Dave chatted with King Zedrick on Draconia and found out Crewman Alan Hole was the one who authorized the Communication upgrade. Not only that, A Hole claimed to be a commander. Also, the Sooloo will be taking on a Draconian Liaison.
The boys requested permission to go camping, and it was granted. Meanwhile, Will asked John Luke to marry him, but John asked that they hold off since they've only started dating. Will was disappointed but understood.
Aiden looked at the video of when A Hole authorized the Communication upgrade. While interviewing A Hole, A Hole decided to press charges against Kyle Robinson.
Kyle paid his debt to Steve. Danny introduced Łukasz to the fighter. Lars got to meet Dave's mentor and Koji met his grandpa. Scott was having a nightmare about when his uncle abused him, then discovered that his uncle was killed about the same time.
"Well, how was it?" Danny asked his husband.
"As always, it was humiliating to have my ass fucked by a mere lieutenant," Kyle replied with a smirk.
"And you know you loved it."
"Just like I love you." Kyle rolled over and looked into his lover's eyes. "Speaking of humiliation, we haven't had a chance to talk about the meeting with my dad."
"Don't you need to take care of something first?"
"Look at my cock."
Danny did more than that, he also fondled Kyle's limp penis. "Damn, I must have been good."
"I'll clean what little squirted on my belly before we snuggle up to sleep. Now, about my question…"
"Yeah, right, it was interesting. You know how much I used to hate your dad, aka, my father-in-law."
"You need to read more. It's like saying he has an alias. Aka—also known as."
"I read a lot, dude… I just don't read the trashy stuff you read."
"Hey, I just discovered detective books. Some of them are really exciting. You should try them."
"You still haven't answered my question."
Danny could feel Kyle's intensity just by looking into his eyes. He knew that his answer was not only important but also had to be the complete truth. "You know how much I hated him—maybe even more than you did. But, after I learned he got me assigned to the Sooloo so I could be with you, it was hard for me to hate him, but I still didn't like him. I mean, maybe I should have, and maybe when I grow up and figure things out I will, but when we walked into that meeting I didn't hate him no more, but I didn't like him much either."
"And when you walked out?"
"It wasn't the first time he told me he was sorry, but it was the one that meant the most. I mean, think about it, he's light years away and I feel he really liked me."
"I think he loves you."
"Yeah, I know. I think he likes me and loves me more than my own dad. I mean he all but kissed your ass, and then he looks at me and tells me I'm the best thing in your life. And he meant it. I just wanted to sit there in the conference room and look at him and think how much I didn't like him, and he wouldn't let me."
Kyle was slowly rubbing Danny's bare back. "I could feel it, too. I know now how much he loves me, and I know he loves you. I just want you to know it, too. And Koji. Fuck, he almost drooled over Koji. It was like having a grandson was more important to him than being an admiral. Koji was at his best and Dad just melted."
"We're talking like a couple of old married guys, not like twelve-year-old kids."
"Dave told me after the whole business with Megrez and everything, that being out in space on our own with no adults and having to survive has made us all grow up fast. He said you and me are both way more mature than most kids our age."
"I don't know about that, you still don't have any pubic hair," Danny giggled. "But seriously, Hal told me the same thing."
"They probably agreed to each tell us."
Danny planted a light kiss on Kyle's lips. "I like how you've been petting me while we talked."
"I like petting you. You're so soft and smooth and warm."
"And I like my father-in-law, especially after he made me laugh."
"He made us both laugh. Poor Koji didn't have a clue what that was about."
Danny planted another kiss on his husband's lips. "Maybe when he's older. But, damn, after he told me how sorry he was to kick me out of the house all naked and shit, and threw my clothes out the door at me, I was ready to hate him again. Then when he said I looked sad but kind of cute in the pictures the neighbor across the street took of the whole thing, I was like, what the fuck? You mean there are pictures?"
"He had me going, too. Then he broke out laughing," Kyle chuckled, "and I broke out laughing, and you were busting a gut, and I knew things were good."
"Yeah. I heard from somebody that when you can laugh at things that used to make you feel like shit, then maybe you've gotten over it. And I hope what he said about what he wanted to do if we ever came to Earth was serious."
"I think he was. No, I KNOW he was."
Admiral Robinson had told the three boys just before their meeting ended that if they ever came to Earth he wanted to do a short trip in one of the Admiral’s transport ships, with Danny taking a turn at the helm. "Maybe stay overnight on Mars or something." Greg Robinson's suggestion was met with enthusiasm from Kyle and Danny.
Koji was once again in the dark, but his dads later explained that to him when they tucked him into bed. The little boy nodded and said, "Koji loves Admiral Grandpa."
"And he loves you back," Kyle told him as he stroked the boy's thick black hair. He and Danny each gave their son a kiss on the forehead, turned out the light, and left the room. Koji fell asleep filled with warm feelings for his dads and for his Admiral Grandpa.
Snapping back to the present, Danny looked at the boy he felt an emotional attachment to and declared, "I love you so much, Kyle."
"I love you more, Danny."
"Yeah right, like that's even possible." Danny looked into Kyle's eyes. "Next time I see the Admiral, I want to give him a big, giant, hug that is so hard it messes up that perfect uniform of his."
"Make sure to drip some tears on it, too, cuz I know I have," Kyle chuckled.
"Are you ready for seconds?"
"Only if the senior officer gets to have his way with the little lieutenant."
"Go for it," Danny said as he rolled on his back and made himself available for his husband's hard cock.
Admiral Greg Robinson entered the office of Fleet Admiral Bill Mirah and plopped onto the couch against the inside wall. Mirah, who was an excellent reader of people, could see the mixed emotions on Robinson's face. His face had a look of weariness mixed with happiness.
"How did the family get together work out?" Mirah asked.
"I lost track of the number of emotions running through me; in fact, I lost track of so many things I may need to review the video to remind me of what outrageous things I promised," Robinson chuckled. "Dealing with three preteen boys is, well, a lot of work."
"I'm sure you handled it with aplomb."
Robinson ignored Mirah's compliment. "When the screen went blank, the thought struck me that, as much as they wore me down, their presence also built me up. I thought about how much I missed by working at being my son's superior officer rather than his father."
"I would say you're making up for it now. Do you want some coffee?"
"Sure, that would be great."
Mirah buzzed his aide and asked him to bring a carafe of coffee and two cups. "What did you think of your new little family?"
"I think I am so proud of my son that words can't describe it. Less than a year ago he was an immature little eleven-year-old brat who wouldn't listen to or obey anyone and suddenly he has matured into an accomplished senior officer of a starship. And he's still not thirteen.
"On top of navigating his ship with skill, he had the moxie to save his ship in dangerous situations not once, but twice. And he marries his boyhood friend, who it appears was his boyfriend. I know what I caught them doing wasn't their first time; they'd been friends since they were five. Neither one is thirteen and they adopt a little munchkin."
Mirah's aide entered the office with the coffee. He greeted Admiral Robinson, poured a cup for each Admiral and exited.
"I've heard it mentioned it was more like the boy adopted Danny and Kyle."
"However it went down, my heart melted when I saw him. I wanted to cry as we talked for the first time. I wanted to reach through light years of space and hold the little boy in my arms and tell him how happy I was he was my grandson and how much I loved him."
"I assume you decided to say nothing about that, instead."
Greg shook his head. "You can be a real SOB sometimes, Bill, which is not a complaint. If not for you telling me I would lose my son forever, had I not put myself into his life before he left for space, I would never have met that beautiful little boy. Hell, Danny would never have been placed on the Sooloo."
"And Kyle Robinson would have been demoted to mopping floors. You don't need me to tell you that your parenting in the end, last minute as it were, helped your son find himself. He needed you, he needed Danny Harper, and he needs young Koji to help make him the man he will become. You and I both know that with three or four years of growth, if the situation arises, he will have a good chance of commanding his own ship."
"I can't take all the credit for that. When he needed a mentor or a guiding adult in his life, I wasn't there. Commander Hanson was—he saw something in Kyle no one else did. He gives credit to those fucking stars." Greg saw Bill shaking his head. "And yes, Bill, I believe… at least as much as I am capable of believing."
"I take it you and Danny mended your fences."
"We'll never be lovey-dovey son and father-in-law, but I think the meeting ended with us having a respect for each other, if not a drop or two of love. He and Kyle make a stunning pair, and I don't mean just their looks. But, I do have a concern about my grandson."
"And that is?"
"When I looked at Kyle and Danny, I saw two preteens experienced and mature, even wise, beyond their years. But I also saw two preteen boys who can't escape their youth. Their actions during the course of the meeting belied both standings. They are too young to give Koji everything he needs, and that is not a knock on them. It is a simple fact. At times parenting the boy is going to overwhelm them."
"Even as mature adults, being a parent has overwhelmed us, which is something you can attest to."
"True. Just the act of being twelve and trying to be a mature officer on a starship is going to be overwhelming at times. Bill, you asked me earlier if I had said and done nothing because I couldn't hold Koji. I know you were poking me into reacting and I guess it sent me on a few tangents, but here is the answer. I told him the same things I would have told him if I'd been holding him close to me.
"I discovered a precocious little boy, eager to talk, eager to please, eager to love, and capable of getting into bucketsful of hot water. I loved the lad at first sight and in that half-hour, I kept loving him more and more. As I said, Kyle and Danny, no matter how good a job they do, will make parenting mistakes. I know Kyle is using Dave as his mentor and Danny is using Hal, but who does Koji talk to when things get rough and he needs an older role model?"
Bill paused for a moment, thinking over what his colleague and friend had been telling him. "That's a good question and something for you and me to work on, up to a point."
"What do you mean by that?"
"What I mean is, maybe Koji will find someone on the ship he can turn to and we can wait to see how it is."
"And maybe someday that could be a grandfather type guy," Greg grinned.
"You are really into this Admiral Grandpa business."
"I am, but don't get me wrong. The last thing I want to do is interfere. As much as anybody I have been advocating using instant communication with the Explorer Program for emergencies only, and grandfathering doesn't qualify as an emergency. I guess I don't want to miss out on the next phase of fatherhood."
"Things will work out as they are supposed to," Bill said.
Greg finished his coffee and stood up. Bill stood up with him. The two Admirals and long-time friends shook hands and patted each other's shoulders.
Greg started out of the office, and then stopped. He looked at Admiral Mirah with the same feisty grin Mirah remembered seeing on Kyle. "I think I may need to read up on the regulations for procuring a flight to Mars," Greg said.
"It's just in case I have to fulfill one of those outrageous promises."
Admiral Greg Robinson walked out the door with a smile in his heart and wondering how it was that his life had become so good over the last year.
Kyle was up at 0300 to take his 0400 watch on the bridge. His late night with Danny had him feeling woozy when his alarm went off, but that's what naps were for. His watch would end at 0800, he'd grab some breakfast in the officers' mess, and then head for bed. Danny grunted when the alarm went off and turned his back to Kyle. Kyle showered, looked in on Koji, who looked so sweet and innocent in his sleep, dressed, and headed to the bridge.
Danny had his alarm set so he could wake up Koji in time for breakfast and school. He showered, woke up Koji, who took his shower, and then went to breakfast with his son. Koji's eyes lit up when he saw shimmy and eggs on the menu. Danny enjoyed watching his son wolf down his favorite breakfast.
"From what you told your Kyle daddy and me yesterday, I guess you enjoyed visiting with your grandfather," Danny said.
"I was mad to leave the camp, but I was happy to meet Admiral Grandpa. He was nice to Koj… to me and he said he loves me." Danny was proud of Koji for working hard on talking about himself in first person. While Kyle was stricter with Koji than Danny was, Koji often worked harder to please Danny than he did to please Kyle. "He loves you and Daddy Kyle, too."
"I could tell that was true." Danny didn't feel he needed to get into his history with the Admiral.
"If we go to Earth will we really go to Marsh?"
"It's called Mars, and I don't know. We'd have to go to Earth first, and your Admiral Grandpa is a busy man. Plus, we'd need to set aside a few days to do it."
"Can we camp there?"
"Everybody on Mars lives in big clear domes because the air is very thin on Mars. I doubt they have camping in the domes."
"Koji likes camping," the boy grinned, forgetting his first person in his excitement.
"Why don't you look up what the people who live on Mars do for fun when you have the time in school? I bet you'll find your answer to the camping question."
Koji nodded and then said, "I must go to school." He kissed Danny on the cheek, picked up his school bag, and hustled out of the mess hall.
When Koji arrived in the classroom, Tomo and Juro were already there. Juro used his security override to open the door. Ali didn't mind as long as they didn't do anything they shouldn't. They exchanged greetings with Koji and the Titanic Trio entered as Koji took his seat. Koji jumped up and slapped hands with his friends.
"Where did you go yesterday at the end of camp and what happened?" Lars asked. The boys in the room knew that Koji had a meeting with somebody Kyle knew, but everybody was so busy taking down the camp when Koji returned there wasn't time to get the details.
"I went to meet my Admiral Grandfather," Koji said. He always worked extra hard to say things correctly in the classroom.
"Where was he?" Jonas asked.
"How did you talk to him if he was on Earth?"
Koji looked over at Tomo and Juro hoping they could help. It never occurred to him that he shouldn't have been able to talk to his grandfather and he never asked his daddies about it. For their part, Kyle and Danny, being the young boys they were, forgot to consider the fact that nobody had informed Koji about the instantaneous communication the Sooloo now had.
"Koji could do that because the Draconians upgraded the Sooloo to have instant real-time communication," Tomo explained. The younger boys looked at each other with looks that said, "What's so special about that?" Tomo and Juro both thought it would be a good idea if the younger boys received lessons on how the ship functioned; it was obvious that part of their education was lacking.
"What did you talk about?" Lars asked.
"That I am an orphan and I wanted to adopt Daddy Kyle and Daddy Danny to be my fathers and how they said it was okay. Grandpa thought that was funny, but Koji was being serious. I told them about my birthday party and all the fireworks and about Kairu, my stuffed wyvern. And how we had shimmy on the Sooloo and how much Koji liked it. And maybe my daddies and Admiral Grandpa and me will fly to Marsh… to Mars, I mean."
"Where is that?" Lars asked.
"Are we going to Earth?"
"Everybody says we will, they just don't know when," Koji paused for a moment. "Admiral Grandpa likes what Koji calls him. He said he loves me, and I said I love him. And then I came back to the camp, so Koji can give Tomo all of my help taking down the camp."
"And great help it was," Tomo mused. Tomo also noted he would have to make sure Koji did his language drill work for the day. He could see some slippage because of their time off from school.
Ali entered the classroom just as class was supposed to start. Koji could hardly wait to finish his regular lessons, so he could look up information on Mars.
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."
As Juro was enlarging the image, he called out, "Captain, the pilot is hailing us."
"Put him through," Dave ordered.
Meagear Endou appears on the screen, "Captain Bowman, this is Meagear Endou. King Zedrick thought you would like an escort."
"Always happy to have you flying with us; are you doing this solo?"
"Solo for the Sooloo," Endou chuckled. "Seriously though, I wouldn't mind if I had a young fighter pilot accompanying me."
Dave called Danny on the comm, "Lt. Harper, I have a certain Draconian Fighter who would like another fighter to accompany him as he escorts us to Draconia. Are you up for it?"
"I'm already at The Endou getting her ready to fly, Captain. With your permission, I will join Meagear Endou shortly."
"Permission granted." After the screen went back to the stars, Dave looked at Kyle, "We'll have your trial at 1600, in orbit of Draconia. I don't want you worrying about it while we are there and then you'll be free to visit as you see fit."
"I'm not worried, Captain. I know the truth," Kyle replied.
"Juro, will you ask Aiden and Scott to report to my Ready Room?"
On the lift down to the Bubba shuttle bay, Danny tried to control his excitement. He was about to fly the Endou for the first time. He knew he shouldn't be this excited about flying. After all, flying was what he did, but he couldn't help it. Without a doubt, the Endou was going to be the most sophisticated machine he had ever piloted.
When he got off the lift, he was greeted by Jesse Gross. "Do you live in the shuttle bays, Jesse?" Danny asked him.
"Sometimes it seems that way," Jesse chuckled, "but I only come down to the Bubba bay for testing and for launch and retrieval. I think this qualifies as a launch—if the pilot is capable anyway."
"I've been known to fly a launch or two."
"Yeah, but that baby could slam right through the bulkheads if you're not careful. Damn, but she's a beauty."
Danny grinned. "Yep, and I'm looking forward to flying her for the first time."
Jesse had already moved the gangway into place and Danny all but skipped down to the Endou. He placed his grip in the receptacle behind his seat and belted himself in. Danny had been instructed not to start engines and thrusters of the fighter until Meagear Endou was in range, which could happen any minute.
As he waited, Danny thought about Jesse. From what he had seen and heard, Jesse's work at the main shuttle bay had been outstanding. It was obvious that Jesse loved the craft he cared for almost every day. From what little Danny knew of the other sundry tasks any crewman would do, he was a hard worker then as well. And then there was the little favors Jesse helped with and was discreet about, like the little "christening" visit Danny and Kyle had paid the Endou a couple of nights earlier. He thought that he should talk to Kyle about recommending to Hal or Dave that Jesse be given pilot training. All the regular shuttle pilots except Danny were crewmen, as was Danny when he started as a pilot.
Danny's radio startled him out of his reverie. "Meagear Endou has arrived," came the voice of Tai Fujima. "Crewman Gross, open the shuttle doors—Lieutenant Harper, start your engines." Before Danny knew it, he was backing the fighter out of the shuttle bay.
Once he was away from the ship, Danny turned the Endou in the direction of The Harper. He could see the lights of the fighter named in his honor. He couldn't help but think about how confusing it would be if he and Endou were to go into battle to have each ship named for the pilot of the other ship. Then he remembered the ships would be called by their number, not by their name, which simplified things.
Meagear Endou's visage suddenly filled the viewscreen of his namesake fighter. "Greetings Meagear Danny, are you ready for escort duty?"
"I am more than ready, Meagear Endou. Let's fly."
"We will be doing nothing fancy; for you that will be later. You and I are the ceremonial escort bringing the Sooloo to Draconia."
"I understand. I'm just happy to be piloting this wonderful spacecraft."
The two fighters flew to either side of the Sooloo. Danny was amazed by the responsiveness of the craft's controls. 'Sure, they felt like this on the simulator, but it is so different to feel them when moving, when piloting the real thing, when doing what I was born to do,' Danny thought. Another thing that amazed him was the beautiful balance he felt as the fighter flew through the vacuum of space. The feel of such a responsive, perfectly balanced machine could be simulated but not perfectly replicated in a simulator. To Danny's tuned senses, the difference between the two was significant. The feeling he had as he felt his craft move was almost sexual.
"How do you like the Ten?" Endou asked, using the fighter's number instead of her name.
"It's amazing," Danny replied, squelching the urge to say, "fucking amazing." "I've never flown anything better."
"I am pleased to hear that. It was presented to the Sooloo with the idea that you would be the one to break it in, because nobody would appreciate that precision machine more than you."
Once the Sooloo established its orbit, Danny followed The Harper down to the planet. He would now land his precision machine for the first time. Meagear Endou had completed his landing as Danny approached the runway. While the craft could do a vertical landing, there was something special to Danny about using a runway to land no matter what he was flying. He knew he was not the only pilot to feel that way.
This was where the time spent in the simulator practicing landings, along with the instrumentation and balance inherent in the fighter, came together. To the surprise of no one, including himself, Danny's landing was perfect.
When Danny got out of the Endou, Meagear Endou kidded with him, "Meagear Harper, you are out of uniform." Then he handed Danny a Draconian flight suit and uniform.
"Here comes our transport," Endou said as a vehicle pulled up. "We will drop you off at the guest quarters where you have the same room as on your last visit. If we meet for breakfast at 0830, will that be enough sleep for you?"
"Kyle says sleep is overrated, but he loves it as much as I do. But, yeah, it's enough—I'll make up for it tomorrow night. I know I'm gonna be tired after tomorrow is done."
The trip to the quarters was quick. Endou reminded Danny that since he had stayed at the quarters before, his ID was already in the data base. "All you have to do is give the door your thumb and you're in the room and in bed."
That turned out to be the case. Kyle was still on the Sooloo, so Danny had the room to himself for a few hours. He stripped naked, took care of pre-bed business. Even though he felt tired, his mind was spinning. He was not only excited about tomorrow, but also eager to hear from Kyle and find out how the tribunal ruled in his trial.
As much as he wanted to, he knew he wasn't going to be able to sleep, so he decided to take care of one of the side effects of his escort flight, which was the sexual surge that the Endou sent through him as he piloted the amazing spacecraft. He flipped the covers off and fondled his half-hard pubescent cock. It took little effort to bring it to full attention. He closed his eyes and thought of Kyle and him enjoying three-way sex with Jesse Gross in the hold of one of the Bubbas. He soon squirted his light effluent on his chest and belly.
Just as he grabbed the washcloth he had brought from the bathroom to clean the mess off himself, his comm sounded as if on cue. He grinned when he saw it was from Kyle.
Steve Boyer had set up the conference room for the tribunal. Officiating would be Dave Bowman and since there could be a claim of bias, Admiral Mirah had suggested that he and another Admiral serve on the Tribunal with Dave. Admiral Mirah, as Senior Officer would preside.
Mirah had decided that Admiral Theodore Darrow, head of the Space Fleet Judge Advocate General or JAG would be the third Officer of the Tribunal. Being that the defendant, Alan Hole was of African heritage, having Admiral Darrow who was also a man of color would circumvent any claims of racism.
Admiral Darrow accepted the assignment and requested unmodified visual logs of the bridge for one hour before and after the alleged attack. He had his own experts verify that the logs were unmodified and had not been tampered with.
By video link, Admirals Mirah and Darrow were present in the room. Dave seated at the center of the Judicial table. Hal was going to act as prosecutor. Kyle had requested that his father, Admiral Gregory Robinson would act as his defense counsel. He would be represented on a third video link that had been set up separately from the 'Judicial' channel.
Kyle had spent substantial time on video link with his father. It was nice to be able to have some private time to talk to his dad; he just wished they could have spent that time talking about more important things than this trial.
Dave called the Tribunal to order. "Commander Tietokone, the Plaintiff has asserted that Commander Kyle Robinson attacked him on the bridge of the Sooloo. Please present your case."
Hal stood and stated, "Sirs, I would like to go on record that I have advised my client that there did not appear to be sufficient evidence for him to substantiate these charges, but, as is my duty, I will attempt to carry out this prosecution to the best of my ability. I would like to allow the Plaintiff to make his own case."
Admiral Darrow then replied, "Commander Tietokone, your position is noted, but know that I will hold you to your duty. Proceed."
"Sirs, I call Crewman Alan Hole," Hal replied.
Alan hole stood, "I can only say that everyone there saw what happened. He attacked me because I was proving his incompetence and immaturity. He insisted he have his stuffed animal on the bridge. When I attempted to take it from him, he attacked me."
Admiral Darrow then asked, "And what proof do you have of your assertions?"
"It's all in the logs, Sir," Hole replied.
"Do you have anything further to present, Crewman Hole?" Dave asked.
"No, I do not."
"Admiral Robinson, please present your defense," Admiral Mirah stated.
Gregory Robinson was shown standing as he opened his remarks, "Sirs, the only defense I can provide is those same logs the Plaintiff has stated will prove his innocence. The JAG service has reviewed the logs and attested that the accounts you are about to see have been unaltered and are, in-fact, the actual events of 27 October 2121 at approximately 1000 ship's time."
The events started to be displayed on the screen starting about 120 seconds prior to Crewman Hole's arrival on the bridge. As the events played out, Alan Hole stood up, "These logs have been tampered with! There is no way Kyle was on the other side of the bridge!"
Admiral Robinson paused the playback as Alan Hole was visibly being 'kicked-in-the-ass' and Kyle Robinson could clearly be seen on the other side of the Astrogation table holding his penguin, Megrez.
"As I have stated," Admiral Robinson started, "the JAG Service has already authenticated that these logs are unaltered, and their veracity has been authenticated. I hereby move that all charges against Commander Robinson be summarily dismissed with prejudice."
"Commander Tietokone, do you have any further evidence to present?" Admiral Darrow asked.
"Sirs, this is the extent of the 'evidence' my client presented to me. His statement was, and I quote, 'That's all I need to prove that that Pissant attacked me. I am going to love to see him stripped of his rank and position.'"
Admiral Mirah nodded, "This Tribunal will confer. Captain Bowman, please go into your Ready Room so we can discuss this privately. This tribunal will reconvene once we've deliberated."
Dave went into his Ready Room. The rest of those present sat and waited, nobody expected the deliberations to take much time.
Thirty minutes later, everyone was back in the room. Dave seated at his place. Admiral Mirah reopened the Tribunal.
"Crewman Alan Hole. You have made allegations that Commander Robinson attacked you on 27 October 2121 on the bridge of the SS Sooloo at approximately 1000 ship's time. You have presented evidence which did not support your allegations. It is in reports that have been filed that both your counsel and the Chief of Security and Tactical of the Sooloo advised you that you had insufficient evidence to support your claim. It is the ruling of this Tribunal, by unanimous decision, that these charges are unfounded. This case is dismissed with prejudice. All records of this Tribunal will be placed in the files of both Commander Robinson and Crewman Hole. Commander Robinson, on behalf of Space Fleet, I want to apologize to you for this travesty. This tribunal is adjourned."
As soon as Kyle heard the dismissal, he called Danny to inform him. "Hey, lover boy, how did it go?" Danny asked eagerly.
"The tribunal said there was no case against me and dismissed the charges."
"Which is exactly what we knew would happen." Even though he knew the tribunal's decision was all but a done deal, it was a group of adults, and adults sometimes made incomprehensible decisions. "So, what happens now?"
"Now I have to sweep and mop the floor in the kitchen when Randy is cooking to clean up the mess his sloppy cooking technique leaves."
"You're shitting me?"
"It was Randy's idea."
"See if we ever suck his dick again. I mean, you are shitting me, right?"
"After I told them they would have to live on a year-long diet of shimmy they took away my punishment."
As soon as Kyle broke out laughing, Danny did the same. "I'll be down in a few hours, but you'll probably be asleep, so I'll see you after you do your flying for the day, tomorrow."
"Yeah, but you are going to have to jerk yourself off for being a smart ass. Oh, and speaking of jerking off, your phone call interrupted my cleanup."
"Did we get a good room?"
"Same one we had before, complete with a bed and privacy screen for Koji, like he needs privacy."
"I love you, Danny."
"And I love you, even though you make it hard sometimes," Danny laughed. "Looking forward to seeing you and Koji."
After the trial, Dave, Hal, Jordan, Jace and Kyle boarded the Leonardo. Tomo was watching the four boys, with plans to come down on the next shuttle. Danny didn't pilot because he had already flown down in the Endou. Jordan offered to pilot the Leonardo, but Dave had already asked Crewman Julian Danvers, or Juju to his friends, to be the pilot. Julian was thirteen years old and possibly the second-best shuttle pilot aboard the Sooloo. Danny was of course the best, no one doubted that.
As they landed, King Zedrick was there to greet them along with a young man Dave recognized from the image Zedrick shared with him during their chat. A younger version of the new liaison was standing with them; he looked tired. As they approached, the boy stood back. "Glalkat, Zedrick." the King smiled at Dave using their greeting.
King Zedrick introduced Dave to the newly appointed liaison, "Captain Bowman, this is Hosayaku Haimono Jaku. He has a request of you."
"What is it?" Dave asked, looking at Jaku.
"Well, Sir, you see, my parents are going on an exploration trip for the next four years and they asked if my brother can join me. I tried to tell them that I didn't have the authority to take him and…"
Dave raised his hand to stop Jaku, then inquired, "How old is your brother?"
"He is seven, Sir."
"What about his schooling?"
"We understand that you created a classroom on the ship. If it's not too much trouble, maybe he can take classes there, but if it is, he can do like he's been doing."
"Before I make my decision, I would like to meet your brother." Dave didn't tell Jaku that he had already decided to let the boy join. With the parents going away, how could he say "no"? He did want to meet the boy. Meanwhile, Jaku motioned with his hand.
"Captain, this is my brother, Tei."
"I'm pleased to meet you, Sir," Tei saluted.
Dave chuckled, "You needn't salute, but I like your style."
"Thank you, Sir. I understand that this was just sprung on you and I wanted to make a nice impression."
"So, you are not normally this well behaved?" Dave became a little concerned.
"That's not what I meant, Sir. I do my best to be good, but I am a typical boy. I know Koji is on the ship, and at the risk of sounding conceited, I make him look devilish."
Dave laughed, "He doesn't need any help with that. So, how do you know Koji?"
"I am just a few months older than him. Though we do our schooling on computers, I have played with him. And I was at his birthday party."
"That makes sense," Dave admitted. "So, you are interested in going on a starship?"
"I am looking forward to being with my older brother. If that is on a starship, then I am interested."
"I like your honesty, Tei," Dave grinned. "I look forward to having you aboard."
"Thank you for allowing my brother to join me, Sir," Jaku offered.
"So, Jaku means young, inexperienced or greenhorn, what does Tei mean?"
"Actually Sir, jakuhaimono means that. With our surname being Haimono, my parents thought it would be perfect. As for Tei, his name means younger brother."
Dave grinned, "Which he will always be. Tei looks tired and it's dark here…"
"Yes, let's get to the castle and get everyone settled," Zedrick insisted. "Dave, you, Hal and I will discuss the artifact in about six hours, and I will arrange a ceremony for shortly after."
As everyone was loading their gear into the Transport, Zedrick looked at Kyle, "Have you changed something about your hair, it looks darker."
After the boys ate supper, they went to Jonas' and Jason's room to watch a video. Juro and Tomo didn't join them but had other plans. As the time was approaching for them to go down to join their fathers, Tomo and Juro went to get the other boys. They rang the chime and Jonas opened the door. "What are you watching?" Tomo asked.
Jason explained, "This is a video from 1966 called Star Trek. This is episode four of season one and called The Naked Time. Pappy has all of them."
"It figures you boys would like something with 'naked' in the title," Juro quipped.
"OH MY!!!" Tomo was watching the screen intently, "Who's the shirtless guy? He's kinda cute for an adult."
"That's Sulu," Koji replied, "I think he's the cutest character in the show, or at least of the main characters."
"Sooloo, like in the name of this ship?" Tomo queried"
"They sound the same, but they spell his name S-u-l-u," Jonas answered.
Juro responded, "How much longer until this is over? We're supposed to be heading to the planet, but I suppose we can wait until this is over."
"This episode is almost done," Lars declared.
Once the episode ended, the boys went to the shuttle bay. Juro stated, "There are only six seats, so unless one of us pilots, two of us will have to share a seat."
"I'll pilot," Koji offered. "Daddy Danny has been showing me how in the Holodeck."
Chuckling, Tomo shook his head, "I don't think they would allow that, Koji."
"Then, can I sit with you?"
Tomo looked down at Koji's "puppy-dog" eyes and responded, "It would probably be easier if you shared with one of the other boys, but I would like to share with you." Tomo hoped that let Koji know that he does like him. Koji put his arm around Tomo. "I hope you don't mind, but I think of you as a little brother. Always have since we were in the orphanage. When I heard you were getting adopted, I was happy for you, but kind of sad, too."
"How's come?" the younger boy asked.
Tomo smiled, "Because I thought I would miss you, but then I was adopted, too."
"Sorry I annoy you sometimes."
'You DO do that,' Tomo thought, then chuckled, "Little brothers are annoying at times. I may get frustrated, but always remember, I love you like a little brother."
The next morning Danny met Meagear Endou in the dining room at the agreed time. He was proudly wearing his Draconian uniform, in which he had spent some time posing in front of the big mirror and it was all he could do to drag himself away and go to breakfast. His sense of time was a mess, but he knew he was hungry.
"Where is your co-pilot?" Meagear Endou asked Danny.
"He'll be coming later this morning on a shuttle," Danny replied. "I'll check what his schedule is." He took his communicator out of its belt pouch and texted Łuke. Łuke replied he would be going to the orphanage with Scott to meet a boy after the ceremony. Danny asked if Łuke could join him and Meagear Endou for lunch and an afternoon flight. After a five-minute delay, Łuke called to work out a schedule for the day with Danny. Łuke agreed he could join Danny and Endou for lunch and an afternoon flight. Danny had placed Łuke on speaker so Endou would know what they were planning and step in if necessary.
Endou approved of the plans and said, "That means we have some time for you to test what the Endou is all about before lunch. Would you like to take a quick trip into space?"
"I'd love to. Are you taking The Harper up with me?"
"No, I thought about being your co-pilot. You are more than capable of executing the most complicated maneuvers, but it always helps to have a co-pilot with you when you push the limits."
"Wow, having you as my co-pilot would be very, very cool," Danny gushed.
"And please be assured that you are the pilot and in command."
"And that means totally in command, Sir." Endou grinned.
The two Meagears made their morning plans. Danny thought their morning surprise would be a blast, literally and figuratively. "They sure won't forget us," he grinned.
After finishing breakfast, Endou called for a transport and they were soon at the spaceport. Danny all but drooled when he saw the Endou resting on the tarmac. He would be flying a Draconian built fighter wearing the uniform of a Draconian officer. 'It didn't get any better than this,' he thought.
Danny climbed into the cockpit, grabbed an inspection checklist, and did a preflight inspection with the assistance of his veteran co-pilot. After the inspection he and Endou took their seats in the cockpit and asked for clearance to leave, which was granted.
"Have fun on the first part," the controller told them. "That should add some excitement to the festivities."
After takeoff, Danny followed Endou's directions and flew the Endou on a slow flight over the countryside to the west of the capital city. Endou was on the radio with Shikikan Hoshino who was giving him the timing of the ceremony.
"Make a slow wide turn to starboard," Endou instructed Danny, who executed the turn. Danny knew that the Endou wasn't operating anywhere near her capabilities, but that status would change in a hurry. The fighter was now flying slowly to the east.
"Almost time," Endou said. The capital city was ahead of them. Danny could now make out the great arena where the Artifact Ceremony was being held. "Hoshino says the Kairu speech is finished. Give it full throttle with lots of noise."
Danny double checked that the sonic governor, which prevented the fighter from breaking the speed of sound, was engaged and moved the throttle close to fully open. Even with the governor engaged, the speed had to be restricted for the safety of the spectators, which didn't mean it was flying slow. Danny knew they'd be zooming across the arena. The sudden surge whipped his and Endou's head back and the fighter closed quickly on the ceremony…
Celebrating special events had been a part of the Draconian culture for as long as anyone can remember. Koji's birthday party had been one of the most significant celebrations in recent years. That is, until today. What anyone in attendance at the celebration that was about to begin would tell you, this one could top them all.
Dave and Hal stood on the platform with the entire royal family of Draconia, Queen Hezaa seated beside him. In front of them, the artifact that the Sooloo had brought back was placed on a raised pedestal.
King Zedrick raised his hands to get everyone to quiet down so he could begin his comments. He spoke in English to save the crew of the Sooloo from having to translate since virtually his entire population was fluent in that language in addition to their native tongue.
"People of Darastix. Today marks a truly auspicious event. Our friends from Terra," Zedrick motioned to Dave and Hal, "have done a service for our world. Centuries ago, our beloved King Kairu, acted on behalf of our people to do honor to an entity that had been extremely beneficial to our planet and people.
"He had sent a ship to the star Megrez. Megrez had helped our people in many ways before he had done that. Unfortunately, the ship that was sent was never heard from again.
"Captain Bowman of the Terran ship, SS Sooloo, visited Megrez' space and found that ship. It had unfortunately been destroyed by a fire on-board before it could complete its mission. The crew of the Sooloo boarded the ship and encountered an artifact.
"With the guidance of Megrez himself, they were able to set in motion events that would fulfill King Kairu's mission. This in itself would have been an amazing feat, but they were able to bring back to us a piece of that artifact... the device you see in front of me.
"According to Captain Bowman, this device holds something... it contains a holographic recording of King Kairu himself! Never before has anyone still alive on Darastix heard the voice of our beloved former king. I have yet to personally hear or see this recording, I wanted to share that event with all of you."
The crowd broke out in cheers and applause as Zedrick followed the instructions of David Bowman and started the recording.
Dave, Hal and the rest of the Sooloo family saw the same recording they'd watched in Megrez' space. The crowd was completely silent, listening to the words of their long-deceased king.
When the recording reached the point where it had ended and began repeating on the Sooloo, everyone... Sooloo personnel especially, were surprised when King Kairu continued... this time in English.
"Megrez told me of events that were to happen on this mission. I was unable to tell anyone that I was aware that the ship would be lost, but it was a necessary event in order that the future could be maintained. Megrez told me what was going to happen.
"I have written a document that will be discovered in time. This document outlines events that must happen for the future to unfold as it is intended.
"To the Terran crew I offer my sincere gratitude. Our people have not yet visited your planet, but we will be going there in the near future for the first time. In time, we will make contact with the people of 'Earth' as they call their planet. Some of our people will assimilate into their culture. This is the birth of a prophecy as it was given to me by Megrez. If you are watching this recording, then those events transpired as they were ordained.
"Your current King will be a great leader, but it will not be without sacrifice. The Terran ship will carry several Darastixian born children, one of whom will be of the royal family, to Terra. Earth and Darastix are destined to be allies for centuries to come. It has been my honor to be the herald of these events."
Everyone was in shock at the former king's message, not the least of whom were Dave and Zedrick.
King Zedrick, who had been told in advance what to expect, yelled into his microphone, "Coming upon us is Draconia's newest and finest fighter craft, piloted by the heroic Meagear Harper and Meagear Endou." At that point the fighter was upon them, the noise drowning out anything Zedrick had to say. Danny buzzed the crowd as low as he dared. Even at his speed he could see the thousands of spectators standing and waving at the remarkable sight of the Endou roaring above them.
As soon as Danny cleared the arena, he slowly lifted the nose and the fighter started to climb. The crowd followed the Endou as it slowly climbed until it had cleared the environs of the city. At that point Danny disengaged the governor, brought the ship to full vertical, and piloted it up into space to the cheers of the now distant crowd.
Once Danny got the Endou into space, he ran the fighter away from the planet at its highest speed, flew loops and twists and rolls, reprised his maneuvers in battles, and found new tricks the spacecraft could do. With Endou in the co-pilot seat, Danny could feel the precise balance of the ship even more, adding to its maneuverability. 'If I'm ever rich, I want a space yacht built just like this,' Danny mused.
The celebration continued for hours across Darastix. Dave, Hal and King Zedrick took some time to discuss the message from King Kairu. A copy of the entire recording was forwarded back to Admiral Mirah.
Dave was in shock at the weight of responsibility placed on his shoulders, but he knew that Megrez would not allow him to fail. If he had any misgivings or doubts of Kyle's assertions about the stars shaping events in the universe, any vestiges of those doubts were banished from his mind.
The ceremony ran for nearly two hours; everyone was excited and cheering. Afterwards, Scott and Łukasz went to the orphanage to talk with Miss Dewel. As they entered the orphanage, she asked, "Can I help you boys?"
"We are hoping to adopt one of the older boys, maybe one who seems to be hard to place," Scott stated.
"Hmmm, that may be a tall order. We don't have many orphans, in fact, according my database, there are only 149 boys and 73 girls needing parents on the entire planet."
"That's nice to know, so you don't have any older boys? If not, we can go younger, but the boys that have already been adopted by our crewmates have impressed us, so we would really like to have someone who is around ten or older."
"Yes, I have two such boys here," Miss Dewel confirmed. She called out, "Shasho, Sukotto, will you boys come here, please?"
Two boys hurried to stand before Miss Dewel, "Yes ma'am, what can we do for you?"
"Boys, these young men would like to meet you. One of you may become their son."
Shasho looked at Scott and Łuke, saluted and said, "Sukotto and I share a room; if you would like to see it…"
"Yes, we would, and then maybe we can chat."
"If you'll follow me, you'll see as you enter that my half of the room is pristine, don't mean to knock Sukotto, but his half is… not so much."
"My half is organized, I just don't go to the same extreme that you do," Sukotto argued.
Łuke chuckled, "Are you two boyfriends?"
"No," Shasho was quick to respond. "Wanting to be honest, though, we have tried things."
As they entered the room, the whole room looked almost pristine, except one bed was perfectly made and the other had a slight wrinkle. Scott pointed at the wrinkle and teased, "That must be your bed."
"ENUJIIWAADO!!!" (" Draconian profane version of the word \"no,\" as in \"HELL NO!!!\" or \"FUCK NO!!!\"") Shasho declared, "that is Sukotto's."
"But it's not too bad," Scott chuckled then asked, "So how old are you boys?" Scott thought about asking what "enojiiwaado" meant but had an idea.
"Sukotto will be twelve in 155 days on the twenty-second of Gokugetsu," Shasho replied. "And I will be twelve then in 222 days on the eighth of Sangatsu."
Łuke did the calculation in his head, "So on our calendar, that would be the twentieth of April and twenty-sixth of June."
Scott grinned, "So does Shasho mean Steve in English?"
Shasho gave a funny look, "Why would you think that? Shasho means a neat or organized man or boy."
Sukotto inquired, "So, who's Steve?"
"Steve is, or was the most organized boy I know. I think Shasho may have him beat."
Looking down and disappointed, Sukotto asked, "So, you're planning to adopt Shasho?"
Scott felt for this boy; he put his hand under the boy's chin and lifted his head so they were looking eye-to-eye. "We haven't made up our mind yet. Łuke just thinks that Shasho would be a good match for Steve."
"Łuke?" Sukotto questioned, "My surname, Ruukaso, means Luke in English."
Scott smiled, "What does Sukotto mean?"
"Scott," Shasho replied.
"Yes, and how did you know my name?"
Surprised by Scott's reaction, Shasho answered, "Huh? I was just saying 'Sukotto' means Scott in English."
"Your name is Scott, and yours is Łuke?" Sukotto was smiling, "and my name means Luke Scott, or as you would say it, Scott Luke."
"I want to take both of you boys," Łuke commented.
Scott asked Miss Dewel, "Can we take both boys? I also know someone who might be interested in Shasho, but if not, I wouldn't mind adopting both."
"Yes, you may take both boys with you," Miss Dewel agreed.
"Thank you," Łuke offered, then he looked at Scott, "I need to go meet Danny at the fighter, are you going to go find Steve?"
Endou enjoyed every turn, every loop, every twist, every moment of high acceleration, and every trick Danny could manufacture. He was proud of his young student who had learned everything he had to teach him in practically no time at all, and then taught his mentor a few tricks of his own.
"It's time to return home," Endou said.
"Oh, man, do we have to?"
"Yes, we have to… we need to meet your co-pilot, eat lunch, do some two- ship maneuvers, as well as let Lieutenant Trevor take the controls for a while, and see what he can do. Then we'll fly our two ships over the Niedhousen Sea and see what we churn up in the water."
"But I thought I was the pilot and in command."
"That is true for operating this spacecraft, but I am the Commander in Charge of policy. Setting our lunch time, my young friend, is a matter of policy and the Commander has spoken."
"I guess I am kind of hungry," Danny conceded. "So, let's land this puppy."
Łuke was waiting for Danny and Endou when they entered the spaceport's cafeteria. Łuke told them about Scott and him meeting the boy they were looking to adopt and his roommate. "Scott is taking the roommate to meet Steve right about now."
"That should make Steve really happy," Danny chuckled.
"I think they are soulmates from the organized, neat freak world."
"Now that could be an interesting meeting."
After lunch, Łuke took the co-pilot's seat and went through the preflight checklist with Danny. Danny radioed Endou when they were ready. He told them he was as well. Danny wanted to turn the controls over to Łuke to make his first takeoff, but Endou convinced him to change his mind.
"Lieutenant Łuke has never flown this craft except in the simulator," Endou told him. "You learned very quickly that actually flying your machine is much different from flying it in a simulator."
Danny had to agree. But, he did talk to Łuke about what he was doing as he went through the takeoff procedure and the Endou left the ground. After they were in space, Danny followed Endou past the planet's red moon, Liza.
Danny was a little confused by the feel of the spacecraft. The balance seemed a little off, like someone had added extra weight to it somewhere. It was nothing way out of line, but it was obvious that The Endou wasn't in the same trim as it had been in the morning. Danny got on the radio and reported his feeling to Endou who said that the fighters were sometimes finicky during their test flights and not to worry about it. He added, he would report it to the groundcrew when they returned to Draconia.
When Łuke took over the controls, he felt like he had entered a new universe. "It's way different than the simulator," he realized. As he flew, Danny worked on locking the targeting program on The Harper. He and Łuke took turns doing attack runs and defensive runs, with one flying the ship and the other operating the attack and defensive programs.
After the practice time set by Meagear Endou was over, he said it was time to do their lake flyover and look for monsters, or if nothing else, go fishing for dinner. Danny shook his head at that one—it seemed that everyone suddenly wanted to be a comedian.
Danny took over the controls and piloted the ship down into the atmosphere, following The Harper to the big inland sea. The two ships ran side-by-side, skimming the Niedhousen Sea. Danny felt like he could almost feel the spray from the waves they were so close to the surface.
As the two fighters were skimming the Niedhousen sea, Niedy reared its head as if ready to attack should they get close enough. Endou fired his lasers at the creature but did not hit the creature once. He called to Danny, "I'm having trouble getting a lock on the creature with flying. Since you have someone in your gunner's seat, maybe he can target better."
Danny was surprised, "I don't have anyone in the gunner's seat, it's just me and my co-pilot."
"I detect three bodies in your fighter, one is in the gunner's seat," Endou insisted. Kyle thought, 'That explains why the fighter felt different.'
Lt. Łuke Trevor went to look… "Juro, what are you doing in the gunner's seat?"
"I'm sorry, I know I should have asked, but I wanted to check out this station."
Danny reported, "Meagear Endou, the person in the gunner's seat is one of the boys, Juro."
"Have him take a shot. His jippu was one of the top guards and would have been an awesome pilot. I have faith in his son."
"Aim at that creature, Juro," Danny ordered. Then, as if to give the boy extra incentive, "That's the creature that killed Tomo's family." Juro aimed as the creature lunged at Endou. Just as its maw was about to grip The Harper, the creature fell dead. Juro was excited and couldn't wait to tell Tomo. Then Danny declared, "Juro, you, your dads and I need to have a chat after we land. I bet they are worried about where you are."
"Yes Sir," Juro responded.
Steve sat in the lounge area of the guest quarters waiting for Scott, who had set up a meeting between them. 'I barely set foot on the planet and already somebody is planning my time out for me,' he thought grumpily. 'Usually it's me who sets my plans. To make it worse he wants me to meet a boy. To make it horrid, Brad may not be here in time for the meeting, and I'll have to deal with it. I'd much rather construct a written copy of the ship's register and do payroll by hand than deal with what I think is going to happen.'
Steve started tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair, a nervous gesture that was out of character for the normally unflappable teen. He kept glancing at the entrance to the lounge, but all that gesture netted was a glance at a couple of Sooloo crew members coming in.
He turned his head away from the door and thought about getting out his comm to access a game when he sensed somebody new coming in. He looked back at the door and saw Scott enter with two cute little Draconian boys. 'They must be the poor little orphan boys,' Steve thought. Scott took time to tell Sukotto which room was theirs, then turned to Steve.
"Hey, Steve, thanks for waiting for us," Scott commented. "Things went a bit slower than we anticipated. Łuke had to meet with Danny to go flying or we might have been even slower."
Steve waited silently to be introduced. Scott read the silence properly and said, "Oh, sorry, this is Shasho and the other boy was Sukotto. Everything going on has me slightly flustered." Steve thought it was amusing that Scott could get flustered with this whole boy business as well. "Shasho, meet Steve, who is the ship's master of organization."
Shasho, who had waited quietly and patiently to be introduced, bowed politely. Unsure of how to respond, Steve nodded his head in return. "I am pleased to meet you, Shasho," Steve lied politely. While Steve wasn't happy about the way things were unfolding, he was also a gentle and caring individual who wouldn't dream of taking his frustrations out on a young boy. After all, on the Sooloo he was the much beloved Unka Steve.
"As I am pleased to meet you. And I am also organized just as Scott said you are."
"Oh? I take it that means you don't leave your underwear lying on the floor," Steve chuckled.
"Kuwabarakuwabara (" Kuwabarakuwabara means Heaven forbid in Draconian. "), I would never think of such a thing," Shasho said in a totally serious tone of voice. "I keep my room completely neat and organized. Sono basho ni aru subete no mono to subete no mono no tame no basho (" A place for everything, and everything in its place. ")."
"That is a fine trait. What about your school work and books? They are just as important."
"Scott has taken images of my room." Shasho turned to Scott. "Please show Steve your images."
"You'll be impressed," Scott said as he showed an image on the screen of his comm.
Steve looked at the picture of Shasho's bed with the cover as perfect as can be, followed by one of his workspace, then one of his closet area. "I am impressed," Steve said. "Very neat, very organized; maybe even better than when I was a little kid."
"I am not so little," Shasho protested.
"Sorry if I offended you. I meant little compared to the teenager I am now." Since Shasho didn't quite comprehend the Earth boy ages, he simply nodded.
"I don't see any school papers or work—just the books on the shelf," Steve went on. "Do you keep them all in your drawers?"
"They are in my closet in my paper fairu (" Fairu is Draconian for Fairu. ")." He pointed to a box on the floor. "The floor is where it fits. I can open it and rotate the wheel to move the papers to the ones I need. The proper memory sticks are filed with them."
Shasho showed Steve a couple of other examples of his organizational skills. "Do you have pictures of your room?"
"No, but I can tell you that not all of it is as neat as I would like. My partner, Brad, isn't quite as neat and organized as I am."
"The same is true of my roommate Sukotto. He sometimes has a little mess and his bed is not as pristine as mine. Is your bed pristine?"
"Not always, but it is regulation and would pass inspection. Brad and I share the bed and the neatness level depends on which one of us makes it. Hey, I do have some pictures of my office space. I took them when I was working on some reorganizing." He pulled out his comm to show Shasho the photos.
Shasho looked at them and grinned. "Yes, very good. I like it, it is very clean and neat. But those Shoruidana (" Shoruidana is a filing cabinet. "), they have your papers?" Steve nodded. "Why do you need paper when you have a computer."
"Regulations require us to keep hard copies of all payroll and registry papers as well as a copy of the ship's logs for six months before we destroy them for the replicator to recycle. There are a few very important documents that must be kept on permanent file."
"And you open drawers out and dig into them for the papers you must look at?"
"It is kind of primitive, but since I have everything I need to look at filed on the computer or memory keys, I rarely have to refer to any of the hard copies. I usually just access them to destroy them. Even then, they hang organized, making them easy to find"
"But if you had a mechanical file like mine, you would find things faster and it would take less space."
"Oh, they exist, but Space Fleet didn't think it was important to buy one for as little as we'd use it."
"You could make one. I made mine in school. Show me how you file things in the drawers and I will show you how to do it on in a rotating file like mine, only bigger."
Steve and Shasho put their heads together; Steve gave Shasho the information he needed, and the boy told Steve how he would design a rotating file to save space and time. "You can use a motor since yours would be bigger than mine. And I believe it can be made to find files on different levels and then change the levels. I wish I had paper to draw on to show you."
Scott was fascinated by how the two were connecting. He and Łuke had felt that Shasho might break down Steve's reservations. He wondered if Steve and Brad might end up being convinced to adopt Shasho.
Shasho decided to test the adoption waters and see how Steve felt about it. He liked Steve and how he saw things and loved to organize. Shasho felt Steve was easy to talk to and was genuinely interested in what he had to say. He really liked some of the suggestions Steve made about his revolving file.
"Scott and Łuke are going to adopt my roommate Sukotto, even if though he does not understand how to make a bed properly and keep his side of a room in precise order," Shasho said. "Even with those failings, Sukotto is my friend and is like my brother. I love him and wish I could stay with him when he leaves. I don't know if Scott and Łuke want to have two boys."
Steve saw the hang dog look in the boy's beautiful blue eyes. He knew exactly what Shasho was hinting at and was having none of it. His life was his own. He had emphatically more than once stated that he was NOT going to get married and adopt a boy, and he certainly wasn't going to be unmarried and adopt one.
Shasho was obviously brilliantly organized, amazingly intelligent, and extremely confident, but he was still a young boy. Being a young boy meant he was loaded with the potential to throw a monkey wrench into his own organized life, not to mention the wonderfully random part of his life, which was his wild and wonderful sex life.
"I do wish you the best in staying with your friend and brother," Steve said with all the sincerity he could muster. He caught a motion from Scott out of the corner of his eye and turned his head. Scott was gesturing for Steve to follow him for a moment. "Scott wants to talk to me. I will be right back—maybe I can find a pen and paper for you while we're gone."
Steve followed Scott into the lobby. "I know what you're going to say," Steve said right away, "and the answer is no."
"He is smitten with you. You two were connecting like you'd known each other for years," Scott pointed out.
"The answer is no. I'm not having a little kid add unknowns to my existence. I love being Unka Steve and I am willing to take that role with Shasho should somebody decide to take him in." Steve looked directly at Scott. "Hell, I can think of two guys who should see this as an excuse to adopt two boys. Nothing says you have to stop at one."
"And I can think of two who would be ideal parents for him."
"As they said in some ancient video I saw once as part of a history class, 'No. No. A thousand times No'."
"No to what?" a voice behind Steve said.
Steve recognized that voice and turned to greet his partner and boyfriend, Brad. "Hey, lover boy. It's about time you showed up."
"Sorry, but this was the best I could do. And that was a lot of nos. Just what are you saying no to?"
"Adopting a kid."
"Are you talking about the cutie in the lounge?"
Before Steve could answer, Scott said, "He's talking about the intelligent, organized, personable, sweet, well-behaved, and yes, cute boy in the lounge."
Steve glared at Scott but said nothing.
"How about introducing me to this example of perfection," Brad grinned.
Scott led Brad into the lounge and Steve followed them. The conflicting emotions in his head were giving him a headache. On the one hand, Scott was right about how quickly he and Shasho had bonded. The kid had crawled in right under his skin. The few minutes he had talked to him had given him immense pleasure. He really liked the kid; he liked talking to him; he liked how he thought; he liked his appearance and his confidence. Hell, he liked this kid and if he were to adopt a boy, he would want one just like Shasho.
And that was the rub. He didn't want to adopt a boy and be responsible for him for who knew how many years. His life was about being responsible for himself (and maybe some for Brad) but was not about being responsible for someone else. He loved his Unka Steve role with the boys on the Sooloo. Being Daddy Steve was not in the cards.
Scott introduced Brad to Shasho. Brad sat and chatted with him for a bit, while Steve joined Scott in another part of the lounge. After fifteen minutes, Brad was hooked. He knew fifteen minutes wasn't much time on which to base a life-changing decision, but Brad had also done some research on Shasho and his roommate, Sukotto, and was impressed by what he'd seen. A quick stop at the orphanage to find out more was one of the reasons he was late.
Brad was surprised Steve hadn't done his own due diligence. Brad knew that Steve had made up his mind about adopting before the subject had even been broached between them, which probably explained his out of character slothfulness.
Brad decided that now was the time for him to make the proposal he had been thinking about since he'd heard about Sukotto's and Shasho's availability for adoption. Now was the time to present it to Steve. He would be doing so with some trepidation, however. He knew Steve loved the younger kids. He was good with them and reveled in being Unka Steve, but he was loath to take on the responsibility of raising one. Brad was convinced that what he was about to say would lead to three possible outcomes. Steve would shrug and say he wished Shasho well with somebody else, he would get down off his high horse and say the proposal was worth a try, or he would say take care of yourself, I'm moving back to the regular officer's quarters.
Shasho took Brad out of his reverie. "Are you listening to me?" the boy asked.
"Sorry, Shasho. I let my mind wander, but I was thinking about you and what a special boy you are."
"I said I like you and I hope you like me. I think Steve likes me. He is very organized but very strange."
"That is an accurate description," Brad chuckled.
"I can help him be even more organized. We talked a lot about being organized," Shasho said, his voice so full of hope he was almost pleading.
"You wait here, Shasho. I am going to have a chat with Steve."
"I will wait since I have no place to go."
Brad took a deep breath and walked to where Steve and Scott were sitting. It was time to give the wonderful little boy sitting in the big lounge chair a new home.
"You two look like you hit it off," Steve said.
"He's a great kid. He was well liked and well respected at the orphanage, as was Sukotto," Brad said.
"Don't get any ideas."
Brad decided he'd had enough of Steve's harping. It was obvious from what Shasho had said that he and Steve had enjoyed each other's company. It was time for Steve to shit or get off the pot. Brad was going to give Steve his proposal and Steve's whining would not be an acceptable answer. It was going to be "yes or no." Brad thought that by now he knew Steve well enough that he would agree to the proposal but, as Shasho said, Steve was weird at times.
"I have an idea," Brad said assertively.
"And you will shut up and listen to it."
Brad gave Steve his best stare, which he knew was nowhere in the pantheon of stares that one from Dave or Kyle could conjure up. Scott watched the byplay between the two boyfriends with interest. The two were always so loosie goosy that it was way out of the ordinary to see the tension between them. Scott knew what Brad's proposal was going to be and hoped that Steve would be willing to accept it.
"I'm listening," Steve conceded.
"I've talked this over with Scott, who is certain Łuke will go along with it. They have made up their mind to adopt Sukotto and would love to do the same with Shasho. But they don't see how they would have the time to start both boys out at the same time, even with the help of the school, or some handy uncles—like you."
"Hmm, I think I see where this is going. Tell Unka Steve what you're thinking."
Shasho's full attention was on the three teenagers on the other side of the lounge. He knew they were talking about him; he wished he knew what they were saying. Were they saying they wanted him? Or were they saying they didn't like him and weren't going to adopt him and separate him from Sukotto forever? The thought of it brought tears to his eyes. He thought Steve liked him because he was neat and organized and precise. Brad sounded like he liked him. Scott and Łuke liked Sukotto, but they said they liked him, too.
Shasho wanted to know what Steve and Brad and Scott were saying now. He thought about getting up, leaving the building, and walking back to the orphanage. But he wanted to know what was going to happen to him, so he sat impatiently waiting for something, anything, to be said to him.
Brad looked over at Shasho; he could see the concern on the boy's face. 'He has to be scared and lonely,' Brad thought. For his sake, we must decide now. The tension Brad felt matched anything he'd experienced on the bridge. He and Steve were about to decide the fate of a boy who had latched onto his heart in mere minutes. He hoped Steve felt the responsibility as much as he did.
"What Scott and Łuke are asking us to do is make Shasho our ward," Brad finally said. "We won't be adopting him, but we would be his guardians and responsible for him."
"What about us? What about our privacy?"
Brad wished Steve would quit thinking about himself for just a moment. "Steve, we live in a chief officer's quarters. I think you designed the setup for Kyle, Danny, and Koji. And if that design is big enough for Koji, it's big enough for any boy alive."
"How long would he be our ward for?"
"What do you think would work?"
"Three months," Steve said emphatically.
"Let's go with four," Scott interjected.
"Deal," Steve said. "I will be Unka Steve to my nephew Shasho for four months."
Brad felt like he could breathe for the first time since the conversation started. He gave Steve a hard hug. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. You won't be sorry, and you will make a little boy very happy."
"Not to mention my wonderful boyfriend. I never said I didn't want to be an uncle for a while, I just didn't want to be a parent forever."
Scott put his arm around Steve's shoulder. "Thank you, my friend. You don't know how much Łuke and I appreciate this. Let's go tell Shasho his fate."
"One thing we need to agree on, first," Brad said. "We have to tell Shasho his status as our ward and what that means as opposed to being adopted. But I don't think we should tell him about what happens in four months. He doesn't need to live with us knowing a deadline is hanging over his head."
"Agreed," Scott said. "We shouldn't tell Sukotto either. We won't set his area up for two or drop any hints. All of that will wait for the four months to pass."
"Fair enough," Steve said.
When Shasho saw the hugging, he was certain he was going to get good news. When the three teens came across the room, he stood and waited with anticipation.
Brad couldn't tell if it was irony or meant to be, but it was Steve who broke the news. Steve put his arm around Shasho's skinny shoulder and looked down at him with a wide grin. "Shasho, my friend, how would you like to go into space and reorganize my files?"
Dave had suggested that Jaku take his brother to the Sooloo, then report to Lt. Enzan to get their quarters. Normally he would have reported to Dave, Hal, Jordan, Aiden, Jace or Steve (in that order), but all of them were on the planet. Kage was the Assistant Chief of Security, so he was the next in line for a new member of the crew to meet.
As the shuttle landed in the bay, Kage was waiting. A young boy stepped off the shuttle which surprised Kage. He thought, 'Cute boy, if only he were older. I wonder who he is.' Then an older version of the boy stepped off the shuttle and put his hand on the boy's shoulder. Kage walked up to them, "Can I help you?"
"I am Hosayaku Haimono Jaku," the older version stated.
"Pleased to meet you, I am Lt. Enzan Kage. Captain Bowman told me that you and your brother would be coming aboard."
As they walked, Kage was quiet, thinking about how attractive this new boy was when suddenly Jaku turned to him, "I think you are cute, too."
Kage was surprised, "What?"
"I'm sorry," Jaku apologized, "I shouldn't have read your thoughts, but they were so strong, and I've only been training with my telepathy for three years. I do think you are handsome, and I would love to date you."
"Wow," Kage smiled, "I wasn't expecting that. I was trying to think, hoping to find out if I had any chance."
"Oh, you have a chance alright," Tei giggled. "I haven't developed telepathy yet, but I can tell that my brother is interested, VERY interested." Jaku put his brother into a headlock.
"So, my watch is done in two hours, would you like to get something to eat?"
Jaku smiled, "I would love to, but since I met you, I also have a favor to ask."
"If I am able and it doesn't go against Space Fleet Regulations, I am willing to do anything for you."
"There's a boy in the orphanage that's being bullied. I was talking about adopting him but when I took guardianship over Tei, I was denied. They said being single, one boy was hard enough to raise. If I were married, they would consider it, but I thought maybe you could adopt him. I think Akage would be comfortable with you."
"Akage and my name is Kage? That's kind of funny," Kage chuckled, "so why is he being bullied?"
"Akage is a rarity... his paternal great-grandparents came from Terra, I believe the part known as Ireland. Their son, his grandfather, had mated with a Darastixian woman and bore his father. Now, his father looked like any other half-blood, but when Akage was born, he had red hair. To my knowledge, he is the only Darastixian with red hair; it was bright red at birth and is darkening up as he ages."
"When I get off, I would like to meet with him, but I won't make any promises. If he and I click, we can discuss adoption."
"Thank you, that's all I ask."
Ready Room ~ 0800 [1600 Draconia Time]
Dave was in his ready room preparing a report to send back to Earth prior to leaving Darastix when he received a call from King Zedrick.
"Sire, I wasn't expecting a call from you."
"Dave, I've told you, just call me Zedrick... but I need to speak to you urgently before you leave."
"Is there a problem, Zedrick?" Dave asked, concern evident in his voice.
"I prefer to talk about it in person. Can you come to see me?"
"I can be there in about 30 minutes. I just need to get into a shuttle and return to the planet."
Dave ended the communication and contacted Danny. "Lieutenant Harper, can you meet me at your fighter? I need a lift down to the planet."
"Of course, Sir, but... if I may ask, why the fighter?"
"Because I think it would be fun to ride in it." Dave laughed.
Ten minutes later, Dave and Danny were in the fighter with clearance to leave the Sooloo. Danny flew them down to the planet and landed in the field adjacent to the palace.
Meagear Endou was there and escorted Dave to the palace. When he arrived, he was ushered into a private conference room where Zedrick was sitting. Danny went with Endou.
"I must say, Zedrick, I'm a bit worried. What was so urgent?"
"Dave, did you see the new ship in the space dock?"
"I did," Dave replied, "and it left me wondering what your plans for the Kaisokusen were."
"The Kaisokusen would normally be decommissioned and either dismantled or destroyed, but I am considering giving it to Earth as a gift. What do you think?"
"I don't know what to think, but if you are interested in an alliance with Earth and Space Fleet, it would make a nice gift." Dave stated.
"Yes, I am interested in such an alliance. I would also like for my youngest son, Zifaa to go ahead of time. Is there any chance you can return to Earth with him?"
Dave returned to his quarters after finishing up a report in his ready room. He needed to talk to Hal, his closest advisor, about Zedrick's request. When he arrived, Hal was sitting on the couch, looking out at the planet below. Dave sat next to him and, after giving Hal a kiss, discussed what had happened on the planet.
After talking for a while, it was agreed that they would talk with Jordan before making a decision about contacting Space Fleet with Zedrick's request. Jordan agreed to meet in the Captain's Ready Room at 1400 the following day.
Bill Mirah and Gregory Robinson were sitting alone in a conference room. They were on their fourth run-through of the video Dave had sent them of the artifact. "I can't believe they've been on Earth for that long," Gregory Robinson stated.
Bill nodded his head, "I believe they have been here since the Edo period of Japan. At least, that is the information we have shared with medical personnel. Not even most admirals are aware. We need to keep that under wraps; I don't think the general population would react well to the fact. We only let the medical field know in case they need to treat them."
They discussed several other aspects of the revelations. It had been a few weeks since Gregory Robinson had seen his son, and he noticed that Kyle looked different. He couldn't put his finger on exactly what it was, but something was different. Bill Mirah shook his head, "I don't think the crew of the Sooloo is going to like this, but I think it's going to become necessary for them to make a detour to Earth."
Part of Admiral Robinson was pleased to hear this. He would get the opportunity to see his son again, another part needed to make something clear. "Bill, if we recall them, they need to understand... and we need to follow through on the fact that they'd only be here a short time, then they can resume their mission."
"Well, the official reason would be to debrief them on the entire Draconian situation. Even with instant communications, we can't expect Zorn to give us an open channel for as much time as it is going to take to discuss this. Also, there's the matter of Alan Hole's trial. Dave has explained to me the various charges against him and this is something that should be adjudicated here, not on the ship, even with an instantaneous link. I can make the guarantee though, that they'll be back out and on their mission within a finite amount of time."
The two friends watched the video one final time before calling it a day. They shook hands and Admiral Robinson left... he was still trying to put his finger on what about his son had changed.
Hal and Jordan took their seats across from Dave at his desk. Dave initiated the meeting. "King Zedrick made a request of me and I wanted to get your opinions before I decide whether to agree to it… or not."
Hal already knew what it was about from their conversation the previous night and Jordan was listening quietly.
"The king wants us to take his youngest son, Zifaa, back to earth. In addition, he is going to be giving one of their battleships to Earth, or more specifically, Space Fleet… as a gift and a token of their friendship."
Jordan wasn't quite sure he'd heard correctly, "Did you say Earth?"
"Yes. It would mean we either delay or forego our mission, return to Earth, then, hopefully, head back out to our next destination. If I'm doing the math right, it'll take us about a month to get back. I would expect us to spend between two weeks and a month on Earth before heading back out to our next planet."
Jordan thought about it, "Sir, this will mean we'll have ten kids that aren't part of the crew on the ship. We have Jason and Jonas, Lars, Koji, Juro, Tomo, Jaku's brother Tei, then Scott and Łuke are planning to adopt Sukotto and Brad and Steve are taking in Shasho. Then Prince Zifaa will be joining us. "
Hal spoke up, "Well two of those, Juro and Tomo, are effectively members of the crew, if only on an acting basis, but yes, there would be an increase in the number of 'dependents' on the ship."
"Getting back to the subject of heading to Earth, personally, I know Jace would love to be able to introduce the twins to his parents, as I would mine. And I'm sure other crew members would love to get home for a while. Have you thought about the possibility that some of the members of the crew will want to stay on Earth?"
"No, I hadn't," Dave offered, "but it's a good thing to consider. Once the final decision is made, I'll make an announcement to the crew. If any of the crew want to remain on Earth, we'll need to know it before we get there... so I can arrange with Admiral Mirah for replacements."
They talked about logistics for a while before deciding.
At about 1430 hours, Dave put in a call to Zorn asking to be put through to Admiral Mirah.
Admirals Mirah and Robinson were in Mirah's office when the call came from Zorn that there was an urgent communication from the Sooloo. Zorn relayed the transmission to the Admiral's office.
"Zippy? What's the emergency?" Mirah asked with concern.
"Well Sir, there have been some developments here on Darastix... er, I mean Draconia. It seems the King wants to present Earth with a gift and send an envoy to Earth. They have asked the Sooloo to escort their envoy. I need permission for the Sooloo to put the schedule for our mission on hold and return to Earth to honor that request."
Mirah looked over at Robinson and tried, unsuccessfully, to hide his mirth. "Dave, you have no idea how eager I am to grant your request. We were actually going to contact you later today to request you return to Earth. We feel Crewman Hole's trial needs to be done on Earth, not on the ship. Our only concern is that the only eye witness to the events is a Draconian. Is there any way he can accompany you also?"
Now it was Dave's turn to unsuccessfully hide his smile. "Sirs, the individual you mentioned is already aboard the Sooloo. He has been assigned as a liaison between Space Fleet and Draconia. He is also the person who upgraded our communications. He could easily do that to Earth's communications array as well."
"Grand. Our people believe it will take you about two months to get here." Mirah stated.
"Sir, with the upgrades to our engines and hull, we'll be there in about half that time. We could be there quicker if we were to push the engines a bit, without even going to our 'critical' point." Dave boasted.
"Amazing, truly amazing." Mirah looked over at Greg Robinson and noticed a look of awe on his face as well.
"Dave, I want you to know that your visit to Earth will only be a temporary one. I would expect it to be no more than four to six weeks. That will give us a chance to debrief on your mission so far, assess the modifications made to the Sooloo, have Crewman Hole's trial, and give your people a week or so of R&R."
"Sir, I expect there may be some members of the crew who will want to leave the ship and stay on Earth. We will try to assess who these people are and give you ample time to find replacements for them."
"Sounds like you and your staff have thought this through. That's fine. I also expect that some of the other Admirals will have something to say about the children you have on board."
Dave got a little defensive as he replied, "Sir, they will stay with their parents. It will be the decision of those individuals if they remain on the Sooloo or stay on Earth. I will not allow them to be coerced or ordered to leave the ship. It's my ship and my crew, Sir, and Regulation Twenty-Eight states..."
"Hold on there, Zippy... I didn't say that to infer that I would support them over your people. I just wanted you to know it will likely come up."
Dave looked down as he said, "I'm sorry, Sir. I overreacted."
"Don't worry about it. We will look forward to your arrival before Christmas. I know at least one grandfather who will be spending a bit of his savings to spoil a small child."
Dave smiled as he saw the grin on Admiral Robinson's face. "Sir, if I may be so bold, Admiral Robinson, I wanted to say to you that your son is the best surprise I have had in this mission so far. I was reluctant to accept him as my Astrogator and I know now that had he not been here, the Sooloo would have been lost more than once. You have every right to be proud of him, we here are very much so."
Greg Robinson wiped a tear as he thanked Captain Bowman for his comments, "Please tell Kyle I am proud of him and I look forward to seeing him in a month."
"I will, Sir. Admiral Mirah, if there is nothing else, we have preparations to make." Dave replied.
"Very well, Captain. Godspeed and we'll see you in about a month."