As the Sooloo was being pulled back toward the planet, several crewmembers reflected on their lives. Danny checked out his new fighter, Jace thought about when he first met Jordan and how much he is looking forward to introducing their children to his dad. Scott reminisced about his older brother and being introduced to sex. Hal evaluated his own struggle with his sexuality before he came to terms with it.
Tomo dealt with the pain he felt as he watched his family be attacked by Niedy, the Niedhousen sea monster. Though it's been five years, he remembered it like it was yesterday. What helped him was feeling the love of Juro. Juro reflected on his time with Tomo, researching the artifact together, spending time in Engineering and then just spending time together.
Kyle couldn't reflect; he was too busy flying the ship without the use of the engines. At the last second, Kyle pulled the nose of the ship up, then Connor got the engines started.
Halloween is Whit Olson's birthday and Mark Wallace had a birthday the day before, so the crew had a massive party to honor them as well as the birth of the new planet. While they were partying, the twins told the Draconian boys about Halloween.
Halloween Day, the boys carved pumpkins, then Scott Trevor and Łukasz Kuc were married on the planet. That evening, the boys went trick-or-treating on the holodeck.
At the end of the day, just before the Crew's costume party, Zorn contacted the ship… from Earth.
Dave was sitting in his chair on the bridge after returning from Kairu. The wedding was excellent. He had been thinking of sending off a message to Draconia to explain what they had found and that they would be returning in a matter of days.
He was brought out of his thoughts by Juro, manning the Tactical station stating, "Sir, I am receiving a transmission directed to you."
"Who is it?"
"He says his name is Zorn, Sir."
"Put it on speaker. Zorn! Where are you?"
"Hello Dave, I'm still on Earth."
"I'm calling you from the Golden Dragon, Dave." Zorn explained further.
"Yeah, but how are we talking like you were right next to us... shouldn't it take weeks for signals to go back and forth?" Dave asked, perplexed.
"Sinocardian vessels have the ability to communicate instantly over vast distances. It's technology we got in our dealings with the Draconians." Zorn explained.
Dave started thinking and came to the conclusion, "Do you mean that the Draconians upgraded the Sooloo's communications also?" Dave almost instantly started worrying... what might this mean if Earth had the ability to communicate instantly with the fleet of exploration vessels? Would they lose their autonomy?
Zorn replied, "That would make sense, but it amazes me that you don't know if they did, Dave."
"Trust me, Zorn, I will find out. In the meantime, please tell Admiral Mirah that we are doing well. I am going to try to contact Draconia. Will you be available tomorrow? It's almost 2100 here on the ship and I'm not sure what time it is on Draconia. I will contact them and contact you. I assume Aurix will be able to let you know when I call." Dave stated, hiding his concerns.
They ended the communication and Dave turned to Hal. "Start researching the changes made to the ship by the Darastixians. See if you can find out if they upgraded the communications array, and if so, who authorized it and why weren't we informed." Hal nodded and went to work.
"Juro, open a channel to Darastix."
After Juro made contact, Dave had him send it to his Ready Room.
"Zedrick, it is good to see your face," Dave greeted his Draconian friend.
Zedrick nodded his head, "So you like being able to chat in real time? Mind you, unless Terra upgrades their system, they will not be able to respond to you right away."
"About that," Dave looked thoughtful, "I do like having the ability, but I just found out we had it."
"The person who authorized it didn't seek your permission or tell you?" a puzzled look was apparent on the King's face. "I'm sorry, we would have never made the upgrade had we known you weren't aware."
"Do you know who it was that DID authorize it?"
"Let me look," Zedrick replied as he tapped some keys in front of him. "According to our records, it was Commander Alan Hole."
"Commander? He said that he was a commander?" Dave was pissed.
"According to our records, he did."
"Thank you for sharing that with me. And just so you know, we will be returning in a couple weeks."
"Is there a problem with the ship? We uploaded everything into your system, so you can repair anything we upgraded."
"No, the ship is working great, better than I expected. We found an old derelict adrift around Megrez, and…"
"The artifact, did you find the artifact?"
"We did. We are bringing back a part of it; the part with a holographic image of King Kairu. The artifact was activated and Megrez has his first planet."
"Wonderful, what did you name the planet?"
"Megrez decided to name it Kairu, in honor of your ancestor who set out to give him his first child."
"What an honor. You bring me to tears, happy tears. I look forward to your visit."
"One last thing before I go, we had a wedding on the new planet and…"
"Even over the communication, I can sense what you are asking. If it helps another boy find a family, I am happy to approve another adoption. I do have a request of you."
"You know, if I am able, I will be honored to follow your request. You have done so much for us."
The King looked directly at Dave, "I have a young man who was disappointed when you left. He approached me just minutes after you left orbit and I didn't think it would be right asking you to return, but since you ARE returning…"
Dave was curious what the request was, "What did this young boy ask?"
"He would like to become a member of your crew," Zedrick declared. "He is willing to do whatever is required to do that."
"How old is he?" Dave was thinking, he already lost one officer who was demoted to a crewman, and he'll be losing another crewman once he has a trial for A Hole.
"He is sixteen and is currently a guard. His specialty is…" Zedrick chuckled, "communications. In fact, he is the one who upgraded your system."
Dave chuckled, "Do you think he would be a good liaison aboard the ship? Maybe he could assist in Tactical/Security while we learn from each other. What's his name?"
"Hosayaku Haimono Jaku," Zedrick replied. "Hosayaku is the same as a lieutenant for you, but he is willing to forgo his rank if need be."
"If he becomes a liaison, you would still control his rank, but he would be treated like any other officer aboard this ship."
"He is still young, in fact, that's what his name means," Zedrick chuckled again. "I was just thinking, when he is my age, his name will still mean young, inexperienced, green horn."
"Yeah, I laugh when I see elderly people with the surname of 'Young,'" Dave chuckled. "I would love to have Hosayaku Haimono come on board."
"I will let him know, and I will see you when you get here."
Ronald Abernathy couldn't sleep. The problem presented by Admiral Mirah regarding the Sooloo was weighing on his mind. Not only because of the problem... the quandary of how the Sooloo was able to communicate to Earth virtually instantly, but also the fact that his 'older' brother, Christian was aboard that ship.
His mind started reflecting on his life, and that of his brother's...
James and Erica Abernathy rushed to the hospital when Erica went into labor with what they knew would be twins. The urgency was caused because of the fact that something didn't seem right. After nearly 18 hours in labor, Erica finally gave birth to the first of the twins. Christian was a beautiful baby, but a problem did occur... something the doctors could not explain and there was a question as to whether his unborn brother or his mother would actually survive.
Instead of attempting to deliver the other baby, the doctors decided to put Erica and the still unborn Ronald into stasis. They tirelessly investigated what was going wrong and after twenty-four days, they were able to correct the problem and brought Erica out of stasis on 14 January 2106 and delivered Ronald.
As the babies became toddlers, it became apparent that there were significant differences in the 'identical' twins. Ronald, even though he was technically younger, excelled in ways that his 'older' brother just didn't. But that didn't matter to the boys. They idolized one another.
When they celebrated their fifth birthday (they chose to celebrate both boys' birthdays twelve days after Christian's, which happened to be twelve days before Ronald's) Jim and Erica noticed that the boys seemed even closer than many would expect from identical twins. They didn't think much of it at the time.
When the boys turned ten, James went into their bedroom to wake them for school and found them engaged in sex-play. This was the first time he got the impression that the boys might be gay. He consulted with his brother, Lenny who told him that it was common for twins to experiment sexually, but it did not mean they would actually end up gay.
Both boys adored their Uncle Lenny and Auntie Ashley. To add to the uniqueness of the familial bond, there existed a double relationship. Lenny's wife, Ashley happened to be Erica's aunt. This made for some interesting conversations with their friends.
Christian's mental development, while still within normal parameters, wasn't as advanced as his younger brother. Ronald consistently excelled in all areas of science and mathematics. He was definitely a 'thinker' where Christian seemed to gravitate to more physical endeavors.
As the boys grew, they played off the differences in their abilities, never competing with one another, but always offering a helping hand to the other should he be struggling with a concept. Basically, they were good for each other.
When the Space Exploration program tested the children at the boys' school, both were selected to join. They moved to the academy campus, shared a dorm room, and continued helping one another in their studies.
When crew assignments came out, the boys were devastated that Christian was selected for a crew and Ronald was not. It seemed a bit of a juxtaposition since Ronald was the more 'advanced' of the twins. The difference came in the area of expertise each had selected.
Ronald was a science geek, however good he was at what he did, there were a lot of boys who were equally advanced, and he just didn't stand out to the Captains when they made their crew selections. David Bowman realized that Christian would be a crewman on his ship and made a recommendation to his friend and mentor Fleet Admiral Bill Mirah to consider bringing Ronald onto his staff.
When Christian arrived for his orientation he met the Doctor of the Sooloo. He thought it was a coincidence that Dr. Tom happened to have the same last name as he did. The pair joked about it, but after doing some research found that they were not in any way related. That interaction sparked something in Dr. Tom and unbeknownst to Christian, Tom started developing feelings for the boy. He never said a word about it to anyone.
Ronald sat naked on his bunk as he reflected. The idea of how the communications happened was foremost on his mind. Suddenly an idea came to him. He jotted it down on a piece of paper to present to Admiral Mirah later that morning.
On the Sooloo, Christian was thinking about his brother and for some reason thought he heard his brother's voice in his head. He couldn't make out what Ronald was saying, and even if he did, he probably wouldn't understand the concepts. His own thoughts turned to the feelings of love he had for his brother and how much he missed him. Ronald started feeling sad at the fact that he missed his brother as well.
"Dad, Opsola, can Tomo and I take the boys bakuei on the holodeck? We don't have any classes until…"Juro looked thoughtful, "I think we call it Monday. And neither of you have scheduled us a watch for the weekend."
"Bakuei? What's that?" Connor inquired.
"Oh right, I'm sorry, I mean camping."
"Remember, you are no longer on Darastix, we may not understand what you are saying if you use Draconian terms."
"I understand, so can we go camping?" Juro begged, "My father used to take us three days at a time, and I know the younger boys would love it, especially Koji. Holodeck Two is available for a day and a half."
Aiden looked at Juro, "Well Captain Bowman has me looking at videos from when a certain person was on watch, so it's between you two."
"Please, Opsola? You can join us, if you want."
"I have watch in Engineering in a couple of hours, but if you get Captain Bowman's permission, you have mine."
"Thank you, Opsola, I love you." Juro took off to find Dave.
Finding him on the Bridge, it didn't take Juro long, "Captain, Opsola told me to ask you for permission, but Tomo and I would like to take the younger boys… camping."
"For how long? I know you don't have any classes, what about watches?" Dave wanted to be sure Juro was aware of his schedule.
"Well, we don't have classes until Monday and our next watch is in Engineering at 1600 on Monday."
"And by younger boys, you are including Lars?"
"We would never leave any of the boys out unless we left all of them out; like when Tomo and I want to be just us."
"Understandable. What do you plan to eat, or will you come out to eat?"
"We want this to be like a real camping trip, so we plan to speak with Randy Jenkins about foods we can take in with us and not spoil. We are thinking chips, marshmallows, hotdogs and some water."
"How long are you planning to be in the holodeck?"
"We'd like to have it the rest of today and until 1800 tomorrow."
"Last question before I give my answer, are either of the holodecks scheduled for use while you want to camp?"
"Lieutenant Junior Grade Danny Harper DOES have Holodeck One scheduled for a few hours to train someone in the fighter, but otherwise, no Sir, no one is scheduled otherwise until 2000 tomorrow night."
"Just so you know, you don't have to say the 'Junior Grade' part. I hope you boys have fun," Dave was impressed that Juro was able to answer every question without hesitation, including the holodeck schedule. He did his research to make sure he didn't interfere with anyone scheduled to use it.
"Thank you, Sir. Request permission to go get the others and let them know."
"Permission granted." After Juro was off the bridge, Dave commented, "Erikku did a good job raising him."
"So why do they call you Bible? Is it because your name is two of the books of the Gospel?" Will Crusoe inquired.
John nodded, "Actually, my middle name is also a book of the Bible, just not one of the Gospels. It is James."
"John James Luke," Will smiled, "that is a beautiful name for a very handsome guy."
"Thanks, didn't I hear that your name is associated with a book as well?" John asked.
"My mom's favorite book was a very old story about Robinson Crusoe, but she didn't want my first name to be Robinson. The author was William Defoe, so she considered naming me William. But she also liked this old video, kinda like Swiss Family Robinson in space."
"Are you referring to Lost in Space?" John interrupted.
"Yeah, that's it. She really liked the boy in it, so she named me Will Robinson Crusoe; kind of a merging of the character from the book and the video."
John laughed, "I can see that robot saying, 'Danger Will Robinson Crusoe. There is a tongue wanting to probe your mouth.'" John inched closer.
"That's no danger, I'll let it," Will smiled. John moved in the rest of the way for a kiss.
After the kiss, John looked at Will, "I really like you and hope to marry you some day, but not yet. I want to know you better."
"I agree, but at the same time, I hope you don't mind," Will said, getting down on one knee and held out a ring. "John James Luke. Will you accept this engagement ring, and then when we both are ready to marry, be my husband? I don't care how long we wait."
John was stunned, he really does like Will and does want to marry him, but he wasn't aware of how Will felt in that department. He debated in his mind, 'I really want to say yes, but I don't know if we should be getting engaged already.' Finally, John answered, "I love you and want to marry you…"
"But you don't want the ring yet," Will looked sad.
"What if you moved in here, and after we've known each other a few weeks, you ask again."
"I just don't understand. You love me; I love you; we both want to get married eventually. The ring doesn't say that we will get married today, to marry or even this year. Why won't you accept the ring?"
John could feel Will's pain, "I feel like we may be moving too fast. Yes, I love you; yes, I want to marry you, but we've only been dating for four days."
"But I've known that I wanted to date you for longer," Will argued.
"And I've wanted to date you for longer, too. Will, I'm not saying no, I just think we should wait to make that decision."
"I think I understand. Moving in with you will be almost like we're married. I guess I can wait."
"Can I look at the ring?" John inquired.
Will had a mischievous twinkle in his eye, "Only if you promise to make me yours tonight."
John smiled, "I'll plant my seed in you if you plant yours in me."
"Deal," Will agreed and handed over the ring.
Juro decided the best place for all of boys to meet to discuss the camping trip would be the classroom. Tomo agreed and Juro quickly contacted the four younger boys telling them only that he had a special surprise for them and for them all to come as quickly as they could get to the classroom.
Koji was the first to arrive "Is this about school?" he asked as soon as he stepped into the classroom. "Koji likes school, but not on Doyoubi because there is no school on Doyoubi."
"Well, hello to you, too, Koji," Tomo said as Koji sat at his school desk.
"Hello Tomo, hello Juro, and is this about school?"
"No, it's not," Juro assured Koji. "You will find out what the surprise is as soon as the other three show up."
Those three showed up together. They had been in Lars' quarters learning the ins and outs of using a yoyo. Lars still had his and worked without much success on a trick as they hustled to the classroom.
"Thanks everybody, for coming so quickly. Now that we're all here, what do you guys think about camping the rest of the day and tomorrow?"
"Camping?" Jonas asked. "You mean, like camping overnight in tents and sleeping in sleeping bags, and having a campfire?"
"That is exactly what I mean." The cheers from the four boys told Juro and Tomo all they needed to know.
"And I bet we'll be camping in one of the holodecks," Lars commented.
"You would win that bet, Lars. We will be on Holodeck Two, and not just one of the sections; we get the whole holodeck." That led to another cheer and questions coming to Juro from four different directions.
Juro quickly brought order to the chaos and told them that he and Tomo discovered that camping in the woods was one of the available platforms. He said they chose it and made changes to suit what they wanted to do.
"We will have swimming…"
"Naked swimming?" Jason interrupted.
"Yes, we will have naked swimming, canoeing, hiking, games, camp food, marshmallows to roast, and, the best part, no rain and no biting insects."
"Can we bring our yoyos? Lars inquired.
"Of course. And like with recesses, there will be balls available for games. Now, I need each of you to get permission from your parents to go and to bring a change of clothes. The sleeping bags and pillows, in fact any camping gear you need will be there. Lars, your father already said you could go. Jonas and Jason, as well as Koji, just have one of your fathers give me their permission on their comm." Tomo and Juro knew that getting permission was a done deal, but they knew the responsible thing for them and for the boys to do was to make sure the fathers all approved.
"Are you going to tell us ghost stories?" Jonas asked.
"What's a camping trip without ghost stories," Tomo smiled.
"Okay. Let's meet at Holodeck Two at noon. Randy Jenkins will have a lunch ready for us and then we'll set up the tents."
Tomo and Juro were glad they arrived at the holodeck door early, because all the eager boys were at the door over a half-hour early. Tomo took care of gaining holodeck entry. The doors opened, and they walked into a pristine meadow with a lake and a couple of large trees along the shore, a fire pit, a stream, a copse of small trees, areas of brush, and what looked like a large forest in the background. A beautiful blue sky made the scene bright and inviting. Some of the forest had holographic trees along a hiking path, but most of it was a three-dimensional background.
The boys saw four large canvas bags along with some smaller bags set out in the clearing. Tomo explained that all of their equipment, including the tents and sleeping bags were in the bags.
"Once we eat, then we'll build our camp."
As if on cue, Randy and Ben entered the holodeck with a two carts carrying two large coolers. "This is your food for the trip," Randy said. "You cook your own and if you mess up… well, just like on any camping trip you'll get very hungry. But it's all easy to cook stuff. Since Juro and Tomo were experienced campers, I know things will work out great. You guys have fun—wish I was joining you." He and Ben waved good-bye and exited.
Juro opened the first cooler and saw it had been packed with sandwiches, potato chips, and apples. He smiled when he saw the hot dogs under their lunches with buns and condiments. Randy had come through and they were going to have a weenie roast for dinner just as planned. For dessert there were six individual fruit pies as well as marshmallows for roasting in the evening.
Breakfast would be scrambled eggs and bacon. Randy had placed iron skillets on the second cart for cooking breakfast. The second cart also had a cooler loaded with drinks and bottled water. The idea was to make them self-sufficient for the day-and-a-half.
The boys munched on their sandwiches and talked about who would be doing what tasks. The main tasks to start would be setting up the two tents and gathering firewood and tinder.
"We're going to have a real fire?" Jason asked.
"Well, yes and no," Tomo replied. "The fire in the fire pit is going to be a fire created by the holodeck, complete with heat. But, if we're going to do all of the things we'd do on a campout in the real outdoors, we're going to act like we're creating a fire. That means gathering the wood and tinder in our little forest and act like we're lighting it. I know it sounds weird, but Brad told me if we do everything right it's going to be just like a real fire."
It didn't take much discussion for them to decide that the twins would be firewood gatherers, Lars would help Juro set up the tent for the four younger boys, and Koji would help Tomo set up the tent the two older boys would be sleeping in.
After they finished eating and cleaning up, they hiked around the lake to the edge of the woods. Tomo and Juro wanted to show all four boys what the twins would be looking for and placing in their two-wheeled cart.
"Are there any dangerous animals in the woods?" Jason asked.
"You have nothing to worry about," Juro assured him. "Everything is a holographic image." All four boys thought about how frightened they had been on Halloween and were not feeling very assured.
"Well, there is a furry kaldaka, but it only comes out of its lair at night, so you don't have anything to worry about," Tomo added.
Jonas picked a large branch off the ground and waved it menacingly. "I'll whomp on it with this stick if it comes after us," Jonas said bravely.
"I'm sure it's cowering in its lair after that threat, so you really have nothing to worry about," Juro chuckled.
Juro and Tomo returned to the campsite. Koji and Lars helped getting the tents flat on the ground and unpacking the bags of poles, ropes, and stakes.
"This should go quickly," Tomo said confidently as they set to work.
The plan was to hammer in the four corner stakes, attach the guy line and create the tent's interior frame with the poles. Once the tent was standing, the rest of the stakes would be driven into the ground to solidly secure the tent.
Tomo showed Koji how to extend the poles and tighten the pieces together. Koji patiently worked on that task as Tomo wriggled into the collapsed tent with the centerpiece. His body was all that was holding up the tent as he secured the centerpiece to its loops. Juro and Lars were following the same steps with their tent and the process was going quite efficiently considering the inexperience of the two boys.
"Okay, Koji, hand me one of the poles."
Koji picked up one of the stakes and crawled into the low hanging tent. "No, Koji, that is a stake. I need one of the curved poles." Tomo shook his head. Only Koji could screw up something so simple, he thought.
"Oh," Koji said, "I forgot what was a pole and what was a stake." He wiggled back out feet first, tossed the stake onto the ground, grabbed one of the poles he had put together, took it into the tent and handed it to Tomo. While Tomo connected the pole to the centerpiece, he asked Koji to bring one more.
After Tomo connected the second pole, the tent was now half-standing on two poles. When Koji brought the third pole, it was now free standing, with only the fourth pole needed to give it stability.
At that point the twins returned with their cartload of wood and tinder. They saw Lars coming out of the tent he and Juro were erecting and came over to help. Jason volunteered to take the fourth pole to Juro and proudly handed it off.
Koji came out of Tomo's tent just as Jason was entering Juro's tent. Jonas waved to him. "We got lots of wood," he told Koji.
"The tent is almost finished," Koji responded. "Koji has one more pole to give to Tomo." He picked up the pole and reentered the tent. The tent was now raised enough that he could stand up inside of it. He proudly handed the last pole to Tomo. He then popped it into place and the tent was standing securely in place.
All that was needed was to connect the guy lines to the loops on each corner and secure them to the ground and pound in the remaining five stakes. He went to the tool bag and grabbed the hammer so he could pound in the stakes. Tomo was disappointed that Juro had erected his tent first, but Koji wasn't the most proficient helper he could have had.
The four guy lines were laid out next to the flap of the tent entrance. He picked up one of them and instructed Koji to place the others at each corner of the tent.
Tomo secured one of the back corners with the guy line he carried. Then he went to the other back corner but didn't see a guy line there. "Koji, I thought I told you to place the other guy lines at each corner of the tent."
"I did," Koji insisted.
Tomo then inspected the front corners. "I don't see them anywhere."
"They are inside."
Tomo took a deep breath. "Well, I need them outside the tent," he said with a forced calmness. "Now please go inside and bring them out and give me the first one before you place the others outside at the two front corners." Tomo was close to asking one of the other boys to be his assistant as he made his way back to the rear corner.
Koji came out of the tent with the three remaining guy lines. "Go quick, Koji," Lars prodded. "Our tent is finished and when you finish Juro said we can all go swimming."
Koji grabbed the stake and hurried to give it to Tomo. In his eagerness he tripped over the guy wire Tomo had just secured, yanking the stake out of the ground and knocking the pole out of the centerpiece, collapsing that corner of the tent. The sudden shift in weight caused the pole Tomo was about to secure to lose contact with the tent's floor which caused the other back corner to collapse as well.
"Oof," Koji grunted as he hit the ground. Lars and Jonas ran over, concerned that Koji might have hurt himself. Koji rose from the ground with a grin telling his friends he wasn't hurt.
As Tomo stood surveying the damage, Juro crawled out of his now fully-erect tent. When he saw that Tomo's tent was only half standing he sauntered over and stood next to his boyfriend.
"What's taking you so long?" Juro asked. "Lars and I are finished, and it looks like you've barely started."
"Yeah, well, you ended up with not only Lars, but with the entire Terrific Trio, and I had Koji. Need I say more?" Tomo said grumpily.
"You love Koji, admit it."
With Koji staring at him, Tomo couldn't say much other than, "Yeah, I do, but there are days… well you see the result."
"Koji is sorry he tripped," the little boy said contritely.
'Yes, you tripped and knocked down half the tent and gave me a wrong piece and put the guy wires in the wrong place, but otherwise everything went smoothly,' Tomo thought.
"Don't worry about it, Koji," Juro said. "We're happy you're not hurt, right Tomo?"
"Yes, I'm glad you weren't hurt," Tomo said sincerely. He liked Koji and had told the truth when he told Juro he loved the little boy but couldn't help wondering if Koji enjoyed tormenting him.
Juro could see that Tomo needed a moment to gather himself, so he volunteered to finish erecting the tent. With the help of Jason and Jonas, they got the tent up in a hurry. Tomo sat at the picnic table which was on the other side of the fire pit and worked to calm himself down. Lars and Koji talked about getting a ball to take with them into the pond as soon as the tent was finished. And that was what they did.
The holodeck had been programmed to create a hot sunny day, which is what it did, with a summerlike temperate of 30C (86° F). The six hot and sweaty boys quickly stripped, tossed their clothes into the tent and dashed into the lake to cool off, have fun, laugh and forget the problems that popped up erecting Tomo and Juro's tent.
Aiden kept looking toward the brigs as he scanned the video of when Hosayaku Haimono Jaku upgraded the communication system. Fortunately, the Draconians were able to give him a general time and all he had to do was watch during the time period when A Hole was on duty on the bridge. Aiden was barely even watching the video, he was mainly listening to the conversation…
"Greetings, I am Hosayaku Haimono. While we are doing the upgrades, would your Captain like to have your communication system upgraded?"
"Yes, yes he would."
"Great, I just need you to press your thumb here to authorize it. You are the Communications officer?"
"Yes, I am. My name is Commander Alan Hole."
"Thank you, Commander Hole. It shouldn't take me long to do the upgrade."
Aiden quit watching. He heard what he needed to hear. He loaded that part of the video to a PADD, then walked to the brigs.
"Commander Hole?" Aiden queried.
"What? No, I'm just a crewman. How much longer am I going to be in this rat hole? I didn't do anything wrong and I want to press formal charges against Commander Robinson."
"For what?" Aiden asked, genuinely surprised.
"He attacked me on the bridge."
"Okay, when we are done with why I came here, I will show you what exactly happened on the bridge that day. If you still believe you have cause, you may press charges."
"Were you on duty on the eighth of October?"
"You know I was."
"Did a Draconian approach you and ask to upgrade the Communication System?"
"Shit, I forgot to tell Captain Bowman. Is that why I am still in here? Look, I didn't think Bowman would be upset by it and I simply forgot to inform him. I'm sorry."
'You bet you are,' Aiden thought. "And who did you tell Hosayaku Haimono you were?"
"I said I was Crewman Alan Hole." He didn't know that Aiden already viewed the video.
"Did you really?" Aiden played the video, then asked, "Would you like to change your answer?"
"No, someone must have tampered with that. I bet Commander Kanye did for his friend.
"We will be picking up Haimono when we return to Draconia. Then, we will be having your trial. Captain Bowman said that if you admit your guilt before we return to Draconia and avoid a trial, he will go easier on you."
"Like what, nineteen years instead of twenty? I've seen what you did with Richard. Y'all killed him and JUST because he didn't like that Admiral's son. No thank you."
"With all the charges that will be filed against you, you are possibly looking at fifty years, but again, if you admit you guilt, Captain Bowman is considering removing you from Space Fleet with no jail time. You would be confined to quarters instead of in the brig, but the confinements would be for your protection."
"I'll take my chances. I worked hard for this ship and y'all wanna kick me out, but you let those Draconian rug rats be ensigns."
"Up to you, you have time to decide." Aiden showed A Hole the video of his stellar ass-whooping. It was clear that Kyle never touched him.
"Again, someone doctored the video. I know that that brat assaulted me, and I want to press charges."
"The video and the crew say otherwise. Unless you can produce evidence of him attacking you, you have no merit to press charges. Still, you CAN press charges if you would like, but it would be YOUR responsibility to prove it."
Kyle walked into Steve's office, finding the ship's administrator in his usual position, seated in front of his computer. This was actually the Ops office, but Jordan was rarely there and Jace was even less, so everyone considered it Steve's office. Steve gave Kyle a brief wave but didn't move his gaze from the monitor. Kyle sat in the chair next to Steve's desk and surveyed the immaculately clean and organized desk.
"How do you do it?" Kyle asked.
"Do what?" Steve asked.
"Keep your desk looking like that?"
Steve continued to enter data into his computer. Kyle knew from experience that Steve would answer the question when he had finished whatever bit of data he was entering. He sat patiently, admiring his friend's good looks. Steve made another entry, then swiveled his chair to look at Kyle.
"I keep my desk and the rest of my workspace neat and organized through a combination of hard work and unmatched brilliance," he replied with mock seriousness. "Jordan is a big help, too, but Jace not so much."
"I figured it was something like that."
"What prompted a senior officer to enter my office and track minute particles of dust into my neat and organized workspace?"
"Since you also never forget anything, I know you remember that I owe you something to pay off a certain bribe."
"Ah, yes. I am impressed you both remembered and didn't wait until the last minute to pay it off." He swiveled back to his original position. "I have three more crewmen to enter and then I am all yours. You're more than welcome to play with yourself while you wait, just try not to scream, which would be a huge distraction."
"What are you working on?"
"Payroll. While it takes ages to get to HQ and who knows how many days, weeks, or months, the payroll sheet must be timestamped with today's date."
The members of the Sooloo's crew were paid the standard rate which was determined by rank and seniority. None of them ever saw the credits since they didn't need it on board the ship. Space Fleet deposited each month's earnings into an account set up for each crewmember. Kyle and Steve, like many of the crew, had a percentage of their credits transferred from their account to an investment advisor. Kyle used Sam Carpenter, who was his father's investment advisor. He and Danny had also created a separate account for Koji which would be getting its first deposit from their pay for this month. The boys knew that earning a full Space Fleet salary while spending virtually none of it was going to leave them very well-off when their tour of duty was over.
Since everyone was salaried, all Steve had to do was confirm that they worked a full month, by not taking sick leave, which was paid from a different account, or taking authorized time off, for which they received half pay, or had not been suspended without pay because of disciplinary issues. If there was a promotion (or demotion), Steve had to make that change as well, but the pay change didn't take effect until the next pay cycle.
The only crewmember on suspension was Alan Hole, but he was suspended with pay. By regulation, the only way he could be suspended without pay was to be found guilty by a tribunal or by an order from Space Fleet Admiralty. Still, Steve had to enter him into the system as being suspended with pay.
"Okay, I'm done," Steve announced. "And just why is your cock still in your pants? Just what were you doing with your empty time?"
"I was admiring your dedication to duty. If you reported to me you would have received an excellent evaluation," Kyle grinned.
"I'd rather receive an excellent blow job. Which shuttle are we honoring with our erotic escapade?"
"Danny insisted we use the Raphael, if it's available." Steve had told Kyle that he would move his and Danny's Halloween costumes up the replicator queue if Kyle paid him with a blow job in one of the shuttles.
"Well, I have everything ready to send to HQ." He touched his screen and the information was sent off. As Chief of Operations, normally, Jordan would have to approve things going to HQ, but he fully trusted Steve and let him send directly. Giving Steve almost as much authority as he or Jace has freed Jordan up for other aspects. "That should keep some old bureaucrats busy and happy for a while."
Kyle and Steve headed to the shuttle bay. Steve found it ironic that Crewman Jesse Gross was in the shuttle control center. "Hi, Jesse," Steve called out as they entered the center.
"Hey, Steve… I mean Sir." Even though Steve had given Jesse a much-deserved blow job after the rogue star incident, Jesse understood that in formal situations, Steve, as an officer, had to be greeted according to protocol. The fact that Kyle Robinson, who was a senior officer, was with him, made following protocol even more imperative. Since Kyle and Danny Harper were married and Steve and Brad were pretty much a couple, Jesse was fairly certain that this visit had nothing to do with sex. Still, the sexual trysts on board the Sooloo didn't always make sense and Jesse wished he could find ways to get involved. Even though Jesse was a heterosexual, the only sex to be had was with his fellow crewmates.
"Is the Raphael available?" Steve asked.
"Well, not for flight, seeing as we're in…"
"I know, Jesse. I just want to make sure it's not in upkeep mode." The systems on the shuttles were all run through full operation mode daily to keep them in top condition. The engines were started and run in idle mode twice a week.
"You can board it and do anything you please, sir," Jesse said with a knowing grin. He had changed his mind—he knew this was going to be a sexual encounter. He tried to figure out what kind of extra thrill anybody got from having sex on one of the shuttles. He'd jerked off on them a few times and as far as he was concerned it was just a jerk off session. Still, he liked the privacy it afforded and when he thought about it, he realized no jerk off session should be trivialized.
"Thanks, Jesse," Steve grinned. "I think I owe you once again."
"I will be happy to receive whatever Commander Boyer feels he owes me," Jesse said in his most formal manner while sending a non-verbal message that he would be more than happy for a repeat of his previous shuttle encounter with Steve.
Steve and Kyle walked down the corridor to the Raphael. "He knows," Kyle said as they entered the shuttle's cabin.
"Of course, he knows, and he knows not to blab, for which he will be richly rewarded. Brad knows, Danny knows, Randy Jenkins knows, and now Jesse knows. Who cares? Almost all of us are teenagers which makes us horny which means sex can break out anywhere and almost anytime. Hell, even the little ones are caught up in it, as are other little preteen boys like you and Danny."
"When it comes to little, you can speak for yourself."
"Ooh, the senior officer puts the Lieutenant Commander in his place. Come on, dude, let's get out of these stifling uniforms. Mine is squeezing my dick so hard it's getting numb."
"Your dick getting numb?" Kyle laughed. "No way you're going to let that happen."
The two boys quickly stripped naked. Steve let out an exaggerated sigh of relief when his cock sprang free. "Okay, let's get going," Steve pleaded. "Time is precious."
"You're so horny you don't want any foreplay?"
"I'm so horny I want your lips around my cock. You're getting an appetizer; just check out the precum leakage." Steve sat back in the pilot's seat and Kyle went to work on him.
Kyle had many skills he excelled at and sucking cock was one of them. His tongue, lips, spit, throat, and hands all worked together to make Steve wiggle and groan in the seat. "Fuck, dude, you're good. It's been so long I forgot how good you were—you're even better than me." He let out another long groan and then squawked when he felt his dick drop out of Kyle's mouth.
"What the fuck are you stopping for?" Steve demanded.
"How do you know I'm better at sucking dick than you are?"
"Because I suck my own cock, asshole. If nothing else, you get me into your throat and the best I can do is maybe a third of the shaft. Now get your talented mouth back to work."
"I can't believe you suck your own cock."
"Damn, you need to get out more." Steve dropped down onto the floor, raised his legs, gave his ass a little shove, and got the head and a bit more of his cock into his mouth. "Satisfied? I can do it, and I know for a fact Brad and Randy Jenkins can, and when you guys grow up maybe and then Danny Boy will be able to do it, too. Hell, maybe someday you'll even grow some dick hair. Now pay off your debt."
Steve got back on the seat, Kyle kneeled between his legs, and within a couple of minutes Steve started screaming as he fed his teen cream into Kyle's waiting mouth. Kyle furiously jerked his much smaller cock and shot his clear, preteen cum onto Steve's chest and belly with a long moan.
"Debt is paid," Steve said as he wiped Kyle's discharge off with his underpants. "If I were evaluating you, I'd give you a superior rating and then some."
"You're so sweet," Kyle said as he pulled on his pants. "It was a pleasure paying off my debt. Oh, and you can NEVER call me a screamer again."
"I couldn't help it. That's how good you were."
Once Kyle and Steve were dressed, they went up the passageway. Jesse was busily checking some readouts from the Leonardo, which was undergoing its daily check-up.
Jesse looked up and grinned. "I hope your test came out all right," he deadpanned.
"Yes, it did, Crewman Gross," Steve replied. "However, I think the Raphael may need to conduct a similar test in the very near future to make sure all systems are still functioning properly."
"I'll be sure to look in on it with your assistance, Commander Boyer."
"You're terrible," Kyle told Steve as they walked up the corridor to Steve's office.
"Yes, I am, Commander Robinson, and I'm proud of it," Steve grinned.
"Is there anyone on this ship you would never, ever, ever, no matter what, suck off?"
Steve thought for a moment as they stepped into his office. "Yes, there would be nine individuals. Those would be A. Hole, Dave and Hal, and the six youngsters. Now there are some I would never do just because you can't connect with everybody, but those I would never do for any reason in the galaxy."
"I get not doing A. Hole and the young 'uns, but Dave and Hal?"
"They are at the top of the pecking order, perched on a pedestal. Those who have earned their way on the pedestal should never be knocked off it. That would be detrimental to us all. Others I wouldn't do just because of their marriages and relationships and how they handle them, but something, somewhere, somehow could change my mind, unlikely as it is. But those nine, NEVER!"
"That sounds pretty final. But, as long as I'm getting personal, with all of the marriages going around, are you and Brad thinking of tying the knot, like maybe when we visit Draconia."
"I guess since you gave such a class BJ, I'll let you get away with prying into my business. The answer to that is, no fucking way. We love each other, in fact I love Brad to death, but we don't want to be tied down to any rules. We'll leave that to guys like you and Danny—and we appreciate your loose rules, by the way."
"So, no marriage, no kids would seem to be your path for now."
"Oh, I'd get married before I ever have a kid. That is a bigger NEVER than sucking one of those nine cocks. No offense to your little rug rat, but kids are noisy, messy, disorganized, untidy, sloppy, loud, demanding and, did I mention messy? I love being Unka Steve. I can have some fun and let the kids be all of the above, and then drop them off on their poor parents and enjoy a roll in the hay with Brad. So, yeah, that's the long way of me saying NO! And Brad feels the same way, in case you were wondering."
"That sounded pretty final, too. I'll tell you, Koji has been a huge challenge, and I mean HUGE, but Danny and I never tire of saying how grateful we are that he is in our lives and how we never imagined we could love somebody as much as we love him. Well, I've gotta run," Kyle said. "Thanks for being a great friend, and thanks for the treat."
"My pleasure. I hope I get to sample your fountain sometime soon. Maybe an overnight, which would certainly get Koji to thinking."
"I think he'd be pretty accepting. After all, once he'd seen you and Brad naked in the classroom, I doubt much will shock him." Including catching me with Danny's cock in my mouth, Kyle thought as he left Steve's office.
Aiden approached Kyle with Scott Trevor along as a witness. "Commander Robinson, Crewman A Hole has pressed charges against you for assaulting him on the bridge."
Kyle was exasperated, "What? I never touched him, you can ask anyone that was there, or you can look at the Bridge logs."
"Relax Kyle, I have looked at the logs, even showed them to A Hole. He doesn't have a case and I told him that HE is responsible for proving you did anything wrong, but still… I have a duty to do."
Kyle snipped, "Are you going to take me to the brig?"
"Nope, but until your trial, you are confined to the ship unless escorted by another officer. I will talk to Dave about expediting it before we arrive at Draconia."
"Thanks, Aiden and sorry I snipped at you."
"No apology necessary, A Hole is being a dick head and I can understand your frustration."
As they walked away, Scott chuckled, "Not like he planned to leave the ship before we get to Draconia, anyway."
"I know, but I still had to say it. I could have confined him to his quarters, but you've seen the video."
"Yeah, and I agree with you not really punishing him. I see his 'trial' as being very short with Dave throwing out the charges due to lack of evidence."
"I do, too. So, to change the subject, how's married life treating you?" Scott only responded with a smile.
"Isn't she a beauty?" Danny asked as he and Łukasz Trevor looked through the viewport into the Bubba shuttle bay.
"Yes, she most definitely is," Łukasz replied.
Danny was referring to the Endou which was nestled in the shuttle bay between the two big Bubbas. To the untrained eye, the fighter would appear small and weak when compared to the Bubbas, but the trained eye of a space adventurer saw that her sleek lines gave her an appearance of speed and power far beyond the bulky shuttles sharing the dock with her. The visible weaponry projected danger and menace, saying to anyone observing her that they should tackle the fighter at their own risk.
There was no question in Łukasz's mind that Danny loved the fighter as much as any boy could love an inanimate object. What Łukasz did not yet know was that to Danny, the Endou was not an inanimate object but rather a living machine ready to work as a loyal partner to any pilot who treated her with deference and respect.
"I haven't flown yet," Danny told Łukasz, "but when we get to Draconia I'm going to be taking her through every test imaginable." He grinned at the fifteen-year-old lieutenant. "And you will be doing it right along with me."
"Why did you pick me?"
When Danny started thinking about the first person he would train in the Draconian fighter, he decided to pick Kyle's brains. Every senior officer plus the officers in Tactical/Security were trained to fly a shuttle, so the question was which one of them would he pick? At first, he considered picking one of the regular shuttle pilots, but Kyle disagreed. He told Danny that the first person to be trained as a second pilot for the fighter should be an officer. Danny didn't agree at first, but Kyle's persuasive arguments quickly set Danny to seeing things his way.
That brought Danny back to the question of who he should pick. Kyle said it should be someone other than a senior officer. "We're too busy fucking things up running the Sooloo to have time learning how to fly some outer space hot-rod," Kyle said one evening as he and Danny were cuddled in bed. "I suggest you ask your mentor, Hal, our esteemed First Officer, for suggestions." Which is what Danny did. For his part, Hal felt that Łukasz, who was still fairly new to the ship, would be an ideal choice. It would not only enhance his status with his crewmates, it would help him feel that he was valued by the officers on the Sooloo.
"I asked Kyle and Hal for help in choosing a second pilot and they gave me your name. I thought it was a great idea and so here you are."
For a moment, Łukasz felt a surge of surprise at being chosen by Danny. Had it been Tomalok, he would have resented a mere twelve-year-old who not only picked him but would be training him as well. No, Łukasz quickly realized that this was the kind of thinking that had plagued the Endurance while he served on it and was not proper thinking for an officer on the Sooloo.
Danny led Łukasz onto the fighter. They sat in the pilot and copilot seats. The big smiles on their faces was all anyone needed to see to know the tween and the teen were in their element.
"It smells really good," Łukasz said.
"Yeah, it still has that new fighter smell, which… I guess it is still kinda new."
After enjoying the feel of the seats, they got up and left the fighter. Danny thought it would help Łukasz to actually sit in the fighter and get a feel for her beauty and power from within before they started to work on the simulator.
They headed to the Holodecks where a quarter section of Holodeck One was reserved for the simulator. Brad and Roger had taken the Draconian simulator program and downloaded it into the holodeck computer. Danny had sat at the simulator more than a dozen times learning the controls and taking the fighter through simulated battles and situations. He also made suggestions to Brad regarding changes and improvements.
Danny and Łukasz were in the holodeck layout, which was the same as the cockpit they had just left. Łukasz noted that the smell wasn't there nor was the sense of power and urgency that seemed to be throbbing though the fighter even with all its systems shut down.
The training session lasted two hours with a ten-minute break in the middle. Łukasz was impressed not only with Danny's intimate knowledge of how the fighter behaved but also with Danny's ability to teach it. Any lingering doubts he'd had about Danny were gone after the first ten minutes of training.
It was obvious Danny not only knew what he was doing, but loved what he was doing, and Łukasz picked up on that quickly. As they entered the second hour of training it was apparent that the two would make a formidable team. Danny was proud of being able to show what he knew to an older boy who was senior in rank. Łukasz felt more of being a part of the Sooloo's crew than he had since he transferred. In the midst of all that, the two developed a mutual respect for each other that would serve them well in the future.
The plan was for everyone to have fun, fun and more fun, which is exactly what happened. Skinny dipping was followed by a keep away game which was followed by learning how to paddle the canoes.
"Here is how this is going to work," Juro told the boys as they stood on the small wooden dock. "I will take two of you in one canoe and Tomo will take the other two. We'll let you guys decide how you want to split up." They were all naked; their "weather" was hot and with no UV lighting they didn't have to worry about sunburn.
Tomo and Juro had agreed that the twins would make one pair and Koji and Lars the other. They were surprised when the four boys quickly proved them wrong. Jason ran over to Koji and wrapped his arms around him. That was surprising since Jason generally gave only his brother spontaneous hugs. Koji grinned and held up Jason's hand to show they were a pair, which made Jonas and Lars the other pair.
Koji breathed a sigh of relief when Juro said that he and Jason would be in his canoe. He felt that Tomo didn't like him very much. He knew he would have to find more ways to help Tomo do things so Tomo would like him better. Until then he thought it might be a good idea to stay out of his way.
The two older boys sat in the center of their canoes and paddled to the end of the small lake. They showed the younger boys how to use their paddles in the water and how to work together. All four of them picked up the process quickly and were soon doing the work.
"Can we do it by ourselves for a little bit?" Jonas asked Tomo. Tomo agreed and they paddled to Juro's canoe. The older boys were dropped off at the pier. The younger boys loved moving around each other. Lars suggested they race each other, and everyone agreed to his idea.
Because they were using a full holodeck, the lake was bigger than the pond they had for their swimming fun with their dads and unkas as well as during recess. But it was just big enough to give Lars the idea that was readily accepted.
"Let's race," he suggested.
"We'll win," Koji boasted.
"Only if you sink our canoe."
The canoes floated around each other as the boys made up some rules for the race. They paddled past the dock and to the end of the lake on the stern end of the holodeck.
"We're going to race," Koji called out to Tomo and Juro.
"Just don't crash into each other and capsize," Tomo cautioned.
"You sound like an old woman," Juro kidded him.
"And for good reason since the Trio can get a bit wild, not to mention Koji."
"It will be interesting to see how they planned this. There was a lot of chatter going on and I could only pick up some of what they were saying."
"You say GO!" Jonas yelled to the older boys from the end of the lake.
"I've got it," Tomo told Juro.
Tomo counted down and on his "GO!" the boys took off.
"No question Lars and Jonas win this," Juro told Tomo. Tomo agreed.
Koji was the rear paddler in his canoe. He had picked up the proper technique quickly and was a strong boy. Jason had an uncanny ability to stay in synch with Koji's powerful strokes. Lars and Jonas were smoother than Koji and Jason but weren't as strong.
Because the lake was small, the boys decided to race the length of the lake four times. Their lack of experience and skill made for awkward turns, but they did manage to avoid colliding. Lars and Jonas made up any distance lost by executing better turns. After the fourth turn they were about half a canoe length in the lead.
Koji bore down and yelled out, "Stroke, stroke, stroke!" when he dipped his paddle. Jason kept in rhythm with Koji. Juro and Tomo ran to the end of the lake in case they had to judge who the winner was. It turned out they didn't have to as Koji and Jason won by a little over a quarter canoe length.
The four boys were all smiles as they paddled to the little dock. Koji and Jason had surprised Tomo and Juro by winning the race, but other than who had earned some bragging rights, the boys had so much fun just racing it didn't really matter who won.
"What's next?" Jason asked as soon as all four boys stood on the dock.
"Next is getting a fire built and preparing dinner," Juro told them.
"Dinner is good. Koji is hungry."
"And you're not alone, Koji," Juro laughed.
Jonas was given fire starting duties while the other three boys helped to set the picnic bench with plates, glasses, flatware, and napkins. They also got out condiments and buns for the hot dogs and laid out the potato salad, chips, and cookies for dessert. Koji, Jason, and Lars were envious of Jonas being the fire starter, but they also acknowledged that he was good at complicated tasks like starting a fire.
Tomo was in charge setting up for the meal while Juro showed Jonas how to light the tinder. Thanks to some complicated programming when Jonas struck his long match correctly the program would have it create heat. The heat coming from the match would then light the tinder if it had been placed correctly. The last step would be placing the larger sticks of wood on the burning tinder, so it would erupt into a flaming ersatz fire.
Tomo gave the boys instructions on how to roast their hot dogs and the boys enjoyed the pleasure of cooking their own meals over what was as close to an open fire as the holographic program could make it.
"So, we found out that the Draconians did, in fact, upgrade our communication's array. One of our people authorized the modifications even though he wasn't authorized to authorize shit." Dave told Zorn.
"Dave, I spoke to Admiral Mirah; he would like to speak to you. I wouldn't agree to it until I spoke to you and unless you agreed." Zorn related.
"To be honest, my friend, I could use some advice from him. Can you bring him into this conversation?"
A moment later, the voice of Dave's long-time mentor came across. "Well, this is a surprise... how are things going, Zippy?"
Dave laughed. It was the first time in over two months that he had heard that particular nickname of his being used. He punched a control on his desk and the next thing he saw was a split screen display appear. He could see his friend, Zorn on one side, and his mentor, Fleet Admiral William "Bill" Mirah on the other. "It's good to see you, Sir. A lot has happened in a short time."
"I can tell from your reports. Fill me in."
Dave spent the next forty-five minutes doing just that. "We'll be on our way back to Draconia in the morning, Sir. We have an obligation to take the artifact back to them."
Bill nodded, "You remember the mission protocols, Dave?"
"I do, Sir. But I also remember you telling me that there are times when the Captain needs to make a call. Sometimes the protocols can go to hell because ignoring them is just the right thing to do. This is one of those times."
"Good, I'm glad you actually listened to me. There are times to follow the letter of the Rules, Regulations and Protocols, and times where the Captain needs to make his own decisions. That's why we chose you for the job you have. I will support your decisions."
"Sir, there is one more thing. I am very concerned about the ships... not just the Sooloo, but all of the exploration ships losing their autonomy if the Draconians agree to upgrade the communications on Earth. We can't be out here worried that every decision we make will be scrutinized, second-guessed, or countermanded. It would completely ruin the entire program."
Mirah had a huge smile on his face as he heard this, but Dave wasn't looking at his face. He was worried about the response he was going to get. What he heard made him feel as if his concerns were well founded, "I knew it! I damn well knew it!"
"Sir..." Dave started then turned to look at his mentor's face. He stopped talking and listened.
"Good, another lesson you've learned... I'm pleased. I told you that I would support your decisions. I also believe you and agree with your reservations. I will guarantee you that your concerns will not come to pass. Get yourself back to Draconia. If you need to talk to me in the meantime, contact Zorn and he can put us in touch, just like now. I'm proud of you, Son. Damn proud."
At that moment the door chime on Dave's ready room went off. He called for whoever was there to enter. The door opened, and Hal entered with their son, Lars. "Sir, I want to introduce you to someone. We picked him up on our first planetfall. Admiral Mirah, this is Hal and my son, Lars."
Mirah looked at the boy and smiled, "Well, hello Lars. It's very nice to meet you. We will have a chance to get to know each other better, I'm sure, but for now, promise me you will take care of Captain Bowman and Commander Tietokone for me."
Lars smiled and replied, "I will take care of them and my parents too."
The evening was spent playing games, tossing balls, and laughing a lot. Then as a holodeck computer created a sunset, they roasted marshmallows and enjoyed them along with chocolate milk. They talked about how much fun they were having and told stories and jokes.
Jonas set up a joke when he talked about camping in the mountains in New York. "They're called the Catskill Mountains and have lots of woods and trails and hills and camping. Jason and me loved camping there."
At that point Jonas had a joke ready. "Have you seen the Catskill Mountains?" he asked Jason.
"No, but I've seen them kill mice."
"Boo," Tomo laughed. "That's worse than my tent falling down." Koji was happy to hear Tomo laugh about the accident. 'Maybe he's not mad at me anymore,' he thought.
"What are we doing tomorrow?" Jason asked as they sat around the fire.
"How about a hike in the woods?" Tomo responded.
"Jason and me were in the woods getting wood," Jonas reminded Tomo.
"But you were at the edge of the woods," Juro pointed out. "We're going to go as deep into the woods as we can."
"But we're not going near the kaldaka are we?" Jason asked warily.
"We'll try not to," Juro said, "but when I was your age on Draconia and went camping with my Jippu (" Jippu is Draconian for birth father, or real father. It is usually only used by orphans or adopted children. "), sometimes we could hear them growling in their lair when we hiked past them."
"Was it scary?" Koji asked.
"Oh, very scary. But even scarier was hearing them outside of our tent at night looking for food."
"That would scare me too much," Lars said.
"But they didn't scare me as much as the ghosts of the boys who got lost in the woods did," Tomo told them. "Sometimes you could see them deep in the woods even at night."
The boys looked across the end of lake and into where the dark woods were wondering if they would see anything. They held on to each other as Tomo and Juro told stories of ghosts and wild animals. When Koji thought he saw a flicker of white light, he pointed to it in silent fear. The other boys saw nothing, but they swore they heard growling. And when the light reappeared and remained longer, they grabbed each other and screamed in terror, forgetting about what they had learned from their trick-or-treat experiences in the holodeck.
When the boys calmed down, Juro told them it was time for them to get ready for bed, but the boys continued to cling to each other.
"Those lights were fake, like at Halloween, right" Koji asked.
"Who said the Halloween stuff was fake?" Tomo asked.
"Juro does because he is laughing," Lars pointed out.
"I can't help it. We thought you'd scream or something, but we didn't think you'd get totally scared."
"Nobody was totally scared." Koji's voice was filled with bravado.
"But we were a little bit scared," Jonas confessed.
"Yeah, but just a little," Lars added. "Being on the Rafael fighting the star was scarier because it was real."
"Yeah, but those lights looked real," Jason said.
"If a ghost comes into our tent tonight, I'll kick it," Koji threatened.
"And your foot will go right through it," Lars laughed.
Their moment of fright having dissipated, the boys were ready for bed. Before they retired for the night, Tomo asked, "What is Christmas? Ali mentioned it but didn't explain it."
Jason got excited and started blurting out what he knew. Jonas added, "You have to be good to get presents."
Tomo looked at Koji, "Whelp, I guess you're out of luck."
"Koji is a good boy," Koji pouted.
"You are, I'm just teasing," Tomo declared.
Tomo and Juro were certain that the four boys would sleep in four different sleeping bags. They were wrong once again. Koji was thinking he would sleep with Lars, but Jason once again grabbed him.
"I'm sleeping with you," Jason told Koji.
"Then Koji will sleep with you."
"I guess I will sleep with Lars," Jonas said, which made him quite happy.
But, before anybody slept with anybody, the twins lay on their backs side-by-side enjoying the oral ministrations of their friends: Koji on Jason, and Lars on Jonas. After they exchanged roles and had more fun, they were more than ready to crash.
Tomo and Juro paid no attention to what was happening in the younger boys' tent. They were enjoying plenty of erotic fun on their own.
"No, please Uncle Harry, it hurts. It hurts," Scott started screaming out.
Łuke shook his husband, "Scott, Scott, you're having that nightmare again."
Scott opened his eyes and tears were running down his face. "How long am I going to have these? I thought I had them under control; why did they start back up. Why did my uncle do this?"
"Babe, I wish I had the answers for you. Perhaps we can see Dr. Tom to see if he might be able to help." Scott just nodded his head.
As Łuke got dressed, he kept looking at his husband. Scott was getting dressed, but he was moving slow. Łuke finished dressing and then helped Scott.
Koji was the first boy to awaken. He needed to pee badly. He climbed out of his sleeping bag, being careful not to wake up Jason. Considering how their naked bodies were tangled together, that was not an easy task.
Their sleeping bag was closer to the door than the one Lars and Jonas were sleeping in, which made it easy for him to unzip the tent flap and crawl outside. The sky was just starting to lighten so Koji could see well enough to see the bushes they had been using as their pissing area. After finishing he returned to the tent and met Lars coming out.
"I gotta piss," Lars said just in case Koji couldn't figure it out for himself.
"I used the little tree so don't go stepping there in your bare feet," Koji warned him.
"Thanks. I could do it here and use you as my tree."
"But we are uphill from the tent and so it would be a no-no."
"Then I will find me a bush."
Koji entered the tent and saw that Jonas was awake. "Good morning, Koji. I'll wake up Jason and we'll go pee and then we can all wake up Tomo and Juro, so we can start breakfast."
Koji and Jonas soon woke up the two older boys. The six boys took a dip in the lake to wipe off the night's sweat (or in the case of Tomo and Juro a bit of sticky residue left over from their fun the night before).
After their quick swim they soon had a fire going and breakfast cooking in the iron skillets. The skillets were set on a grill that Juro had placed over the firepit. Juro and Tomo did an excellent job of cooking the bacon and scrambled eggs. Jonas and Lars helped with the cooking while Koji and Jason got the table ready. The boys agreed it was the best breakfast they'd had in a long time.
"Did you boys all sleep well last night?" Juro asked. He and Tomo were worried they might have taken things too far with the special effects for their scary stories.
"Koji slept good," Koji said. "Jason made me nice and comfy."
Tomo and Juro glanced at each other but said nothing. They were surprised that the boys had slept in pairs and pleased that there were no nightmares. They wondered if the two were connected.
After breakfast they cleaned the campsite and prepared for their hike.
"Why do we have to get dressed to hike?" Koji asked.
Tomo sighed and said, "You need shoes on your feet and clothes on our body to protect you from sticker bushes and thorns and whatever else we might find."
"Like kaldakas?" Jason asked.
"You never know," Juro replied with a grin.
"I will stay away from bushes," Koji said. Tomo and Juro knew that campouts were not the place for language lessons but noted in their minds when Koji used first person when talking about himself thinking Kyle or Danny might ask about it after school started up. That was the first time they had heard him refer to himself in first person since the campout started.
"Koji, I'm sure you can do that, but the question is will they stay away from you?"
The boys dressed in t-shirts and long pants. They also wore belts with bottle holders where they each placed a bottle of cool water.
The hike was a big success. The trail had many interesting plants to see along with some birds, small mammals, and even a couple of snakes, which elicited shrieks of fear and delight. The back end of the trail was circular, and like the Halloween program, it changed each time they completed a circuit.
On one circuit, Jonas and Lars swore they heard a low grumble and wondered if they were close to a kaldaka den. The other four boys came over and thought they heard something as well and speculated it might be snoring. They dared each other to take a look behind the brush. Nobody but Koji moved. He walked into the brush, but the low grumble stopped. He didn't find anything and came out with brambles stuck to his shirt.
"Koji is happy Tomo said to wear a shirt," Koji said as he plucked the brambles off his shirt.
"You were brave, Koji," Jason stated.
"I was scared but happy not to see a kaldaka."
They returned to camp and had another quick swim. The afternoon was spent eating lunch, snacking on cookies. They played a three-on-three volleyball game, wrestled naked in the grass, swam, canoed, laughed and screeched.
The twins challenged Lars and Koji to a canoe race with Juro and Tomo racing the winners. Lars and Koji won a close race, but Juro and Tomo felt the winners held back to keep the races close. Lars and Koji did not hold back against Juro and Tomo, but the bigger boys were too strong and won a surprisingly close race by less than a canoe length.
"Hey Scott, hey Łuke, what brings you in today?" Christian inquired.
"Um… Is Dr. Tom around?" Scott inquired.
"He is at breakfast but should be in shortly. Can I be of assistance, or would you rather talk to the Doogie or wait on Tom?"
Scott questioned, "That depends, are you aware of my secret?"
"I've seen everyone's medical records, but there is a part on yours that only Dr. Tom can see. I am guessing that it would be to what you are referring."
"Go ahead and tell him, Babe. You did nothing to be ashamed of," Łuke urged.
"But I am ashamed," Scott cried.
"I know, and I support whatever decision you make. I think you will get past it quicker if you are open about it, but only you have a right to decide that."
"Thanks, Łuke, that means a lot to me. I trust you and that means I trust your judgment." Scott broke down crying a few times, but he told Christian the whole story.
When he was done, Christian asked, "So, you two just got married, have you had any sex? I only ask because that may have triggered the dreams to start back up."
"We mainly kiss and have done oral. On our wedding night, Scott performed anal sex on me for the first time. He's not ready yet for me to enter him and I will wait as long as he needs."
"You really love Scott, I can tell," Christian stated, "and I can tell he loves you. It is possible that is what reignited the dreams, or rather nightmares. Scott, did you do any counselling after the event?"
"Yes, as I said, I left for the Academy the next day, but after classes, I saw a counsellor for an hour every Monday, and then we had a group session for an hour after."
"And did that help?"
"Not at first; I was too ashamed and felt embarrassed."
"But it did eventually help?"
"Yes, I think it was about six weeks before I started feeling better."
Christian smiled, "I would like to have either myself, Tom or the Doogie sit with you and talk. It could be anything that you feel comfortable talking about. If not right away, you will eventually discuss what happened."
"Will we meet here, or will someone go to my quarters?"
"Wherever you will feel more comfortable. We can even do it on the holodeck, if you want. This session will be all about you, so whoever you want, wherever you want."
"To be honest, I feel better already, so I would like for you to do it. I do have a question… would it possibly help if I let Łuke enter me?"
"With how you feel about him, it might, but I can't say for sure. Know that, you will never be a hundred percent over it, but giving yourself to someone you love like that may ease the pain of being violated."
"Babe, are you sure you are ready?" Łuke inquired.
"I may never be ready until we actually do it. Knowing how much you love me, I seriously believe it will help."
"I will on one condition. If you feel uncomfortable doing it, and I don't mean the usual discomfort associated with the first time, but emotionally, I want you to tell me."
"I will, but not right away. I may initially experience dread when we start, but I want to give that dread a chance to turn into happiness before we stop."
"I can accept that," Łuke agreed.
As they were almost done, there was a knock on the door. Christian opened it and Dave was standing there. "Captain, what can I do for you?"
"Is Scott Trevor in there?"
"Yes Sir, but we just finished up, if you need to see him."
"Is he decent?" not that Dave would have felt weird seeing Scott naked, but he didn't want to make Scott feel uncomfortable.
"He is, we were just chatting."
Dave entered the exam room, "Scott, I just heard from Admiral Mirah. I don't know any easy way to say this, but… your Uncle Harry was just killed in prison."
"What?" Scott was stunned. Dave repeated himself and Scott said, "I don't know how to feel. Up until he found out I was gay, Uncle Harry was always a great guy, but then…"
"I understand what you are saying, and your emotions are normal, I believe. If you need some time off, I will let Aiden know."
"Thanks, Dave," Scott offered. "I have the day off already and I think I will be good by my next watch."
"Okay, but if it comes time and you don't feel ready, don't hesitate to take the time." As Dave left, he told Christian to remind Dr. Tom about the Senior Staff meeting.
Dave called a senior staff meeting to discuss the current situation in regards to communications. He arranged with Randy Jenkins to have lunch provided for his staff,
After he finished serving lunch, Randy Jenkins took his seat at the table. Normally the Kitchen Staff didn't attend these meetings, but Dave thought they should be represented for this one. Logan Kristoff would usually have been the one to attend but was busy preparing one of his special dishes for the evening meal and assigned Randy to take his place.
All the Senior Staff were there, Hal, Jordan, Jace, Aiden, Connor, Brad, Randy Kohl, Kyle and Dr. Tom from medical, seated around the table with Dave.
Conversation was carefree, and Dave was enjoying the family feel that was prevalent among the friends on his staff. He got everyone's attention and got the meeting started.
"First off, I'd like to tell you how proud I am of each and every one of you for your performance in the past few days. We have witnessed... heck, participated, in an event that we will be able to tell our children and their children about. Each of you have acquitted yourselves in the finest tradition of Space Fleet. I wish I could give each of you a medal, but I am putting one of you in for a citation for going above and beyond. Commander Kyle Robinson, against all odds, successfully navigated and flew a starship, with only the aid of thrusters and avoided the destruction of the Sooloo, giving enough time for our Engineering staff to get our engines restarted."
Kyle looked as if he wanted to slip below the table and his face was as red as a raw Shimmy steak. "It was Juro's idea."
"True, but you are the one who executed it," Dave didn't let him off the hook... not yet.
"I have communicated with Admiral Mirah and he has approved this citation. Now, I'm sure you're wondering how this happened?" Dave pressed a button and the screen behind him came on. On one side was Zorn, at the controls of the Golden Dragon, and on the other, Admirals Mirah and Robinson sitting there with what can only be described as 'shit eating grins.'
"DAD!" Kyle yelled out before regaining his composure. He sat up straight and did a very passable 'Picard maneuver' pulling down his uniform top to straighten it before saying, "Fleet Admiral Mirah, Admiral Robinson. It's nice to see you."
After a few minutes of talk between Kyle and the Admirals, Dave explained about the communications upgrades. He then said, "We will have a more in-depth meeting on this in the next few days, but for now, know that these communications are not easy to put together. I want to thank Zorn for facilitating it. Commander Marlin, I will be happy to brief you personally after this meeting concludes. Commander Robinson, at 1700 this evening, you are to report here with your husband and son for a mandatory 30-minute meeting with Admiral Robinson. You are all dismissed."
As the afternoon wore on, Tomo noted the time since they would have to start breaking down the camp around 1715 and no later than 1730. His comm read 1635. "We have time for one more quick swim before we have to start cleaning up and breaking down," Tomo shouted to the boys who were already starting cleanup by tearing out the croquet wickets. "Last one in is a naked wyvern."
Koji was just about to start off for the dock, so he could jump into the lake when one of the entrances to the holodeck opened and Kyle stepped in.
Koji walked over to him without enthusiasm. "Daddy Kyle, you are not supposed to be here," Koji admonished his father.
Kyle's twelve-year-old mind wanted to tell Koji what he could do with himself because of his rudeness, but he took a deep breath and paused the way Dave told him to and let his next thought take over. "I know, and I know you're having way too much fun without me, but you're going to have to leave early."
"No, Koji can't leave. It's swimming time and then we go after swimming, okay Daddy?"
"Sorry, son, but this is important. Somebody wants to meet you."
"Koji can meet him later. He is on the Sooloo, so I don't need to go early."
"He is your grandfather, Admiral Robinson, and he's not on the Sooloo."
Koji gave him a confused look as he wondered how his grandfather could not be on the Sooloo, but they would still be able to meet. "Koji wants to swim and help clean up." Koji gave his father his most surly look.
Kyle took another deep breath as the thought of how he could win Koji over to keep the family meeting from becoming a major disaster. "Your Grandfather wants to see his grandson very badly because he loves you. Since he is a very busy man, this is a time that he can see you and talk to you. We have to be finished by 1730 and you can come back to help breakdown the camp. Plus, I promise you that you can have some extra swimming time with your friends next week if you're a good boy and come to the meeting with your best smile for your grandfather."
"I am always a good boy," Koji said earnestly and properly.
Kyle took advantage of the opening. "And you are being really good right now." He opened up a small carrying case he had brought with him and took out Koji's school uniform along with fresh underpants, socks, and his good shoes. "Now, get dressed quickly so we won't be late."
Ignoring the gleeful shouting behind him, Koji quickly dressed out in the open. He was determined to be on his best behavior and earn extra swimming time with his friends next week. While Koji dressed, Kyle explained to Tomo what was going on.
As soon he was dressed, Koji dashed to the shore of the lake. "Koji has to go for something very important, but we all get extra swimming time next week for Koji being good." Lars and the twins cheered as Koji ran back up to the tent. "Koji will be back soon to help clean up," he assured Tomo.
"That's okay, Koji, you enjoy what you're doing," Tomo told him. "I'm sure we'll get everything taken care of just fine without your help."
"Koji will be a good helper and make things faster."
'Or make us late leaving the holodeck, which is a major no-no,' Tomo thought.
Kyle wondered what that little exchange was about as he took Koji's proffered hand and walked out of the holodeck with his son.
Tomo was tempted to start tearing down the camp right then so it would be completed by the time Koji returned, but that would be punishing the other boys because Koji kept getting under his skin. He shook the thought out of his head and joined the skinny-dipping session in the lake.
Admiral Gregory Robinson sat in the cabin provided by Zorn waiting for the time when he would meet with his family. His chair was soft and comfortable. He worried about drifting off to sleep, but the way his mind was spinning that was probably unlikely.
'Family,' he thought. When the Sooloo left on its mission the family he had on the starship totaled one person—his son Kyle. Little did he dream that in almost three months, he would not only be talking to a family of three, but he would be using instantaneous communication into deep space.
His thoughts turned to that family of three. He knew he had not been a good father. He wanted to raise a perfect son, a boy who would grow into an unquestioned leader. He did not care whether his son liked him as long as he respected him.
But then came that nonsense with the stars talking to him, at least that's how he saw it at the time. Robinson recalled physically punishing his six-year-old son for being a blithering idiot. Four years later he caught Kyle naked and in a sexual situation with his best friend Danny. The result was his humiliating Danny by sending him out of the house naked and tossing his clothes out after he left and then once again physically punishing Kyle.
'I was going to make a tough, strong man out of my son,' he thought. 'Instead I lost his respect and made Danny, who was a sweet, polite, well-behaved young boy collateral damage in my war against my son. What an ass I was.'
He tried to make things up with Kyle by using his influence to get him out of trouble at the Space Academy Prep School where he enrolled Kyle not long after the incident with Danny. Gregory knew in those years he gave his son everything but love.
Fortunately, Admiral Mirah showed him the error of his ways in time for him to make amends with his son before he left on his epic space adventure. He also allowed him to work behind the scenes to get Danny assigned to the Sooloo in time to become Kyle's crewmate.
Obviously, Danny had become more than that, Gregory chuckled to himself. Never did he dream that they would be married at twelve years old. And not only married, but fathers to a young boy, all of it legal in accordance with Draconian law. As much as the officer in him wanted to disapprove, the father in him could not. If the last few months had taught him anything it was that love was the most important ingredient to cementing a father-son relationship. 'That love has to carry over to my son-in-law and to my (dare I say it?) grandson.'
Gregory was grateful Kyle was chosen to serve on the Sooloo. Bill Mirah let him read the reports between the star ships and Space Fleet. Those reports told him the same thing that they told Mirah, that the Sooloo, under Captain David Bowman, and the Gateway, under Captain Michael Park, were the top two ships in the program. They had faced some tough situations and had comported themselves brilliantly and with valor.
Then there were the ships at the bottom of the scale, in particular the Endurance and the Victorious. Mirah had confided in him as the ships launched into space that putting twenty teen-age boys in charge of star ships would lead to many wondrous miracles as most of those boys quickly became men and to a couple of disasters as some of those teenage boys behaved like, well, teenage boys.
The Endurance seemed to be getting its act together. But the Victorious was a different story. The last communication had arrived three weeks ago. It said that by the requisite unanimous vote of the senior officers, Captain Robert Chapman, along with his First Officer Andy McGowan, had been relieved of duty and confined to quarters. As if this wasn't disturbing enough, what was more disturbing was that no reason was given.
Chapman had last communicated that his senior officers were unhappy with the strict discipline on the ship and that he may have to discipline them for unstated reasons. The next communication was the one telling of the senior officer revolt. Since then, they heard nothing. Then there was the SS Stephen William Hawking. They haven't sent a report in for months.
Once again Gregory was grateful. He was grateful that Kyle didn't end up on either the Endurance or the Victorious or on the ships that were being commanded competently, but not with the panache that Bowman displayed.
Bowman had to be quite the confident leader just to take his hostile and rebellious son and nurture him into not only one of the youngest senior officers in the fleet, but into a decorated officer to top it off. The pride Gregory felt in his son was at times overwhelming. 'And it was a teenage ship's captain who found the potential I almost knocked out of him,' the Admiral thought.
Of course, there was Kyle's communicating with the stars. He thought of what Commander Hanson, Kyle's Astrogation teacher had told him, that the stars can and do communicate. The Commander said he had felt a wee bit of their power, but Kyle somehow had what was needed to feel that power deep within himself.
So, the two things I tried to beat out of him became a huge part of making him the boy… no, the young man… he was: the stars and Danny Harper. Thanks to David Bowman, Kyle was able to have both in his life.
Gregory took his mind off his son and wondered how instant communications would have affect Kyle's path. He wondered if he would have tried to interfere in Kyle's life to the detriment of his son. He was happy he didn't have to make that choice.
The question was, what would it do now? There were those in the admiralty who would be more than willing to stick their noses where they didn't belong.
Admiral Logan Davis was one of those. He was in command of Space Transportation Services, for God's sake. What did he know about space exploration? From what Gregory heard, Burroughs was a vocal critic of Bowman. It was understood that sexual liaisons would form on the star ships, but Davis felt that the whole business of teens and even preteens getting married was an abomination.
"And then these kids go out and adopt extraterrestrials?" Davis had ranted a couple of days before. "Really, Greg? Just what the hell are they thinking? Are we operating ships of exploration or nursery schools? If we could, I'd recall the lot and quit wasting our money paying a bunch of irresponsible kids to play space explorer. I was against this from the start, and for good reason."
"Well, you're running interplanetary cargo and passenger ships," Gregory wanted to say. Greg knew Admiral Davis was unaware of the marital status of his son or of his new grandson… or he might have clocked his colleague. While Logan Davis was at the extreme end of thinking in the Admiralty, Gregory knew that a couple of other Admirals shared some of his views. He was grateful that Fleet Admiral Mirah understood the value of the Space Exploration program and wasn't going to let two-or-three doubters ruin a good thing. But Admirals like Logan Davis were reasons why Mirah was going to have to protect the autonomous status of the ships should instant communication become the norm.
Gregory looked at his watch and saw it was time for him to meet Zorn and get the communication system ready for his meeting with his family, the family that wasn't on Earth, but he found himself loving almost sight unseen.
It was 16:55. Not long ago, he would have told Zorn to turn on the system. He had always drilled into his underlings, including Kyle, that less than five minutes early was actually late. Bill Mirah has taught him that there was too much that could suddenly get in the way in a starship to make that a realistic policy.
"Plus, there is also the X factor of a boy who, I guess, is the equivalent of a seven- or eight-year-old," Mirah had told Greg. "You know from your own experience how that can foul up even the best-intentioned officer and make him late by anybody's standards."
As he waited, Robinson couldn’t help but smile when he thought of Kyle’s reaction to seeing him earlier. When Kyle had yelled out “Dad!” Robinson saw his son’s excitement as an outpouring of love; it was as if the last wall between father and son had been torn down. Kyle’s reaction to his own excitement when he straightened his jacket and tried to exhibit the behavior befitting an officer was so precious, Robinson couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by love for and pride in his son.
Gregory Robinson took that to heart as he watched the blank screen in front of him. Using Mirah’s standard, the boys could even be later than the scheduled 1700 time, although from what he now knew of his son he doubted that would happen.
And so, at 1700 Zorn activated the screen and standing in front of him was Kyle, Danny, and the cutest little rascal he’d seen in a long time.
There was a lot of good-natured wrestling and grab ass going in the water. Everyone was careful not to grab the asses and privates across the age divide, but there were no holds barred where the Titanic Trio was concerned; something Tomo and Juro couldn't fail to notice. At just after 1700 the trio got out of the water and started toward the brushy area, making no attempt to hide their little erections.
"Where are you guys going?" Juro asked.
"We have to pee," Jonas answered.
Juro didn't bother to ask why they didn't just abide by the age-old tenet of boys and pee in the lake. He had a feeling there would be more happening on the other side of the lake than urinating.
"I think the Titanic Trio has a lot more going on between them than we thought," Juro observed.
"Did you do stuff like that when you were that young?" Tomo asked, although he already knew the answer. He just wanted to hear it, knowing it would make him horny.
"How about you ask me tonight in our bed and I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"Deal." Tomo knew Juro was right not to answer and get them all riled up while in sight of the Trio. What they had done last night was wild enough.
Lying in the grass on the other side of the brush, the Trio got into position to masturbate each other. Lars was in the middle and took care of Jonas and Jason to either side of him. Jonas took care of Lars and it was Jason's turn to just close his eyes and enjoy what was being done to him.
"It's more fun with Koji," Jonas said as they started their little ritual.
"I hope he's not in trouble," Lars said.
"Koji is always in trouble."
"I meant this time. That wouldn't be a fun way to end his camping trip."
"Be quiet so we can finish playing," Jason said.
It didn't take them long to get the feelings they desired and return to the lake. Their flaccid cocklets told the two older boys all they needed to know.
"Five more minutes and we start cleanup," Tomo told the boys.
"But holodeck makes everything disappear when it is shut down," Lars pointed out. "Why do we have to clean up? We can swim more if we just let the holodeck clean up."
"Remember, Juro and I are trying to teach you the proper way of camping," Tomo responded. "And proper camping means that good campers clean up their campsite and pack everything to leave."
"Even if we're not taking it with us?"
"Yes, but we are taking the good feeling of doing everything the right way."
"Then let's go in the lake for five minutes of fun and then we will go do everything right," Jonas said.
When their five minutes was up, the boys left the water, dried themselves and each other, and dressed.
Juro took care of loading the carts with the cooking supplies, like the skillets, the spears for roasting the hot dogs and marshmallows, and the jars and containers that the food items were packed in.
"I see why we have to clean," Jonas said. "These things won't disappear when the holodeck is turned off since we brought them."
"Good job, Jonas. I wondered when somebody was going to figure that out," Juro said.
Jason was helping Tomo. The first thing they did was go down to the lake and make sure all of their balls, and other toys had been put away and that the canoes were properly secured. Next, they took down the volleyball net and pulled up the croquet wickets and stakes.
"That game was boring. You can't run when you play it," Jason said as he placed the wickets in their bag. Organization was one of Jason's strengths.
"It's a game of skill and strategy," Tomo said. Since Tomo had won the three games he'd played, Jason was certain that Tomo must be a master of skill and strategy.
As the time passed 1745, Juro asked, "Do you think they would get upset if we stayed longer?"
"Not happening," Tomo insisted, "Remember, you told Captain Dave that someone had this holodeck reserved for 2000, and I just checked, Deck One is now reserved for 1815. Second, I'm breaking down the camp while Koji is away."
Juro asked, "Didn't you say you liked Koji?"
"I love the little guy, but I feel like he enjoys tormenting ME," Tomo explained.
"That just means he likes you."
"Then I wish he'd find a better way of showing it. Koji got all angry when Kyle came to take him away. Kyle looked like he wanted to get into Koji's face and scream, but somehow, he totally kept his cool and even got Koji to smile."
Before Juro could respond, the inside holodeck door opened, and Koji skipped in with a big smile on his face. His smile got bigger when he saw one of the tents still standing. "I'm just in time to help," he said happily. Tomo looked at Juro and moaned, but he got no sympathy from his friend.
"Koji is here to do what he does best, and that's knock things down," Juro said.
"Yeah but, knocking things down doesn't mean destroying them."
Koji started pulling a corner stake when Tomo stopped him. "No Koji, the stakes come out last. We pull out the guy wires and take down the poles first. Now, don't do anything until I tell you to, and then do exactly what I said. Lars you can help take this tent down, too."
With Koji and Lars working as a team and Tomo giving patient instructions, the taking down of the last tent went surprisingly fast and smoothly. At 1758 they had everything taken down and packed. At 1800 the signal that their time was up sounded. The boys had their backpacks on and walked off the holodeck at 1802. Tomo and Juro each pushed a cart out the door. At 1805, the sensors on the holodeck said that no one was on the deck and the campsite disappeared.
The six boys went to the classroom where the younger ones thanked Tomo and Juro for putting together the camping trip. "Will we have another one?" Lars asked.
"Yes," Tomo and Juro answered together which led to a loud cheer.
"Okay boys, there is dinner waiting for us in the main mess hall," Tomo said. He looked over at Jason. "Randy said something about cooking a big pot of sketti."
Jason's face broke into a wide grin. "I like sketti," His statement was met with unanimous agreement.
They walked out of the classroom. Tomo and Juro each grabbed a cart to return to the kitchen. Before they started moving, Koji walked up to Tomo and hugged him. The little boy looked up at the bigger boy and said, "Thank you for letting me be your helper."
Tomo felt a bolt of warmth shoot through him. Koji's simple little statement had made up for all his sins—at least for now.
Two weeks had passed since the Sooloo had left Kairu to return to Draconia. The crew celebrated Jack Gillespie's birthday on the twelfth and are closing in on Draconia.
Juro looked up from his monitor, "Captain, we have a ship approaching. It shows as a Fighter Class."
"Is it Draconian?" Dave inquired.
Juro shook his head, "I've never seen this configuration before."
"Are the specs for the new fighter's configuration in our system? Compare it to the new fighter in our shuttle bay."
"Sir, that configuration is not yet in our systems."
"Damn, do I need to get on Aiden and Scott? They should have entered that right away. Put the approaching vessel on screen and magnify."