Jace and Brad discover that Kyle is related to the Twins. They are sixth cousins. Kyle just found out that his mother died shortly after she left him. Did his father not tell him?
Juro talked with his dad about what happened on the ship. He was relieved when he found out Aiden was proud of his actions and not embarrassed. He watched Sukotto take his Bridge Qualification Test and was proud of him for passing.
Jaku and Akage talked. Jaku was very angry when he found out how Riko had been abusing and bullying Akage. Akage and Tei were pushing Jaku to marry Kage.
Dave received a very important message. What will it mean for the crew?
Much to his chagrin, Kyle taught an Earth History lesson and did better than he expected. In fact, he did very well. Jason answered a test accurately, yet he didn't answer with the answers one would think he should. This caused the twins to get into a spat, due to which Jonas felt a need to apologize to Jason.
Jordan did a review of his officers, namely Steve. He informed Steve of the message Dave received, and found out Steve was already working to correct the one "fault" Jordan had with him. Dave performed a review of Kyle.
Finally, there was their Christmas party and a huge party for those whose birthdays fall during their time on Earth. Will Dave use his gift, or what will he do with it? Also, the school boys made him a special gift. Dave was touched but asked Tomo to keep it.
"Admirals, I detect four ships just entering the solar system, heading for Earth. Two are Explorer Class and two are of unknown origin. One of the unknown ships is towing one of the Explorer Class ships with some kind of beam."
"Four ships?" one of the Admirals questioned. "We were expecting two Draconian Ships to accompany the Sooloo, but four ships? Is one of the ships the Sooloo?"
Mirah spoke up, "Yes, there was a situation concerning the Stephen William Hawking. Bowman sent a full report. I believe the fourth ship is the Hawking."
"That's affirmative, Sir. The ship being towed is the SS Stephen William Hawking."
Aiden made himself comfortable on the small sofa in Kyle's quarters; Kyle sat across from him in his recliner and could see Aiden casting a couple of envious glances at his telescope.
"That's a beautiful piece of work," Aiden commented.
"I love using it when I can," Kyle said. "I love looking at the stars. But we either need to be at sub-light or I need to hook it into the ship's system, and if I'm going to do that, I might as well go to the bridge and use the big view screen."
"Yeah, Connor and I love using the telescope and pad you gave us for our birthdays, but like you, we can only use them at sub-light speed. Sorry we couldn't meet earlier," Aiden continued, "but we both have pretty busy schedules."
"It's cool. I'm glad we could find a few minutes now to chat."
"Very few," Aiden chuckled. Their presence would be needed in the next hour, as the Sooloo prepared for its approach to Earth. "I know you wanted to talk to me about the problems you've had dealing with the news about your mother, so tell me you can go right to telling me what's on your mind." Aiden had given Kyle his condolences when Kyle approached him about wanting to ask a few questions.
"Well, I know you're an orphan; I guess I wanted to know how you handle that."
"My loss is different from yours. You lost your mom when you were eleven. I never knew mine. She was a prostitute, didn't want me and left me at the orphanage. I have no clue who my dad was—probably one of her customers. My first memories are from the orphanage. And if you're going to ask why my mother didn't just abort me, I don't know. If you're going to ask why a cute baby like me was never adopted, I don't know about when I was a baby, but when I got older and went to foster homes, as soon as they learned I was gay they would start rumors about me 'prostituting' myself and nobody wanted me after that."
"I bet you were beyond cute and into the beautiful range," Kyle grinned.
"Whatever. I was told I was a very cranky baby, which might have been a reason I kept being skipped then. I know that I was a bad boy growing up, which added to my problems. But anyway, we don't have much time and this talk is supposed to be about you asking me for some help, so what can I help you with?"
"I wasn't the best boy either after my mom dumped me," Kyle said. "My problem is having questions without any answers; like why did Mom walk out with her suitcases the day after my birthday without saying a word? She hardly talked to me on my birthday except to tell me to quit whining when I kept wondering why I couldn't have a party. I mean, I knew why Danny and I couldn't see each other, even if the reason was dumb, but I had other friends, too."
"I… don't have any answers," Aiden said apologetically.
"I know that, but you have questions about your own life also, and I wanted to know how you manage to deal with not having the answers."
"You have one thing I don't have to help you."
"Your father; he should have answers for you."
Kyle stared out the window at the moving stars. "But one of my questions is about him; like why he never told me about Mom being killed."
Aiden surprised Kyle the same way Danny did. In a firm, quiet voice he said, "Maybe he did tell you and you never listened."
Kyle shifted his gaze from the window to his friend and fellow officer. "Danny said the same thing, but I can't believe I wouldn't remember it." Kyle was fighting the thought that both his friend and his husband might be right as his thoughts focused on the phone call from his father right after his mother was killed.
Why would he call me then except to tell me? Kyle thought. And if he did, why can't I remember it. Is it as if Danny and Aiden are saying that I never listened?
"I became a bad boy, too," Kyle whispered. "Especially after my mother left me."
"I remember when Connor and I met you at the observatory," Aiden mused. "At first, we thought you were a bit snippety, yet childish and immature. It was once we got to know you that we really liked you. Then you started to prove yourself and most of us came around to see that there was more to you than a whiner and troublemaker."
"I know there were a lot of guys who didn't like me. I've run across a few of them since, like Dick Head and A. Hole, not to mention Devin French on the Endurance. Anyway, time is getting really short, so how do you live without having the answers you think you need?"
"I just do. I've had some good teachers. I have a great husband, and a Captain who has helped me in so many ways I can't begin to list them. Maybe you should be talking to Dave instead of me."
"I wanted to talk to somebody who's been through the same kinds of problems."
"Dave lost his mother, too, you might want to…"
Kyle was shaking his head, "I want to talk to someone who is more a peer and not a superior. I want someone who might help me think like they think."
"I still think Dave would be a good person to talk to." Aiden contemplated that for a moment and then said, "You know, you didn't ask the other big question."
"Which question is that?"
"How will being part Draconian affect your life? None of us should have been surprised to learn that fact, including you. Your talking with the stars should have been a giveaway. That's another question you should ask."
Kyle nodded. He'd asked himself the same question and kept avoiding asking it of anyone else, including Danny.
"Have you asked Danny about it?" Kyle shook his head. "Big mistake, dude. He's your husband. Even if he doesn't have the answers, he is the person to bounce things off of. Connor doesn't know the answers to my questions, but a kiss and a hug when they bother me always makes me feel better, not to mention loved. I think feeling loved is more important than anything. It might be time to use that love to help you—to help both of you, in fact."
"You're right. I sometimes try to keep things to myself. Talking to you about this hasn't been easy for me."
"I appreciate the trust you put in me," Aiden asserted. "I'll tell you three people you should ask your questions to. Danny, because he's your soul mate. Commander Hanson, because there just might be more to him than you think." Kyle had a memory of his Astrogation teacher mentioning hearing the voice of a star. "And your father, because he has a lot of the answers. You might not want to hear the answers; you might not like the answers; but you still would have what I want in the worst way."
"The answers…" Kyle whispered.
"Exactly. The answers. Even if I don't like them, I want to know the whys of my life."
Kyle nodded. "Looks like I have some work to do. Thanks for listening to me, Aiden. I guess we'd better head for the bridge and help bring this sucker home."
The two officers traded the kind of hug that only the best of friends would understand, and headed for the bridge and the upcoming approach to Earth.
Dave had assigned Hal to be in command of the docking procedure for their return to Earth. He sat off to the side, just in case he was needed.
"Mr. Robinson, is everything set for our return to space dock?" Hal asked officially.
"Aye aye, Sir, all systems show ready to dock," Kyle said with a smile, using his own 'official' voice.
"All hands, this is the XO. Prepare for docking maneuvers. Mr. Robinson, take us in."
After the required communications with Space Fleet, Kyle, even though he'd only done this in a simulator, expertly guided the Sooloo to its appointed berth. In most cases, the Navigator would issue commands to the helm, but on the Explorer Class, the Astrogator performed as Navigation and Helm. Once in the proper position, he radioed and at the same time announced over the ship's PA system, "Ship's thrusters to station keeping, disengaging main engines," then, "engaging docking clamps."
The sound of the clamps grabbing hold of the ship could be heard at several places around the ship. A moment later, Kyle announced, "Attaching umbilical cables."
The lights flickered, indicating the switch from ship's power to that coming from the umbilical cables; Kyle finished the process, "Disengage all thrusters. Sir, we are docked."
Hal replied, "Thank you, Mr. Robinson. Expertly done. Captain, we have arrived home."
Dave walked over to his husband and wrapped his arms around him. "You did well, Babe. Now, I believe there are a few people who are itching to get down to the planet."
Steve Boyer had planned out, with Shasho's help, a schedule for the crew to disembark. He had coordinated the shuttles of the Sooloo and the Hawking to ferry the crew to the planet. Danny was assigned to fly the first shuttle, which would have Dave, Hal, Jordan, Kyle, Lars and Koji to the planet. Jace and the twins remained on board, getting everything ready for their stay on Earth. As the crew was disembarking, Space Fleet's teams of engineers would be boarding. Jace and Jordan offered for their family to be the last ones on board since Jordan's parents lived so close.
As the Sooloo was docking, Shasho and Steve were organizing the files for the last time for this year. The docking clamps grabbed hold of the ship, and though the vibration was only slight, it was enough that Shasho dropped the folder he was holding. The papers scattered everywhere and Shasho let slip, "VOBIT!!!"
Steve gave Shasho a weird look, sniffed and chuckled, "If that means what I think it does, I think you did."
"I am so sorry, Opsola Unka Steve. I will clean this up right away."
"Shasho, stop," Steve ordered. He walked up to his son, despite the smell that was emanating from Shasho, and hugged him. "Buddy, accidents happen. Why don't you go clean yourself up while I pick these papers up and reorganize them? Once you are clean, and that means a new uniform, because I think that one is gone, you can come back here. Then we need to head down to Earth. I know my parents are going to love you. They may even try stealing you from me, but I won't let that happen."
Realizing that Steve loves him despite the mess, or messes counting the one in the back of Shasho's uniform, Shasho wrapped his arms around his dad and cried, "I love you!"
As Shasho was returning to the Operations office, he overheard Steve talking with someone, but not giving too much detail. Then he heard Aiden's voice, "You remember what I said about his father?"
Steve commented, "I do, and I think Shasho was worried I would do like his dad and abandon him. I felt a need to hug him and let him know THAT will never happen. I love him unconditionally. He IS my son."
At first, Shasho was angry that his real father DIDN'T love him as a father should, but then he ran up to Steve, wrapped his arms around him and whispered, "Kalbu."
While there was no place big enough to land the RDS Shouryou, the ship was designed to be able to enter the Atmosphere. Still, unless they landed, that would take more energy than orbiting. With the design of this Draconian ship, the Docking clamps would not work properly, so she had to maintain a crew to keep the ship in a proper orbit. The RDS Kaisokusen, soon to be the SS Darastix was able to use a docking station. With the use of their sub-light engines and thrusters, the Stephen William Hawking was barely able to dock herself.
Without needing to dock, those on the Shouryou were able to fly down in shuttles faster than those on the Darastix, Hawking or Sooloo. Prince Zarek was disappointed when Zifaa wasn't among the first to disembark from the Sooloo.
Zarek didn't have to wait long before the second shuttle was landing. As they disembarked, Zarek recognized Aiden, Connor, Juro, and Zifaa followed by John Luke and Will Crusoe. Zarek walked up to his brother, "So, why were you not on the first shuttle with Captain Dave as I expected?"
Zifaa got a lopsided grin as he said, "Well, brother... you see, Tomo and Juro..." His explanation was cut off by the uproarious laughter of his older brother.
Zarek put an arm around his brother, kissed the top of his head and walked with him to where cars were waiting to take the Sooloo crew and those from the ships with them. "While I was waiting on you, Fleet Admiral Mirah came to get Captain Dave, when he saw me, he shook my hand and welcomed me to Earth. He set us up on the top floor, in the Royal Suite of Trump Towers. It is currently unused and isolated on the base, but I believe it was built to honor a former leader in what was once the United States of America. The building is used mainly for Heads of State when they come to visit. You and I will have the top floor while the Ambassador and his team will utilize the remainder until they can build their embassies."
Zifaa commented, "Didn't Prince Medici send that information about, I believe his name was President Trump? I wonder if Medici's still alive. Can we go to Tokyo while we are here, to maybe see him?"
"Medici IS still alive. He was surprised when I told him that his great-great grandson had twin boys, but then he, his wife and his cousin were killed in an accident."
Zifaa got worried, "He's not going to try taking the twins from Jordan and Jace, is he?"
"No, he said that since they are being well taken care of, he didn't want to interfere with their lives. Remember, he is like almost a thousand years old and nearing his own death."
As they got into the vehicle taking them to Trump Towers, Zifaa looked at Zarek, "Why do people treat us special? We are no different than anyone else on our planet."
Zarek smiled, "If you ever become the king, I hope you remember that."
"I hope I never become king. If I do, it would mean something happened to you and Zakku."
"Yeah, I'm not looking forward to becoming King, either, but Dad can only live so long. When that day comes, you can bet there won't be a dry eye in all of Darastix."
Zifaa sniffled, "Can we change the subject, I don't like this one."
"You mean like when will we officially give the Kaisokusen to Earth?" Zarek asked. He was glad to change the subject. He didn't like thinking on it, either.
"Yeah," Zifaa smiled, "When will we?"
"Fleet Admiral Mirah said they are having a ceremony on the twelfth day of what they call January. He would like for us to present it right before he announces Captain Dave's promotion."
Fleet Admiral Mirah approached Dave and asked him to report to his office as soon as he was available. As soon as Dave entered his mentor's office, Bill handed him two PADDs. "We have just over three years, but we are researching our next uniform, which will come out in 2125."
Dave looked at the two PADDs, "Well, Sir, if you would like my opinion, I like this set best." Dave handed the set he liked to Bill and set the other one down on the desk.
"That is my preferred set, too. In fact, about seventy-five percent of the admirals have chosen that set."
"Surely Bill, this isn't the reason you asked me to come here," Dave was getting antsy.
"No Dave," FADM Mirah handed him another PADD. "After receiving your report on being attacked, we designed these fighters and started building them. We want to add five of them to every ship, but unfortunately, we will only have four completed by the time you leave. Of course, you do have the Draconian Fighter."
"How do these compare to it?" Dave inquired.
"We've not been able to test them against each other, but we believe they are almost as maneuverable, and have sufficient fire-power. With having the Draconium shell, the Draconian fighters can take more of a beating, but if the shields hold up, that shouldn't matter. The main advantage that the Draconian Fighter has is speed."
"And who will fly them?"
"I know you are already max on officers, but with so many officers marrying or sharing quarters, we want to add additional officers. Five of these will be tactical/security officer which will be trained to pilot as well. I believe Lieutenant Danny Harper is your Head Pilot; we would like for him to train tactical pilots while you are here and then continue training your new officers. Then if they need to go out, Danny will be the one in charge."
Dave smiled, "I will inform him of your request. I am sure he will accept the challenge... and maybe a promotion so he outranks the new officers. I assume the new officers will be either Lieutenant Junior Grade or full Lieutenants... what do you think of jumping him to Lt. Commander?"
"Right now, the officers we have lined up are Ensigns, some may be promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade after they've completed the training, so Danny already outranks them, but as an added incentive, I have no problem with promoting Lieutenant Junior Grade Harper to full Lieutenant, or even Lieutenant Commander. The only concern I have with going to the latter is it reduces how many times he can still be promoted without transferring."
"Sir, I have an idea..." Dave paused before continuing, "I think he's earned a promotion to Full Lieutenant. Let's do that, assuming he accepts this assignment, then once we're back on mission, give me the authorization, at my discretion, to promote him if he excels at some point in the future."
"Technically Dave, you already have the authorization, to a degree... there are certain criteria that would need to be met, but if an officer has met what was needed, you can promote at your discretion. No one questioned your promoting Ensign Kuc when he transferred to your ship, and upon reading Captain Garcia's report of that same event, we agreed that he deserved it."
"I am aware of that, Sir. However, regs also state that a certain amount of time must pass between promotions. I am asking for permission to ignore that particular requirement if I feel it's justified."
"Understood and granted."
"Thank you, Sir. Now that the formalities are dispensed with. Can I take you out for dinner? I wanted to thank you for all your help as I was growing up."
Aiden was happy that they were staying in the Vegas area. He had to stay until A. Hole's trial, but since his and Connor's "adopted" parents lived in the area, and that was where they were staying, they were able to head there right away. It was agreed they spend the first part of their time with the Savages' and then on Christmas day, they would go to the Collins' residence for the remainder of the year. Of course, they would commute between the two so everyone got equal time.
Phil and Tom were at the Savages' when the boys were dropped off. Connor told Juro to push the chime, but as the boy reached for it, the door swished open. "Who do you think you are to reach for my chime," Javier chuckled. "Your dads know they can just walk in."
"Honestly, Dad," Connor felt good calling him that, "we weren't sure if that still stood."
Darla came out of the kitchen, "When we told you that Javier was Dad and I was Mom, that made this your home whenever you are on Earth."
"Thanks, Mom. It feels good to think of you as my parents, although officially..." Connor didn't finish his sentence. He didn't want to even think like that. As far as he was concerned, officially or not, they were his parents.
Darla looked at Juro, "And you must be my grandson. Javier was so happy about talking to you boys, and he told me everything that you shared with him."
"I hope you don't mind that we have Kallie with us," Juro looked hopeful.
"Not at all. It's not like you could leave her alone on the ship. And I am sure you will take good care of her. It looks like she may want to go outside now." Darla made her way to the back door and Kallie followed.
Javier looked at Aiden, "So, do you still play Shadow OP? My dad would like to play against you again, now that you're more experienced."
Juro replied for Aiden, "Oh yes, we play all the time."
Aiden then averred, "He's almost good enough to beat me. It would be interesting to see him play against the Red Dragon." Juro looked puzzled so Aiden explained, "The Red Dragon is General Savage's code name."
"General Savage? Is that Grandpa's dad?"
"Yeah, Juro," Connor answered. "I have an idea, tomorrow, after Aiden gets back from a crewmember's trial, we can all play. Dad, it can be you, your dad and Tom against us three, but please don't tell Grandpa about Juro, not yet."
Javier chuckled, "I believe Dad will be available. He was hoping to play against the two of you tomorrow, and we won't tell him about Juro. He knows you have a son, but Dad doesn't know how old he is or that he plays. I want to see his face when he sees him in the game."
Jordan had gone down to Earth to procure transportation for their ride over to his parents' home. Dave had just dropped off Admiral Mirah and was heading for the shuttle himself. As Jordan was walking to the shuttle, Fleet Admiral Mirah approached him, "Commander Rivers, how old are you?"
"I'll be sixteen in April, Sir."
"Hmmm, still younger than we prefer, but I am considering you to take command of either the SS Stephen William Hawking or the SS Darastix. With the exception of Commander David, the entire crew was affected and will be going through extensive treatment, so you will need to recruit almost the entire crew. If you accept either ship, we will offer your husband the XO position."
"That is a tough decision, how soon do you need my answer?"
"The Sooloo will be on Earth for another six to eight weeks, so before you leave, but the sooner the better."
"Good, I would like to confer with my husband, my children, Dave and Hal. With Dave being promoted to Commodore, I will be the…"
Bill interrupted, "I am aware and that sounds reasonable, but as soon as you decide, I would appreciate an answer. Perhaps, after the holidays?"
Jordan wished he could have caught the same shuttle as Dave.
After leaving Bill off back at the base, Dave boarded a shuttle back to the Sooloo. While in flight, Dave got on his comm, "Crewman Danvers, are you still in Vegas, or anywhere close?"
"I am finishing a few things in the Shuttle Bay before heading out, Sir," Julian Danvers explained.
"I'm on my way to the ship," Dave stated. "Can you meet me in my Ready Room in fifteen minutes?"
"I should be done in the Shuttle Bay about the time you land, Sir. Would you like for me to walk with you, or should I go and wait?"
Dave chuckled, "Yeah, Juju, you can walk with me."
After Dave's shuttle landed, Juju joined him, and they walked the nearly empty halls of the ship. Juju was curious as to why Dave wanted to meet with him. Dave was in a good mood, so he doubted that he was in trouble.
It wasn't long after they had left the Shuttle Bay that Randy, Tom, Tomo and Jinzo met them; they were heading for the shuttle. Jinzo smiled and said, "See you after the holidays, Captain, and I hope you have a happy birthday."
"Thanks, To..." Dave stopped when he realized it wasn't Tomo who said it. "Wait, is that..."
"Yes, Captain," Tomo smiled. "I was waiting to see what skin you would like for him, but since he's Juro's and my son, I made Jinzo look Darastixian."
"And you did a good job, too." Dave looked at Jinzo, "I stand by my decision, I know it was the right thing to do, but I am amazed and do kinda regret not adding you to my family."
"Thank you, Captain," Jinzo smiled.
As Dave and Juju entered the Ready Room, Dave asked, "Would you like anything to drink? I have Coke, root beer, tea, lemonade or water."
"Lemonade sounds good, Sir."
"Have a seat and I'll grab you one. Also, it's just us, so call me Dave."
"May I ask what this is about, Dave?"
Dave smiled, "What do you think about the Fighter? Or I should say Fighters. We will be getting four that Space Fleet is building."
"Well, Dave, since only officers are allowed to fly the Fighter, I haven't gotten a chance to fly it, but I think it would be fun."
"I was hoping you would say that. Would you be interested in training to fly a Fighter?"
Juju's face gave away his true feeling, "Yes, I would… but as I said, only officers are allowed." Disappointment was apparent.
"But you are interested?" Dave teased.
"Are they planning to let crewmen fly them?" Juju tilted his head in thought.
Dave shook his head, "No they are not, but…" he watched Juju's mind spin, contemplating what Dave might say. Finally, Dave explained, "If you were made an Ensign, you could fly a fighter. Look, everyone knows that Danny is the best pilot we have, maybe the best in Space Fleet. You are almost as good. If you are interested in flying a fighter, I think you should be able to."
"I am most definitely interested in training to fly a fighter, Sir… er, I mean Dave. Any idea who the trainer will be?"
"If you could pick the trainer, who would it be?"
"Well, you just said that you think Danny might be the best pilot, and I have a lot of respect for him."
Dave smiled, "And you just named who the trainer will probably be. Training will begin Monday, the twelfth of January. Enjoy your Christmas and New Year's."
"You too, and your birthday coming up," Juju gave Dave a hug.
With the shuttles, you can be anywhere in the world within an hour, at most, so Jordan hoped he would find Dave and Hal still in their quarters. It had been a busy day and the twins were tired, so Jace packed while the twins slept, and Jordan went to speak with Dave and Hal. Dave and Hal were already packed and were helping Lars pack when Jordan hit the chime.
Jordan explained everything to his two superior officers and friends. "Dave, part of me wants to take command of the Darastix, but I'm not sure about leaving the Sooloo. We have so many friends, and the boys are close to all the children, but especially Lars and Koji."
Dave looked thoughtful, "You have a tough decision to make, and I can't make it for you. On the one hand, you are being offered a command of your own. It may be a long time before another chance opens up for it. If you accept, you will be missed. On the other hand, you will be the First Officer of the Sooloo. That holds almost as much prestige. Think long and hard before you make up your mind and listen to what Jace has to say. The twins may give you some insight as well."
"Thanks, Dave," Jordan replied. "You basically told me what I expected to hear and what I already knew."
Hal shook his head, "You have to do what you believe is best for your family. No one can decide that except you."
"I know." Jordan left to help Jace.
Koji and Kyle rode in the backseat of the staff car assigned to Kyle's father's office. Bob Adams rode in the front seat. Since the car was autonomous, there was no need for a driver. Adams was there to take over in the event of an emergency or a breakdown of the self-directed system. Both instances were rare but can happen.
Kyle knew that their "driver" worked as a load master on space-faring freighters. This job was something to keep him busy until he finished his rehabilitation work following an accident on Venus where he was working as load master of the ore ship Ceres. A faulty belt on the conveyor snapped. The belt flew off the conveyor and hit Adams on his right thigh, breaking his femur in two places. He considered himself lucky that he wasn't killed. The cause of the accident was determined to have been a manufacturing defect. Adams was scheduled to return to space on the Vesta in almost two weeks.
Bob Adams knew better than anyone that there was more to his job than simply giving him something to do. No matter how many fail safes and redundant systems were built into something, shit still happened. He thought about the two boys sitting behind him. Even though he expected it, he was still flabbergasted at seeing a boy who had obviously not reached puberty yet wearing the uniform of a full commander in Space Fleet. The sight of the boy in uniform made him feel older than his thirty-five years.
"What is it you do on your ship?" Adams asked Kyle. He couldn't quite bring himself to addressing the young boy as "Sir." Since he was a civilian, the formal form of address wasn't required even though it was expected. He had a son around the same age as Commander Robinson and couldn't imagine calling him "Sir."
"I'm the Chief Astrogator," Kyle said as a matter of fact.
"As in Chief and not an assistant chief?"
Kyle could sense the man's prejudice but decided it wasn't worth making an issue of it. "Yes sir, Chief Astrogator and a Senior Officer of the Sooloo." Bob Adams shook his head. His son, Corey, had problems remembering to bring his homework home from school. Finding his way to school every morning was the extent of his navigating abilities.
"Who is your young friend?"
"He is Koji, my son."
After the driver's reaction to his position on a starship, Kyle was waiting for another expression of disbelief, but Adams shook his head and stared out the windshield. One thing he learned when he was assigned this make-work gig was that Commander Robinson was the son of Admiral Robinson, to whom the car was assigned. Even though Adams was a civilian, he was subject to the command levels of both Space Fleet and Space Transportation Services.
Adams had no doubt that the boy got to where he is because of who his father was rather than any skills of his own. Knowing the Explorer Program consisted of boy crews, he assumed an older teen did all of the actual work on the bridge of the Sooloo. Adams had no doubt that the soft little boy wearing his Commander costume wouldn't last through an hour of hard work on an ore carrier like the Ceres. As for the older boys, he was willing to give them a day before they quit because the work was too hard. On the Ceres, there was no sitting in a soft chair watching the stars fly by—nope, on the Ceres the rule was hard work followed by harder work.
Even though Corey wasn't a star in the classroom, he worked hard and was tough. If a twelve-year-old was born to survive in the difficult environment of space, it would be his son. He had no doubt Corey could outwork and out tough little Mister Softy sitting in the backseat.
The car turned into a cul-de-sac and stopped in front of the large, well-tended house belonging to Admiral Greg Robinson, one of the top-ranking Admirals in Space Fleet. It was time to let out the privileged boy who'd been handed a job he would never be able to earn along with the boy who was his so-called son but was more likely a lover of some sort.
"Thanks for watching over us," Kyle said as he and Koji exited the car. "I should be back in a few minutes." He knew Bob Adams had been instructed to wait for him and then drive him to Space Fleet Headquarters for the court martial of A. Hole.
Kyle was happy that Koji was teeming with inner excitement mixed with trepidation at meeting his grandfather. He knew Koji was more than capable of chatting endlessly, something he often did when he was nervous or stressed. He was grateful his son had ridden quietly and was interested to see how Koji reacted to his grandfather. Would he remain quiet, or would the real Koji break out in a wave of passion?
Koji took the lead going up the curving walkway to the house. He was halfway to the house when the front door opened, and a gray-haired man dressed in brown slacks, a plaid button-down shirt and a blue cardigan stood in the doorway. Koji recognized the man instantly.
Koji's pace changed from a trot to an all-out run to the door. "Admiral Grandpa!!" Before Greg Robinson could open his mouth, he had a bundle of boy leaping on him, driving him back into the house. Kyle tried unsuccessfully to hide the amusement the situation created. Bob Adams looked on in disbelief, wondering just exactly what the younger boy's relationship to the Admiral was. After all, he did yell out "Grandpa."
Happy that he had stayed upright after the sudden onslaught, Greg placed his arms around his grandson and lowered him to the floor. He looked up and saw his son crossing the threshold with a huge smile on his face.
"Well, hello, son. I'm glad you find this amusing," Greg said in a friendly tone of voice that said he understood where Kyle's smile had come from.
"Danny and I have been in the same spot more than once," Kyle chuckled. "Only in our case we usually get knocked to the floor with a squirming boy on top of us."
"I can certainly imagine that scene," Kyle's father grinned. Kyle and Koji were close enough that Greg could pull them together and give them a big hug. "It's so good to see you son, and it is so good to be hugging my grandson." He gave Koji a kiss on the forehead, followed up by a similar peck for Kyle.
"I didn't knock down Admiral Grandpa," Koji chattered. "He's big and strong. My daddies always fall down and don't let me jump on them anymore." He flashed his beautiful grin and went on, "But I do it sometimes anyway because I love them so much. They are the best daddies there are and now I have the best Admiral ever, right Daddy Kyle?"
"Absolutely no doubt about that," Kyle laughed. He took a deep breath and said, "I have to get going or I'll be late, which is not a good thing."
Greg glanced at the time. "You still have plenty of time…"
"Anything less than five minutes early is late," Kyle reminded him.
"Now that you're a senior officer, the rule changes to ten minutes," Greg chuckled.
"Then I better go now!" He gave his father a quick hug, followed by one a bit longer for his son. "You be good now and do whatever your Grandpa says."
"Koji is always good," the boy stated as if he actually believed it.
Kyle walked quickly to the car and surprised Bob by sitting in the front seat. Senior officers never sit in front, Bob thought. This boy obviously has a lot to learn. The destination had been preset into the car's navigation system. Bob engaged the engine and sat back as the car did a U-turn and headed out of the cul-de-sac. Bob hoped the boy didn't start a conversation, since he didn't have the patience to chat with an entitled little brat who was obviously out of his league.
"What are we going to do now?" Koji asked his grandfather.
"Let's get to know each other."
"We could start by playing a game of…"
"Is that a jivi?" Koji asked, pointing to a photograph of Greg on a horse hanging on the wall next to the fireplace mantle.
"Yes. It is a horse in English," Greg replied, assuming correctly that Koji had used the Draconian word for horse.
"Is that Admiral Grandpa on the jivir?" Koji used the word for horsing, which could also be used as horsey.
Greg looked closely at the figure on the horse. "It certainly looks like me on that horse."
"Admiral Grandpa! That is you!"
"I do believe you're right."
Koji circled around his grandfather until he was behind him and then tried to hop on is back. "Whoa, hang on there. The horse needs to be outside where we can't break anything." He opened the sliding door, stepped out on the patio, and lowered himself so his grandson could get on his back.
At that point, Admiral Grandpa became Grandpa Horsey. He carried the boy around the large, well-tended yard. The boy screeched, yelled and laughed, as did his grandpa.
"Go jivir, go jivir, go jivir!" Koji yelled as the usually reserved admiral morphed into a lively grandfather, complete with sound effects.
"I'm a horsey," he yelled out as they started another round, and was determined to call the last round. "Call me a horsey. This is the last lap."
"No horsey, Koji likes jivir!"
Greg was getting winded and didn't want to work up the effort to argue. "Time to stop," he panted as he trotted past the swimming pool and back onto the patio.
"More, Koji wants more from Grandpa jivir." Then, deciding that giving his grandpa his way might entice him to do more laps, Koji yelled out, "No, he wants it from Grandpa HORSEY!"
It was at that moment that Alicia Gordon, Greg's cook/housekeeper stepped onto the patio. She stifled her laughter as she saw the prim and proper Admiral with his gray hair disheveled, his pressed shirt askew, and his little grandson on his back, hitting his grandfather on his rump with his hand and yelling for his horsey to move. "Breakfast is on the table and ready to eat." She turned and reentered the house before she totally lost control.
"Down you go, Koji. It's time to eat." Greg crouched down and let out a sigh of relief as his grandson hopped off his back. Because of the early hour, Greg agreed to serve breakfast to Koji. He had hoped Kyle would have time to stay, but that turned out not to be the case. Kyle said he'd pick up a bite to eat at the cafeteria in the Headquarters building.
"Are we having shimmy?" Koji asked.
Greg had learned what shimmy was. He was eager to try it eventually, but that morning breakfast would be ham and eggs with toast. "No shimmy. You get to eat ham this morning."
"Koji likes ham, but it's not as good as shimmy."
As they ate, Greg found himself enjoying his conversation with the young boy. He found his grandson to be very intelligent with a surprisingly good grasp of English, which was not his primary language. He also found the times Koji referred to himself in third person amusing. He could tell that the boy was struggling to use first person and decided to say nothing except to praise his successes when he could. Greg was particularly interested in Koji's talks about his days in the orphanage and of how much he was learning in the school on the Sooloo.
After breakfast, Koji went into the kitchen and thanked Alicia for cooking breakfast. He asked if he could help her clean up. She smiled and gave the boy a smothering hug, telling him he should enjoy his time with his grandfather. She complimented him on his politeness and let him know what a good boy he was.
Alicia was a widow who had three children of her own, two sons and a daughter. Ronald Gordon, her youngest, was fourteen, in the Space Explorer program, and served as Chief Engineer on the Victorious. She was extremely proud of Ronald’s accomplishments. Her daughter, Maureen, was eighteen and a freshman at University of Nevada, Vegas. Her oldest child, Edward, was twenty-one, married, and father of her two adorable, amazing, incredibly cute grandchildren, twin daughters Sharonda and Latisha. Edward was a new Ensign in Space Fleet who was currently stationed at the Tiberius Space Port.
"You and your grandpa have fun. He pays me good money to clean and cook for him and I plan to earn it." She was more than a housekeeper, however. She had a PhD in Extraterrestrial Studies and was a professor in ET Studies at the University of Nevada. She was currently on the last year of a three-year sabbatical, which she took after her husband’s death. She was receiving a stipend from the University for which she was doing research as well as payments from her husband’s life insurance policy.
Her research was on crossbreeding between alien cultures. She was hoping to interview Jace regarding his life growing up and how he viewed his place in the scheme of things.
She had met Greg Robinson at a party put on by her sister and brother-in-law, Alan Porter. Alan was a Captain in the Transport division of Space Fleet, mostly commanding ore transports. She was seated next to Greg at dinner and learned that he was looking for a part-time housekeeper and cook. When Ronald left for space on the Victorious, she found herself wanting a low stress job until her sabbatical ended.
Because of her academic background, she was very interested in observing Koji. He wasn't the first alien she had met—that had been Zorn a couple of weeks before, but Koji was the first alien child she had met. At that time, she was not aware of Kyle’s Draconian lineage.
After breakfast, Koji and Greg played an ancient game called "Don't Break the Ice" which Koji quickly became adept at playing. As their big breakfast settled, Koji said he wanted to swim in the pool.
"You could if you had brought a swimming suit," Greg responded.
"I brought one but forgot it in the car because I saw you and was excited. But I can swim nakey."
"Oh my, I don't think that would…"
"Koji swims nakey with his friends on the Sooloo. Nobody wears swimsuits."
Alicia walked into the room just then. Once again, Greg thanked her timing for bailing him out. "I don't think Mrs. Gordon would appreciate a naked boy skinny-dipping in the pool."
Her comment was not what Greg had expected. "Admiral, I am a grandmother who raised two boys and a girl, and I have two granddaughters, all of whom I've seen skinny-dipping. It's like a badge of honor for them. I've seen more than my share of naked boys, so let the boy have his fun."
Koji didn't wait for his grandpa's response. He ran out to the patio, throwing his shirt, pants, underpants and socks around the patio (he had taken his shoes off at his grandpa's request while riding his jivir) before taking a screeching leap into the pool.
"You know I will never forgive you for this," Greg told Alicia.
"And you know you're loving every second of this grandpa business," Alicia responded.
"How right you are," he grinned as he started out to the patio. "I can't remember when I've had so much real fun."
Jace and Jordan were welcomed with the love of both sets of parents, and then when the twins entered the home, the grandparents were ecstatic. Jason Blackwell looked at the twins and said, "Let me see if I remember correctly." He pointed at Jonas, then Jason and said, "You're Ethel and you must be Heather."
"No Grandpa Jason, I am Jonas, and this is Jason. He has the same name as you."
"I knew that, I was teasing," Grandpa Jason chuckled. "I think we have birthday presents waiting for you."
"But it's not our birthday, anymore." Jonas reasoned.
Grandpa Jason smiled, "No, but since you couldn't open them on your birthday, they waited for you."
"Oh, that makes sense. Where are they?"
"You boys sit on the couch and we will bring them to you." Jason was a little reluctant but joined his brother on the couch. As the grandparents brought the presents in, Grandma Jessica asked, "Don't we get kisses from our grandsons?"
Jonas was quick to give each grandparent a hug and kiss. Jason acted bashful. "Never mind him, Mom," Jordan advised, "He doesn't take to new people easily. He'll come around in his own time and give each of you hugs and kisses. The only one I've seen him take to right away was Jace."
"That's fine," Grandma Jessica replied, looking at Jason. "When you feel more comfortable, I'll be here."
After the shuttle from Florida arrived, Dave and Hal walked toward the Courthouse. Dave turned to his husband and asked, "Do you know who is prosecuting?"
Hal smiled as he replied, "Abe Dobbins. He's never lost a case."
Dave and Hal walked into the courtroom finding Kyle and Danny sitting in the front row of the gallery. As they walked over to where the pair was seated, Aiden entered the courtroom.
Dave asked, "Where's Koji? Since both of you are here, we expected he'd be with you."
Danny laughed and replied, "He's with Grandpa Admiral. When we get back we'll probably find either the Admiral or Koji naked and tied to a chair with duct tape."
Kyle made a sour face and stated, "That's an image I didn't need in my head... my dad naked."
All present were laughing, but after a moment, the group quieted.
"Lars is at home with Momma, he wanted to spend some time with just her." Dave averred.
The defendant, Alan Hole, was brought into the courtroom, stripped of his uniform and wearing a hot pink jump suit with the words "Space Fleet Corrections" on the back.
Jaku entered the courtroom with Kage, Akage, and Tei. He was smiling widely. When he reached the others, he told them, "I just spent the last hour with the Tribunal Judges and both Attorneys. They wanted to see my evidence and hear my testimony... I think you will be surprised in a minute."
The three members of the Tribunal entered the courtroom and took their seats. Both Bill Mirah and Greg Robinson recused themselves from the Tribunal. Once the case was officially called, Admiral Darrow spoke, "After reviewing the evidence, there is no need for a formal court martial. This tribunal, by unanimous decision finds Alan Hole, guilty on all counts. He shall be dishonorably discharged from Space Fleet and will serve 30 years in a Space Fleet penal institution."
"No way, I am entitled to a trial, it is my right," A. Hole demanded.
His attorney tried getting Alan to settle down and accept his sentencing. Security officers had to remove A. Hole from the courtroom. "I will talk with him; this case is closed."
Darrow dismissed the courtroom.
Hal commented, "A. Hole remained a dick head to the end."
"Yeah, but now he will get a dick head in his end," Kyle chuckled.
After A. Hole's trial, Kyle went to be with Commander Hanson, but Dave asked Danny to stay for an hour. There was something he needed to discuss with him.
"What do you need, Dave?" Danny asked.
"Well, I had a meeting with Admiral Mirah and he made a request. I would like to discuss his request with you.
"Sure, you know I'll be happy to do anything in my power to help Admiral Mirah."
"So, you've proven yourself to be an accomplished pilot. Many believe that you are quite possibly the best pilot in the fleet... bar none. You also have the most experience of any pilot in Space Fleet in advanced fighters.
After our experiences thus far on our mission, the Admiralty has realized that sending the Explorer Fleet out without fighters was short sighted, so, Space fleet has commissioned the manufacture of five fighters for each of the Explorer vessels.
Danny was flabbergasted by what he was hearing. "Who is going to train all of those pilots? With 20 ships, that means 100 fighters, and as such, 100 fighter pilots."
Dave smiled as he looked Danny in the eye without saying a word.
"Seriously? Me? I'm only 12... who will take orders, let alone learn from a Lt. Junior Grade?"
"Well, assuming you accept the position, you will be promoted to full Lieutenant. All of the candidate pilots, 150 of them have been identified because not all will pass... but all of them are either Ensigns or Lt. JGs. So, you would be the ranking officer in the training program. There will be at least one face you will recognize among your trainees."
Danny thought about it and said, "I hope you're talking about Crewman Danvers. Juju is nearly as good as I am. If he is one of the trainees, and will be promoted to Ensign, at least, I will talk to Kyle, but I am sure he'll support my accepting the position. How about I let you know in a day or two, officially."
"That's fine. Training is set to start shortly after the New Year. It is anticipated that you will need 4 to 6 weeks to select the 99 additional pilots that will make up the fighter crews. Navigators and Gunners will be taken from existing security personnel on board each of the ships. In addition to the ninety-nine, we would like for fifty-one alternates to be fully trained as well."
Danny looked back at Dave and said solemnly, "Thank you for this opportunity, Sir. Please express my gratitude to Admiral Mirah for his confidence in me."
From behind, Danny heard, "Your gratitude isn't necessary, Danny. In fact, you have mine for making this decision easier."
Danny turned and saluted the Fleet Admiral with a smile.
Will Crusoe and John Luke took a shuttle to visit John's family first. John wanted to tell his family about the upcoming nuptials and invite them to attend. When they arrived, a younger version of John ran out of the house and jumped into John's arms, "Bro, you're home!!! Who's the cute guy with you, your boyfriend?"
"Yeah, Matthew, this is Will, my fiancé," John chuckled after catching his breath. "You're getting a little too big to be jumping into me like that."
"Yeah, but you know you love it'" Matthew smiled.
John laughed, "I love that you love me like that, but you hit my chest so hard, you knocked the breath out of me."
Matthew gave Will a hug and said, "If you ever get tired of John, would you consider a younger version?"
"Hey, Squirt, are you hitting on MY boyfriend?" John feigned anger.
Matthew laughed, "Well, he IS cute, and I asked IF he gets tired of you." John grabbed his brother and started tickling him.
Matthew dropped to the ground, pulling John on top of him. John continued tickling his brother and Will joined in. Matthew didn't resist, he was enjoying his brother and Will tickling him. "Will you boys get off of Matthew?" Momma demanded more than asked.
"Aww, Mom," Matthew whined, "We were only having fun."
"Well, I couldn't get MY hugs in," Momma wrapped her arms around John and then Will.
Matthew grabbed Will and John's bags. "I can put these in John's room, unless Will wants to sleep in mine," Matthew teased.
Will laughed, "Thanks for the offer, Squirt, but I'm good with sleeping with John."
"I bet you are," Matthew laughed.
Will asked, "How old are you?"
"I will be twelve on Christmas day," Matthew proudly proclaimed.
Momma looked at John, "That boy has been so excited about you coming home ever since you told us. And he has been so infatuated toward Will. There is no doubt that he would do anything for Will."
"Yeah, I have that feeling, Momma," John admitted. "Will won't do anything because he's with me and besides, he is more than three years older than Matthew." John paused, then confessed, "You know, before I went to the Academy, Matthew and I did stuff together. He was always eager to learn more."
"I know, but to change the subject, how long are you staying?" Momma inquired.
John replied, "We have the rest of today and tomorrow, then Wednesday, Will is flying to his home so he can spend Christmas with his family, and I plan to join him after Christmas dinner."
Leaving the Courtroom, Kyle walked over to his favorite instructor's office. He walked through the open door of Commander John Hanson's office five minutes ahead of his appointed time. When Commander Hanson's door was open, it meant anyone could walk in without knocking.
Kyle's former Astrogation teacher looked up from his paperwork and smiled when he saw who had walked in. He stood, walked around his desk, and surprised Kyle by wrapping his arms around him and embracing him in a tight hug. Hanson was a big man at 6'2, 210 pounds and Kyle could feel the man's strength—it was a surprisingly pleasant sensation.
The teacher released his former pupil, stepped back, and grinned. "It's great to see you Kyle. Good lord, you've grown, lad. You look positively amazing," he spouted enthusiastically. "And, you're five minutes early, to boot. I can remember when being five minutes late was your equivalent to being five minutes early."
"It's good to see you, too, Sir," Kyle replied sardonically. "I've had some good teachers who beat the importance of being on time into me."
"There's no need to call me Sir. I believe the bars on your collar indicates you and I are the same rank."
"You're still my teacher and always will be."
"I have a feeling that even at your tender age you could teach me a thing or two about Astrogation. After all, I'm not the person who has an Astrogation procedure named after him." Hanson pointed to the chair at the side of his desk. "Have a seat, Kyle—you know that chair intimately."
Kyle sat in the familiar chair with a grin. Hanson turned his chair slightly so he could look at Kyle eye to eye. He felt that having the desk separating him from a student was intimidating; he wanted his students to feel comfortable talking to him.
"You know, there's more to you than a couple more inches and a few more pounds. You have a glow about you and the look of someone confident in himself and in his abilities. Your slouch is gone, and the scowl is off your face." Even though Kyle was only twelve, Commander Hanson could see the young man who was growing inside of the young adolescent. "I was pleased and intrigued when you contacted me saying you wanted to meet on your return to Earth. And I appreciate your approving my request to view the bulk of your records from the Sooloo."
"I was surprised when you asked. I thought you could see my records."
"Only those of your student days. I needed the approval of both you and Captain Bowman to see your records as a member of the Sooloo crew, and even then, there would be some classified items redacted. I will say quickly that I was beyond impressed by your accomplishments, but I know you didn't want to meet with me to get your ego stroked nor to tell me how much you appreciated my talents as an Astrogation instructor."
"You did more for me as a teacher than you know. You got me moving on the right path or I probably would have ended up maintaining the garbage recyclers if I even got chosen for shipboard duty. What I wanted to talk to you about was…"
Commander Hanson held up his right hand to stop Kyle, "Two things before you start. First, if you would close my office door I would appreciate it. Open door—open office. Closed door—closed office, knock to gain entry, just like it's always been. I sense what we're going to talk about will be a closed-door session. Second, I sense I know what the topic is."
Kyle closed the door and reseated himself. "I guess you can tell me what you think you know, and I'll tell you if you were right. That said, I think you're going to be right."
"It has to do with a young lad discovering something nobody ever told him about his heritage." Kyle nodded, and Commander Hanson went on, "It has to do with that young man learning he has Draconian bloodlines and finding out why he can communicate with the stars, not to mention why that beautiful blond hair of his has begun to darken."
Kyle nodded again but said nothing. The teacher and the pupil sat in silence; their gazes focused on each other in silence. Even though the pupil had matured a great deal since he last saw the teacher, he still hadn't gained the patience to wait the veteran educator out.
"I knew you would know. I bet you knew back when I was taking classes from you. I bet you knew when I sat in this chair next to your desk so many times when I was having problems and when I just needed somebody to talk to. And just like my mother and my dad, you never said anything about my heritage to me. Nobody ever said anything to me and I don't get it."
"I suspected your Draconian blood strongly, Kyle, but felt I couldn't say anything. Your parents must have had a reason for keeping this from you, and I didn't feel it was my place to say anything. The best I could do was hint that we had something in common; that I could sometimes hear something from the stars. I hoped that might open a door of communication."
Kyle could feel many different emotions welling up in him. "What you told me helped me know I wasn't alone, but I didn't know what to do with what you told me. It didn't tell me why my father hated me because I could talk with the stars, or even why I could do it. Now I know why I can do it, but I still don't know why my father hated me."
"Kyle, you are taking things too far. I don't believe your father hated you. If he had hated you, he never would have worked to resolve the problems between the two of you. If he hated you, he never would have tried to cover for your bad behavior—he would have just let you sink on your own. No, Kyle, your father didn't hate you; the simple fact is, he didn't UNDERSTAND you."
During their conversation, Commander Hanson had sensed the proud young Space Fleet Astrogator withdraw into himself, mentally grabbing onto the little boy he was. The teacher could see the result in how his pupil had slouched down on the chair in a somewhat sullen manner, his eyes and his face displaying the hurt and confusion he was feeling. Hanson knew it was time to lift the boy he had learned to love back up.
Yes, Commander John Hanson had come to love his prized student, Commander Kyle Robinson. He loved him in the way a father would love his own son, for never in his career had he had a student who resonated with him the way Kyle had. He understood the fact that Kyle was part Draconian had a great deal to do with his feelings and he also understood that it didn't make those feelings any less important.
"There are a few things I think you should consider, Kyle. First, not all Draconians can talk to the stars and for those that can their abilities vary. In my case, I sometimes hear what they say, but I have never had any kind of a two-way conversation. But from what I've been able to ascertain, your ability is amazing. There is a love and trust between you and whatever the intelligence that resides in celestial bodies happens to be. I am convinced that to have that ability, a person must possess royal blood. Now that I've been allowed to access your records, I think my theory has been shown to be a fact."
Kyle had heard the same thing, of course, but was clueless as to what it actually meant. He stated those feelings to his mentor.
"I don't know what it means, either, other than you are someone very special who should be proud of his heritage and honored to be who he is." Hanson fought a smile as he watched Kyle sit up straighter and observed his eyes at once lighting up and showing the boy's intelligence and astuteness.
"You said you had more things for me to consider," Kyle reminded Hanson.
"I assume from here you will be meeting with your father." Kyle nodded. "When you meet with him, I want you to consider something that might explain why your father didn't reveal your Draconian heritage and didn't understand it." The teacher paused and looked straight at his student as if he expected the young boy to show a flash of insight. He wasn't disappointed.
Kyle's face lit up like his eyes had when the insight hit him. "Dad never told me about my heritage because he never knew it, and he didn't understand me and the stars because he didn't know why I was so different. It was like maybe I scared him."
"You are indeed a very perceptive young man. And why do you think your mother never told you or your father anything about her heritage."
"Because she was afraid of what my dad might do, like divorce her and get rid of me. I know she thought my dad was, like a really bad man, but I know now that isn't true. Maybe Mom didn't understand Dad just like Dad didn't understand us."
"When you visit with your father, do it with those thoughts in mind. I think you might be pleasantly surprised."
"But that still doesn't tell me why Dad didn't say anything about Mom being killed."
"Maybe he did tell you, my young friend. And maybe you were in such a turmoil of emotion at the time, you never listened and as a result you never heard."
"That's almost the same thing that Aiden and Danny told me."
"Aiden sounds very wise. And Danny is your husband and knows you well; well enough that you should listen to him."
"I guess I have a lot to think about when I talk to Dad." Kyle stood up and Hanson rose right after him.
Commander Hanson stepped to the boy, wrapped his arms around him, and gave him a hug full of love. "Thank you… John," Kyle said softly into the man's strong chest. "This has helped me a lot."
"And thank you, Kyle Robinson. You might be just twelve years old but seeing the man you've become makes me the proudest instructor in Space Fleet. Hell, it makes me proud as a man."
He let go of Kyle, who said with deep felt sincerity, "You had more to do with helping me grow up than anybody here." He turned and left so his teacher wouldn't see the tears starting down his cheeks. John Hanson sat at his desk, sorry to see Kyle leave while at the same time happy that the boy wouldn't see the tears starting down his cheeks.
Because the court martial of A. Hole went quicker than expected, Kyle was riding back to his father's house in the Admiral's staff car. This time his driver was Carlos Santana, an enlisted man in Space Fleet. Working in the motor pool was his regular duty. Unlike Bob Adams, he was impressed by his passenger. He might be young, Carlos thought, but he is a senior officer on the Sooloo, which was impressive all by itself. The Sooloo was becoming a legend through word of mouth.
Kyle thought of his ride to Headquarters with Bob. Bob was obviously not impressed and did little to hide his feelings. When Kyle came back to the car and sat in the front seat, Bob noticed his medals for the first time. Kyle generally didn't wear them but was instructed by Dave to wear them to the court martial since they gave him extra credibility.
Bob disliked Kyle even more when he saw the display of valor he was wearing. His fucking father gives him toys to pin on his shirt and he wears them as if he actually earned them, he groused to himself. He decided to aggravate the young punk in a way that wouldn't get him into hot water with his father.
"Who found the medals for you?" he asked with fake civility.
"I earned them," Kyle replied. He wished now that he had sat in the backseat, but he had hoped to penetrate the iciness of the big man sitting in the left-hand seat. He stared out the window with the determined look on his face that the crew of the Sooloo were used to seeing when Kyle was facing a problem to be solved.
Bob wanted to say he didn't know little boys could earn medals of valor by shuffling papers around, but instead simply turned his head to Kyle and said, "I see." But as soon as the words came out he noted something he hadn't seen before. What he saw was not the soft face of spoiled preadolescent. What he saw was the face of the son of a powerful admiral, and as he looked deeper, he saw the face of a young man who was a leader who was entrusted with solving problems. Bob went back to looking ahead, confused as to what it was he was looking at.
Kyle's young adolescent brain wanted him to boast about his achievements just to put the arrogant asshole in his place, but a pause and a deep breath convinced him to say nothing. They ended up riding in silence to headquarters. After being dropped off, Kyle went to the cafeteria for breakfast. Later that morning, he decided he wanted to see if he could get a different driver. He contacted the motor pool to request a change for the afternoon. Since Kyle had the rank to make such a request without having to give a reason, the motor pool dispatcher said he would make the change. As a result, Kyle was picked up by Carlos Santana while Bob Adams was assigned to drive Admiral Bill Mirah to a meeting at the spaceport.
Things were bright and very lively in Admiral Robinson's swimming pool. Alicia came onto the patio carrying a green inflated pool toy, oval shaped with the head of a dragon on one end.
Greg had no idea where she got it, but he was getting used to the fact that the woman was a miracle worker. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn she had made a career of being a domestic worker. On the other hand, dealing with three children and two grandchildren probably created a miracle worker on its own. She was certainly different than what his ex-wife had been.
Koji worked his way through the opening in the rubber dragon and started paddling. "Come into the pool, Naflopsola," he called out, using the Draconian word for grandfather.
"I'm not ready to get wet yet, Koji." Greg was standing almost at attention next to the pool. He enjoyed watching his naked grandson playing in the water like a hairless otter.
He was surprised when Koji left the toy and pulled himself out of the pool. We watched his grandson step quickly onto the diving board. Greg Robinson had not been in battle readiness for years, and when he realized what it was Koji had planned it was too late. During his skinny-dipping sessions with his friends on the Sooloo, Koji had become master of the cannonball.
"Watch me, Naflopsola," he shouted as he jumped off the board with a screech, made himself into a ball of boy flesh, and created a splash that drenched his grandfather.
"Oh, you little rascal!" Greg shouted as Koji surfaced, pointed to him, and belted out a high-pitched screeching laugh. Greg pulled off his shirt and pants almost as fast as Koji had earlier and leaped into the pool still wearing his boxers (he, too, had removed his shoes earlier). He was not yet ready to go skinny-dipping with his grandson.
It turned out he had no choice as the otter swam under him and yanked off the boxers before he could react. Koji surfaced and tossed them onto the patio before jumping on his grandfather. "You are, indeed, a mischievous imp," Greg laughed as he dunked his grandson. That started a wrestling and dunking match, which had Alicia laughing with delight as she watched. She heard the door buzzer and went to see who it was. She saw the person she expected and told Kyle that his father and son were in the pool.
Kyle wasn't surprised to see his father and Koji in the pool together. "Opsola," Koji shouted with happiness. "Swim nakey with us."
That was when Kyle gave the two a closer look and saw that his father and his son were naked, and that did surprise him. Oh well, he thought, when in the Admiral's house, do as the Admiral does. He carefully removed his uniform shirt and then pulled off his shoes. As little as two minutes ago, he would never have dreamed of stripping in front of his father. The last time his father had seen him naked was when he caught him naked with Danny.
His pants, briefs, and socks followed, and he was now naked in front of his father. Greg Robinson felt a surge of fatherly pride when he saw the naked body of his twelve-year-old son. He could see the makings of a six-pack in his solid abdomen along with the slender arms and legs so common in young adolescents, with a hint of the maturing musculature developing under the smooth skin. He was surprised that Kyle still hadn't grown any pubic hair but saw that his testicles had started to drop and that his penis was hanging free.
"Here comes the cannonball express," Kyle shouted as he dropped into the pool with a major splash.
"Mine was better," Koji boasted. "It got Grandpa Admiral all wet and made him get nakey and come into the pool."
"I had help with the last phase of nudity," Greg chuckled, giving Koji a light punch on his arm.
Koji's answer was to dunk his grandfather just before his father dunked him and the roughhousing was on. For Greg, having his son as well as his grandson in the pool with him sent his fun meter to new heights. For his part, Kyle elected to forget about the questions and doubts he had regarding his father and turn on his own fun meter.
The wrestling, cannonballing, dunking and dragon driving lasted until a rubber playground ball mysteriously appeared in the pool and the three played a game of keep away until Alicia announced it was time to get out of the pool, rinse off in the shower, get dressed, and get lunch.
Lunch was served on the table on the patio. While the three showered off, nobody got dressed. Kyle told his father about how the court martial went and about his interesting driver, to which Greg answered that many people didn't know what to make of the sudden return of the Explorer ships. Koji told his father yet again about drenching his naflopsola with the best cannonball of the day.
For the first time in his life, Greg Robinson had fun being a grandfather, not to mention a father. Kyle saw his father as a human being who was more than a man in uniform (or would it be less, since he's naked? Kyle wondered). And Koji forgot about his days as an orphan and felt part of family more than he ever had before.
Lunch ended, but the conversation and conviviality didn't. The Robinson males walked out to the patio and found lounge chairs in which to recline. The December day was sunny and unseasonably warm. Sitting outside in the nude on the mid-seventies' day was comfortable, but the forecast was for much cooler weather over the next few days.
Ten minutes after finishing lunch, Koji's patience ended. Before anybody could stop him, he hit the diving board and launched another cannonball, soaking Greg and Kyle, who were sitting on lounge chairs next to the pool. Before they could react, the door buzzer sounded. Greg headed into the house to answer the door but was stopped by Alicia, who was clearing the patio table.
"I doubt answering the door in the altogether is what you truly want to do, Admiral, no matter how fine your body is," the housekeeper grinned. It was rare for Admiral Robinson to blush, but in this instance, he presented a full-body blush. "I'll get it and chase whoever it is away, unless it's your son-in-law, of course."
Alicia opened the door to find a young boy wearing a Space Fleet officer's uniform. "You must be Kyle's husband, Danny," she said. The retired professor had not yet fully adjusted to preteens being married and having children. She had nothing against the concept, rather it was the newness of the changes that had her off balance. She couldn't help but wonder how her grandson fit into the swirling relationships that she was certain were happening on his ship.
"Yes, Ma'am. Sorry I'm late. I needed to see somebody first."
"The only thing you're late for, son, is lunch. I'll bring a sandwich out before your stomach gets a chance to growl. The family is out on the patio. Be prepared for a surprise when you step out there."
"Thank you." Danny strode to the patio door wondering what the surprise was. As soon as he walked onto the patio he saw that Koji was naked, which hardly surprised him. But when he saw that his father-in-law was also naked, he choked down a snort of laughter. That was a huge surprise, as was Kyle's nudity. He couldn't help but think of his prediction that Kyle would discover Koji and Greg naked by the pool with one of them duct taped to a chair. At least that part didn't happen (or did it? he chuckled to himself), but Kyle's nudity trumped the duct tape.
Danny looked in stunned silence at the naked trio. "Daddy Danny, you have to get nakey," Koji shouted. Danny said nothing as he remembered the only time Kyle's father had seen him in the nude. That was the day he had been tossed out of the house naked with his clothes being thrown out the door after him. Getting naked in front of his father-in-law was not an option.
"I don't know if…," Danny stammered, but he was too late to get it all out before Koji did another super cannonball, soaking Danny and his uniform. "Why you little rascal! You are doomed!" Danny screeched. Somehow, he stripped naked faster than Kyle had, as his mischievous little son had washed the demons out of him with one giant splash.
The next forty-five minutes consisted of laughing, screaming and horseplay before the rapidly cooling afternoon air forced them out of the pool and back into their clothes and uniforms. Danny should not have been surprised that Alicia had clandestinely picked his clothes off the patio and tossed them into the dryer, but he had not yet learned about the efficiency of his father-in-law's amazing housekeeper who would become an important part of his and Kyle's lives.
At the insistence of both adults, everyone was dressed for dinner. After eating and chatting, Greg called for a motor pool vehicle to pick up the boys. They would be moving into the Robinson home on Christmas Eve morning, but Greg had to take care of some out of town Space Fleet business the next day.
When Kyle, Danny and Koji left for their quarters, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the Robinson family was closer than it had ever been before. Greg was now truly looking forward to taking his son and grandson on the space cruise to Mars.
When Admiral Mirah saw that Carlos, who was his regular driver, was not in the left-hand seat, he texted the dispatcher to check if Carlos was okay. The reply said that Commander Robinson had requested a new driver. "My apologies to the admiral, but this was the best I could do on short notice. No reason was given."
Mirah praised the dispatcher for making the proper decision and decided to see what he could learn. "I hear you drove my friend Admiral Robinson's son and grandson this morning."
"Yes, sir, I did."
With some astute questioning Mirah managed to get inside of the driver's thinking and learned all he needed to know when Bob Adams said, "With all due respect, he appeared to be a bit young for the rank he had or the medals he wore."
"Your comment is noted. I will tell you this much, Mr. Adams. Kyle Robinson is a much decorated and respected officer in Space Fleet. He is already a veteran explorer at age twelve. He has a legal husband who is also twelve, and an adopted son (that explains the little kid who rode with him, Bob thought). He's quite an amazing young man. With your permission, I will send some of his history to your E-address."
"Permission granted, sir." Bob was prepared not to be impressed and to skip over whatever was sent. Bob felt that the fact he was a little gay boy who found a way to get around the rules and become legally married simply made his existence as space explorer even more of a joke. That was the extent of the conversation between the two as the Admiral started doing some work on his tablet.
Bob Adams couldn't wait to get back into space with real men; men who were not sissy faggots who had to come back to Earth to see their mommas because they didn't have the balls to be true men of space.
Juro was excited as they were preparing the Holodeck for Shadow Ops. He read the names of their opponents, "Red Dragon, Blue Dragon and Cocktail. What are our code names, Dad?"
Aiden looked at his son, "What would you like them to be?"
Juro laughed as he said, "Opsola Guyya, Kalbu Guyya, and Guyya Vrak."
Connor laughed, "As much as we've seen of you, perhaps it should be Inrhul Vrak."
Juro looked surprised, "You know the Draconian word for bare?"
As the game started, the boys strategized. Connor and Juro were going to flank right while Aiden flanked left. Juro got Connor's attention and asked, "Is that Red Dragon?"
"Yes," Connor replied. "Be careful, he does this for a living."
Juro moved to a well-hidden area; General Savage was hit by a shot. He looked around but was unable to determine from where it came. After his 'penalty' time was up, he was "resurrected." A short time later, he was hit once again. After the allotted penalty, he was up and, in the game again... this time he paid close attention. After a few minutes he was hit a third time, but this time he saw his assailant... his eyes opened wide when he saw what appeared to be an eight- or nine-year-old boy.
Javier started to chuckle until he was shot several times, his laughter giving his position away.
Aiden spotted Tom heading toward him. He waited until he couldn't miss, then the computer called out, "Winner, Team Guyya." As the game finally ended, The Sooloo Bears were victorious. General Savage approached Juro and wrapped his arms around the boy. "You made me so proud to be your Great Grandfather." Turning to Aiden and Connor he added, "You've done well so far raising him. So… interesting names, what do they mean?"
"Juro picked them out. They are Draconian," Connor explained, "Guyya means bear, and I am his Opsola, or father. Kalbu is Aiden, and it means loving father. I'm not sure how he got that, I mean we love the boy the same."
"To me, you're both kalbu, but you were already called Opsola," Juro explained.
"I knew that, I was just teasing," Connor gave Juro a bear hug, lifting his feet off the ground, "Vrak means child."
"It's obvious how much you both love the boy," General Savage chuckled, "but, in my book, Juro is no child. After all, he defeated me."
Javier laughed as he looked at the General, "I may have to start calling you Kalbu." The General smiled.
Once they arrived in Hollywood, Florida, Dave and Hal spent the morning Christmas shopping. A kid bumped into Dave, and Dave caught him trying to pick his pocket. They went to the Sheriff's Office to file a report, but the Desk Sergeant claimed they had already caught the kid.
Dave and Hal asked if they could see the boy, to be sure it was the same one. Knowing it wasn't the same boy, yet also knowing the answer, Dave asked the boy, "So... why are you in jail"
The boy looked down, "I was hungry, so a friend tried to snatch something I could trade for food. He got away and they arrested me."
"Not much of a friend if he's going to snatch and ditch you to take the blame."
"Where are your parents?" Hal questioned.
Again, the boy looked down, but for several minutes, when he spoke, it was barely audible, "My dad ran off when I was born, and last time I saw my mom, she was trying to score drugs. That was a week ago."
"What's your name?" Hal inquired.
"My name is Oliver, Sir, Oliver Tietokone."
Hal was caught by surprise, but stated, "Oliver, your 'friend' tried to pick my husband's pocket. I can verify that it wasn't you, but I wanted to hear from you why he tried. Are you any relation to Inga Tietokone?"
"I believe she is my mom's cousin, maybe an in-law; I'm not really sure how they are related, but I remember Mom talking about her, calling her a cousin. How do you know her?"
"If your last name is Tietokone, wouldn't she be your dad's cousin?"
"Mom and Dad never married and since my dad didn't want me, Mom gave me her last name. Are you not going to tell me how you know Inga?"
Hal smiled, "She is my mom."