As they approached the planet, Darastixian fighters came out to greet them. Then they formed the "missing man" formation to honor Medici.
When it came time to get shots, everyone but Koji got theirs. Koji ended up paying for it and eventually received his.
Zarek's wife was expecting a baby, but it wasn't due for another week or two. The baby came early, being born at about the same minute as when Medici passed. While Zarek had planned to name the baby after himself, he decided to make Medici the baby's middle name.
Juro asked if he could see a boy at the orphanage. The boy was ten months old, and he helped Tomo take care of the baby. Seeing how Juro felt about the boy, Connor and Aiden decided to adopt him. His name is Arytiss. Juro offered to share him with Koji so Koji could be a big brother.
Little did they know, one of Koji's friends became an orphan and Koji started pushing his opsolai to adopt. Koji reminded them that Duskin was not a baby. John and Will were surprised when a boy asked them to adopt him and his younger brother.
Bill and King Zedrick chatted about boys becoming adults at thirteen. Bill was surprised to discover that Darastixians don't use the term gay, but rather simply love who they love regardless of gender. The King has his wife and her brother. Zarek has a wife but enjoys time with his brothers.
Zedrick gave a speech to honor Medici, then Zarek introduced his new son.
When they returned to the quarters where many of the crew were staying, Danny told Koji they had to take care of some business while Kyle spoke to Jace. Jace immediately agreed to help Kyle. Koji was then dropped off with the twins. Everyone appeared to be happy. Danny and Kyle left to take care of business, which was essentially them chatting well out of range of Koji's hearing.
The young husbands walked to a park which was about a kilometer from their quarters. They found a vacant picnic table and sat there. "I feel like I'm in a spy vid," Danny said. "Do you think I should look under the table for listening devices?"
"I think we're good," Kyle grinned. "Although our son does have an uncanny way of hearing what's going on, which is the reason we're here in the great outdoors."
"We don't seem to be seeing eye-to-eye, which isn't unusual when it comes to dealing with Koji."
"True, but we always seem to find a solution. You and I are good at talking and finding ways to agree, which I guess is what a compromise is all about."
"Why do I get the feeling you're not looking for a compromise this time?" Danny asked.
"Because there is really only one solution. You know just like I do that you and I can't handle having three boys to deal with. I don't care what kind of positions we have on the Sooloo and how everybody says we're doing a good job with Koji; there is also Tommy to think about. We're still only twelve and we're starting to get in over our heads. Like I said, we have our duties to think of."
"And how often have we not done our duty? For all his wildness, Koji does know right from wrong and, in his own way, works hard to do the right thing. I am proud of what Tommy is doing and not just because he's my brother. The kid's amazing and smarter than I realized."
"But we're still responsible for him," Kyle pointed out.
"Like that's been something hard. Kyle, I bet in a year he won't be living with us anymore because he'll be a crewmember. He's going to be eleven soon, and that's old enough; he just has to learn some of the shit they teach at the Academy, and he'll be working somewhere on the ship. That's what Tommy wants and that's what he's working his ass off to do. So, let's not pretend we gotta raise him—we have the officers of the Sooloo hard at work teaching him, too, because they're seeing how good he is."
"You're right about that. He's amazed me, too. Smart, hardworking, ambitious and he's setting goals for what he wants. He reminds me of his older brother."
Danny grinned at the compliment. He could sense Kyle's wall cracking a little. "Ask yourself this, my love... ask yourself if deep down you want Koji to have the brother he wants and needs. You want to be a ship's captain someday, Tommy wants to become a member of the crew, and Koji wants..."
"... Koji wants to be a big brother," Kyle said softly.
"Exactly." Danny reached over the table and placed both his hands on top of Kyle's. "Remember what we talked about after your meltdown. Don't let anything get in the way of doing what you know is right. Don't be afraid of making mistakes if it means not doing the right thing."
"But not a mistake like my decimal error."
"Not like that—that kind you gotta work on. It would be like my crashing a fighter and shouldn't happen. I'm talking about the mistakes we talked about. Whatever we decide about Duskin, it won't be a perfect answer like having a decimal in the right place. But we both love Koji and want whatever we do to be the best for him, mistake or no mistake."
"When did you become all full of philosophy?" Kyle asked.
"Since I became a husband, a dad and a squadron leader. Being a dad probably more than anything. Just like you, I'm twelve, but we're not only twelve like you said. We're twelve and we're still learning. Just like your dad is like a hundred and twelve and he's still learning."
"Sheesh, Danny, Dad is old, but not that old." Kyle looked Danny in the eye and giggled. "I love it when you make me laugh. I love you, even when we aren't on the same side of an argument."
"Is that where I am now?"
"You were right when you said that, deep down I want Koji to be a big brother, but I'm not sure I want that so bad I can't be a good dad."
"So, what are we going to do?"
"How about we go to the orphanage tomorrow and find out more about Duskin?" Kyle suggested.
"The little I saw, he seemed like a nice kid who's been hurt and is lonely."
"Do you know what Duskin means?" Danny shook his head. "It means 'devious.'"
"How did you know that?" Danny was surprised.
"Because of my heritage," Kyle replied, "I asked Zarek to teach me how to speak Darastixian. Koji doesn't know it, but I understood him and Duskin chatting."
"Well, I didn't see Duskin as devious. Besides, as wild as Koji is, he expects a lot from his friends; Lars, the twins, Oliver and especially Tei. I think Koji would make a great big brother—just look how he was with Christmas."
"But we need to know what kind of kid Duskin is from somebody who really knows, and that would be a teacher, counselor or someone at the orphanage. What else?" Danny asked.
"I want to talk to my father." "Talk to your father?" Kyle and Danny said simultaneously, causing both boys to laugh.
"What about Hal and David?"
"Only if we decide yes and have to get their permission."
"What do we tell Koji when we get back?"
"The truth," Kyle said. "We're still thinking, and we'll decide after the ceremony, just like we told him."
Connor and Aiden found Hal and Dave walking through the corridor. Aiden ran up to them, "Sirs, there's something we think you should know."
"What is it?" Hal questioned, "and where is Arytiss?"
"Second question first; Juro and Tomo are taking care of him, and putting him to bed," Connor informed them.
Aiden took over, "When we asked Zedrick about adopting, he made a joke about us legally abducting the orphans. He approved our adoption, but..."
"Perhaps we need to curb any further adoptions," Dave insisted, "at least until we have a chat with Zedrick to see if the adoptions are upsetting him or his people."
"It's almost 2000 here," Hal commented, "so we should do it tomorrow, perhaps before breakfast. Thank you for telling us."
After entering their guest quarters, Dave checked on his sons, and found them both almost asleep. He kissed each on the forehead and told them a story until they were asleep. Going back to join Hal, he commented, "It took longer than I expected to get them to sleep. Oliver is still very excited about being here. There are a lot of new sights for him."
After pulling Dave's hand to get him to sit next to him on the couch, Hal chuckled, "Sights, smells and tastes. Did you see him sampling the native Darastixian cuisine? I figured he'd like most of it based on his reaction to tasting Shimmy for the first time not long ago."
The pair cuddled up on the sofa, looking out at the Darastixian sky through the window of their guest house.
"I wanted to repeat that I feel you've handled the whole adoption thing very well. I think you came up with the same solution I would have." He then bent over and gave Hal a very loving kiss.
"I still think we need to discuss this with both our Admirals as well as the King. I'm still of a mind to allow a few more adoptions, but I think it'll be harder to approve any more going forward. With the refit, the ship was designed for forty to forty-five crew members plus officers, and with the civilian staff, we were meant to have 119 people on board. With three more possible adoptions that would bring us to nearly twenty kids. Do you realize that would mean we've increased the population of the ship by more than 15%?" Hal observed.
Dave thought a moment before replying, "I didn't realize we'd added so many... if it weren't for the fact that they are all pretty small, I'd worry about having the resources to care for everyone. I agree though, tomorrow we should sit and talk to Bill and Greg, then arrange a meeting with Zed."
The pair then cuddled back up, just enjoying being together and having a chance to unwind.
John Luke, Will and Drake were heading toward the Royal Dining Hall when they saw Hal and Dave heading toward the Main Keep. "Captain, Commodore, can we speak with you?"
"If you are planning to ask to adopt, see me later," Hal advised. "Apparently, when Connor and Aiden spoke with the King, he joked about us legally abducting their orphans. I want to be sure we are not upsetting them before I approve any more adoptions."
"Understood, Sir," John replied, "we weren't actually planning to adopt, but were approached by a boy. I was wanting your advice about whether we should even consider it, but if you can't approve any more adoptions..."
"Tell me more about this boy," Hal insisted. John and Will told them what they knew about Lakinae. They included what they knew about the younger brother. "I think you should get to know the boys better. If you think it would work, and the King doesn't have a problem with our adopting so many children, I will consider it. One thing I need to consider is, we are getting to have as many children as officers, and many of the officers are still children themselves."
"Thank you, Sir," Will responded. "As John said, we hadn't planned to adopt, but there's something about this boy."
Dave reemphasized what Hal said, "Well, we are on our way to talk with Bill, Greg and Zedrick. You should consider spending time with the two boys."
With that, John, Will and Drake headed to eat breakfast, then Drake would go to class while John and Will made for the orphanage.
Having been acknowledged, Dave and Hal entered the VIP Quarters conference room. The two were immediately aware that the meeting was of some importance when they saw, not only Fleet Admiral Mirah, but also Admiral Greg Robinson and King Zedrick.
A bit nonplussed, Dave recovered first, "If this is an inconvenient time..."
Bill put them at ease with the tone of his reply... almost as if they expected them, "Not at all, come and take seats."
After being seated, as Dave was about to begin, Bill continued. "We were just sitting here because Zed..." Bill paused before going on, "I'm sorry... King Zedrick was concerned that a joke he made might have been misunderstood."
Zedrick took over, "It seems that my sense of humor might have been used in a way that could have been misunderstood. Two of your officers came to me the other day seeking permission to adopt an infant from the orphanage." Dave was about to add something but stopped when Zedrick smiled and put up his hand. "It seems I questioned if the Sooloo was trying to legally abduct our orphans. In retrospect, I believe my choice of words was unfortunate. Our history has been, for many centuries, to explore our galaxy. In recent time, since the first Lizon war, that practice has slowed somewhat. The children adopted by you and your crew mates gives at least a small number of our youth the ability to continue that tradition. All of the adoptions to date have been in the best interest of the child and I could not be happier."
Dave decided he should be the one to speak, "Thank you, Sire. We had heard that comment and we're pleased that our initial take on the comment was incorrect... however, on our way here, we were approached by two of our crew who expressed the desire to adopt not one, but two orphans. The two boys are brothers, one is five years old I believe, and his brother is a bit older. The younger is a friend of Koji Robinson, and his name is Marasu."
Zedrick smiled and interjected, "Younger brother of Lakinae, I believe."
"Yes, he is. The two crew members told us that they had not planned on adopting, but when Lakinae approached them..."
For the first time, Zedrick's smile faltered, "Gentlemen, I want to apologize, the boy had no right to approach your crew..."
Hal interrupted, "Your Highness, I believe it was only out of love for his brother..."
Hal stopped when Zedrick started to chuckle, "Bill, please tell your officers that they did nothing wrong, and Lakinae will not get into trouble. The worst that may happen is a serious talk so he understands his actions."
Bill and Greg visibly relaxed, then Bill asked, "Is there anything more?"
"Yes, Sir. Commodore Bowman and I have discussed the fact that the Sooloo has adopted quite a few, not only from Darastix, but also from Earth and at least one other planet. In addition, two of the Darastixian boys we adopted actually built another."
"Ah yes, Jinzo, I believe," Bill acknowledged, "Our cyberneticists have been very impressed with the documents the boys sent back and have been virtually walking on air since trying to decide how they will be able to repeat the experiment."
Dave continued, "Thank you, Sir. To continue, we have been concerned that the population of the ship has grown 'not insignificantly,' and we want to make sure that both you and our superiors realized we are not blind to that concern. We told the two officers to get to know both boys. If they decide to, and you and our superiors approve, we had planned to approve the adoptions, but we think we would have to have a seriously compelling reason to authorize any more going forward."
Bill's reply was simply, "I've reviewed each adoption as they happened and agreed with your reasons for approving them. I and, I assume, Admiral Robinson, would agree that your decisions were sound, and you have our support. I agree you need to think about more going forward, but I'm sure, should you approve of anymore, it will be for the right reasons."
"Thank you, Sirs... Sire, that is all we have to discuss at this time."
Zedrick stood and approached the two young officers and offered his hand. "You shouldn't worry so much... things usually work out as they should."
With that, Dave and Hal left the room. Both Greg and Bill realized that they had some ammunition for another problem to which they were aware.
Will and John walked into the orphanage. Miss Dewel was in her office but came out when she saw them enter. "I'm sorry, did Lakinae do something the other day? That's not like him."
"The only thing he did was ask us to adopt him and his brother," John assured her.
"I see," Miss Dewel smiled.
Will spoke up, "We spoke with our captain, and he suggested we see if the two boys can spend the remainder of our stay with us. We would like to know if we are compatible before we decide."
"That is a wise idea," Miss Dewel nodded. "They are in class right now, but classes are over at aovbijar (" Thirteen ")chimes. If you are able to come then, I will have them getting ready."
"A of by jar?" John tried saying the word.
"Close, aovbijar," Miss Dewel corrected. "In your language, that's thirteen, so when you hear the bells chime thirteen times, classes will be over."
"Thank you," Will shook her hand, "we will be back then."
As they walked away, John commented, "At least she doesn't seem upset about us wanting to adopt the two boys."
As they were leaving, they saw Kyle and Danny heading toward the orphanage. They waved and Kyle waved back. John looked at Will and said, "I wonder why they are going to the orphanage. Surely, they don't want to adopt another boy. Koji is plenty of boy for them."
Kyle and Danny entered the orphanage while Tommy and Koji were at the school Ali set up. They thought this was an appropriate time without Koji distracting them. As they approached the lady who seemed to be in charge, Kyle asked, "Is it possible for us to speak with someone about one of your boys? His name is Duskin."
"Do you mean Duskin Vraktor?" the lady inquired. "I am Miss Dewel, and I can tell you anything you would like to know. Don't let his name fool you; he isn't a devious child at all."
"Vraktor means child," Kyle explained to Danny.
"He doesn't seem devious," Danny stated. "Why was he given the name Duskin?"
"You see," Miss Dewel began, "when he was born, his mother nearly died. His father named him Duskin for that reason but let me tell you about him. Duskin is the sweetest, most polite boy you will ever meet. He is respectful and helpful."
"He doesn't know how his parents died. I know his dask and Koji's dask were friends," Kyle commented.
"They were," Miss Dewel replied. "As for Duskin's parents, they were on a business trip and couldn't take him with them. The transport they were on was hit by a meteorite that was bigger than the transport. No one survived."
"Danny and I have seen a lot of sadness in him."
"But there is happiness in him, too, when he is busy playing and studying with his friends. He's a brilliant boy and loves learning new things." Miss Dewel shifted her glance between Kyle and Danny. "I am curious as to the reason for your inquiry."
Kyle looked at Danny who nodded, indicating Kyle could answer the question. Miss Dewel noted the silent communication between the two and saw it as a positive sign. Kyle shifted in his chair and started in, "Apparently, Duskin and Koji were friends since before Koji lived in the orphanage."
"Yes, they were. Both boys are very bright and are loyal to their friends. Duskin came to the orphanage as often as he could to play with Koji. Their personalities are very different, and yet they fit each other well. Even though Koji is the elder, from what I observed he never used that to his advantage. They appeared to be eager friends. Duskin's parents were killed right after you adopted Koji and Duskin was hoping to room with him," Miss Dewel paused and gave Kyle a knowing smile, her expression saying to Kyle that he still had not answered her question.
Kyle read the expression and got right to the point. "Koji and Duskin ran into each other at the beach and, well, everything still seemed to click between them. Koji told us later he would like for Duskin to become his brother."
"And how do you boys feel about this?" Miss Dewel was tempted to call them young men since their maturity level was beyond what she would normally expect of boys their age. As strange as starships manned by young boys seemed, the program seemed to be a success, in part because of the extraordinary boys manning it. Even though Darastixians are considered adults at thirteen, they don't normally serve on their starship until they are nineteen, seventeen at the youngest, the princes being exceptions.
"We aren't sure yet," Kyle responded. "That is why we are here. Danny and I feel we need to get all the facts we can before deciding."
"We want to do what is best for Duskin and Koji," Danny added. He and Kyle had agreed not to reveal their differences of opinion to Miss Dewel; they wanted to appear to be on the same page.
"I must admit when the two of you adopted Koji, I was skeptical about the adoption's success. You both appeared much too young to be responsible for raising a boy who was not much younger than the two of you. I fully expected to hear some time in the future that he had been given new parents when the operation didn't work out. To add to my skepticism, Koji, to put it bluntly, is a handful."
"We feel like we have done a good job with, Koji," Danny stated defensively.
"From everything I have heard from my sources in the past few days, I would have to agree," the orphanage counselor concurred. "Two boys could be more than double the load, except that Duskin is almost the total opposite of Koji when it comes to deportment."
"So you think Koji and Duskin might make good brothers?" Danny asked.
"From what I have observed, they WILL make good brothers," Miss Dewel replied.
The three went on for a few more minutes discussing some specifics about Duskin's emotional and mental state, as well as ideas from Miss Dewel as to how Koji could help Duskin heal. "If I have any concern about your starship, it is how mental health is dealt with."
"Miss Dewel, we have an excellent medical staff and dealing with mental health and emotional issues is a big part of what they do," Kyle answered. "After all, like you've said, we're all growing boys who have to deal with not only growing up stuff, but also dealing with having a lot of responsibilities. It helps to have somebody to talk to sometimes. And so you don't have to ask, Danny and I both sometimes ask for help dealing with Koji,"
"I will finish with this. If you two young men decide to make Duskin your second son and Koji's brother, I will approve the adoption," Miss Dewel concluded. "As I told the couple that just left, John and Will from your ship, if you would like to come back at thirteen chimes, classes will be done, and you can consider letting him stay with you to help make up your minds."
After Kyle and Danny stepped out of the orphanage, Kyle took out his communicator and contacted Steve Boyer, telling him they were ready for a ride to take them to the guest quarters. Steve told them he'd have one there in less than fifteen minutes. He was as good as his word when a vehicle with a Darastixian driver arrived ten minutes later.
Kyle and Danny sat in the back seat. The driver introduced himself as Akiro. "Since lunch is being served at your guest quarters, I imagine you are ready to go there," the driver grinned.
"Wux siofmea harkt," (" You imagine correctly ") Kyle said in perfect Darastixian.
"Before you say anything, I've decided Miss Dewel was correct. We need to spend some time with Duskin before we make a decision," Kyle told Danny.
"I thought you've already made a decision," Danny responded a bit sulkily.
"I thought I did. But you know, making a decision like this without a careful look is like me putting a course into the navigation computer without double checking all the math. There is a good chance of getting off course and lost."
Danny nodded. He was pleased to see Kyle get down from his pedestal and become the careful thinker he loved. "I wonder how Koji would like having a guest for dinner?" Danny grinned.
"Shall we turn back and make arrangements?" Kyle asked.
"Let's eat first. It would be better if my stomach wasn't growling."
"Sounds like a proper course."
When they arrived at the guest quarters, they found Koji playing Othello with Tommy. The Darastixians had a similar game called Gethrisj ("<\/p>\r\n<table style=\"border-color: #000000;\" width=\"100%\">\r\n<tbody>\r\n<tr>\r\n<td style=\"width: 25%; border-color: #0080ff;\" width=\"623\">\r\n<p style=\"text-align: center;\"><sub><img src=\"\/chapters\/Voyagers\/Go.jpg\" alt=\"Go\" width=\"155\" height=\"150\" \/><\/sub><\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: center;\"><sup>Go is played on a grid of black lines (usually 19x19). Game pieces, called <em>stones<\/em>, are played on the lines.<\/sup><\/p>\r\n<\/td>\r\n<td style=\"width: 75%; border-color: #000000;\" width=\"623\">\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\"><strong>Go<\/strong> or <strong>Gethrisj<\/strong> (Darastixian) is an abstract strategy board game for two players in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. The game was invented in China more than 2,500 years ago and is believed to be the oldest board game continuously played to the present day.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">It reached Korea around 500 CE and Japan around 700CE. During Japan's Edo period the game became very popular and had a grid of 19x19 at that time.<\/p>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">Unlike Othello, which can be learned in no time, Go can take many years to master.<\/p>\r\n<\/td>\r\n<\/tr>\r\n<\/tbody>\r\n<\/table>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\"> "), which played much like Othello. Koji had loved playing the game in the orphanage and Tommy often played against his friends Barry and Amy.
"Hey, Tommy, look it's the opsolai," Koji said excitedly.
"I thought you boys would be in school," Kyle said.
"We were and we will be, but it's lunch break," Tommy responded.
"Have you boys had lunch yet?" Kyle asked.
"I thought I was hungry," Danny grinned.
"When have you ever imagined being hungry?" Kyle asked.
"About as often as you—which is never."
"What happens if break is over before your game?" Danny asked.
"You never were much with computers, bro," Tommy answered. "We take a picture of the board."
"Jeez, bro, that's so simple I bet I could figure it out."
"Don't be so sure."
Danny looked over at Kyle and said, "Little brothers. You love them to death, but at the same time, you want to strangle them."
"Be careful what you say," Kyle said. "With my family adopting Ronnie, I'm now the little brother."
"I want a little brother to love and strangle," Koji blurted.
"Loving is good. Getting strangled is not so good," Tommy told Koji.
"Hey, I've never strangled you," Danny protested.
"Nope, but you just said you've thought of it."
Before the conversation could deteriorate any further, Ali walked up to the table. "Time to put the game away and come to class," he told Tommy and Koji.
"Oops, I lost track of time," Tommy said. "I'll blame it on my big brother and give him a real reason to strangle me."
"Actually, we have something we'd like to talk to each of them about and would like to keep them for a few minutes, if you don't mind," Kyle advised.
Ali knew that parents had priority with their kids, especially ones that were senior officers. "Sure, but I need them back in a half hour for a special lesson," Ali said. He would bend only so far, however, no matter who the parents were.
"Not a problem. This shouldn't take long." Kyle was glad to have a time limit put on the discussions because, like Danny, he was hungry and more than ready for lunch.
Randy Jenkins and the Sooloo cooking staff had taken over the use of the kitchen at the guest quarters. They served the dishes they would have on the Sooloo, but with extra shimmy. Randy had enlisted the assistance of two of the royal cooks to help cook up some meals that were a mix of Darastixian and Earth cuisine. They proved to be quite popular.
Randy saw Kyle and Danny enter the dining room and walked over to greet them. "Lunch is about over, but there is plenty of food left," Randy offered. "Do you want to see the menu?"
"I'll take the best of the concoctions you and the king's chefs have been cooking up," Kyle said.
"They're all good," Randy told him.
"Then give me what got the most compliments from the crew."
"I don't have to ask Danny what he wants." Randy grinned at Danny, "How do you want your burger cooked?"
"You know the answer to that. Medium rare, with mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, and plenty of onion; plus lots of fries." Unlike Kyle, Danny was not an adventurous eater.
"Is a shimmy burger acceptable?"
"You know I love shimmy."
"I'll have somebody bring your lunch out soon," Randy said before returning to the kitchen.
"Okay, we'll talk to Koji first," Danny said.
Tommy started to protest. "But, Danny, I've got a ton of stuff to do and..."
Danny held up his hand and said, "The talks should be short." Danny and Kyle had agreed to the order of their talks earlier.
"I'd rather you strangled me than make me even later for class."
"Ali will forgive you and help you out. And the more you argue, the longer this is going to take."
Danny shook his head and went to the drink dispenser for a lemonade.
"Did you see Duskin at the orphanage?" Koji asked right away.
"No, we didn't," Kyle answered. "We did learn a lot about Duskin though, and Miss Dewel had good things to say about him."
"Does that mean we're gonna get me a little brother?"
"No, it just means we're working on doing the right thing. And remember, you agreed not to bug us about that until Saturday."
"Koji knows, but you and Tommy and Danny Daddy were talking about little brothers, and you wanted to talk to me, so I thought it was okay for me to talk about it, but since it's not, I won't. What are we going to talk about?"
"We want to talk about how much you know about Arytiss," Danny said. "You seem to think Connor and Aiden are adopting him for sure."
"No. I don't know much. I know if they adopt Arytiss I can be big brother and I know I want a little brother who is really my little brother and Duskin was like my little brother in the orphanage and I'm sorry I said anything about Duskin, but Koji gets all excited about brothers."
"We just don't want you to be disappointed if the Arytiss adoption doesn't come through. It's not a done deal," Kyle said.
Danny spoke up, "I found out this morning, it IS a done deal. They filed yesterday."
"Oh," Kyle uttered.
"Is that all?" Koji asked.
"One more thing. Your Daddy Danny and I want to go back to the orphanage and bring Duskin here for dinner."
"Does that mean you're going to..."
"Sorry, Opsola." Koji hung his head, ashamed that he was upsetting his opsolai.
"What it means is we want to learn what he is like and see how you and he get along before we decide what to do," Danny said. Danny knew what he wanted to do, but he respected Kyle for making sure they didn't make a mistake.
"Koji understands and want to see Duskin for dinner."
"Then we're finished for now," Kyle said. "You can go to class." Koji got up to leave. "Oh, and Koji..."
"Keep control of yourself and do your best in class."
Koji was in an obvious state of excitement. "I will Papa Kyle." Koji turned and dashed off to class. Kyle and Danny hoped he didn't drive Ali totally insane.
"I guess it's my turn now," Tommy said as he sauntered over to the table. "What do you want?"
"Tommy, don't get snarky," Danny said.
"Sorry, bro, but I want to be in class."
"I know. You're excited about what you're learning, and that's good. Kyle and I just want to ask you a question about Koji, and we wanted to see what Koji was thinking first."
"So, ask away."
"What do you think of Koji getting a little brother?" Danny asked.
"I think he wants one bad; I mean REALLY bad. I know he's like my nephew, but he's like me having a little brother. You saw us playing a game when you came in—that's how he is. He loves to do stuff with people. In my studies we're learning how the best officers are good leaders and that good leaders are good people persons. That's what I'm working on because I'm kinda quiet, even if I am talking a lot now. But that's because you guys are my bros."
"What does that have to do with Koji?" Kyle asked.
"Koji is an awesome people person. You should see him in class. Everybody likes him, and not because he's funny, but because he's a leader and kids in class follow him even though he's younger than a lot of them. Koji needs a little brother because he likes teaching people and if he got Duskin as a little brother he loved, he would be an awesome teacher and leader and... well... lots of things. I wish I could say what I want to say better."
"You're doing fine, bro," Danny assured. "I can't remember you saying so much at once."
"Well, it's because I'm serious about it. I love Koji, and I think he would be even more special being a big brother. And I mean a big brother to somebody he lives with not just a little baby in somebody else's quarters. Am I making sense?"
"Where would he live if you decide to adopt him?"
"Bunkbeds with Koji is the plan," Kyle replied.
"Head off to class. Time for you to work on acing leadership training."
"Piece of Ben Maxey cake," Tommy grinned as he grabbed the Othello game off the table and headed to class.
Randy placed their lunches in front of them as soon as Tommy left. "Damn, we get served by the head chef, himself. This really is special," Kyle grinned.
"That's because you guys are special people. Take a taste of it and tell me what you think," Randy said.
"Burger is perfect and fries are hot," Danny reported.
"And this sandwich is delicious. What is it?"
"It's a combination of turkey and waninashi (" <img style=\"margin-right: 10px; margin-left: 10px; float: right;\" src=\"\/chapters\/Voyagers\/Waninashi.png\" alt=\"Waninashi\" width=\"115\" height=\"100\" \/>Waninashi – Similar to the Alligator Pear, also known as the avocado, only it has a purple or pink rind on the outside with a pinkish meat inside. ")."
"I'll eat it any time."
Randy grinned and returned to the kitchen.
"Back to the orphanage after we eat?" Danny solicited.
"That is the plan. We want to have Duskin back when school gets out so he and Koji get as much time together as possible," Kyle said. He thought about that for a moment and then uttered, "We may have to entertain him for a while, though."
"We're going to have to do that anyway if we adopt him," Danny reminded him. "We might as well see how we get along with Duskin, too, while we're at it."
John and Will showed up at the orphanage ten minutes before the scheduled time. Miss Dewel approached them as they came in the entrance. "I know we're early, but we have a rule on our ship that nine minutes early is one minute late," John explained.
"That's quite alright," Miss Dewel replied. "You had another boy with you at the beach. Is he a younger brother?"
"No, he's our son. He's eleven," Will answered. "His name is Drake, and we love him very much."
"I can't believe I thought he was still ten," John admitted to Will. "We never had a party for his birthday, so I guess it slipped my mind."
"An oversight that I am sure Steve will rectify, especially after I remind him. I can't believe we haven't celebrated any of the March birthdays except Noah's."
It seemed like just a few minutes had passed when in reality it was twelve minutes after John and Will arrived that Lakinae and Marasu came and found Miss Dewel. "Ma'am, why do Marasu and I have bags packed? Are we going somewhere?"
"As a matter of fact, you are," Miss Dewel responded. "These gentlemen would like for you to spend a few days with them."
"Seriously!" Lakinae was excited. "Does that mean you are considering the adoption?"
"We are, but there may be a hitch," John reported. "Apparently, the King made a comment about us adopting so many orphans."
"I'm sure Zedrick was just kidding," Miss Dewel assured. "Truth is, we are happy the children are finding families, and the fact they are going into space is just an added blessing. If you decide you want to adopt, I know Zedrick will approve."
"In that case," Will began, "Lakinae and Marasu, why don't you grab your bags while John and I finish up with Miss Dewel."
Kyle contacted the orphanage and spoke to Miss Dewel. He asked her if it would okay for him and Danny to return to ask her something.
"You can ask me right now," she told him.
"I know, I would prefer asking you face-to-face. You'll understand after we talk," Kyle told her.
"Very well. When do you plan on arriving?"
"Danny and I will leave as soon as we can get a transport."
"I will look forward to your visit."
Kyle disconnected and contacted Steve to procure a ride.
"I've decided to see if Director of Transportation was in my job description," Steve said.
"I bet you a BJ it isn't there," Kyle said.
"You lose," Steve chortled after a moment's hesitation.
"It says in Section five, Paragraph three, 'Director of Transportation,' courtesy of my soon to be husband who is a whizz at working the ship's computers. Of course, I could have put it in myself, but it's better to have a senior officer do it. I'm willing to wait until we get back on the Sooloo to get the payoff."
"That's cheating Steve. Technically I got it right."
"You would have had it right if you had bet that it wasn't there, but the way you said it was wrong, because it is there."
"I should know better than to go up against you. Well, I guarantee you will get one of my best efforts," Kyle promised.
"I would expect nothing less. And your vehicle is on the way."
"What was that about?" Danny asked after Kyle disconnected. Danny laughed when Kyle told him. "We gotta learn that Steve is not the innocent nerd he looks like."
Danny and Kyle's ride arrived within minutes, and they were soon back at the orphanage. Miss Dewel welcomed them to her office, and they sat in the same seats they had occupied that morning.
"I assume this is about Duskin," Miss Dewel said.
"Yes, ma'am," Kyle answered. "We would like your permission to take Duskin to our guest quarters to join us for dinner."
"Us includes Koji, correct?"
"I should have said, 'to join our family'," Kyle replied.
"Does this mean you have made up your mind about adopting young Duskin?"
"It's like you told us. We shouldn't make a decision without getting to know Duskin a little better and to see how he and Koji get along."
"That is a very mature thing to say. I will approve of the visit, but on two conditions," Miss Dewel implored. "First, as much as possible, please do not raise Duskin's hopes about being adopted until you two have made up your minds for certain. Second, I would like him back in the orphanage by 20 Chimes. I will inform the night supervisor of Duskin's schedule."
Ten minutes later Duskin was in the office with an excited look on his face. "I am going to see Koji?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes. You will be eating dinner with him, Danny and me and playing with him and his friends."
"I will be with him overnight, like his brother?"
"Sorry, Duskin, but we will need to have you back by 20 Chimes."
"Why is he not here?"
Kyle nodded to Danny. Adopting Duskin was Danny's idea, and Kyle felt his husband should interact with the little boy.
"Koji is in school right now, but his day should be finished by the time we get to the quarters."
"I thought Koji lived on a spaceship. Why does he have to go to school?"
Danny thought for a moment before saying, "Koji has to go to school so he can learn enough so he can be the pilot of a spaceship someday."
"I want to be a pilot too," Duskin said.
"I hear you're smart enough to do that."
On the ride to the guest quarters, Kyle asked Duskin in Darastixian what his favorite food was. Duskin told him and added that it was the yummiest food there was, but it wasn't served often at the orphanage and hoped he could get some soon. Kyle called Randy with Duskin's request.
"I will consult my experts and we should have some ready for dinner," Randy told Kyle. Kyle told Duskin that their chef would try his best to make some, but he couldn't promise anything.
A half hour later, Kyle, Danny and Duskin were stepping out of their transport at the guest quarters. When they entered the lounge, Koji was seated with Jonas, Jason and Tei at the front of the lounge. Koji's attention had been focused on the main door to the lounge. When he saw Duskin come through the door, he leaped off his chair, rocketed to Duskin and gave him a long and loving hug.
Koji followed his hug of Duskin with hugs for Danny and Kyle, thanking both of them for bringing his friend. He was careful not to call Duskin his brother since his opsolai had given him strict instructions about not using the word. After thanking his dads, he took Duskin by the hand and guided him to the main lounge where he introduced him to Jonas, Jason and Tei.
Kyle walked over to Koji and his friends and said, "We'll leave you alone with your friends for the next hour and a half, then we'll need to get ready for dinner."
"Okay. Koji and everybody will be good and, oh look, there is Lars." He took Duskin's hand again. "Wux geou tafiaf Lars vur hak yth geou ukris vur lehhav nibelic halkvri banson (" You will meet Lars and then we will talk and play games until dinner ")," he told his friend.
Kyle and Danny left the lounge but made some unobtrusive solo entrances to the lounge through a side door. They were pleased to see Duskin fitting in with Koji and his friends and having a good time.
Dinner was strictly a family affair. For Danny and Kyle, it was "get acquainted" time, while for Koji it was "showing he could be a good big brother" time. Randy's Darastixian assistants had managed to cook up Duskin's request. Randy had to call Steve to arrange a ride to pick up some ingredients that weren't stocked at the guest house kitchen.
When Duskin saw what his dinner was, his already infectious grin became a mile wide. Overcoming his initial prejudice, Kyle found himself liking the little boy, and liking him a lot. He came as advertised by Miss Dewel, smart, polite, well-spoken for his age and attentive when spoken to. Plus, it was obvious that he worshipped Koji and that Koji adored him.
After dinner, Koji did something that opened Kyle's eyes even more as to the relationship between the two. As they waited for dessert, Koji had excused himself for a few minutes. When he came back, he was carrying the Othello game, and dessert was on the table.
When the table was cleared, Koji placed the game between him and Duskin. "Nomeno ui (" This is ") Othello," he said. "It is a lot like Gethrisj, only much easier." That was true, for while the two games were similar, the ancient Gethrisj was much like the Chinese Game of Go and took a long time to master.
Kyle and Danny watched silently while Koji patiently explained the rules and strategy of Othello to Duskin. They noted Koji's quiet patience and Duskin's attentiveness and his willingness to ask questions.
Koji set up a practice game and gave commentary as they made their moves. Soon they started a regular game. Kyle and Danny left the table so the boys could play on their own.
"What do you think?" Kyle asked Danny.
"I think anybody can see that those two love each other. They act like brothers, and they hadn't seen each other for months. More importantly, what do you think?"
"I think I need to talk to an adult about this. I'm getting confused by it."
"You mean you want to talk to Hal or Dave?" Danny prompted.
"No, I mean a real adult. I mean our dad."
Danny knew Kyle was talking about Greg Robinson. While the Admiral might be Kyle's natural father, he had become a father to Danny as well.
"That tells me you're not sure about this."
"Like I said, I'm confused," Kyle repeated. "I loved what I saw today. Duskin is somebody special, and the connection between him and Koji is stronger than I ever dreamed it was."
"So, what's the problem?"
"We have our duties as officers, and we have to make sure that any decision does not keep us from doing that duty."
Danny shook his head. "Kyle, just quit trying to think so much and just do what you know is right."
"And just how do I know what is right?"
"You do what your heart tells you," Danny insisted.
"You sound like my grandmother and our dad all wrapped up in one. But, one thing about daddy Admiral is he has a lot of command and leadership experience. He will help both of us see what the right decision is."
"I agree. Let's talk to him."
"I'll contact him and set a time to meet him tomorrow," Kyle declared.
"Sounds like a plan. And it's beginning to look like it's time to take Duskin home."
Kyle and Danny returned to the dining room where Koji and Duskin were engrossed in their game. "Duskin, it's time for us to take you home," Kyle told him.
"I want this to be home," Duskin said forlornly. "And we are not finished with our game."
"One of my opsolai will take a picture of it," Koji told him. "Will we be able to play it again?" he asked Kyle.
"We'll see what we can do," Kyle said noncommittally.
"Can I come with you to the orphanage?"
Danny came to Kyle's rescue and took over part of the bad guy role. "We think the best thing is for you to stay here. We'll get Tommy to be with you," he asserted.
Koji didn't like it but knew how he behaved was very important. He wanted Duskin to be his brother more than he wanted anything since he had been adopted by his opsolai. They took Koji to the lounge and when he saw Lars, Oliver and Tei at the game table, he asked if he could play with them. Kyle said he was okay with it and he and Danny took Duskin to their waiting ride.
"Can I please see Koji again, please?" Duskin begged. The way Duskin asked tugged at the heartstrings of Kyle and Danny.
"We'll do the best we can to set something up," Danny promised.
Danny and Kyle saw Duskin fighting off tears when they left him with the night supervisor. They rode back to the guest house in silence. They had said all that needed to be said for the night.
When they got back to the lounge, they didn't see Koji, but Jaku came up to them. "Koji and Tei went to your room, they wish to spend the night together in our room if it is okay with you," he informed them.
Kyle and Danny gave each other a slight nod. "It's okay with us," Danny answered.
With Koji out of the picture, the two young husbands knew what they not only wanted but needed to do.
"I'll be bottom," Kyle told Danny.
"Oh? Well, that was easy," Danny grinned.
"Today you were the big brother to Tommy, and I remembered I was a little brother. So, tonight big brother gets to top little brother."
And with that the boys had what was perfect therapy for their young, somewhat confused minds. For the time being, their problems were purged by their young, intense love.
"Have you eaten lunch yet?" Will inquired.
"Yes, Sir," Lakinae replied, "We had lunch at aovbijw chimes, or rather eleven chimes. That's our normal time with school and the orphanage."
"That's been a few hours, are you hungry?" Will asked, "John and I haven't eaten lunch yet."
"We usually have a snack about this time," Marasu informed him. "Can we have some xarzith awthess?"
John sported a funny look, "What's that?"
"It's a frozen dairy food made from cream or butterfat, milk, sugar and flavorings," Lakinae stated. "In English, you would call it ice cream. Marasu likes ripil, it's made from ground cacao seeds mixed in the ice cream. I like haka flavor. I'm not sure how to describe it in English."
"Why don't you each get what you want, then John and I will try to figure out what they would be in English. And get a ripil for John, and a haka for me." The two boys took off to the counter.
Steve just happened to be walking by so John called out to him. Steve inquired, "What can I do for you gents?"
"Steve, did you forget to tell Randy about birthdays in March?" John questioned.
"What do you mean, 'did I forgot their birthdays?'" Steve defended himself. "I sent Randy a message for all three birthdays. See, look."
As Steve pulled up the message center on his PADD, Will noticed that a message was written to Randy all three times, but what really caught his eye were the words, "Failed to Send" in red after all three messages.
"Um, Steve, didn't you notice that the messages failed to send?"
"Never have before," Steve seemed surprised when he saw they did. "I'll have Brad check to see why. And I'll be sure to tell Randy personally about this. We'll probably have a party on the first of April, after we leave here."
Will smiled, "You know, the first of April is someone else's birthday." Using his head, he pointed at John.
The boys returned shortly after Steve left to take care of things. They each had two bowls, Marasu placed his on the table and handed John the other ripil flavor. Lakinae had the other bowls and gave Will the haka flavored ice cream.
"This looks and tastes like chocolate," John stated. "I had a feeling when you said cacao beans. What does the haka taste like?"
Will took a spoonful and let it melt in his mouth. "Not sure what kind, but it's definitely minty. It's not spearmint, peppermint or wintergreen, but it is good. It does have a close resemblance of peppermint and spearmint combined yet has a distinct taste different from either."
John asked, "Mind if I try?"
"I was originally thinking we could trade a scoop for a scoop so we both could try each," Will suggested.
"Sounds good to me."
As Will and John interacted, Lakinae had a tear roll down his cheek. Catching that, Will asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Lakinae replied, "I just see how much the two of you love each other. It makes me really hope that you adopt us."
John reached out and grabbed Lakinae's hand, "I think Will and I know enough already." He looked at Will, who smiled and nodded his head. "Provided Miss Dewel is correct and our captain gives us permission, we would love to add you and Marasu to our family."
"Seriously?" Lakinae was hoping he heard right.
John smiled, "Yeah, I know you're being on your best behavior hoping we would, but seeing how much you care about Marasu, and talking to Miss Dewel, I know you're not acting much differently than you normally do.
Admiral Greg Robinson woke up in a sour mood. The memory of the news clip of Senator Allen Cooper's interview on the news channel the night before was still eating at him. The topic of the interview with the Canadian Senator had been the Space Fleet Explorer Program.
"The Explorer Program has strayed so far from its intent that it is time to quit spending tax dollars on it," the Senator said in his conclusion to the interview. "The mere fact that the time between stellar destinations has been reduced from months to mere days is reason enough to get the kids home where they belong. But the fact that they have become interstellar daycare centers is the clincher. On one ship, a pair of crewmen have even adopted a baby. Really? Bring them all home and let adults raise children, both the ones adopted and the poor misguided ones who think they have what it takes to be a parent."
There was a great deal more to the interview, but the conclusion is what stuck with Greg. Senator Cooper was a member of the Interstellar Space Committee, meaning the program was coming under attack in high places. As Greg got up to shower, he couldn't help but wonder where Senator Cooper was getting his information. The baby adoption was just barely more than a day old, and yet he had found out about it.
In the shower, Greg pondered his ambivalent thoughts regarding the number of adoptions on the Sooloo. The other ships had few to no adoptions, with a half dozen on the Constellation being the most. He wondered what made the Sooloo different from the rest of the Explorer fleet. He figured it was probably the number of marriages, which led to the urge to be parents. Plus, the crew had more opportunities to adopt placed before it. The Sooloo was an anomaly, which made it the lightning rod for the political attack.
Not for the first time, he wondered if the number of adopted children on the ship was a good or bad thing. And again, thinking of his beloved grandson, Koji, and the wonderful job his sons, Kyle and Danny were doing with him, convinced him it could not be a bad thing. But Greg also knew that political attack or no, a limit needed to be placed on the number of adopted children on the "interstellar daycare center" before things really did spiral out of control. I'm glad Hal is already thinking along those lines, Greg thought.
After Greg showered, he dressed and enjoyed breakfast in the luxurious dining room of the VIP quarters provided by Darastixian royalty. His breakfast companion was Bill Mirah. The main topic of their conversation was the ceremony taking place the next day. Bill said he was aware of Senator Cooper's comments, but he would be a topic for another time.
When breakfast was finished, Greg called for a vehicle to pick up his sons, Danny and Kyle. While Danny was really his son-in-law, Greg loved him with the same depth he loved his blood son, Kyle.
He sat in the foyer waiting for the boys to arrive. He had no doubt that the topic of the meeting had to be about Koji and had been on his mind all morning. Greg felt that this was the better venue for a meeting with his boys as it offered more privacy than the guest quarters where the crew was staying. As he waited, he thought how he had all but destroyed his relationship with his son through his own obstinance and had given Danny the same treatment. He regretted what he had done to the two and was thankful on a daily basis about being able to bring the two back into his life. He was incredibly proud of what the two boys had accomplished and looked forward to watching them mature into their teenage years and into adulthood.
When Kyle and Danny entered the foyer, Greg's mood brightened instantly. "Hello boys, welcome to my humble quarters.".
"With all due apologies, Admiral Robinson, your quarters are anything but humble," Kyle said in the language his leadership taught him to use when formally addressing flag officers.
"As they say, rank hath its privileges," Greg grinned. He gave Kyle and Danny quick but firm hugs. "Follow me to the meeting room, which I reserved to give us a modicum of privacy." The boys followed Greg into the parlor and looked wide-eyed at the luxurious room. It must be awesome to be part of the royal family, Kyle thought, ignoring the fact that he had royal blood flowing in his own veins.
They went down a hall and entered a room with wood panel walls and cushioned chairs. "I am told this room is for informal meetings, which I assume fits us," Greg said. Greg and the boys sat down where they could face each other. "What can I do for you boys?"
"Well, it's like this, Dad. Koji wants a little brother, and he wants one bad," Kyle told his father.
"And the problem is you don't want another son as badly as he wants a brother."
"That's just part of the problem," Kyle said. "I'll let Danny tell you the second part."
Greg was certain he knew what the second part of the problem was, but he sat back and let Danny have his say.
"That part is, I want Koji to have that little brother and Kyle isn't so sure." The problem Danny revealed was exactly what Greg thought it was. "So, we want to know what you think," Danny finished.
"I feel honored to have your trust in this matter. Just because I am your father doesn't mean you have to trust me unconditionally, which is what you are doing. First of all, is this little brother Koji wants going to be a baby?"
"Absolutely not," Danny answered. "That is something Kyle and I agree totally on."
"Secondly, is there someone Koji has in mind to be his brother?"
"There is," Kyle answered. He went on to tell Greg about Duskin and the relationship Koji had, and in some ways still has, with him.
"Why do you think this little brother would be good for Koji?" Greg asked Danny.
"I dunno for sure it would be, but here's what I think," Danny replied. "I think even though Koji is popular and has a lot of friends, he wants somebody he can love, like some of his friends have. And that means a brother he can help and love. It's like I feel about Tommy—when I help him it makes me feel good. His just being here makes me feel good. And I can tell Koji really likes Duskin."
"Well said, Danny. What objections do you have to Koji having a brother, Kyle?"
"I thought that having one son is enough work. You know what Koji is like and it takes a lot of our time. Danny and I have to give what time we have to Koji who really needs that time. Plus, I have my duties as a senior officer, which I want to give as much energy to as I can. You know that I want to be a starship captain someday, and two boys would take too much away from my duties. And finally, we're only twelve and sometimes I, well, sometimes I feel lost." Kyle remembered the little breakdown he had recently had while expressing his final reason.
"Thank you both for being so forthcoming," Greg told his sons. "I have to say, I'm a little disappointed in your reasoning, Kyle."
Kyle blanched when he heard that. "What do you mean by that?" he asked defensively, sounding like the young adolescent he was.
"What I mean is, when you took responsibility for Koji, you agreed to make him your number one priority. That's sometimes the easiest thing for a parent to forget. I know I lost my way with you and came close to losing you as my son forever. I am grateful you were man enough to forgive me."
"But Koji can't be everything, can he?"
"Maybe not, but he can be close. You mentioned being only twelve, and that has its positive aspects too. One thing it means is that you have a long time to develop the skills you will need to become the great commander I think you will become. Give that development some time but also turn your efforts into one other skill that you seem to have forgotten."
"I think he means don't take yourself so damned seriously," Danny said.
"That was my problem with the decimal in the wrong place, wasn't it?" Kyle asked quietly.
Greg piped up by answering the question with a question. "You have fun doing things with Koji, right?"
"When I have time."
"And you would have more time by doing what?"
"By making more time?" Kyle asked.
"Or giving more time. You have the time if you learn to give it every chance you have. Sometimes, as incongruous as it sounds, you have to work to have fun, and sometimes you have to have fun to make your work special to you. I have never had as much fun as I do now that you are back in my life—and not just you, but you and Danny both. You have doubled my fun. I also believe I have done my best work as a flag officer and you two reminded me of how to have fun with a partner, and that would be what this Duskin would do for you."
"Duskin is really quiet," Danny pointed out.
"So is Kyle compared to you. I remember a little six-year-old looking at the skies saying nothing but obviously having a quiet kind of fun. Duskin having fun without tearing the place apart will be part of little brother helping big brother grow up."
"I think I got it. Danny is right, I get too serious about myself sometimes and like you said, Koji helps me have fun because I gotta think about him, too."
"Very good," Greg said. "One more question. How do Koji and Duskin get along?"
"Oh, I got the best answer for that. I made a video of Koji showing Duskin how to play Othello," Danny said. He opened his communicator and ran a video of Koji patiently teaching Duskin and playing the practice game with him.
"Amazing," Greg said. "Duskin is looking at Koji with a great deal of love and worship. And I have never seen that quiet patience in Koji. How do the two of you feel about that?"
"Ali says he's like that in class sometimes when he knows something and helps somebody having trouble," Kyle answered.
"I will end this by telling you what I think. Then it will be up to you two to decide what to do with it. This isn't a decision I can pretend to make for you. I am not an expert on children, I don't know the boys all that well, but that video showed me that those two are made to be together. It looks like Koji has found his little brother without really looking. From what you've told me, he simply re-appeared in Koji's life on a beach."
"You know what I think, Dad?" Kyle asked.
"I think I am ready to work on having more fun."
Greg stood up. "Give me a hug, Son."
Kyle stood up and hugged his father, fighting off tears as he did so.
Greg stepped over to Danny. "And I'll take a hug from you too, Son." Danny gave Greg a hug, feeling happy that Koji would be getting his little brother.
"What will you boys do now?" Greg asked.
"Talk to Hal and probably Dave about us planning to adopt Duskin," Danny answered.
"There might be a small issue, but I think we can work it out. Let me talk to Bill, Dave and Hal about it." Seeing Kyle's reaction, Greg continued, "I wouldn't worry about it, it's the right thing to do, so it will most likely work out. I think they will approve." And if they don't, I'm prepared to overrule them, Greg thought. "I am eager to meet my new grandson."
On the ride home, Kyle couldn't believe how happy he was about the decision to adopt Duskin. It was like it was what he really wanted all the time but was afraid to admit. "Thank you for sticking up for Koji and Duskin," Kyle told Danny. "I know we're making the right decision."
"I thought it was right from the minute I saw those two together. You can be a stubborn bastard, but you do the right thing in the end. It's a big reason why I love you much. You don't jump into things, like I sometimes do, but we make a good team and do the right thing in the end. I love you, Kyle."
"I love you, Danny. You're the best."
Kyle sat on the chair in his room, holding Megrez against his chest. He missed his big, overstuffed chair in his quarters on the Sooloo. Sinking into it often relaxed him. But his precious penguin often did more for him than any chair. Megrez could wordlessly relax him and keep him in balance.
Kyle could feel the warmth emanating from the little stuffed penguin, soaking through his body and calming him more than any chair could. The warmth was wiping away the last of his doubts. His father was right, duty kept becoming his top priority, when Danny, Koji and his family should be his priority. They were the ones who made life enjoyable and helped him remember that there were other priorities and that enjoying life and making things fun had to be a big priority. He understood that having fun didn't mean being irresponsible—it meant that everything from plotting a course to an unexplored solar system, to teaching Koji about life, to playing with both and even to making love with Danny, should all be enjoyable. In other words, there should be an element of fun.
"Well Megrez, your warm love tells me that Danny and I are making the right decision in giving Koji a little brother." A surge of deeper warmth flowed through him, telling him that was the case. As soon as Danny returned from his meeting with Juju, it would be time to find Hal and Dave to ask for their permission to adopt Duskin.
Kyle's thoughts were interrupted by Danny's entering their quarters. "You and Megrez look pretty cozy," Danny said with a wide grin.
"And hello to you, too. How did your meeting with Juju go?" Kyle responded.
"It went pretty good." Danny had met with Juju to show him the performance report he had written for Juju's files, praising him for the work he did training and organizing the pilots who had flown in the formation. "He did an awesome job. It wouldn't have gone that well without him."
"Don't sell yourself short, love. Like we learned in leadership training, part of being a good commander is finding the right guy to be your Number One."
"Well, I found him, so that must make me a great commander," Danny grinned. "I told him I wanted some ideas for a training program for performing rescue operations that we can discuss after we get back on the Sooloo. And I also took care of your request. The answer is, they are in the lounge shooting the bull with Brad and Steve."
"Sounds like a good plan," Kyle responded. "Then let's go grab them while the grabbing is good. We need to talk to them."
"Oh, fuck no. We don't need to talk to them, we HAVE to talk to them." They were talking about Hal and Dave, of course. Their last step in the adoption process was to get Hal's permission. While Hal was the captain of the ship, and the final decision was technically his, Kyle and Danny knew that Hal and Dave together worked closely and made their biggest decisions as a team.
"You never got to pick your Number One," Danny said to Kyle as they made their way to the lounge.
"True, but John Luke is as good as anybody could ask for." What Kyle didn't tell Danny, at least not yet, was that Will was quickly becoming John Luke's equal.
When they entered the lounge, Kyle and Danny approached the seats where Hal, Dave, Brad and Steve were enjoying a discussion. Hal was looking at a set of drawings.
"Hey, guys, what's going on?" Steve inquired.
"We're as good as can be expected," Kyle replied. "Sorry to interrupt. By your smiles it looks like you guys were having a fun discussion."
"We were discussing all the adoptions and how we're going to need a shipload of beds for everybody," Brad chuckled.
"You did say SHIPload, right?" Danny asked.
"Damn, you have a dirty mind for somebody's who's not even a teenager yet," Steve said.
"Anyway, we know you guys are busy, but we need a couple of minutes this afternoon to have a private talk with Hal and Dave," Kyle hinted.
"We were just finishing up," Hal grinned. "How does now sound?" Hal had no doubt what Danny and Kyle wanted to talk about and knew that the best time to deal with the topic was immediately.
"Well, we didn't want to..."
"Great, then now it is." Hal looked over at Steve. "I love the blue beds the best. I think after our discussion is finished, we may need to get a couple more of those beds made." He turned back to Kyle and said, "Let's go up to our quarters."
Danny and Kyle were soon sitting on the couch in Hal and Dave's quarters. "What can we do for you two?" Hal asked. Even though Hal and Dave knew what the topic was going to be, they felt it best that Danny and Kyle broached it.
By prior agreement, Danny answered the question. "Koji has been telling us he wants to have a little brother," Danny said.
"Ahh. So, this is about adoption. I take it you found him one." Like you didn't already know, Kyle thought. But he held his tongue since he had learned a lot from his father about how the command game is played.
"We didn't find him one," Danny answered. "Koji found him. His name is Duskin, and they were friends before Kyle and I adopted Koji."
"We've figured out since we've seen them doing stuff together, that Koji was kinda like a big brother for Duskin as much as a friend," Kyle said.
"We can show you if you want to see," Danny offered.
"I believe you," Hal said. "What about you, Dave?"
"Oh, I believe them, but I think it would be cool so see a family in the making," Dave answered.
Kyle didn't miss the hint buried in Dave's answer. Danny showed Hal and Dave the video of Koji teaching Duskin to play Othello. They had the same reaction as Greg; the scene was sweet and precious, and it was obvious that the relationship was meant to be.
After his talk with Dave, Hal was certain that he was going to approve the adoption. But he wanted to get a firsthand feel of the situation prior. "Kyle, you've been quite vocal at times about not adding another member to your family. Plus, you and Danny have Tommy to deal with since you agreed to be his guardians. What caused you to change your mind?"
"Two things, Hal. First, the four of us know that as soon as Tommy is eleven, he will be a member of the crew. Second, I talked with my dad and realized that granting Koji his wish and giving him the little brother he wants and already loves was... well, it was the right thing to do."
"I have a question," Danny said. "Why were you two looking at bunkbeds? Is somebody else going to get a bigger family?"
Hal wasn't ready to reveal news that wasn't yet official, so he gave the answer he and Dave had prepared in case anybody asked. "Jace and Jordan were thinking of giving Jonas and Jason a new set of bunkbeds to give them more room. I asked Steve to come up with some designs for roomy bunkbeds."
"Ahh, I see," Kyle said. That made sense, especially the way the twins were growing, but he wasn't firmly convinced that was the entire story.
"How long before we get a decision?" Danny asked.
"I know you two are eager for a quick decision," Hal said. "Dave and I have talked about the pending possibilities and the fact that because of space and resource limitations, we would have to put a moratorium on new adoptions after deciding those that are pending. The final decision is mine as Captain of the Sooloo, but we arrived at the decisions together. I'll let Dave tell you what is going to happen."
On hearing the words "put a moratorium on new adoptions," Danny and Kyle didn't feel too confident about a positive decision. They turned their attention to Dave, figuring that the decision was probably a couple of days away.
"We listened to what both of you had to say about Koji and Duskin. We asked you questions that were on our minds, and you gave us excellent answers. At this point we would have approved the adoption, with maybe a couple of reservations. Then we saw Danny's video and I think Hal will agree with me that after that, there was no other decision that could be made, except for the one Kyle called the right one."
"REALLY????" Kyle and Danny shouted out together.
"Yes, really," Hal chuckled. "We do ask a couple of favors, however. Please don't tell the boys about your decision until after the ceremony. And emphasize that it is not official but is as good as done. Give Koji the idea it should be kept secret until Monday." Hal read the look on Kyle's face. "I know that secrets can be an anathema for little boys and something will escape somewhere, but maybe the process will be slowed down."
"Koji can keep a secret as well as anybody if the reason for it is put to him properly," Kyle said. "I can't speak for Duskin, but I think Koji will help here too. What about Danny and me?"
"Look, I know people are going to figure it out before the official announcement. It's the nature of the beast. We're just trying to let the ceremony take center stage first in people's minds. You can tell Brad and Steve everything since they will have official knowledge of the adoption. Steve is the one who has to deal with all the clerical work involved."
"And be sure to talk to him about those awesome bunkbeds," Dave added.
"Will do. And thanks to you both," Kyle responded. "I think this is going to make the Robinson family even more special. I have heard a lot of rumors from crewmates about the adoption moratorium. Danny and I appreciate you're going out of your way on this."
"Is it proper to give captains and commodores hugs?" Danny asked.
"Try it and find out," Hal grinned.
It turned out that when a new member was added to the Sooloo family, a hug of senior officers was very proper. Not only proper, but one of those inviolate unwritten rules... REQUIRED.
The Friday evening meal had finished up. After everything was cleaned up, everyone had left except for Space Fleet personnel, who stayed at the request of King Zedrick. He stood up and spoke, "As you know, we will be taking Medici's body to be committed to our ancestors tomorrow. Unfortunately, not all of you may attend."
"I am sure you have your reasons," Mirah stated, "and while those of us who cannot may be disappointed, we understand."
"Yes, we will be travelling to a place where only Darastixians have ever been, and while it is safe, if you do something obtuse, it can be dangerous. Bill, I would like for you to attend as well as Greg Robinson and those that have Darastixian blood in them. Jordon Rivers, since your husband and children are invited, you may attend, too. Hal and Dave, would you like to join us?"
"Most definitely," Dave replied. "Juro and Tomo are both from here, but what about their fathers?"
"Connor, have you noticed anything special about your eyes?" Zedrick inquired, although he already knew the answer.
"Are you saying that I am Darastixian?" Connor was surprised, "but every DNA test..."
Zedrick held up his hand, "No, you are not Darastixian, but you are a descendant of another race. Have you ever heard of the Ajagaron?"
Connor shook his head, "Can't say that I have."
"The Ajagaron are another race that comes from dragons, such as the Darastixians and Sinocards. The big difference between them and us is, if they mate with another species, their DNA is not detectable, and only their eyes give them away."
"So..." Connor contemplated what Zedrick had just said, "I am half Ajagaron? Will I develop anything special about me? Where is my home planet?" Connor had several questions running through his head.
Zedrick laughed, "As far as I'm concerned, Ajagarons are the best engineers in the universe. They are the ones who build our ships. My son's wife is half Ajaragon and half Darastixian."
"But I had heard that half-Darastixians can only be males," Jace was shocked.
His smile widening, Zedrick explained, "That is true, except in the case of Ajagarons or Sinocards. They are so close to Darastixians that females can also be born." Facing back to Connor, "Also, Ajagarons do develop telepathy, like Darastixians, but not until they are at least thirty eorikci or years of age. As such, I can allow you and Aiden to join us. In fact, I will allow all of the Senior Staff of the Sooloo and their families to join us"
Steve asked, "What about me? I mean, I'm not Senior Staff and not married to Brad, but I am Shasho's opsola."
"Steve," Zedrick spoke quietly, "you and Brad are husbands, getting married only makes it official and declares your love to everyone."
Kyle whispered to Koji, "Where we will be going, is this the island that you mentioned to Corey?" Koji just smiled and nodded.
"Kairu," Zedrick surprised Kyle, "you will probably see some of the creatures that inhabit the island. Under no circumstances should you approach them, but do not be frightened if they approach you. If they do, they will want you to pet them."
Even though Zedrick called Kyle's Darastixian name, Koji knew this was meant for him. He acknowledged, "Understood."
Zedrick informed Koji, "If a yunikōn does approach you, make a wish as you pet him, and he may grant it."
"Oh shit!!!" Danny and Kyle groaned simultaneously.
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