me who to hunt." "It wasn't them," she said, wincing away from his anger. "All those years of mining weakened the planetoid's structure, and the tidal pull of the neighboring planetoids weakened it even more. It was just a matter of time." "No. That can't be right! I need you to tell me who did this. I need someone to hit! Someone has to pay for Gral!" Someone grabbed his arm, and he shook it up, turning in the process, and looked into Toom's eyes. "I need you to come with me, captain, please," he indicated the door with an outstretched arm. Jeremy glared at him, but Toom returned it. Jeremy growled and stormed pass him. "Scan for the bodies, we're not leaving him here. Once you've retrieved Gral, get us back to our patrol," Toom said, before joining Jeremy in the corridor and leading him to a combat training room. He ordered the four already there, practicing their unarmed combat, out, and then stood in the center of the room. "What are we doing here?" Jeremy asked, looking around. He'd been in such a room before, decades ago, as part of his training to ensure he could defend himself when humans tried to kidnap him. "You wanted someone to hit. So go ahead, hit me." "I don't want to hit you. I want to hit those responsible!" "You really are being dense," Toom sighed, "you heard your daughter. There isn't anyone to blame, but that's not really why you want someone to hunt, isn't it? Now that you can't hide behind him, you have to prove that you're not the weakling I've always known you to be." Jeremy glared at him. "I don't have anything to prove to you." And headed to the door. "What I never understood was how he could be such an idiot to never realize that about you." Toom never saw the punch coming. His head spun from the impact, his balance went, but his training was ingrained deeply. He feel to the ground, rolled and let the momentum help him back to his feel, if a little unsteady. He wiped blood from his muzzle. "Don't you *dare* say such a thing about him." "Why not? He devoted his life to you. He gave you his Heart, do you have any idea what that means to us? And you're honoring him how? But setting yourself on a course to die?" Jeremy lunched himself at Toom. "What do you want me to do?" he punched him in the face again. "Just let him die in vain?" a punch in the stomach. "He is to be avenged." To the face. "He can't be forgotten just because he died." The face again. "He was strong, a leader." The shoulder. "He made hard decisions for us?" A kick to the groin, that one, Toom blocked. "What do you want me to do?" Toom caught the next punch and pulled Jeremy tightly against him. "I want you to strong, like him. You have to make the hard decisions now. And you have to start with the hardest one of all. You have to live." Jeremy was silent, and then the tears came. "I don't know how!" he scream through the sobs. "You're right, I'm just a weakling. I always was." "No. You are not weak. Your are his warrior. We all saw it as soon as you joined our family. Why did you think I couldn't stand you back then. You didn't have to tell us you were strong, you showed us, by having to learn to live among us, the only one of your race. You learned to be one of us, without ever sacrificing who you were. That's how I knew you were the male for him, and that he was willing to be with only you, to follow human culture, in that, if you'd asked him. You are not weak, you are hurting, but you don't have to hurt alone." Jeremy nodded and slowly the sobs ebbed. "I need you to be the acting captain, I can't . . . Not right now." "I understand. Will you be okay?" Jeremy nodded, and Toom released him. Jeremy looked at him and winced. "I'm sorry, you need to go see a medic first." "I'm your mate, if taking on some of your pain this way helps you, then you have nothing to be sorry about. But yes, I will see a medic." Toom could feel his shoulder swelling, and he was certain some of his ribs had broken, not to say anything of the few loose teeth in his muzzle. "If you need to do something like this again, I'm here for you." Jeremy nodded, and Toom continued watching him. "I'd like to be alone, if you don't mind." "Of course not." Toom kissed the top of Jeremy's head, and left. Jeremy stood there for some time. His legs felt like they were going to fold under him, but he wouldn't let them. Toom had been right, Gral had been right, he didn't know how he was going to do it, but he had to live. He went to their quarters now. He closed the door and locked it. Right now, he needed to be alone.
  15. Kindar

    Chapter 41

    "Captain," Nimil said, "I'm getting some sort of distress signal" "Some sort?" Gral asked, moving behind the communication officer. "It's very faint," he said. "It's the standard federation distress code. No voice, no details." "Where are they?" "Unknown. They're outside scanner range." "Huar, if we pulse, what are the odds we'll be seen by anyone?" "The only ones who'd notice anything would be ours. This far in our territory, there wouldn't even be human military in the unclaimed territories." "Okay, give us a pulse then." "Scans on main," Huar said. "Pulse in two, one, now." Gral watched the pulse expand from them, and nothing showed for almost a minute, and then there was a blip. "Where is that?" "Twelve or so light years from us, two deep within unclaimed territories. Checking the resonance signature. Nothing on file." "Nimil, what exploration ship do we have out here?" "None," he replied after a moment, "must be a private prospector." "They're still suppose to register their planed exploration." Gral grumbled. "Set a course. Let see what the problem is." * * * * * Jeremy entered the cargo bay, "What do you need me for?" he asked Gral, who simply pointed to the small ship in the middle of the bay. Jeremy whistled. "That isn't one of ours, is it?" "No, it's human." Jeremy walked around it. "Small, solidly built, I'm guessing it's a one person ship, cockpit, living area and little else. It's an exploration ship, but a model I've never seen before. What happened to it?" "Micro meteorite made it through the plating and damaged the engine," Erhik said, as she stepped out from the ship. "Do humans really live in such tight quarters?" "All the time," Jeremy answered. "Come on in, I need you to verify something for me." Once inside, the cockpit was immediately to his right, the pilot's chair and controls tightly packed. He'd have to climb over the chair to sit in it. Before him was a bed. To the left of the bed a minuscule kitchen and eating area. Beyond the kitchen the corridor opened up into a room. On his left were controls and readouts, in front the engine, and on the right, the generator. Jeremy looked at it, four feet wide, and probably the same depth, and floor to ceiling. He could still feel the heat coming off it, even though it was turned off. "Well, we now have undeniable proof that humans have built an anti matter generator, against federation rules. If we bring this up, we can make sure they are never allowed in. Gods, what was he doing to need this much power?" "He was flying fast." Erhik said. "I've gone over these engines and they are somethings I've never seen before, if I can find a way to adapt them for our fighters, they'll be even more deadly." "Lets wait for the pilot to wake up and find out what he's doing this close to our territory," Gral said. "Before you start taking this apart. What's the generator like?" "It's years ahead of what I was working with back on the station," Jeremy stated. "Which isn't surprising, it's been over fifteen years since I've looked at a human generator. Considering what we had back then, this is actually quite impressive, but nothing close to ours." Gral nodded. "You're free to inspect it, but don't damage it." * * * * * Jeremy entered the brig. The human had managed to escape from the medical bay, and almost made it back to his ship before being caught. He fought hard against the guards who had brought him here. Gral figured that seeing another human might make him more cooperative. The man was pacing, mumbling to himself. He stopped on seeing Jeremy and moved closed to the glass. He was wearing some jeans and a shirt, but he was barefoot. Someone had found clothing on the ship. His hair was black, long and wild, he hadn't shaved in a few days. "What's your name?" Jeremy asked. The man took a step back. "No, no, no. You can't fool me. You look right, but you sound wrong. I'm never going to tell you." "Tell me what?" "You can't trick me!" the man laughed. "You can't trick me. I've spent too many years on this. I'll die before I tell you." He looked to the side. "No, I can't die. I have to report it. The plan won't work if they don't know about it" "What plan?" "I'm not telling you," the man sang. "Fine, at least tell me your name." The man pressed his face against the glass. "Whats *your* name?" "Jeremy." "Ah! Jeremy, right, Jeremy." The man froze. "Jeremy?" He squinted in Jeremy's direction. "No, no. That's can't be. You don't sound right, but there are cats. Jeremy Krommer?" he asked tentatively. "Yes" "No, no, no. You don't sound right. You can't fool me. You're lying." Jeremy opened his jacket, moved closer to the glass and showed him the thin scar on this throat. The man looked at it. "Why?" he asked, horror on his face. "So I can pronounce Kelsirian." "Why would you want that? You're human!" "No." Jeremy's tone was glacial. "No?" the denial seemed to surprise the man. "No. I'm kelsirian," Jeremy stated. "Kelsirian?" The man started pacing. "He can't be kelsirian. No, he was dating a cat, he wasn't one." He looked askance at Jeremy. "He doesn't look like a cat. Can he be one, if he doesn't look like one?" "What happened to you?" "To me? Nothing. Why? Do you think something happened to me?" "You don't sound like nothing happened to you." "Ah! You try spending eight years alone in a small ship and see what happens to you mind!" "Didn't you have anyone to talk with? Your ship has a working communication system." "No! I can't talk. You can't make me talk. No one can know what I was doing. It's a secret." He started giggling. Then stopped. "You're Jeremy," he stated. "You have to help me. I can't stay here." "Why?" "Because I'm . . ." He started searching his pockets. "My things, my uniform. There's something in the pockets you have to see." Jeremy looked up at the camera, and then back at the man. "Someone will bring it, in the mean time, why don't you tell me your name? I told you mine." "My name is . . ." His mouth hung opened for a moment, than closed. He looked around, searching. "No, no, that isn't right. Right! My name's Adam, Adam . . . . Douglas? Yeah, that's right, Adam Douglas." He chuckled, "why didn't I remember it?" "Alright Adam, why do you have to leave?" "Do you have it?" "Have what?" "Arrg. If you don't have it I can't tell you." "Why not?" "Because you have to know." "Know what?" "That I'm . . . .I'm . . ." He looked up and screamed. "That I'm like you!" Jeremy was taken aback. What did he mean? He couldn't mean he was part of a kelsirian crew . . . Was it that he didn't consider himself human either?" The door opened and Gral entered. "Is that him?" Adam asked. "Is that your boyfriend?" Jeremy glared at Adam, as a warning to watch what he was going to say next. Gral put something in his hand, and Jeremy looked at it. It was silver, in the shape of a leaf, with a clip at the back so it could be attached to clothing. Why did it look familiar. Gral put another, identical, in his hand. Adam had two? No. Jeremy remember now, one of them had been given to him the last time he'd been on Earth. He looked at Adam, eyes wide. "Yes! Yes!" Adam did a little dance. "You have one too, I'm like you." "You have sex with other males" Adam sat, and his body relaxed as he let out a sigh. "Yes. I'm a Leafer, just like you." "Leafer? That's the term you use for a male who has sex with males?" "Or women who have sex with women, or family that support them, and people who help them. It's all part of the plan." Adam stood. "That plan! There has to be pressure. You have to apply pressure. The plan won't work if there isn't any pressure." "Adam," Gral said. "We will help you." "You will? Why?" Gral held up the two pins. "Because we are like you." "Right." "But for now, I need you to rest. Jeremy will come back tomorrow, and you can tell him how we can help." "You need to apply pressure!" "We will, but for now, rest." The two of them left the cell area. "Lower the lights so he can sleep." He told the guard. Then looked at Toom. "Did any of that make any kind of sense to you?" "No, but are you surprised? Eight years without any contact, in that box they call a ship. It's amazing he's even that coherent. That human must have had a very strong mind when he set out on what ever this is." "Come on, lets go rest ourselves." They left the brig. "Tomorrow I'd like you to reach out to your backroom contacts, see if any of them know what a human explorer is doing here." "I will, but don't expect much. Politicians aren't really known for knowing who goes where." Gral's paces slowed, until he stopped. "Gral?" Jeremy asked. "You two go ahead, the cubs will be missing us, you keep them entertained. I'll be there shortly, I have an idea who might have answers."
  16. Kindar

    Chapter 49

    Jeremy groans as Toom nibbled on the back of his neck. They had just gotten into bed, and were settling in for some tender times. "Can I ask what you intend to do about Korfas?" Toom asked, between licks along Jeremy's ear. Jeremy shivered, and had trouble getting his mouth to work. "Do you really have to bring him up now?" Toom stopped moving, pressed against Jeremy's back. He rested his head on Jeremy's shoulder. "I think I should." "It must be really important, because your body is telling me you'd rather do something else." He sighed. "What do you mean?" "Are you planing on leaving him the ship?" Toom said, after a moment of silence. "What? No, of course not. Once I'm done training him, I'm dropping him off on Kelser, and he can get a ship on his own. Are you worried you won't be getting the ship?" "Gods no. I'm a pilot, not a captain. Don't even think of giving it to me, but . . ." "Yes?" "Tamirik was worried." Jeremy turned to he face his mate. "She was? Why? She never gave any indications she was interested in getting it." Toom rubbed his cheek. "She'd been thinking of taking command courses." "What? She never told me about that, I can teach her what she needs to know. She doesn't have to go to the academy." Toom smiled, and nuzzled Jeremy. "She'll be happy to know Korfas isn't getting it." He pressed himself against his mate, but Jeremy turned and got out of bed. "Where are you going?" "I'm going to go talk with her." Jeremy put on his pants. "Now? But we were just getting started." Jeremy leaned over the bed, and groped him, making Toom grunt. "You shouldn't have brought up my daughter, if you wanted to have sex." "But I'm your mate," Toom made eyes at him. "I'm a father first." He nuzzled Toom. "If you haven't gone to find someone else to have sex with by the time I'm back, we can pickup from here." "I make no promises," Toom smiled at him. "Good," he smiled back, and nuzzled him again, before heading out of the room. Jeremy considered grabbing a shower, first, but figured it wouldn't be the first time he's walked the halls smelling of sex, and the humans wouldn't notice the scent. He grabbed his com from the table. "Connect to Tamirik," he said as he left his quarters. The com gave him the chirp that indicated it had connected to her com. "Tamirik?" "Yes, Pa?" she answered after a moment. "Are you busy? I'd like to talk with you." "I'm not. Me, Xernial, and Rostol are just watching a vid." "I'll be there in a moment." "The door's unlocked." A few minutes later he entered her quarters, it was a family unit, since her and Rostol were mated. The three of them were on the couch, watching a vid, as she'd said. Rostol and Tamirik were seated next to one another, leaning against each other. They were rubbing each other's legs. With the three of them being naked he could tell Rostol was quite enjoying it. As was Xernial, who was stretched on the other half of the couch, his head on Tamirik's lap, and she was running her claws in his chest fur. "Do you mind if I steal my daughter?" Jeremy asked. "No at all, Jeremy," Rostol said. "Sure thing, captain," echoed Xernial, who lifted his head, and then scooted back, so his head was on the other male's lap. Rostol proceeded to rub his chest and stomach. Jeremy indicated the bedroom, and Tamirik preceded him there. "Why didn't you tell me you were interested in becoming a captain?" He asked softly, once the door was closed. His daughter's ears turned red, and folded back. "I've been thinking about it for a while, but I wasn't really sure until recently." "Toom told me you were worried I was grooming Korfas to take over. I'm not. I'm just training him as a favor for a friend." Her face lit up. "Why didn't you ask me directly?" "It wasn't my place. I'm just a communication officer." "Silly cub." Jeremy messed up her head fur. "You're my daughter, you can always ask me anything. When ever you're ready, I can start training you too." She shook her head. "I want to go through the academy?" "Why? I'm perfectly able to train you." "You're my Pa." She smiled. "I don't want you to worry about being to harsh with me." "Okay. If you had approached me with this while we were on Kelser, we could have made the arrangements for you to start immediately." "No, I couldn't have started then. It would have felt like I was abandoning you right after dad died." He hugged her. "Thanks." And then held her by the shoulders. "Don't you think Xernial is a little old for the two of you?" She snorted. "He isn't old, he's experienced. You've had sex with him. You know how good he is. He's going to show us some things." He couldn't argue with her. They went back to join the other two. Rostol's hand had moved further down in their absence. Jeremy leaned against the back of the couch while Tamirik took back her position between the two males. He looked down at Xernial, once they had settled back in. "Don't think you'll be getting special treatment, just because you're getting close to my daughter." "Wouldn't think of it, captain." "Good," He leaned down to nuzzle him. "Go easy on them, okay, they're not as experienced as the rest of us." "I promise, your daughter has nothing to fear from me." "What about me?" Rostol asked. "I make no promises about you," Xernial replied. With a chuckle Jeremy left them to their evening of fun, and went to find out if his mate had gone out to find his own relief.
  17. Kindar

    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." "Sure." "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."
  18. Kindar

    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?" "Yes." "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." "Understood." 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."
  19. Kindar

    Chapter 43

    Captain Gralgiranselhelrarvnir walked through the halls of the penal colonies' control station, heading for the temporary holding facilities. The halls were metal gray, no paint, no decorations. He pitied whoever was stuck living here. He wouldn't be able to stand it. Stops like these happened every few years. He'd be sent here to do an evaluation of the current director, and his treatment of the prisoners down on the planet. Normally he'd be told what his superiors wanted him to evaluate when he received his orders. This time, they hadn't. He wasn't bothered by it. He'd go through the regular checks, find a thing or two to do surprise inspections on, then file his report. So he was quite surprised, upon entering the holding area, to see two humans in one of the cells, behind the director, an old male, with orange and white marbled fur, that seemed to be falling off in patches. "No," Gral said, cursing internally. "Captain, these prisoners have done their time. They need to be returned to their people." "Get someone else to do it." He didn't actually recognize them, but who else could they be? It wasn't like any other humans had been caught in kelsirian space. They'd only been on his ship for a few month, in the brig, and there had been six of them at the time. He wasn't surprised they weren't all alive. Actually he was surprise even two of them had made it. While he hadn't though about them over the years, he would never have expected humans to survive for twenty five years on Barren, with all the others incarcerated there. "I'm afraid that I wont," the male state. "You have your orders, captain. You are to return these two humans to FarSpace station, where they are to be freed. A human ship will be waiting for them. Gral looked the humans over. Their clothing were tattered, and dirty. What he could see of their body was tightly muscled, with hardly any fat on them, but a lot of scars. Barren was a very rough world, even before you counted the other criminals there. He took out his com. "Pernic. I need four guards, armed with two sets of restraint." He wasn't happy about this. "Also, clear a path from the access to the brig. I don't want anyone in those corridors." He looked to the director. "They've been searched?" "Of course, and scanned." The tone was offended, but Gral didn't care. Ten minutes later his guards arrived. "Restrain the prisoners, and then search them," he ordered. The guards weren't particularly gentle in their search. When he got confirmation the prisoners didn't have anything on them, they headed back to the ship. It must have been shift change, because this time the halls were packed. They had to push people aside, and all they got in return were shoved back and growled at. Armed guards didn't seem to impress them. Gral guessed that after years in a place like this, they probably didn't care about much, except when they'd be leaving. Such a posting wasn't given as a reward for great work. The access opened when they reached it, and closed behind them. As he'd requested, the corridors were empty as they made their way to the brig. They were halfway there when Gral heard a grunt behind him. He turned to see one of the guard sliding down the wall, something sticking out of his side. Another one was already laying on the ground, blood pooling around his head. One of the prisoners was lifting a gun in his direction, the other one was aiming his at the other guard. Gral moved to the side, but the blast hit him in the shoulder, sending him spinning, and hitting the wall, hard. * * * * * Jeremy was heading to the mess hall, when yellow lights started flashing at the top of the walls. The light galvanized everyone, and like most of them, he changed direction, to head to his quarters. Unlike most, he was heading there to get his weapons, not to get out of sight. "Bridge. What is the situation?" the yellow alert indicated danger to the crew, and the response was for all civilians to head back to their quarters for safety. "The captain was escorting prisoners to the brig. They have escaped his custody." Jeremy took his concern and shoved it to the back of his mind. "How is the captain?" "Scans show he's alive, but unmoving." Jeremy allowed himself a sigh of relief. "The prisoners?" "I'm tracking them, and relaying the information to Pernic." "Where are they?" "Level eight, heading toward the aft, from corridor three eight." Jeremy started running, and took the first right. He was on level eight, as was engineering, and it was aft of of their present location. It was probably a coincidence - yeah, right - but he had a lot of techs still there, most of whom were only tech, with just the minimal combat training. "Thuruk." "Here," the reply came after a moment. "Tell me you're still in engineering." "No. With they alarm, I'm heading toward the security office, to see what support I can give to Pernic." Jeremy cursed, nothing to be done about it now. "Two prisoners are loose on level eight, and heading in the direction of engineering. I'm heading there now. Do we have any hunters among the techs?" Jeremy was usually good at knowing who among his people was working at any specific time, but this was the mid day shift change. Thuruk, on the other hand, had the uncanny ability to always know where his hunters were. "Jamol and Pursin were part of the morning shift. Gilgan and Ullallar have the afternoon one. They would have been in transition when the alarm sounded." Which would have redirected them to their Hunting squad room for orders. There was no doubt about it, Someone was meddling. "Okay, keep with your course. I'm heading to engineering." He quickly entered a code on his com that would make all the coms in engineering request a response. "Yes?" the voice was low, and there was trembling. Jeremy slowed his pace. "Are they there?" "Two humans," she replied. "They're armed, and are forcing everyone in the back of the room." "Domnial, I'm on my way. Security is on their way. I'm going to terminate the call, and then I want you to do what ever they tell you to do. Don't anger them. Make sure everyone obeys them, I don't want anyone to take risks. It isn't your job to take risks, understood?" "Yes sir," she whispered back. "Good." He terminated the call. He didn't bother calling security, the bridge officer would have informed them. He stopped next to a door, and entered his code in the lock. Every strategic location on the ship had such a locker near it, which could only be unlocked by a guard or a hunter. The door opened and he took a hand laser. He didn't know what grade of weapons the prisoners had obtained, but he wasn't going to bring something that could do major damage in engineering. He wished there was a set of glove in it, but he was the only one to wear them, so it would be a waste of resource to have one in every locker. Still, he didn't feel adequately armed without them. Security hadn't made it there by the time he reached the entrance. The door was open, it was always opened, unless there was a specific need to close it. He quickly peeked inside. The two prisoner were at the back of the room, facing away from him. Jeremy made it a quarter of the way in before one of them noticed him, turned and pointed medium grade blaster at him. Not good. If it was fired at anything more than half strength that thing could do major damage to the generator, or the conduits behind the walls. Jeremy stopped moving, and kept his weapon at his side as the human glared at him. "You!" the human's voice sounded like it was full of sand. The other turned at the sound. A growl came from him. "Lets remain calm," Jeremy said, not moving, studying them. "No one needs to get hurt. What do you want?" they were wary, looking left, right, and behind Jeremy. "To hurt you is going to be a good start." The other one grunted. Jeremy couldn't tell if he was simply unable to speak, or there was something wrong with him. He didn't behave like his mental faculties were impaired. "Why?" "We spent twenty five years in hell because of you. Four of our friends died there." Jeremy looked at them, trying to figure out who they were, what he might have done to them. He didn't point out he didn't know them, that would probably just anger them. He'd heard the penal colonies were extremely rough, so he wasn't surprised heir mind might have addled over time. He'd only been close to one human, the one time, then they had helped him aback to ward Earth. A moment later he realized who they were. This could turn bad, real fast. He heard sound behind him, and raised a hand, to stop them from moving, at the same time as the humans aimed their weapons at the newcomers. "Sir?" someone said. "I have this under control," Jeremy replied, not taking his eyes off the humans. "Take position in the corridor, leave the door unobstructed." Movement, and the humans were aiming at him again. "That's smart." "I don't want anyone to get hurt," Jeremy said. "That includes you." The silent human snorted. "You're going to get hurt." His companion said. "You hurt me, and you will not make it off this ship alive. If you're here, you finished your sentence. You hand over your weapons now, and I'll make sure this is ignored. You'll be returned to human space, so you can go back to your lives." "What lives? We were abandoned. You think we have anything to go back to? All we have left is revenge." Jeremy closed his eyes. I am a hunter, he recited mentally, I die so my people can live. He opened his eyes. "Alright." He put his weapon down. "You have me. You let the techs go and you can do what ever you want to me. I won't offer any resistance." "They stay," he growled. "They have nothing to do with this. Just let them go." "They stay. I'm going to make each and everyone of them pay for what we had to go through." "You hurt just one of them, and I will make you suffer." Jeremy noticed that the tech were looking at each other, they were nervous, but he could also read resolve in their face. He wished he had kelsirian ears, they could be used to show intent, and some hunters had even developed a simple language using them. "This is the only chance I am giving you." He said, to keep the humans attention on him. He wished the techs wouldn't do whatever they were planing, but if the humans noticed them, they would shoot them down. He wouldn't allow that to happen. "You want to hurt me, that fine. But they are to remain unarmed. I can make your last moments here extremely painful, if you give me reason to do so." The silent one raised his arm at Jeremy, his intent to shoot him evident on his face. The techs moved, the noise of their rush making him look aside. Jeremy ran for him. The human looked at him again, and fired, but his aim was off. He readjusted quickly and fired again. Jeremy was hit in the shoulder, and was knocked of his feet, but his momentum made him slide toward the human. He saw him hit one of the tech with the back of a hand, and then start to turn, his weapon heading for the tech. Jeremy was close enough. He clawed the human's forearm. It didn't do the damage the claws on his glove would have, but he kept his nails long enough to still rake flesh off, making the human grunt, but not drop the weapon. Jeremy raised a foot and planted it in the human's crotch, hard. He doubled over, pain in his eyes, but he still hadn't dropped the weapon. Rage replaced the pain, and the human stood with a roar. He was cut down by multiple blasts hitting him in the chest. The other human was on the ground screaming in anger, six tech on him, clawing wildly, if ineffectively. Jeremy rested for a moment, while people rushed around. "Sir?" Jeremy opened his eyes, and one of the guard was offering him his hand. He took it and was pulled up. The guards had taken the techs off the human, and were keeping him face down on the floor. Two of the techs had been shot, and were being looked over by some of the guards, as was the one who had been backhanded. He stood over the human, part of him wanted to rip his limbs off one by one, for having hurt his crew, but he kept it under tight control. "I told you I would make your last moment painful if you hurt anyone." The human looked up at him, hate in his eyes. "And I'm very tempted do to just that." I am a hunter, he told himself, I know better. "But my hate for your kind has gotten me into enough trouble." He reached down with his good hand, and pulled the human up by the collar. He looked him in the eyes. "Fight me now, and I will hurt you." The coldness in Jeremy's eyes finally reached through to the human, and fear appeared there. Jeremy pulled him along, escorted by six guards. They headed back to the station. Jeremy was close to the holding cell, according to the bridge's direction, when a short male appeared, orange and white fur, with patches where he could see skin. Jeremy stopped and wrinkled his nose. "Who are you?" the male said. "What are you doing here?" "I am Jeremy, Hunter from Alpha squad." He threw the human at the male. "I'm returning that to you. Lock it up. It attacked my crew, injured at least four of them, and killed one. As soon as my captain is able to, he will be laying formal charges. That thing is going to be spending the rest of its days here." Jeremy forced himself to step closer to the disgusting male. "And if we discover that you had anything to do with them getting free of their restrains, you are going to join him groundside." Jeremy turned and headed back to the ship.
  20. Kindar

    Chapter 38

    "So, what is it exactly you want to do?" Gral asked Jeremy. They were in the conference room, and Huarfirselgalterin was with them. "I want to run an experiment on the sensor array, if my theory works, it should be able to boost the range." "Sensor's somewhat out of your field, isn't it?" He looked at the other male present. "Huar, what's your thoughts on this?" Huarfirselgalterin tapped a claw on the table. "It's . . . different. I don't know that it's going to work, but if it does, the potential increase in range would give us quite an advantage over other ships." "So you think it's worth trying it?" "Yes, it is." "Alright, when do you want to run the test?" Jeremy and Huar looked at each other. "Setting things out, will take some time," Jeremy said. "We need to rewire the sensors for this to work." Gral looked at them. "Okay, what exactly are you trying to do?" "In layman's term - I want to feed in the generator's antimatter frequency in the sensor. I think that we can harness some of the properties to extend the range." "I'm going to need more details, because that doesn't make much sense." Jeremy nodded, he'd hope that would have been enough, but he hadn't really believe it be. "Okay, when we collide matter and anti-matter, we get energy, but we also get resonant frequencies. There's been a lot of studies done on them, but no real use for them. I've been looking through the research, and one of the frequencies seems to bypass some of the laws of physics, it can propagate faster and further and the calculation indicates it should be able to. I'm confident that with the changes I want to make to the sensor we can harness those properties." "Okay, any idea what kind of extension we'll get? If I'm going to be without sensor while you upgrade them, I want to make sure it's worth it." "We'll probably get close to double the range," Jeremy said. "But you don't have to be without the sensors while we get ready," Huar added. "We can make the upgrade one sensor bank at a time. That's going to limit the loss." "If you do it that way, how long will it take to upgrade them all?" "Probably around six month." "Are you okay with that?" Gral asked Jeremy. "That's fine. This isn't time sensitive." At least not in the 'it needs to be done now' sensitivity. If Huar could do everything within six month, he'd only have to find a way to delay him by two months at the most. Then it would be up to Thuruk to make sure they were in the sector they had to be for the test. "Alright. Get to it. Keep me up to date on the upgrade." * * * * * Almost nine month later Jeremy was ready for the test. He hadn't had to engineer any delays, Huar had taken the opportunity to do maintenance on the array as he did the upgrades. Thuruk had given Gral information about a pirate group making Sarnir station their base of operation a day before, they were on their way there now. "Bridge, I'm ready to initiate the frequency, let me know when the sensors are offline and I have control of them." "You have them," the bridge replied a moment later. Jeremy entered the commands and the new cables that had been added to the generator started pulsating. The pulse sped until it wasn't noticeable anymore. The readout told him the whole array was responding. He let the program he'd written run its course, and on cue the pulse went out. "What was that?" the tech at sensor on the bridge asked. "I'm not sure," Jeremy lied, watching his screen. It had to be here. "Shouldn't we be getting something by now?" "Yes we should. I'm looking into that." Jeremy kept on looking at his screen, and then, there was a pulse at the edge of it. Another screen gave him a string of number. He smiled and filed the number in a private, and sealed, file. "Did you see that?" the tech said over the com. "I did." "What was it?" "I don't know," Jeremy lied again. "Wow, what ever that was, it's one and a half light year away. I thought we were only going to double the range?" "I'm as surprised as you are. I'm shutting things down on my end and giving you back standard sensor. I'm going to have to go over the results to see what happened." "Got it." Jeremy did as he'd said. All the while planing his next steps.
  21. Kindar

    Chapter 37

    Gral stood before the military council; Twelve people, generals, admirals, and politicians, who directly, or indirectly, controlled the careers of every officers in the kelsirian fleet. He had been summoned here, and he didn't know why. None of them were enemies of his, at least not directly, two had affiliation with members of a faction within the military that had tried to ground him multiple times, and one had a son, who was known to have en eye on Gral's ship, but he hadn't heard any indication that anyone in this room had any actual plans against him. "Captain Gralgiranselhelrarvnir," the admiral seated in the center said, "I see here that you distinquished yourself in the incident at Yarvir, as well as in the take down of the taournian pirates. Your career as captain of the Viper's Bane is marked with successes, with the exception of a few failed hunt here and there, but no hunter can always succeed". He was the oldest of those here, quite comfortable in his position, and very adept at politics. Gral had information on all of them, because he liked to know who he as up against, and what they were planing. His current lack of information on their motive really bothered him. "It's also noted that you've been offered promotions three times," the politician seated on his left said. He didn't know how she had managed to be included in this group, as far as he could find out, she was in charge of supervising expenses relating to military purchases. There had to be more to her. She was also the one with the son gunning for Gral's job. "You turned them down, why?" "I'm a hunter," Gral answered. "I belong in space, on my ship, hunting those who would cause harm to us." "Still there are those who feel you could serve Kelser better directing others on their hunts, rather than being at the front of said hunt." Her tone was so casual, that Gral couldn't help trying to figure out what hidden meaning could be behind the words. Gods, he hated politics. "I have to disagree." "Are you saying that generalship is below you?" the General at the far right said. He'd fought hard to become a general, not on hunts, but by playing the political game. Gral knew for a fact the male had no malicious though about him, he just couldn't understand why anyone would turn down such a promotion once, let alone three times. "No," Gral replied, "just that it isn't for me." "What do you have to say about all the time you've been spending patrolling close to the human border?" The admiral asking him was young, younger than even the generals here.His name was Grallselgerbilaz, Gral had remembered his name because they were both partially named for the Hunter God. He'd gained his promotion by winning the battles at Jordanio, and by being responsible for the Treaty of the Saved. Like Gral, he'd fought against his promotion, but at some point he had been convinced to accept it. "I see that you have even traded patrols with those assigned there." "Can we dispense with all this talk," said a general, midway on the right. "I have better things to do then waste time here." She was one of the the affiliated with the military faction. She was well decorated, had won multiple conflict in her career, and, if the latest information Toom had gathered was correct, she was due to be promoted admiral. "Lets just promote him, and be done with it." "No." Gral kept his tone flat, hiding his concern. They wanted to ground him. He couldn't let that happen. "This is your fourth promotion," Grallselgerbilaz said. "You can't constantly refuse them." "I can, and I will." Gral said, wondering why he was the one pushing so hard for him to accept it. He had to see that he belonged in space, on the hunt. "I am ideally placed to patrol the human border, my Heart is human. Through him I've had more interaction with them then other hunters. We all know they are now quietly hostile to us, and we have been able to prevent a number of incursions into kelsirian space by them." "We're aware of your successes, captain, but if another ship had been there, they would have been the ones to capture them. This almost reads like you are trying to steal their kills to gain fame." "If fame is what I was after, I'd be accepting this promotion. All I'm doing, is what Gralgriran wants me to go." The council members looked at each other. "What Gralgriran wants?" asked one of the politician. Gral nodded. "He sent me in human space to find my Heart. Twice more I've been sent back there and learned a little more about what humans were willing to do to achieve victory." "According to your files you went back a third time." "Yes, but I don't think Gralgriran was responsible for that one. I think Thuruksamian wanted to remind me that not all humans are like those I've been confronting. Some are simply people trying to live their lives." "Have you had any seers confirm this?" "No, I don't have a seer on my ship. All I'm doing is interpreting the event to the best of my abilities." "So you could be seeing what you want to see. And using that to justify your continued actions." Gral could only shrugs. He had no way to argue, no matter how much he *knew* he was right. "Actually," said the admiral on the far right, "I think I have confirmation. My mate's daughter has the Sight, and she told me that the hunter needed to stay at the line to watch for the snake." Everyone looked at him, including Gral. "The snake, you say?" Grallselgerbilaz said. "That could mean the taouling." "Yes, and human space is between us and them, is that the line?" "If it is, it would make sense to keep the captain there." "Only is he is the hunter of her vision." "Who else could it be? He's a hunter, named for the Hunter." "Maybe she meant Admiral grallselgerbilaz." "No," Grallselgerbilaz replied. "My hunting days are over, she couldn't mean me." There was definite sadness on the voice. He sighed. "Based on the seers vision, I move to leave Gralgiranselhelrarvnir as captain of the Viper's bane, and to give him a freedom of hunt along human space, or anywhere he might need to go to keep humans from attacking us." "I second the decision," the admiral who had reveled the vision said. "I also support it," the politician said, although it was obvious from her tone she wasn't happy about it. "Do we have any objections?" The other looked to each other, but no one said anything. "Then, captain, you are free to leave. Good hunting." The council disbanded. Gral ran after the Admiral as he left through a side door, alone. "Admiral, did your near daughter say anything else?" "Hmm?" "Did her vision reveal any more of what I'm to do?" "What? Oh, no. I made that up." Gral stopped in his track. "What?" he couldn't have heard that correctly. The admiral looked over his shoulder and indicated he should continue walking with him. "You made it up? Does she have the Sight?" "Yes, she does, but she's four years old. Right now, her visions are about her getting candy and gifts." Gral was silent as he tried to wrap his head around someone inventing a vision. "Why?" he finally asked. The admiral looked at him. "Because I agree with you. You belong in space, not behind a desk, you have experience with the humans, but they wouldn't have listened to that. You make them nervous because you are seeing things from the humans they don't want to acknowledge. They don't want to see the humans as a threat, even now that they allied themselves with the taournians. I made the vision up because it was the only way I could get them to decide to keep you where you can do the most good." "Aren't you worried making up that vision might anger Syntarina? She could keep the seers from helping us in the future." The admiral laughed. "Really? When it helped Her favorite mate's price hunter?" Gral frowned. Being in space for so long he constantly lost track of the seasons. He ran the numbers in his head, and the admiral was right, it was hunting season. The time when Syntarina fawned over Gralgriran. When his time was done, She would go comfort the Slumberer, then the Lover would sweep Her off, before the Fire King showed Her true passion, and then the cycle would restart. "Thank you for the support, Admiral." "Just make sure those humans don't give us any trouble." * * * * * Thuruk and Toom were waiting in the access, when he got back to the ship. "What was it about?" Toom asked. "They wanted to ground me, but I dodged it again." "They let you refuse it a third time?" "No, and it was the fourth attempt, but I had support that tipped the balance in my favor. We even got free hunting rights, when he comes to the humans, out of it." "Free hunting rights? You're going to have to tell us how you managed that." Gral shook his head. He didn't want to have to mention a fabricated vision. The admiral might be confident Syntarina wouldn't retaliate, but Gral wasn't going to push his luck by repeating it. "What were you two up to during this time?" "Oh, nothing much," Thuruk said, "we just went shopping on the station." He checked his chrono, "We need to get going Toom." Toom was surprised by the comment, before straightening his face. "Right. I'll see you later Gral." Gral watched them go, wondering what they were up to. He headed to his cabin to change, then he'd hunt down Jeremy so they could have a meal together. He entered his room, and stopped, the door closing behind him. Jeremy stood in the doorway leading from the sitting area to their bedroom, arms resting against each side of the doorway. He was naked, with only black leather straps wrapped around his biceps, forearms, making a cross on his chest, a strat was wrapped around the base of his hard cock and balls, lifting it up slightly. There was also one around his thighs, and calf. Gral just looked at him. Gods, he looked amazing. He went to him, kissed him as he pushed him into the bedroom. The meal could definitely wait.
  22. Kindar

    Chapter 36

    Jeremy entered Leiha's office, and she motioned for him to sit. "I'm happy you decided to come see me," she said. "I would have come earlier, but I was under house arrest." "You don't sound too angry about that." "I was, but ultimately, I realized Gral was right in punishing me, I really screwed up, and endangered the crew. Also, I realized that he didn't do it as lightly as I initially thought he had." She tilted her head. "What do you mean?" "It hurt him to do that to me. I didn't realize that at first. I was too angry to see it." "And now?" "Now, I know that it wasn't easy for him to . . .." Jeremy stopped talking, mouth opened. "Did you really start analyzing me before we were done greeting each other?" "I did. Your comment about being under house arrest didn't have the emotional strength I expected, based on what I heard." Jeremy did smile, "the crew's talking?" "Do they ever stop?" she replied, sharing his smile. Jeremy shook his head, they were a close knit crew after all, it was difficult to keep things hidden among such crew. "Can we forgo the analysis? I actually came to ask you for your help, well a favor really." She leaned back in her seat, and studied him. "You're not here to discuss your anger toward humans." "No, I'm not." "I was lead to believe that was why you'd come." "I never told Gral that, I just said that I'd come see you." "Why are you misleading him?" "To protect him." "What are you planing, that he can't know, for his own protection?" "And that of the crew. Before I tell you, what do you know of what humans did to me?" "I know they kidnapped you twice." "That's all you know?" She nodded. "Take a look through my memories, when I was a teen." "You give me permission to read your mind?" her ears tilted. "I do." She looked at him, then her eyes widened slightly. "No wonder you hate them," she whispered, after a moment. Jeremy nodded. "The attempt on our cubs, was to get to me. There aren't any other reasons humans would try to kidnap two kelsirian cubs." "You didn't tell the station master everything you found out from the human." She sighed. "You realize that I'm suppose to report anything behavior that can put the ship in danger." "I know. That's the favor I need. I need you to not tell him anything of what I plan to do." "Why Jeremy? He wouldn't approve of what you are planing, but he would try to find a way to achieve the same results. He isn't your enemy. Do you realize what you are risking?" "I do. But if I don't do anything, they are just going to continue to come after me. I know that he's going to be royally pissed at me for this. I'm going to end up in the brig after this, but so long as he doesn't know, he can't be held accountable. It's just me who is going to pay." "You know that you are wrong." It wasn't a question. "It's true that the humans will not be able to pursue legal actions directly against him, but this will hurt him, badly." "But he'll keep his command, he'll keep the ship." "And you think that will matter?" "It has to. I have to make the humans understand what they have to lose by targeting me." She looked at him. "You are making a mistake. I'm telling you this upfront. You need to tell him what you know, but I know you won't. I should tell him, but that won't solve the underlying problem." She sighed. "I will help you. I will keep your secret, under one condition. Once a week you will come see me. For one hour you will sit here and we will talk." "About what?" "Anything, everything. I will ask you questions, which you won't have to answer, but I hope you will." "For how long?" "I don't know. You know why I want you to do this. The anger you are holding isn't good for you. I hope I can help you resolve it before you are able to set you plan in motion, but even if I can't, I have to help you come to terms with what was done to you. "If you agree to my term, I will keep your secret." "I agree," Jeremy answered without hesitation. * * * * * Jeremy, Thuruk, Ashnulem, Perrovtil and Xernial were sitting around the games table, in one of the privacy room adjoining one of the recreation rooms. The room had a large couch, large bed, and multiple chair, the table had been taken out of the storage compartment. The room, and the others like it around the ship were for when groups wanted to have some fun together, but were large enough they would disrupt the use of the recreation rooms. Jeremy had started the game nights once his confinement ended, as something to do with friends, he'd told Gral. It was rarely the same people from one week to the next, Gral even joined them once in a while. It was the first time these five were at the table at the same time. Arranging it hadn't been to hard, making sure that each had an idea why they were here, without revealing it to anyone else, had taken three month. "Why isn't Toom here?" Thuruk asked. "I'd have expected him to want to help you." "I didn't ask him." Jeremy replied, activating the table. "The three of us are too close. I didn't want to force him to choose between me and Gral, and if this blows up in our face, Gral is going to need Toom." "That'd be why I'm here then." Xernial stated. "You really think this operation can go bad?" "We're going up against a human general, with we don't know how many operatives, operating inside kelsirian space. Yeah, this thing can go bad. That why we're going to need your contacts. You have a claws in pretty much every criminal organization, kelsirian and otherwise. I'm hoping you can use them to track down a ship that is able to move within our space undetected." "If we can't detect it, how am I suppose to have my contact look for it?" "You have them look for the ripples it's crew causes on the markets," Perrovtil said. "They can't have more than a minimal kelsirian crew. I can't believe they could bribe too many of us. Even our most hardened criminals would have trouble siding with people who oppress their citizens like humans do. Since the general's people can't leave the ship without attracting attention, they are going to have to stock up on everything they need to keep the moral high, that means games, leisure, recreational drugs, I'll give you a list of what they should look for. I'm not even going to hazard a guess as to what they'll do for sex." He looked at Jeremy. "I don't know. If I go by the little interactions I've had with military personnel, which only happened when we had a ship dock at the station, they probably won't have sex on the ship. Every time one of those ships docked, they were out in the common areas hitting on the females." "Don't they have females in their military?" "They do, but I couldn't tell you if they have sex with them." The four looked at each other. "No sex," Ashnulem said, "for months at a time?" He shuddered. "They have to be insane." "I can't go a week without sex," Thuruk stated. "According to Asarin," Xernial said, with a wry smile, "you can't go days without." The others laughed. "I could go a week if I had to." Thuruk insisted. "The fact that I don't have to just means I'm in a better emotional state." "You might have a point," Ashnulem said. "Maybe it's a human military tactic. Get their military so worked up that they'll do whatever they are told, with the promise of sex when it's done." "Sounds like a recipe for a mutiny, if you ask me." Perrovtil said. "Ashnulem," Jeremy said, "is there any way you can familiarize yourself with human computers? I'm going to need you to infiltrate theirs, when we find them." "You really think they are using a human ship?" Ashnulem asked. "Seems to me that would attract a lot of attention." "No, their ship won't look human, probably won't be either, considering they aren't being noticed in our own space, I'm guessing it's a kelsirian design. But if there's one thing I know about humans, it's that they'll never completely trust another race's computers. What we'll need to access will almost certainly be controlled by human computers." "I can go over the notes Jurani made when he infiltrated the station, but that won't be much. He didn't get a chance to test the serious system before we had to leave. I can play around the few human ships we'll encounter when we dock at one of the stations they are allowed on, but we don't go there often, so I'm not going to get a lot of practice." "Is there any way we can find our way there more often?" Jeremy asked Thuruk. "Up to a point," Thuruk answered after thinking it over. "We do have indication of pirates in that area, as well as smuggling." Xernial cleared his throat. "You know about them, don't you?" Thuruk asked. "Of course. I know everything that's going on within our space." "If you're willing to offer up some of them, it'll help justify our presence. Otherwise the captain will become suspicious if we always come up empty." "Show me what you have, when you can, and I'll tell you who we can go after without creating too much of a vacuum." "Good, then we all know what we need to do for now. I have some ideas to test, to help tracking them." For the next two hours they played, while also thinking about their tasks, except for Xernial, who seem to be able to focus completely on the game, therefor won all the rounds.
  23. Kindar

    Chapter 35

    For the first week and a half, Jeremy fumed. The guards, there were always two of them, would escort him from this quarters to engineering, and back. He didn't really know any of them. They were familiar to him, after all these years everyone on the ship was, but he didn't think he'd even interacted with them. He was certain Gral had picked them on purpose, he didn't want anyone he was friends with cutting him any slack. The point was solidly made when he tried to go to the shops, to get some things they needed. His guards wouldn't let him go. They guided him to his apartment, and he had to get Gral to get them. He'd been angry enough that night that he wanted to go sleep with a friend, rather than in his own place. Of course the guards wouldn't let him. So he'd tried to sleep on the couch, but found that for all his anger, he missed having Gral next to him, so he'd gone back to their bed, and while not talking to him, he'd curled up against him. The next two weeks he simmered. He acted like his guards weren't there. He didn't try to lose them, or go where he wasn't suppose to, he simply didn't acknowledge they were there. He spent a week trying to become friends with them, but they wouldn't have any of it. Jeremy had no idea what orders Gral had given them, but he certainly made sure they were afraid of disobeying them. After that he was sullen for a while. By the end of the sixth week, which he's spent mostly in contemplation, he realized that with all the screaming, arguing, fuming and other emotions he'd gone through, there was one thing he hadn't done. Jeremy closed the door to their bedroom. The cubs had been sleeping for a few hours now, and the two of them had kept busy separately. Gral was already naked, sitting on the edge of their bowl shaped bed. Jeremy took a breath and turned to face him. "I'm sorry," he said. Gral tilted his head. "I'm sorry I killed those Taournians, I'm sorry I tortured that human. You're right, I know better, and I've been trained better than that." He needed to pause steel himself again. "I'm sorry I endangered the ship, and the operation. I'm sorry I endangered us." Gral indicated he should move closer, and Jeremy stepped forward until he was right in front of him. Gral rested his head against Jeremy's chest, and wrapped his arms around him. "Thank you," he said softly. Jeremy was still looking down at him, perplexed, when Gral finally looked up, eyes damp. "That's all I wanted," he said. "I just needed you to acknowledge you'd been wrong." "Are you saying that if I'd apologize back then I could have avoided the guards?" Gral looked him the eyes. "Would you have meant it?" Jeremy looked back into the deep amber pools, Gods he'd missed loosing himself into those eyes. "No, I wouldn't have." He didn't even consider lying to him. "I need to know something," Gral said, "you know that what you did to that human was wrong, but how do you feel about it?" Jeremy had to look away for a moment. "I want to do it again," he whispered. "I know it's wrong, and you were right. It wasn't all about getting him to answer my questions. I wanted him to suffer." "Like you suffered?" Jeremy nodded. Gral let himself fall back into the bed, pulling Jeremy along with him. The shape of the bed almost forced them to end up curled up together in its center. "I'd like you to talk to Lieha. She's trained to help with the kind of trauma you went through." "I will," Jeremy answered. He had already been planing on going to talk to her.
  24. Kindar

    Chapter 34

    Jeremy was sitting in the chair, sipping a drink. The chair was the some one he'd been lounging in, not thirty minutes before, but it didn't feel comfortable anymore. It felt confining. The drink was something he called Ridoshi scotch. The ridoshi had another name for it, he didn't know how it was made, and it didn't even taste like scotch, but in his years within the federation, it was the closest thing he'd found. Right now he needed it. He was sipping his second glass, waiting for Gral to come back from what he was working on. That wasn't what he wanted to do. He wanted to get out and hunt down the person who had ordered his cubs be kidnapped, but he couldn't leave them without protection. They were sleeping, he knew because he could hear them breathing lightly. He couldn't look at them, when he did his anger flared almost beyond his control. The door opened, and Jeremy heard the bustle coming from the other room. Seemed that someone had finally noticed something, and called in security. Gral entered, worries etched on his face. "What happened?" he asked. Jeremy finished his drink, and stood. "Someone tried to kidnap our cubs," he answered, keeping his voice low. "Are they okay?" Gral asked, also low, looking at them over Jeremy's shoulder. "Yes. Rudyum hid with Tamirik." Gral sighed in relief. "What happened to the kidnappers?" "I took retribution," Jeremy stated. Gral frowned. "I saw the bodies, you sliced the taournians throat. What you did to that human, that wasn't retribution. You can't . . .." "Don't you dare." Jeremy glared at him. "Don't you dare, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir, tell me that I couldn't do what I did. They were here to take our cubs. The only reason for that is that they are still trying to get to me. I won't let that go unanswered. I can't. I did what I had to do to get what I needed." He sidestepped Gral. "Where are you going?" Grak asked. "Out." Jeremy replied. "It's your turn to look after our cub." He didn't look at his handy work in the room security was buzzing about. They didn't look up at him. He figured that it was only a question of time before they hunted him down. He didn't care. Right now all he wanted to do was find someone to hit. The person he desperately wanted wasn't within his reach. He was on a ship, out in space, somewhere he had no business being, according to the information he'd gotten. He stormed through the crowd, waiting, wanting one of them to make an issue of being shoved aside, anything for a reason to hit someone, but no one did. His wandering led him back to the market, and at the edge, he saw a fighting room. No one was in it. A large fighting mat was in the center of the room and various size training bots lined the walls. He went to one of the larger one, raised its proficiency level and started hitting it. It wasn't a person, but he didn't care, it was something to hit, that could hit back. He lost himself in the fight, training bots were programmed to learn from their opponent and adapt, increasing the difficulty of the fight. It wouldn't put him in any danger, but it forced him to focus on the fight, pushing everything else to the back of his mind. Out of the corner of his eye he saw an attack coming. He blocked it, attacked back. Another one came, he dodged that one and struck. He was blocked. He pushed forward, striking as hard and has fast as he could. He was blocked and dodged, but one strike went through. Then he was on the defensive, blocking, parrying and dodging. He as hit once, and then it all stopped. Jeremy was in the center of the fighting mat, a ridoshi quickly backing away, until it was off the mat and its three pairs of legs clicked on the metal floor. It lay it's three part body on the ground, stayed there for a moment an then stood. Crossing its three pairs of arms in front of hits upper segment. The head on top of that seemed too small for the rest of the body. "I recognize your skill," it said in broken English. Jeremy looked around, not understanding how he'd gotten to the mat. He had no recollection of moving from fighting the bot to fighting the ridoshi. "What did you say?" he replied in Kelsirian. It had been so long since he'd heard English that his mind hadn't registered that he'd understood it. "You speak Kelsirian," it said, speaking it much better, the words being only broken by some clicking the ridoshi didn't seem to be aware it was making. "I said that I recognized your skill." "I'm sorry I attacked you." "My responsibility. I needed to be more aware of your fighting blindness." "Fighting blindness, I guess that's apt. Still I am sorry. I attacked you when you were just trying to what? Get my attention?" "I needed to tell you the cost of fighting." "Of course," Jeremy replied. "I didn't mean to use the bot without paying. I didn't see any where to pay when i came in." "My responsibility. No one comes this time. Went eat." "How much do I owe you?" Jeremy paid, and turned to leave, he felt better now, having worked off some of his anger, and waked right into three rifles, pointed at him. The reoseph holding them wore station guard uniforms, and they barked commands at him he didn't understand, although he thought he heard something resembling his name in there. "The guard demands if you are Jeremy." The ridoshi's pronunciation was better. "I am." The ridoshi told the guard, who barked more orders. "You are expected to follow the guards. They must take you to station head. You have committed . . . Death." He looked at Jeremy. "Is this true?" Jeremy nodded. The guard barked something, but the ridoshi made a gesture and the guard grumbled something under his breath. "You are not preparing to fight. You are making . . . Taking responsibility for death?" "I killed them, yes, so no, I'm not going to fight the guards." "Were the death expected?" "I don't understand." "Did the dead bring the death on to themselves?" "Yes, they did." The ridoshi nodded. "Then, you do not need fear judgment. You were the instrument of their acts. You need not take the responsibility for them." He said something to the guard, who barked in exasperation, and motioned for Jeremy to come with them. With one guard in front and two on each side, he was escorted through the station, and to a room where three garans sat, listening to a group argue. The guards had him sit while they remained standing, next to him. Jeremy didn't pay attention to what was happening. He figured it would be his turn soon enough, and prepared himself for what they might do to him. He wasn't familiar with garans law, other than the fact that it mostly followed federation law, but he knew that the plump, hairless beings weren't ones to negotiate, or accept excuses. A young saladin sitting a few seats away from him pointed and him and showed his data pad to his neighbor. When he moved it back, Jeremy saw a picture of himself on it, and then of the room where his cub had stayed, blood and dead bodies included. An hour later, the guards had him stand, and escorted him before the three garans, where a table and chair had been placed. They sat him there. "You are Jeremy Krommer, is that correct?" the central garans asked, in surprisingly good English. Jeremy nodded. "Please give your answer vocally. Your answer needs to be recorded." "I am." Where had he learned English, Jeremy wondered, and why? As far as he knew, he was the only native speaker to move about freely within the federation. He hadn't seen any indication that humans had businesses here. "You have been recorded taking two cubs out of a room. In that room it was discovered that you had attacked three member of the federation, with no indication of provocation. Is that correct?" Jeremy was surprised at how calm he was at hearing the lie. He hadn't known how he was going to react at being accused of killing the Taournians, he had done that, and as much as he hoped to find a way to avoid what ever fate that would bring on him, he wasn't going to lie. But they lied, shouldn't he be angry about it? Maybe the fact the the garans spoke English so well was clueing him onto something. Was he in on it? "Well," the garans said, "what is your response?" "The cubs are mine," Jeremy said," I was taking them back to my room to keep them safe." Before the garans could reply, sound from the audience caused Jeremy to turn. A female kelsirian was pushing the guards at the entrance of the center dais out of her way. She had pale yellow fur, with slightly darker sports, she was wearing white pants and a loose vest of the same color. Jeremy tried to remember if she was one of the crew. He didn't think she was. "Identify yourself," the garans stated, in perfect kelsirian. "I am Illsone, professional counsel. I am here to speak for the accused." "This is not a court of law, counsel. Your presence here is not required." "As per the Federation-Kelsirian Treaty of two-oh-eight, any kelsirian citizen, accused of a crime that falls under such as per Federation law, is required to have a counsel. I see you haven't appointed him one, so I am appointing myself." She motioned for one of the ashen looking garans standing to the side to bring her a chair. Which it did. She sat, put a pad on the table and squeezed Jeremy's hand, whichile the garans talked among themselves. "Please let me do the talking," she whispered. "Who are you?" he whispered back. "Why are you helping me?" "Do you mind if I answer that after this?" Jeremy didn't have time to reply. "Do you have evidence that the human has kelsirian citizenship?" Being referred to human angered him, but he kept himself under control. "Jeremy's acceptance in kelsirian society is on records, as of eight years ago. If you take the time to verify the federation registry you will see that. Also, he renounces his human ties, so please refrain from addressing him as 'human'. He is kelsirian." More talk among the three. Jeremy looked at her. He was certain she wasn't one of the crew, yet she knew how he hated being reminded he was human. She gave him a comforting smile. "Very well," the garans said. "We have confirm your statement." "Thank you. There for, Jeremy will be treated as per the treaty I mentioned before, I expect you are familiar with it. If not, I'm certain we can wait until you are." "Indeed, I am." "Good, now. What is Jeremy accused of." "Jeremy is being accused of assaulting three federation members." "Two." The garans looked at her, visibly annoyed at the interruption. "He only attacked two federation members. Humans have not been granted entry in the federation, therefor they can not be grouped with the two Taournian he killed." "Very well. He assaulted two federation members without provocation, whom he killed, as you stated yourself. He caused an unacceptable level of pain to a member of a species waiting entry in the Federation, also without provocation. We have evidence of such." "Doesn't the attempt to kidnap his cubs count as provocation?" "We have no evidence to that effect." "Which ones? That the cubs are his, or that there was an attempt to kidnap them?" "Both." She tapped something on her pad. "I have just sent you the forms, indicating that Jeremy, and his Heart, Gralgiranselhelrarvnir, took in Rudyumdamselhelrarin and Tamarik. Please take the time to look it over, you will see that it is proper, as per kelsirian law, which is supported by the treaty." "Very well, the cubs are his," the garans admitted once he looked the information over. "Good. Then, as for the kidnapping attempt, of which you claim there is no evidence. Can you justify why three males, in military armor and armed with," She consulted her pad, "Srinovak hand canons, bypassed the lock on the door leading to the room where his cubs were residing?" "There is no evidence of such act." "There isn't? You have evidence of Jeremy carrying his cubs to his room, yet you don't don't have any evidence of them while they are tempering with the the door access? And while we are on the subject of evidence, how did those three males get on your station? I went through the logs going back a month, on my way here. I saw no indication that a human was allowed on the station, let alone permitted military grade equipment. When did garans security become so lax?" The garans on the left became flustered, his ashen skin becoming almost luminescent white. He said things Jeremy couldn't hear, and the central one responded harshly. "You do not make accusation of the station." He said to Illsone. "I didn't make accusations. I asked questions that pertain to the accusations you have put on Jeremy." "How those males got on the station has no relation to the accusations. It does not matter how they came to be on the station, the evidence still shows that Jeremy assaulted them." "With provocation." That silenced the garans. "Three males entered the room where his cubs are residing. Those males are armored and armed. Do you deny that to a father, this would look like they intend harm to his cubs?" "No, I do not deny such." The reluctance in his tone was thick. "But that does not absolve him of the death or pain he caused." She tapped her pad again. "I've just sent you the Federation ruling on Hardsamitar versus Tilen of the Dromian. Where the Federation recognized that kelsirian are a race of warriors, and as such, it must be accepted, that if they feel that they, or close members to them are in danger, they will go to all possible extant to remove that danger. Please read it." She consulted a few entries on her pad while they read. Jeremy had to stopped himself from staring at her. How was she blocking them so easily? "You can not apply this judgment here. All you have to do is look at him to know that is isn't." "Be very careful, station head," she said, a tight smile on her lips. "If you want to attempt to deny citizenship to someone, you need to have very solid proof." "I do not deny his citizenship. But the judgment apply to those born of Kelser, you only have to look at him to know that it isn't so." "Plenty of kelsirians are born off Kelser, the judgment protects them also. As for what I see." She took a moment to study Jeremy. "I see the engineer on the Viper's Bane. I see the Heart to the captain of said ship. I see a Hunter trained, and proven at he battle of Yarvir. I see a male who took two cubs in his family, who risked his life to protect them, who made sure that threat would not come back." She looked at the garans. "I don't know what you see, station head. I see a kelsirian." * * * * * "Thank you, for getting me out from under this," Jeremy said to Illsone, stopping her as they left the room, and pulling her to the side.. "But I need to know why you did this, you're not from my ship." "I explained it to them, every kelsirian has to have counsel." "But how did you know I'm kelsirian?" She regarded him. "Everyone who pays attention to the news casts knows you, Jeremy. You are the furless kelsirian, you went against the human government to join your heart. You over came attempts after attempts by them to force you back within their control. Your story is told by anyone who still believes that our Heart is out there, if we're only willing to fight for it." Jeremy stared at her, and found he had to lean against the wall. "Let me get this right, my life is a romance vid?" he couldn't stop himself from laughing. Illsone looked at him for a moment, and then smiled. "Yes, I suppose it is." Once he'd stopped laughing she continued. "But I have a personal reason for helping you. I have family on Yavnir, uncles, aunts and a few distant relatives. You and your crew were instrumental in stopping the invaders. My family there lives because of you." "Instrumental is a bit of an exaggeration. We were one of eight ships there." "That doesn't matter, you were there, you helped." "Okay, and you just happened to be here to save me?" Jeremy wasn't sure if he was bordering on being ungrateful for her help, with his questioning, but she didn't seem to mind them. He hadn't interacted with many people outside the ship in his years in kelsirian space, maybe the appreciation for curiosity he'd encounter there wasn't something Gral fostered, but a racial trait? "I'm here regularly. I represent a few kelsirian companies who have assets in the region, and I provide them with legal counsel. I was waiting to leave the station, my ship was delayed due to some mechanical failure. It's still not repaired. When I saw you on the news cast, I looked into it, they only talked about the death and torture. It didn't take me long to piece enough of what could have happened for me to rush here to help you." "Alright, how did you know how I feel about being referred to as . . .." "I'm a mentalist. A rather weak one, I can't enter someone's mind, I can just sense emotional outburst. When the garans called you . . .. I felt your anger. I knew they would play on that. Garans don't like uncertainty, they like things to be one or the other. You should be what you look like. What I don't understand, is how they would miss details like the taournians and human getting on the station illegally, or not having any evidence they force their way into your cubs room." "I don't think they missed anything," Jeremy said out loud, without meaning to. "What do you mean?" "Please forget I said anything." He said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you for helping me. I know you said you owed me, but if you ever find yourself needing my help, call me. Right now I owe you, big time." She smiled at him, her ears turning red. "Now, I need to go. There are more consequences I have to deal with, and you can't help me with those." He walked with her until their path separated. He mused quietly for some time, before looking up, feeling silly at the motion, he didn't have to look in any specific direction to talk to them. He also felt a little apprehensive, in all the years he'd been kelsirian, he'd grown comfortable with the idea of Gods, and their meddling ways, but address them . . .. He didn't know. "Alright," he still said, keeping his voice low, "which one of you he looking out for me? And more importantly, why?" He didn't expect a reply, and he wasn't disappointed. He had no other choice, these days, ships didn't just breakdown, engineers and techs were constantly looking over them, and they had redundancies. Only the main power generator didn't have any, and those things didn't breakdown, short of sabotage. He also believed she was honest in her motives to help him. He didn't think she was some agents with plans to use his debt toward her. Which left only the Gods. His musing took him to his room. He opened the door without hesitation. He had been kept with his family. He wasn't going to belittle what had been done by not facing what he had coming. Gral put Rudyum down on seeing Jeremy, and went to him. "How are you?" he asked, his tone was neutral, but Gral's eyes were angry. "I'm okay," Jeremy replied, softly. "Pa?" Rudyum said, half hiding behind the chair. "Is everything okay?" his voice was weak, and filled with hesitation. Gral looked at his son, in amazement, while Jeremy went to him. "Yes," Jeremy said, "things are okay." He smiled for him, even if he knew it was just a question of time before Gral let him know just how unhappy he was. "Is father angry with you?" Jeremy simply nodded, and looked over his shoulder. Gral stood there for a moment, watching them, then went to pickup their daughter. "Let's go back to the ship." Jeremy didn't argue. He didn't feel like staying on the station. The walk back was uneventful, Gral talked with Rudyum, obviously very happy to hear him talk. Jeremy was quiet, he was preparing himself, steeling himself. Once on the ship they went directly to their quarters. Gral took their son and daughter to her room, which was on the left side of the living room in that centered their apartment. "Rudyum," Gral said, once he'd place Tamirik in her crib. "I need to talk with Jeremy. I want you to say here, is that understood?" "Are you going to fight?" "I hope not," he sighed. "Pa saved us." "I know. And I'm happy he did, but he did other things, and I need to discuss them with him. Will you stay here?" Rudyum nodded. Gral kissed the top of his head. He closed the door on his way out. Back in the living room, he put a hand on Jeremy' shoulder and pulled him into their bedroom, on the opposite side of the living room. Once he'd closed the door, he rested his head on it, not looking at his Heart. "Do you have any idea what you did?" Gral asked through clenched teeth. "I protected our cubs," Jeremy stated. Gral let out a bark. "Is that what you're calling what you did?" "Three males break into our cubs room. I did what I had to, to get them out safe." "What about after? I saw that massacre on my way in. Before the news cast started showing vids of it. You murdered two Taournians." "It isn't he first time I've had to. . . ." "Without orders! You killed them without orders. That means you're responsible. What do you think is going to happen when they come looking for you? When they want to drag you to an adjudicatory?" "I'd like to see them try," Jeremy replied with a snort. "I'd like to see them justify a human equipped with military grade armor and weapon this deep within the Federation, when there's currently only three stations where they're allowed to bring that kind of things aboard, and none of them are any where near here." Gral grabbed Jeremy by the shoulders. "Gods, will you stop and think. You can't make this a vendetta. We have operations we need to run, and I can't let you endanger them this way. You may already have jeopardized this one." "Vendetta? I'm not the one on a vendetta, they are!" he shook himself free. "They're the ones constantly after me, you know damn well that the kidnapping was to get to me. They are monsters, don't you get that? We can't treat them like civilized beings, because they aren't." "They aren't all like that," Gral said, keeping his tone calm. "Yes! They are! The lot of them should be wiped out, believe me when I tell you that if we let them in, they won't do anything but bring about our destruction." Gral went to him, and cupped his hands on Jeremy's cheeks. "I know you can't mean that. Your mother is human." Jeremy's eyes grew wide, what he'd implied sinking in. He tried to say something, but nothing would come out. Eventually he looked at his feet. "I did what I had to. You can't tell me that you would have done anything differently." Gral didn't reply immediately. "I don't know," he finally said. "I wasn't there in the moment, so I don't know what I might have done. What I do know, is that you are a hunter. You didn't have to kill them to keep our cubs safe. What did torturing that human get you?" "It got me the name of the man who gave him his orders." Jeremy answered. He didn't feel comfortable not telling him the whole truth, but he didn't want him involved in what he was planning. Gral had too much at stake with the ship, Jeremy couldn't ask him to put that at risk. "I gave the information to the station head, during the trial." Gral was visibly relieved. "Good, then we'll let them investigate that." He caressed Jeremy's cheek. "I can't let what you did go unpunished. You might have been lucky enough to avoid charges from the station, but you committed a crime. I'm not going to throw you in the brig, which is the strict minimum I should do for murder, but I'm confining you to quarters. Guards will escort you when you go to your office." "What? You're putting me under guard?" "Yes, I am. Don't you understand that if you weren't my Heart, if you were anyone else on this ship, I'd send you to Kelser on the most direct flight, under guards to answer for the crime? So you're going to have guards posted at this door when you're here, and at your office when you're working there." "No! You want guards to follow me where ever I go. Fine, but I am not going to have them within engineering. You can have them stand by that door. It isn't like there's more than one way in and out of there." Jeremy as fuming. "Alright. They'll stand by engineering."
  25. Kindar

    Chapter 33

    Jeremy was lounging in a very comfortable chair, in a luxurious room, on a garans station, on the border of their, and the reoseph territories. This was a working stop, Gral and some of his hunters were following a lead on pirates who had attacked a kelsirian medical ship. For everyone else, they could use the time as leave. Most of the crew hadn't bothered taking accommodations on the station, the ship was docked so it was simple for them to come and go. Gral had wanted to treat his family, so he'd gotten them rooms, very nice rooms, if small. The station wasn't setup for visiting families, it was in a mining zone, so got very few tourists, just transport cargo, and the occasional refueling stop - it wasn't on any of the main transit lines. Because of that, they had two room, one across from the other. The cubs had the other one. They were currently sleeping after a morning of exploring the station market. Even miners had to buy things, mostly recreationals, from what Jeremy could see of the storefronts. Rudyum had explored, walking around, and looking in all the nooks and crannies they came across. He didn't show joy at being here, but Jeremy had noticed a small smile here and there. He thought they were happening more often now. Jeremy held his sister in his arms, while watching Rudyum look around. Gral stopped by to eat with them. Before going back to his hunt. After that, they had gone back to their rooms, and the cubs had gone to sleep. Jeremy relaxed, reading over the report of the latest stress test they ran on the generator. His personal com beeped, and he tapped it absentmindedly "yes?" There was the sound objects being thrown about. Jeremy lifted his head to look at the com, on the table next to his chair. "P . . . Pa?" came a soft voice. "Help." Jeremy bolted out, grabbing his gloves. He'd never heard the voice before, in the six months Rudyum had been with them, he'd never said a word, but he had no doubt it was him. His gloves were on before he was out the door. He quickly entered the access code he'd been given, but the door didn't open. He grabbed the side of the panned with the metal claws and ripped it off. He could have been more discreet about it, he had the training, but he wasn't going to waste any kind of time when his cubs were in trouble. With a bundle of wires out of the panel and sparks, the door opened. A quick scan of the room showed three beings, in mate black armor, faceless helmet, and holding handguns of a design Jeremy didn't know. They had stopped moving when the door opened, in the process of tossing the room. There were no indications the weapons had been fired, and no sign of his cubs. They wanted them alive, and hadn't found them yet. "Rudyum, hold your sister's face against you, and close your eyes. Do not open them until I tell you." He didn't wait for a response. The attackers had made the mistake of not shooting him on sight. It was goign to cost them. He was under the reach of the closest one before the weapon was brought up. He grabbed the wrist and dug his claws in the armor, twisting the arm. Before he could make him drop his gun, he heard a weapon cycle to shoot. He spun, bringing the one he was holding in front of him, and he took the blast. The impact pushed them against he wall, and the force took his breath away for a moment. He started counting seconds, as he jumped out of the way - the other one with a gun hadn't shot yet. Five second and he was shot again, it hit where he had been a moment before. He didn't know why the third one hadn't shot yet, but in a room this small it was the only reason he wasn't dead yet. He had five seconds to take out one of them. The closest one was the one with trying to shoot him. He ran for the third assailant. He jumped as the weapon was brought up and collided with him as the shot fired. He felt the burn on the left side of his face, but they were down. the shot went over his head. He quickly went on his knees, putting one of them on the assailant's throat, and wrestled the gun out of his hand. His five second were up before the last assailant, and he shot him in the chest, before his own weapon was done cycling. The room was quiet, except for the rasping of the one he was currently suffocating. He pulled off his helmet, revealing he was human, and hit him across the face, hard, rendering him unconscious. He stood. "Rudyum. Don't open your eyes, but give me an indication of where you are." An over turned bed moved a little. Jeremy pulled it away and revealed an air vent, too small for anyone but a cub to crawl in, and two feet slowly moving out. "It's me," Jeremy said, "I'm doing to pull you out." He took the feet and gently pulled on them. Rudyum was holding Tamirik against his chest, and, somehow, she had slept through everything. He pickup his son, and carried them back to his room. "You can open your eyes," he said once he'd put them on his bed. "It's safe now." Rudyum opened his eyes, looked around and then at Jeremy, eyes going wide. He reached for his face, but stopped before touching it. Jeremy could feel the burn there start to sting, he didn't think it was a pretty sight. "Are . . . Are the bad males gone?" Rudyum whispered. "I took care of them," Jeremy said softly, "they can't hurt you." "Bad males took my mother," Rudyum flatly, but eyes becoming wet. "I couldn't help her. I was so afraid, I just hid." Tears were flowing freely now. Jeremy took Tamirik out of his arms and gently placed her on the bed. She stirred a little, but didn't wake up. He took Rudyum in his arms and held him tightly. When his sobbing subsided he looked at him, wiping the tears off his cheeks. "I'm sorry I hid again," he said, looking away. "You did the right thing. Sometime, hiding is the only thing you can do, but you thought to hid your sister with you, and you called me. You saved her." Rudyum's nod was barely noticeable. "Sometime, the bravest thing you can do, his hide and wait to be rescued. Now, I want you to stay here and continue looking after your sister. I need to go back and ask them a few questions." "You're hurt." "I know. I'll take care of that afterward. Are you going to be okay? Can you continue looking after Tamirik for me?" Rudyum nodded. "Good. I won't be long." He locked the door behind him. Obviously a locked door hadn't stopped them from getting into his cubs room, but he felt better for it anyway. He had to rip the control panel off the wall inside the other room, and play with the wires to be able to close the door. After that he went to the closest body. The armor had stopped the impact, there it was dented and burnt. The chest was moving slightly. He ripped off the helmet to reveal a taournian's scaly head. He looked at it in disgust, and then at the human. He'd heard rumors that the humans and taournians had form some sort of alliance, He hadn't really thought about it before now, that he seem to have confirmation of it. Looking back at he taournian, wondering what he was going to do with it, he noticed he had a long knife attached to its hip. Jeremy smiled, took the knife, and slit the reptilian's throat. Sickly brown blood flowed. He went to the other body, and riped off that helmet too. Another taournian, another slit throat. He went to the human, and considered him. He was male, with short black hair, and clean shaven. He sat him up and shook him until he woke. "Now," Jeremy said, "I just slit the throat of your two friends, over there." He showed him the bloody knife. "I'm not going to kill you. You have my word about that, but how much you suffer, depends entirely on how forthcoming you are with the answers to my questions. So, why did you try to kidnap my cubs." The man frowned at him, before saying. "Lieutenant Colonel Damien Montgomery St-Croix, Id number eight-five-two-six." His own scream of pain interrupted him, when Jeremy dug a claw in his left shoulder. "Not what I asked. Try again." The man started again on his registration again, and Jeremy twisted the claw. The man didn't make it to his ID number before the pain was too much for him. "Want to go for a third try?" Jeremy asked, once he'd stopped screaming. "I don't know why," the man rasped. "I'm a soldier. They tell me what to do, and I do it." Jeremy looked at him, disgusted. His ship had plenty of soldiers on it, technically, he was one himself, and he knew that none of them would follow such an order blindly. They would demand to know the reasons, especially for going after cubs. But the man wasn't kelsirian. "Okay, fair enough. Who gave you those orders?" The man started at him, and shook his head. Jeremy shrugged and pressed a claw against the right shoulder. "Why?" the man asked, before the claw dug too deep. "Why what?" Jeremy asked. Not pushing in. "Why are you doing this to me?" Jeremy raised an eyebrow at him. "You tried to kidnap my cubs, I'd think the reason is self evident." The man snorted. "They can't be your kids. You're not like them. You're human, like me." Jeremy had a hand around the man's throat, claws drawing blood, before he'd closed his mouth. "I am nothing like you," he growled. "I am kelsirian. I would never be human again even if my life depended on it. We don't go and torture teenagers just because they feel differently. We don't pump our people's head full of lies. We don't use medicine to make them think they are sick, and we don't send soldiers to kidnap cubs." "So you're going to torture me, 'cause I'm not a teen?" "Oh no, this is different. Family Law gives me the right to seek retribution. You're just a soldier, so I need to know who sent you here, so I can make them pay." Jeremy pushed himself away from the man and tried to calm himself. "You might as well kill me now, I'm never going to tell you anything." Jeremy slowly smiled at the man. "Oh no, I'm not going to kill you, remember, I promised you that." And he didn't kill him, but by the time the man had answered all his questions, the man did wish he was dead.

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