Voyagers Book II

Chapter Twenty: Up the Chain

A Collaboration of TrueFan, Zarek Dragon and Douglas DD

On Darastix' seventh day, Doyoubi, Medici's body was committed to Megrez, who transformed his body into the stars. While everyone else saw a dragon, Kyle saw a life-version of his stuffed penguin. Koji was about to hug a yunikōn when Duskin came to give what he thought would be their last hugs. Kyle and Danny told Miss Dewel of their intentions, and then broke the news to the boys.

Duskin had mixed emotions. He was happy to be going with Koji, but sad at the thought of leaving Marasu, but then Marasu told him that he was going on the Sooloo, too. Duskin was totally happy.

Danny and Kyle were surprised when Duskin declared that Marasu is his boyfriend. Lakinae was surprised when he saw Tommy for the first time. He had a dream which Tommy was in and told him that he loved him.

Brad and Steve were officially married in a hybrid Darastixian-Earth wedding

Those whose birthdays were missed in March had a big party on the twenty-ninth.

Steve had disappointing results from the dragon landing on his shoulder. His eyes were healed, and he no longer needed his glasses. Dr. Tom had a solution.

Connor and those interested learned where Sinocard was, as well as Connor's Ancestral planet Ajagara. The crew of the Sooloo were surprised that the Darastixians have paper star charts, but then Zedrick showed their more comprehensive holo-chart (short for holographic chart) above.

Will suggested that Zedrick visit the Sooloo and check out their star charts in a holodeck. Hal gave him a personal tour of not only the holodeck, but also the entire ship. Three things amazed Zedrick in particular; the Holographic Medical Howser, aka HMH or Doogie, the replicators and no need for laundry, but what amazed him the most was the holodeck. When he discovered it was capable of creating various environments for training as well as entertainment, he asked about getting the designs.

On Getsu, or Darastix' second day of the week, the adoptions were finalized. Lakinae learned that Arytiss will be on the Sooloo.

 

Tuesday, 31 March 2122

Getsu, 12 Shigatsu 2348 (Darastixian Date)

SS Sooloo

Bridge ~ 1100

"All departments report ready, Sir," Kash called out from the Operations station on the Bridge.

Hal responded, "Very good, Helm, set a course for…"

"Sir," Aiden interrupted, "We are receiving an automated distress call from an Explorer Class ship."

"Patch me through to the Darastix," Hal ordered.

"They are hailing US, Sir."

"On screen," Hal requested.

Fleet Admiral William Mirah's face replaced the field of stars that was before them. "We just received a distress call from I believe the missing ship," Mirah informed Hal. "I ordered the Darastix to plot a course."

"We also received the distress call, Sir. I was planning to advise you that we were rerouting to investigate," Hal declared.

"Sir, I am not detecting a planet or anything from where the beacon seems to be originating," Kyle brooded, "there isn't even a star there."

Hal questioned, "What about the ship sending it?"

"We are too far away to detect it," Kyle insisted.

Hal suggested, "I remember hearing about a planet with no star, is that possibly the case here?"

"Perhaps, but…" Kyle was interrupted by a voice in his head. He smiled when he heard the voice. "I'm running an infrared scan, Sir. Megrez suggested it."

"Put the scan on the screen, please," Hal requested.

With the infrared scan, a planet was detected, along with several ships in its
orbit. One ship was an Explorer Class, probably the missing SS Joseph Hooker, another looked like an Earth Class which was discontinued more than twenty years ago. There was a ship almost resembling the SS Darastix, but perhaps an older design. The remainder of the ships didn't look like any they had ever seen.

Luke/Crusoe Quarters ~ 1100

As everyone was preparing to leave Darastix, Drake was showing his new brothers their quarters. Whenever the ship departs from a planet, there are no classes. Ali feels that the children could learn more from paying attention to the launch. Plus, it gives him and Richie time to prepare for their first day back aboard. In fact, Ali made a ship-wide announcement, "All students, this is just a reminder; class will resume on Thursday, the second of this month. That is all."

Doors to Drake's, Lakinae's and Marasu's roomsDrake still couldn't believe the doors to his and his brothers' rooms. He thought Steve had outdone himself. Their names on their doors in silver just blew him away. What amazed him more was that as anyone approached, the names got brighter, literally lighting up. Drake showed the boys the sensors above the doors. "The doors will open as you get close, but notice, as I approach your door, they don't open. When I approach my door, it does. There is a button that our parents can use to open the door and check in on us, but they'll mainly do that while we are asleep. Otherwise. they push the chime and wait for permission to enter. I will do the same before I enter your room."

Bunk BedsLakinae walked toward the door with his name on it, and it opened for him. The boys walked into Lakinae and Marasu's room and saw the bunk beds. Marasu asked Lakinae, "Which one is yours?"

"Do you mean which bunk?" Lakinae verified. "I know you want the top, so I'll take the bottom. Besides, if you have a bad dream, it would be a lot easier for you to come down and lie beside me on the bigger bed than to go up."

Marasu smiled and hugged Lakinae. "I was hoping you would say that."

"My bed matches the bottom bunk. Oliver and I can sleep perfect in it."

Lakinae inquired, "Is Oliver your boyfriend?"

"He is," Drake grinned ear to ear. "I'm meeting him and some of the older boys later in the lounge. You should come."

"Can I stay here?" Marasu asked.

Drake nodded, "You might want to; it'll mainly be the older adoptees, so you might get bored."

"I may take a nap while you're out. Everything happening has worn me out."

"So…" Lakinae questioned, "what will we do?"

"For starters, probably discuss our swimming on Fridays," Drake replied. He then told Lakinae and Marasu about how they swim naked during lunch on Fridays, and how it was postponed when he and Oliver first came aboard. He said that Ali would probably want to postpone it again since we have new boys in the school.

"You mean, Lakinae, Duskin and me, don't you?" Marasu asked.

Drake nodded his head, "I do, but if none of you have an issue, maybe we can convince him to let us."

"I don't know," Lakinae was hesitant. "Will Tommy be there? What if he sees me tonn?"

"Tonn?" Drake looked puzzled.

Marasu giggled, "It means hard. Lakinae's dekachin gets that way when he sees a cute boy." Lakinae started to blush.

"We all get hard from time to time," Drake assured. "No one will think anything of it. That includes Tommy. He might feel flattered, but otherwise, it's no big deal."

"Please, Lakinae, I wanna swim juivend'keh," Marasu pleaded.

Lakinae looked thoughtful and Marasu was begging with his eyes. Finally, Lakinae agreed.

Hal's Ready Room ~ 1300

Hal was sitting with Dave, reviewing the recent visit on Darastix. They agreed that much had happened; some that neither had any idea would happen… at least one wasn't expected to happen as soon as it did.

They had just finished discussing King Zedrick's visit to the Sooloo. Hal had just mentioned the visit to the Holodeck when the comm unit chirped indicating an incoming call.

Hal accepted the call and was not all that surprised to see Fleet Admiral Mirah's face looking back at them.

"Hello Admiral, how can we be of service today?" Dave opened with just the right amount of formality to be within regulations, but still conforming to Bill's unwritten law, dictating the level… or diminished level of formality he preferred when speaking to his command officers.

Bill smiled, "Good day, gentlemen. I've been reviewing the report on the recent visit by King Zedrick."

Hal shook his head, "Dave and I have just finished discussing that very topic. Admiral. We were going to be contacting you to resolve one request that was made." Hal paused momentarily to allow Bill an opportunity to ask any questions. When he didn't voice any, Hal continued, "The King was very impressed with our Holodeck technology and mentioned how useful it could be on Darastix. When he said that, I wanted to simply give him the plans to build one but wouldn't without express authorization. I didn't think you wouldn't approve granting his request, but I would never make a decision of that type unilaterally."

Before Bill could reply, Dave interjected, "And as we've discussed, Bill, a request of this nature, while within my authority to grant, could be twisted by some to be me showing favoritism for my husband."

"I appreciate your positions on that, but my issue is with Hal… you suggested to King Zedrick that he ask me for the plans, which he did as soon as he left the Sooloo. Other than that you failed to contact me after suggesting it to him, you handled it perfectly."

"I'm sorry, Sir," Hal apologized, "I didn't realize he was that eager. Knowing we were preparing to depart, I thought he would wait a few days."

"No need to apologize," Bill chuckled. "I was happy to give him the plans. He started construction right away, but if you could give me a heads-up next time, it would be greatly appreciated."

Before Hal could comment, Bill disconnected. He turned to his husband, "Did he seem upset? That's twice now that he made us feel like we crossed the line."

Robinson Quarters ~ 1400

Danny turned off the water to his shower, shook the excess water out of his hair, and grabbed the towel hanging over the shower door. He dried himself off and stepped out into the small bathroom space and dried his feet and legs. Having seen the day's duty schedule for the five boys living in the quarters, Danny felt safe stepping out naked into the main quarters, so he draped his towel around his neck.

When Danny saw his brother Tommy sitting on the couch, he screeched in surprise. "What are you doing here?" he asked. Danny didn't bother covering himself since Tommy had seen him naked countless times."

"I still live here, don't I?" Tommy probed.

"At least until Steve assigns quarters to you, that is… if you want to move to Junior Officers' Quarters. You can opt to stay here, but that doesn't answer my question about why you're here. Koji's chart says you're supposed to be doing independent study at the school." Danny and Kyle had given Koji the assignment of creating a chart for each day on the computer showing the schedules of everyone living in the quarters. He used the information provided by all five, including himself, put it together on the graph created for him by Brad, printed it and posted it on the bulletin board above the desk, all with the help of his righthand brother, Duskin.

Today was Koji's first day doing the job and he was loving the responsibility. Either Kyle or Danny checked his work before it was posted. Both told him he was doing a great job and it wouldn't be long before he would no longer need to be double-checked daily.

"Koji's chart is right. I asked Ali if I could come here to talk to you before I started to work," Tommy told his older brother.

Danny sat next to Tommy on the couch. "What's on your mind, Bro?"

"I'm all confused about something."

"We've told you that you're on the right track to becoming an ensign. In fact, you're moving above and beyond what everybody's expected of you, so you shouldn't be con…"

"Wait, stop, quit being an officer and be my brother who loves me and listens to me, and well… listen to me."

"Sorry, because of all that's going on I thought…"

"Danny, don't think either; just listen to me," Tommy pleaded. "This has nothing to do with me becoming an officer." Tommy took a deep breath and fought off an oncoming sniffle.

Danny finally got over himself, thinking he had all the answers and saw the distress on his brother's face. He was afraid that he had missed that look since the moment he had seen Tommy on the couch. He put his arm around Tommy and whispered, "Sorry, Bro. I'm here for you now."

"You and Uncle Kyle have feelings for each other, right?" Tommy had taken to calling his brother-in-law "Uncle Kyle." Even though Kyle was always fair to him and treated him with loving kindness, Tommy still sometimes felt a bit of intimidation in his presence and liked having a veil of distance between them. Calling him "Uncle Kyle" gave Tommy the feel of confidence to deal with him.

"Yes we do, we love each other," came the answer.

"But how do you know? You guys are only a couple of years older than me, and you were friends when you were ten like me. Did you feel that way then?"

Danny paused for a moment to mull over his answer. "I don't know when we knew; I just know it now. When we were ten, we said we were best friends and then, as you know, I got kicked out of Kyle's house. But this isn't about me, it's about you. Tell me what you're feeling."

Tommy dropped his head and looked down at the floor, "It's Lakinae." His voice was barely audible.

Danny squeezed his brother's shoulder tightly. "Sit with your head up, look me in the eye and talk like you're proud of who you are."

"But Dad…"

"I don't see Dad anywhere on this ship. Whatever he thinks, whatever he told you, doesn't count. Tell me how you feel, and I'll listen. Tell me about Lakinae."

"I feel like he's the most special person I've ever known. Other than my big brother, I mean. It's like my heart goes faster and I can't look anyplace but at him and I don't know why I feel that way."

"Sounds like it was with Kyle and me when we were ten, but we never told each other. We were just 'best friends,' is what we said. But it wasn't until we really got going our second time around when we got a little older that we told each other how we felt. And that's when we learned we felt that way for a long time."

"So, you never told each other when you were ten?" Tommy asked.

"I guess we never thought about it. I just thought that's how everybody felt about his best friend."

"Did you ever want to see Kyle naked and get naked with him? That's how I feel about Lakinae."

"We did feel that way. And we did get naked together. We liked sleeping naked together. We ended up liking to touch each other everywhere. And one time we were going to find out what blowjobs were all about. We were naked and all excited on Kyle's bed… that's when his dad caught us and kicked me out of the house for good."

"I remembered that, but I never knew why it happened." Tommy unconsciously rubbed the scattered pubic hairs on his brother's pubis. "Did you have hair then?"

"Nope, I was ten then. I didn't start getting this until I was twelve. And if you keep rubbing it, I'm gonna bone up," Danny grinned.

Tommy yanked his hand away. "Oops. Sorry, I wasn't thinking."

"It's cool, Tommy. We're brothers and you were curious."

"Uncle Kyle is still like me and Koji. No hair."

"He'll have some soon. But let's get back to you and Lakinae. Do you think he looks at you the way you look at him?" Danny pried.

"I dunno. When I'm looking at him and he starts to look at me, I quit looking. I'm afraid he'll see me staring and my knees shaking and he'll know this feeling goes right through my penis and it's all so confusing."

"What do you think would happen if you just kept looking at him and he notices you doing it and asks you about it?" Tommy shrugged. "And you tell him you like him a lot and you really want to know him better….?"

"What if he says no?"

"I guess you'll know, which is better than not knowing. But don't think the first thing he says or does is how he really feels. He may be as nervous about it as you are."

"Or he might not like me that way," Tommy countered.

"Remember when he first saw you and what he said? I think he does. Trust me, when we got older, and all those hormones and shit started going though us, it wasn't easy for Kyle or me to say how we felt. I know this sounds dumb, but we were kids and didn't think we were supposed to have feelings like that for another boy. But it all worked out and here we are, twelve years old and an old married couple with two sons. Be honest and tell him how you feel.

"Look at this ship. I bet there are more married couples and more boyfriends on the Sooloo than any ship in the Explorer Fleet. Just be honest, I don't think he'll think you're weird. And remember, no matter what happens, good, bad or indifferent, I'll be here for you because that's what big brothers are for."

Tommy leaned on his naked brother's shoulder. "Thanks, Bro. You're the best big brother in the galaxy and I'm sorry I got snarky with you."

"It's cool. You were scared."

"Yeah, I was but I'm not now. What if he likes me and wants to do sex stuff? What do I do?"

"Unless you think it's totally wrong and don't want to do it, then tell him. But I don't think you'll feel that way. So, get naked and have fun," Danny chuckled.

"It helps if I know what I'm doing. I mean did you and Uncle Kyle have a clue when you were ten?"

"Nope, but like I said, we tried stuff anyway."

Tommy looked directly into his big brother's eyes. "Do you think you could show me some sex stuff?"

"I do, but not today. Today you were trusting me to help you not be scared. When the time comes and you want to know how to do the sex stuff, then you ask me about that, and I'll tell you."

"Would you do it with me to teach me?"

"If that's what you want. Teaching is one thing that big brothers are for and like to do. I'll do whatever you want to learn. I wish I had a big brother to show me stuff when I was ten."

Tommy kissed Danny on his left cheek. "Thanks, Danny."

"What are you going to do the first chance you get to be with Lakinae?"

"I'm gonna not be scared and tell him that I like him… a lot. And I love you, Danny… a whole lot."

"I love you too, Tommy. Be confident and remember I'm here for you. Now, I gotta put some clothes on."

Danny rose from the couch and walked to his room. Tommy couldn't help but admire his big brother's butt and wonder if Lakinae's looked as good.

Tommy was grateful that his big brother accepted him and mentored him. Danny was always willing to answer any questions he had including, it appeared, questions about how to have sex with another boy. Tommy needed an older role model in his life, and Danny was usually it. But as good a big brother that he was, he was only two years older, and Tommy felt the need to trust somebody who could be like a father to him when he needed it.

That someone was David Bowman. He was eighteen, which made him a man and he wasn't the ship's captain, which helped Tommy feel more secure when it came to asking questions and sharing his feelings. He tried to ask Dave questions without pestering him, but no matter what he asked, Dave was always willing to listen. But that feeling of security only went so far and had to do mostly with Tommy's work to become a ship's officer. To get to the core of his personal feelings, Danny was the person to ask, because he loved Danny and knew that Danny loved him.

Blackwell/Rivers Quarters ~1500

Jace and Jordan just entered their quarters when Jace's comm went off. He saw who it was and quickly accepted. "Did you get your present?" Zarek queried.

"I'm not sure," Jace replied. "Shortly after we boarded, we were going on duty, so Jordan and I hadn't had time to unpack. Did you put something in one of our bags?"

"Well, not personally," Zarek chuckled, "but I did arrange for something."

"But you're not going to tell me what," Jace concluded.

Zarek chortled, "Where would the fun be in that?"

"Fine, can I call you back after Jordan and I put everything away?" Jace uttered.

"You have my permission to call me whenever, whether it's for advice about what you're experiencing or just to talk," Zarek reassured him.

Baby Dragon StatueJace disconnected the call then helped Jordan unpack. Jace just finished putting his clothes away when he saw something at the bottom of his bag. It was a cute baby blue dragon statue resting on a rock with a blue core. Jace thought it looked great. Jordan offered to find the perfect spot while Jace returned Zarek's call.

"I love the gift," Jace averred almost immediately after Zarek accepted the call.

"I was sure you would," Zarek grinned, "And though you weren't involved, I thought it was a nice way of telling you thank you for the Holodecks. Dad already has a holodeck in the castle for the guards to train, as well as the royal family to entertain. We also have one under construction in Darataoul."

"How close to the orphanage?" Jace recognized the name of the city with the orphanage, even though he never adopted any of the boys there. It was just two kilometers (1.24 miles) from the castle.

"The original orphanage was only one room, and right next door to the current one. The building hadn't been used in a long time but was well maintained. Father thought it would be perfect, and it's large enough to hold four holodecks. We plan to build one at a time, but eventually have all four."

"I should send you a game Jordan gave me for my first birthday with him."

Lakinae and Marasu Luke/Crusoe Room ~ 1830

Lakinae and Marasu were sitting and talking before Lakinae was to leave with Drake to meet with the older adoptees.

"Are you still planning on staying in our quarters when I go to the gathering?"

"Yes, I am tired with all that has gone on so I might take a nap."

"Marasu, there is one thing I would like to bring up. We are now living on the Sooloo and our new Opsolai do not speak Darastixian. I think it is important that, until they do learn it, we try to only speak in English when we are not alone. If you do not know the English word, then ask me or someone who does speak both languages so you can learn."

"I will. Is it okay if I invite Koji and Duskin over?"

"That is something you need to ask our Opsolai. I do not think there will be a problem, but we should ask them out of respect. Also, for the same reason, anyone we invite over should have permission from their Opsolai."

"That makes sense." Marasu then opened his comm to contact John Luke, who was not on duty but was not in their quarters. He obtained permission from him to invite them over, receiving praise from his new Opsola for thinking to ask before just acting.

With that, Lakinae left and Marasu invited Koji and Duskin over to spend some time while his brother was out.

Lakinae and Marasu Luke-Crusoe Room ~ 1855

Koji and Duskin hit the chime and Marasu went to answer it. Leading them to his and Lakinae's room, Marasu asked, "Are we nekkid swimming this Friday?"

"Nekkid swimming?" Duskin questioned.

Koji explained, "It's when we swim in the holodeck juivend'keh."

"And nobody says anything about seeing your privates?" Duskin was still a little prudish in that aspect.

"The way Drake explained it, we're all boys there," Marasu offered.

"So we all have the same thing, only slightly different," Koji continued. "As for this Friday, I doubt we will get to, but we will try."

Even Duskin, after some thought, agreed, "It does sound like fun. Can we try getting juivend'keh now and watch some videos? You know, to ease into being juivend'keh in front of each other?"

Koji didn't waste a second. He had his clothes off fast. Duskin and Marasu took a little longer.

Kid's Lounge ~ 1900

Some of Sooloo's older adoptees were sitting in the lounge just chatting. Oliver smiled widely at one point prompting Lakinae to ask, "You look like you have just solved one of the mysteries of the galaxy… what are you thinking?"

"I was just realizing that we have a few new kids on the Sooloo, yourself included. I think we should see if we can get the holodeck and have a group sleepover. It would give us all a chance to get to know you, your brother and Duskin, and for you to get to know us better, too. I think that would help make you feel more comfortable."

Lakinae pointed out, "What about Arytiss? He's new also."

"True," Oliver agreed, "but he may be too young for this."

"Would we be nekkid like the planned swimming?" Lakinae seemed concerned.

"That depends on how comfortable you feel," Drake volunteered.

Lakinae smiled, "Then Marasu and I are in."

"I'll make the arrangements," Oliver proposed.

Lakinae and Marasu Luke-Crusoe Room ~ 2000

After the meeting was over, Lakinae and Tommy entered Lakinae’s quarters. What they saw made them smile… and blush. They saw, on Lakinae’s lower bunk, Duskin, Marasu and Koji, all naked sleeping. Their limbs intertwined as only a group of boys are capable. When they woke the younger boys up, Lakinae asked why they were all naked. "Koji explained more about the 'Nekkid' swimming. We all decided to see what it was like to be naked together. I guess we fell asleep while we were watching a vid while we waited for you to get back."

Lakinae looked over at Tommy and made the comment, "They might have the right idea. Do you want to try?"

Tommy blushed before saying, "I would, but…" He paused before continuing, "I'm still not 100% sure about it, and after you told me your dream, I started thinking 'what if I do really like you' and I would be embarrassed if…"

Lakinae interrupted, "If you get tonn... I mean hard?"

Tommy's blush deepened before he simply nodded.

Lakinae grabbed Tommy's hand and commented, "That is what I thought too, but Drake told me that we all get hard sometimes and nobody would say anything. But you already know I am sure I like you a lot, so, I would be willing."

Tommy then wrapped his arms around Lakinae and hugged him. Before releasing the hug, he gave Lakinae a kiss on the cheek. Then, without another word started removing his clothing.

Moments later, Tommy and Lakinae stood in the same attire as they were at birth, simply looking at one another. After a few moments of silence, Tommy broke the silence with, "I like how you look, Lakinae."

Hearing that, it was Lakinae’s turn to blush as he noticed himself chugging a bit. "I think it is obvious that I like what I am seeing also." Tentatively, he embraced Tommy tightly.

Little did either realize that this would be their first step in a developing relationship.

Wednesday, 1 April 2122

Hal's Ready Room ~ 0700

Hal called Danny and Tommy into his Ready Room. Tommy was nervous as he and his older brother walked there. "Do you think I've done something wrong?" Tommy worried.

"I doubt it," Danny assured him, "all I've heard is how great you've been doing."

"Then, what do you suppose he wants with us?" Tommy questioned. "I assumed he wanted you because you are acting as my guardian."

"That is probably true, but you shouldn't worry about what may be for nothing. For all we know, Hal just wants our company for breakfast."

Danny pressed the chime, and Hal told them to enter. When they walked in, Tommy and Danny looked at each other with amazement. There was a table with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, toast and waffles. Three empty plates were also placed on the table. "Have a seat and help yourself," Hal offered. "I wasn't sure what you'd be in the mood for, so I have a wide variety."

Feeling more relaxed, in fact almost giddy, Tommy sat at the table and started putting food on his plate. While they ate, Hal commented, "I hear that you've been doing well with your studies. Richie and Ali have been giving you Academy courses. They have nothing but good things to say about you."

"Thank you, Sir," Tommy responded. "I really want to be in Space Fleet when I am old enough."

"He was nervous that maybe he did something wrong, and that's why you called us to your Ready Room."

Hal turned serious, "Oh, there IS something wrong, but we can rectify that after we've eaten."

Tommy stopped mid-bite, "Did I do something that I shouldn't have?"

"Finish your breakfast, and we'll discuss it afterwards," Hal ordered. "Trust me, you are NOT in trouble, but something does need to be fixed."

Once again, Tommy felt at ease. Once they were finished eating, Hal looked at Tommy, "There's still some bacon on the platter."

Tommy smiled, "Thanks Sir, but I feel like a turkey on Thanksgiving… I'm stuffed." For effect, he patted his belly.

"Tommy, I hear that you've visited different departments, learning a little from each one."

"Is that wrong? I just wanted to see which department best suited me and which I excelled at," Tommy reasoned.

"I wouldn't say it's wrong; I think that shows your intelligence, but…" Hal paused, "the problem is, you are a civilian."

"I know, but I'm not old enough to be in Space Fleet, and like I said before, I really want to be."

"You are ten, correct?" Hal inquired. Tommy nodded. "Did you know, Juro only recently turned eleven? Tomo will be eleven in about three months. Shasho and Sukotto are eleven, but just barely."

"Tomo is ten and he's an ensign?" Tommy asked for clarification. "Does that mean I can join Space Fleet now?"

"If you were taking your courses at the Academy, you would already be a Cadet," Hal explained. "On board, Cadets are called Acting Ensigns. As an Acting Ensign, you would be allowed in the various departments as you have been doing, but I would like for you to have a main department. You can still check out the others until you know for sure which one you want."

Tommy looked at Danny before answering. Danny's smile made him feel sure of his answer, "I'm leaning toward Science, Sir."

"Very well, Acting Ensign Harper," Hal smiled, "Is there any specific branch you are interested in?"

"Gosh Sir, right now I like them all. Tomo showed me a little about Cybernetics. Commander Kohl was teaching me about Xenology and Lieutenant Abernathy was showing me some strange plants he said he was working on. He said he was teaching me Xenobotany. What I'd really like to learn more about is Nano-Technology."

"Interesting choice," Hal admitted. He wasn't sure how Tommy could learn more about his preferred branch unless he did his own research on the topic, but Tommy is a bright boy. "We have no one on board who knows enough to train you. A lot of what you learn will come from your own research."

"Isn't that mainly what science is? You learn from research," Tommy grinned.

Hal smiled back, "Report to Commander Boyer in Operation to get an Acting Ensign Science Uniform. Have them give you one for Operations as well… for when you are visiting the other departments."

"Yes, Sir, thank you, Sir," Tommy chimed enthusiastically.

"Oh, and you might want to put this Acting Ensign Bar on your uniform before you wear it. I would hate to think you were out of uniform for not having the correct insignia on your collar. Isn't that right, Lieutenant Commander Robinson?"

Danny knew immediately to what Hal was referring. "That is correct, Sir," Danny chuckled.

Officers' Mess ~ 1300

John Luke was escorted to the Officers' Mess in honor of his birthday. He felt special because his "honor guards" were: Drake leading the way, Will to his left with Lakinae and Marasu following. Once they entered the Mess, Logan Fielding seated them at the table reserved for the birthday boy.

Randy took to the stage, really a platform about a foot above the rest of the deck used mainly for announcements. It measures one meter by one meter (39.37 inches x 39.37 inches). "As you all know, normally I give the announcements about birthdays, but this time I would like Commander Kyle Robinson to give it."

John Luke's Birthday CakeAs Kyle took to the platform, Ben brought his latest cake design. It was a Bible with "John" at the top of the left page and "Luke" at the top of the right. On the left page were the words "Happy 15th Birthday." The right depicted the Sooloo heading to a star in a not so straight path. There was a single candle on the cake.

Kyle was happy that Randy asked him to be the one who presented John's cake. He's not fond of giving speeches, but this was his Assistant Chief and friend. "You know, John Luke was given the nickname Bible Boy due to his name. And while he may not live a 'straight' path in his love life," Kyle paused while the others chuckled, "he does a damn good job of being straight when plotting courses. Sure, there are times when a straight line doesn't work and John knows how to plot around that, but I never worry about him sitting in the Astrogation seat. I like how Ben incorporated both into John's cake. Happy fifteenth, John."

As Kyle was about to step down, John stood up and walked onto the platform. He grabbed Kyle and embraced him. "I couldn't have asked for a better presentation, this means a lot," John whispered in Kyle's ear.

"I meant every word of it."

John blew the candle out and it relit. He looked at Kyle, "Is this one of those trick candles?" Kyle just shrugged like he didn't know, so John looked at Randy.

"Juro gave me the candle and thought it would be funny," Randy claimed defensively.

John laughed, "Juro, thank you. Now, come get a hug from the birthday boy."

Marlin-Douglas Quarters ~ 1530

"Dad, we have a problem," Juro fretted.

"Oh," Connor looked at his oldest son, "and what might that be?"

"You scheduled for you and me to be on watch at the same time, and Papa is also going on watch."

Aiden smiled, "And you're worried about Arytiss. Relax, we made arrangements."

No sooner had Aiden said that and the door chimed. It was Koji and Duskin at the door with Tomo standing where Aiden could see him, but not Juro. "We're ready to take Arytiss to the holodeck park and start his swimming lessons."

"Koji and Duskin are taking him to the holodeck to teach him how to swim? Arytiss is too young, and —"

"How old were you when you started to swim?" Tomo interrupted.

Juro was surprised to hear Tomo's voice. "I was six months old, but my opsola taught me."

"Koji did an awesome job with Christmas, and I will be there to assist," Tomo insisted.

"I know," Juro sounded a little disappointed, "and I have no problem with Koji teaching him, but I want to be there, too."

"Okay," Koji grinned, "Tomo, Duskin and I can do something else with him. We can wait until both of you are with me to teach our baby brother how to swim."

"If he's your baby brother, does that mean he's mine, too?" Duskin asked Koji.

"Thank you, Koji and yes, Duskin," Juro offered as he hugged the younger boys.

"Lakinae wants to help with Arytiss, too," Tomo commented. "According to Miss Dewel, he and Marasu did an excellent job of looking after him after we were adopted."

"As long as he understands his schoolwork takes priority, I'm all for him helping," Aiden replied.

"Same," Connor concurred. "It sounds like Arytiss has quite a few older brothers."

Bowman-Tietokone Quarters ~ 2200

Drake looked at Oliver, "I can't believe we are allowed to spend tonight together with tomorrow being the first day of school after we left Darastix."

"Perhaps everyone understood that we go to school together, so it doesn't make that much difference," Oliver suggested. "So, what would you like to do before we go to sleep?"

"Well…" Drake looked like he was thinking. "We didn't get to do what we planned for my birthday. I guess with all the excitement of going to our first planet made us forget."

"I didn't forget," Oliver declared, "but this is a big step in our relationship, so I was waiting for you to let me know you were ready. When it never happened, I thought maybe you changed your mind."

"I didn't change my mind. I want you to be my first and hopefully the only one who enters me," Drake spoke softly, then gave a sweet kiss on Oliver's lips.

Oliver kissed Drake back before remarking, "This is going to hurt, but I will try to be gentle and keep the pain at a minimum. If it gets too bad, I want to know."

"I told Papa what I wanted, and he recommended that we should wait, but did give me some lube. It's mint flavored," Drake admitted. "He also said that he wants to talk with us after school tomorrow."

"And he still agreed to let you spend the night here?" Oliver couldn't believe it.

Drake started removing Oliver's clothes. Each piece was neatly folded and placed on Oliver's desk, and Drake gave Oliver a kiss on an exposed skin with each piece. After Drake was done undressing him, Oliver did the same.

Thursday, 2 April 2122

Operations Office ~ 0800

It had been just over seven months since the Sooloo first launched. Just before returning to Earth, performance reviews were done by the Senior Officers, so the usual six-month review had been postponed. Those reviews were mainly the chiefs of each department reviewing their assistant chiefs. Also, the crew was on Earth for a month. With that in mind, Captain Tietokone thought it would be wise if the rest of the crew were reviewed. Kash Rivers walked up to Steve, "I haven't been on the ship long enough for me to review the Operations staff properly, so I would like your input."

"Sure, but you know that Shasho and I were reviewed back in December."

"I saw that," Kash admitted. "Jordan doing yours seemed normal, but I find it odd that he did Shasho and none of the others."

Steve smiled, "None of the others were planning to take the Ensign Exam that we were aware of. No one knew that Jinzo had planned to until he showed up with the rest. And even then, we didn't know what department he was going to be in."

"I see," Kash replied, "that does answer why Shasho was and none of the others were. Jinzo has only been with the ship for three months, so we can hold off on his. And from what I've seen, all of those in Operations are doing a fantastic job, so what are your thoughts about before the Sooloo returned?"

"Honestly, Sir," Steve remarked, "what you have seen is no different. If I were the one evaluating, they all would get great reviews."

"Good to know," Kash accepted, "but if there were one thing where each could improve, even if only by a small amount, what would you suggest?"

Steve thought long and hard before replying. "Well," Steve finally answered, "that's a tough question, and the only thing I can think of is, none of them are as organized as Shasho. What I would say to them is, 'The one area where I see room for improvement is your organization skills. That isn't to say you aren't organized, but I can see room for improvement there.'"

"Yeah but… being as organized as Shasho is a tough order in itself," Kash chuckled. "From what I've seen, that's also the only thing I can think of that any of those under me can work on. Jordan was very proud of the Operation staff when he was Chief of Operations, and I see why. Thanks, Steve."

"What about me?" Steve was curious, "I know you're not evaluating me next, but if you were?"

"You have one flaw that I can see right away."

Steve was stunned by this response, "Which is?"

"Steve, you are way more qualified to be Chief of Operations than I am. I appreciate you passing it up so I could get it, but in my honest opinion, you were a fool for doing it."

"But I don't know Information Systems like Jace, Brad, Roger or any of those guys."

"They are specialists, Steve," Kash advised. "You don't need to know as much as they do of their department, you just need to know enough about each department to assist when needed. To be honest, when Jordan was Chief of Operations, you were doing his job and he was helping where needed. He was able to because of you. I am able to assist more than I'm required because I have you. The next time you are offered a Chief of Operations position, you would be a fool to turn it down again."

"Yes, but…"

Kash interrupted, "No buts. I know you thought it was too soon after you were promoted to Assistant Chief, but if you weren't qualified, do you think Hal or Jordan would have offered it?"

"I see your point," Steve admitted. "Thank you for being honest."

Friday, 3 April 2122

Classroom ~ 1130

As the classes were about to break for lunch, Ali told the boys, "I know you normally do your swimming on Fridays, but remember, we have three new students, so be respectful of them and wear trunks."

Koji raised his hand, "Ankin Ali, I talked with Duskin this week and he wants to try nekkid swimming."

"Ankin?" Ali pondered. "And what about the other two? My order… still… yes, Marasu?"

"Ankin means honorable teacher, and Drake talked with Lakinae and me as well. At first Lakinae was reluctant, but I asked him to please let us, and he agreed. We want to swim nekkid."

"Well, I can't speak to Lakinae at this time," Ali smiled, "but if he is in agreement, you have my permission to 'nekkid' swim… next week."

Saturday, 4 April 2122

Summary of Kyle's Journey up the Chain

Danny and Kyle discussed Kyle wanting to do his own press conference, to set the record straight about his position and duties aboard the SS Sooloo. After his talk with Danny, Kyle went to his immediate supervisor, Hal. Hal gave Kyle support and advice, but then suggested he go up to the next one in the chain, Dave.

Dave teased Kyle a bit but told him right away that he needed to speak with the next link, his father Admiral Greg Robinson. That call had to wait however as Kyle was set to go on watch.

Astrogation Office ~ 1610

After his watch, Kyle sat at his desk and activated his computer. When he contacted his father, he would either call his personal or official number depending on the reason for the communication. Even though he was calling regarding a personal issue, he was asking his father to render an official decision, so he called the secure number.

Greg Robinson was in his quarters on the Darastix. He cursed silently when the buzzer on his official communicator sounded. He missed his office staff badly, especially Chief Petty Officer Cabrera, his secretary. Answering his own official phone calls was not something he enjoyed doing. Cabrera did an outstanding job of filtering the calls and turning over a large number of them to his aide, Captain Chu. When he saw who the caller was, he relaxed. It wasn't often his son called him on his secure line, but after the conversation he'd had with Dave Bowman, he was certain he knew why Kyle was calling him officially. He mentally applauded Kyle for using the proper number.

"Admiral Robinson," Greg said with the proper amount of official curtness. Communication of the official lines were recorded from the start, something everyone in Space Fleet was aware of. Greg liked every call he received to start with official protocol.

"Good day, Admiral. Commander Kyle Robinson speaking." Kyle knew that Greg was aware of who the caller was, but like his father, he followed official protocol. "I need your input on a decision I want to make, which will require following certain Space Fleet and Explorer protocols, providing you approve of my action. I've gone up the chain of command on the Sooloo and was told I needed talk to a higher link on the chain since the Commodore didn't feel he had the authority to give me permission for something like this." Greg knew that the links in the Sooloo chain of command who Kyle reported to were Hal and Dave. Because he was a commodore, Dave generally had the authority to rule on issues involving Star Fleet protocols and regulations. If Dave passed an issue up the chain then chances were it was something major, so Greg knew this was a major action.

"I am a little confused, Commander. Is this a personal decision of one involving a ruling on protocol?"

"It's both, which is why I called you on the secure line. I'm just not sure how to tackle it."

"Then how about we drop the formalities, and you tell me in your own inimitable style just what the problem is." Greg had an inkling as to what was concerning Kyle, and if it was what he thought it was, he wanted his son to tell him in his own way.

"Aren't these communications recorded?" Kyle asked.

"They are, but nothing says the discussions have to put everybody to sleep. Not much difference with what we are doing than with what Hal and Dave do as far as enforcing formalities go."

"Well, it's like this then, Dad. I know you know about what's going on in the Canadian Senate race and what Senator Cooper has been saying about the Explorer… and about me specifically."

Bingo! Greg thought. "I do, indeed, Son. What would you like from me?"

"I want to be able to defend my name in a news conference. And by defending my name, I am also defending my peers—you know, the youngest crew members on the Explorer ships. The Senator has been lying about us and I want to stand up and tell the truth."

"I wouldn't use the term lying," Greg reasoned. "It sounds more like you're attacking the Senator, rather than defending yourself."

"Well? Doesn't he deserve it?"

"Kyle, you are a Space Fleet officer assigned to the Explorer Program. Not just an officer, but a well-respected senior officer with some who have been awarded some of the highest commendations and honors that Space Fleet can bestow. You have a brilliant mind and are without question one of the top, if not THE top, astrogators in the fleet. And by that, I mean not just the Explorer Program, but all of Space Fleet. That said, you are also a twelve-year-old boy. You can flash all the medals that you want, but to many who would be watching you, you're still a twelve-year-old boy because that's what you look like."

"So, what am I supposed to do, put on a fake beard or something?"

"Kyle!" Greg could see and feel Kyle's adolescent hormones taking him over. He was also learning that dealing with an idiot asshole politician could be more difficult than defeating a rogue star. Greg knew that he wasn't going to be able to give his son what he wanted, and it was time to take the next step.

"Sorry, Dad, but I don't know what to do. I mean, how is saying my job is to clean toilets and do whatever some teenage officer wants me to do, not lying."

"When it becomes being creative with the truth. It's part of the art of dealing with politicians. You have to point out they're lying even when you can't say it. That said, I'm going ask you to return to formal mode so I can give my official answer to your request."

"Yes, Sir," Kyle muttered as he sensed he was not going to get what he wanted from his father.

"Commander Robinson, it is my understanding that you wish to obtain permission to answer the accusations made against your character by Senator Allen Cooper, is that correct?"

"Yes Sir, it is."

"And you have gone through the proper chain of command before contacting me, correct?"

"Yes Sir."

"You have done well, Commander. Unfortunately, under Space Fleet regulations, I cannot grant you that permission."

"BUT…" Kyle started to shout. He stopped when he saw his father raise his hand.

"I am not saying permission cannot be granted. What I am saying is that since I am your father, according to Space Fleet regulations I can't grant it. As your father there are many requests I can approve of as long as the chain of command has been honored, but this request falls into a category that prevents me from authorizing your news conference."

"So what do I do? I can't just keep quiet. I mean, that maybe I should, but I think my story needs to be told so the truth quits being creative and becomes the actual truth."

"I agree with you totally. As a result, I am going to refer this to the person I report to, and that would be Admiral Mirah."

"You mean I need to contact him?"

"No, I think it would be better if I contact him. He can then research the issue carefully and contact you when he is ready to discuss it. I suspect that won't take very long because he has been following Senator Cooper's penchant for creative truth telling closely." Greg knew what Bill's feelings were about the senator's attacks. He also knew that Space Fleet would allow Kyle to have his news conference providing he meets certain conditions. He had complete faith in Bill Mirah making the proper decision.

"Thank you, Sir. Is that all?" Kyle asked a bit coldly.

"No, I have one more thing. Let's go back to informal mode."

Kyle nodded. He now had the feeling that his father had some good news for him.

"I want you to know that you can contact me at any time on my private line to ask me questions or for advice on the issue. If your request is approved, I will be here for you whenever you need me. Understood?"

"It is. And thank you, Dad. I apologize if I've been a bit of prick."

"Apology accepted. And now that you've got over being an adolescent, from this point you will need to conduct yourself as the senior officer and first-class person you really are."

"I'll do my best."

"I would expect nothing less of you. This is Admiral Gregory Robinson ending my discussion with Commander Kyle Robinson. Responsibility for making the final decision will now be that of Admiral William Mirah." 

Sunday, 5 April 2122

Bridge ~ 0927

Kyle was on watch and was the Duty Astrogator with Jordan at the Conn. Kyle was filling his time working to solve a round of "Stump the Astrogator" that John Luke had left for him. The problem-solving game was an exercise Kyle had concocted to keep his astrogators on their toes. John Luke and Will thought it was only fair that Kyle solve astrogation problems as well and were soon creating their own versions of the game for Kyle as well as each other. Danny and other officers who often stood on watch at the astrogation table but weren't fully trained astrogators were soon receiving less-complex versions of the exercise for them to work through during their watches.

So far, John Luke and Will had failed to stump Kyle. But the exercise he had received when he relieved Will was a doozie. Will warned him that he and John Luke had collaborated on the exercise and thought it would keep him busy.

Kyle was having problems concentrating on his task because he was impatiently waiting for Admiral Mirah to contact him. He was tired of not knowing whether he could have his news conference. Even a negative answer would be better than not knowing.

As he began making sense of what John Luke and Will had concocted, he decided to program a star configuration into the astrogation table. Just as he thought he could see the solution, the bridge communicator signaled a call. His ears perked up when Jordan answered saying, "Rivers here; what can I do for you, Captain?"

"Commander Robinson has a call from Admiral Mirah. Please have him report to my ready room immediately."

"Aye, aye, Sir." Jordan looked at Kyle, "You're excused to the Ready Room."

Kyle left immediately, feeling like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He felt certain that Mirah was ready to give him his decision.

"Should I call in somebody to man the helm?" Jordan asked Hal.

"This shouldn't take long. Just make sure nobody steals the table and gets us lost," Hal joked.

"But what if…"

"Relax, Jordan. The other Commander Robinson should be entering the Bridge any second. Captain out."

Jordan wondered whether having a captain with a twisted sense of humor was a good thing when Danny entered the Bridge. "Commander Robinson reporting as ordered."

"Take the helm, Danny, and make sure we haven't drifted more than ten light years off course."

"Sir?"

"Sorry. I was doing my Captain Hal impersonation. Just take the helm and don't mess up whatever star cluster your husband entered into the table."

When Kyle entered the Ready Room, Hal was standing next to his desk. "Use my desk communicator," Hal told him. "I'll leave you alone to talk to the Admiral. Good luck, Kyle. I hope this works out for you."

"Thank you, Sir. I'll let you know when I'm finished." Kyle opened the communicator. "This is Commander Robinson, Admiral." Even though this was a video communication, Kyle felt obligated to go through the proper formalities.

There was a slight pause as Mirah set aside the report he had been reading as he waited for Kyle. "Hello, Kyle. Good to hear your voice. I'm sure you've been eagerly awaiting my call."

"Yes Sir, I have, but I know you're pretty busy, too."

"I'm never too busy for someone who needs an important decision made as soon as possible. I knew what my decision would be; Commander Howard and I were double checking the regulations as well as the rulings by Space Fleet Command through the years on the topic of news conferences." Commander Lyndon Howard was a member of Admiral Mirah's staff. "I believe my decision is on solid ground. And Kyle, no matter how you look at your issue, it is personal as well as official. That said, let's drop the formalities and talk like two officers who have complete respect for each other."

"Yes Sir," Kyle replied out of habit.

"First, I want to commend you for taking your issue through the proper chain of command. You made my job easier, and though it might not seem like it to you, you made your job easier. You showed your maturity as an officer and as a person."

"Thank you, it was what I was trained to do."

"A lot of people get trained on how to do things right, but that doesn't mean everyone does it. Anyway, you're probably squirming in Hal's chair waiting for a decision.

"Please hold any questions or comments until I have finished. I have decided to allow you to hold a news conference with a few caveats." Bill grinned internally when he saw Kyle's face light up. "You must follow the Space Fleet rules on news conference participation religiously. That means not mentioning either Senate candidate by name, even though you can indicate what office they are running for."

Kyle nodded, he had scanned the regulations before he'd taken his request to Hal.

"While this is not in the regulations, I want you to avoid listing your credentials as an officer in the Explorer Program. That doesn't mean your credentials can't be listed, it means that you can't list them." Mirah could see Kyle chomping at the bit to interrupt and knew it was time to pause for questions. "Questions?"

"How am I supposed to talk about what I do on the Sooloo and my accomplishments if I am not allowed to talk about them?" Kyle asked with a hint of frustration.

"Well, son, you let somebody else talk about them."

"Who? Hal? Dave? You? MY DAD?? Who? I mean you're all people I report to."

"The person speaking for you is somebody you know well and who knows you well. That would be Commander Hanson."

"Really? My teacher and mentor? Wow, that would be awesome. Why didn't I think of that? Will he do it and when can I talk to him?"

"I know you need to return to your watch, but when you've finished, Commander Hanson will be waiting to hear from you. He and I have had a long discussion about your dilemma, and he is more than eager to help his star student. Also, I know your father has stated his willingness to help you. He has some good ideas, so don't be afraid to talk to him. Remember, you're not alone in this, Kyle. We are all upset about what has been said about you and we would love for everyone to see you for the officer and gentleman you really are."

"When would I be able to schedule the news conference?"

"I'd like it to happen as soon as possible. Contact me at this time in three days. If you put your heart into this like I know you will, we should be ready to go within five days."

"Thank you, Admiral Mirah, I mean, Bill. I'm starting to feel confident about this."

"As well you should. It will take a team effort to make this work, and I think we're well on the way to seeing it bear fruit. Now, get back to your post. Commander Hanson will fill me in on how your talk went, but feel free to text me anything you feel I should know. Mirah, out."

The admiral's visage went dark. Kyle rose from Hal's desk and headed back to the Bridge feeling an extra skip in his step.