Bren and the command pack of the Jackal’s Trove sat on chairs around the conference room table. With all nine present, things were cozy in the wood-paneled room. The paneling, Brian noticed, was nothing like what he was used to at Feltwig Manor. Subtle flaws in the wood grain around corners and details gave it away as a veneer applied to ordinary composite walls.
Bren was wearing an overall suit altered to fit him; the rest of the crew were in their officers’ overall suits, more or less worn according to rank and experience.
“And now we come to the matter of our new passenger,” said Captain Lupindo. His brow was furrowed, making his black-and-blue striped fur look even more fierce.
“Bren,” said Commander Garwulf. “We need to balance work, education, and life. Here’s my proposal. He works half time as an unskilled crew-wolf, every job on the ship in rotation. Everyone takes time to teach him, just as we would teach our own young. The other half of the time he works on formal education to his pack-school diploma.”
Captain Lupindo looked all around the room as his officers considered the idea. It would be the right thing to do.
They nodded. No one objected.
“What does this mean?” asked Bren.
“I’m going to offer you a place on this crew.”
“Huh? A what?”
“We want you to join the crew of the Jackal’s Trove. Unskilled Crew, half a share of journey profits, plus bunk and board and a pack school education”
Bren’s eyes went fully alert and his ears stood up a bit. Then try drooped
“Wait. Just half a share?”
“Half a share and you are saving 90% of it until you turn 18. But you work only half a shift each day. The other half you study: regular pack-school curriculum plus Basic Spacer. In a year you will earn your Second Class crew license and you can join us as full crew wolf.”
Bren sat bolt upright, ears standing up and tail waving happily.
“You mean I don’t have to go home? I can stay here, with you?”
Timberwoof looked at him kindly … as kindly as he could, with his blue and black fur.
“Yes. All of that.”
Bren stood from his chair, ran over to Timberwoof and licked his throat.
Timberwoof blinked and held him and put his paw on his chest. Some of the officers tried to hold back snickers. They all smiled.
“Bren, stand at attention.”
Bren disengaged from the wolf who had been so scary and blue. He stood as ordered.
Timberwoof looked him up and down.
“Your uniform is a mess and a disgrace to a member of the Officer Pack.”
Bren’s tail and ears drooped.
“Quartermaster, take Omega and Crewwolf Bren shopping and find appropriate uniforms for work, play, and formal occasions. Also stop in at a book store and get textbooks. Pack school curriculum, spacers curriculum. Have the Bosun find him a cubby in the Officers Quarters and get him settled in.”
Bren seemed to sneer at the mention of the Omega. Timberwoof, the Quartermaster, and the Omega traded looks of furrowed brows.
“Shopping for the youngster, Aye,” said the Quartermaster. He winked at young Bren.