The SS Sooloo launched with its destination set as Darastix. All things looked good, what could possibly happen?
After Christmas' first words were Koji's name, Koji started thinking of the idea of being a big brother. The thought made him happy and he was determined to make it happen. After being shot down by his opsolai, Koji spoke with his grandfather.
Heather Blackwell visited the classroom and shared a secret about Jace. The next day, Christmas declared that Koji was at the quarters. When that proved correct, Koji contacted Zarek and discovered that he and Christmas may have a special bond.
Friday, the thirteenth, Danny got a surprise, but it was not bad luck. He discovered his brother was a stowaway on the ship. Being a good officer, Danny went to Hal immediately, but being a good brother, he left his brother Tommy in his quarters while he initiated the chat with Hal.
While Hal, Danny and Tommy were chatting, there was an issue with the power to the kitchen. Connor discovered that the root of the problem was a faulty relay where a Darastixian power module should have been. After some investigating, he discovered that Commander Benjamin Hole, father to Alan Hole, had replaced the part. Upon reporting his findings to Hal, they discovered he was also the Security Officer who allowed Tommy Harper onto the ship.
Admiral Robert Crusoe had just arrived in his office and was sipping on his coffee when the chime indicating an incoming transmission alerted him. He reached out while still paying attention to something else, but was alerted when the system requested an authorization to accept an off-world comm. Robert turned his head and noticed the origin being the USS Sooloo of the Explorer Fleet. As any parent would, he immediately thought there was some major problem with his son who was a navigator on the ship. He hastily hit the accept button and was greeted by the face of Aiden Douglass, the Sooloo's Security Chief. "Commander Douglass, to what do I owe the honor of this contact? Is there a problem I should know about?"
"Well Sir, actually there is." Robert obviously tensed up because Aiden quickly continued, "This has to do with something that happened there, not here, Sir."
"I will admit, Commander, you had me worried for a moment. I assume that since you are the one contacting me, it has something to do with Base Security?"
"Yes Sir, I may get in trouble for telling you this in advance, but Will's a friend and I didn't want you to get blindsided."
Robert laughed, "I'm appreciative, Aiden, but you don't have to worry about getting in trouble. You'll learn that it's not the fact that you are aware of everything that goes on in your department, it's how you react to it and what you do to make sure that type of thing never happens again. So, what's going on?"
Aiden explained what he knew about the part replacement and the guard allowing Tommy to stow aboard. He let Robert know about the fact that the guard in question was the father of Alan Hole, the crewmember on the Sooloo who caused some of the problems in their first voyage.
"Don't worry about it, Aiden. Thanks for the heads up, I'll take all of this under advisement. Please tell Will that I look forward to his next weekly communication, so does his brother."
"I will, Sir."
Robert ended the contact then hit the intercom for his assistant. "Please have the Senior Officer of Base Security contact me immediately."
The response was almost an instant, "Yes, Sir."
Admiral Greg Robinson was enjoying breakfast with Commodore Dave Bowman and Captain Hal Tietokone. Dave and Hal knew that Admiral Robinson was one of the good guys, but they still had to work at not being intimidated by the stars on the admiral's uniform. Brad Kanye had the Conn.
"What do you have planned after our little training session, Admiral?" Dave inquired.
Greg replied, "I plan on paying a surprise visit to my grandson's classroom."
"I hope you choose a time when he's not terrorizing Ali," Hal chuckled.
"Are you saying my darling grandson Koji," Greg asked with mock seriousness, "is a little terror?"
"No, I'm not sir, I'm just saying that sometimes he has his own way of doing and saying things," Hal answered nervously.
"That is something we can agree on," Greg grinned. "I think we can also agree that he is a brilliant boy who gets too big for his britches, at times."
"I do know he loves his Grandpa Admiral," Hal said.
"And his Grandpa Admiral loves him." Greg finished the last bites of his omelet. "The food on your ship is always amazing."
"It helps that Randy Jenkins is amazing. And the food was great before Randy became our Head Chef. He did the impossible and improved on a great product."
"A well-fed starship is a happy starship."
"Especially when it's crewed by adolescents," Greg laughed. "I will see you in an hour," Greg said as he rose from the table.
An hour later Greg and Dave were on the holodeck. Their room was a Bridge simulation. The purpose of the little seminar was for Dave to review task force and flotilla tactics with Greg.
"It would be nice if the Sooloo had an Admiral's Bridge," Dave stated after they finished their second drill. "After all, some of Space Fleet's military ships have them."
"Only two ships were ever built with an Admiral's Bridge. It made sense back in the Navy days when the admiral sat high on the Bridge and had a commanding view, along with his own crewmembers manning the Bridge," Greg pointed out. "It makes little sense on a starship where everyone sees the same things on the viewscreens. Communicating and giving orders go much more efficiently when all of the Bridge crew is physically together and working as a unit."
After three more drills, Greg said, "You have everything down just fine. Your knowledge foundation is solid, and your understanding of the tactics is superb. Bill will be pleased."
Admiral Mirah had requested that since Greg was on the Sooloo he should run Dave through an informal evaluation. Greg hadn't been happy about the assignment since he had been assured he would have no command duties during the trip to Darastix. When Greg pointed that out, Bill smiled and said this was a task of educating and evaluating, not command. Greg thought Bill was splitting hairs, but he also knew checking Dave's competence in his new position was a necessity and he was in a perfect position to take on the task.
After shutting down the holodeck, Dave went to his Ready Room, which was an add-on for the tactical command position since a commander needed his own workspace. Greg had planned to visit Koji's classroom, but he had asked Danny, his son-in-law, to show him the improvements built into the fighters during the Sooloo's retrofitting.
Danny told Greg that he wanted to show him the changes before he started taking his pilots through drill work. "That way you'll know what the fighters can and can't do during the drills."
"I take it you're talking about what the fighters themselves can do, not your pilots."
"Exactly. They have some amazing new features."
Greg was aware of what the improvements were, but he loved his son-in-law's enthusiasm and wanted to encourage it. He told Danny that as soon as they could, they need to find a mutual time to meet.
Greg communicated to Danny that he was ready for a meeting unless he was on duty. Greg knew Danny was free at that time but wanted to put the onus of telling him on his son-in-law since even on the most efficiently operated starships, surprise schedule changes happened. Danny replied that he was free and was ready to meet at the Shuttle Bay operations area.
For Danny and Greg, the fighter tour was more about father/son bonding than about Danny educating his father-in-law in the subtleties of fighter operation. Greg listened attentively and asked pertinent questions as Danny proudly displayed his expertise on the changes. After Danny finished, Greg invited him to lunch which Danny had to reluctantly decline.
"Sorry, Dad, but I am scheduled to stand the twelve to sixteen hundred astrogation watch on the Bridge," Danny said. It had taken him some time, but he now felt comfortable calling Greg "Dad."
"It appears that Kyle's affinity for astrogation has rubbed off on you," Greg grinned.
"I like it, but I'm not that good at it. Kyle is the best. But I'm good enough to not get us lost when we're following a preset course in the middle of nowhere."
"That's all you need, Son."
"And if it gets really bad, Kyle will be there calculating whatever it is Kyle likes to calculate." The two checked their schedules and then made a lunch date for the first day Danny's watch schedule changed.
Greg enjoyed lunch with Brad Kanye instead. Brad was flabbergasted when Greg asked to sit at his table in the Chief Officer's Lounge. Even though he was a senior officer, Brad didn't think his status was high enough for an admiral to want to eat with him. Brad ended up having a great time explaining changes made to the computer system during the retrofit and how the changes sped up an already fast system. "The computers are faster and more reliable, and we thought they were close to perfect as they were. You can really see the quicker response time when rapid adjustments need to be made to a large system. There is never any lag."
"I thought we eliminated lag time in those situations years ago," Greg commented.
"We're talking microseconds here, but out here in space even a microsecond has the potential for trouble."
After he finished his lunch with Brad, Greg thought about the critics who still fought the idea of sending crews of adolescents ("after all, they're still mere children") into space. Boys like Kyle, Danny and Brad, who were twelve and thirteen, knew as much or more of ships' systems and operation than most Space Fleet veterans.
The day is flying by, and I still haven't made my visit to Koji's classroom, Greg thought. He headed for the ship's school and stealthily opened the door to his grandson's classroom. He was stunned to find the classroom devoid of students. He wondered if they were perhaps on a field trip and was about to contact operations when he remembered Koji talking about how they usually took an afternoon break in a holodeck setting.
"They make us stay in class later to make up the extra break time, but it makes things more fun, and everybody likes going to the long break," Koji had told him.
Well, I guess I'll just have to watch the boys take their break and then come back to the classroom, Greg thought to himself. He hustled off to the holodeck.
When he arrived, he saw that Holodeck One had two different programs running and Holodeck Two was operating a program that took up the entire deck. Greg knew that had to be where the class was taking its break. Because of his flag rank, Greg had the master holodeck code. He had his retinas scanned, entered his code, and entered the holodeck.
The scenario was a large park with a lake, a play area, a wooded area and a swimming pool. It also held a classroom of boys who were all stark naked. Greg couldn't remember if Koji had mentioned anything about the afternoon break being a naturist affair and couldn't recall his grandson or anyone else disclosing that fact. He thought for a moment about what to do and decided his best move would be to turn and leave. However, before he could move, he heard a familiar voice shouting, "Hey, Grandpa Admiral. It's me, Koji!"
Greg turned back and saw his naked grandson running up to him accompanied by two naked classmates, one of whom he knew was Tei. "I thought you were coming to my class," Koji said. "We're on the long afternoon break and Koji is swimming. My friends are Jay and Tei and this is my Admiral Grandpa." Jay gave Greg a shy wave, but Tei stepped up and gave him a hug. Tei had met Greg and visited Koji at his home.
"I'm happy to meet your friends and happy to see you, Koji. You never told me you all skinny dipped during the break,"
"I did too. Koji told you when I skinny dipped in your pool and Tei skinny dipped, too. Come and swim with us."
"Skinny dipping with your class is probably not the best thing—"
"Please Grandpa Naflopsola Admiral, because Opsola Kyle and Opsola Danny, they have done it. Please Grandpa, you can go in that little room by the woods and make yourself nekid. But don't go in the woods because Jonas and Oliver and Lars and Drake are there, and you're not supposed to see what they're doing and if you do see them, don't tell anybody."
Greg gave some thought to Koji's request and decided that his stay on the Sooloo was a short one so why not give everybody something to talk about. He squatted in front of his grandson and pulled him into a hug. "I will take a quick skinny dip because I love you so very much, my dear Koji," Greg grinned.
"I love you Grandpa Admiral, and we will go to the pool where it's better to swim because there are no boats, and you don't need a life jacket to swim there like in the lake, so hurry up because the break is almost over." Koji backed away from his grandpa's hug then dashed back into his arms. "And I love you, Grandpa Admiral, who is the best naflopsola in the whole universe."
Greg hurried over to the changing house. He saw clothes strewn on the floor and the benches and even some hanging up. He wondered how long it would take everyone to find their clothes when the break ended. He quickly stripped his uniform and hung it on the rod that was hanging from the ceiling. He wondered if this rare impetuous act would backfire on him, and then he reminded himself that these were the kinds of things doting grandfathers did. He needed to be sure to make this fun for everybody, especially himself.
"Did you see where Admiral Robinson went?" Ali asked Steve Boyer. Steve volunteered to help Ali and Richie, the two teachers, whenever he could—he loved watching the naked boys playing. Evan Shasho enjoyed letting his pants down, literally, during the skinny dips.
"No, I saw him with Koji and his friends and then Rich called me to help right Shasho and Trevor's canoe and I lost sight of him," Steve replied. "I think he was a bit uncomfortable with the nudity and called for a full retreat."
"I didn't see him at all—I was too busy watching the pool," Ali said.
"Let me tell you, if an admiral makes a full retreat because he sees a holodeck full of naked boys, I'd hate to see what he would do if he was really under attack," Steve chuckled.
"There he is," Ali called out from his lifeguard perch. "And, oh my gawd, the admiral is out of uniform!"
Steve and Rich watched awestruck as Admiral Gregory Robinson scurried naked into the pool area and headed to the diving board. "Can you believe it?" Steve gasped.
"Admiral Grandpa, jump in and come and dunk me and Tei."
Greg walked to the end of the board and then made a perfect dive into the water. He quickly went after Koji and playfully dunked him, violating the pool rules regarding horseplay. Ali was not about to blow his whistle at the admiral and was more than happy to ignore the rule violation.
Steve hurried to one of the chaise lounges and pulled his radio out of its waterproof cover. He punched in a number that was answered by Captain Tietokone.
Hal was standing next to the conn. He heard the chirp of his communicator, saw it was Steve Boyer, and answered it. The Bridge crew paid no attention to Hal's conversation—the Captain receiving and making calls on the Bridge was routine.
"You're kidding me," Hal grinned. "He really did that?" Hal nodded and started laughing out loud. "And he's fighting off three slithering naked little eels." Another pause. "Ali really did that? Oh my, I love it. This is fun." Hal listened a little more. "Now Steve, you know that giving that information is too much information," Hal laughed again. "You tell the good admiral that the Bridge is happy he is having fun."
Hearing the word "admiral" caught Kyle's attention. He started wondering what the communication was about. It did not take long for him to find out.
"Attention on the Bridge," Hal called out. He waited a moment for the Bridge watch to turn their eyes on him. "It would appear that our good Admiral Robinson has been seen diving naked into a holodeck pool and is now skinny dipping with the two classrooms. He was being royally dunked by members of the aquatic population until Ali whistled order to the chaos." Hal knew that the students were going to babble the news as soon as they could, so he figured he might as well beat them to it.
On hearing the news, Kyle turned beet red with embarrassment while Danny grinned at the idea of his father-in-law wrestling naked in the swimming pool.
"Well, we now know where Kyle's penchant for nudity comes from," Hal smirked. "It appears to be hereditary." Kyle blushed an even deeper red and broke eye contact with the Captain.
"Yeah, we all remember who got everybody on the Bridge, hell on the whole ship, naked," Aiden chuckled. "Some dude named Kyle Robinson."
"Hey, Kyle, at least our dad is having fun," Danny said.
"Yeah, at my expense," Kyle groaned.
"I bet Koji put him up to it and he is now a very happy grandson."
Kyle grunted as he pondered how he could exact revenge on his father.
Lars, Drake, Jonas and Oliver came out of the woods one by one, fooling nobody. They wondered what all the whistling was about and were surprised to see the admiral naked and laughing about something with Ali. Koji was standing next to them. They watched as the admiral turned and gave Koji a big hug.
"I love you, Grandpa Admiral, you are the best," Koji mumbled into Greg's belly.
"I love you, too, Son. In fact, I love you so much I'm going to do something special for you."
Koji's eyes lit up. "What?"
Greg checked to make sure his target area in the pool was still empty, and then picked up Koji and tossed him shrieking with laughter into the pool. Greg laughed along with him, feeling as happy and more alive than he had in years.
Jay walked in the door and saw Kash at the computer, "Dad, Aunt Heather brought Christmas to class today. I don't know why, but that boy is drawn to Koji."
"I bet Koji loves that," Kash grinned.
Jay nodded his head, "Yeah, he's eating it up. Then for lunch, we didn't go to the mess like we normally do. Aunt Heather arranged for Randy to have hotdogs and hamburgers at the holodeck, and she grilled them at a park. While she was cooking, we swam. Tomo, Juro, Sukotto, Drake, Akage and Shasho didn't get naked, but the rest of us did."
"And Aunt Heather was alright with that?"
"She told us that it wouldn't faze her," Jay explained, "And from what I can tell, it didn't. She let Christmas swim with us, and Koji was teaching him how to actually swim."
"That's kind of scary, the pool was how deep?"
"At first, Koji had Christmas at the shallow end. When he sat down, the water only came up to his chest. As he learned more and more how to swim, Aunt Heather let Koji take him deep enough to be able to."
Kash was surprised, "Aunt Heather trusted Koji to keep Christmas safe?"
"She did," Jay responded. "She said that she knew Koji wouldn't let anything happen to him, and Koji felt proud of Christmas learning."
"Well, I don't know Koji very well…" Kash paused in thought, "I only met him a week and a half ago. He seems sort of young to be watching a baby in a pool, but I guess he managed."
"Koji was very attentive to and protective of Christmas; he acted like a big brother. He's going to miss Christmas when Uncle Jason, Aunt Heather and Christmas stay on Darastix. He's also going to miss his grandpa; Admiral Robinson came to the holodeck after Aunt Heather left, and he played with Koji."
John Luke entered his quarters and sat down. Will walked up behind him and started massaging his shoulders. "Rough day?" Will inquired.
"Not really," John replied, "more boring than rough, but mind you, boring isn't bad. It means everything is working properly."
Will nodded, "I guess that's the downside to going someplace we've already been."
"I had an interesting day at school," Drake chimed in. "The lady, I think her name is Heather, grilled hamburgers and hotdogs while we swam."
"So, you didn't get to swim naked?" John asked.
Drake shook his head, "The younger boys did, and Heather said it didn't bother her, but us older boys felt weird about doing it."
Will looked serious, "Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, you shouldn't do, and don't let anyone force you to."
"I know, Dad, that's why we didn't get naked," Drake informed them. "On the plus side, Koji and Tei had fun with Christmas. Koji taught the little boy how to swim, and Tei was ready in case Koji needed help."
"Christmas is the baby Heather brought on board?" Will asked for clarification.
Drake gave a quick nod, "Yup, he's like fifteen months old, I think I heard someone say. Koji loved that he clung to him. When Koji started for the pool, so did Christmas, so Koji stopped, went back to Heather and asked if the boy knew how to swim. Heather told him that he didn't, so Koji asked if he could teach him."
"And Heather was okay with that?" John Luke choked.
"Yeah, Koji loves that little boy. Heather knew that Koji would protect him. If you ever adopt another child younger than me, I hope that I can be as much of a big brother as Koji is to Christmas."
Will smiled, "I'm glad you feel that way, but at this time, Papa and I have no plans to adopt anytime soon."
"Am I Papa?" John inquired, "I thought I was Dad, and you were Papa."
"Dad is right, Papa," Drake declared, looking at Will. "Remember, I said it when you two told me you would adopt me."
"I remember," Will concurred, "I have no problem being papa to such a great son. So, DAD and I have no plans to adopt anytime soon."
"That's okay, but if you ever do…" Drake reiterated.
Both Danny and Kyle were off watch and had no other duties to perform. They were sitting on the couch enjoying some quiet time together after taking care of their adolescent needs in the king size bed. They were each shirtless with Kyle wearing a pair of gym shorts and Danny wearing just a pair of boxers. They had talked about enjoying an adventure video, but because Koji would be out of school soon, they rejected the idea and decided to catch up on their reading. Instead of that, they ended up continuing with their romancing.
They exchanged a light, loving kiss, wondering if they had time to step up the intensity. That question was quickly answered when Koji came barging into the quarters.
"Opsola Daddys and Daddy Opsolas and Danny Daddy and Kyle Opsola and Kyle Daddy and Danny Opsola, guess what I did during holodeck time today," Koji ran off nonstop.
"Whoa, Laddie, slow down and let your thinking slow down," Kyle admonished him.
"I think he about covered everything you and I could possibly be in the daddy world," Danny told Kyle.
"I didn't call you father and papa and pappy and…"
"KOJI! S-L-O-W D-O-W-N!" Kyle barked.
"Oh, yeah, sorry my mouth went faster than my brain, right?"
Danny patted Koji on the head. "Not only is that right, that is exactly right," he teased.
Koji grinned at receiving his Opsola Danny's praise.
Kyle knew he needed to change his tactics now that Danny appeared to have calmed Koji down. "Now, tell us what exciting thing that you did in holodeck," Kyle requested. "And I know it wasn't getting naked because…"
"Because I do it there all the time because it's fun to swim nakey. What I did was even better. I taught Christmas how to swim," Koji spouted proudly.
"For real?" Danny inquired.
"Really for real. I did it right there in the pool because he wanted me to and because Heather said it was okay for me to do it. I helped him become a Christmas fish. It's fun being a big brother and helping a little brother learn, but guess what?"
"What?" Kyle begged.
"I can help any brother learn because that's what big brothers do and so the brother I help doesn't have to be a baby," Koji declared as he dropped what he hoped was an obvious hint. "Did you help Tommy learn things?" he asked Danny.
"Well…" but before Danny could answer, Tommy entered the quarters.
"Hi everybody. Sorry I'm a little late but I was talking with Lars and the twins about us doing stuff together after dinner," Tommy said.
"Tommy did your big brother Danny help you learn things even when you weren't a baby?" Koji asked.
Tommy did not know what had brought that question on, but he was quickly learning that if there was anything predictable about Koji, it was that he was totally unpredictable. Tommy looked at Danny and grinned. "My big brother Danny is the best big brother in the galaxy. He helped me with a lot of stuff and that's why I missed him so much when he went away. And missed him even more when he was on Earth and I couldn't see him."
"I just did what big brothers are supposed to do," Danny said modestly.
"That's what I mean, Koji. He taught me because he's a super big brother. He's teaching me tons of stuff right here on the Sooloo. I love you big bro."
"And I love you little bro."
"And I want to be a big brother just like my Opsola Isthasy Danny." Koji looked over at Tommy and added, "That means my Daddy Brother Danny."
"And I have a question for him. When are we going to dinner Big Isthasy?"
"Turalisj Isthasy ("Turalisj: Darastixian for big<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Isthasy: Darastixian for brother<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Turalisj Isthasy = Big Brother")," Koji told him.
"How about Kyle and I get dressed and you two wash your hands, and we'll head out to feed our tummies," Danny responded. "Does that sound good to you, Kyle?"
"That sounds perfect."
Koji and Tommy cheered and took off to the bathroom to wash up. Food was always a good topic for a family of boys.
Steve stepped out of the shower and dried himself. When he entered the living quarters he saw Brad, his partner, naked and patiently waiting to take his own shower, "I still can't figure out why you insist on wearing glasses," Brad said as Steve put on his glasses.
Steve sidestepped the question by saying, "Admit it, I look sexy in glasses."
"That's an indisputable fact, but it doesn't tell me what I want to know."
"Probably because I can't see all that well without them."
Steve cut into Brad's statement by planting a hard, loving kiss on his boyfriend. "I'd let you in on all of my deepest, darkest secrets, but I gotta get dressed and keep my appointment with Dr. Tom. You know how snarky he gets when you're late for one of his appointments."
"No, I don't know since I've never been late for an appointment with him."
"Ahh, Mr. Perfect once again shines bright."
"I have to be bright to make up for all the dark secrets you are dealing with."
Steve landed another kiss on Brad and said, "I love you, Bradley. Have a great shower and keep our information organized." Brad disappeared into the bathroom and Steve finished dressing.
He arrived at sick bay three minutes late.
"Boyer, are you capable of being on time anywhere?" Dr. Tom asked when he saw Steve enter the clinic.
"When the guy has four bars on his collar, I am there!" Steve grinned.
Dr. Tom shook his head and pointed to the chair that was placed near the back wall of the room. He loved Steve Boyer for his easygoing nonconformity if nothing else. "As you know, it's eye exam time."
Steve sat in the chair positioned so he would be facing the blank wall across the room. He knew the wall would not be blank for long as various letters, numbers and shapes would be projected on it.
After Tom finished the exam, he told Steve he would need a little stronger prescription for his lenses. "Fortunately, we can replicate optical lenses even though the number of glasses wearers on the Sooloo equals one—which would be you. We do have four contact lens wearers, two of whom have an emergency pair of glasses, which is why we have the replicator program."
Steve wondered who the four lens users were. He knew better than to ask Tom—in his position on the ship he totally understood privacy issues, especially between doctors and patients.
"You know, Steve," Tom went on, "I can fix your eyes, so you won't need glasses."
"I like my glasses. They give me an intellectual look." Steve thought, It's one thing to tell Brad they make me look sexy, it's another thing to tell Dr. Tom. Besides, both reasons are true.
"Are you going to fix up the other four?" Steve asked Tom.
"Only one of them can be fixed in his current stage of development and he will probably be undergoing the procedure soon."
Steve nodded to indicate he understood, even though he really did not have a clue why Tom could fix two sets of eyes but not the other three. "But, like I told you, I like my glasses because…"
"…I know, because they make you look sexy," Tom grinned.
How the fuck did he know to say that? Steve wondered.
"Try this idea on," Tom said. "I fix your eyes and make a pair of lenses out of plain glass. That way, you can razzle dazzle your fans and still be able to see in case of an emergency."
Steve was not sure he liked the idea, but he also understood Dr. Tom well enough to know how to answer him. "I'll think about it."
"Do more than think about it, talk it over with Brad and see what your husband-to-be, whether you think so or not, has to say."
"Brad and I talk over just about everything, so yeah, that will work. I'll think about it, and I'll talk it over with Brad. But until I decide, when are you going to make my new lenses?"
"I'll have them in three days, unless you decide on plain glass, of course."
"I'll see you in three days, then," Steve responded. He gave Dr. Tom a wave and walked out of the exam room.
Danny was sitting in the Captain's Ready Room with Hal. He was in the chair that was always situated on the starboard side of Hal's desk. "So, what do you think, Hal?" he asked the Captain.
Hal had been expecting Danny's request and could have fired back an instant answer. But he wanted to look like the contemplative leader who carefully considered every answer. He had worked with Danny long enough to know that Danny had him figured out but maintained his wistful posture with Danny as good practice.
After making an appointment to speak with his commanding officer, Danny had thought about his relationship with Hal on the first voyage. Officially, Hal had been the Sooloo's first officer, but Danny had thought of him as his mentor and as a father figure. An outsider might look at their ages and shake his head, wondering how a 12-year-old boy could look at a 17-year-old as a father figure. But in the world of the Explorer Class starships, the age difference as well as their difference in rank were huge.
Danny knew he would have been lost without the understanding looks and thoughtful advice from Hal, not to mention the timely hugs that seemed to recharge the often-flagging confidence in himself and his abilities. Kyle's hugs and touches were the best imaginable and filled him with jolts of love while Hal's gave him a much needed feeling of security.
Hal had seen Danny grow from the lost boy who was placed on the Sooloo's crew roster at the last minute. When Danny arrived, he was a shuttle pilot. Everyone could see right away that the boy loved flying. Flying a shuttle was not a simple proposition—nothing having to do with space was, and Danny proved himself not only to be an extremely skilled pilot, but also a leader.
And now here he is, Hal thought, the commander of the ship's fighter squadron, a position he had more than earned, and sitting at my desk asking for my input on what would be a major command decision. He and I have both come a long way since we first joined the crew of the Sooloo.
"Well, Danny, here is what I think of your proposal," Hal said after what seemed like an hour of silence but was in fact mere seconds. "I completely agree with what you want to do, and you have my permission to present it to Lieutenant Danvers. When are you planning on doing it?"
"Thank you, Hal," Danny said. "Like I said, Juju has earned it and will live up to expectations. I plan to take care of it at 0900 tomorrow."
"I would appreciate it if you contacted me after you were finished with Juju."
"I will and thanks for your time." Danny rose from his seat, gave Hal an informal salute, and departed. Hal stared at the door after Danny closed it. I will give you a bit more of my time after you've taken care of Juju, Lieutenant Robinson, Hal smiled.
Danny's destination after leaving Hal's Ready Room was Operations to pick up what he needed. He knew his buddy, Steve Boyer, was on watch at this time.
Kash Rivers called Kyle and Danny to have a meeting concerning renovation of their quarters. He laid out the plans for the Senior Officer's quarters. Once Kyle and Danny were present, Kash spoke as he had them looking over the plans. "Ever since we knew Tommy was going to stay on board, Shasho and Jinzo had been working on how to put three bedrooms in your quarters. As is, if we took the two bedrooms and made three, they would be cramped with the king size beds. You would literally be wall to wall bed.
"One solution that the two boys produced was to move bulkheads to expand your quarters. It would be a lot of work, but everyone involved has agreed they would be willing if that is what you want to do."
"You said one solution," Danny pointed out. "Are there any others?"
"We could switch you with the VIP quarters beside Commodore Bowman and Captain Tietokone. Right now, they are in use by Ambassador Blackwell and his family, but once they depart, we can make it happen."
"Aren't they the same size quarters as what we have now?" Kyle inquired.
"No, the quarters on that side are slightly larger, even larger than what was proposed to enlarge yours. We would just need to add the bulkheads for the separate bedrooms without inconveniencing anyone else."
"Why didn't you lead with that?" Danny questioned.
Kash smiled, "A couple of reasons; one, we can't make changes until we get to Draconia… er, I mean Darastix. And two, I wanted to save the best option for last."
"That's probably what we will do, but can Danny and I discuss it and get back to you?"
"Sure, Kyle. No problem," Kash confirmed as he closed out the meeting.
Kash left; Danny and Kyle sat there staring at the plans. Danny asked, "How much longer until we reach Darastix?"
"Approximately four days," Kyle replied.
"And how long would it take to add the bulkheads to those quarters?"
Kyle looked at his husband, "They could have it done in a day, or definitely before we leave, and before you ask how long it would take for them to move the bulk heads on our side…" Kyle smiled, telling Danny that he knew it was coming, "I would say about five or six days."
"So, either way, it'll take about the same time," Danny pointed out.
Kyle concurred, "Yeah, pretty much."
"Then, we should make the move and have bigger quarters," Danny suggested.
"I agree, but I don't think the bedrooms should all be the same size," Kyle insisted. "I've been looking at these plans, getting measurements. If we were to stay in our quarters, they would be just under nine meters (9.84 yds). The quarters on the other side are ten meters (10.94 yds) wide. I think we should make our room four meters (4.37 yds) and make the two boys' rooms each three meters (3.28 yds) wide."
"Would king size beds fit in their rooms?"
Kyle shook his head, "No, but do they really need king size beds? I think full size beds would be big enough and still have room for overnight company.
Danny nodded, "Especially for how small Koji is. Tommy's almost the same size as us, but I think a full-size bed should still work for him."
"Then it's settled," Kyle beamed, "and we can let Kash know."
"Sounds like it to me."
Danny was in his office cubicle in the shuttle bay area. The cubicle was situated in a corner of the shuttle bay control room. It consisted of a desk, two chairs, an office chair, a computer, table and a file cabinet. He was given a modicum of privacy by a partition that created the length of the cubicle. The back of the office was a bulkhead, the opposite side was open and the fourth side was another bulkhead that contained a window that gave Danny a vista of the main shuttle bay. The office was not very big, but it was all his, and since he was not a senior officer, he felt privileged to have his own space. Most assistants had an office that was part of his department commander's space, but he felt having his workspace in the shuttle bay area placed him right where he needed to be, close to the shuttles and fighters.
Danny sat at his desk and opened a large envelope Steve Boyer had given him. Inside was the formal document certifying Julian Danvers held the rank of Full Lieutenant in Space Fleet as well as the proper bars. He checked the time and saw that his five fighter pilots and two shuttle pilots should start arriving at any moment.
Soon he heard voices through his cubicle partition as the pilots began to arrive. Normally he would go out and bullshit with them, but this time he stayed in his cubicle. He was about to read somebody out, and he wanted to appear as aloof and authoritarian as he could. Since Danny was an outgoing boy, that was not an easy act for him to pull off.
He leaned back in his chair, thinking of what he was going to say, when Juju poked his head into the entrance of the office. "Everybody is here and wondering why you haven't come out yet," Juju said.
Danny ignored the statement. "Tell everyone I want them on their feet, quiet and attentive when I come out," Danny ordered. Juju nodded, wondering what had Danny in a grumpy mood. As Juju turned to relay Danny's message, Danny had to shake off the thought of how cute he thought his Assistant Squadron Commander was. In fact, the entire squadron was sexy. Not for the first time, Danny wished there were a way a Squadron Commander could mess around with his squadron. He shook his head, knowing that was never going to happen. Still, it made for good fantasies.
Enough of this BS, Danny thought. He rose from his desk and walked out into the Control Room, pleased to see all seven pilots standing and ready. While they were not at full attention, it was close.
After all the fighter pilots were assembled, Danny stood up in front of them, "Guys, the reason for this meeting is because one of you is not in proper uniform and this oversight needs to be addressed," Danny growled.
Knowing it could not be one of them, the fighter pilots all looked in the direction of Jack and Gordy, the two shuttle only pilots, who both turned bright shades of red as they tried to figure out what they were doing wrong.
Danny noted the discomfort of the two boys and said, "Jack and Gordy, you two are fine. By out of uniform, I mean he is NOT wearing the correct rank insignia. Lieutenant Danvers, would you please step forward."
Juju came forward, not sure what Danny meant by not having the correct rank insignia. He stopped in front of Danny waiting to find out what he had done wrong. "As Assistant Squadron Leader, Lieutenant Julian 'Juju' Danvers, you are hereby promoted to the rank of Full Lieutenant to take care of that problem." Danny pinned one of the bars Steve had given him to Juju's tunic.
"Seriously?" Juju asked. Juju looked down at his chest, where the bar had been temporarily attached. Juju could not believe it. Just a few months ago he had been a crewman, and then almost overnight he had been promoted from crewman to ensign, lieutenant junior grade and now to a full Lieutenant. Pride and awe flowed through the thirteen-year-old boy.
"Seriously," Danny answered. "And since that's all I have, you are dis—"
"Hold on, just one second," came the voice of Captain Tietokone. Nobody had seen Hal sneak in through the door since they all had their attention focused on Danny and Juju. "It would seem that Lieutenant Danvers isn't the only one wearing the wrong rank insignia."
Danny gave Hal a weird look since he had not planned on any other promotions. The Captain walked up to where Danny was standing. "Mr. Robinson, I believe you are wearing the same rank as Lt. Danvers when you should be wearing these Lt. Commander bars." Like Danny had done to Juju, Hal pinned the Lt. Commander bars temporarily on the breast of Danny's uniform. The pilots cheered as one, showing their love and respect for their squadron commander, when Hal completed the ritual.
"Seriously?" Danny asked, not realizing he was echoing Juju's question.
"Seriously," Hal answered. "You're the Commander of the squadron and I thought the rank of Lieutenant Commander was appropriate for what you do."
The pilots were dismissed, and Steve asked Juju and Danny to pose for a few pictures to record the moment. Because the control room was a large area, and Steve had sneaked and hidden behind some equipment right after Danny had entered his cubicle. Steve had recorded the entire ceremony on video for posterity.
That night, Danny and Kyle enjoyed a great night of sex as the tween husbands frolicked in bed as Commanders for the first time.
Kyle sat at his chair next to the astrogation table on the Bridge. He peered at the digital map on the table that showed the Sooloo's position, the course it had traveled and the course that had been laid out to Darastix, their destination. The layout looked perfect to his eye, but Kyle had learned the hard way that what showed up on the astrogation table did not always meet reality.
The fact that the scenario looked perfect concerned Kyle a bit—a ship moving through space at faster than light speeds rarely maintained a course that matched the course that had been programmed into the ship's computer; there were usually minor discrepancies along the way. Most of them were auto corrected by the computer with the small shifts in the course showing on the table.
Kyle's standing orders were for a position check to be performed once each watch. Even though John Luke had completed a position check two hours ago, this was a new watch and one had to be completed sometime. He decided that since he did not like what he saw on the table, now was a good time to conduct the check and compare his results with John Luke's. He would start by recalculating the Sooloo's course from scratch.
Will, who had the helm, asked Kyle what he was doing, although he had a pretty good idea. "Recalculating our course and doing a check of the course diagram on the table," Kyle responded.
"Do you mind if I double check your calculations after you've finished so I can get some practice?"
"Not at all. I'll take the helm while you work on it."
"Thanks, Commander," Will responded, being careful to maintain proper formality on the Bridge.
When Kyle finished his calculations, he was shocked by what he saw. As he suspected the position of the Sooloo was wrong. But according to his calculations it was more than an incorrect auto correct or two; in the three hours since John Luke had completed his position check the Sooloo had gone drastically off course. This meant that either John Luke's calculation had been wrong, or the astrogation computer had a bug and was feeding incorrect information to the ship's astrogation system. He checked his numbers one more time, before deciding what had to be done.
"We're going to need to make a major course correction," Kyle told Will. "The course the astrogation table says we're following is wrong."
"Are you sure?" Will asked.
"I've run my numbers twice."
"Do you mind if I take a look?"
"Be my guest. This a serious issue, but it doesn't appear to be an emergency, so I'll have to talk to Hal before we make a major change in course." Kyle handed Will his notes. "Sit at the table. I'll leave the computer open for you."
Will took a seat at the astrogation table and Kyle replaced him at the helm.
As Will started his check of Kyle's calculations, Danny was changing into his duty uniform. He would be meeting with his fighter pilots in forty-five minutes, and he wanted to get to the shuttle deck conference room at least twenty minutes early. At the rate he was going he was beginning to think he would be arriving a half-hour early. He was following the dictum not only of his husband, Kyle, but his first Captain, Dave Bowman, which was, "Set the example, don't be the example."
The reason for the meeting was to continue working on the role the fighter squadron would be playing upon the Sooloo's arrival at Darastix for the Medici funeral. Danny and Hal had laid out a plan for the squadron and Danny was now going to present the formation they would be using. Brad and Tai were currently programming the formation into the Holodeck simulators.
Danny peered into the bedroom mirror and straightened his tunic. He liked how he looked and, more importantly, he liked who he was. In what seemed like no time at all, he had gone from a cadet at the Space Academy who missed being assigned to the crew of an Explorer class ship to the Commander of the SS Sooloo's fighter squadron—the best fighter squadron in the galaxy as far as he was concerned. Not only that, he had gone from a loner whose own father disowned him, to being married to a boy who had been his friend since they were five and was the Chief Astrogator of the starship. On top of that, he had a son who was often a handful but was always the most loveable son he could ask for. And now he also had become responsible for his younger brother who had suffered the same treatment from their father as he had. I might just be twelve years old, he thought, but I know that right now my life could not be better, and I could not be happier.
Danny glanced over to the table set under the cabin's window. As had been the case ever since the Sooloo had left port, Megrez was sitting on it facing out, his head high enough to give the appearance he was admiring the stars. Considering the history of the stuffed penguin, Danny had no doubt that was exactly what Megrez was doing.
On their first voyage, Kyle never went on watch without his beloved penguin. Megrez had saved them more than once. But he had not taken Megrez from their quarters since the moment they arrived on the Sooloo for their second voyage. "I need to be able to stand up totally on my own," Kyle said when he had told Danny his plan. "I know, Megrez is irreplaceable and saved us in more ways than I can count on our first voyage, but dammit, Danny, if I am going to be a starship captain someday, I can't have a stuffed penguin sitting on the astrogation table when I work."
Danny was worried about Kyle's new attitude. He knew that Kyle and Megrez had been inseparable since he came into Kyle's life when his friend was six. Yes, they had been separated a couple of times, but that was not Kyle's choice. Danny has had an uneasy feeling Kyle was letting ambition and ego warp his thinking. He wished he knew what to do about it.
He shrugged, knowing there was nothing he could do about it right then. He left his quarters, pleased that he was going to be arriving for this meeting even earlier than usual.
On the Bridge, Kyle checked his course as soon as he sat at the helm. The ship was on autopilot, but the helmsman had to always be ready to deal with the kinds of surprises the vacuum of space seemed to enjoy doling out. Right now, the problem was that Kyle was not sure he trusted the course the ship was currently programmed to follow. His course map on the astrogation table and on the astrogation readout at the helm were identical. Neither showed any evidence of the autocorrections that the autopilot should be making occasionally, and the map definitely did not show the drastic error he had found in the course calculations.
As Will diligently doublechecked Kyle's calculations, Kyle wondered what his assistant was finding. It looked to Kyle like Will had finished and was now checking his own work. Finally, Will put down his tablet as well as what he had written by hand in his binder.
"What do you think?" Kyle asked Will. "Should I call Hal and ask for a course change?"
"Was this some kind of a test?" Will questioned.
"What do you mean, a test?"
"My calculations show a small problem with autocorrections as you first thought because, well, because none were being done. But I don't see any kind of a major problem. My calculations don't come anywhere close to what you came up with."
Kyle could feel his temper flare. He did not make mistakes when working on astrogation calculations. He just did not. Sometimes he started off on a wrong tangent, but he always recovered quickly. But there was no way this was about going in the wrong direction because all he was doing was doing the course corrections the computer should have automatically made.
"Was this, like, a simple calculation error or did I take off on the wrong direction?" Kyle asked, trying hard not to bark at Will.
"It looks like a calculation error."
"Well, look again, because I don't make errors," he barked. Kyle looked at the empty space that had always been occupied by Megrez. For a moment he missed the calming spirit of the little stuffed bird who was in truth so much more than that. Then he mentally chided himself for being weak—if he were going to be a future captain, he could not look like a child by having a comfort animal with him when he was on duty. The fact that the totem that had always been with him during the first voyage had some kind of connection to the stars was irrelevant; captains didn't need the stars, they needed their own intelligence and strength for them to be leaders.
Will sidled over next to the helm. "Here is what I came up with and fed back into the computer. I have my tablet, my written notes and fed all my calculations into the test spreadsheet just like you taught me," Will claimed nervously. He had never seen Kyle snap at anybody like he had just been snapped at and wondered how Kyle would react when he saw what the error was. "Look at cell K42 on your calculations and compare it with Z42 for the error." Cell K42 was in the columns Kyle had entered and Z42 in the ones Will entered.
Kyle brought up the spreadsheet on the monitor at the helm and looked over both sets numbers. He was so irate he was having problems focusing on the numbers. At one point he stopped and looked at the empty spot on the astrogation table again. "I don't see the problem," he stated.
"Look at the position of the decimal in each," Will responded. "Follow the calculations down each column from there."
Kyle did what Will suggested and when he saw the results, he was certain he knew what the problem was. "Hand me my tablet and my binder," he commanded, rather than asked Will. He was doing everything he could to maintain control of his emotions. He looked at the spreadsheet, compared it to the smartly written numbers in his binder, which he compared to the numbers that he had entered into the calculator on his tablet and instantly saw the difference.
The error was in the calculator entry—he had mistyped the decimal in cell K42. What concerned him was not the typo, it was that he had not seen the differences in the outcome between his handwritten course solution and the solution the tablet's calculator had.
For some reason he felt tears welling up. He, Kyle Robinson, had made an entry error and then did something worse, he had not properly checked his calculations to make sure everything matched. He needed to leave the Bridge before he broke down. Losing his composure on the Bridge would be worse than having his stuffed animal with him at the astrogator table every watch.
At the moment, however, he was the senior officer on the Bridge, and he couldn't just get up and leave. What he did not understand was that he had also reverted the confident, even cocky, senior officer he saw himself as to the sometimes insecure twelve-year-old he had worked so hard to bury under his ever expanding ego.
Will could see that Kyle was fighting himself and was not sure what to do or say. He was about to ask Kyle if he was feeling okay when Roger Duncan, the Assistant Chief Information Officer, who was checking why the readout on the astrogation table was frozen called out, "Captain on the Bridge," when he saw the main door open and Hal step onto the Bridge.
Hal acknowledged Roger's announcement and looked around the Bridge. He saw Kyle wipe his face with his right hand and then the distressed look the chief astrogator was showing.
"Is there a problem, Commander Robinson?" Hal asked formally. The Bridge hushed as the duty personnel stopped what they were doing to look at the scene at the helm.
"Commander Robinson has a problem he needs to take care of off the Bridge," Will replied.
"Are you feeling sick, Kyle?" Hal asked with surprising informality.
"Permission to leave the Bridge, Sir," Kyle blurted out.
"Granted. Feel free to use my Ready Room." Kyle understood that to be a command, not a request.
"Yes, Sir," Kyle muttered. He rose from the helm and quickly left the Bridge.
"What happened?" Hal asked Will.
Will was not sure whether to maintain the proper formality or to just talk. He chose the latter route. "Kyle made a calculation error while doing a course correction," he explained.
"Everybody does that, even Kyle—although it is a rarity. That's why we have the fail safes."
"Which is… well… he didn't see it even then. I think you should see him, Sir, he was pretty upset."
Hal sat down. "I have the conn," he announced. "For the moment, I believe Commander Robinson needs some alone time, and I need to find us a helmsman. Take the helm until I do, and then you have the astrogation table."
Kyle felt strange simply walking into the Captain's Ready Room. It was not the first time he had done it, but that didn't stop it from feeling odd. He sat at the conference table, put his head down into his arms, and let the tears flow. He had not felt this lost since he had enrolled at the Space Academy.
I thought I wanted to be a starship captain, he sobbed, but I can't even do my own job right. He took a deep breath and tried to use the mental techniques he had learned to calm himself. One of the techniques was to go over what had gone wrong step by step and come up with a solution to make it right. The first conclusion he came to was that what had just happened on the Bridge was that it was not something new; it was something that had been building.
What he had to do was look at what was different between this voyage and the first voyage where Dave evaluated him as a superior officer and a valued leader. That's not what I am today, Kyle thought. That's not what I was on the Bridge when I got snarky with Will. And it's not the first time I've snapped at a crew member. I almost never did that on the first voyage, so what is different this time?
One thing that came to Kyle's mind was that on the first voyage he was confident in his abilities while at the same time he was learning what he could do. On the first voyage Danny and I were a true team and Megrez watched over me. Megrez? Why did he just pop into my head? An image of the empty place on the astrogation table where Megrez often sat popped into Kyle's head. And even when there was not room for Megrez to sit on the table, he was always on the Bridge. And Danny—he loved Danny, but he suddenly found himself shutting his husband out of his thoughts just like he was shutting Megrez out.
Kyle thought of the three souls that made him complete. Danny was one. Danny's love was integrated in who Kyle was.
Megrez was one. Kyle knew that Megrez had a soul, and he wasn't referring to the little stuffed animal but of the star that lived through that stuffed animal. When things started to go wrong, like his decimal error, he could feel the disturbance. Megrez never gave him the answer to a problem, never told him he was incorrect, and yet Megrez's aura soothed him when things were on track and made him stop and think when the disruption of the aura occurred.
And the third soul was yes, Koji. The little imp was as intwined in his soul as Danny and Megrez. The unconditional love his son showed him completed Kyle's own soul.
Having Megrez with me isn't a weakness, it's a strength—a strength as important to me as the love of Danny and Koji. And that's because Megrez loves me as completely and unconditionally as I love him and Danny and Koji. An insight struck him like a jolt of electricity, it is love that makes me complete. Kyle put his head back into his arms wondering what to do next. He decided the best thing he could do was pause in the Ready Room and wait for Hal.
While Kyle sat in the Captain's Ready Room looking inward, Hal had been sitting on the Bridge wondering what to do about his suddenly wayward Chief Astrogator. He could not help but look at the place on the astrogation table that had been empty ever since the start of the second voyage. In fact, it sat unoccupied even before the official launch.
He logged into the communicator on the chair and called John Luke. When the Assistant Chief Astrogator answered, Hal asked him to come to the Bridge. John Luke arrived within minutes and Hal had him check over Kyle and Will's calculations.
"Will's calculations are correct. All we need is a slight course correction, not a complete course change," John Luke reported. "It doesn't help that the table is frozen, but that shouldn't have affected the calculations."
"Good job, Will," Hal said. He was pleased that Will had shown the confidence to stand up to Kyle, who had not been easy to get along with lately.
Hal turned to John Luke. "You have the Bridge, Lieutenant Luke."
"Aye sir." Everyone on the Bridge knew the Captain was heading for his Ready Room to talk to Kyle. But after leaving the Bridge, he turned in the opposite direction and made his way to the ship's classroom. He opened the door and walked in as Ali was displaying a division problem on the monitor in the front of the room.
When he saw Hal enter, he called out, "Captain in the class," and all the students stood up at attention as they had been trained to do by Ali.
"Welcome to our class, Captain Tietokone," Lars said as formally as he could. Lars was the designated greeter for the week.
"Thank you, Mr. Bowman. Gentlemen, you may be seated." The students sat back in their seats.
"What can we do for you, Captain?" Ali asked.
"I need to see Koji for a few minutes." The natural reaction of the class would be to call out, "Ohhhhhhhhhh ohhhhhh," but seeing as it was the Captain who asked, they behaved themselves.
Koji stood up and followed the Captain out of the room, who stopped and faced the boy after he closed the door behind him. He told Koji what he needed him to do.
Koji nodded and grinned. "I will do that, Ushakal (Sir)." Hal then headed to his quarters and Koji took off to his quarters.
While Hal was letting Koji know what he was expected to do, John Luke sat at the conn and surveyed the Bridge. Like everyone else, he stared at the place on the astrogation table where Kyle's penguin had occupied for almost the entire first voyage and that had been empty since the crew had returned to the ship for the second voyage.
He then noticed that something else was missing—Will's penguin, Kochab. This was a recent change for Will since the penguin had come with Will to the Bridge for most of the voyage. "What happened to your penguin, Will?"
"He's sitting happily in our cabin," Will replied. "He is not on the Bridge because Kyle was no longer bringing Megrez, which made me think the protocol changed. I thought the best thing to do was to leave him in our quarters."
"I don't believe the ship's protocol had changed. As far as I'm concerned you can go back to bringing Kochab to the Bridge."
"Thank you." While Will was pleased to hear what John Luke had to say, Kyle was the senior officer he reported to. As much as he wanted to bring Kochab to the Bridge, he thought it best that he follows the example of the officer he reported to.
A few minutes after Hal gave Koji his instructions, Kyle heard a light knock on the door. "Enter," Kyle responded, thinking it was Hal. He was surprised to see Koji enter. He was even more surprised that Koji was carefully holding Megrez in his right hand.
Koji walked up to his Kyle Daddy and set Megrez on the table in front of him. "This is for you, Opsola Kyle. Megrez was lonely."
"I was lonely too," Kyle whispered. "How did you know that I wanted to see him and then to bring him?" Kyle asked his young son.
"Captain Hal said for Koji to bring him here to you. Opsola, you have been crying, yes?"
"Yes." Kyle was embarrassed to have his son see him in his current state while at the same time happy that he had. Maybe it was right that Koji understood that his Opsola Kyle could be vulnerable. Happiness won the battle when Koji climbed on Kyle's lap and gave him the tightest loving hug he could muster. Once again Kyle had to fight off tears, only this time they were tears of happiness and love. "I love you, Koji."
"I love you too, Opsola. Captain Hal said to give you Megrez and then go and tell him. He didn't say for me to hug you. I did that by myself."
"It was the right thing to do. It made me feel very good," Kyle whispered sincerely.
Koji dropped off Kyle's lap, zipped to the door, stopped, waved and left the room. As soon as Koji left, Kyle heard a thought in his head which said, "Beware of pride and arrogance, Kyle Robinson, for they may betray you." The quote (minus Kyle Robinson) was from an ancient book that was one of Kyle's favorites, A Wrinkle in Time. Kyle knew it was Megrez talking to him. It was the first time he had received the thoughts from the stars since leaving Earth. The fact that Megrez had been able to contact him meant that maybe things would soon return to normal.
Kyle's thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door. It was Hal, who knocked lightly even though it was his room. He did not want to catch his Chief Astrogator in an embarrassing position. "If it's Hal, then enter," came a subdued voice. Hal walked into the Ready Room and saw Kyle sitting at the table. Even though his cheeks were dry, it was obvious he had been crying.
Hal walked to the table and sat next to Kyle. "How are you doing?" he asked.
"I've been better," Kyle responded. "I've been doing some crying and a lot of thinking."
"What did you think about?"
"About making a mistake that would have us heading in the wrong direction."
"From what I was shown, it wasn't anything dangerous."
"Yeah, this time it wouldn't have been dangerous, but some other time things might be different," Kyle uttered.
"You think there is going to be some other time?"
"If you mean slipping a decimal in the wrong place, who knows? If you mean refusing to believe I was wrong and not triple checking my calculation like I tell everybody to do, then I say it won't happen again."
"What can you do to prevent it?"
"Do the triple check and going back to doing things the way I always did them before I started future tripping."
"Future tripping?" Hal inquired.
"Thinking that I needed to change my way of doing things because I want to be a captain somebody instead of doing things because I am the Chief Astrogator today. I let my pride and arrogance take me over instead of doing my job as Chief Astrogator."
"What do you plan to do about it?"
"I plan to go back to being what I am meant to be and that is the Chief Astrogator. No more future tripping."
"Sounds like a plan to me. You know my door is open if you need to talk more. Don't hold things in." Kyle knew Hal well enough to understand this was his way of saying their discussion was over. He stood and picked up Megrez.
"I see a penguin waddled in here somehow," Hal grinned.
"That's because a big bully Captain twisted the arm of a loving little boy who was more than happy to take care of a lonely penguin and a stubborn Opsola."
"You have two hours left on your watch. I will have John Luke and Will cover it for you."
"No need," Kyle said, "as long as I can wash my face."
"Are you sure?"
"I am sure. I need to start getting things back in place now."
Kyle retired to the bathroom and Hal left the Ready Room for the Bridge. After washing his face and taking a piss, Kyle placed Megrez in his widened "Megrez pocket" in his uniform pants and left for the Bridge.
When Kyle came on the Bridge, he could feel the tension rise as he took his seat at the Astrogation table. He was pleased to see the auto course correction showing on the Sooloo's course marking trail. Roger had done his job and fixed the table.
Kyle removed Megrez from his pocket. Now it's time for me to do my job. He placed the penguin in his usual place and gave it a knowing nod. For the first time on this second voyage, he felt truly at home on the Bridge. He could feel the tension ease when his crewmates saw what he had done and realized how the penguin was a strength and not a weakness.
Hal saw and felt what has happening as well. He let out a sigh of relief. He did not need a perfectly done calculation to tell him that the best Chief Astrogator in the fleet was back.
As the SS Sooloo, SS Darastix and RDS Shouryou approached the planet, several fighters from the planet approached. It was not long until they were in a special formation; Hal asked Danny about it. "Notice how eight fighters form a diamond but it's obvious that a fighter is missing? That's one of many variations for the missing man formation. This is their way of honoring Prince Medici," Danny informed him.
"That's what I was thinking but hoped you would confirm." Sadness could be heard in Hal's voice.
Once in orbit, the shuttle with Medici's body left the Shouryou and joined formation. The formation waited for the shuttle to get in position. Then over the Sooloo's comms, the crew heard Endou's voice, "Commander Danny Robinson, would you and your pilots like to join our formation?" Danny had never seen his pilots scramble so quickly to get in their fighters and join. Juju had a big smile on his face as they joined the formation.
The crews from the two Space Fleet ships waited until the shuttle had landed before disembarking to go down to the planet surface. The Shouryou went down to the planet once the Fighters joined the shuttle on the ground.
We are dedicating this chapter to the memory of a brilliant young man who was taken from us way too soon. He had a bright future ahead of him, was a great friend to those who knew him, and will be sorely missed. We do not think anyone could have captured Juju Author's essence any better than one of our editors, so we are including his memorial.
In Memory of
On 12 May 2021, our author’s world and the entire world, lost an extraordinary person, author and friend. Juju was one of the most caring and giving individuals his editor has ever known. His stories reflect his deep concern about the abuse of children, but also children who have come out as gay in particular. Juju was to turn eighteen on 14 May, just two days away. He was also about to graduate from high school and continue his education at a well-known and prestigious university. His ambition was to earn a doctorate in Physics.
Juju was a gifted person, mentally, physically and emotionally and musically accomplished as a cellist. He never ceased to amaze his family, friends, schoolmates, instructors and particularly his editor. In addition, he was quite the outdoorsman; he particularly loved rock climbing and trail riding on horseback. Juju had recently lost his beautiful horse Sherpa, to disease. He often mentioned Sherpa in conversation and was terribly grieved at his loss. The typical Juju, braved that loss with his strength, although mentioning him from time to time since. And Juju loved playing soccer, or football as he referred to it, as well as teaching younger children how to play. He often coached the younger crowd at school.
Said editor must be first to relay to Juju’s readers that his main body of work required minimal corrections, never in narration and primarily in punctuation. Almost everyone enjoyed “watching him at work” at all his endeavors. Quoting one of his close friends, “he also had an extremely sharp wit and would occasionally use it on the unwary. He often left people wondering if they had been insulted. But if so, it is certain they deserved it.”
It should also be noted that Juju had a “regular guy” side. He was never reluctant to carry his weight in family duties, even digging trenches or with stable requirements. His tender side was well known amongst all who knew him and he shall never be forgotten.
Rest in peace, Juju, you were a very special person, loved by many, and will be forever missed.
Juju’s editor and friend