By MacKenzie Kennedy
Jilly loaded the gun with sure fingers. They'd be coming soon.
Her lips thinned as she thought about what would happen. They'd already caught her ship. They'd come in through the cargo bay and if her crew was lucky, they'd only take her ship.
Fuck that. It was her ship and she wasn't giving it up to a bunch of aliens who had nothing better to do than prowl around space and take honest people's ships.
Well, the honest part might not be true, but it was the principle of the thing.
She heard the hiss of the cargo doors opening and aimed the gun at the opening. She'd wait until they fired first, but she wasn't letting her ship go.
They walked on board confidently. Each of them had boarded ships before and taken them successfully. Guns and other projectile weapons had no effect on them for they could freeze them in mid-air.
The crew was opposite them and had guns pointed in their direction. It wouldn't make any difference. They would surrender their ship or die.
The leader turned as one of his gave the signal to wait. *What, Kyren?* he asked.
*One of them.* Kyren moved to stand by the leader's shoulder. *The woman. The captain. She's...*
This was a fine ship. It would be a credit to them all to bring it back. The leader sighed, feeling that possibility fading. *You're sure?* Kyren nodded. "I would speak with the captain," he called.
"There's nothing to talk about." A woman moved slightly and they saw she had a gun pointed at them. "You're not taking my ship."
That was what their race did. They caught, boarded, and took ships. The passengers and crew either died or were transported to a planet where they could gain passage to another. Unless they could offer something that would pay for the cost of the ship.
The leader's eyes narrowed. "There is a possibility of that. If you talk with us."
Kyren took a step forward and a bullet was fired. He stopped it and it fell to the floor with an ominous metal-on-metal sound.
"Who fired?" the captain demanded. She got an answer and dealt with it quickly.
"Captain," the leader said. "We offer an option that allows you to keep your ship without payment."
The leader waved at Kyren. "This one would chose you and this ship."
She frowned. "What does that mean?"
"He has chosen you for his wife."
The humans had a flurry of talking until the captain glared at them. "I'm sorry," she said. "I'm not the marrying kind."
"You have a choice," the leader said. "Marry Kyren and keep your ship. Do not and we will take it."
Unspoken was the idea that it didn't matter to them if the crew died or not.
The captain asked for time to consider it and she went back to her crew. Kyren and the others waited.
*Are you sure?* the leader asked.
Kyren nodded. *She is wonderful,* he thought. His mind shone with what he had found in the woman.
The captain came forward and gave the leader a wary look. "What are you not telling me? What does this marriage mean?"
The leader shrugged. "You and Kyren will both be captain. This ship will be marked as one of ours. You will have your ship, your crew. Kyren will send a signal to us every day as assurance that he has not died."
She'd have to share her captaincy with one of them. But her crew and ship would be safe. She could always toss him out into space after they were out of range.
She gave a sharp nod. The leader acknowledged it. "The ceremony will take place in a few minutes."
Kyren stepped forward and reached out a hand. It got closer and closer when she realized what he wanted. Before it got to her face, she jerked away.
He stopped and stared at her. Slowly retracting his hand, he pointed to her, then to his hand. He clasped it with his other hand and gave her a hopeful look.
The leader didn't explain, so Jilly reluctantly held out a hand. He moved slowly and held her hand gently in his.
It wasn't thought or words. More like feelings and images. She knew that where he had lived, where he'd gone to school, that he had two sisters that were older. She felt his admiration for her, shyness at admitting to himself how lovely she was, her determination to keep her ship and his agreement with her if it would make her happy. She knew that he knew her character and what she believed.
He let her hand go and smiled at her. She stared back at him until there was a whisper of her name. She turned and met Nathan's eyes. "Yes?"
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"The ceremony begins," the leader said and started speaking.
Kyren came back on board with a bag of his things. The rest could be forwarded if he had anything he wanted from home.
Jilly was waiting for him and he smiled widely at her. She wore a look that said she wasn't happy and it made him sad. She was alive. She had her ship. That was what she had wanted...
The leader had said he would pick up their language in a few days. He looked forward to it. He didn't think Jilly would let him touch her again.
They stared at each other until Kyren pointed at his bag, then mimed sleep. He wasn't tired, but he did want to know where he could put his things.
She nodded and took him into the ship. The crew avoided them or maybe they had other things to do. She led him to an empty room and left him there.
Kyren left his bag on the bed and opened the door. He looked left, right, and up. He wondered idly if any of them could walk up walls, but dismissed it. Humans usually didn't.
He chose a direction and started exploring. He touched the walls, trailing his fingers over the metal. This was one of his people's ships. He had to know it.
He walked until he heard people. Kyren hesitated. Should he...? They had just had their ship almost taken from them by his people.
"I know you don't like it. But we have to put up with him for a few days."
Kyren's ears perked up. That was Jilly.
"He's a Targetor," someone said harshly. "We should throw him out into space and take our chances."
Kyren's breath caught. They were planning to kill him?
"You want to be like them?" Jilly asked. "We'll at least put him off at a spaceport."
Jilly... didn't want him? But she was his.
He heard someone walking behind him and moved into the kitchen/living area. The conversation stopped and they turned to look at him. He swallowed and gave Jilly a hurt look. She scowled at him.
Maybe if I... Kyren held out a hand and her face hardened. His hand fell and he sighed. He tapped a finger against his chest and paused. How could he explain?
He tried again. He pointed at her and then drew a circle around her and the people at the table. You and they are together, he meant. Kyren pointed to himself and the direction his people had gone. I was with them. He pressed his hand to his chest and pointed to Jilly. Now I'm with you.
From the confused and stony looks he got, he saw they didn't understand. He sighed and went into the kitchen. If he truly wasn't wanted, he would fetch enough meals so that he didn't need to come out and ruin their mealtimes.
"Hey, the little alien's stealing our food," someone objected.
He sighed again and replaced the meal packs. He picked one up and walked quickly past them as he headed to his room.
Kyren stayed away from everyone in his room until someone knocked on his door. "Hey," the female said. "They're calling for you up front."
He got up and the female led him to the pilot's chair. He was used to the device they used to talk to other ships, so he had no problems there.
Kyren listened to his leader's voice and smiled for the first time in hours. "Yes, I'm fine," he said in his language. He kept his eyes from the people around him. "They've mentioned putting me off at a spaceport at the nearest opportunity, though."
"What does the captain say?"
He shrugged. "She was in favor of not killing me."
His leader's language shifted. "Is the female captain there?"
"Yes," Jilly said aloud.
"There is an issue. You can kill Kyren before we can get to you. You can also put him off the ship. But you are married to one of ours. We have laws about killing your spouse without due cause. We will send people to find you and bring you to our planet for a trial. If Kyren is no longer on your ship, it does not have immunity. We have boarded it once. We will capture it again. Either our people or we will hire it done as a matter of honor."
Jilly's hands clenched into fists. There wasn't a way out of this, was there? "So I have to keep him."
"A marriage may be broken after two of your months if one party disagrees that it is a good match. You would be free after that and we would pick up Kyren. Your ship would be considered untouchable by us."
Jilly quickly turned to Kyren. "Did you understand that?" He nodded. "If I don't want you here after two months, will you go?"
Kyren gave her a hurt look, but he nodded. She wasn't even going to try?
"Then you can stay for that long," she decided.
"Is that better?" the leader asked in the Targetor language.
"Yes," Kyren said, his voice subdued. "Thank you."
"Do you have any other problems?"
"Then we will talk tomorrow. Good-bye, Kyren, and good luck."
"Good-bye." Kyren went back to his room with a stop for another meal.
Spreading out his senses, he found that most of the crew were asleep. He was tired of staying in the same room, but he didn't want to disturb them.
He opened the door slowly and stepped out. As long as he avoided the two that were awake, he should be fine. One was in the place where they flew the ship, the control room, and the other was in their bed.
He walked through the ship's corridors. He checked the engine room, the cargo hold, and the kitchen. The other three areas were for sleeping and the control room.
Kyren poked around the kitchen and sighed. Until he could get off the ship and buy food that he felt was his, he was stuck eating meal packs. As captain of one of the Targetor's ships, he would still get a salary transferred to his account.
He brought one to the table, sat down, and peeled the wrapper back. He bit into it and stared at the room. This was where they laughed and ate and enjoyed the sense of family they had.
Even if she does make me leave I'm glad I saved the ship, he thought. She was so determined to keep them together.
He froze when he heard footsteps. In the next moment, his head turned to look at the person coming toward him. It was the female who had brought him to the control room.
She paused on the steps and frowned. "What are you doing sitting there in the dark?" She turned on the lights and he blinked. "Hi."
She wasn't scared? Kyren hesitantly held up a hand and waved.
"Can't sleep?" she asked, going into the kitchen. "Oh, yeah. I forgot you can't talk."
"Yes, I can," he said in his language.
She stared at him and grinned suddenly. "So you can, but not in our language. That was what I meant." She gave the meal pack he was eating a doubtful look. "Don't you want something else? You've been eating those for a while."
He shrugged and motioned between himself and the kitchen. He shrugged again.
She asked if he wanted something that sounded good and he nodded. She warmed it up and brought him a bowl. He tried the soup and almost inhaled it, bowl and all. She laughed and introduced herself as Farahi. "Everyone calls me Fara, though. You're Kyren, right?" He nodded. "Well, Kyren, I'm just up for a midnight snack. Are you nocturnal or you like the daytime?"
He held up two fingers. Hopefully, she'd understand.
"Daytime. Okay. Sounds good. Why don't you come down for breakfast tomorrow?"
He drew his chin in and shook his head. No, he couldn't.
"Why not? Most of us think it was pretty good to get away. And you're going to be here for two months. You can't creep around like this the whole time."
Yes, I can, he thought. He shook his head for no and got up. He put the bowl in the sink and waved good-bye.
Fara sighed as she gathered up the breakfast dishes. "Something wrong?" Jilly asked.
"Kyren was down here eating by himself last night. I told him to come to breakfast, but he just shook his head." Fara shrugged. "I was hoping he'd come anyway."
Jilly frowned. "He knows he's not welcome."
"Why?" Fara asked. "Sure, he's a Targetor. But he did save the ship."
"After I married him," Jilly pointed out.
"Yeah, but it's not like he's insisted on his wedding night." Fara dumped the dishes in the sink. "He sits in his room and doesn't do anything."
"Good for us."
Fara snorted. "I'm going to take him some breakfast," she said.
Kyren looked at the door as footsteps slowed. There was a knock and he sat up. Putting his feet on the floor, he answered the door.
"Hi," Fara said. She held out the tray. "Brought you something to eat."
Kyren took the tray and sat down on his bed. Fara left the door open and sat beside him. "Do you want to work with me today?" she asked. He looked up and tilted his head. "I work with the accounts and making sure what we've got on board is what we've got. Jilly owns the ship and says who we work for. Nathan's our 'do what she says or I'll shoot you' guy. We've got two mechanics on board-one doubles as a pilot-and a doctor. He doubles as a cook, so we're usually taken care of." She winked. "Of course, you're never sure if he's going to use a scalpel or a kitchen knife."
So now he knew who was on the ship. Useful.
He gave her a nod and she filled his ears with what she needed to do today.
He smiled as he said goodbye to his leader. They had returned home and were going to make the corrections on Kyren's record. From Fara, he knew that they'd make their delivery tomorrow. He'd have a chance to go off the ship and buy a few things.
He'd mostly stayed with her in her office. He hadn't gone with her for lunch, but she had brought him back a sandwich.
So far, he hadn't been much use to the ship. He made an effort to smile at the man piloting, but it faded when the man stared.
He left the control room and cast his mind about for people before quickly running to his room.
Fara popped out of nowhere as he turned a corner. "Hi, Kyren! On your way to dinner?" she asked.
He tilted his head. He'd just come through the kitchen area. Obviously, he wasn't going anywhere near that table.
"Good," she said, as if he'd answered. "I'm done for the day, so I'll join you."
He shook his head and pointed further down the corridor. He tapped his chest and pointed again.
She frowned. "Kyren, you can't hide forever." He gave her a stubborn look and she sighed. "No one's going to say anything about it."
Fara ignored his doubtful look and came up beside him. He looked down the corridor, but followed her.
There were calls for Fara, but none for him. He hesitated, but she waved for him to help her. He carried food out to the table and sat in the seat beside Fara when she patted it. The conversation was nonexistent and he knew it was because of him.
It was oppressive this silence. His plate was full and he scooted his chair back. Fara gave him a sharp look and he shook his head. "Kyren," she said quietly, "sit down. You're welcome here."
"Sure?" Nathan muttered.
Fara snorted. "You going to tell the captain that he can't sit where he wants?"
"He's a Targetor captain, not a human one. Last I knew, he was the only Targetor on the ship," Nathan told her.
"Jilly?" Fara asked.
She sighed. "It's only for fifty-eight days, Nathan. You can put up with him for that long."
Kyren met Fara's eyes and smiled sadly. He shook his head minutely and left the room with his plate.
Fara shot a dirty look at Nathan. "He's crew. He's by himself, he's not bothering anybody-"
"And I want it to stay that way," Nathan finished. "Pass the vegetables."
Kyren woke up the next day and frowned. There was the day he'd arrived, the day after that, and yesterday. This was his fourth day here and he should be able to speak at least a few words of their language. He'd tried the day before, but it had come out in his language.
He'd stayed to himself, so he wasn't tired of trying to explain what he wanted without words, but he had a few things to say to Jilly that would go easier in her language.
And his shopping would be over quicker if the person in the store understood what he was asking for.
They landed just after lunch. Kyren had sneaked a meal pack out of the kitchen before anyone arrived there and skipped lunch.
He went down to the cargo bay and stayed out of the crew's way. Fara caught sight of him and waved. "Kyren, if you'll wait a few minutes I'll go with you."
He nodded and she joined him after she signed the last of the forms. "So what are you looking for? Or just walking around?" He mimed eating and she changed directions. "Then we'll go to the market."
Kyren came back on board with a full stomach and his arms full of bags. His account was healthy at this moment and he'd found good deals on almost everything.
Fara had things to do since they'd picked up more cargo and Kyren went to his room first. He unpacked everything that belonged there and took the food to the kitchen.
He hesitated at the entrance, but went in with his bags. He put things away and considered making himself dinner. He was hungry...
He settled on a snack and looked up when Fara called his name. "Kyren, do you know how to play cards?"
Some, but he wasn't sure of human games. He wiggled his hand back and forth and she grinned. "Want me to teach you?"
He pursed his lips and shrugged. He held up a hand and retrieved something from the cabinet.
He carried the small box to the table and put it down in front of her. She glanced up at him and he smiled. "For me?" she asked. He nodded. She opened it and her eyes widened. She took a chocolate out of the box and closed her eyes as she chewed it. "Thank you."
Nathan snorted. "If he's hanging around you so much and buying you chocolates, why'd he marry Jilly?"
Fara opened her eyes and gave him a withering look. "Nathan, he's just being nice. I went shopping with him all afternoon."
"Just noticing." He sat back with a smirk on his face.
"Jilly-" Kyren stopped.
Fara's jaw dropped. "Kyren, did you just speak?"
He swallowed. He had everyone's attention now. He nodded. "Jilly," he tried again, "wouldn't-" He saw their confusion and heard the Targetor word. He frowned. "not take present." Now the word 'present' didn't come out. "Gift," he tried. He beamed at them. He'd spoken Human.
"That's great. How'd you do that?" Fara asked eagerly.
"Words come slow." He grimaced. "More soon."
"I've got so much to ask you," Fara said. She grinned. "I don't know where to start."
"How many humans have you killed?" Nathan asked loudly. Jilly shot him a dark look, but he ignored her.
Kyren smiled. This wouldn't be an answer the man would expect. "None. Take ship, not life." He pointed to the control room. "Leader," the word came out in Targetor, "not like it. Most think not good."
"So you just take our ships." Jilly shook her head.
"Take to live." Kyren shrugged. "Not have ships. Need ships for people."
"Why?" Fara asked.
Kyren frowned. "Worlds not good. Sick people. World make people sick. More ships." He scowled. "Need more words."
Fara nodded. "It's okay. I can wait." She grinned. "I've got other questions."
He chuckled and retrieved his snack. This might take a while.
Kyren had been right. Fara had questions about him, his family, what he liked and didn't like. He'd struggled with words and tried to find substitutions. Nathan had left and so had Jilly, but the others had stayed.
It hadn't taken too long for them to ask questions, too.
He'd found a tentative place among them. He wasn't looking forward to his talk with Jilly, but he wanted to wait for better language.
He had so much to ask her. Why wasn't she happy? So much to tell her, too. About what it meant that he was on board and this ship was marked as a Targetor ship.
He sighed and closed his eyes to sleep. It would come later, he promised himself.
A couple days later, he had the words.
What Kyren didn't have was Jilly.
The ship was small, so he didn't know how she was avoiding him. She was always with someone when he found her, so he didn't feel comfortable interrupting.
He finally waited by her door after dinner. She had to go to sleep at some point.
She saw him and slowed. Kyren smiled at her and she sighed. "What is it?" she asked.
"I'd like to talk," he said carefully.
He glanced at her door. "I would like some privacy."
Her eyes narrowed, but she opened her door. Any funny business and she'd shoot him.
Kyren walked into her room and found it almost as tiny as his own. There was a bed, a lapdesk, and a few personal things. There wasn't room for a chair or table.
He sat on the floor and looked up at her. She sat down on her bed like it wasn't a big deal to be in the same room with her husband. Especially since nothing had been consummated yet.
He inhaled deeply. "My race has something called Fascination. Our minds are developed in ways that humans aren't and we form bonds like this usually once or twice in our lives. It's like having an instant crush on someone, but not only physically. Mentally as well. Sometimes it fades, sometimes it doesn't. When I came on board, I felt different. Like I was anticipating something. I thought it was just this ship, but it was you."
"So you're in love with me whether you want to be or not," she said flatly.
He pulled his head back in shock. "No. I think you're beautiful and I admire you, but I'm not in love. I... like you very much and I had hopes that it might be more between us, but I don't think that will happen now." The look on his face said he had given up. He had heard her words and knew that she didn't care for him or his race.
He gave her a weak half smile. He needed to get this last part out. "You were scared. You thought you and your crew might die and your ship would be taken. I offered to marry you, so that wouldn't happen. I wanted to make you happy, but you're not. You have your ship and your crew, but you also have me. I make you unhappy."
Kyren swallowed. "So I will be captain and take care of the crew. That is what a captain does. The ship will be a true Targetor ship. The ship will stay with you. I will leave after the agreed upon time." He stood up and walked to the door.
"You were in my mind."
Kyren turned. "Yes."
Her hands clenched. "Nothing's private."
His eyes widened and he raised his empty hands. "No. I mean yes. Surface thoughts. I did not touch you that deeply. It is distasteful to do that without someone's permission. When I touched you before the ceremony, I gave you the same information about me that I had about you. Equal."
He sounded so desperate for her to believe him that she felt her heart relent a little. "All right," she said grudgingly. "But I can take care of my own crew." He nodded quickly and left.
What the hell was she supposed to do with him? He crept around like he was a shadow, but Fara was determined to keep him in the light.
Just keep him for the rest of the two months and put him somewhere for the Targetors to pick up, she told herself firmly.
Despite her saying that she could take care of her crew, Kyren didn't stop. He helped Fara and walked around the ship as much as he could. He crawled into spaces, climbed high, and poked around to his heart's content. He didn't hurt anything and no one had any issues with him.
Tarn told Jilly that the ship handled better and asked if Kyren had done anything. She shrugged and said that she didn't know anything about it. Tarn and his partner, Mike, went over the ship and couldn't find anything that had been improved or added.
They set down on two more planets and picked up cargo. The hold was looking really full.
Kyren had one hand pressed to the cargo wall and was smiling. *It's okay,* he said. *Jilly says it will be gone in a few days. You won't be so heavy.* He got feelings of contentment in return.
He opened his eyes in shock when the world tilted. He sprawled on the floor and looked up. "What?" he asked faintly.
Nathan stood there and glared down at him. "What are you doing?" he demanded. Kyren remained quiet. "You're always just sitting around not doing anything." He walked off and Kyren sighed.
The cargo door opened and Jilly walked out. "I want each and every one of these new crates checked," she told her crew. "This isn't exactly the cleanest planet."
Most of the old cargo was offloaded and the new came in. Kyren worked with the rest of the crew. Tarn and Mike worked as a team and Kyren joined Dart. Nathan worked with Jilly and Fara marked down the crates.
Jilly moved away to check with Fara how they were doing. Nathan started walking toward the front of the bay.
Kyren's eyes widened as the crate shifted in its cradle. It tipped and Kyren flung out both hands, mentally pushing.
Nathan saw the crate move and tried to get out of the way. It fell toward him, but changed direction in mid-air. He stared at the crate when it hit the floor.
Nathan turned to look at Kyren. Had he-?
"Okay?" Kyren asked, insisting. Nathan nodded. Kyren attempted a smile, but fell toward a free-standing crate. He caught himself on it and slid to the floor bonelessly. He cushioned his head with his arms as he fainted.
"Dart!" Nathan yelled.
The doctor stopped the break he was taking and ran over. He crouched down beside Kyren and felt for a pulse. "What happened?"
"The crate fell."
Dart nodded. "Where did it hit him?"
Nathan shook his head. "Didn't. He wasn't anywhere near it. The crate started falling, then it was like it was-" He stopped. "Pushed aside," he finished. "You don't think he...?"
Dart pried open one of Kyren's eyelids. "His pulse is good. He looks like he fainted." Gently, Dart patted Kyren's cheek. "Kyren, wake up. Kyren."
By now the others had gathered around. Jilly got Nathan to repeat what had happened. She walked over to the crate and tried to lift it with one hand. It didn't budge. "Heavy," she said. "Might've hurt you."
Nathan frowned at Kyren's prone body. "Why'd he do that? He doesn't even like me."
"Dart, can you fix him or not?" Jilly demanded.
"I don't know too much about Targetor bodies."
"What?" she asked. "We've got one on board and you haven't looked them up?"
Dart sighed. "Their bodies are like ours, but their minds aren't. And since he used his mind instead of his body, I'm stuck." Kyren stirred and Dart focused on him. "Kyren," he said, "come on. Wake up."
Kyren's eyes fluttered open. "Nathan?" he asked. "Okay?"
"Yeah," Nathan said.
Kyren closed his eyes. "Good. Protect the crew." He fell into sleep again.
Dart shrugged and picked him up. "I'll take him to his room, but that's all I can do until he sleeps it off, wakes up enough to tell me what to do, or I find something that explains this." The doctor left and the crew continued loading.
Dart knew he wouldn't find very much on Targetor mental abilities, so he stayed with Kyren.
A little over ten minutes after Kyren was in his room, he opened his eyes and sat up. He winced and Dart was immediately at his side. "Easy," he cautioned. "How do you feel?"
Kyren held one hand to his head and peeked at the doctor. "I want painkillers."
"You've got a headache?" Dart asked. Kyren nodded gingerly. "Is it standard to give you a mild one after you faint?"
Kyren frowned. "Yes."
After Kyren had the pill and had swallowed it with a drink of water, Dart started his questions. "What happened?"
Kyren sighed. "I saw the crate move and it was going to fall right on Nathan. He wasn't going to get out of the way, so I pushed it."
"Then you fainted," Dart told him. "Do you remember anything after that?"
"You asked me if Nathan was okay, then you said something about 'protect the crew'."
Kyren grimaced. "He doesn't like me, but I'm captain and he's crew. I'm supposed to look after them."
Dart nodded and dropped that topic. "Do you have any medical journals or something on Targetor first aid? I didn't know what to do for you."
Kyren shrugged. He still felt woozy. "Physically, I'm the same as you. Mentally..." He sighed. "If I faint, I've pushed myself too far. It's just like physical exertion. I'll sleep, wake up when I feel like it, and want a painkiller. There's not too much you can do without Targetor equipment." He smiled. "Don't worry unless I have blood coming out of my nose."
"Try to keep it from coming to that," Dart said dryly. "Would it do any good to give you a physical?" Kyren shook his head slightly. "Of course not."
At Kyren's urging, Dart went back down to the cargo bay to help with the crates. Kyren laid down and took a short nap.
He didn't wake up when Nathan came to check on him. He watched the shorter man for a few minutes, shook his head, and left.
The next time anyone saw Kyren was at dinner that evening. He made his way to the dining room and halfway into the room before anyone noticed.
Fara stood up when she saw him. "Kyren, you need help?"
He shook his head. "I'm good." By the time Kyren got to his seat, Dart had his plate and drink in front of him. He looked at Kyren's eyes for pain and nodded. "Head still hurt?"
"Do you need another pill?"
Kyren gave him a sheepish look. "Yes."
Dart pulled a small metal container out of his pocket and handed Kyren one. "When will it go away?"
Kyren shrugged. "The last time I did this it lasted for almost two days. I won't need anything to get through tomorrow." He took the pill and started on his dinner.
"What else can you do?" Jilly asked.
Kyren looked up. It was the first time she'd expressed an interest in him. "I can speak telepathically with others of my race," he said carefully. "I haven't tried, but I might be able to do the same with humans now that I have the language. I did get things across when I held your hand." He frowned as he thought. "I can move things, but the heavier they are the more they'll hurt. I can read thoughts if I want to." He wrinkled his nose. "Most of the time I don't. It's... not done among those who can't read yours in return. That's it."
"No feeling what others are feeling? Stealing souls? Starting fire?" Jilly asked mildly.
Kyren shook his head. "No. There are some of us who have the feelings of others, but I'm not one of them."
"Thank you." Eyes swung to Nathan and he grimaced like he wished he hadn't said anything.
"You're welcome." Kyren went back to his dinner, popping another bite into his mouth. "Was anything in the crate disturbed?"
"No," Tarn said. "Everything came out fine except for you."
"And I'll recover."
Fara sighed. "Jilly," she said firmly. "He's a decent guy. How often do we find one of those?"
"Dart, Nathan, and Mike." Jilly reached for her drink. It was a girl's night and Tarn had already gone home to Mike.
"Dart's a confirmed bachelor until he finds the woman of his dreams, Nathan is too gung-ho, and Mike's married." She pursed her lips. "Jilly, he's a good guy, he likes you, and you're married."
"He's a Targetor."
"And you're a pissy captain. You've both got flaws," she declared.
Jilly shrugged. She couldn't dispute the pissy comment. Not and escape with her dignity intact.
"All right. Let's have the list."
Fara shook her head. Her captain was about as dense as... "The list," she repeated. "The one every woman's got inside her head. The perfect guy list."
"I don't have one of those."
Fara snorted. "Yes, you do. Somewhere in the back of your brain, you've got a idea of what you want in a man. Someone who doesn't mind doing the dishes." She didn't see any comprehension on Jilly's face. "All right. Let's start with height."
"He's short," Jilly said.
"You don't like short men?" Fara asked. Jilly shrugged. "What about his attitude?"
Jilly wrinkled her nose. "He creeps around."
"Well, there's a good reason for that. We didn't exactly throw him a 'Welcome!' party. How did he act before he was part of the crew?"
Jilly thought back to when she'd first seen him. Kyren had stood up straight, smiled, and been cheerful. Now he kind of shrunk in on himself, both physically and mentally.
Fara watched Jilly think and saw doubt cross the other woman's face. Yeah, she thought. Think about how he acts now. We're responsible for that. "I think he's cute," Fara announced.
Jilly's head came up and she stared at Fara. "What?"
"Well, he's only a little taller than me and you, so it's like we're equal. He hasn't pulled rank on you or tried to make you change anything, has he?" Fara asked. Jilly shook her head. "Has he even spoken to you?"
She hesitated, but went on. "He told me that Targetors have something like a crush on people sometimes. They call it Fascination."
"That's what he has with you?" Fara asked.
"Yeah. He said he wasn't in love with me. It doesn't work like that." She left out the part where Kyren had once hoped that she might return what he felt. "He said that the reason he married me was because of that and that he wanted to make me happy."
Fara grinned. "Sign of a good man."
"Then he said he'd leave when I told him to."
Fara scowled. "Not good."
Jilly rolled her eyes and looked away. "Then I said something about him being in my mind and he said that he hadn't been too deep. Before the ceremony, he told me about himself in return for him seeing what I was like."
"So he was in your head and you didn't like it." Fara shrugged. "I don't like it, either, but why would he want to see in my head? What's in there that's so interesting? And he's said he doesn't do it." She slapped her hands against her knees. "So... He's cute, he's a good guy, he likes you, you're married, why am I sitting in your room instead of him?"
Jilly sighed. "Because he's a Targetor, I don't want to like him, and I wouldn't know how to start anything even if I did."
Fara grinned. Yay! A semi-confession. "He was born a Targetor, so there's not much he can do about that. He did leave his whole ship and planet to marry you, though. That's a pretty clear sign he really cares about you." She smirked. "And that 'I don't want to like him'? It gives away your position."
"Oh, shut up."
"The guy backs off once he figures out you don't want him around, saves Nathan even though the guy has made it pretty clear that he hates the ground Kyren walks on, and gives you wistful little glances when you're not looking."
"He does," Fara confirmed. "So the next time you see him, just smile. If you want to start something."
Did she want to start something? That was a good question.
Jilly stared at the ceiling. Fara had left over an hour ago and Jilly was still awake. Fara's points kept circling in her head. Yes, Kyren was cute. She was woman enough to admit that. She'd listened to Fara talk about him enough that she had a good idea what he was like. He'd hurt himself to save Nathan from injury. He hadn't tried anything with her and was deferring to her about everything.
Damn it, she didn't want to be involved with a guy who didn't know his own mind. And that creeping around shit would have to stop.
Well, if she was going to think about starting something between them, she'd need to talk to him.
But finding the Targetor alone on the ship was difficult. Six people on a small ship and the only really private places were their bedrooms.
And she didn't want to have a conversation with her husband in his bedroom. Not happening.
Jilly looked into Fara's office and beckoned to Kyren. "Come on. I need someone to help me with the cargo."
He got up, but his eyes were wide. "Um... You haven't changed your mind about throwing me into space?"
Shit, what had she done to the guy? "No," she answered shortly. "Just a standard check to see that we don't have any unwelcome fungi on board."
Fara grinned. So Jilly was going to make a move after all. "Go stretch your legs, Kyren."
With Fara's endorsement, Kyren followed Jilly down the corridors. He stayed a few feet behind her and looked away when she glanced back at him.
She opened the door into the cargo bay and closed it after he was through. She picked out a crate and sat down on the lid. "So..." she said slowly. "How are you?"
He stared for a moment. "Fine, captain."
Jilly's eyes narrowed. "I thought you were calling me Jilly." He froze and she sighed heavily. "Whatever you're comfortable with. But I meant that 'how are you' comment."
"Better," he admitted after a moment.
"Okay." She swung her feet a little and stared at the floor. "You like it here?"
Jilly grimaced. "Not as nice as a Targetor ship?"
"The ship isn't the problem."
Yeah, she knew that. She just didn't want to bring it up. "Look, Nathan owes you one, so he's not going to try to kill you. He might even be nicer."
Kyren stayed by the door. "Fara is doing her best to be friendly and Tarn, Mike, and Dart are, too. Nathan might warm up to me in time or not. It doesn't make any difference since I will be leaving shortly."
She screwed up her courage and asked, "How does Fascination work?" She glanced up and saw his confusion. "I mean, normally. Do both of them get it or just one?"
"Either way." What was she trying to ask? "Do you mean what would have happened if I had just met you in the marketplace or if you were a Targetor?"
"Market," she said sharply. "You still haven't explained why you wanted my ship, but we'll leave that for later."
Kyren shrugged. He could explain, he supposed. "I would have asked to talk with you and explained. My leader would have tried to make it possible for me to visit or for you to come with me."
"We've gotten past the explanation. Why visit?"
"For us to get to know each other." The sad look returned to his eyes. "Most Fascinated become very good friends or partners in life. Husband and wife in human terms."
"Knock that off." She smirked at his startled look. "That sad stuff. And while we're at it, the creeping around like someone's going to knife you. You might not be entirely welcome, but we're not going to kill you."
He liked the look she was giving him. It was an honest, amused look.
Talk, she thought. He'd married her and all he wanted was to talk? "Fara likes you," she said suddenly. "Tarn and Mike haven't complained. Neither has Dart. Nathan might not like you, but that's because you're a Targetor and they blew up a ship his family was on."
"What?" he said faintly.
She nodded. "Not like it's a big secret. His aunt and uncle were on a ship that mouthed off and the Targetors got mad. They fired on it and the ship blew up." She shrugged. "And me? I don't like having someone on board that tried to take my ship. Plus I got married in a hurry. Rock and a hard place. Lose my ship and have to collect on the insurance which could take forever or marry somebody." She snorted lightly. "Didn't seem like a fair choice."
"I'm not sorry." She looked up at him shaking his head. "I'm not. Even if you don't like me, I've still spent the last two weeks with you. It's enough to know that you're here."
Well, damn. It took guts to say that and even more to say it with a straight face. "What do you want?"
Kyren stared at her in confusion. What did she mean? Was it just her or were all humans this indecipherable? "What?"
Jilly sighed. "What do you want?" she said slowly. "With this Fascination thing or the ship or me or whatever."
Oh. He could name a lot of things. To feel as close to this crew as his last one. To have Jilly closer and closer until they fell in love, to know that wasn't out of reach. To have the ship wake up to being a full Targetor ship. To feel at home here.
He worried his lip. "I want to stay."
"You are staying."
He shook his head. "To stay long enough to see what happens."
Jilly slapped her knees lightly. "Fine. In two months, we'll see where we are. What else?" He shrugged. "You want to talk to me? Like this?" He hesitated. "Kyren, just say what you want!"
"I can't!" he blurted out. "I want too much."
"Like what? You've got to tell me, so I can say that it isn't possible. Or else, how will you know?"
"I-" He closed his mouth. "I don't want you to be uncomfortable around me."
She shrugged. "That's possible. I don't know you. I don't know what you want from me. I'm a little nervous around you, because you're a Targetor, you're my husband, and I wasn't given a choice about marrying you. I was pissed off at first."
"I want you to be happy."
Jilly closed her eyes. How did he just say things like that? She looked up and saw him duck his head. "That," she said, pointing at his head. "That thing you did just now. The pulling away thing. You didn't do that when we first met." She took her hand back and grimaced. "If it's because you're nervous or something, stop it. I don't like it. You're crew until I say otherwise. Everyone can just suck it up."
Kyren blinked a few times. "Okay," he said in an uncertain voice.
"Not that I want you to act like you're not yourself, just... If you've been acting this way because you're scared, then don't. Nobody's going to hurt you." Her eyes narrowed. "Has anyone done anything?" He shook his head. "Okay."
"What do you want?" he asked. She raised an eyebrow. "You asked me," he pointed out.
She shrugged. "I want a particular person on my ship to stop cringing around all of us. You've got just as much right to be on this ship as anyone else despite how you got here." She leaned forward, putting her elbows on her legs. "You look after the crew, you help out. I've got no problem with you being here as far as that goes."
"I'm still ticked about the marriage thing," she told him. "It doesn't feel right."
"I can't take it back. It's all that's keeping your ship out of Targetor hands."
"I know," she said patiently. "And I'm grateful."
He sighed. "I could have gone another way," he said. "The leader would have taken your ship and you would have been on our ship. If I'd claimed Fascination there, there wouldn't have been anything you could have done."
She stared at him. On a Targetor ship he would have had complete access to her. He could have ordered for her to sleep in his room and be with him every second of the day.
He smiled. "But you wouldn't have been happy."
He could still call for another Targetor ship, she realized. He could have her ship taken over by Targetors and her crew pushed off. The only thing between that and now was that he wanted her to be happy.
She was not going to be pushed into anything. So he could do that. So fucking what.
"No," she said shortly. "I would have been flaming pissed off." He tensed and she sighed. "Kyren, would you stop that."
He grimaced and relaxed. "Sorry, Jilly."
At the sound of her name, she smiled. "Well, talking has gotten a bit out in the open. We've got to run a check every day down here. You want to take it with me?"
Was she...? She was, he realized. She was offering to spend a few minutes alone with him every day. He nodded eagerly and they started checking the hold for unwelcome passengers.
Over the next few days, Fara noticed quite a few changes. Kyren looked at people instead of looking over their shoulders at the wall behind them. He smiled more and straightened up. Jilly was relaxing around him and the crew noticed it. There was more than one smirk exchanged when Kyren and Jilly were in the same room.
Fara knew they were talking in the cargo bay. She'd sneaked down there once and heard voices, but not what they were saying. It was enough for her that Kyren wasn't acting as scared as he had been.
The ship set down on another planet to unload their cargo. "Fara and Nathan are staying, the rest of you can go explore this rock," Jilly said.
"Good luck," Nathan muttered. "Place doesn't have a whole lot on it."
Kyren glanced at Jilly and she shook her head. "Take a walk," she told him. "I'm not leaving until everyone's on board."
With that in mind, Kyren left the ship with the other three. Dart had plans to walk around and visit the local doctor while Mike and Tarn were going to enjoy the time alone.
He wandered around the little town with its shops and purchased a few things. There wasn't much like Nathan had said, but his coin would help the economy.
"Get out of here, Targetor!"
Kyren turned to see what he had done. Instead of an angry storekeeper storming down the street in his direction, he saw a young man being sworn at. Kyren frowned and took a step toward them.
The younger male backed up into the street. "But my aunt wants-"
"Your aunt should come herself! I'm not having you in my shop!" The middle-aged man turned and stalked back inside.
Kyren watched the young man swallow hard and he stopped hesitating. "Are you all right?" he asked.
He whipped his head around to stare at Kyren. "You..."
Kyren smiled. "Yes?" he asked.
"You speak Targetor?" the young man asked, tripping over the word 'speak'.
"Yes," Kyren said, switching to Human.
"Is there a ship? Can you take me with you?" the young man said quickly. "Please?"
Kyren frowned. "What do you mean? Where are your parents?"
"Dad died five years ago, Mom two years after him."
An orphan. Why were two Targetors out here? This was Human territory. "I think I'd better have the whole story," Kyren said. He glanced at the shop. "What was it your aunt needed?"
The young man was still there when Kyren came out of the shop and he waited until they were out of sight to hand the bag to him. He couldn't be over fourteen, if that. "I'm Kyren," he said.
"Unsui." He gave Kyren an uncertain look.
"Tell me what happened," Kyren asked. He smiled at the boy.
Unsui nodded. "Dad came here to study something and met my mom. She was human." He paused.
Kyren sighed inside. Human and Targetor. This had the potential to be a mess. "Where was your dad from?"
Well, that explained a lot. "Okay," Kyren said. "What then?"
"Dad married Mom here, but he said he couldn't marry her like she was another Targetor. She said it was okay. Then Dad died when I was nine in a cave-in and Mom got sick. She made my aunt promise to take care of me, but they don't care."
Kyren noted the anxious look on his face. "I'll talk with your aunt." Unsui's face lit up. If the boy was being mistreated, he would have a few things to say to her.
They reached the house a few minutes later and Unsui let them in. He led Kyren into the kitchen and said, "Aunt?"
"You better have gotten what I sent you for," she snapped.
"I did." Unsui put the bag down on the counter. "I brought home a guest."
The woman turned and narrowed her eyes at Kyren. "If you're looking for a hand-out, go somewhere else. I've got one to feed already."
"No, ma'am, I'm not hungry," Kyren said softly. "Is it true, though? His mother was your sister?"
"And she married a Targetor?"
The woman's face clouded up. "Yes, she did. No one approved of it and I don't approve now of him telling tales." She turned to Unsui. "No dinner."
Kyren stared. "Ma'am, if he had another place to go, would you let him?"
"Yes," she said emphatically. "Lazy do-nothing just sits around all day. Why?" She looked up him up and down. "I'm not selling him if that's what you mean. I owe him that much."
"No," Kyren answered shortly in Targetor and saw her stiffen. He switched to Human. "I'm not family, but I'll take him with me. Has his Targetor family been contacted?"
"No," she spat. "Take him and get out of my house."
He looked at Unsui. "Are you sure you want to leave?"
"Then go get your things."
"Oh, no. He's not stealing from me."
Kyren turned to the aunt. "Then come with us and make sure he doesn't."
She mumbled about it, but went outside to the barn with them. She watched as Unsui packed up the few things he'd saved from his parents house and the clothes he had.
She watched them walk away and Kyren heard her say 'Filthy Targetors' before they were out of earshot. He shook his head to Unsui. "Don't turn around," he advised. Unsui nodded.
They walked through town toward the ship, Kyren letting Unsui see his home for the last time. "The ship isn't mine," Kyren told him once they were outside town limits. "It's... complicated." Unsui gave him an unsure look and Kyren sighed. "Do you know about Fascination?"
"I was on a Targetor ship boarding another. Fascination hit me and my leader negotiated for me to marry the captain of the Human ship."
"You married her?" Unsui sounded incredulous.
"Yes. I haven't asked for her to have a Human marriage. It saved her ship and her crew even though they're now a registered Targetor ship that's also a Human ship." He smiled at the young man. "Like it said, complicated. Jilly and I are co-captains. I'm still going to have to explain this." Unsui's expression dropped. "Don't worry. You won't be staying here."
Fara waved once they were in sight and Kyren raised his hand. "Is it okay?" Unsui asked.
Kyren smiled and wished he knew the boy well enough to put an arm around his shoulders. "Yes."
They walked up the ramp and Fara raised an eyebrow over the kid. "Hiring new crew?" she asked.
Kyren shook his head. "Just an interesting find. Can you ask Jilly to come to my room when she has a chance? It's important." Fara nodded and Kyren kept moving.
He took Unsui to his room and glanced around. "There are other empty rooms," Kyren told him. "But I thought we could talk some more." He smiled. "Do you want to practice your Targetor?"
Unsui hadn't spoken it in five years, so he was a little rusty. Kyren corrected him on his grammar and pronunciation before Jilly got there.
"Kyren?" she asked, opening the door. She glanced at Unsui and then at the sheepish Kyren. "You wanted to talk to me?"
"Yes," he said. He'd thought about the best way to say this. He had. "I'd like to arrange passage for Unsui for at least a week."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Oh?"
He smiled. "Yes."
"And if I say no?"
"We have the extra room."
"I don't know anything about him," she countered. "This could come back to bite me in the ass."
Kyren stood. "Unsui, why don't you stay here while I talk with the captain?" Unsui ducked his head and nodded.
Kyren left the room and walked a few feet from the door. "He's half Targetor," he told her quietly. "His parents are dead and his aunt doesn't care whether he stays or goes. I looked at her mind and a few others in town. They hate him. He's fourteen and they hate him. He can't stay there."
She glanced down at the closed door. "What are you going to do with him?"
"His father only married his mother in the Human ceremony." Kyren sighed. "He was from Garren and they don't look favorably on halfbreeds, much less bastard halfbreeds." He shrugged. "I'll contact them, but I don't know if they'll welcome him or not."
"What if they don't?" She shrugged her shoulders as Kyren frowned at her. "Planning ahead."
"First, we'll see about his family." Kyren gave her a helpless look. "He couldn't have stayed there. He's fourteen now. What would have happened when he got older and started looking at their daughters? They'd have killed him."
She nodded. "He stays, he works. Cargo, cleaning, something. He's your responsibility."
"That's fine. Thank you."
She grimaced. Why did he have to sound so grateful? "And find him another room."
Nathan rolled his eyes at having another Targetor on board, but the rest welcomed him. Kyren asked his leader to put a message through to the boy's family and they all waited.
Unsui spoke Targetor with Kyren and fetched and carried for the entire crew. Tarn and Mike had him crawling all over the ship into the places that were smaller and Dart gave him a checkup.
In the dining area, Kyren and Unsui talked in Targetor. Today's topic was their mental powers. When the questions got difficult, they switched to Human.
"Can we kill someone with our minds?" Unsui asked in Targetor.
"No!" Kyren answered in Human. Unsui blinked at his vehemence. "Don't ever try."
"Why?" The conversation had switched over to Human now.
Kyren sighed. "Because you'll be too close. Try reading a mind when someone's particularly upset or happy. It'll seep over into you."
"But can we?" Unsui asked tentatively.
Kyren grimaced. "Yes. You can do it. But you'll be in the other person's mind when they die. If you're not caught up in their death and die yourself, you'll have the memory. You honestly want to know what it feels like to die? I don't."
"What are you two talking about?" Nathan asked.
"Mental skills," Kyren said, focusing his attention on Unsui. "There are those who can. But they had to out of desperation. Kill or be killed. They had nothing to lose."
Unsui nodded. "Okay. What about making someone do what you want?"
Kyren sighed. "Yes, it's possible. But unless you're really good at it, they're going to know. You want to have that kind of reputation? That you manipulate minds and people just so you can?" Unsui shook his head. "There's a lot we don't do, Unsui. We don't read minds of those that can't read ours unless the situation is bad. I read your aunt's to make sure that she wasn't bluffing. The townspeople to know if they sympathized with her. We don't kill with our minds, we don't tell people what to do or think, and we don't meddle with memories. That's wrong."
"I got it." Unsui grinned. "So what can we do?"
"We can speak telepathically, coordinate a battle..." Kyren got up. "Let me show you." He beckoned for Unsui to stand up.
Kyren led him out to a clear spot and kicked sideways. "See?" he asked Unsui. "Try."
Unsui grimaced and kicked. He wobbled and almost fell over. Kyren smiled. "Training exercises," he said mysteriously. He extended his mind to Unsui's and kicked again.
This time Unsui's body moved like Kyren's.
"How'd you do that?" Unsui asked.
Kyren smiled. "A mind link. It's better shown than told, so I apologize for forming one without your permission." Unsui waved the apology away. "But it does give you the body memory. If you do exercises with me every day, you'll find that your body moves that way automatically in a fight."
Unsui agreed enthusiastically. Fara raised her voice. "Can only Targetors do that or is it everybody?"
Kyren gave her a startled look. "Everyone. It just takes a Targetor to initiate it."
"Physical fitness without all the fighting and yelling?" Fara smiled. "Can I try?"
Soon, Kyren had Fara and Unsui moving in time with him through his exercises.
"Hey, Kyren?" Mike called. "You've got a call."
Kyren nodded and left the card game with Fara. It wasn't at the usual time, so the call might be about Unsui's family.
He walked into the control room and took the call. "I will read it exactly as it was transmitted," his leader said. "The child of Teras, Unsui, is not of our family. He is never to contact us."
Kyren closed his eyes. He'd expected that answer, but he'd hoped...
"Kyren?" the leader said. "Is there an answer?"
"No," he said softly. "Their reply is enough. Is it on file?"
Kyren sighed as he cut the call. "Bad news?" Mike asked. Kyren nodded. "Darn."
Kyren turned. "I'll go tell him."
Kyren got to the cargo bay and saw Unsui with Nathan and Jilly. *Unsui.*
The young man looked up and smiled. "Hi!"
*Come up here, please. I've got bad news.*
Unsui's happy expression slid off his face. He walked to Kyren and saw the other man tense. *What is it?* He already knew, but he had to ask anyway.
*Your father's family doesn't want to see you.*
Unsui nodded. "They don't want me, either."
Shock crossed Kyren's face. "They're fools and they don't know you."
Unsui nodded again and looked around Kyren. *I'm going to my room.*
Kyren got out of his way and sighed. "Bad news?" Jilly asked.
"Yes. His father's family doesn't acknowledge him." Kyren looked at the door. "I'll give him a few minutes."
"He can stay if he wants." Kyren gave Jilly a shocked look, but she only shrugged. "I like him. He's getting along with the crew, too."
"I'll tell him that." Kyren took a step away and looked back at her. "I'll get him something to drink from the kitchen before I go in."
Kyren knocked on Unsui's door with his foot and asked to come in. It was a moment before the boy answered, but he unlocked the door.
Kyren put Unsui's drink on the stand and sat down on the bed. Unsui looked miserable with puffy eyes and his hair askew. Kyren scooted over and held out an arm. Unsui gave him an uncomfortable look, but in the next instant dove into Kyren's side. He wrapped both arms around the older man and Kyren rubbed up and down his back. "What am I going to do?" Unsui whispered. "I can't go back home."
"You've got two very good options that don't include going back to that rock," Kyren told him. "So don't be upset over that. I'd like to speak to whoever sent that message."
Unsui shook his head against Kyren's body. "No. It's my fault."
Kyren snorted. "Why?"
"Because I'm a halfbreed."
"That is your parents fault if anything. If your father had been born on my planet or a number of others, your family would be calling for you to come home." Unsui looked up and Kyren smiled down on him. "I'm from Lytael. Garren is one of a handful of planets that sees Targetor and Human halfbreeds as something to be ashamed of. Lytael doesn't."
"What's it like?" Unsui asked.
It gave the young man time to calm down as Kyren told him about flowers and buildings. Great libraries and schools, interesting games and people, a bit about his childhood.
Unsui pulled away and Kyren let him go. "What can I do now?" Unsui asked.
Kyren smiled. "You can stay here. Jilly says you're welcome." Unsui stared. "She did!" he insisted. "She said she likes you." He mock-pouted. "She wouldn't say the same about me."
Unsui laughed and Kyren grinned. "Your other option is for me to adopt you into my family." Unsui stopped laughing and stared. "You could stay here with me or my family will look after you. My parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews all live together on the family grounds. Space travel does have hazards, you know."
"You'd adopt me?"
Kyren snorted. "Of course. And no one in my family will think anything about your bloodline. You're young enough to be my brother, but we'll just adopt you as a family member and let everyone else sort it out." Unsui hadn't said anything and Kyren faltered. "Unless you don't want to."
"Yes!" Kyren 'oofed' as Unsui barreled into him. "You mean it? Really?"
"I do," Kyren said, petting the hair on Unsui's head. "One of my nieces isn't too much younger than you. Ten or eleven." Kyren felt Unsui nod and he smiled. "I'll send them a message."
"If you want," Kyren offered. Unsui moved and Kyren stood up. The teenager followed Kyren all the way to the control room and stood behind him as Kyren connected to the Targetor ship.
"Yes," Kyren said. "I'd like to send a message to Lytael, please. My family."
"All right, Kyren. Go ahead."
Kyren paused. "Hi, it's Kyren. I need adoption papers filled out. His name is Unsui and he'll take our family name. He's fourteen. We'll talk later when I get within range to send you a live message. Thanks, bye!"
He made sure the ship had recorded the message and hung up. "There," Kyren said finally. "They'll take care of that and we should be close enough for a live message in a week." He huffed again as Unsui hugged him and Kyren laughed. "I've just stirred up the whole family," Kyren told him. "I'll have a dozen messages waiting for me in a few hours."
There was just one message. Kyren recorded it and let Unsui listen to it as many times as he wanted.
"Kyren!" his mother scolded from a few days travel. "You just tell us to adopt someone and don't tell us anything about him? You come home as soon as possible and bring him with you."
"Yeah!" Kira said. My sister, Kyren had whispered softly. "We're curious!"
"Welcome to the family," Hana said. My other sister, Kyren supplied.
The message ended there.
The ship's cargo led them toward Lytael. Not out of the human territory, but close enough for that reply message.
Kyren gave Unsui a reassuring look as they sat down in the control room. They had it for an hour and Kyren was planning to use all of it. Who knew when he'd have another opportunity like this? Though, he might have to take Unsui home himself.
The clock went over to the scheduled time without a sound and Kyren connected to the transmitter. "Hello?"
"Kyren!" There was a babble of joyful voices and Kyren grinned.
"So who's there?" he asked. They spoke up one by one. Mom, Dad, Hana, Kira, and Hana's oldest daughter, Vine.
"Is it just you or...?" Kyren's mom, Alyss, asked.
"No, Unsui's here. Say hello," Kyren prompted.
"Oh, you sound adorable," Alyss said. "When do we get to meet him, Kyren? Soon?"
"Maybe," Kyren said. "It depends on whether we have the time or not. Did the adoption papers go through?"
"Yes, I've got them here and completely registered." Her tone shifted. "Unsui, not to ignore you, but I have some questions for my son. Now, honey, what is this about Fascination and getting married?"
Unsui laughed at the face Kyren made. "Um... Mom..." Kyren stalled. "That wasn't my fault."
"Of course not. But you're going to tell us how it happened, aren't you?"
Kyren told her the whole story and there was a silence on the other end. "Dear, you've gotten yourself into a real mess," Alyss told him. "Bring them both."
"Unsui and Jilly. For a visit."
Kyren gave the speaker a strange look. "We've just gotten to the point where she's not going to throw me off the ship and you want me to bring her home?"
"Lots of reasons! She won't want to go. We don't have time. She's one step away from hating me."
From down the hallway in back of them, Jilly cleared her throat. "What are you shouting about?" Kyren froze, but Unsui translated.
"No, I don't," she said, walking towards them. "But to make a trip there, we've got to look at the schedule."
She pulled it up while there was a flurry of voices on the other end of the line. "That's Jilly?" Alyss asked.
"Yes, it's me," Jilly said, distracted by the schedule. "Kyren, we can take a break in four days. We'll have to swing around to go to Lytael, but it shouldn't be a problem. There's a planet that I can drop some of the crew on if they don't want to go."
"Wonderful! Kyren, message us with the details. Bye, Jilly!"
The communication ended and Kyren sighed. This was not going to end well.