Randy had called Operations to ask Tommy for assistance with taking the food to the shuttle. Danny and Kyle test out the new bed on the Marsh (Notice the invisible "h" for Koji.)
On Earth, the special election for the Senate was about to get underway when news about the discovery of not only the Joseph Hooker, but also the crew of the Explorer of the Stars was made known.
Hal had a meeting with the Drekzul, leader of the rogue planet. They came to an agreement that both sides felt was fair and not compromising to either. Nine of the boys from the Hooker wished to remain with the planet. That was more than what Drekzul had hoped for. Later, Drekzul spoke with Captain Cody Zeller.
Timmy spoke with his brother about their grandfather, Senator Cooper. Jimmy refused to believe a word about what Timmy was telling him until Timmy showed Jimmy a video. Jimmy asked their grandfather about the video while they were on TV.
"With just two hours before the polls close, I am pleased to announce that I am leading the election, if only by a mere 200 votes, but I am winning. It's too soon to call a victory, but as the projected winner, I want to congratulate Candidate Zeller on a fine attempt," Cooper announced. "Here is one of my grandsons, Jimmy. Jimmy wave and thank the good people of British Columbia for voting for your grandpa."
"Thank you, people," Jimmy responded. Then he looked at his grandfather, "Grandpa, I was given a video of your bug program being used on the Sooloo. How did it get there?"
"Bug program? What exactly does this program do, young man?" one reporter inquired. Others jumped in asking questions. Jimmy answered every question asked, though Allen Cooper tried to move him away from the cameras.
"Jimmy, I think you are mistaken. I have never been on the Sooloo, so unless Timmy planted it, I have no idea how it made it there."
"Andrew Finch with the Vegas Reporter. Are you saying that your very own grandson planted it there and is framing you?"
"I didn't say that; I said unless he did plant it, I don't know how it was placed."
"Commander Daniel French with Space Fleet Security," a red-headed man wearing a Space Fleet uniform stated. "Senator Cooper, the IS Department of the Sooloo had discovered the program a few weeks ago. Your grandson hadn't been found yet, so he couldn't have placed it. Do you know a Benjamin Hole, formerly of Space Fleet Security?"
"No, I can't say that I do," Cooper lied.
"He claimed that you paid him to switch a part on the Sooloo, and that you hired Lucy Ferdevil to have men plant the program. Would you come with us, Sir?"
"Ladies and gentlemen, this certainly is a shocking development. It appears that the quite possibly re-elected Senator Alan Cooper has either been arrested or detained for questioning for what this reporter can only surmise is sabotage. You can count on this reporter and this network following up on this turn of events, and we will inform you all on any developments. Could this be what Zeller needs to pull off a victory?"
"The polls have just closed, and while counts are not final, we are told that Senator Cooper has won the election," Andrew Finch reported. "We have to wait until the final count, but just two hours ago, Senator Cooper was leading by almost two hundred votes and giving a victory speech of sorts. He did pick up another 345 votes, while Candidate Zeller picked up 543 votes, meaning that unless a final count says otherwise, there will be a recount. Senator Cooper won by only one vote. As I said, with voting being THAT close, there definitely will be a recount. You couldn't have asked for a closer race without being a tie."
Evan Zeller stood up, "I guess this is supposed to be my concession speech, but with the vote so close, I am not conceding until after the recount. Either way, I do want to thank my staff. We wouldn't have been close enough for a recount if it weren't for them. They worked hard, and I am very proud of them."
The Robinson family sat together in the Darastix conference room. Even though Tommy's last name was still Harper, he was considered a member of the Robinson family by Kyle and Danny. William, Greg and Kyle, accounted for three generations of the family, with Koji and Duskin adding a fourth generation. Danny and Tommy were looked upon as part of the third generation.
The family elected to eat dinner first and have a family meeting during dessert. The room was noisy with talk and the sounds that accompany eating from plates. Logan Kristoff, the ship's head chef, had put together a tasty meal of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and corn, as well as mixed salad. Dessert was a chocolate cake. Everyone agreed as soon as they bit into their food that the meal was delicious, although Kyle and Danny felt it wasn't quite up to Randy's standards; close, but not at the same level the Sooloo Executive Chef had set.
The conversation was mostly about the arrival of Danny, Kyle, Koji, Duskin, and Tommy on the Darastix. Their afternoon was highlighted by the orientation meeting by Captain David, and the tour given by Commander Reagan, the ship's First Officer.
"Nothing like being greeted by the ship's top brass. No offense, Dad," Kyle grinned.
"None taken," Greg Robinson replied.
Greg brought up Danny's expert berthing of the Mars in the Darastix shuttle bay. "A veteran career professional couldn't have done it any better if as well," Greg, who had observed the operation through the shuttle bay's viewing window. "I understand those long-range shuttles are not the most maneuverable craft in close quarters."
Danny blushed at the praise from his father-in-law and said, "A lot of the credit has to go to Ensign Crawford for his expert guidance."
"One more reason Jesse should be an ensign," Kyle said, referring to crewman Grosse. "I'm willing to bet he's every bit as good as Ensign Crawford at traffic control and I know he works his ass off—not to say Crawford doesn't."
Danny added, "I totally agree about Jesse being promoted to ensign. But for somebody who hadn't dealt much with that class of shuttle, Crawford was right on top of the job."
Kenny Booker, one of the Cook's Assistants entered the meeting room pushing a cart with seven slices of chocolate cake on it. "Thanks Kenny," William told the twelve-year-old blond after the cakes were distributed, Kenny grinned, gave a slight bow of his head, and left the room.
While William was the oldest family member in the room, it was agreed that Greg would lead the family meeting, both because he was the ranking officer, and because William was still adjusting to his new situation. He did plan on talking to his family after his son started the proceedings.
"I hope you boys are as awestruck as I am at having four generations of family together," Greg said. "Even though I'm not the oldest in the room, I must say that looking at my young dad certainly makes me feel like I am." The family laughed—they found the situation as amusing as Greg. For Koji and Duskin having a great-grandfather who looked younger than their grandfather made their family special because nobody had jennu naflopsola who looked younger than their naflopsola.
"My dad told me he has something to say to all of you. I already know what it is, so I hope you'll be as excited as I am," Greg finished.
William stood and smiled at the family he didn't know had existed until a few days ago. "Thanks for the intro, Son," he grinned, "and you can't believe the emotions I'm feeling addressing my grandson, his husband and his brother-in-law, and my sweet great grandchildren." He stopped for a moment to enjoy the smiles of the boys in front of him. "Koji or Duskin, how would you say that?"
With the hugest grins possible, both boys responded in unison, "Jennu naflvraktor."
"I do have something I want to announce to all of you. I told my son, the man Koji and Duskin call Admiral Grandpa, that I plan on returning to space." He had to stop for cheers and applause. After the noise calmed down, he said, "I know I can't return as a starship captain, at least not right away. I have a lot of new things to learn about. But my goal is to command a ship again, whether it's an ore freighter, a passenger liner, or Space Fleet starship. The question is who will get a command first—me, or Kyle." He looked directly at Kyle and smiled.
"I'm betting on you, Pop-Pop," Kyle commented, thinking grandpa was for older guys..
"Don't sell yourself short, Son, don't sell yourself short. And there's the biggest thing for me to adjust to—teens and tweens flying starships. And I want to make it very clear, although the thought of young boys manning star ships scared the shit out of me when I first heard what you boys were doing, pardon my spaceman lingo, I approve of the Explorer Program."
He looked at Tommy, "Tommy, I know you're going back to the Sooloo tomorrow, so I would like to spend an hour or so tonight getting to know you… at least a little." Tommy grinned. "I have two weeks to get to know the rest better, so I'll give you all of my time this evening. Now, let's dig into that good looking dessert."
That evening Greg and Danny accompanied Tommy to William's cabin. Their presence helped calm Tommy's nerves and William's kindly demeanor also gave the young boy a sense of calmness. He saw William as a man he could trust. He had difficulty grasping the concept that William was many years older than he looked, but he accepted it as fact.
After noting Tommy's increasing comfort level, Greg suggested to Danny that they leave him and William alone to talk. As much as Danny wanted to talk to William, he knew he would have plenty of time to do so, once the Darastix got underway.
Tommy and William discussed Tommy's love of sports, his successes as a student, his love of his brother, and how he wanted to complete everything necessary to become a regular ensign instead of an acting ensign. He also talked about how he went from despising Kyle because he thought Kyle had ruined the relationship between him and Danny to loving Kyle because he was the galaxy's greatest brother-in-law.
William, for his part, talked about how his ship had been overcome and what it was like to have lived for so many years in captivity. He was impressed not only by how Tommy had asked what would have been insightful questions when asked by anybody, let alone a ten-year-old boy.
The toughest question for William to answer was "how does it feel to be old when you're not really old?" And the toughest one for William to ask was how Tommy ended up on the Sooloo.
"I got there because I ran away from home because my dad is a mean bastard and hurt me. I wanted to be with Danny even though I thought Kyle was keeping him away from me. So, I snuck on to the Sooloo and became, like, a stowaway. Is that the right word?"
"Yes, it is, Tommy," William grinned. What he didn't tell Tommy was that having a stowaway managing to board his ship was one of a captain's worst nightmares.
Tommy went on to talk about how he was allowed to stay on board the ship with Danny as his guardian and how he worked hard to become an acting ensign. "Danny and Kyle think I'm really close to doing everything I need to do to become a regular ensign. I can hardly wait to be a real crewmember."
William placed an arm around Tommy's shoulder and gave him a hug. "You're a very brave boy, Tommy, not to mention innovative and willing to take risks. I think you're going to make a fine officer."
"Thank you, Captain Robinson," Tommy replied proudly. "Now I have an admiral, a captain, and two commanders as part of my family and I'm ready to join everybody as an ensign."
"Do you plan to see your father when you reach Earth?"
"I don't know because I don't know the next time I'll be going home to Earth. I'm going back to the Sooloo tomorrow. And even if I was, I don't think I'd want to do it."
"Don't go burning bridges, Tommy. Let the other guy do the bridge burning. You concentrate on being the best person you can be, and things will take care of themselves."
"Thanks, GPa. I wish I had you to talk with more. You're really cool to talk with."
"You know, for grandpa, only, you're not really MY grandpa, so I thought GPa would be more appropriate." William nodded and smiled. After a few minutes of small talk, William walked with Tommy to Kyle and Danny's quarters. Tommy walked in and saw Kyle, Koji, and Duskin playing a three-dimensional board game that he didn't recognize. Danny was watching and when he saw Tommy and William enter the quarters, he walked over to greet them.
"Did you guys have a good talk?" he asked.
"I thought so," Tommy said. "GPa William is pretty cool."
"I agree the talk was good, but I can't attest to my coolness," William chuckled. "I'll let your brother tell you about it. This old man is heading off to bed."
"You must feel older than you look," said Kyle, who was listening in to the conversation.
"It was a figure of speech. Anyway, goodnight, everyone."
After William left, Danny said he wanted to talk to Tommy in the quarters that Tommy had assigned to him for the night. "And don't worry, I'm not going to grill you on what you and Grandpa William talked about. This is on another subject entirely. Something we talked about a couple of days ago."
Tommy followed Danny to his quarters for the evening, wondering what it was he and Danny had talked about that had been so important. After entering the room, Danny sat on the bed and patted the space to his right. Tommy took the hint and sat next to his older brother.
"What's so important, Bro?" Tommy asked as soon as he settled on the bed.
"Don't you remember what we talked about after Kyle and I had our most embarrassing moment ever?" Danny responded.
Tommy thought for a moment and then nodded. "I think I do," he said softly.
"And what was it we talked about?"
"It's kind of embarrassing."
"It can't be any more embarrassing then being seen falling naked out of a shuttle with my husband when both of us were obviously having sex."
Tommy was silent again, afraid that what he thought was the conversation Danny was referring might not be the right one. He finally decided to chance it and say what he was thinking, mainly because he trusted his brother totally and knew he wouldn't get laughed at by him if he was wrong.
"You said you'd show me how to do what you and Kyle were doing when the hatch opened up," Tommy said, his confidence returning. He remembered being the one who suggested Danny show him about having sex. He waited for Danny to verify that he was right.
"You are correct, and you get to win the big prize," Danny grinned.
"What's the big prize going to be?"
"Your big bro, of course. That is, if you really want it."
"Why are you showing me now?"
"Because after tonight we won't be seeing each other again for around two months," Danny replied. "Plus, we have complete privacy tonight, so why not show you?"
"But I'm only ten and when would I ever get a chance to do it on the Sooloo?"
"You never know, Bro. You do have a best friend, so who knows what could happen on a long night in your quarters; Kyle and me and the boys are not going to be there for a long time."
"But Lakinae isn't like that," Tommy said.
"You never know. If something should happen, it would go much smoother if you knew what to do and how to do it, whether it's him or somebody else."
Tommy could feel himself getting turned on. He was feeling the same way he had felt in the shuttle bay when he told Randy, "…the other guy has to show me how to do it." Meaning Danny had to show him how to do sex.
"Okay, so show me… just in case."
"First thing we do is take our clothes off." Once they were naked Danny said, "And then you need to learn to properly kiss."
"Is it okay for brothers to kiss each other? I mean, like that?"
"Pretend I'm not your brother. Pretend I'm your professor of sexology."
"It a word I made up. I figure it's about the study of sex." Or so Danny thought, not knowing, in fact, it was a real word.
Tommy went from hesitant kisses on the lips, to learning how to use his tongue, to finally not worrying about the lessons and just doing what felt right and felt good. Tommy never knew kissing could feel so good.
From there he learned about the use of hands on someone else's body parts, especially his ass and sexual organs. He learned about using lube. Without even knowing what was happening he learned what being a bottom was about and how an orgasm felt so much better when doing stuff with somebody else than the little tickles he felt when he was playing with himself.
He and Danny talked about what happened and how it could be made even better as they recovered from round one. Round two was Tommy learning to make his partner feel totally good while he felt just as good or better.
After the brothers finished, they snuggled under the covers. "Thanks, Bro," Tommy conveyed. "I never thought I could feel awesome. Do you think you and me will ever do it together again?"
"Remember, I was your teacher tonight, not your big brother," Danny responded, knowing deep down that if the opportunity ever presented itself again, he would take advantage of it. Then something else popped into his head. "You know, we kinda skipped a whole step."
"Well, even though you're not a virgin any longer, we never did oral sex."
"I don't think I want to do anything else tonight."
"Not a problem, I don't think I want to, either. But it is something we can think about in the future," Danny assured his younger brother. "And who knows what could happen between you and Lakinae."
"Whatever. All I gotta say is, thanks for being a really amazing big brother."
"Having an awesome little bro helps a lot. I love you, Bro, and not because of the sex but because of who you are."
"I love you too and thanks for loving me." Tommy kissed Danny on the lips. "Good night, Big Bro."
Danny turned off the light. "Good night my courageous and awesome little brother." The two were soon sleeping soundly.
Kash had finished packing when his comm chimed. It was Captain Frank David of the SS Darastix. "What can I do for you, Captain?" Kash responded.
"I understand that you are rather informal on the Sooloo unless formality is warranted. Fleet Admiral Mirah had suggested that I take the same approach, so please call me Frank."
"Okay, Frank," Kash grinned, "to what do I owe the pleasure?"
Captain Frank David got right to the point of his call, "I understand that you were willing to help crew this ship on the way back to Earth. With the crew we have, the Admirals, Kyle and Danny Robinson, as well as those from Kyle's grandfather's ship, I believe we are well staffed, barely but better staffed than the Hooker is right now."
"So, you are suggesting that I help out on the Hooker?" Kash asked for clarification.
"I've spoken with Captain Zeller, and after what they've been through, I think they need you more. From what I've been told, you are already proving yourself to be a great officer… don't blush, you are. But anyway, I don't make this suggestion lightly, I don't really want to give you up, but they need you. Final decision IS yours."
"I need to pick up Tommy Robinson, but then we can head to the Hooker and Crewman Gillespie can bring Tommy back to the Sooloo."
"Excellent, and when you come to pick up Tommy, might I suggest that you leave your son with Kyle and Danny? That would enable him to do schoolwork, as well as play with the Robinson boys. I know it will be rough having him on a different ship for two weeks, but I think he will be happier, and you will be able to focus more on the needs of the Hooker."
"I'll discuss it with Kyle and Danny," Kash promised, "and yes, it will be rough, but I agree he will be happier."
"See you when you get here," Frank replied and ended the transmission.
Danny sat to Tommy's left for breakfast. They were sitting at the table set aside for Danny, Kyle, and their family in the officers' dining room. As they perused the breakfast menu which had mostly the standard starship breakfast fare, Kyle entered with Koji and Duskin in tow.
Danny and Kyle shared a kiss before Kyle sat to Danny's left. The menus had already been laid out on the table and he gave it a quick look. He saw right away that the breakfast he wanted was on the menu and was ready to order.
Koji and Duskin were debating who was going to order what, arguing who was going to have the better breakfast. "You don't want those pancakes because you know my waffles will be better," Koji told his brother.
"No, they won't, because I'm getting the French toast and you know they're better than your waffles, plus my eggs will be scrambled and won't be runny like your fried eggs," Duskin countered.
"But my fried eggs will taste better than your old dry scrambled eggs."
Kyle decided it was time for him to step in or it would be lunch time before the two could decide what to have for breakfast. "Boys, take a look at the menu and don't say a word to each other," he said sternly. "Decide what you want but don't tell anybody what you ordered until the waiter takes your order. Anybody who disobeys those simple instructions will be eating breakfast and lunch by himself in your quarters. Understood?"
"Yes, Opsola Kyle," Koji responded.
"I understand, Opsola," Duskin acknowledged sheepishly.
Neither Kyle nor Danny were surprised when Koji and Duskin both ended up ordering the same breakfast: waffles, bacon, and melon.
"Did you two have a good night?" Kyle inquired of Tommy and Danny.
"We had a great night," Danny answered. "I think Tommy's lesson turned out pretty good. We accomplished what we wanted, and I think my little bro had a great time learning his lessons."
"Is that right, Tommy?" Kyle grinned.
"Yeah, I found out what I wanted." Tommy was blushing a bright red.
"What kind of lessons was he learning?" Koji asked.
"That's something private," Kyle replied, leaving it up to Tommy to fill Koji and Duskin in if he wanted to."
The rest of the breakfast was routine, with the family sharing various topics. One thing Koji wanted to know was why he and Duskin weren't starting their lessons that day.
"We told you, it's so Jay can get his tour and so you two and Jay can start virtual school on the same day," Danny answered.
"I know you said that, but I was just making sure," Koji answered not wanting to admit he hadn't been paying attention to most of the talk about the schedule. He figured he and Duskin would go to where they were supposed to go when they were told to go there.
"With your, permission, I'd like to stay at the planet for a day or two to make sure the transition of the 9 boys staying…" Hal began before Dave's comm began beeping.
Dave answered, seeing Admiral Mirah's visage staring back at him. "Admiral, it's always good to hear from you."
"I'm glad to see you also and am happy to see Captain Tietokone there with you. It saves me a second call. I've been in a rather lengthy call with Earth. It seems that there are those that believe I've been spending too much time focused on the Explorer Program. Now that you've been promoted to Commodore, it's been decided that all decisions related to Explorer Operations will now fall on you, Zippy. I will, of course, still be available to you if you need advice, but, basically, the proverbial buck relating to Explorer missions will now stop on your desk."
Dave was surprised by this but recovered quickly. "I am flattered that you and the other Admirals feel I'm ready for this responsibility, Sir. I will endeavor to live up to your expectations."
"I have no doubt in your abilities, Dave. I will send a communique to all of the Explorer ships, as well as appropriate offices on Earth of Space Fleet informing them of this change."
Bill Mirah looked at Hal and asked, "Something amusing, Captain?"
"I'm sorry, Sir. I was just briefing Commodore Bowman on the plans for the Sooloo and completely expected him to tell me that he would run it by you before approving or denying my request. If nothing else, this will speed things up."
"I agree, Captain. Is there anything you'd like to ask, Dave?"
Dave thought for a moment before commenting, "I just want to make sure that there will not be any 'second guessing' my decisions regarding the Sooloo since my husband is the captain."
"I've discussed that very topic with the rest of the Admiralty and can assure you that any such questions would be brought to my personal attention. For my part, I have absolutely no worries of you showing favoritism. In the past, you have made the right decisions, even when they ran contrary to the requests of Captain Tietokone. I will assure you that if any such concern arises, I will discuss them directly with you. If you hear any, direct them to my office."
"Thank you, Admiral. Just to keep you in the loop, the Darastix and the Hooker should be departing Alvaeyos at 0800 tomorrow. Captain Tietokone was requesting to stay for a few days to make sure the 9 boys staying are settled before the Sooloo heads off to their next destination. I was going to check with you first, but in lieu of these changes, I will be approving his delay. That will give me time to focus on the rest of the Explorer fleet's progress reports."
"Very well, Commodore. To be totally honest, I was planning on making this move even before the questions from Earth arose. I am glad we're on the same page, once again. Good Luck, Commodore."
Dave responded, "Thank you, Sir," as Mirah ended the communication.
Hal stood and moved over to Dave and wrapped him in a loving hug, giving him a kiss before congratulating Dave and taking his leave to attend to his duties as Captain of the Sooloo.
Dave sat at his desk and took a moment to absorb how his career has advanced so quickly. A minute later he heard the chime indicating an incoming message. He opened it and saw the message to all Explorer ships regarding the changes. Dave then wrote a message of his own, outlining his procedures for the ship Captains.
After sending it, he took a moment to banish his nervous concerns, knowing that his Captains were professionals, and would do what was needed.
Kash and Jay didn't have much in the way of luggage. Tommy had already picked up their bags for the Mars. All they had was what they needed for their trip to Earth. When they boarded the Michelangelo, Crewman Jack Gillespie had just finished his pre-flight checklist. They settled in for the short flight from the Sooloo to the Darastix.
Upon landing in the Darastix's shuttle bay, Crewman Gillespie started discussing with Ensign Mitch Crawford what was happening. They performed a post-flight inspection, and then started preparing the Michelangelo for the flight to the Hooker and then the Sooloo.
Kash looked at Jay, "Would you like for me to carry your bag?"
"Yes, please," Jay responded. "Dad, why can't I go with you?"
"For one," Kash began, "I will be busy on the other ship, so you won't get to spend any time with me. Two, the other ship hasn't been upgraded for the instant communication yet, so you wouldn't be able to do your schoolwork on the other ship. And three, being on the Darastix, you'll have Koji and Duskin to play with. On the Hooker, you would be all alone with nothing to do."
"Ewww, that doesn't sound like fun," Jay grimaced. "Okay, I'll miss you, but at least I won't be bored."
Kash put his freehand on Jay's back in between his shoulders, "And I will miss you."
Kash pressed the chime and almost jumped when he heard what sounded like a dragon's roar. It never crossed his mind that the Darastixians wouldn't use a chime like Earth does. Tommy opened the door, "Is it time to leave already?"
"No," Kash replied, "I need to speak with Kyle and Danny before we go."
"We were getting ready to head to lunch. Have you and Jay eaten yet?" Kyle responded.
"That was one of the things I wanted to check before leaving. Neither Jay nor I had eaten, and I wanted to see if you had. If you had, I was going to take Jay to lunch before I left."
"Then you might as well join us," Kyle insisted.
"So, you have no problem with me leaving Jay with you?"
Danny answered this time, "Captain David spoke with us about the idea before he spoke with you. Jay won't be any problem for us to watch, but we are glad that you asked to verify."
As they sat down to eat, Kenny came over to their table. Kash was mesmerized by his eyes until Jay tugged on his sleeve, "Dad, he asked what you wanted to eat."
"Oh, sorry, ummm… Kenny," Jay looked at his name tag.
A look of surprise was on Kenny's face, "You want to eat me?"
Kash turned red as a strawberry, "Ummm, no, I was just apologizing to you. Your eyes are almost hypnotic."
Kenny laughed, "Yeah, I hear that a lot. So, do you know what you want? That is, besides me." He grinned.
Blushing more, Kash questioned, "What would you recommend?"
"Well, if you like chicken, bacon and ranch, Chef Logan makes an excellent chicken bacon ranch lasagna."
"That does sound good. Jay, what would you like?"
"Not Kenny," Jay laughed, "but that lasagna sounds good, and a root beer."
Kyle and Danny ordered for them and their two boys, and then Tommy ordered. After Kenny left to place their order, Kyle teased, "You have a crush on him, don't you?"
Kash blushed again, "It's his eyes. Don't get me wrong, he's a great looking boy, and seems nice, but those eyes draw you in. I wish he were on the Sooloo; I'd ask him out."
"But who would you transfer here?" Kyle asked.
"Hard to say, all the Cook's Assistants seem like great boys, but if I had to choose one, maybe Logan Fielding."
When Kenny returned with their order, he placed everyone's plate in front of them, saving Kash for last. It had twice as much lasagna as anyone else's. "I gave you extra, so you won't eat me," Kenny teased.
"You needn't worry about that," Kash blushed, "but uh… are you seeing anyone?"
"Working on it, but he's on a different ship," Kenny winked. That didn't go unnoticed by anyone, especially Kyle. He grinned at Kash.
Kash gulped, "Ummm, would you consider transferring to that ship?"
"I can't," Kenny frowned. "It's a long story, but the short of it is, Randy Jenkins and I cannot work together."
Kenny left and Kyle wondered out loud, "Can't work with Randy? What's up with that?" Kash looked bummed.
After they were done eating, Tommy went to get what little he brought for his stay and met Kash by the Michelangelo.
This was tough part of the day for Danny and Tommy… when the time came for Tommy to board the Michelangelo for the trip back to the Sooloo. Danny was sad to see his brother leave, knowing they probably wouldn't see each other for at least a month. Tommy was equally sad to leave his brother, wishing there was a way he could have gone to Earth with his brother and met Kyle's step-mother Alicia as well as his step-brother, Ronald.
Danny and Tommy both felt that their relationship had never been better, and not just because they'd had sex the night before. The biggest reason was because of the strength of their brotherly love. Danny brushed back a tear as he watched his little brother embark onto the Michelangelo. Jay walked with Kash to the shuttle so they could hug one last time before being parted for two weeks.
The emotions at the shuttle bay were mixed. Koji and Duskin were excited to see their friend Jay step back off the shuttle and onto the Darastix. As soon as Tommy disappeared down the ramp, they saw Jay come up the ramp. Koji and Duskin waved wildly, as if this were their first time seeing Jay since arriving on the Darastix, and Jay returned the wave.
As soon as Jay stepped on the deck of the Darastix, Koji and Duskin pranced around him in happy dance. Jay turned around in a circle, slapping hands with the two dancers.
"Okay boys, you've greeted each other, again, now let's get out of the way so the Michelangelo can continue its itinerary," Danny ordered. The boys stopped dancing and watched as Jay waved goodbye to his father.
Crewman Gillespie had informed them that they were ready to depart once they were on board.
It was then time for Jay to learn about his home for the next two weeks.
Commodore David Bowman and Captain Hal Tietokone disembarked from the Leonardo in the Darastix's shuttle bay. They were met by the ship’s Captain as well as Admiral William Mirah. Also with them was Drekzul, the leader of the planet. Since the Sooloo's shuttles were not large enough without using a Bubba, the group transferred to one of the Darastixian shuttles and flew to the SS Joseph Hooker. Crewman Gordy Mason flew the Leonardo back to the Sooloo.
Once the shuttle from the Darastix and the Michelangelo had landed and the Shuttle Bay Doors had closed, Captain Cody Zeller, his Senior Officers and the nine boys who had agreed to stay with the planet entered the shuttle bay. The Senior Officers, attired in their dress uniforms, formed a path to the shuttle from the Darastix while the nine boys stood at attention, waiting for permission to board the shuttle. Captain Zeller hugged and saluted each boy, telling them that they will be missed and wishing them well.
Dave walked over and stood at a podium that had been placed for him. "I wanted to stop by to wish you all the best in your new lives. The choice you all made individually shows that you are all fine examples of the traditions of Space Fleet."
Dave paused for the applause that had commenced. A few moments later he raised his left hand and silence resumed. "Each of you were presented with a decision to be made, and each of you have your own reasons for making them. I wanted to say on behalf of those who are being permitted to return home, Thank You."
After another momentary pause, "I also want to send my thanks to Drekzul, the leader of this planet. His handling of this potentially volatile situation shows that he is a wise leader who truly wants what is best for his people."
Drekzul stood and gave a half bow toward the podium before resuming his seat.
"As you move into this next chapter of your lives, know you have our best wishes going with you. Any of you may contact us back on Earth or on our ships if you have need. We hope that you do stay in touch."
Dave then looked at the faces of the nine boys, looking for any doubts. He concluded, "Captain Tietokone and I will be here for a short time and if any of you wish to speak to us privately, that can be arranged. Best of luck to all of you."
Hal and Dave approached each of the boys, giving each a formal salute and a handshake.
As Hal watched each of the nine boys preparing to board the shuttle with Drekzul, he recalled his first encounter with the leader of Alvaeyos...
Drekzul, and his single security officer were led into Hal's Ready Room. "Welcome to the Sooloo, I am hopeful we can come to an agreement," Hal greeted him.
Drekzul took a long look at Hal, and after a pause, "You arrive in our system uninvited. You sabotage our orbital intruder detection system, and then steal our property."
Hal couldn't believe his ears. After a moment he replied, "First, we were responding to a distress call. One that came from one of our Space Fleet's ships. When we arrived, we found not one, but two Space Fleet vessels, among several others. When we went down to the planet, we found our missing crew members and began rescue operations. We found that not only were our crewmen being held against their will, but you have been taking, as you call them, slaves for a very long time. As far as anyone from other races, I have no right to interfere with your society, but any Space Fleet personnel, and anyone else wishing to leave, they will be allowed to leave with us."
"I currently have ships that will prevent your departure." Drekzul replied with his intent made clear.
"I have no concern about your ships being able to stop us. Our analysis of your capabilities show that you are no threat to us. I suggest you think long and hard about your intentions. I just received a call from one of my crew members needing me. You may spend the night aboard the Sooloo, and we will discuss this in the morning at 0800."
After the last handshake, Cody called out, "ATTENTION!!!" His Senior Officers stood at attention, and Cody ordered, "Present Arms!" The Senior Officers saluted, and the nine boys marched to the shuttle. Drekzul joined them.
Kash waited until their "ceremony" was over before disembarking from the shuttle. Tommy watched as well. He commented, "That looked like a nice send off. I can't say how those boys felt, but it gave me the impression that they were all liked and will be missed."
"I think that's exactly what Captain Zeller was going for," Kash responded. "This was similar to when Generals during the American Civil War headed off to battle, and this ship WAS named after a Civil War General, so it's very fitting. Anyway, I'll see y'all in about four to six weeks."
An hour later, after speaking with a few of the boys, Dave and Hal boarded the Michelangelo for their trip back to the Sooloo. As soon as everyone had cleared the Shuttle Bay, the exterior doors opened, and Crewman Gillespie flew the Michelangelo back to the Sooloo with Dave, Hal and Tommy as his passengers.
Once the shuttle left the shuttle bay, Dave asked if Hal was ready to leave for their next destination. "We’re ready."
"Good. As I understand it, the Hooker and Darastix will be heading back to Earth at 0900 tomorrow. We'll be here for a few days, but then I guess we should get everyone moving."
As the shuttle descended toward the planet, eight boys sat with their faces seemingly glued to the windows watching their new home getting larger. Each was feeling a mixture of apprehension and excitement as they got closer. The exterior of the planet looked dead, but once they passed through the cave… everything seemed so alive and beautiful.
Meanwhile, at the rear of cabin, Drekzul sat with his future son-in-law. "Alex, I wanted to take a few minutes to explain to you what is about to happen. When we land, I will disembark first. I will then introduce you as my son's mate. He is the only one that you will be required to have sex with. The other boys will be courted by two males and two females each at a time until they find they find two of each they wish to have sex with. None will be forced to have sex, and they have as much choice as everyone else."
"That sounds fair," Alex agreed.
Drekzul continued, "I do have one potential mate for each boy, but they have a right to reject them. Once everyone is with their potential mate, we will all walk to the lake. I will go over the most important rules of our society, which I am sure are much like your own Earth rules. Once I am done, if you agree to these rules, you and your mate will disrobe and walk into the water waist deep. Your mate will submerge you as a symbol of you submerging to our rules. The other boys will also do the same."
Alex grinned, "Kind of like a baptism into your society."
"What is a baptism?"
"Baptism is the ceremony or sacrament of admitting a person into Christianity or a society by immersing the individual in water," Alex explained.
"Ahh, yes," Drekzul nodded, "I guess this IS a baptism."
"So, after the baptism?" Alex inquired.
"You will come out of the water and your mate will dress you, then you will dress your mate. You will live with your mate. The other boys will be courted by the mate I had chosen, as well as the other potentials they may consider. Tonight, you and Zoeberdolph will have sex. You said that you don't mind him 'trying to get you pregnant even though you know he cannot,' so him being my son, he needs to enter you first, and then you enter him. Both times will be observed by myself and my council."
"You mean, I have to have sex in front of people," Alex gulped, "not once, but twice?"
"It is the only way you will be considered my son's equal. When I married my wife, I had to do it for her to be my equal, and then her brother, as her representative, entered me. We were observed by my father, their father and my father's council. Her brother got me pregnant, and I carried Zoeberdolph."
"Then I can do it," Alex agreed.
"In a week, you and Zoeberdolph will be married. At that time, your lives will be private unless something happens to me."
It was a lot for Alex to take in, he thanked Drekzul and sat back to absorb all this new information. He felt himself becoming physically excited by what he was told. His initial embarrassment gave way to excitement as the prospect of his new life unfolded in his mind.
The afternoon was spent with Koji and Duskin, under the guidance of twelve-year-old Ensign Ronnie Biggs and Danny, taking Jay around the ship and showing him everything they had learned the day before. Ronnie filled in the gaps to make sure Jay received all the information he needed. The layout of the Darastix was different from the rest of the Explorer Class starships, so the tour was essential. The tour was a good review for Koji and Duskin, as well.
Kyle did not go on the tour. Instead, he met with Tyler Lynch, the Chief Astrogator, so he could learn about what Captain David expected from the astrogator during his watch as well as when he was off-watch. Overall, the expectations and rules were about the same as on the Sooloo, but there were some exceptions that were important for Kyle to know.
At dinner, Jay, Koji and Duskin discussed their room assignment. "Opsola Kyle, can Jay sleep in our room sometimes?" Koji asked.
"And can we sleep in Jay's room?" Duskin questioned before Kyle could answer.
"Remember what we said about our trip back to the Sooloo on the Mars," Kyle responded. "As long as everyone's privacy is respected, you can pair up any way you want. I think the same would go for who sleeps where and with whom. Do you agree, Danny?"
"Totally. And remember, no means," he stopped and waited for the finish.
"NO," Koji and Duskin shouted out, which gained the attention of the other diners along with a few smiles.
"Did you get that, Jay?" Kyle asked.
"Yep, I sure did. Dad said kinda the same thing. He said to never let anyone force you to do anything, and never force them. If they say no, then no it is."
That night Jay wanted to sleep alone in his room so he could think about his dad and about how he wanted to handle the sleeping arrangements with Koji and Duskin. He eventually fell asleep in mid-thought.
The next morning after breakfast the three boys brushed their teeth, gathered up the materials they needed for their upcoming virtual class, and met in Kyle and Danny's quarters as had been arranged the night before. Ensign Biggs arrived five minutes early and escorted the boys to the room where the virtual classroom had been set up.
Although Biggs had gone over the setup and using the equipment during the boys' tours, he stayed as ordered to provide help in case the boys had any questions. He was impressed by how well they remembered all their instructions, forgetting that the procedures weren't much different than those on the Sooloo.
While the boys worked, tuned into their lesson, which was the same one Ali had presented a couple of days before, Biggs was involved in virtual lessons of his own, as he studied the curriculum he needed to master to pass the lieutenant's examination.
When lunch time arrived, one of the assistant cooks arrived with a food cart containing the lunches the three Sooloo boys had ordered the night before. The custom cart kept hot food hot and cold food cold and the food was the usual delicious fare served on the Darastix.
Biggs left to have lunch with his crewmates. "I'll be back at 1500," he told the boys. "You don't have to turn everything back on and do your work until 1300. And don't forget you're being recorded, so behave yourselves."
"We always behave ourselves," Jay replied, although he knew he was speaking more for himself than for Koji. He knew that Koji managed to get into mischief in class and that Duskin usually followed his lead.
"Yeah, what Jay said," Koji shouted out as Biggs closed the door.
When the time came for Ensign Biggs to pick up the boys, he didn't arrive. They waited impatiently for their escort to arrive for ten minutes. "Let's go to our quarters so we can play some games," Koji said. "Opsola Kyle says if you are nine minutes early then you're one minute late and Biggsy is already ten minutes late so that makes him more than twenty minutes late."
"You're good at math," Duskin said with admiration.
"I'm good with directions too, and I remember the way back to our quarters, so let's go."
"I sure don't know the way, so how do you know?" Jay asked.
"I just do," Koji insisted.
"We were told not go around the ship by ourselves or we would be in big trouble, so I'm going to wait here," Jay told the brothers.
Duskin was reluctant to follow Koji, because more often than not when Koji broke a rule he got into trouble, and Duskin knew when Koji got into trouble, he would get into trouble too. "Maybe I should wait with Jay," Duskin waivered.
"I bet Biggsy forgot he was supposed to pick us up so if we don't go, we might be waiting forever. We waited like we're supposed to, and I don't think we're doing anything wrong." Koji never broke rules for the sake of breaking them; when he broke them he always convinced himself he was in the right and was always surprised when he got into trouble for being right.
Duskin was certain that Koji was right this time, so he changed his mind and followed his brother out the door. They headed quickly down the corridor that went past the conference room. When they arrived at an intersection, Koji turned left without hesitation.
"Are you sure?" Duskin asked. "I thought we came from the other side when we followed Ensign Biggs."
"That was when we were on the corridor before this one," Koji responded. "We turned left then. We turned right here so now we have to turn left and then we turn right at the next corridor we get to."
When they arrived at the next intersection, Koji turned right without hesitation. "This doesn't look the same," Duskin told Koji.
"How do you know, everything looks the same except for the numbers and some of the colors, but this looks totally the same to me."
They passed two crewmen walking in the opposite direction who didn't seem surprised at seeing the two young boys. Duskin tapped Koji's shoulder and said, "Maybe we should ask them for directions."
"We don't need to. I know exactly where we are." When they came to a T junction the boys came to a stop. "I think maybe we made a wrong turn," Koji suggested. "I don't remember this."
"Then let's go back."
"No, if we turn right here, we'll be going in the right direction."
"But there's a big door in that direction. We need to go back."
"Then we'll go through it," Koji said confidently.
When they arrived at the double wide door, over it was a sign saying SHUTTLE BAY 1. "I told you we were going the wrong way," Duskin admonished.
"I guess you were right, and I should have listened. But as long as we're here, let's take a look inside."
"Koji, we'll get in bigger trouble if we go in there," Duskin advised.
"We'll just say we were reviewing our ship's tour, and this is part of our lessons."
"But that would be a lie."
"Then we won't lie. We'll just look inside and not get caught and if we don't get caught, we don't get in trouble. And we probably can't get in anyway because we will need a code." Koji pushed the entry button expecting nothing to happen. He was pleasantly surprised when the door slid open. What he didn't know was that the code reader was defective and Commander David Lucas, the ship's Operations Chief, along with the two crew members they had passed, who part of the Operations staff, were busily replicating a new reader.
Koji and Duskin stepped into a corridor. He saw an open doorway across the corridor and about 10 meters to his left. He strode confidently into the gangway that he was certain led to a shuttle.
"Koji!" Duskin shouted out.
"Shh!" Koji admonished him.
Since the gangway door was open, he decided there had to be a shuttle at the end. Duskin reluctantly followed Koji into the gangway and soon they were standing in one of the Darastix shuttles.
Koji entered the cockpit and sat in the pilot's seat. "I could be the captain of a shuttle," Koji told Duskin. I just have to learn what all the controls do and then I'd be ready to fly." He placed his hand on the throttle situated on the control console.
"Koji, don't move it you might make us start flying," Duskin said.
"Don't worry, Duskin. I learned from Opsola Danny that if a shuttle is turned off it takes a lot of steps to start it up. But if it was started, I'd push this throttle forward and make us move fast out of here." He hunched forward in concentration and moved the throttle. As soon as it left its set position a horn started blaring. Koji quickly moved it back. "I guess there must be a magic code to start it or something."
"Let's get out of here." Duskin pleaded.
"Good idea." Koji knew he's pushed things far enough and it was time to leave before he got into trouble so deep he might never get out of it. As he and Duskin hustled up the gangway they ran into Commander Lucas and one of the crewmen they'd seen in the corridor early.
"And just what are you two doing here?" Lucas asked.
"Pretending we're shuttle captains," Koji replied.
"Well, I'll tell you this. Neither one of you is going to have to pretend that you're in a world full of trouble, because that's exactly where you are."
Kyle, Danny, and Captain David sat in the Captain's Ready Room with Koji and Duskin looking chagrined. Duskin, who had been crying on the walk from the shuttle bay to the ready room, hadn't felt this bad since his days in the orphanage. He felt as if the brother he looked up to had betrayed him.
"You boys understood the rules that had been given you, correct?" Captain David asked. Both boys nodded. "Your fathers have told me the punishment they have planned for you, and I totally agree with it."
"I'm disappointed in both of you, but with you in particular, Koji. What you did was far beyond your usual mischief," Kyle said. "This was an outright intentional breaking of some very series rules. Your Opsola Danny and I assured Captain David you would obey those rules and you not only let us down, but you also let your brother down."
"I'm sorry," Koji said contritely. "It won't happen again. And I'm sorry Duskin, I was a bad brother."
"Well, one thing you did right was admitting that Duskin followed you into trouble and tried to stop you. Here is what your Daddy Danny and I have come up with as the consequence of your behavior."
Danny and Kyle had talked long and hard with his father, Greg, and grandfather, William, to get an adult parent's perspective on the matter. Greg admitted that he hadn't been the greatest father in history when it came to dealing with Kyle and his shenanigans and taking proper action. He looked to his father to give the first proposal. Greg mostly agreed with what William had to say but suggested one change that William totally agreed with.
"The two of you are going to be on restriction starting after dinner today and for the next three days," Kyle said. "You will be restricted to quarters except to attend the virtual classroom. This includes meals, which you will order from the day's menu and be served to you in your quarters. When you go to and from class either Danny or I will accompany you—EVERY TIME! There will be a crewman in the classroom at all times to ensure you don't leave."
"But that's not fair, Duskin shouldn't…," Koji interrupted, but Kyle stopped him.
"And every time one of you complains, we will add a day."
Koji nodded and sat quietly waiting for what else Kyle had to say. "So Koji, if you were going to say that Duskin shouldn't be punished as harshly as you, then you would have been right. You will be on solitary restriction except during class." Kyle then revealed the change that his father had suggestion. "Duskin will be on the same rules except he will be rooming with Jay. You two will be eating breakfast and dinner in Koji's room together, however. Lunch will be in the classroom as before. Oh, and one more thing: Jay will no longer need to have an escort in the corridors except for certain corridors, which he has been shown on a map of the ship."
Kyle stopped and let the information sink in. "Any questions?" After waiting a couple of minutes, he gave his finishing touch. "I just want both of you to remember that your Daddy Danny and I love you both very much and want you both to be the best people you can possible be. I know your consequence sounds harsh but look at it as something you can learn from."
"I want both of you to know that I agree with everything your Opsola Kyle said, especially the last part. You're our sons, which makes you special, and we love you both totally."
"Danny and I will be talking with both of you privately over the next few days about what you can do to keep yourselves out of trouble. Now let's head for our quarters where Jay is probably waiting for us to pick him up for dinner."
As the Robinson family left the room, Captain David thought about how Kyle had handled himself. He was confident and stern without belittling the boys, raising his voice or letting his anger show. He had shown a great deal of poise and maturity for a twelve-year-old-boy in how he had handled himself and the situation. Many adults would be hard pressed to do as well.
The Joseph Hooker and Darastix had left for Earth the day prior. Since the Hooker didn't have instant communication yet, they were tapped in via the Darastix. Even though most of the ships at Earth were waiting for their refit, the instant communication had been dealt with as that crew went from one ship to the next. All the ships orbiting Earth had their communication upgrade before the Sooloo went on her shakedown cruise.
Hal and Jordan sat in the main conference on the Sooloo. Dave had called a meeting that would link all of the Explorer Fleet ships in a teleconference. His goal was to organize the fleet under the new hierarchy with him in charge. He had been in contact with Bill Mirah and Greg Robinson on the Darastix and had received their approval on the decisions he had made. He actually laughed when Bill told him that he had done a better job on his first major meeting than either he or Greg had done the first time they were in the same position.
Both disagreed when Dave told them that they needed to be involved in the meeting. After some back and forth, they agreed to be observers of the meeting as the Captain and First Officer of the Darastix attended, but they would not do or say anything during the meeting so as not to detract from Dave's authority.
The meeting would involve the Captains and First Officers of each of the ships. The teleconference screen would show all the ship conference rooms around the outside of the screen with the center focused on whoever had the floor to speak. Dave would have control of this.
After a few minutes, Dave entered wearing his dress uniform including his Commodore rank. The various ship conference rooms fell quiet and, surprisingly, Fleet Admiral Mirah opened the proceedings. "Good morning. I wanted to say a few words before turning this meeting over to Commodore Bowman. A little over five years ago, we approved a plan for deep space exploration that we anticipated would last around 30 years."
"As a result of alliances made, we were able to increase the technical capabilities of our ships. Allowing for vastly increased speeds, and many other advancements such as the instantaneous communications across vast distances."
"During the time since the ships were launched, all of the ships in the Explorer fleet have made alliances and discoveries that far exceeded the expectations we had when this program was conceived. When we announced this program and it became known that we had planned on crewing these ships with TWEENS AND TEENS, there were many that wondered if we had taken leave of our senses."
"In the time since, you have all acted in the best traditions of Space Fleet and have far exceeded what we expected. You should all be extremely proud of your accomplishments."
After a moment of applause, Bill continued. "Until now, I have taken the lead in running this program. However, I need to set my focus as Fleet Admiral into getting back to running all of Space Fleet."
"So, at this time, I will officially turn the management of this program to Commodore David Bowman. I know that you will perform your duties under his leadership as you have since joining this program. So, with that, I turn this meeting over to Commodore Bowman."
Dave choked down his nerves and stood. He walked over to the podium. "Good morning. I will keep this meeting brief. By now you should have all received and read the policies and procedures I outlined covering procedures for reporting to me. You will all have the same autonomy you have had. This move provides a single point of contact for the Admiralty with the program. I expect your reports will be, as they have been since our initial launch from Earth to be as complete as I've seen. I will be available to each of you if the need arises. I will be, at least for the time being, performing my duties aboard the SS Sooloo. If any of you have any questions, I will answer them now."
For the next hour, Dave fielded questions and allayed concerns voiced by the command staff of each ship. Of the ships, all but one of the Captains voiced their approval of this new order. Dave arranged for the one Captain who objected to have a private meeting. Admiral Mirah made it clear that Commodore Bowman had the final decision on all matters relating to the program. If there was an issue with that, the Officer having them needed to either deal with it or stand down." Dave hadn't expected Bill to take such a harsh stance but was relieved when he did.
After the meeting ended, Dave was pleased with the way it turned out. He was hoping that he could live up to the trust being placed in him. However, only time will tell the tale.
Once the misbehavior of the boys had been dealt with, the two-week trip to Earth was routine. Kyle would stand on watch each day, the third watch from 0800-1200. His role will be to man the astrogation table.
Kyle would also help Tyler Lynch with the responsibilities of chief astrogator. One of the topics was Kyle's astrogation quizzes. Tyler requested that he set some up like he did on the Sooloo when Tyler was under him. Kyle gave Tyler a couple to do during his watch as well as had Tyler create some quizzes. He told Tyler he would send him all his quizzes after he returns to the Sooloo.
Danny worked with the pilots from emergency handling of the shuttles to berthing shuttles in tight spaces, such as the shuttle bay. He also did some simulator work on flying fighters and taking part in battle. His workshops met almost every day.
After their restrictions were lifted, Koji and Duskin roomed together again. They were allowed to operate under the same rules as Jay, meaning escorts were no longer needed. All three were told they had no reason to wander from their planned trip through the corridors. If they got lost they were to stop where they were and use their communicators to call for help. They could even ask the computer for directions.
Two weeks had passed quicker than anyone realized, and the SS Darastix was approaching Earth. During that time, Kyle never failed to bring Megrez to the Bridge with him. The first day, when Kyle arrived on the Bridge, he set Megrez down on the astrogation table. He moved the little stuffed penguin to a position where it would be easy to see but not in the way.
"What is that?" First Officer Aaron Reagan, who had the conn for the watch, asked.
"That is Megrez," Kyle replied as if it was something Aaron should know.
"I may have phrased that wrong. My question should have been, why is it here? What is its purpose?"
"Megrez may only seem like a stuffed penguin, but he is really much more. To keep it simple, he is what some people call a totem, a charm with special powers. I work better when Megrez is with me."
"Ohhhkay… whatever it takes to make you a good officer works for me," Aaron chuckled. "I just hope the Bridge doesn't become a repository for stuffed animals."
"And if it did, what would it hurt?"
Aaron thought about that for a moment before replying. "When I think about, I can't see how it hurts a thing as long as it is out of the way."
"Megrez has only been a help and has never been in the way."
The other crew members on the Bridge listened to the byplay with interest. One of them even considered bringing his stuffed cat with him on his next watch. He gave Kyle a smile and a nod as if to say he totally approved of the penguin on the Bridge. All of them thought that the presence of the Sooloo astrogator was going to make for an interesting two weeks.
Kyle had asked Captain David if he could run some astrogation simulations during his watch to learn the idiosyncrasies of the Darastix. The captain had approved and told Kyle he would inform Commander Reagan of what he would be doing.
Kyle opened his notebook and started writing the astrogation figures on the computer screen into it. He could sense that he was being accepted as a part of the crew, albeit a temporary one, and was ready for a busy but fascinating two weeks.
Two weeks had passed quicker than anyone realized, and the SS Darastix was approaching Earth. To speed things along, they used a beam to help the Hooker move faster than she was able on her own. Mirah wanted to reverse engineer the device so that it may be added to all of Space Fleet's ships.
Prior to leaving the planet, Captain Cody Zeller had sent applications for the adoption of Yulong by Dr. Kizil Nazif and Morgan Morgan. He included an application for him and Commander Ian Douglass to adopt Liber. They were almost to Earth when they received approval for both adoptions. He also had asked Commodore Bowman to perform a wedding ceremony for him and Ian. Dave suggested that he have Fleet Admiral Mirah do it while on the way to Earth.
When Mirah agreed to do it via a video comm, since he was on the Darastix, Cody suggested they add Dr. Nazif and Commander Morgan's wedding to the ceremony. Mirah had no trouble with this.
Kash virtually ran the SS Joseph Hooker. Most of the crew were still recovering from their trauma but pitched in where they could, so Kash wasn't working himself ragged.
Captain Cody Zeller had final say of everything but allowed Kash to have free rein on running the ship. Kash wasn't kidding when he told Jay he wouldn't have time. He slept two shifts of four hours each, made time for meals, but otherwise he was wherever he was needed on the ship.
By the time they reached Earth, the crew were feeling back to their old selves and Kash wasn't as busy. It seemed working through their stress helped put it behind them. They still needed counseling, but not a one felt a need to leave Space Fleet, especially Captain Zeller. That was the crew... the kitchen staff was another story.
"This is Captain David," Captain Frank David announced over a ship-wide comm. "We have just established orbit around Earth. Shuttles will begin immediately taking personnel to the planet with two shuttles leaving every hour on the hour. Seating will be on a first come first serve basis, with exception to the admiralty. They take priority. As a reminder, the first Friday of May IS 'No Pants Day' and today IS Friday, the first of May. Uniform for the day IS NO PANTS. I see Admiral Mirah is already in uniform, and may I say, he has nice legs."
As Timothy Cooper disembarked off the shuttle borrowed from the SS Darastix , a man wearing two stars on the epaulette of his Space Fleet uniform and the J.A.G. emblem on his chest approached. "Timothy Cooper?" he inquired. "I am Vice Admiral Léopold Hugo of the Judge Advocate General's office."
"Did I do something wrong?" Timothy questioned, "or is this about my grandfather."
"Neither, exactly," the man stated point blank, "but your grandfather IS involved, in a way. As a member of Space Fleet, you are officially an emancipated minor, making you a legal adult. Your grandfather is facing several charges, including voter fraud, sabotage, espionage and a list of others. That leaves your brother Jimmy without a legal guardian. That is, unless you wish to be his guardian."
"Voter fraud?" Timothy questioned.
The man nodded his head, "When they did the recount, they found several votes cast by deceased people, all for your grandfather. These votes were sent electronically, and while the people were from various parts of the area, they all came from one computer. That computer was located in an office next door to your grandfather. There were over three hundred votes. Evan Zeller won the election."
"Am I able to be Jimmy's guardian at my age?" Timothy was shocked. "I mean, I am only fifteen, but will be sixteen in a couple of weeks."
"That is why I mentioned you being officially emancipated. In the eyes of the court, you are legally an adult. If you wish to be Jimmy's guardian, that can be arranged, otherwise, he will be placed in foster care."
"Will he be allowed to travel on the Hooker with me?"
"That's up to your captain, but I don't see any other reasons why not," Léopold grinned.
"Then YES!!!" Timothy shouted.
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