Chapter Thirty-Nine: Earthbound

A Collaboration of TrueFan, Zarek Dragon and Douglas DD

The Hawking detected the Sooloo and increased its speed to its max, eventually burning out its engines. After the Hawking ceased trying to escape, Aiden led an away team over, including Commander David. David took command of the Hawking and once secured, Dr. Tom took a medical team over to examine those affected.

Steve had a "sleepover" with Danny while Koji slept with Jason and Jonas spent the night with Lars.

After Juro handed off the "kill shot" of the Hawking to Aiden, Jordan and Jace believe the "Acting" Ensigns should get some Academy-style training.

After the battle, classes resumed, and the boys voted to bring back their swimming recesses.

Jordan shared the proposed schedule for the "Acting Ensigns" which Dave approved. Dave also questioned whether Sukotto could be ready for his Bridge Qualification test. One of the Operations crewmen commented about Shasho giving orders. Noah defended Shasho and reported the incident to Jordan and Steve.

Sukotto and Noah worked on their relationship. They discussed what they might do together. Likewise, Akage and Shasho advanced their relationship. Akage remembered being teased in the orphanage, especially by Riko.

13 December 2121

Conference Room ~ 2000

Jace had several PADDs and a few monitors running when Brad came into the Conference Room. "So, what do you need from me?" Brad inquired.

"Well, I've researched everything we have about the Medici family in Vegas, but I can't find any mention of Jason, Jonas or their parents. According to the records we have on file, the Medici family hasn't lived in Vegas since the Treaty was signed in 2061."

Brad asked, "So, what do we know about the twins' parents?"

"Jonas said they were killed two years ago, but there is no record of any Medici family being killed in Vegas. I've even searched Nevada."

Brad started typing then asked, "Do you know their first names?"

"I asked Jonas and he said, 'Mom and Dad,'" Jace chuckled.

Brad smiled, "They were six or seven when they lost them, so I guess that IS what they would have known them by. Did you look through the files of the orphanage?"

"They are not there. I guess Space Fleet didn't think we would need them. And we are still too far out to hack into them."

"What? The computer has virtually every file that has existed since 2067, except those?" Brad was surprised.

"Yeah, I can tell you that the Seattle Mariners won the World Series in the first four games of 2068, but I can't find anything about the Medici family."

"Who did they beat?" Brad asked.

"The article said they beat the Chicago Cubs. The score of the final game was six to zero."

"Here's something you might find interesting. In Canada, there was a single-car accident. Mrs. Greg Robinson was driving and critically injured…"

"Did you say Mrs. Greg Robinson?" Jace wasn't sure he was hearing right. "Wouldn't that be Kyle's mom?"

"Possibly, but not necessarily. Anyway, her passengers, a fifth cousin and his wife were killed instantly. They left two boys, twins, who were being looked after by a friend in Henderson, just outside of Vegas."

"So… if that WAS Kyle's mom and she's a fifth cousin to Jason and Jonas' dad, she would have to be Draconian. Does the article give her full name?" Brad pointed to her name and Jace hit the comm button. "Kyle, what is your mother's name?"

Kyle and Danny's Quarters ~ 2030

Kyle was stretched out naked taking a pleasant nap in the chair facing the window in his quarters when he heard his comm go off. He shook his head to help his brain wake up and groused about whatever idiot it was who was calling him when he was off duty.

He eased himself out of his chair and walked over to the room's comm button, pushing it with an angry punch without bothering to check on who was trying to communicate with him. "Robinson," he said curtly.

"Kyle, what is your mother's first name?"

"Who wants to know?" Kyle asked grumpily an instant before he recognized the voice as Jace's.

"Aren't we in a good mood today; it's Jace."

"Well, WE were taking a nice nap before somebody woke me up, so he could throw a question in my face for no reason."

"Damn, Kyle, chill out." Jace knew Kyle had the reputation of getting touchy at times, although most of that reputation went back to his days at the Prep School and training. Jace had rarely seen Kyle in a sour mood on the Sooloo, although when he did get grumpy, he always managed to do a good job of it.

Kyle took a deep breath and did what he should have done as soon as he answered the comm—he took a deep breath. "Sorry, Jace. That wasn't nice of me, but I was having a great nap with a dream that," he looked down at his erection, "well, that was, um, pleasant."

"Don't worry about it, I know what it's like to have a good nap interrupted. Anyway, what was your mother's name?"

"Miriam Robinson, but everyone called her Mia, except me, who called her Mom." At least I called her Mom until she dumped me, he thought. "My curiosity demands that I ask you why you want to know."

"It's about the accident she was killed in."

Jace paused, expecting a reaction from Kyle, but all he heard was the sound of Kyle's breathing.  After fifteen seconds, Jace broke the silence. "Are you there Kyle? Are you okay?"

Kyle was surprised by the tears dripping down his cheeks because of the person who had walked out of his life when he was eleven and completely lost. He sat back down on his chair, leaned back, and watched the moving stars outside of the window. "Yeah, I'm here," he whispered into the comm, "but I don't know if I'm okay."  He sniffed hard and wiped his right cheek with his left hand. "Did you say she was killed? When did that happen?"

"You mean you didn't know?" Jace asked incredulously.

"I don't think so. I know she left me when I was eleven and I never heard from her, and I'm all confused and what's this all about?" Kyle was trying hard to quell the emotions inside of him that he knew were ready to explode.

"There were two other people in the car who were fifth cousins. A married couple. Their last name was Medici." As Jace waited for that fact to sink in, he started to worry that he had just dumped too much information on Kyle. Senior officer or not, down at his core he was still a twelve-year-old boy who had just seen his life shaken down to that core.

"The twins," Kyle mumbled, as much to himself as to Jace. "We're cousins." He sniffed and felt the dripping tears become a rivulet. "Help me, Jace… I need Danny… I need him bad." Kyle cut the connection as the tears flowed down his cheeks and along the smooth skin of his chest.

* * * * * * * * * *

Kyle lay back in his chair, his tears flowing freely. He was feeling depressed and sorry for himself in all of the ways a twelve-year-old could feel depressed and sorry for himself. He was shrouded in the kind of darkness he hadn't felt since leaving Earth.

He had the conn from 1200 to 1600 the next day and he didn't want it. He didn't want to leave his quarters ever again. When he had a 1200 watch he preferred to eat lunch early and have a dinner after the watch was completed and a snack later. The way he was feeling he didn't think he would ever eat again. He didn't even want to put clothes on. They could lock him up for dereliction of duty, but he didn't care. Dave can order me shot out an airlock and I wouldn't give a fuck, he thought. It might be the best thing they can do to me.

Kyle felt lost and betrayed. He felt betrayed by his mother for leaving him, by his father for not telling him his mother was dead, by Dave just because he was the Captain, and by Danny because he hadn't arrived at their quarters to make everything okay again. He thought about how hard he had worked to be a winner and respected, and how he just learned he was a loser who his own parents didn't love and trust. As sobs shook his body, he heard a door open.

"Danny?" he asked hopefully. In his state of mind, he wasn't sure which door had opened.

"Koji," his son answered in a boy's voice even higher pitched than Danny's. Koji stepped around Kyle's chair and saw he was naked. This didn't surprise him since his opsolas were naked more often than not in the quarters and the same applied to himself. What surprised him was the tears flowing down Daddy Kyle's face and chest as he fought hard to stop his sobbing. This was something he never saw.

Without hesitation, Koji flopped on top of his father and put his arms around either side. The boy kissed his father's wet cheeks and then lay his head on Kyle's damp chest.

"Opsola, what is wrong? Koji wants to help you?" Kyle was surprised by Koji using the Draconian word for father. To Koji, he had always been Daddy Kyle and Danny was Daddy Danny. When Kyle heard Koji utter the word "Opsola" in his concerned voice, it was like a sudden wave of love had struck him.

Kyle could feel some of the darkness leave him as Koji held him tightly, giving him the light of his love. "I love you, Opsola."

"I love you, too Koji. Thank you for being a great son."

"I am great, even when I am bad?"

"You are great even when you are bad because you have so much love in you. That doesn't mean you can't work to get better, though." Kyle ruffled Koji's hair and was giving him a kiss on his forehead.

"Opsola Kyle is not crying anymore," Koji grinned.

"I have you to thank for that."

"Why were you crying?"

Kyle elected to give his son the shortest answer possible. The complicated story behind the answer would wait for a later time. "I found out that my mother was killed in an accident."

Koji squeezed his Daddy tighter and worked to fight off his own tears. "Opsola Kyle and Koji are both orphans now."

"No, I am not an orphan. Your Grandpa Admiral is still alive, and he is my father." Before Kyle could say anything else, Danny charged into the quarters.

"Jordan let me know what happened and relieved me; Kyle, are you okay?" Danny asked with concern. Then he saw that Koji was draped across Kyle on the chair.

"Opsola Danny!" Koji cried out. He hopped off the chair and gave his Daddy a big hug. "I made Opsola Daddy Kyle feel better," he announced proudly.

Danny saw Kyle nod in approval. "You are a good son, Koji."

"Opsola Kyle's mother died."

"I heard. I came as quick as I could to help him. I'm glad you were here for him, too." He gave Koji another kiss on his forehead, eliciting a wide grin from his son.

"When did we move from Daddies to Opsolas?" Kyle asked.

Koji pointed to Kyle, "You are Daddy Kyle." He then pointed to Danny, "And you are Daddy Danny." Koji's twelve-year-old dads waited patiently for Koji to say more. "But when my Daddies need Koji to love them and help them, then they are my opsolas."

Kyle could feel tears forming again. This time, they were not tears of sadness and anger; they were tears of love and gratitude.

While Koji was too young to have the emphatic powers of a Draconian, he was old enough to have a smidgen of understanding, even though he wasn't always sure what it was he understood. "Daddy Danny wants to love Daddy Kyle and Koji needs to go back to bed." He bent down to Kyle in the chair and mushed his lips with his own. He turned to Danny, who was squatting, and mushed his lips. "Koji loves Opsola Daddy Kyle and Opsola Daddy Danny," their son said happily as he dashed back into his room.

Danny watched Koji's little ass disappear into his room and then wrapped his arms around Kyle and gave him a deep, loving kiss. Danny and Kyle weren't shy about showing their affection in front of their son, but this was one of those times they wanted their kiss to be private.

"Koji seemed really pleased to be able to help you," Danny observed.

"He had a good reason to be pleased. He helped me a lot. We're so lucky to have such a sweet loving son," Kyle responded.

"He's loving, he's very smart, he cares about his friends, but he…"

"… often lacks common sense," Kyle finished.

"Did you even notice he was naked?"

"How could I miss it. But when he's naked with us, even if we're touching and cuddling, it's never sexual with him."

"Or with us," Danny added.

"Or with us." Kyle eyed Danny. "And speaking of us, it's time you dressed the way we usually do in our quarters—it's time for you to join Koji and me and get naked."

It took less than a minute for Danny to dash into their bedroom, yank off his socks, shoes, uniform and underwear, and to be waiting naked for his husband. He plopped onto the bed and Kyle joined him. Danny pulled the covers over them and they snuggled, enjoying the warmth and smoothness of their spouse's skin.

The boys knew they needed to talk before they did anything. As soon as Danny had been relieved from his watch to take care of Kyle, he all but ran to their quarters.

"You look better than I thought you would," Danny claimed. "But, I can see on your face you had been crying."

"You can probably see it on my chest, too," Kyle added.

"You mean your mother never contacted you because she had died?"

"I don't know. I really don't know. That makes the most sense, but it's not like I got a call or something. When she moved out of the house, I barely got a good-bye." Kyle felt the tears starting to well up again.

"And this happened, like, over a year ago and you just found out about it?"

"Yeah. I don't remember Dad ever telling me."

"Well, you and your dad weren't exactly buddies then," Danny pointed out.

"More like enemies, even if he did get me out of trouble a lot."

"That's because you were IN trouble a lot," Danny laughed.

"Whatever. That doesn't tell me why he never told me about Mom being killed. Just when I think we have everything patched up and we start acting like a dad and his son should be acting, he does this."

Danny planted a kiss on Kyle's lips and rubbed his hand along his husband's chest. Kyle broke the kiss, wrapped his arms around Danny, and tucked his head into his neck. This time tears started to flow. "Why does he still hate me?" he sobbed.

Kyle's change of position meant that Danny was now rubbing Kyle's back. He moved his hand down to the base of Kyle's spine and rubbed a light circle in the crook of his back. "Promise you won't get mad at me?" Danny asked quietly.

"Why would I get mad at you?" Kyle sniffled.

"Because you might not like what I'm going to say."

"I'd never get mad at you for what you said."

Well, hardly ever, Danny thought, but he kept his mouth shut. "I used to think your dad hated me and now I know he loves me more than my real dad does. And I see how much he loves you—there's no way he hates you."

"But, Danny, he…"

"Just shut up and listen for minute." Danny shifted positions again so he could look directly into his husband's moist eyes. Kyle immediately averted Danny's gaze. Danny placed his hands upon Kyle's head, and moved it so he was forced to make eye contact. "Kyle, what if he did tell you and you were like, so mad and upset you don't remember."

"That's sounds like a lot of bullshit to me."

"You're starting to get mad."

Kyle thought about a phone conversation he and his father had had. He was in his dorm room when his father called. Kyle remembered being so certain his father was going to yell at him for getting in trouble with his history teacher that he started yelling at his father as soon as he picked up the phone. He remembered yelling over his father's words and hanging up, but he couldn't remember a word his father said. Could that be what Danny is talking about? Kyle wondered.

"Yeah, you're right, I was starting to get mad," Kyle whispered. "I'm sorry." He gave Danny a quick kiss as part of his apology. "I have some things I need to find out, but I'm not going to be able to do that until we get to Earth."

"You think I could be right about forgetting?"

"Not exactly, but you might be close in what you're thinking. I'm gonna have to talk to Dad, which I was going to do anyway."

"Well, don't get mad at him either."

"Yes, Dear," Kyle said with a touch of wry humor. "That is exactly what I was going to do—get mad as hell at him, but after thinking about what you said, that's changed. I need to ask him about a phone call that was… well, not very pleasant."

"Isn't that how all of your phone calls were back then?"

"This was worse than most." Kyle planted another kiss on Danny's lips. "But, since there is nothing I can do until I see Dad, I'm going to try not to let what he did or didn't do bother me."

"What about your mother?"

"I don't know what to think about her and what she did or didn't do. That has to wait, too. But I am sad she is dead. I want to talk to somebody older than me, because I'm all confused about how I should be feeling right now."

Other than the munchkins, that sounds like anyone on the ship, Danny thought. "You mean like talking to Dave?"

"I dunno. Just somebody older that I don't have a, you know, a love connection to. Sometimes I think I've cried in Dave's ready room too much… although, it has been a while."

This time Danny planted the kiss. "You'll do the right thing."

"Well, I know what I want right now. It may not be the right thing, but I need you inside of me filling me with all the love you got. I need you to make love to me."

Their love making proved that Steve having the extra sound insulation placed in the walls of their room had been another one of his outstanding ideas. Kyle screamed in ecstasy both times he came as they made love with a depth and intensity that belied their young years. When they finally wrapped their arms and legs around each other and fell asleep, they could feel their love in every pore of their beautiful bodies.

14 December 2121

Marlin-Douglass' Quarters ~ 0700

"Dad, when are we going to have that talk? It's been a week, and... I'm sorry if I embarrassed you."

"First, you didn't embarrass me. I am proud of how you handled the battle. You were unsure of yourself because you haven't had enough training. That is not your fault, and you were wise enough to turn over controls to someone with more training. That isn't a weakness, that is strength."

"Then why haven't we talked yet?"

"I wanted to talk with Jordan to see how we can remedy this from happening in the future. And for the record, I know Dave is proud of you, too."

"I didn't want to destroy that ship… accidentally," Juro cried.

Aiden put his arm around Juro, "I know, I know. You did your job perfect, including turning the controls over to me. Do you understand?"

"Thank you, Dad. I guess I needed to hear that."

"And I am sorry that I haven't spoken to you about this, yet. Which brings me to my second point. I am very happy that YOU asked about when we would talk. That tells me that you care. I love you."

Connor looked at Juro, "According to Jordan, Dave is going to see about setting up some formal training at the Academy for all the Acting Ensigns. Would you be interested?"

"If it'll help me be a better officer, most definitely," Juro managed to smile.

"Good," Connor smiled, "I think it's going to be mandatory for you to remain an officer."

Enzan's Quarters ~ 0700

Akage and Shasho strolled out of Akage's bedroom and Jaku was sitting on the couch. "Akage, can I speak to you?"

"Always, Jaku, what's up?"

Shasho questioned, "Should I go?"

"You can stay," Akage assured, then looked at Jaku, "right, he can stay?"

"This might be a bit personal, it's up to you."

Sounding surer of himself, Akage declared, "I don't mind, he can stay, he's my sukidoushisukidoushi (" Sukidoushi: means true love; boyfriend\/girlfriend; soulmate ")."

"Sukidoushi? Really?" Jaku chuckled, but then turned serious, "Kage just told me about you being hit down below. Why didn't you tell me about it? How long had it been going on?" Jaku's eyes were moist.

"I thought about telling you, but I was scared."

"Of me? You know I would nev…" As Jaku was speaking, Akage was shaking his head.

"No, I was afraid of what you would do to Riko."

"RIKO?!?!" Jaku's eyes went bright red, and Shasho was instantly afraid. "That hiretsukanhiretsukan (" Hiretsukan: means mean Bastard; a despicable person ")."

Shasho squeaked out, "Y… you… you know him?"

"My last act as a guard was to lock that tothtoth (" Toth: means Worm; larva; worthless person ") up," Jaku growled, "He ripped the shirt off a boy Tei's age. Who knows what he was planning. When I told him to leave the boy alone, he tried attacking me. For just turning thirteen, he's a big boy."

"And stupid, if he attacked you," Shasho grinned.

Jaku chuckled, "Yeah, probably. I mean, I am three years older and I'm not exactly small. Plus, with my training, he didn't stand a chance. He never even touched me."

"I'm sorry I never said anything to you," Akage said.

"I wish that you had," Jaku put an arm around the boy. "I could have gotten you out of that orphanage and maybe in the one Shasho was in, or I could have used that as leverage to allow me to adopt you."

"As far as I am concerned, Opsola is my kalbukalbu (" Kalbu: means loving father "), and you are my kelfukelfu (" Kelfu: means one you think of as you would your father. A very close older male. "). Once you marry Opsola…" Akage grinned.

Jaku smiled, "We are working on it, but with you and Tei as part of our lives, we want to take things slow."

SilnesaAkage gave Jaku a wet kiss on the cheek, "I love you Jaku, and will be happy when you marry Opsola. If you move any slower, you will be moving at a silnesa's silnesa's (" Silnesa: a Draconian variation of the snail.  ")pace in IchigatsuIchigatsu (" Ichigatsu: The first month of the Draconian Calendar ")." NoteNote (" Though it is still rather warm by our standards, the slinesa tends to hibernate for this month to produce offspring. ")

Jace and Jordan's Quarters ~ 0800

Jace sat the twins down on the couch, "You know how Pappy has been trying to find more information about your parents?"

"Uh huh," Jonas replied.

Jason questioned, "Because you don't want us anymore?"

"No, Jason," Jace had a tear run down his face at the mere thought of the boys thinking that. "I want to know more about you. Jordan and I love you boys and will never want you to leave us, that is, until you get old enough to marry."

"And I am going to marry Lars," Jonas commented.

Jace smiled, "Perhaps, but by the time you are old enough, you may fall in love with someone else."

"Pappy, did you find out anything interesting?" Jason softly whispered, "about Mommy and Daddy?"

"Yes, they were killed in a car accident on the sixth of August last year…"

"Nearly two years ago," Jonas interrupted.

Jace wanted to scold Jonas, but merely lectured, "Jonas, please don't interrupt when someone else is talking, it is rude. And did you hear what I said? They were killed August of last year."

"Sorry, Pappy, and it was almost two years ago. They were killed last year and next year is almost upon us, so two years."

Jace couldn't help but laugh at Jonas' logic, "Not quite, two years is twenty-four months, and it's only been sixteen and a half months. Did you know a lady was with them? She was severely hurt and died a couple of days later."

Jonas thought for a second, "Was she Cousin Mia? She was taking Mommy and Daddy to help her move into her new home. She had a mean husband, I think."

Jason added, “Uh huh, she was moving to Candaddy, I think.”

“I think you mean Canada,” Jordan corrected. “As for her husband, I don't know if he was so mean as he was strict."

"We found out, Mia had a son," Jace explained, "and he is on this ship."

"We have a cousin on this ship?" the twins were surprised.

Jace nodded, "Yes, and his name is, Unka Kyle."

"Unka Kyle is our cousin? Can we still call him Unka Kyle?" Jason inquired.

"I think he would like that," Jordan grinned.

"Can we go see him?" Jason asked.

"I don't know, he just found out that his mommy was killed in that accident. He's really hurting right now."

The twins pleaded, "Please, we go make him feel better."

Jace tapped the comm, "Kyle, this is Jace. I have two munchkins that want to come visit. Are you up for it?"

"Can they come in a few hours? I need a little more time to myself, right now," Kyle replied.

Kyle and Danny's Quarters ~ 1045

Kyle was once again sitting naked in his chair staring out of the window, only now the tears were gone. Koji and Danny had, in their own individual way, helped to ease the pain out of his heart. He realized life was going to go on just fine, but he was still fighting unhappiness and confusion. Danny had convinced him to have breakfast with him. After refusing to go because he wasn't very hungry, he finally agreed to eat with his husband, so he could enjoy his company for a little longer. Once he started eating, he realized he was not only hungry, he was starving. He had enjoyed Danny's shit-eating grin as he wolfed down his pancakes and sausage.

"I told you that you were hungry," Danny said. "I mean the exercise you got in bed should have been enough to make you hungry."

Well, the hot shower was good, he thought, but I still haven't gotten around to getting dressed. Oh, well, I don't need clothes on until I head for lunch and my conn watch.

Kyle went back to thinking about the events that had unfolded over the last few hours. It wasn't so much that his mother was dead, it was that he wasn't sure how she felt about him when she died. If Danny was right about his mother never having the chance to contact him, then he couldn't hate her for completely abandoning him. But his father's not telling him what happened to her was another source of anger and confusion. But what if, as Danny had suggested, his father did tell him? Could he really have forgotten something so important?

He couldn't dwell on those thoughts because the door chime brought him back to reality. Since he was still naked and didn't want to dress, he used the comm on the arm of his chair to open a channel to the door. "Who is it?" he asked.

"It's us," came the boyish reply. Kyle knew it was one of the twins. For a moment he wanted to order them to go away, but the thought struck him that their parents had been killed in that same accident, and maybe his new cousins needed help today as much as he did. He pressed the "open" key and told the twins to enter. He got out of his chair to greet them.

Jonas ran to hug Kyle. "Unka Kyle, we came to make you feel better. We heard you lost your mommy when we lost Mommy and Daddy."

"We also learned that you is our cousin," Jason commented as he got his own hug in, "but can we still call you Unka Kyle?"

"You better call me Unka Kyle, or I will tickle you," Kyle threatened with a grin.

"But you're nakey." Kyle's nakedness didn't bother the twins. They had seen him naked countless times during their skinny dipping and the times they helped shag balls during his free throw shooting. And he had seen them naked just as often.

Kyle looked down at his naked body. "Oh my, I sure am. Good thing I won't have to tickle you, since you'll be calling me Unka Kyle."

"Cousin Kyle," Jason teased with a grin.

"Cousin Kyle, huh? Well, nakey or not, you've earned a tickle."

With that, Kyle wrapped his arms around Jason and brought him down on the floor with himself. He pulled Jason's shirt up and started tickling his exposed belly, bringing on immediate howls of helpless laughter from the younger boy. Jason tried to roll away, but Kyle was too big and strong. As they wrestled on the floor, Jason managed to get a couple of his own tickles in. In the confusion, Kyle pulled Jason's shirt off, albeit not in once piece.

Jonas was not about to be left out of the fun. He pulled off his shirt and dropped on the floor next to his brother. He called out, "Cousin Kyle, Cousin Kyle," and Jason joined him, although not in unison.

Kyle tickled Jonas with his left hand while he tickled Jason with his right. Both boys screeched with delight, neither one of them trying to get away from the fun. They reached for Kyle's belly to tickle him. Kyle could have easily avoided them, but let them each get a few tickles in. He was laughing almost as hard as the twins.

He sat on Jason's legs and continued the tickling while Jonas knelt next to Kyle and got a few more tickles in. "Stop, stop, stop!" Jason gasped. He could barely catch a breath. "I'm gonna hafta pee if you don't stop."

"Oh no, we can't have you messing up your pants and the carpet, so maybe it's time for you to surrender. On Earth if somebody is ready to give up he can cry uncle. Are you ready to cry uncle?"

"Yes, yes, yes, Unka Kyle, Unka Unka Unka Kyle." Kyle got off Jason and looked at Jonas, who was still in tickling mode. Kyle got on top of Jonas and gave his belly a bevy of tickles.

"Unka Kyle, I call Unka Kyle!" he gasped. Kyle let him go and the three boys lay back and worked to get their laughter and their breathing under control.

"You got a boner thing, Unka Kyle" Jason pointed out.

"It happens a lot when boys wrestle."

"I know. I gots one too." He pulled down the front of his shorts and undies to show off his little hard-on.

"Can we get nakey with you?" Jonas asked, "cuz I have one too and it wants to get out of my pants." Not waiting for an answer, he started to pull off his pants and underpants.

"Sorry, not this time. I need to shower and get ready for an early lunch, so I can stand my watch." Jonas quickly pulled his pants back up.

" Aww, we could shower with you, or we could do with you what we do with Lars."

"That, my cousins, is what friends do with each other. It's not what you do with your Unka."

"Okay," Jason said with complete acceptance. He had heard the same little lecture from his dads. He tucked his goods back into his pants.

"I love you, Unka Kyle." Jonas said.

"I love you, too, Unka Kyle."

The three of them were sitting on the floor. Jonas and Jason sidled up to either side of Kyle and, like they'd rehearsed it, Jonas kissed Kyle's left cheek and Jason kissed Kyle's right cheek. Jason casually brushed Kyle's bare, sweaty chest as he and his brother finished their chaste kisses. "You feel nice," he whispered to his Unka.

"We both love you, Unka Kyle. Did we help you?" asked Jonas as he and his brother ended their kisses.

Kyle nodded. "You helped me more than you know. You made me laugh when I needed to laugh. You hugged me when I needed a hug and gave me sweet kisses to make me feel even better. I love you two so much. I'm happy you are my cousins."

Jonas turned serious. "Mommy and Daddy died with your mommy and it was very sad for Jason and me and our Unka. We helped you and you helped us, and we laughed and said we love each other. And now we feel better, too."

"Thanks for coming to help me. Now go find Lars and have some fun."

Jonas pulled on his shirt. Jason didn't even bother with his torn shirt; he decided to go back to their quarters shirtless. He would have gone back naked if he knew he could get away with it. The twins skipped out of the door, happy they had helped their "Unka", not to mention themselves.

Kyle sat back down in his chair. He thought of how much Koji had loved him today, of the love from Danny, the love of his life, and the love and laughter he had just received from his "new" cousins.

There were things that had happened that day that he still needed to figure out. One thing he didn't need to figure out was that he was loved by four special people whom he loved with all of his heart. Right then, that was all he required. He rose from the floor and headed to the bathroom to take his second shower of the morning as well as to take care of an urgent need for release.

Monday, 15 December 2121

Dave's Ready Room ~ 0700

Dave walked into his Ready Room an hour before his watch was to start. When he turned on his monitor, he was surprised to see a message from Fleet Admiral Mirah. When he read the message, he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Dave read the message several times before calling Hal to come read it. Finally, Dave called Hal to his Ready Room and asked Lt. Scott Trevor to put in a call to Fleet Admiral Mirah through Zorn, but wait until 1400 so Mirah would be in his office.

Trevor acknowledged and said he would make a note for Aiden, who had the Watch at that time. As they were closing in on their precious home, going through Zorn wasn't going to be necessary, but at this time, Dave felt it was important to have a clear connection.

A Message for Dave

Classroom ~ 1000

Kyle was enjoying his sessions with the ship's class. The lesson was like ones he had given previously--Navigation and Astrogation 101. This presentation was on how the Sooloo would be approaching Earth and why he set the course the ship was following. With that in mind, Kyle's and Jace's classes were combined so all the boys were getting these lessons.

After the first break, Kyle moved the class to Holodeck Two where he could use a holographic projection of the Solar System. While Brad or Roger could have set up holo-emitters in the classroom, the space in the room was limited and Kyle wanted his Solar System to be spread out so the students could walk through it, weaving around the planets and asteroids. For this reason, he used the entire Holodeck.

"Where is Mercury right now?" Kyle asked as the students explored the projection.

"It's on my side of the sun," Koji responded with a satisfied smile.

"Correct. And where is Uranus?"

"I'm sitting on it," Jonas yelped with laughter.

Jace glared at his son, "JONAS!"

Koji smiled because it wasn't him in trouble this time.

"On the opposite side of the sun from Mercury," Lars replied.

"Good job. That is also correct."

Kyle reviewed how the Sooloo going through the heart of a star system at HF speed could affect the planets as well as the star. "That's why we don't approach a star system through the plane of the ecliptic or at HF speed. I set our coordinates so we approach at an angle to the plane. In the case of this flight, the angle is seventy-five degrees."

"And then we go at sub-light speed to Earth, right?" Juro asked.

"Exactly, Juro. Once we enter the solar system, we will reduce speed to impulse, or as Juro called it, sub-light, but we still make good speed."

"Unka Opsola Steve said you went past all of the planets when you left Earth," Shasho said.

"Yeah, that was pretty cool. They wanted all of us to see as many planets as possible before we left our Solar System. We saw all of them except Mercury, Venus, and Neptune."

"I wish we could see them," Koji lamented.

"It would take up a lot of time that we don't have. Like I've showed you, I put the fastest possible route into the computer, which is what Captain Bowman wanted."

Kyle herded the class out of the Solar System and closed his lesson with a summary of his main points. "Tomorrow Steve will be talking to you about the geography of Earth and Ali will tell you something about the geology on Wednesday. Then your lessons about Earth will end on Thursday when someone will give you a lesson on recent Earth history."

"Who is going to do that?" Shasho asked.

"I don't know, but I'm sure Ali will let you know tomorrow. You guys can head to lunch now. Thanks for doing a great job."

"Thank you Unka Kyle," Jonas said as he walked out of the Holodeck. "That was a lot of fun, especially the big solar system."

Ali stopped Kyle as he started out of the Holodeck. "Great job, Kyle."

"Thanks. I love talking about math and the stars, plus the kids are so ready to learn. It makes it easy. Now if it was history I was teaching, well I would be afraid they would behave like I did in history."

"Which was how?"

"It wasn't very good."

"Well, I have a message to give you that you might not like."

"And the message is?"

"I guess Dave wants you to teach the history class."

"Say what?" Kyle squeaked in his soprano boy voice. "You're kidding right?"

"Nope. Dave said he wants you to do it."

"I can't do it."

"Why not?"

Kyle took a deep breath. "Because, I don't know much about history."

Dave's Ready Room ~ 1400

After discussing things with Hal, Dave was ready for the call with Admiral Mirah when it went through.

"Hello Zippy, to what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

 "I believe you know full well, Bill. That message I received kind of bowled me over. I had no expectation of anything of this magnitude. I mean... I was simply doing the job I was chosen to do. In most of the cases, it was merely me getting my crew to do what was necessary. If anyone deserves credit, it's them, not me."

 "Don't be so humble, Zippy. If you hadn't done your job so far above expectations and known which of your crew would be best for each given situation, the Sooloo would likely have been lost."

 "You may be right, Sir. But Commodore? I was under the impression that a Commodore leads a task force, not just a single ship."

 "That's the case, and we have plans to create a task force. Those captains will report to you and any orders given them will come from you. I have already issued orders for the Endurance to return to Earth. They will likely arrive sometime in the middle to end of January. The task force will consist of the Sooloo as flagship, the Endurance, the Steven Hawking, once we select a new crew and the SS Darastix."

 Dave shook his head before saying, "I guess I need to assimilate this. I am sure you and I will talk more on this subject."

 "I'm sure we will. Congratulations, Commodore Bowman."

Holodeck One ~ 1600

He didn't have a watch today and Tomo was working in Engineering, so Juro walked with Sukotto to Holodeck One. "I'm nervous," Sukotto admitted.

"So was I when I took my test. You'll do fine; just remember what I warned you about. If you relax and follow your training, you'll be perfect."

"What would you say if I told you I can sense your happiness, and lack of nervousness for me? I mean, I won't even be twelve for four more months, and I can feel your calmness."

"I would think that you're starting to gain your telepathy about ten months early, and I feel calm because I'm not the one testing. Besides, I know you have this."

As they entered the Holodeck, Sukotto asked, "Sir, is it okay if Juro sits with Dad? Just having him in here makes me feel better."

"After today, you won't have Juro with you on the bridge, you will be doing this one hundred percent on your own," Hal reminded him.

"I understand, Sir," Sukotto replied, "but I've begun the process of developing my telepathy, and his calmness makes me feel relaxed."

"Commander," Scott spoke up, "as long as Juro sits with me and remains quiet, I don't see how it would actually affect this test. In a way, Juro's ability to train others are being tested as well."

"Very well, Commander," Hal agreed, "Juro can stay, but if I even sense his presence, I may ask him to leave."

Scott and Juro went "behind the curtain," so to speak. As the simulation began, it seemed like a normal day on the bridge. Ten minutes had passed when Sukotto declared, "Sir, an unknown vessel has just moved within sensor range."

"Very good, Mr. Trevor, see if you can identify the vessel."

"Their configuration is not in our databanks, it is raising shields and charging weapons, Sir."

"Raise shields but hold off charging weapons. We want to see their intentions before we seem aggressive."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

The ship moved closer and Sukotto kept Hal informed until… "Sir, the vessel is hailing us."

"On screen," Hal ordered.

Captain Bowman's face appeared on the screen, "Congratulations Ensign, you have just passed this scenario."

"Was that really Captain Bowman? Is he watching from his ready room?"

Hal chuckled, "No, he recorded that in the event you succeeded in this scenario. You did everything perfectly; now you have only two more scenarios to pass to be qualified. How do you feel?"

"Better than when I came in. Juro warned me that he failed his first scenario because he tried identifying the ship before informing Captain Dave about it."

"Had he not warned you, what would you have done?"

"My training told me to inform the Conn Officer, THEN try to identify, so I like to believe his warning didn't matter, but I cannot honestly say it didn't."

"An honest answer, but if you follow your training, I believe you will succeed. Commander Trevor, can we try a simulation that Juro hasn't seen, please."

After completing two more scenarios, Hal called out, "Juro, will you come here, please?"

"Yes, Commander," Juro was a bit nervous. Why did Hal call him out?

"Juro, I am sorry to say…" Hal paused for a dramatic effect, "but you will no longer have Sukotto with you on your watches. You did an excellent job of preparing him, along with your dad's and Scott's training of him. Sukotto, it is very rare that a cadet, or acting ensign passes on the first three scenarios. You should be proud of yourself."

"Juro was an excellent trainer and I was ready, thanks to him."

"But you were ready," Scott hugged his son.

Juro commented, "You even took out the enemy's weapons without destroying the ship."

"But this was a simulation, I don't know if I can do the same without more training," Sukotto admitted, hoping it helped ease the disappointment in himself that Juro was feeling.

Juro admitted, "Yeah, I was able to pass that in the simulation, too, but when it came to the real thing, I turned controls over to Dad,"

"Which, if you are ever unsure of yourself, and he is around, was the right thing."

Juro smiled, "That's what Dad said, and that he wants us to take some training at the Academy while we are on Earth."

"Yes, Captain Bowman has set that up," Hal stated.

16 December 2121

Operations Office ~ 0800

"Sir, what are you doing here? I thought this was my watch and yours started at 1200," Steve inquired.

Jordan replied, "As you know, as Chief of Operations, my job is a twenty-four seven deal, meaning that I am basically on call at all times when not on duty."

"Is there an issue that I should be aware of, Sir?"

Jordan smiled, "Actually, there is. Captain Bowman wants all Chiefs to do a review of the officers under them, so here I am."

"I am ready for your honest review, Sir."

"Steve, until Shasho came on board, you were the most efficient person I know. You know this office like the back of your hand. You seem to know when anyone on the ship needs something before they even do. In that regard, you remind me of Radar from the video M*A*S*H."

"I do my best, Sir."

"There is only one area where I see you are lacking. You are a great Operations Officer, but can you fill in at Astrogation, Tactical/Security or in Engineering?"

"Sir, Kyle, or rather to keep this review formal, Commander Robinson has been working with me on Astrogation. As for Tactical/Security, I have the basic understanding. Admitted, I still have a lot that I need to learn, but I believe I can assist should the need arise."

"Good, then I would like for you to take the 1600 watch with Sukotto and prove it. As for Engineering, Commander Marlin-Douglass tells me that you have taken it upon yourself to learn there, as well."

"Yes, Sir. Until I became the Assistant Chief, I wasn't fully aware that Operations Personnel fill in wherever they are needed to make the ship operate. I guess I should have been learning already; you need to know how to do everything on this ship. Should I start having Shasho train in the other areas as well?"

"Technically, yes you should have been, but you were so efficient in Operations that I have been able to concentrate in the other areas. As for Shasho, that is a good question, and the answer is yes." Jordan looked at Steve for a few minutes then decided to confront him with the knowledge he had learned during Dave's review of him, "First, the review is over, so cut the 'Sir' crap. And second, what would you say if I told you, Dave is going to be made a Commodore?"

Steve smiled, "I already have uniforms in the Command Division ready for you, Sir."

"You knew?" Jordan was awed.

"As you said, I tend to know things before they happen. I just had a feeling Dave would be made a Commodore, Hal will be the Captain and you will be the First Officer. I don't know how I know this, but I sensed it and am already prepared," Steve was beaming as he spoke. Then, looking more serious, "I do have a question, though, or actually a few. Who will be the Chief of Operations? Will Jace take over or stay as Chief of Internal Operations? Or will we get someone to fill the void while we are on Earth?"

Jordan looked seriously at Steve, "We were discussing the idea of promoting you to the position, then bringing someone aboard to be your Assistant Chief."

"Oh no, Sir. I just became the Assistant Chief of Operations. I am not ready yet to be the Chief. I still need to learn more about all the positions I may need to fill in for."

"Understood, and I will let Dave know. I admire you, and I believe you can do the job, but if this is too fast, I understand. And what did I say about the 'Sir' crap?"

Steve laughed, "Jordan, I appreciate the confidence you have in me, and I do believe I am capable of doing it, but yes, it is all too fast."

"Good to know, I will get Shasho's review done when he relieves me, then let Dave know your decision."

"As Shasho's father and as Assistant Chief, can I review his review when you are done?"

"Let's just say, his review will be very similar to yours and leave it at that."

"Good enough and thank you, Jordan."

17 December 2121

Dave and Hal's Quarters ~ 1400

Dave had been going through the mission to date in his head. There have been so many milestones; not only for himself, but for several members of his crew. Some of these individuals wouldn't have been part of the Sooloo crew had things worked out differently. Looking back at it all, much would have been different had things not happened as they did.

As he pondered a number of things in his mind, Dave made a decision. Formal reviews of his senior staff weren't due for another six-months, but in light of them returning to Earth in just about a week's time, Dave thought doing a more informal review of several members of his senior staff would be a benefit.

~ Kyle ~

Sitting on the couch in his quarters, looking out the window as the stars streaked by, Dave checked the clock when the door chime rang. Six minutes early. Dave called out to the room, "Computer, open door."

After the door opened, Kyle entered. Seeing Dave on the couch, he walked over.

"Have a seat, Kyle. I'm glad you're on-time."

Kyle grinned, replying, "Actually, Sir, I'm a minute early."

Dave's smile was a replica of his young Astrogator's. "Normally, Jordan would be doing this little review, but I asked him to let me do it personally. It's an informal one, meaning it doesn't really count. I wanted each of the Senior officers to get some feedback on how they were doing on the mission so far. And I would like you to conduct an informal review of your officers."

Kyle sat quietly as Dave continued, "You, Commander Robinson, are probably the biggest surprise for me. As you know, I had selected John Luke to be the Chief Astrogator and he convinced me to give the position to you."

Dave paused to allow Kyle to make a comment if he chose to do so.

"I am still amazed that Bible did that. I mean, I was pretty much a little asshole when you picked me for your crew. I guess that still surprises me, too. I'm lucky I wasn't one of those left behind because nobody picked them for their crew," Kyle responded. "I'm sure you know this, but I gotta say it… Bible could be a top notch Chief Astrogator on any ship in the fleet."

"Someone saw a lot more in your makeup than you did. The price of genius, I guess."

Kyle blushed, but said nothing in return.

Dave then continued, "So, let me see if I can remember the highlights of your accomplishments so far... first, you developed a fix for our space telescopes. This fix was so important that it was ordered to be implemented on each of the Explorer Class vessels. Then, shortly after leaving Earth, you identified an anomaly with our engines."

After another brief pause, "You led the away team in rescuing Jordan and were instrumental during the entire Rogue Star scenario, then you literally saved the ship when we helped Megrez get his first planet. There are several times during our mission so far where, had you not intervened, the Sooloo would have been lost."

"I guess I just saw things in the right place at the right time. I had a lot of help, too, especially with the Rogue Star. Danny, Lars and the twins, members of the crew who made things happen here once they learned what was going on—it was a team effort all the way."

"Someone had to take charge of the team, and you responded with valor."

Once again Kyle blushed and let Dave continue.

"Finally, I wanted to commend you on your personal development. You have grown as a person in addition to growing as an officer. If there is ever anything I can do to advise you, you know you can come to me."

"You've been a huge help to me as a parent and even as a husband. There was no way Danny and I were ready to be dads, especially to a handful like Koji. We wouldn't have made it without you." Kyle considered bringing up his issue with the death of his mother and how his father may or may not have handled it but decided to stay with his original decision and discuss it with Aiden.

Dave then stood and walked over to Kyle. He reached down and pulled Kyle to his feet and wrapped his arms around him to show how deeply he felt for his young Chief Astrogator.

18 December 2121

Classroom ~ 1000

Jace started this session of class, "Boys, I'm sure you noticed that the walls separating the two groups have been missing all week. This is our last class before Christmas break and before we reach Earth. Normally, classes would resume after New Year's, but our Captain feels it would be in everyone's best interest if we didn't resume until we were ready to launch again. Commander Robinson and I would like to discuss Earth's Government. We will begin with Kyle telling us the history of how it came about. Then I will discuss what was established, and we will conclude with any questions you may have. This period is normally two hours, but we may go past that. If we do, you will get your lunch and recess at your usual time, and we will continue after. The last two hours is just a Christmas party anyway, so if we eat into that, when we are done, we will do the Christmas party. After classes are scheduled to be over, the party can continue, but anyone NEEDING to leave, may. Kyle?"

"I... um... well... um... I can only tell you what the history books say, as I wasn't alive back then, beginning about the year 2055…" Koji raised his hand, to which Kyle promptly stated, "We are not taking questions at this time, Koji."

"But are you sure you weren't alive back then? I mean, compared to me, you are really old."

Jonas commented, "I think Pappy might have been, he's even older than 'Unka Kyle.'"

"I'm not THAT old, Jonas."

"Maybe Admiral Grandpa was alive back then..." Koji mused out loud. Kyle had to stifle his laughter when he heard that.

"Anyway," Kyle went on, "back in 2055 or so, Earth had all these different countries that were like independent. They did things the way they wanted to and a lot of them didn't try to get along with other countries, and sometimes they would fight each other."

Kyle took a deep breath, wishing he had paid more attention to history at the prep school and in training. But he had thought it was boring and there wasn't anything he could do about it since it had already happened. It wasn't the same as laying out courses for Navigation and Astrogation classes. After being told he would be assigned to teaching the Earth history part to the class, he wasted a great deal of time trying to devise a plan to weasel out of the assignment.

However, since the assignment had obviously been passed down by Dave, common sense finally took over. Common sense had not been a strong point for him in school and in training but had become an important part of his behavior since becoming a Senior Officer on the Sooloo. That didn't mean he didn't try to ignore his common sense at times, but eventually it won out—most of the time.

Once he figured out he had no choice but to teach the academic subject he disliked the most and knew the least about, he set to work learning his topic and trying to come up with a lesson plan. "Is it going to be a fun class?" Koji had asked him the night before as Kyle focused on his computer monitor.

"I know it will be full of information," Kyle replied. "I know it was never fun for me, so I'm not sure how to make it fun."

"Just show us stuff like you did with the planets."

"I'll do my best, son. That's all I can guarantee."

Now that his big moment had arrived, he was pleased he had managed to open the class without having his voice squeak or getting tongue-tied. He took another deep breath and went on with his narrative.

"So, what we had was all these countries inventing all kinds of new technology, but they wouldn't share it with each other," Kyle went on.

"Sometimes Jonas is like that," Jason said to a round of laughter.

Kyle gave Jason a hard look but chided him in a soft voice. "Let's work hard to stay on the lesson and not interrupt."

"I'm sorry," Jason said with proper chagrin.

"But then they did something that hardly ever happens between Jason and Jonas. The countries stole from each other and spied on each other. Lots of people were afraid of what would happen if they started to fight each other. And we know Jason and Jonas and all of you as friends might argue sometimes, but you never fight."

"Would they be shooting at each other?" Lars asked.

"That and worse," Kyle replied.

"Worse than shooting? How could it be worse?"

"Be patient. You're going to find that out real soon. But at least they were talking to each other, so they wouldn't start fighting really bad. And then, in July of 2061, they quit talking and one of the militant nations did the worst thing that any country could do."

Kyle looked stoically around the class as they waited to find out what horrible act had been committed. He then nodded at Jace, who was sitting at the back of the classroom. Jace tapped his PADD and a long-distance video of a large city appeared on the white board. The class stared at the video with intense curiosity, wondering what city they were looking at and why they were looking at it. They waited for Kyle to say something, but all he did was maintain his silent gaze around the room.

In the back of the room, Jace could feel the tension rise; he knew that by doing and saying nothing Kyle had the attention and focus of the entire class. But, as he and Kyle had discussed earlier, that focus would not last for long. He grinned when, with perfect timing, Kyle once again nodded and Jace tapped the screen.

At that point, the lights went out, a couple of boys squealed with surprise and even a little fright. Suddenly the city on the screen and the class became flooded by a bright light and a rolling bass roar shook the walls, the desks, and the minds of the students as they watched a gigantic nuclear explosion devastate the city that had just been on the screen. This time, every boy screamed at what they were watching.

As the chaos died down, Jace started to bring the room lights back on slowly. The shaken boys looked to Kyle to say something. They had been shaken both physically and mentally.

"You just saw an actual video of what the worst thing a country could do is. That happened on July 10, 2061 to the city of New Delhi, India. Millions of people died because of the explosion and the radiation coming from it."

"That was the scariest thing I ever saw," Shasho said in a hushed tone. The other boys, who were awestruck by what they had seen, quickly agreed with him.

Kyle went into the science part of the nuclear bomb and then returned to the history lesson. "Five nations got together to try to stop a bigger war from happening. The militant nations said that what just happened was nothing compared to what they were prepared to do so they could get their way."

"That would mean they might blow up everybody," Juro said

Kyle then told how five countries tried to stop the militant countries, but with limited success. "But when those countries threatened to blow up more bombs, everybody else decided it was time to gang up on those countries."

"Kind of like everybody fighting bullies," Akage stated emphatically. Shasho gave him an approving smile.

"Exactly," Kyle responded. "And the result was quick. Those countries governments were toppled by July 20th. Now it was time to head Earth in a new direction. And after we have our lunch break, Jace will tell you all about the United States of Earth and how it works."

"Wow, I don't know if I can eat after seeing that," Sukotto said.

"I know I am gonna really want to get naked and go in the cold water though," Koji said. "I need to do something different."

"That's really different," Lars told him. "And I bet doing that will make us all feel better."

"Let's break for lunch," Kyle announced.  Full History Full History (" To read more about Earth's History in our story, go to&#160;<a href=\"https:\/\/\/?t=2R6PCUp1EKmSY2qk\" target=\"_blank\" rel=\"noopener\">Voyagers Universe: Earth History<\/a>. ")

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jason's Math TestOn Wednesday, even though the classes were combined, Kyle felt a need for his students to take a math test. He offered to let the older boys take it and some did, just for fun. After classes let out, Kyle had finished grading those tests, and he felt a need to talk with Jordan and Jace about Jason's paper.

Jace looked over the paper and then handed it to Jordan. "Kyle, these answers are NOT wrong," Jace debated. "Admittedly, they are NOT the answers that you were wanting, but they are not wrong answers. Bear in mind that Jason is autistic."

"I know, but I can't pass him with answers like these. He needs to learn what is expected."

"Kyle, I don't disagree with you on that, but in the same token, I know Jason isn't stupid. Perhaps during the one-on-one sessions, you can help him understand what it was you were looking for."

"I can try," Kyle agreed. "I won't count these wrong because I can see how he did follow what was written, but I do need to explain why they weren't what I was looking for."

"That sounds fair," Jace acknowledged.

Jordan added, "We can work with him, too. And mind you, though we normally call one thousand by one thousand, it IS also called ten hundred at times."

Kyle thought about it, "Yeah, that is true. And I have to admit, I do love the way his mind thinks, sometimes."

Peeking out the door of his and Jason's bedroom, Jonas listened intently. Jace looked in his direction a few times, and Jonas thought he might have been caught, but Jace continued chatting. "Jason," Jonas whispered, "how do you think you did on the test yesterday?"

"I got them all right," Jason replied confidently. "Why do you ask?"

"Unca Kyle is talking to Daddy and Pappy about your paper. What did you put for the first answer?"

"It said to add two sixes to two nines, so I drew the two nines and added two sixes like it said."

"That should have been one hundred sixty-five, not what you wrote. Number two?"

"I drew two fours and erased the ones from them."

"Dummy, that…"

Jason screamed, "I'M NOT A DUMMY!!!"

Jonas started crying, "I didn't mean that you were, but…"

"Boys, what's going on?" Jordan demanded. Jace and Kyle were standing behind him.

"Jonas called me a dummy," Jason bawled.

Weeping, Jonas tried to explain, "I didn't mean that you were one, but you put wrong answers on the tests."

Kyle squatted down, "No Jonas, he didn't."

"But I could see his paper as Daddy was looking at it, and you marked them all wrong."

"Yes, I did, but his answers are not wrong, they are just different."

Jonas tried to comprehend, "Because Jason thinks differently than most people?"

"Yes," Kyle went into more detail, "Jason answered the paper with how he saw the question. Just because they were not what I was expecting, doesn't make them wrong. See the question to divide the numbers?"

"That should have been one," Jonas claimed.

Kyle smiled, "Yes, but Jonas separated the figures making the eights into circles. He divided the numbers his way."

"Oh, I understand," Jonas wiped his tears, "I'm sorry, brother."

Jason hugged Jonas, but stated, "I wish I was normal. I don't like being different."

"There's nothing wrong with being different," Jace averred, "When I was twelve, I was graduating with eighteen-year-olds, you think I didn't feel different?"

Kyle added, "Who knows, maybe your difference will save us some day."

"Thank you, Unca Kyle," Jason hugged Kyle as tight as he could.

20 December 2121

Dining Hall ~ 1400

Dave had given Steve and Shasho reins to schedule the big birthday/Christmas party, but stated that he wanted the party to start around 1400 and to last at least eight hours. At first, Shasho scheduled it to last until 0200, until Steve reminded him that he had twenty-four hours in a day instead of Darastix's twenty-hour days. "Opsola Unka Steve, do you think Captain Dave would be upset if we ran the party for nine hours instead of eight?"

"No, he did say at least eight, not just eight hours; why do you ask?"

"We are covering birthdays for three different months, although almost two-thirds of December will be already gone. I was thinking that if we did three hours for each month and brought out a cake every three hours, everyone should have a chance to enjoy the party and not eat too much cake in a short period."

"I think Captain Dave would think that is a terrific idea."

"Thank you Opsola," Shasho smiled. Steve was surprised when Shasho didn't add the "Unka Steve" part.

Another aspect of the party was a Christmas Gift exchange. Shasho set the rules as "You cannot draw a family member, and don't tell anyone other than your spouse who you drew." Also, they did two drawings, one for the "adults" and one for the younger boys. As they came to the party, they placed their gifts under the tree decorated in the corner. Only the recipients' names were to be on the gift. If at any time you saw your name on a gift, you could take it.

December's Birthday CakeOnce the party was officially started, Ben Maxey brought out the first cake. It was decorated with a Christmas theme as well as birthday and had those December birthday boys whose birthdays had not happened yet listed.

Jace and Jordan's Quarters ~ 1500

"We probably already missed the first cake," Jordan figured.

Jace responded, "Ben told me that it was just a Santa Claus with Christian's, Dave's and Dr. Tom's names on it, the cake was nothing special. The second cake will be for January birthdays, and the last cake is for February. He told me that is the cake we really want to see. Steve's birthday is in February."

"Okay, let's get to the party so I can put Dave's present in the pile, and you can put Steve's. What did you get him?"

Memory KeyJace pulled out a small envelope that said "Steve." He had not sealed it yet, so he pulled out a memory key. "He has access to several of those in Ops. I mean, we have literally hundreds of them in there."

"And now, you have one less, but this one has every porn video ever created on it," Jace explained.

Jordan chuckled, "It wouldn't surprise me if he has all of them, too."

"Perhaps," Jace replied, "but with this Secret Santa and no shops on the ship, we either replicate something or make something. I couldn't think of anything else for Steve."

Jordan laughed, "He might like what I got Dave. In a way, I'm glad we aren't putting our names on them."

"What did you get for him?" Jace asked, "a dildo?"

"A sixty-nine centimeters (27.16") long and fifteen centimeters (5.91") in diameter."

Jace's eyes went wide, "That's not a dildo, that's a club."

Jonas and Jason came out of their room, so Jace asked, "What did you make for Koji?"

"I need help raping it," Jason explained as he pulled out a plush toy that looked like him. The toy was wearing a removeable uniform.

Jordan chuckled, "I think you mean wrapping it. Here, let me do it. Koji is going to love this, but he might know who it is from."

"I don't care. I love Koji."

"How about you, Jonas?"

"I used one of those memory keys from Daddy's office and put a game on it."

Jace inquired "What game?"

"A customized version of Secret Ops: Ninja Wars. It's set in the Edo period of Japan, and he can practice tactical moves in it."

"Dang, I wish I had that," Jace mused. "I could practice my martial arts in it."

Jordan chuckled, "You already do play it, on the Holodeck, customized to YOUR settings. Jonas just made a memory key so Juro has settings established for him." Jordan didn't tell Jonas that Juro could always save his settings and not need the memory key. Nor did he tell Jace that Steve has access to every video ever made via the computer's library. Sure, Jace probably already knew that, but it IS the thought that counts.

They arrived at the Dining Hall and put the presents they brought under the tree.

Dining Hall ~ 1700

January's Birthday CakeCrewmembers came and went with still more coming. As January birthdays' cake was brought out, everyone looked. "Why is the snowman blue? He has blue balls," Grant Roberts joked.

Ben Maxey smiled, "I wanted you to be able to see him on the white frosting. As for his blue balls, Mr. Roberts, you can suck 'em."

Everyone started clapping. Grant Roberts wasn't very popular with the crew. In fact, some of them thought he was in the same category as Dick Head and A Hole, only, he hadn't done anything to put himself in the brig… yet.

Jordan walked up behind Roberts, "I believe you owe him an apology."

"Yeah," Roberts agreed.

"No, Mr. Roberts, I believe you owe Ben an apology. Ben works hard to create beautiful cakes for us to help us celebrate our birthdays. I will not allow any crewmember to disrespect him, and I get really pissed when it's one of my Ops personnel."

"Thank you, Jordan, but I don't want an apology from him. I doubt he would mean it, anyway," Ben explained. "I just hope he's on the ship for his birthday and he remembers this day when he either gets no cake or it looks like shit."

"You would really do that to me?" Grant's eyes were bugged out. "You really do make great cakes, I was trying to be funny. I didn't mean any disrespect, honest."

Ben smiled, "Apology accepted." Jordan laughed at how Ben handled that situation. Everyone should learn, "never piss off your food server," or in this case, the master baker.

* * * * * * * * * *

Tomo found a small envelope with his name on it. He opened it up and found fifty-two cards, they all read…

Free Hugs Card

Tomo read them and said so Koji could hear, "Huh, I wonder who got me these."

Koji was nervous that Tomo wouldn't like them, "Koji drew your name and couldn't think of anything else he could get you."

"These are perfect," Tomo grinned, "Can I use one now?"

"You can use them anytime, Silly," Koji chuckled.

"You're the silly one," Tomo argued as he handed Koji one of the cards and hugged him.

After Tomo let him go, Koji handed the card to Juro and whispered, "Slip this back into his pack so he never runs out."

"No, I have the card and wish to redeem it for a free hug."

Koji felt good from the love these two were showing him.

Dining Hall ~ 2000

The final cake was about to be presented and those with birthdays in February, plus Noah since his birthday is the first of March, were anxious to see the cake. Word had gotten around that since Steve's birthday was in February, and Valentine's Day is also, Ben Maxey made a special cake. Anyone who wasn't on duty was there to see the cake.

February's Birthdays Cake Ben thought he would wait a little before bringing it out. He teased the crew a few times by bringing out a cart for the dirty dishes. Finally, he couldn't hold back any long and brought out the last cake for the night. As soon as Steve saw it, he yelled out, I want the piece with the man.

Shasho tugged on his sleeve, "That's too much cake for one person, Opsola Unca Steve."

Steve chuckled, "Hey!!! Those were MY words to you."

"And they are still true for you," Shasho grinned.

Dave stood up to give a speech, holding  Jordan's gift to him in his right hand, trying to suppress his laughter. He turned to Hal and showed it to him as he said to all assembled, "Ok, who's responsible for leaking my holographic physical?"

Someone called out, "You wish!"

This was met with laughter from all present. "Seriously, though, Christmas is a time for giving. Not only material things but giving of ourselves to others. In the months we've been together, we've forged a bond, more than that of friends, but of a family."

"In a few days, we will be returning to Earth, where we'll spend the holidays with the families most of us were born into, and some adopted into. As you enjoy your time with your families, know that you will be in my heart as part of our Sooloo family."

JinzouAfter Dave sat down, Tomo and several of his classmates, including the younger boys, approached him with something purple following them. Since not all the boys were present, Dave figured that one of the missing boys was in a costume. "Captain, on behalf of the school, we would like to present you with Jinzo."

Dave looked surprised, "Jinzo?"

"Yes Sir; jinzouningen means Android, so we thought Jinzo was a good name for him." Jinzo was about the size of a ten-year-old boy.

"And where did you get Jinzo?" Dave questioned.

"We made him, Sir. I did most of the work during my watches in the Science Labs, with the help of my dad and Ali, but everyone attending school came to help, even Koji."

"First, enough with the 'sir,' we are here to have fun, so  call me Dave. And now, how did Koji help?" Dave was hoping for a good story.

"Well, when I needed some intricate work done, I was having problems because my hands were too big. Koji asked if he could help and I was a little reluctant, but I told him precisely what I needed, and his little hands worked perfectly. You should have seen the look on his face when I claimed he did a perfect job."

"Good job, Koji," Dave grinned and Koji grinned even bigger. "Boys, I love that you created Jinzo for me, but I can't accept him. Tomo, he is like your child. I think you should keep him as your son."

"But we made him for you," Tomo was shocked to hear Dave turn down the gift.

"I know you did, and this presentation means so much to me. I love all of you boys, and the fact that you thought to make Jinzo as a present will always rank high as one of the best presents ever, but I would appreciate it if you kept him for yourselves. This presentation is the true gift."

Jinzo looked at Dave, "You don't want me?"

"It's not that I don't want you; I think you would be a great addition to my family, but I feel it would be morally wrong for me to accept you. You are like Tomo's child."

"Sounds logical, thanks Dave," the android stated before looking at Tomo. "So, you are my dad?"

Tomo grinned, "I guess in a way, I am. Wait until it sinks in to Dad and Opsola that you are their grandchild."

Hal whispered to Dave, "Them making Jinzo for you was a nice gesture, but I think you did the right thing."

"You didn't want to keep him as another son?" Dave queried.

Hal kissed Dave's hand, "When the time is right for us to adopt another son, we'll know it. Besides, I agree; Jinzo is like Tomo's son and it would have been morally wrong for us to accept him."

21 December 2121


Space Fleet Control Center ~ 0400 (1200 Sooloo Time)

"Admirals, I detect four ships just entered the solar system, heading for Earth. Two are Explorer Class and two are of unknown origin. One of the unknown ships is towing one of the Explorer Class ships with some kind of beam."

"Four ships?" one of the Admirals questioned, "We were expecting two Draconian Ships to accompany the Sooloo, but four ships? Is one of the ships the Sooloo?"

Mirah spoke up, "Yes, there was a situation concerning the Stephen William Hawking. Bowman sent a full report. I believe the fourth ship is the Hawking."

"Affirmative Sir, the ship being towed is the SS Stephen William Hawking."

Separator: Ship

End Notes:

Chapter Forty will be the last chapter for Voyagers. With that said, it will be a massive chapter, so there will be a delay in its posting. Then we plan to take a hiatus as we discuss details and work on Voyagers Book II. That's right, we are planning to end Voyagers at New Year's Eve 2121 and Book II will start New Year's Day 2122. We have a lot planned for Book II already, but not all of it will be in the Prologue or Chapter One (Which may or may not post at the same time). We have things happening on earth, we are discussing new planets and new aliens to visit; some may not be so nice as the ones we have already met. Is the Sooloo and her crew ready for that? Continue reading and find out.

This work is a collaboration of 3 authors. We will be posting chapters of this story as we are able. When commenting, please send to all three authors or click here... Authors of Voyagers