Kyle is discovering some of the "not-so-fun" aspects of parenting. Koji is proving to be a handful. Meanwhile, in Engineering, Connor, Juro and Tomo recalibrated the speed indicators for the Sooloo's new speed. Dave made Juro and Tomo "acting ensigns."
The empty Junior Officers' was converted into a class room. Classes started on 20 October 2121.
They reached their destination on 27 October 2121, which was Megrez. In orbit of Megrez was a Draconian Ship, approximately 2000 years old. The away team discovered an artifact in the ship.
The Sooloo was given a fighter. Danny will be its main pilot, but he may train other pilots how to fly her.
Dave suggested that Juro and Tomo head to the Shuttle Bay and await the return of the Away Team with the artifact. Then he turned back to John Luke who was at Astrogation. "Keep us synchronized with that ship, Bible; I don't want us drifting anywhere we shouldn't be." Dave closed his eyes and his thoughts drifted... in his mind's eye he saw a regal figure, dressed in a ceremonial Darastixian kimono. He seemed to be showing Dave the artifact and a hidden trigger...
Dave arranged for Aiden, Jace and Koji to meet him in the Shuttle Bay for the arrival of the artifact. He had sent Tomo and Juro there when he dismissed them from the bridge. This left Jordan at the conn.
When Dave arrived, the others were standing there watching as the Raphael made its final approach. Lashed to the side of the shuttle was the artifact. In total it looked to be about seven feet in length.
Danny set the shuttle down in its assigned space and the crew came out of the shuttle, having removed their space suits on the way back. Hal went over to Dave and the two were talking quietly as Aiden supervised a couple of crewmen taking the artifact down from the side of the shuttle. They set it down about ten feet away from the shuttle, and after verifying there were no harmful emissions from the artifact, Tomo, Juro and Koji went to it to inspect the ancient Draconian writing. Dave walked over to the front of it and reached to the underside. He found a trigger right where he saw it in his vision.
Tomo and Juro had been studying a bit of the writing on the artifact when Dave activated the trigger. The nose of the artifact opened and a hologram of a person that looked strikingly like an older version of Kyle appeared. The main difference would be the hair color of this 'Kyle-like' person was dark... not the blond that Kyle had.
The figure started speaking, Koji asked Tomo... "What is he saying?"
Tomo looked over at Juro before replying to all, "Wow, that language is really old, maybe the original dragon tongue. It's where Darastix, or what you call Draconian or Dragon speak came from."
The message went on for a minute, then repeated. Tomo translated it, "He's saying, 'Greetings from the people of Darastix. I am Kairu, King of our people. Oh great Megrez, you have helped our people for so long, and we know you have no family. Please accept this gift... it is our hope it helps your family to grow."
Kyle felt Megrez trying to communicate. He held his penguin tightly in his arms and Megrez's words came to him clearly. "Dave," Kyle started, "Megrez says that behind the trigger you pulled should be another next to a button. He says to press the button while pulling both triggers."
Kyle was quiet for a moment more before saying, "He says that part of the artifact will come loose, that is to be returned to Darastix. We then need to move the rest of it to the edge of one of the clouds. Once the part is removed, we will have ten hours until the device activates; he says we have to be far away from it when it does."
Dave considered what needed to happen. He told Tomo and Juro to stay and try to decipher more of the writing on the artifact. He needed to consider how to accomplish what would need to be done. He wished there was a way to communicate with Darastix; he could use some advice.
Tomo and Juro were sitting at a table eating lunch and chatting about the artifact. As they were eating, Lt. Scott Trevor came over with Łukasz Kuc. "You boys mind if we sit with you?"
"We were just talking about the artifact Commander Tietokone brought back," Juro replied.
"When, your dad Aiden told me that you will be pulling some tactical watches, and being I am the Assistant Chief of Tactical, I was hoping to get to know you better."
"You're Lieutenant Scott Trevor, right?" Juro asked. "Dad told me that I will be under you and you may help me learn tactical as much as he does."
"Yes, I am Scott Trevor, and this is my boyfriend, Łukasz Kuc, but you can call him Luke. He is a Security/Tactical officer, too."
"Pleased to meet you boys. We've already been hearing a buzz about the two of you in Engineering, and then with the artifact," Łukasz shook their hands. Then he turned to Tomo, "Will you be in tactical as well?"
"No, I will be enriching my knowledge in science with my dad two days a week. And working in Engineering with my opsola three days a week."
Scott looked at Juro, "If you start taking Tactical watches on the bridge, we won't need A Hole to take any. Granted, you will have someone assisting you until you know what to do, but you would help us a lot."
"So, are you and Luke going to get married?" Tomo asked.
Juro scowled at him, "That might be personal. You might as well have asked them if they were having sex."
"We don't mind," Scott assured them. "Feel free to ask us anything, but if it is too personal, we will tell you. As for marriage, we are considering talking to Dave about it. And since you mentioned sex, we've done lots of kissing and I've just gotten to the point where we have done stuff. I had an issue a couple of years back, so you two are probably further along than we are."
"You think we are having sex?" Juro feigned innocence.
"To be honest, I don't have a clue," Scott admitted, "But I can tell you two love each other, so it wouldn't surprise me. I can see it in your eyes, and your body language."
Tomo declared, "Juro has been my best friend ever since my family was killed, he and Prince Zifaa. Of course, I love him."
"Okay, maybe that's what I am seeing, but I sense there is more to it."
Juro confessed, "You are right; we have experimented, and we enjoy it. I wouldn't complain if Tomo and I mate. I do love him so much that I want to be with him forever." Tomo gave Juro a loving smile.
"You're a bit young to make that decision," Scott declared, "but my mom and dad were younger than you when they declared they were going to marry. They celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in June."
"Is June a month or season? We are still acclimating to the Terran calendar."
"June is the sixth month of the Terran calendar, we are nearing the end of the tenth."
"And the Terran calendar has twelve months just like the Darastixian calendar, only our months are shorter, right?"
Tomo added, "Dad said that the reason we have shorter months is because Darastix orbits Draconis, our star, faster than Terra orbits its sun."
Łukasz nodded, "Yes, the Terran calendar has twelve months. Earth, which is what we call Terra takes 365.25 days to orbit the sun. Draconia, or Darastix takes 330 days. Do you know when your birthdays will be?"
"My birthday is the first of Juugatsu, but Opsola told me that aligns with the first of February next year," Juro stated.
"My birthday is the sixth of Shigatsu, which Dad showed me is the twenty-first of July next year," Tomo added. "Juro and I discussed it and told Koji what we discussed, and he agreed, since we are adjusting to the Terran Calendar, and to make it easier for everyone, we will then celebrate on birthdays on the Terran date we first celebrate them on."
Juro and Tomo finished their lunch and then excused themselves. They headed back to Tomo's bedroom to chat about the artifact.
"Seeing the artifact and the hologram was so cool," Tomo averred, "but you saying you want to be with me forever, that was even cooler." Tomo pulled Juro close to him and started kissing.
When they separated, Juro looked into Tomo's eyes and stated, "I meant every word of that. I love you more than anything. I enjoy our time together, even when we aren't experimenting."
"Yeah, I love you, too. Experimenting is nice, and I enjoy it, but I enjoy being with you even more. After we have completed school, if our dads approve, I would love to marry you."
"Cool, but we have at least three years until we would be old enough if we were on Darastix. I'm not sure how old we have to be on the ship."
"My dads are sixteen and got married, your dads were fourteen and fifteen, and Koji's dads are twelve, but they had to get special permission. According to Mr. Bakabazi last week when we started school, you and I will have four years of schooling instead of the three we would have had."
"I can wait four years to get married, heck, I'd wait forever as long as I know we will eventually marry," Juro declared.
"We only have two hours until I go on duty in the Science Labs, you want to do anything?" Tomo asked. Juro responded by taking his uniform off, then he sat on Tomo's bed wearing only his fundoshi. Tomo removed his uniform and climbed into bed. Juro started to kiss his friend and caress his body, especially the ass cheeks. While it wasn't easy without untying them, they managed to slip their fundoshi (" The plural form of fundoshi can be either <strong>fundoshi<\/strong> or fundoshis. It is up to the person using the word. ") off.
Dave sat in his ready room performing what he felt was the most boring of tasks, i.e. preparing his daily log to be sent to Space Fleet via subspace radio. He knew that as far away as they were, it would be months if not years before they read it. He likened it to reading a history book to make decisions for the future.
In the time they've been away, he's prepared more reports like this than he could count. He could easily look in the computer and get a tally, but that was almost as much a waste of time as preparing the reports in the first place... at least in his mind.
Admiral Mirah had always taught Dave that spending time on useless tasks was a waste of time... the most valuable resource in the universe... but unfortunately, they still had to be done; waste of time or not.
Dave finished his report of the artifact and his plans for its use and his eventual return to Darastix, contrary to one of his mission protocols... "once you leave a star system you are not to return to it." Part of the responsibilities of being the Captain of a ship was to make sure Space Fleet Rules and Regulations, along with mission protocols were followed.
Another lesson Admiral Mirah had taught him was when to toss the rules, regulations, and protocols out of the nearest airlock and do what his gut told him to be the right thing to do. Dave finished his report, added his electronic signature and instructed the computer to send it home.
Looking at his chronometer, Dave decided to grab something to eat, then go to his quarters. Lars should already be asleep, but hopefully, Hal would be awake. He desperately needed some 'personal' time with his husband.
Admiral Mirah was just finishing a conference vid with a few others in the deep space exploration program. They were going over several reports from the ships that had been sent out. Most of the reports were weeks old... useless from a strategic point of view. Sure, it was interesting to hear of the things the boys were discovering, but they really couldn't DO anything about it.
There was a chime at his door. "Come," the Admiral called out.
Moments later, his Chief of Staff entered. "Sir, we've just received a report from the Sooloo."
"That's not unexpected, why the urgency that you had to barge in here?" The Admiral was a bit irate at this seemingly inconsequential news.
"Sir, the report... it's timestamp... is from three minutes ago."
"What the..." The Admiral's attention was now fully on his Chief. "Well, let's see it!"
Mirah read the report and said, "Holy Fu..." His words stopped mid-utterance. "Call all of my staff to an emergency meeting in our conference room in ten minutes. I'm not sure if we can DO anything, but..."
The Chief left the office to make the call and Mirah read the report again. "Damn it, Dave, you've learned too well from me. I just hope you don't burn your ass in the process."
Fleet Admiral Bill Mirah sat at his usual spot at the head of the table. He was deep in thought as the room filled with his staff. An uneasy silence filled the room as everyone considered what, if anything needed, or even could be done.
Finally, Mirah called for everyone's attention. "Captain Bowman of the Sooloo just filed a report. How it got to us mere minutes after he digitally signed it is a mystery, but one that needs to be cleared up... like YESTERDAY! I want to hear from each of you as to how this could have happened."
Bill knew that before they could determine what to do, they had to know how this transpired. It was a known fact that subspace messages could only travel so fast. Einstein's theory of relativity was still a constant... or was it. Different members of his staff, each specializing in one specific area or another, posed possible causes. Mirah knew they were nothing more than wild guesses based on obviously flawed data.
Fifteen-year-old Ronald Abernathy, the newest and youngest member of Mirah's staff, made a statement that caused everyone to pause. "Maybe, Sir, someone upgraded their communications equipment. We know from his previous reports that the alien, Zorn, made several changes to the onboard systems of the Sooloo. Could he have upgraded their transmitter?"
Little did they know, since the report explaining the attack on the ship and subsequent retrofit on Darastix was still some weeks away, traveling at subspace speeds, that their transmitter had been upgraded. Unknown to the Space Fleet Officers, the Draconians were able to communicate with their ships in real-time. Had Mirah's equipment been upgraded in the same manner, they too would have real-time communications.
The content of the report itself bothered Bill. The ship is in the vicinity of a star that has no planetary satellites. The star, Megrez, is the dimmest star in the constellation Ursa Major, better known as "The Big Dipper" was, as Bill believed, nothing special. Thankfully, Megrez understood that they would have no way of knowing that he was in fact sentient... at least to some degree.
Dave's report was quite detailed. He discussed the finding of the derelict ship. The decision to send a team over to investigate. Finding an artifact believed to be of Draconian origin. Dave did not explain the assistance they'd received from the star itself. He was certain that nobody would believe it. He himself had initial doubts that Kyle was, in fact, communicating with the stars.
"We can only surmise that when they were upgrading the ship, they upgraded communications. It's only a guess, but hell, he didn't include it, so he possibly doesn't even know."
Abernathy thought for a bit, "Can we ask him to send the new schematics of the ship? The computer should be able to update them with all the upgrades. Then perhaps, we may be able to upgrade our system."
"It'll take some time before he receives our request, but that does sound like the next logical step," Mirah agreed.
Dave returned to his quarters after filing his report. He was exhausted, but he was also feeling a need for something more physical. When he arrived, he checked on Lars. He was sleeping soundly, but it seems Koji was with him. Dave thought that was a bit odd, since it was a school night, but figured there had to be a good reason.
He went into the sleeping compartment he shared with Hal, finding his husband sleeping. He stripped and crawled into the bed next to Hal. His need for those things physical would have to wait. He fell asleep shortly thereafter.
Sometime later he awoke. Hal was still with him and he couldn't help himself. He started to kiss Hal awakening him gently. Hal awoke and the two started sharing their love for one another.
Nearly half an hour later, Dave was basking in the afterglow of the sex he and Hal had been having when he heard something... the sounds of giggling.
He looked over and saw Koji and Lars, still naked, caressing each other's erect penis as they watched Dave and Hal.
Calmly, Dave said, "You two might want to go get ready for school. We will discuss matters of privacy later."
The two boys left, and Dave turned to Hal with a barely repressed smile. "Looks like they got a biology lesson even before going to school."
Class had started the Monday a week before and the Draconian boys were still excited about attending. Lars wasn't too happy about getting up so early; when he was on New Earth, his classes didn't start until after all the chores were done and the teacher was ready to instruct his students, so Lars was able to sleep in a couple of hours. Having been on the Sooloo for almost two months, he was getting used to the early time, but he was still adjusting to it. Jace and Jordan had the hardest time as the twins were bored in school when they were in the orphanage. They were enjoying school on the Sooloo, but the thoughts of how boring it was remained in their heads.
The school was closed the day before. Those in charge felt that it was a significant event and allowed the boys to watch the exploration of the derelict ship, especially the Draconian boys since the ship was part of their history. Ali Bakabazi did tell the boys that he wanted them to write a paper about what the event meant to them. The four younger boys had to write approximately a hundred words and the two older boys needed at least five hundred words.
Ali was impressed with all the boys' essays, but he really liked Koji's explaining how he felt when he saw King Kairu in the hologram. Koji may be strong-headed at times and want to do what HE wants to do, but when it came to his schoolwork, he was as serious as they come.
The boys had their personal time of learning for the first two hours. They sat at individual desks and worked at their own pace. Ali gave them so much that they HAD to do, and if they didn't accomplish that, they had homework. After the first week, the boys were able to get what was required completed.
After the first two hours, the boys were given a thirty-minute break. They could go to the Dining Hall and get juice or a snack, but they were required to be at their desks in the middle section at exactly thirty minutes. At this time, Kyle would come in to teach math to the younger boys, or another officer would teach a different subject. Jace taught the two older boys various subjects. Jace DID suggest that Kyle work one day a week with Juro and Tomo to teach them Astrogation. Even "acting" ensigns should have the basic knowledge.
The first day Jace was in the classroom, he informed the boys, "I am over Engineering and IS, so I may be called away. Duty to the ship takes priority over me teaching. If I do get a call stating that I am needed, I expect you to read whatever subject we are doing, understood?"
"If it's for Engineering, might we be needed?" Juro inquired.
Jace thought for a few minutes before he responded, "Needed? Doubtful, but I may allow you to join me, so you can learn how to handle whatever crisis I am called for. Until you learn enough to handle any crisis, you can fill in wherever Connor needs you, but in a crisis, I want you observing more than assisting."
Tomo asked, "You said 'more than,' does that mean we may be able to help in some?"
"I wouldn't rule it out. Heck, you two are bright boys, so while a crisis is rare, there may be some where you may provide the solution."
On this day, Jace taught math for an hour, then for the next hour, they discussed history, both Terran History and Draconian History. He enjoyed talking about Draconian History. Jace was learning as much as the boys were.
At 1130 hours, the school closed for lunch. The boys were given an hour to go to the Officers' Mess to eat and then the holodeck for recess.
At 1230, they would start the last two hours of their schooling. The boys were given this time to finish any work they needed yet to do, but Ali Bakabazi would take them one at a time to discuss any area where they were struggling. Some days, he may have only been able to help one and during others, he may have chatted with all six. If a boy was struggling, he didn't stop until that boy was clear on how to do the work. This made each boy feel like he cared and wanted them to succeed. Classes let out at 1430.
The six boys enjoyed their first recess break on the holodeck. The four younger boys were ready to burn off energy while Juro and Tomo enjoyed the added responsibilities of being in charge.
When Jace told the two older boys they would be in charge of recess, Tomo appeared reluctant. He liked getting more responsibility, but he also was a young boy, just not as young as the others, and had the need to burn off energy as well. "Are you sure you wish for us to do this?" he asked Jace. "We are just students, too."
"I think you boys are up to it. You can set things up so that both of you are in charge together, or maybe take turns being in charge each day. However you do it, I have a feeling the quartet will keep you two moving every day."
Juro started to protest as well, "But...."
"No 'buts', you two are acting ensigns after all, which means I can and will order you to take this duty." The boys instinctively straightened their shoulders and nodded their assent. "Now that we have that bit of business taken care of, let's find out how you plan on executing your duties," Jace grinned. Over the next half-hour Jace helped the two boys put together a strategy for how they planned to carry out their new duties.
Juro and Tomo designed the first holodeck recess platform and entered it into the holodeck database. Jace told them that they would see changes that would need to be made as would the boys. "This is a great beginning," Jace told his young ensigns when they showed him their program. "Make sure you let the other boys have input into making changes, or even creating a new platform."
Juro asked the computer for assistance in programming a school playground since neither he, Tomo nor Koji had ever gone to a school before. The initial program was essentially a playground with swings, slides, monkey bars, soccer balls, basketballs (and a court) and rubber balls. The boys screamed, yelled, laughed and played hard. Tomo and Juro joined the boys in much of the play. Just because they were in charge didn't mean they couldn't burn off energy with the smaller boys, within certain limits. They would have to test how it all worked.
After the first day, the twins had some ideas for improvements. Juro told them to write them down and he and Tomo would work on adding them. On the second day, Lars and Koji discussed an idea for creating a different platform.
"We need a lake," Lars said.
"Or a swimming pool," Koji added. "We could go skinny-dipping every day."
"Or maybe have swimming days so we could do other things, too."
Koji thought about that and said, "Two or three swimming days every week. And we could go naked on the swings on other days."
The twins saw that Lars and Koji were discussing something on the platform at the top of the bars and climbed up to join them. "Skinny-dipping is fun," they agreed, "even for recess."
Koji made his way down to the ground and ran over to the swings where Tomo and Juro were sitting. "You all looked like you were discussing something very important," Tomo stated. Tomo was the one in charge of recess that day.
"Swimming for recess," Koji said simply.
"Maybe," Tomo responded. "But we'd need to have towels, and swimming suits, with time to change and to dry off. There isn't enough time to do that much."
"We eat fast. And no swimming suit. We skinny-dip."
"Well, I don't know if that is possible. We will need to check with Ali or one of the other officers."
"Koji thought you were in charge of recess."
"Yes, for doing things like programming a swimming platform, but not for allowing naked swimming."
"It is easy. We take off our shirts first." Koji pulled off his school shirt.
"Um, Koji, you can stop now."
"Then our shoes." He opened his shoes and pulled them off. "Socks." Lars and the twins came over to see what Koji was doing. When they saw that he was undressing they were certain he would get himself into trouble.
"We get the idea, Koji," Tomo stated.
Koji removed his pants and was now wearing only a pair of underpants.
"KOJI! Get your clothes back on or I will have to report you to your dads."
"They let Koji skinny-dip," Koji said as he started pulling down his underpants.
"Stop NOW, Koji, or you will lose a week of recess!"
Koji stopped with his undies pulled down below his hip. "Can you do that?"
"I am the officer in charge, so the answer is, yes I can!" Tomo said forcefully. Juro nodded his head in agreement.
Lars, Jason and Jonas looked on, wondering who was going to win the battle. They knew in the end, Koji would lose the war, but the key right then was this battle.
Koji pulled his underpants up and then quickly dressed. When he finished he said, "Koji still thinks we need swimming for recess."
"Koji, on a starship like this, it is very important that you listen to and obey orders from an officer. It's what keeps us all safe," Juro explained.
Koji hung his head and looked contrite. "Daddy Kairu and Daddy Danny say that, too. Koji is very sorry and will listen next time."
"How do you boys feel about Koji's idea?" Tomo asked the other three boys.
"We like it," Jonas said as he acted as spokesman for the trio.
"Maybe it can happen. Juro and I will think about it and talk to one of the officers, but it could be a while before we decide anything."
Koji, Lars and the twins knew that what Tomo said was code for "your idea doesn't stand a chance in hell."
"We know who is in charge, here," Lars told the other three boys. Nobody argued.
Recess was suddenly over. As the boys returned to the classroom, Koji felt badly about being in trouble again. He wished he could learn not to do things he wasn't supposed to do.
"Acting Ensign Marlin-Douglass reporting for duty, Sir," Juro reported clearly.
Scott Trevor winked at him, "Very good, Ensign. I'm off in two hours and then you will be working with the Chief of Tactical and Security. You might know him, he has your same last name."
"I know him, Sir," Juro chuckled.
Scott started showing Juro what he would need to know, "This is the scanner. If you ever see a ship on it, you want to inform whoever has the Conn right away."
"The Conn means whoever is in charge of the bridge, at the time, right? So, right now it would be Commander Tietokone?"
"That is correct." Scott enjoyed teaching Juro the different parts of the Tactical Station as the boy was willing and eager to learn.
Jace walked onto the Bridge and Juro commented, "Commander Blackwell, when you have time, I have something school-related that I would like to speak with you about."
"Is it personal?"
"No Sir, but it is something I would rather say in private?"
"Scott, can you spare him for a few minutes?"
"He is picking up this station rather quickly, I suppose he can take a short break, Sir."
Jace and Juro went into the Conference Room off the Bridge, "Speak Freely, Juro, and you needn't be formal."
"We were getting ideas about what to do for our recess, and one of the younger boys suggested skinny-dipping..."
"Let me guess, Jason?"
"No Sir, it was Koji. Anyway, Tomo and I are doubtful that we will have sufficient time."
"I said you didn't need to be formal," Jace grinned. "As long as nothing sexual happens, I have no problem with you skinny-dipping during recess. I do NOT want anything sexual mainly because that IS school time. As for sufficient time, perhaps you can get all the boys together to test that. Take into account that you will need to dry off, get dressed and be back in the classroom on time."
"That is a good idea, Sir, er... I mean Jace. I will suggest it to everyone tomorrow during recess."
"Okay, get back to the Tactical Station and I will be relieving Hal at the Conn shortly."
"Tomo, what branch of science interests you the most?" Randy asked his son.
"To be honest, Dad, I was mainly wanting to find a way to find that creature to get revenge, but now... what is it you study?"
"Tomo," Randy started, "I am a xenologist; I study all aspects of extraterrestrial life, intelligence, and civilization."
"Does that include studying Darastixian life?" Tomo inquired.
"It does, but I want to do that as your dad more than as a scientist, that way I can be a better dad to you. I want to know everything I can, that way I can help you in ways that I may not be aware of at this time."
That eased Tomo's thought; though he suspected Tom and Randy truly did love him, when Randy explained his branch of science, a part of him wondered if maybe that was why Randy adopted him. Tom had never given him any reason to doubt his love. Neither had Randy, but with being a xenologist, Tomo had just a hint of worry. Tomo asked, "Can I be a xenologist, too?"
"If you decide to, but I would like for you to try different fields and see which one appeals to you the most. Maybe Hal can introduce you to botany, or Ali can show you some cybernetics."
"Do I have to choose just one?"
"No, as smart as you are, I believe you can learn several, but I would suggest learning one at a time and learning those closest to the field or fields you know. You are already spreading yourself with Engineering and Science."
"Okay, that sounds logical. I love you, Dad."
"I love you too, Tomo."
Kyle and John Luke were not sure why the Astro-Cartographer, Will Crusoe had asked to meet with them, but they were there a few minutes early. Will walked in, pulled out a penguin and stated, "I hope you don't mind that I brought Kochab with me. He helps me think."
"I can understand that," Kyle responded with a big grin.
"This may sound crazy, but I talk to the stars through him. Only difference is, I have never heard them speak back, not like you or my father have, but I do feel a peace wash over me."
John Luke looked at Kyle and then back to Will, "That's not crazy at all. I mean, we all know that they have spoken to Kyle. Heck, they spoke to Koji through Lars and saved the King of Draconia."
"Anyway, the reason I asked to meet with you is, I have some new charts for this region of space. Since I am the only cartographer, I would like one of you to look at the star charts with me for accuracy."
"That sounds like a good idea," Kyle commented.
John Luke looked at Will's green eyes and felt his heart racing a little. "I'll help you," he offered.
Aiden replaced Scott at the Tactical Station. As soon as the formality was done, Aiden asked Juro, "What did Scott teach you?" Juro took his time showing what he had learned. When he was done, Aiden complimented him, "That is very good, but it needs to be almost second nature. Starting tomorrow, you will have a two-hour watch on the holodeck simulating the bridge. Don't worry if you fail the first time, but you have to pass before you can do solo watches on the bridge."
"Does it have to start tomorrow? Commander Blackwell suggested that I take the boys to the holodeck and..."
Jace interrupted Juro, "Your holodeck watch will be when you would normally be on the Bridge or in Engineering, so it won't interfere."
"Thank you for telling me, Sir."
"Just know that when we tell you something, your order of importance is your schooling, the ship and then your personal time. We will not give you an order that conflicts with your schooling, but you must schedule your personal time around your duties."
"Understood, Sir, and I didn't mean for it to sound like I was shirking my duties to take the boys to the holodeck, I just..." Juro wasn't sure how he wanted to finish. He just turned from Jace to Aiden, "I will do my best on the holodeck, Sir."
"I know you will, Juro."
John helped Will chart the new area they were in. They corrected where Alpha Draconis was listed as white when it really was blue. After they were done, Will looked at John, "I really enjoyed your help. I could probably have done it myself, but it would have taken longer. Besides, having a second set of eyes helps assure the accuracy."
"I enjoyed helping you," John stated, then he started chuckling, "besides, Kyle was going to have me work the 2000 to 0000 watch. Since I offered to help you, Kyle said he would take that watch."
"So, when do you have a shift?"
"Lt. Lynch has the shift from 0000 to 0400, then Kyle is scheduled from 0400 to 0800. I relieve Kyle. I bet he will regret not having me do the 0400 watch because he'll be teaching the boys from 0930 to 1130. He's gonna be so tired."
"Actually, he won't be," Will corrected John, "I'm teaching the four younger boys today. They'll be learning science."
"Will, I um... " John Luke started, "um... I was um... I want to ask you, um... are you um... seeing anyone?" John was worried that his bumbling through his question would scare Will away. He felt a strong connection when he looked into Will's eyes and hoped that Will felt it, too.
"Not at the moment, but I wouldn't mind getting to know you better," Will gave John a smile. "When I asked for help, I was hoping you would be the one who offered."
John sighed in relief. While still nervous, he felt more at ease, "I'm heading to the Officers' Mess, would you like to join me?"
Will winked, "You might need to hold my hand... so I don't get lost."
"Gladly," John chuckled.
"I'm horny," Steve said when Brad walked into their quarters. He had been on the 1600-2000 watch on the bridge. Steve was sitting on the couch naked, his young teen cock rock hard.
"And this is news, how?" Brad asked.
"I miss messing around with Kyle and Danny. Koji keeps getting in the way. Those two want to appear pure now that they have a son."
"I know that Koji has already spent a night away doing who knows what with Lars. Those boys are going to be trading bed buddies all the time. And it's going to be for more than sleeping, I guarantee you that. Then Kyle and Danny will quit being prudes and loosen up, if for no other reason than they'll miss your galaxy class blow jobs."
Brad sat next to Steve on the couch. "What are you watching?"
"Some kind of spy movie that takes place in America in like 2025 or something."
"Ancient history, boring stuff. Can you believe almost everybody drove their own cars then?"
Steve chuckled and grabbed Brad's semi-hard cock through his uniform pants. "Let's do something whacko. We haven't been totally daring since we fucked on the shuttle."
"I'm gonna blow my wad right here if you don't let go," Brad said, his teen cock having come instantly to full mast.
"Did you ever do anything sexual at the academy? I don't mean in your dorm room, but in some more public place."
"I jerked off with Grayson Pettit in Intro to Physics while we were supposed to be watching a video. We had a bet on who would cum first."
"Did you win?"
"Of course I won; I am a sexual god after all. And when I was nine in Africa, my eleven-year-old cousin fucked me in the boys' room of his school. Some older kid came in and asked what we were doing, like he couldn't tell. We told him we were cousins. He said he thought it was okay to do it in school then, but we probably should hurry up and finish. We went back at it while he peed and flashed his boner at us and left. We were done quick. Those weren't the only times, but you get the picture. What about you, Mr. Goody-goody?"
"Never. I went to school to go to school. Not that I didn't think about it."
"You didn't even play with yourself?"
"Well, maybe a little bit through my pocket."
"For a sex fiend you have some weird hang-ups. Still, I have a feeling you have something kinky in mind," Brad said as he tickled Steve's smooth ball sac.
"Think about it—the Sooloo has a classroom now. I bet they're going to teach sex education in it at some time. It seems to be it's just begging for somebody to have sex in it to set the stage for the fun to come."
"No pun intended, I'm sure," Brad said dryly. "What you're saying is, we need to give the room the proper karma... so it can work its way into those horny little dudes during class."
"Now you're thinking."
"Well, then, get some clothes on and let's go break in the classroom."
"But my movie isn't finished."
"What's it about?"
"Fuck if I know. Something about an assassination plot against a group of scientists ready to discover something. So, let's go fuck. And since you've been fucked in a school, I'll let you take my ass for the new experience."
Brad looked down at the floor and said, "Um... I've done it both ways in school."
"Damn, you talk about me being horny."
Steve put on some sweats and a t-shirt while Brad changed out of his uniform. The teens then headed to the classroom.
As they approached, the door opened. With Brad being a Senior Officer and Steve being third in Operations, the door would have opened for either of them.
They entered the classroom, shut the door, and quickly undressed. "Isn't it cool what the Draconians did with the doors?" Steve asked.
"Well, since we are the only ship in the exploratory fleet with it, we are special, we don't have the same issues with the doors as the rest of the fleet," Brad responded. "I guess they'll wait for the geniuses at fleet headquarters to figure it out, unless they aren't even working on it. It's not that this is a new technology, it was just a new operating system. Even those dolts should be able to figure it out if they actually worked at it."
"They don't even have a cool AI our system that fixes it itself, besides, it may need an outside fix."
"You know, as much of a sex fiend as you are, you're the only person I know who starts to talk shop when he's waiting to get his boyfriend's cock up his ass."
The boys agreed that the work table would be the ideal place to do their thing. "It could use a mattress and some pillow, though," Steve said.
"Shut up and get your legs in the air," Brad commanded. Being thirteen and fourteen-year-old boys who had been beyond horny for almost an hour, they had little staying power and round one was over quickly. Round two, the sixty-nine round was somewhat slower. Brad had to almost bite his lips to keep from screaming after Steve's expert blow job had him shooting into Steve's mouth.
"Don't forget to set your comm alarm to get us out of here on time," Brad said, as they paused to catch their breath.
"I did it before we left," Steve assured him. "I used my auto-set for second watch wake-up time." What Steve forgot in his eagerness to have sex with his lover was that he had reset the time just for the one day he had second watch, but not for the following morning.
They kissed and made out for a half-hour until Steve settled himself on Brad. Round three was Steve topping Brad in a long piece of love making. When they came, their orgasms might not have been as intense as their first or even their second one, but it was equally satisfying.
Even though the work table was uncomfortable and a tight fit, the boys fell into an exhausted sleep. They didn't notice when the timer on Steve's comm went past 0340 with nothing happening.
Ali Bakabazi ate an early breakfast in the officers' mess. After clearing his table and bussing his dishes, he headed for the school. He was already enjoying his new duties at the newly opened school. The six boys were sweet and were obviously eager to learn. He was surprised to run across Lars and Koji heading for the school as well.
"Good morning, boys," Ali said. "Aren't you a little early this morning?"
"Good morning, Ali," Lars responded. "We didn't sleep real good last night. Unka Kyle had a late watch again, so Koji spent another night with me and there was a lot of stuff happening."
"I understand," Ali said. And while he may have understood some of what kept the boys awake, he had no idea of what had actually happened during the night in the Captain's quarters.
Koji was thinking of what he and Lars had seen yesterday morning. He thought about what a wild night it had been. Not only had Lars shown him something new about sex by putting his penis in his mouth, but later they both learned something they didn't know when they spied on Dave and Hal. While he got into trouble again, this time it wasn't too bad. Dave talked to him and Lars about privacy before they went to bed, and he told them that something like that should never happen again. He also gave them a quick sex-ed lesson.
He and Lars wondered what it would be like to do what they had watched happening, but even after Dave's little lesson they decided it was probably something for the big kids.
They arrived at the school. Ali opened the door, so Lars and Koji scooted past him and entered the classroom first. The two of them stopped and let out involuntary squeals when they saw Brad and Steve naked on the worktable. Brads dick pushed against Steve's ass, but it wasn't hard.
"Look, Koji, Unka Steve and Unka Brad do it, too."
Koji placed his hand at the front of his pants and touched his little hard-on. Ali looked over the top of the two boys to see what the fuss was he saw Steve and Brad and voiced an emphatic, "Holy shit!"
The noise woke up the two teens on the table. Steve turned to see what the fuss was he saw Ali and the two boys staring at him and Brad. "Holy shit!" he screeched. When Brad saw who was in the room, he was the third person to call out, "Holy shit."
Lars and Koji looked at each other and giggled, then facing Steve and Brad, they said in unison, "Holy Shit" and broke out into raucous laughter.
The ship's school hummed with activity as the boys worked on their studies. Ali wondered how just six boys working quietly could create an almost imperceptible noise. He felt it in classes at the prep school and at the academy, but those classes had fifteen to twenty students in them.
Koji raised his hand and beckoned Ali to see what he had just finished on the computer. His assignment was to rewrite sentences written in third person into first person.
Ali read over what Koji had written. The thing he was looking for was consistency. Did Koji consistently stay in the first person throughout his story. The lesson had been Kyle's idea to try to help Koji learn the importance of point-of-view in writing and speaking.
"Good job, Koji. Now, read the first sentence to me and then read how you wrote it," Ali said.
"'Koji went swimming in the lake,'" Koji read. "'I went swimming in the lake,' is what Koji wrote."
"Is what who wrote?"
"Oh, yes, I should say it is what I wrote," Koji said with a heavy emphasis on the "I."
"Now, say it all to me again, correctly." Ali was surprised to find out how much he was enjoying being a teacher. He had a natural affinity for teaching, which he didn't yet realize as he started his new duty.
"'Koji went swimming in the lake,'" Koji read. "'I went swimming in the lake', is what I wrote." Koji looked up at Ali with a big grin and was rewarded with a squeeze of his shoulder.
"Hey, guys, your break time is here. After the break, Jace told me that you will be discussing some class business." The boys scampered off to use the restroom, get water, grab a snack, play games on their computers, or just walk around to stretch their legs. When class started Jace said he was turning things over to Juro and took a seat. Will Crusoe sat with Jace.
Juro felt nervous addressing the five other boys, which included Tomo, so he suggested they sit around the work table. That turned out being a good idea as it created the atmosphere of a family discussion rather than feeling like a lesson of some sort.
"We're going to talk about skinny-dipping at lunch," Juro started off.
"Why?" Koji asked. "Did you and Tomo not say the answer was no."
"We said no such thing, Koji. We said you couldn't just take off your clothes on the holodeck because you wanted to and that we'd think about it."
"It sounded like that to Koji," Koji grumbled. As soon as he finished he knew what he had done and looked around just to be totally sure Jace didn't hear him. Tomo wanted to tell Koji he needed to listen better, but this was Juro's show so he kept quiet.
"Yesterday, I spoke with Commander Blackwell about skinny-dipping during lunch," Juro informed them. Koji was about to open his mouth again but backed down when he saw Tomo glaring at him. "He said we can do it, but there will be four rules."
The boys waited expectantly. This was not the answer they expected; even Koji looked pleased.
"First, we can do it only two days a week. Second, we have to show we have enough time to eat lunch, take our clothes off, skinny dip, then dry off and get dressed, and make it to the classroom on time. Any problem with those two rules?"
"No," Lars said. "We'll eat lunch fast and will have a lot of time to follow those rules."
"What are the other two?" Jonas asked.
"No kind of sex. You can swim or play with the balls or wade, but no sex since this is school. Anyone caught having sex will not be allowed to skinny-dip during recess for the remainder of the school year."
"Can we wrestle?" Jason asked.
Tomo shook his head no at the same time Juro said, "Not to start. Let's see how things work out and we'll discuss it again."
"Discuss it when?" Koji asked.
"How about in... um... in six weeks."
"Let's do it in four weeks," Jonas suggested.
Juro decided four weeks would be fine since it would just be talking about it, not making a decision. "Okay, four weeks."
They settled on an exact date, which Tomo marked on the school calendar he and Juro had created. "The last rule is just like Ali's classroom rule: always treat everybody with respect. Now there is one last thing we will have to do to see if this will work."
Juro saw the suspicious looks on the faces of the four boys. He was quickly learning that being in authority was much more complicated than he thought. "We will meet at 1800 at the holodeck. Tomo and I will have a platform for swimming ready. You will have a half-hour to swim or play, dry off, get dressed, and come here to the classroom. I may be a few minutes late because I will be on watch in Holodeck One from 1600 to 1800 hours."
"But we will be at recess after we eat lunch and have more time," Jonas protested.
"If you can do it in a half-hour, then you can do it if you have more time. You're just showing that you can do it."
"Will we have a swimming pool or a pond?" Koji asked.
"Which do you want?" Tomo asked, breaking his silence.
The four boys started talking at once and Juro had to quiet them down. "Let's vote," he said. "And since Tomo and I will swim, too, when we are not in charge, we each get a vote."
The boys agreed that was fair. They wanted to have a written vote because it sounded more official. Tomo cut a sheet of paper into six pieces and handed each boy, including himself, a piece. The vote was 4-2 for a pool. Tomo and Juro breathed a collective sigh of relief that the vote hadn't ended in a tie. Tomo wanted a pond and expected it to win, but he thought having a pool would be a different kind of adventure. Koji was hoping the pool would win so swimming in the pond with his dads would be more special.
Koji suggested Tomo and Juro put hot-air dryers into the program to complete the drying process. "We had those at the orphanage swimming pool and there were no drops left on us," Koji told them, proud that he hadn't spoken in third person under a bit of stress.
The boys asked for a wire pen filled with a variety of balls. Tomo suggested some at poolside in case somebody didn't want to swim (although none of the boys could imagine that scenario).
The last piece of business was an agreement that the pool program would be used during recesses on Tuesdays and Fridays. Juro looked at Jace and Will, turning the classroom back to academics.
When lunchtime arrived, the topic of conversation was what the skinny-dipping program would be like. Jonas, Jason, Lars and Koji all agreed it should have bushes like were near the pool on their "Unka" platform for them to sneak behind. They would soon find out that the bushes had already been programmed out just for that reason.
Recess on the holodeck was more about the four boys pestering Tomo and Juro with their ideas, which ranged from the layout to what kinds of balls and toys they wanted, in addition to letting them wrestle for the four weeks and then deciding if it was okay. They knew the wrestling idea would get nowhere, but they felt obligated to try.
After class let out for the day, Juro pulled Tomo aside, "Having the swimming on Tuesdays and Fridays works out great. Since we take turns being in charge, that means we each get one day being in charge of swimming each week."
Juro met Aiden outside the holodeck just prior to his scheduled simulated duty on the 'bridge'. Together they entered and Juro was amazed at how exact the replica of the bridge was. At each station, one of the usual bridge personnel was present. Juro looked and noticed that Aiden was at the Tactical Station. He had to take a second look because to his left, the 'real' Aiden stood.
He looked back and forth between the two with a puzzled expression when Dave spoke. "We couldn't get everyone involved so we had the computer create holographic representations of the bridge crew. That way we could have a bit more control over the responses. This simulation is much the same as the one Tactical and Command personnel have to pass to be eligible to be assigned to the bridge. You can repeat this up to three times if you fail. Don't worry if you do not pass it the first time. It's better you make mistakes here than when actually on duty on the real bridge."
Juro nodded his head and walked over to the holographic Aiden at the Tactical Station and stated formally, "Ensign Marlin-Douglass reporting to relieve you, Sir. You stand relieved." The holographic Aiden replied, "I stand relieved." Then reviewed for Juro the current situation before walking off the bridge. The real Aiden was seated at the side of the 'bridge' in a chair that doesn't exist on the real bridge. The computer then hid him from view. He could watch and evaluate Juro's performance from there without being a distraction.
The watch continued for about 20 minutes with nothing out of the ordinary taking place. Juro performed the usual duties of the station flawlessly. At 23 minutes into the simulation, a red icon appeared on Juro's scanner.
Juro attempted to identify the object instead of making a verbal comment about the contact. During his analysis of the object, the blip accelerated toward the ship. Ten seconds later, the lighting on the bridge started flashing red.
The simulation ended. Dave asked Juro what he thought went wrong. He knew what he had done wrong immediately and replied, "I failed to inform the officer at the Conn about my contact. Instead, I tried to identify it. This gave the object the opening to attack. Had I informed the Conn, they could have taken steps to ensure the ship was safe while I attempted to identify the contact."
Dave was suitably impressed. "Very good, Ensign. Like I said before, don't worry about failing. Let's reset the simulation and go again. Also, just so you know, the scenario will be different this time, so don't anticipate what is going to happen."
For the next sixty minutes, Juro was put through three more simulations. He had passed two of them.
Aiden then stated, "You have passed two of the four simulations we've done. According to my scoring, you need to pass the next one. If you do, I can certify you to do solo watches on the bridge."
Dave keyed some commands onto the holographic controls at his seat as the simulation reset. Juro entered and went through the formality of the transfer of control of the station. He started performing the usual duties of his station.
Just a few minutes later a red blip appeared on Juro's screens. He called out, "Unknown contact bearing 240° to our starboard and 15° on the vertical, Sir." Before Dave could reply, Juro then amended his report, "Sir, 4 additional targets have appeared, should I raise shields?"
Dave was again suitably impressed. Together with the other holographic crew, Dave and Juro handled the incident with the unknown contacts. When the simulation ended Juro couldn't help but feel good about his performance.
Aiden said nothing, just continued making notes on his PADD (" Personal Access Display Device "). As Juro waited nervously, Dave said, "You did very well, Juro. I was impressed that you even remembered to forego the 'acting' part of your rank. It's unnecessary for the operations of the ship... unless you're introducing yourself, or making your presence known to other officers or civilians."
Aiden finished his analysis of the data and turned to Dave. "Captain, I have completed my analysis of Ensign Marlin-Douglass' performance."
Dave asked, "What is your conclusion, Commander?"
"Sir, according to accepted standards of Space Fleet, Acting Ensign Marlin-Douglass has satisfied the requirements to be qualified to act on his own during a watch without immediate supervision. It is my recommendation that he be given watches as needed."
"Very well, Commander. Ensign, congratulations, you've passed the requirements. You will be added to the schedule for watches on the bridge."
Juro smiled, "Thank you, Sir. I will do my best."
Aiden smiled and said, "I'm proud of you, Son. Your opsola will be proud of you as well."
Dave then said, "If I am not mistaken, you have another obligation to deal with. It's a few minutes early, but you are dismissed, Ensign, again, congratulations."
Juro left Holodeck One, but he would swear to the fact that his feet never touched the deck.
The boys' fathers were informed about the 1800 "test." As a result, dinner for the families was around 1700. The boys all congregated outside of Holodeck Two, fifteen minutes before their assigned time.
Dave was in Holodeck One with Juro, so Lars' dinner was with Hal. He was so antsy and excited that he skipped dessert to make sure he was on time, even though he ended up arriving fifteen minutes early.
Tomo had entered the program but couldn't activate it until the crewmembers currently using the deck were finished. The door opened at three minutes before the hour and Brandon Cox, Whit Olson, Mark Wallace, and Will Crusoe stepped out covered in sweat and wearing gym gear.
"Hi guys," Will said. "Pickleball is over, showers and dinner ready to come. You guys have fun."
"We will," Jason said with a wide grin.
Tomo activated the program and they waited a few seconds for the entry light to go to green. Tomo and Juro led the way in with four younger boys almost falling over them in order to enter the room quicker. Before the boys did anything, they oohed and aahed when they saw the pool layout. This was much different than the field and pond layout they used for skinny-dipping with their dads and "unkas".
"Can we jump in?" Jonas asked as he quickly pulled off his clothes.
"Do whatever you want," Juro replied as he stepped out of his pants. "Just remember what we said about checking who's where in the pool before you jump in."
Lars noticed the large timer on the wall at the deep end of the pool. Juro told them to make sure they checked it frequently, so they would be ready to get out of the pool on time.
In just over a minute, five naked boys were frolicking in the pool. It was Tomo's turn to supervise, so he sat naked in a chair next to the deep end of the pool, enjoying a bottle of water that was provided as part of the program. He felt tired and closed his eyes. He didn't plan to take a nap, he just wanted to relax for a minute or so.
It didn't take long for Jonas to get a rubber playground ball from the ball pen and a rousing game of keep away started up. Of course, the goal was to keep the ball away from Juro, but he was very athletic, not to mention bigger, and he quickly got his hands on the ball. Koji was the one who threw it, so he was the next victim.
Koji managed to deflect a pass from Jonah to Lars that fell on the pool deck. Koji managed to climb out of the pool quicker than any of the others and retrieved the ball. Jason was the next victim. He yelled out that he was going to get the ball faster than anybody.
Koji threw the ball to Juro and was about to slide into the pool when he stopped to look at Tomo, who was close to the edge of the pool lying on his back on the lounge chair with his eyes closed. Koji caught the attention of Lars and, sporting an evil grin, pointed to Tomo and then to the pool. Lars gave him a thumbs up.
Koji stood at the edge of the pool, jumped and tucked his legs as he executed a cannonball. It worked better than he dreamed when most of the water splashed behind him and fell on Tomo, drenching him.
Tomo was having a pleasant dream when the cold water splashed on him, waking up spluttering and hearing the sound of the boys' laughter. "KOJI!" he yelled out.
Instead of going into plausible deniability, Koji questioned, "How did you know it was me?"
"Who else would it be? You're in big trouble, Koji, really big trouble."
Trying hard to control his laugher, Juro climbed out of the pool and sat next to his friend. He put his arm around Tomo and commented, "Hey, at least you were naked and didn't get your clothes wet."
"You thought it was funny, too."
"Well, it was," Juro told him. "Now lighten up and either join us in the water or go dry off. And apologize to Koji."
"Why should I apologize? He was the one who did the cannonball."
"And he was having the fun kids are supposed to have in a swimming pool. Next time, if you don't want to get wet, sit farther away from the pool."
"Yeah, you're right. I was kind of hard on him." He looked out at the pool. "Sorry I yelled at you, Koji. I was just surprised is all." Then Tomo gave Koji an evil grin of his own. "But you better be watching your back next time we have swimming."
"You have to catch me first!" Koji grinned. "Come on back in Juro so we can play."
"Hey, everybody, look at the clock," Lars requested. They had agreed to get out of the water with ten minutes on the clock. They thought they could get dried and dressed in time to make it to the classroom by 1830. Tomo and Juro believed they were being optimistic but decided to let the boys find out for themselves. Being late this time wouldn't make or break them, but their arrival time would give them a much more realistic idea of when to get out of the water and get dressed.
The younger boys surprised the older boys, however. They ran in line through a fresh water spray to remove chlorine, grabbed a towel from the towel table, quickly dried themselves, stepped under the hot air dryer, and quickly pulled on their school clothes. They were happy that their outfits were easy on and easy off—perfect clothes for young boys.
They made it to the classroom with a minute to spare and may have been a minute earlier if Tomo and Juro hadn't been what Jason called, "way too slow." The way the younger boys saw things, if they ate a quick lunch, they would have at least a half-hour to play in the pool.
Skinny dipping on Tuesdays and Fridays was on. Life was good.
Dave sat on the bridge deep in thought. He stared at the viewscreen, watching as Big Bubba carried the portion of the artifact to its proper location. In his mind, he started thinking how very important this was... he and his crew were, in effect, becoming stellar midwives. Or were they going to be planetary midwives.
The crew of Big Bubba included Danny Harper as pilot, Kyle Robinson, his husband and the Chief Astrogator, primarily due to his close connection with Megrez. Megrez had requested that Lars, Koji, Jonas and Jason accompany them as well. For his first off-ship solo mission, Aiden sent his son, Juro as security. He figured that they'd not be encountering anyone, and it would be relatively safe. But Regulations required that any senior officer be accompanied by security when off the ship. Rounding out the team was the Assistant Chief of the Sciences and Xenologist, Randy Kohl.
Dave watched as Big Bubba hovered at the edge of one of the clouds of stellar material that had been designated by Megrez. It took about fifteen minutes until the bubba shot back toward the Sooloo. Dave looked at the timer, they had fifty-nine minutes remaining.
Once Big Bubba had returned to the Sooloo, John Luke, who had been manning the Astrogation station during Kyle's absence, received a call from Kyle. "Bible, execute Megrez Escape Program 1. NOW! John, NOW!"
Dave heard the message and announced to the ship, "Prepare for extreme velocity. All hands brace yourself."
The program had been developed over the previous twelve hours to account for the latest data on the surrounding space. Dave had been well aware of its parameters. It would see the Sooloo jumping from a dead stop to maximum hyperflight speed instantly instead of gradually increasing speed, since they weren't absolutely sure how far they had to be away from the artifact when it activated.
The viewscreen was split, one half trained forward, and the other half trained on the location where the artifact had been deployed with magnification increasing automatically until it was at maximum. As the ship hurled away from it, the artifact began appearing smaller.
Kyle returned to the bridge with the rest of his team. He relieved John Luke at Astrogation. Lars took a seat on his Dad's lap when his talisman, the necklace Hal had given him, started to glow. In a voice not his own, Lars said, "It has begun. I cannot express my gratitude to you all for helping with the birth of my family. We will talk again once it is done."
Lars slumped back against his father's chest.
For what seemed an eternity, they hurled away from the artifact. Dave called out that there was one minute until activation. On the bridge every eye was focused on the viewscreen. The next thing anyone knew, there was a bright white flash that momentarily knocked out the viewer, but when it returned, they could see the stellar mass of the cloud seemingly pulling into itself.
"Sir! I read a shockwave approaching. Estimated impact in 20 seconds." Juro, who had taken the station from his father, called out. Aiden was standing behind him and confirmed his estimate to Dave.
Dave called out, "All hands… brace for impact!"
A few seconds later the ship shook violently, the main lighting throughout the ship went out; the engines went offline. To everyone aboard it felt like the devastating 10.8 earthquake of 2030 along the San Andreas fault multiplied by 100.
After the initial shockwave, the Sooloo was being pulled back toward the newly forming planet. With no engines, Kyle called out, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…"
Dave was not a religious man, but he found himself praying for the safety of his family, and crew… and for the new planet that was being born.