Kyle looked over the inventory list. Maelon wouldn’t have the best price for the stolen items, but they could stop at Halivar first. He should be able to get a good deal there, and then they could hit Maelon in style. The ident cards he’d acquired would hold up under most scrutiny, especially since the newscasts were reporting the destruction of the Silverfish. Nobody would be looking for Julian anymore, and it wasn’t like anybody actually had an accurate roster of the crew anyway. They were safe and free.
He was settling back with a smile when an alarm in the cockpit started beeping. “Oh.” He stared at it. “Shit.”
Julian felt more than a trace of panic when Kyle rushed out of the cockpit. The big man was just a little bit pale, and he looked about the area frantically until his eyes found where Julian was sitting. “Kyle?” Julian swallowed.
“Your name is Jakob.” Kyle started walking toward him.
“What?” He blinked.
“Shut up and listen.” Kyle gestured. “We’ve got a ship bearing down on us, and if we run they are just going to chase us down. Their transponder says Palindor, so them learning who you are, not so good. I’m Kyle Narel. You’re my husband Jakob. We’re smuggling medical supplies. Some goodness of our hearts, but the cash is nice too. Hopefully, they’ll just confiscate the gear and send us on our way.” He smiled and pulled Julian to him. “I’m not going to let anyone hurt you, alright?”
“Alright.” He managed a nod as he fought down the rising fear. Palindor and the Alliance were at war, and with war came brutalities. The thought of ending up a scapegoat again was making it difficult not to panic.
“We’ve got to get the rest of our story straight before they board, so pay attention.”
He watched, trying not to clench his fists, as a couple of the security guards took Julian into another room. The shuttle hadn’t been part of the Silverfish. They’d salvaged it, and as far as he knew, it wasn’t in any registries. As far as he knew. There was always a chance something had been missed. The idents were good, but if anyone got suspicious and started going deeper there was no guarantee they’d hold.
And he had no real idea how Julian would handle being interrogated. It wasn’t exactly like the little doctor was a practiced liar. Kyle sighed as a security officer sat down across from him. “Kyle Narel, pilot.” The officer raised an eyebrow. “Smuggler.”
“I prefer to think of myself as a facilitator.” He put on a cocky smile. “Getting supplies where they are needed most, and turning a little profit in doing so.”
“Your cargo appears to be mostly medical supplies.”
“Yeah, well…” He shrugged. “Those are kind of what are needed, aren’t they?”
“No weapons save for what appears to be your personal equipment.” The man continued scanning the list. “Inoculations, supplements…”
“Well I…” With Julian being a doctor, it had seemed a natural cover. He took a deep breath. “Look, not every place that needs those things can get them, alright?”
“True.” The security officer nodded. “We are going to make a final sweep of your ship. If we don’t find anything else, then you and your husband can be on your way minus the goods we are going to need to…” He shrugged. “Requisition.”
“Don’t suppose you’re going to compensate us?” Kyle sighed as he watched the good life start to fade away.
“We’ll give you a pat on the back and a hearty thank you.” The officer almost looked sympathetic.
Captain Mateo looked across the table at the younger man. He was more nervous than the other one, but also a good decade younger. “Did you know he was a smuggler?”
“It…” The younger one gave an embarrassed shrug. “Seemed romantic.” He shook his head. “It’s not like he smuggles anything bad. Just…”
“No, I saw the inventory. Turns a decent enough profit, but…” Mateo nodded. “Tell me about you. You’re a medic?”
“That’s…” He smiled. “Kind of how we met. I couldn’t get any Doxizalin, and one of my classmates mentioned…” He sighed. “I wasn’t supposed to be…” He swallowed and clammed up.
“You were crossing a quarantine zone.” Mateo leaned back and gave the younger man another appraising look. Jakob looked down at the table and said nothing. Mateo smiled. “I’ve got a sister stuck in one of those zones. Haven’t managed to hear word from her in a while and…” He took a deep breath. “You’re in no trouble here. Issue is those supplies you have are…” He sighed. “Something we need. Badly. And we don’t have the coin to pay you for them.”
“Can…” Jakob shook his head. “What about an exchange or…”
The other guy was a smuggler, true, but if this kid actually was a medic then maybe his ship wasn’t screwed. Miracles did occasionally happen, and this kid could be exactly what he needed. Of course, it would be their luck that he was trained only in childbirth procedures or elder care. “What kind of medic, you a specialist?” Mateo raised an eyebrow and started to pull up the kid’s ident. He blinked, and looked again before looking up at the guy. “You’re a full doctor?”
“Yes.” Jakob shifted nervously.
Mateo let out a low whistle. “Well, that uh…” He smiled. “That kind of changes things a little.”
“My ship was in a firefight a couple days ago, at a refueling station. I’ve got a lot of wounded, soldiers and civilians, and…” He looked across the table. “And the fatalities include my entire medical staff. I hate to break this to you…” He sighed. “But you and your husband just joined my crew.”
“I…” Jakob’s eyes widened.
“Son, there are a lot of good people who are going to die without your supplies. They’ll have a hell of a lot better chance if someone who knows what they are doing is administering them.” Mateo took a deep breath. “Please.”
“I…” Jakob took several deep breaths. “Has triage been done? I will need as complete a list as possible of any chemical exposures and…”
“Where is Jakob?” Kyle narrowed his eyes.
“The captain took him down to the infirmary.” The security officer was smiling. “We’ve got wounded, and…” He shrugged. “And you married yourself a doctor. Apparently a nice one, because we didn’t even have to get to the part where we threatened you with a life of hard time on a prison planet for smuggling before he agreed to help.” The officer clapped him on the shoulder. “Which means you can wait in the mess or the rec room instead of the brig.”
“I’d prefer to keep an eye on him, if that’s alright.” Kyle shook his head.
“We’ve got security there already.” The officer gave him a reassuring nod.
“Well, that’s fine for your ship…” Kyle folded his arms. “But he’s my husband.”
“I…” The officer sighed, and then nodded. “Fair enough. Keep out of the way and don’t cause trouble, or I’ll stun your ass myself.”
“Jakob, you alright?”
He recognized the voice, but it took him a heartbeat to remember that he was supposed to be Jakob. “Yes.” He glanced over his shoulder to see Kyle, accompanied by a security officer. “You two, find the box coded for the low impact nanite solution.”
“I —” The security officer started to shake his head.
“Once you find it, start going to the people tagged as level 1, it’s the green tag. One unit per 20 kilos body weight, round down, and then get them moved to another location. Six hours observation, then they can be released. Any complications or emergent problems, bring them back here.”
“We were —”
Julian gave the officer an impatient look, then turned to Kyle. “Please explain to your new friend that he is in the way and needs to either make himself useful or vacate. I am occupied at the moment.” He turned and went to the next patient without waiting for either man to respond.
This was a side of his lover he hadn’t seen before. The man really was a doctor. And it was clear just how much one of those was needed here. A lump raised suddenly in his throat. They were on a Palindor warship that needed them. He could… He could be a soldier again. Kyle started to smile, and turned to the officer. “You heard the doc, let’s get started.”
“Right.” The officer started chuckling. “Boxes are over here.” He led Kyle over to where the crew had unloaded the shuttle. It only took them a couple moments to locate the box Juli… Jakob had referenced. “Alright, delivery syringes are…”
“Here.” An older woman with a blue tag on her wrist waved at them. “I’ve been prepping them.” She gestured at a man with a datapad and a blue tag on his wrist. “Paul has the triage list as well so we can check to make sure people are tagged correctly.” She looked Kyle over. “You’re not on the triage list.”
“Jenna, this is Kyle. He’s the husband of the doctor over there.” The officer turned toward Kyle. “I’m CSO Anson. This is Lieutenant Jenna Vrant, one of our life support specialists and the closest thing we had to a medic before your husband showed up.” He indicated the woman. “And this is Petty Officer Paul Thran.”
Paul grabbed Kyle’s hand and gave it a vigorous shake. “Thank whatever powers are listening you two showed up.” He clapped Kyle’s shoulder. “Alright, you needed syringes?”
Kyle smiled. “Just following the doctor’s orders.”
Mateo smiled as he noted order being imposed upon the brutally chaotic scene. The doctor had gone over the triage quickly, and the walking wounded were either sent away or pressed into service. Doctor Narel ignored rank when giving orders, and twice already he’d found himself being given instruction as the nearest pair of hands.
His orders had been to wait for a relief ship. When the shuttle had first appeared on the sensors, he’d assumed it was exactly that. Funny how he’d been both wrong and right. He glanced over at where the smuggler had also been pressed into service. The smuggler – Kyle – never quite let the doctor out of his sight. And Kyle was clearly someone who’d seen some violence before. There was a thin scar along the side of the man’s face, and it touched a line of gray that went through the man’s dark brown hair. A laser burn, not the kind of thing a man got in a bar fight.
It could be a problem. Situation being as it was, he really couldn’t afford to let a skilled doctor go on his way. He was grateful he hadn’t had to use threats to secure the doctor’s cooperation. That option carried entirely too many risks considering the number of lives in the doctor’s hands. But the young man had already left to follow his husband once.
When his chief of security walked by, Mateo caught his attention and drew him away. “What do we know about the smuggler?”
“Not much. He’s low profile.” Anson frowned. “Sir, the IDs are fake.”
Considering the man had confessed to being a smuggler, that didn’t exactly come as a surprise. “Thoughts?”
“So far? I think the background they gave is probably pretty close to accurate. The kid definitely knows what he is doing in there, so my guess is he really is a doctor that got caught up in trouble in the zones. We know it’s happened before. Other one was likely a bodyguard of some kind.”
“We could always use more soldiers.” Stuck as they were, they could use whatever they could get their hands on. They’d taken some serious losses, and until the doctor had shown up he’d been certain they were going to take a lot more. It was a neat miracle, but could he actually trust it? Then again, if the Alliance wanted his ship, all they had to do was show up and take it. He couldn’t exactly muster much of a defense until repairs were completed.
“Captain?” Anson glanced at him.
“Relief ship should have been here hours ago. I think it’s safe to say it was intercepted or turned back.” Mateo sighed. “We can’t afford to let a doctor go, and we’ll be a lot better off if we can keep his willing cooperation. Find out what the husband’s skill set is and where we can fit him into the crew. Offer them the XO’s quarters.”
“You sure we can trust them, Captain?”
“No.” Mateo sighed. “So, keep an eye.” He turned toward Anson. “How long did it take you to confirm the IDs were fake?”
“About ten seconds.” Anson smirked.
“Fits with them being a couple that got in over their heads and don’t really know what to do now.”
“Unless that’s what they want you to think.”
“Anyone ever told you you’re paranoid?”
“That’s what you keep me around for, Captain.” Anson smiled.