Voyagers: SS Robert Heinlein

Chapter 11-The Heinlein Comes Alive

Robert Heinlein>
Kyle was excited, nervous, and ready. He was excited because this would be the first time his crew would be onboard the Heinlein. He was nervous because he wanted everything to unfold like clockwork, even though he knew the day couldn’t possibly unfold that smoothly. He was ready because he had prepared for the day to the best of his ability and knew he had a busy and productive day mapped out for the crew.
He had arrived at 0700 on the Capricorn with his senior officers, except for Devin and Logan. Devin stayed on Earth to supervise the boarding of the Heinlein’s shuttles by the crew, with Logan assisting him. Steve and Brad’s son Shasho, who worked in operations, was also with them in his capacity as chief aide to the first officer. Also on the shuttle were the Heinlein’s eight fighter pilots along with six crewmen who were qualified shuttle pilots.
Two of those six were Jesse Gross and Orlando Rodriguez, who would be doing shuttle bay traffic control, guiding the shuttles out of the shuttle bay and into the able hands of Orbital Traffic Control on Earth. Jesse and Orlando were qualified shuttle pilots. Normally only one of them would be needed to man the shuttle bay, but with six shuttles departing for Earth and returning close to each other, Jesse felt he and Orlando should both man the shuttle bay, especially since Orlando was still relatively inexperienced.
The fighter pilots, along with four other shuttle pilots, would be flying the six Class A shortrange shuttles that would be shuttling the Heinlein’s crew up to the ship. As per Space Fleet’s Traffic Control rules each shuttle would need a pilot and a co-pilot while under the guidance of Orbital Traffic Control and Earth Air Traffic Control.
They would be working in pairs with one assigned to be the pilot and one the co-pilot. One trip by each of the six shuttles plus the higher capacity Capricorn would be enough to shuttle the crew. The ship’s complement was short of full capacity, or one other shuttle would have been needed. As it was, the Mozart, which was piloted by Danny and Manuel Perez, would need to make a second trip to pick up the galley staff at 1000.
As soon as they boarded the Heinlein, Danny and the pilots headed for the shuttle bay to man their shuttles while Jesse and Orlando went to the shuttle bay control room to prepare to guide the shuttles out of the shuttle bay and into space. The two had worked out their plan of attack in a workroom located in the Explorer Program section of Space Fleet Headquarters.
The entire operation went smoothly. Devin, Logan, and Shasho had also worked at HQ the day before and had the boarding process planned out. The three officers were organized and focused. Danny had the shuttle operation organized and Jesse and Orlando kept the shuttle bay process operating smoothly.
As Kyle observed the proceedings, he felt one pang of sadness and that was that he, Danny, and Ronnie missed saying Happy Birthday to Koji because of the early hour they left the house for the spaceport. They made a video the night before apologizing for not being home when he woke up. They then wished him a big Happy Birthday and promised they would be home in time for his birthday dinner.
Greg and Alicia agreed with the strategy and told the three brothers they would make sure Koji understood the reasoning as he ate his birthday breakfast. They said they would tell Koji he would get all of his presents at his evening birthday party.
The big regret Kyle had was that he had not wished him an early Happy Birthday last night when he told Koji and Duskin goodnight. He knew Alicia had planned out a great party, so it should all work out for the best by the end of the day.
The Mozart returned to the Heinlein at 0830 and by 0910 all of the crew had been shuttled to the starship and transloaded. Kyle greeted as many by name as he could. A senior officer guided each group to the meeting room set up on the holodeck. Devin arrived on the Capricorn with the last load of crewmen. He headed straight to the holodeck to start the crew meeting.
He and Kyle had discussed who would chair the meeting. Normally, there would be nothing to discuss since Devin, as first officer, would start the meeting. Kyle said he would start the meeting to give Devin time to catch his breath after herding the crew into the proper shuttles. Devin disagreed. “I think the first meeting on the ship should follow our usual protocol,” he told Kyle. “Once we’ve established the protocol, we can feel free to make changes if it becomes necessary. I’ll have around fifteen minutes of down time on the ride up here and will be ready to roll when I board the ship.”
Kyle couldn’t disagree with that since it followed his beliefs. He just didn’t want his first officer to burn out before they’d even left on the maiden voyage. “You, sir, are right. As long as you feel up to doing it, I’ll go along with it.”
Kyle continued to be beyond pleased with his choice of first officer. When he first met Devin, who was then the chief astrogator of the Endurance, he saw an officer who was willing to skip rules of protocol he didn’t agree with. As a result, he had become an officer whose confidence was shot. But what he saw in his first officer was someone who was at the top of his game and had gotten his act completely together. In a way Devin reminded him of himself when he first came to the Sooloo; a complete mess who found a way to get his act together and become not just good at his job, but outstanding at it.
Devin greeted the crew and got the meeting started. Every crew member assigned to the Heinlein so far had made it on board. After reviewing the schedule for the day, Devin turned the meeting over to Kyle. The first item of business was was for the crewmembers to visit their assigned quarters.
Since each crew member could bring a carry-on to the ship on their shuttle trip that day, they would be given the opportunity to get that piece of baggage and bring it to their quarters to start the moving in process. They would be called to the shuttle bay according to the shuttle they had taken to the Heinlein. One purpose behind organizing the process that way was that it gave the crew a start on the process of becoming familiar with the ship.
In addition to their carry-ons, each crew member had brought most of his personal belongings to the spaceport that morning. Their belongings would be set on pallets by the ground crew and would be loaded on one of the Heinlein’s Bubba cargo shuttles sometime during the day and flown to the Heinlein. A big part of the next morning would be the belongings being delivered to the crew quarters by members of the onboard Space Fleet. The crew members would then be given time to unpack and organize their quarters.
After everyone had taken his carry-on to their quarters, Devin called them back to the holodeck to continue the meeting. Various pastries had been set out at the entrances to the meeting room. Baker extraordinaire Ben Maxie was responsible for producing the treats, which he had baked Saturday on board the Heinlein during the senior officers’ trial run.
“The cookies are your preview of lunch, which will be served at 1300 in the main dining room.” Kyle’s plan for renaming the dining rooms was still in its early stages. His plan was to discuss it with the crew during the crew trials the following week.
The rest of the morning meeting consisted of Steve’s newly appointed Head of Communications, Paulo DiMarco, showing a video of the ship’s interior layout that Ensign Whit Olson and Crewman Noah Marquis of Operations had put together. DiMarco came to the Heinlein from the Isaac Asimov while Olson and Marquis both served in Operations on the Sooloo.
When lunchtime arrived, Devin dismissed the crew. The holodeck meeting room quickly emptied except for Devin, Kyle, and the senior officers.
“Great job with the meeting, Devin,” Kyle said.
“Steve and his crew organized the video,” Devin said modestly.
“But you stood in front of the thundering herd and made sure they were properly prepared, and you asked the right questions when it was finished.” Kyle turned to Steve. “And thanks for your usual great work. That video is going to Explorer Program command. It could be used as the official video for teaching about the Earhart Class ships.”
“Some of the credit for that has to go to my beautiful hubby.” Steve pointed to Brad and smiled proudly.
“That’s what I love about you guys—you all make a great team which makes my job easier.”
“Don’t give us that bullshit,” Steve smirked. “Everybody knows the main job of a ship’s captain is to delegate jobs and sit in his ready room playing video games.”
“Hey, I res…,”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot, and also need to look like they know what they’re doing in the unlikely event of an emergency.”
“How about we head to the officers’ dining room so I can show I also know how to attack a lunch made by our fantastic culinary staff.”
“Hey, and sometimes a good captain can come up with a good idea,” Steve laughed as he and Brad left for lunch.
Kyle didn’t make it to the officers’ dining room, however. He decided to check on the atmosphere in the main dining room first with Ronnie accompanying him. As they came in through the main door the noise created by multiple conversations dropped to zero. “As you were, guys,” Kyle said. “I didn’t mean to break up any good conversations.”
“The fuck he didn’t,” Don Nixon said quietly to Everett and Wade who were sitting at his table. “What did he think was gonna happen when he came in where he didn’t belong, that everybody was gonna give him a standing ovation for stumbling through the door?”
“He’s a total dickwad,” Wade said.
“You got that right. One more reason for me to hate him.”
Mark Winters, the fourth member of the little cabal, was still in the buffet line. He planned on sitting with a couple of other members of the security/tactical crew. Don had told him he shouldn’t be seen sitting with the group too often. Mark said he completely understood.
“I already told Mark this and now I’m letting Wade know. I made Everett my number two man. Mark said he was cool with it, and I hope you are too.”
“Yeah, I’m cool with it,” Wade said. “He’s the one you snagged first, and he’s been putting the work into this plan. But I think we got something we need to do.”
“What’s that?”
“We need a cool name for our group that doesn’t give any kind of hint of what we’re all about.”
“I like that,” Don grinned. “I agree. Let’s shoot for Sunday to come up with it. It will be our last day off in like forever. Until then we can hash things out between us.  Maybe we can do a breakfast meeting or something and make our name official.”
“And maybe by then we’ll have a couple more members,” Everett said.
“I’m looking. And I know you guys are looking. But like I said, I want to wait to decide until I see if we can get somebody from the new crewmen coming aboard in the next week or so.”
While that conversation was going on, Kyle looked around the dining room, liking the camaraderie he saw at the tables. He also noted Donald Nixon sitting with Everett Belmont, as usual, and with Wade Green, from engineering. It was the first time he’d noticed him sitting with Wade. He made a mental note to add the name to the database he was keeping in his search for the mystery boy. 
He then saw the two young brothers he had met a few days ago; Caleb and Bobby Brown. “Hi Captain Kyle,” Bobby grinned. Bobby was 11 and the younger brother. Caleb was a year older, almost to the day. They were sitting at a four-person table with their lunches in front of them.
“Would you like to eat lunch with us?” Caleb asked. “You won’t get served since it’s a buffet lunch.” Before Kyle could answer, Caleb looked over to his brother and said, “That was a dumb thing to say. I guess since he’s the captain, he already knew that.” Then he turned back to Kyle who was still standing. “And I bet, since you are the captain, you want to go sit with all the big-time senior officers and get served.”
“I have three things to say to that, Ensign Caleb,” Kyle said. “First, if I wanted, I could sit here at your table and get served since I am, as you say, the captain. But that goes for any senior officer. Second, I think every member of the Heinlein crew is big-time, so you know what that makes you two.” Kyle paused to give them a moment to think about what he had just said.
“And third?” Bobby asked.
“And third, they serve a great lunch buffet on this ship, so hang on while I get a tray of food.”
It didn’t take Kyle long to get through the buffet line. Those still in the line wanted to move out of his way and give him priority, but Kyle insisted they take their turn. He heard a couple of guys murmuring to each other about what a cool dude the captain was. He headed back to the table after taking a hamburger, which he dressed with lettuce and tomato as well as mustard and mayonnaise. He wanted onion too, but decided he didn’t want to have to deal with covering onion breath and left the onions alone. He added some fries and catsup to his plate and grabbed three oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert.
When he returned to the table, he saw that the fourth seat had been taken. He sat between Caleb and the crew member whose name he didn’t know; but he was going to get to know him quickly. Kyle noted that he was a lieutenant.
The boy was good size. Kyle had him pegged to be 14 or 15. “You guys didn’t tell me that the captain himself would be sitting at this table,” he said with an adolescent voice that was deepening.
“I’m Kyle Robinson, and yep, I really am the captain.” He smiled and held out his right hand. “And who would you be, lieutenant?”
The boy took Kyle’s hand and shook it. “Glad to meet you captain. I’m Quincy Hanson and I’m with Security. Everybody calls me Quinn, though.”
“Pleased to meet you as well.” He took a bite of hamburger, swallowed, and asked Quinn if he already knew the Brown brothers or decided to grab an empty seat.
Since Quinn was chewing on a mouthful of macaroni and cheese, Caleb answered for him. “Our quarters are next to each other, so we got to know each other a little bit when we got to go see our quarters. We didn’t plan to sit next to each other through, that just kind of happened.”
“Well, I hope it’s the start of some long friendships,” Kyle said. “Making friends is one of the best things about traveling in space. These two brothers are lucky to be together, but for them, like everybody else, the more friends you have on the ship the better.”
“They told me they were in Science,” Quinn said. "That would be my second choice. But I like being in Security. I was in security on the Marco Polo. Captain Reis was a really cool captain. You look like you are too since you don’t mind sitting out here in the main dining room with us.”
“I don’t mind it at all. I want to get to know my crew as much as I can. I’d already met Bobby and Caleb. They invited me to sit with them and how could I refuse two great crewmen like them.” The brothers blushed. “But it won’t be a daily thing because mealtime is also a great way to get to know my senior officers better and chat about things that are on our minds. I’m also going to encourage them to come out here every now and then and enjoy eating with the general crew.”
Kyle learned that Quinn was 14 and had served on the Marco Polo since its launch at the beginning of the Explorer Program. He had just passed the Commander’s examination the week before. “I’m gonna interview with Kage for the Assistant Chief of Security on Wednesday,” Quinn said. "I served in tactical/security on the Marco Polo and I think I’m qualified for the position. Captain Harkness encouraged me to go for it," Quinn finished with a smile.

 “I’ll take a look at your records and see where you stand as far as getting a promotion goes,” Kyle assured him.

 "Thanks, Captain.”
Kyle then asked the Brown brothers how things were going in Science. Bobby talked excitedly about actually being in the horticulture room in the science section. “I can’t wait to start growing stuff in there. Logan says we’ll start doing that on Wednesday. I’m so excited about it.”
Caleb talked about how he would be helping his younger brother. When Quinn asked why he was the helper when he was the older brother, Caleb answered it was because Bobby was the horticulturist. “I’m a botanist; I know more about studying plants than growing them. I mean, I know how to do it, but Bobby has more than just a green thumb, he’s got ten green fingers and maybe a few green toes too.”
After they finished their lunches, the brothers left for the meeting room. Kyle answered a couple of questions Quinn had about his possible promotion and the two then went their own way.
As he watched Kyle and Quinn chatting at the table, Don turned to Everett and said, “Look at that asshole kissing Kyle’s ass. I bet he’s probably shooting for that assistant security chief gig and maybe a promotion. And as for Kyle the pussy, he may think he’s gonna be liked by having lunch with the ass kissers, but that won’t do him much good when it comes time to replace him as captain.”
Because the crew would start loading the shuttles at 1600 hours, the afternoon passed quickly for everyone. At precisely 1600, Steve started calling the shuttle names as they were ready to be loaded. The crew would be returning on the same shuttle that brought them to the Heinlein, so they just had to wait for the name of their shuttles to be called. Since Operations planned the logistics of the shuttling, Steve announced the shuttle was ready to be boarded over the PA.
Danny and Manuel flew the Mozart back to the Heinlein to pick up Kyle and the senior staff. Danny and Manuel handed the Mozart over to the ground crew to park at Tiberius port until morning. The rest of the shuttles returned to the Heinlein. They all docked in the shuttle bay except the Gustav Holst piloted by “Ace” Cardiff and Mituti. They flew the kitchen staff, Jesse and Orlando, and the pilots of the other shuttle boarded the Holst at one of the outside airlocks after Orlando had guided it back to Earth. Jesse and Orlando had guided the Holst out of the shuttle bay. “Ace” turned the Holst over to the ground crew as well for an overnight stay.
Danny and Manuel flew the Mozart back to the Heinlein to pick up Kyle and the senior staff. Danny and Manuel handed the Mozart over to the ground crew to park at Tiberius port until morning. The rest of the shuttles returned to the Heinlein. They all docked in the shuttle bay except the Gustav Holst piloted by “Ace” Cardiff and Mituti which docked at the outside airlock. After securing the other shuttles in their bays and closing the shuttle bay doors, Jesse and Orlando joined the other fighter pilots and the kitchen staff in boarding the Holst for their flight back to earth. “Ace” turned the Holst over to the ground crew for an overnight stay beside the Mozart.
The party would take place at the Robinson’s house. Greg had asked Ian McFlynn, the Heinlein’s head chef, and Ben Maxie, the chief baker, if they would be willing to help Alicia prepare the food for the party. Since they were civil servants, he couldn’t order them to help; in fact, he couldn’t have even if they were ship’s officers. They were more than willing to help, not just because they respected Greg and Kyle Robinson, but also because they had become extremely fond of Koji on the Sooloo.
Ian and Ben took the first scheduled shuttle flight of the Capricorn after lunch and were picked up by Greg at the Tiberius Space Port’s Space Fleet Terminal. Ian took charge of the preparation of the Darastixian courses and Alicia prepared some Earthly courses. Ben had already prepared and baked the birthday cake on the Heinlein. All he had to do in the Robinson kitchen was make final preparations of the icing and then ice the cake.
Koji had invited Mark and Matthew Wilson, Logan Wilson’s twin brothers. And since the twins had received invitations, Kyle told Koji it would be a good idea if he invited Logan as well, even though he was a senior officer. Kyle figured Logan wouldn’t feel out of place since he would probably be hanging around Tommy.
“I wasn’t going to because he is big officer, but if you say it is okay, then it must be okay, because you are my Captain Opsola,” Koji responded.
Koji also invited Marsh Dawkins, the friend he had made on his Mars tour when he was on the Sooloo. Marsh was now a new cadet at Space Fleet Academy, and he and Koji had taken every opportunity they could to meet each other and keep what had been a long-distance friendship alive.
About fifteen minutes before the guests were slated to arrive, Koji went up to his room and took his stuffed wyvern off the shelf where he had placed it. His opsola had asked him to bring it down for the party, and if Opsola Captain Kyle wanted his stuffed animal at the party, then he would take it there.
When Koji entered the living room, he placed it on the coffee table in front of the sofa. “Okay, Eikic, I guess we’ll see why you’re wanted here,” Koji said aloud. Eikic was the wyvern name Koji had found in a dictionary of magical names that he liked the most.  Koji wanted to give Eikic a human name, as well, but he wasn’t sure what name to pick so he kept putting it off.
As he admired the colorful winged animal, Koji thought about the dream he’d had the night before. In the dream, Eikic spoke to him, saying, “You will get birthday gifts to give to me at your party, and when you do, you’ll know what my other name should be.” The dream had seemed almost real and when he woke up for a while, he felt like it hadn’t been a dream at all but something that had actually happened.
He shook his head to clear it and went into the kitchen where Alicia, Ian, and Ben were preparing dinner. With the cake iced and ready, Ben was helping Ian on the dinner end by prepping the shimmy appetizers.
“Hey, kiddo, the kitchen is off limits to the birthday boy,” Alicia grinned as she gave her grandson a friendly chiding.
“What’s wrong with Koji seeing shimmy?” Koji asked as he reverted to referring to himself in first person, which he still did at times when he was suddenly stressed.
Alicia noted the stressed query. “Nothing, I wanted as much to be a surprise as possible and seeing your special cake would have ruined that surprise.”
Koji looked around. “Where is my special cake?”
“In the refrigerator.” Before Koji could say anything else the doorbell chimed. “Sounds like the guests are starting to arrive, and since you have just been assigned to answer the door and greet your guests, you’d better hop to it.”
“Why can’t Duskin hop to it?”
“I know, I know, because he’s not the birthday boy,” Koji sighed. He zipped out of the kitchen and headed for the front door. Marsh was at the door with his mother. Koji beamed when he saw his friend. He invited both of them in. “My mom’s in the kitchen,” Koji said. “I’ll show you where it is.”
“Thanks, but I think I can find it,” Krista said. “Marsh has wanted to see you so bad I think he will burst if he misses another second.”
Before Krista took two steps, Marsh all but knocked Koji to the floor with a big hug. “Happy Birthday, Koji,” he gushed. He handed Koji a wrapped present which Koji held lovingly.
“Thanks, Marsh. You’re a great friend even if we hardly get see each other except for the last few weeks.” Koji and Marsh had done all they could to meet each other on the Academy campus. Their opportunities were few, but they still managed to meet two to three times a week. A couple of those times were at the Robinson house. Marsh had been invited to the recent nude swimming party, but his mother had other plans which consisted mostly of a museum visit.
Koji led Marsh to the living room where he placed the present on the coffee table that held presents from his family. “Wow, that is a cool animal,” Marsh said as he admired Eikic. ”It’s got lots of color and it’s even got wings. What is it?”
“It’s a wyvern,” Koji answered. “His name is Eikic.”
Marsh wondered if the wyvern was the reason for the strange request he received from Kyle to bring wrapped bling or trinket. “And pretty soon you’ll be leaving in space again and I won’t be seeing you,” Marsh lamented.
This time Koji hugged the bigger boy. “We can still chat sometimes, though.”
“My mom will be going back to Mars soon. And my dad’s still there, and I don’t think he and mom will be moving back to Earth. Dad could transfer if he wanted to.” Sean Dawkins was the chief administrator at the Earth Colonial Federation Mars Headquarters and planned to retire on Mars when he reached retirement age.
Marsh had lived almost his entire life on Mars. He was having problems adjusting to the stronger Earth gravity and had his moments when he wanted to give it up and return home. His parents reminded him that he had made a commitment to attend the Academy Prep School for at least a year. His dad also told him that a month wasn’t enough time to make the adjustment. Marsh met with a trainer three times a week who gave him exercises to help in the adjustment process.
The next guests to arrive were the Wilson twins, Mark and Matthew along with their big brother, Logan. Greg had sent a Space Fleet car to pick them up. He greeted them and instructed them to put their presents on the coffee table. He was going to introduce the twins to Marsh, but learned they already knew each other since they were classmates at the Prep Academy. They also admired Eikic, whom they had not seen on their previous visits.
Marsh and the twins did not know the last three guests to come. All three were in the special class for short term students with Koji at the Academy. The three were attending the class for the same reasons—their parents were between diplomatic job assignments. They knew what their next assignment would be, but they had to wait for transport or for quarters on the planet they had been transferred to. It was easier to get temporary housing and schooling in Las Vegas than at their final destination, and the bread winner in the family was still getting paid full salary.
Koji introduced Caden (age 10) and Mitchell (age 8) who were brothers, and Vladimir (age 9). They were driven there by Caden and Mitchell’s mother. The boys placed their presents on the table and admired Eikic as well. His bright colors, wide wings, and forked tail had garnered the attention of all of Koji’s guests, which surprised him. To him, the wyvern was just a wyvern, although his dream had started him wondering if there was more to Eikic than he had thought.
The temporary Academy students, Caden, Mitchell, and Vladmir were quickly accepted by Marsh, Mark, and Matthew, the regular students. Ironically, Mark and Matthew would soon be leaving the Academy to live on the Heinlein.
All that was needed to officially start the party was the arrival of Kyle, Danny, Ronnie, and Tommy who were Greg’s second carload of the day. Before leaving Tiberius Space Port, Greg called to announce he and the boys were on their way. Koji bounced to the garage when he heard the garage door opening. He stood at the doorway to the house and watched the car empty out.
“Hey, guys, check it out. The birthday boy is at the door to greet us,” Ronnie grinned. “Do you think he’s excited or something?”
“I would say yes he is and then some,” Kyle responded.
The four boys stopped at the door as Kyle counted down, “Three, two, one,” followed by a four-boy chorus saying, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KOJI!!!” Koji broke out into a face splitting grin.
“Did you get dinner cooked for us?” Danny asked.
“No, silly opsola, mom and Ian and Ben made dinner and it’s gonna be a shimmy stew, and there’s shimmy appetizers, and it’s gonna be the best birthday dinner ever,” Koji gushed.
When the dining room table had all the leaves in, it could seat twelve.
Between Koji and Duskin, the six friends Koji had invited, and Kyle, Danny, and Ronnie, they took up eleven seats. Greg, Alicia, Ben, and Ian ate at the kitchen table. They needed to be in position to set the dessert plates up for serving and get the cake out for cutting. Tommy and Logan ate at a two-person table set up in the dining room. Since they hadn’t actually been invited to the party, they volunteered to sit away from the table instead of trying to squeeze in an extra person. Kyle told them that when cake and ice cream was served, room would be made to squeeze them in at the main table.
Kyle, Danny, and Koji were pleased to see Duskin fitting in since he tended to be quite shy. He was sitting next to Koji on his left and Vladimir on his right. He and Vladimir had become friends at school, and the two chatted and giggled like they’d been friends forever.
“This shimmy stuff is really good,” Marsh said as he ate his stew with gusto.
“I heard they sometimes serve a shimmy dish at the Academy,” Danny said.
“If they do, I haven’t seen it at prep school. But maybe they should let us try it. I bet most of us there will like it.”
After the main meal ended, Kyle, Danny, and Ronnie cleared the table with help from Tommy and Logan. As soon as the table was cleared dinner was over and it was time for the party to begin.
Everybody retired to the family room, where they stood around Koji and raised the ceiling with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday”. After they sounded out the last word, Koji yelled “Lotoc Bieldrad” after which Kyle gave Koji eight birthday spanks on his bottom. Koji blew out the eight candles on the cake and then went to the coffee table and opened the presents.
The big packages were the presents specifically for him. Some of those gifts were first-rate artistic accessories for him, including special papers for laying out his designs, special pens, and tools for measuring and drawing straight lines and creating square corners. He received four boxes of accessories, and while it seemed like a lot, the items could easily be carried on board the ship without taking any needed space since they could be stored in a locker in Operations. Greg, Alicia,  Kyle, and Danny all contributed to the collection. A birthday card from Steve was included in which he donated the locker space to his “holodeck designer”.
The small packages contained trinkets and bling as well as a small metal box to store them in. The box had a drawing of a wyvern painted on it. Wyverns were notorious for hoarding small items of buttons, coins, lapel pins, rings, bracelets, and other sundry items.  Koji jumped up and down with joy when he saw what his friends had brought for Eikic.
“How did you know to do this?” Koji asked as he wiped away tears of happiness.
“Kyle told us,” was the standard answer. Kyle had provided the box. He got the idea from a book titled The House by the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. Koji had been assigned a book report in his class. He was told it had to be written in English. Through the instruction of Ali, his teacher on the Heinlein, Koji had become adept at reading English. But he didn’t like doing it—he much preferred his native Darastixian. He thought books in English were boring to read because they were about topics that he wasn’t interested in. The books in English he read were his assigned texts. If he read fiction, it was in his native language.
When he was assigned to read a fiction book in English, his grandmother Alicia recommended the Klune book knowing that Kyle and Ronnie had both read it and liked it. She had read it when she was a girl and thought the fact that the book was about magical children might appeal to Koji. And after initial crying and whining about reading a book that was written 100 years ago in a language he didn’t like to read, he complained about it being boring until one of the magical children turned out to be a wyvern. Suddenly, he was hooked. He ended up reading it eagerly and got an A on his report.
One thing he learned about wyverns was that they were hoarders who loved to collect. Theodore, the wyvern in the book, put together a collection of goodies throughout the book. Koji wondered how he could get a collection of stuff for Eikic. And then came the dream and he knew that somehow, Eikic would amass a collection of his own.
What he didn’t know was that Kyle and Alicia had come up with a plan to ask the birthday guests to bring bling and trinkets without telling them exactly why. Koji knew he needed to thank his friends for his gifts. He also needed to thank them for starting Eikic’s collection and explaining why it was important. But first, it was time for birthday cake and ice cream.
The cake was another Ben Maxie masterpiece which Kyle had carried over and set on the dining room table next to Eikic.  With light blue icing as the background the cake had a wyvern flying behind a starship that could only be the Heinlein as if its presence was giving the ship at extra boost.
“I wonder if the Heinlein has a hoard,” Tommy mused.
“Yes, it does,” Koji responded. He pointed to the coffee table. “And it is right in that box which tells me what I need to do now.” Koji paused, knowing he had everyone hooked. They all waited in silence for Koji to go on, and the little showman said, “His Earth name is going to be Theodore. It’s what he wants and what I want.”
“Who’s Theodore?” Marsh asked.
Koji picked up the Klune book and held it so everyone could see the cover. “Theodore is the wyvern in this book, and he has a big collection of his own that all of his friends in the book donated to him. I had a dream a couple of nights ago where he told me I was going to get gifts to give to him and when I gave him those gifts, I would know what Earth name to give to him and it ended up being true. Thank you all my friends and Koji loves you.”
Everybody got busy taking pictures of the beautiful cake as well as the birthday boy. Greg took care of cutting it and placing pieces on the dessert plates. Alicia doled out the vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Dessert disappeared in a hurry. Not long after that all of the guests called to be picked up and soon everybody was gone, leaving the house quiet.
Before Marsh left, he, Koji, and Duskin met in the living room and talked conspiratorially in quiet tones. Koji and Marsh agreed to talk to their mothers and the little conclave broke up.
Koji slept with Kyle that night while Duskin slept with Danny. Tommy and Ronnie slept together in Ronnie’s bed. There were no sexual overtones in any of the beds. They were, in essence, a family of boys enjoying the comfort of each other’s company. Duskin and Danny snuggled in the sons’ bed and fell asleep within minutes of climbing into bed. Tommy and Ronnie talked about Tommy’s feelings for Logan at Tommy’s request.  They chatted for about a half hour before Tommy drifted off to sleep entangled in a strong, warm cuddle from his uncle Ronnie. 
Koji scooted over to his opsola and cuddled. “Thank you Opsola Kyle for the presents for Theodore,” Koji said after the lights were turned off.
“You’re welcome deevdru (son) Koji. Thank you for being a special person. Happy Birthday and good night.”
Kyle and son were soon asleep. Sitting on a shelf on the other side of the room and looking on approvingly were Eikic-Theodore the wyvern and Megrez the penguin.
Next: Learning the Heinlein