Commander Kid

Chapter Five

"So, you actually fired on the ship?" Doc Dion asked as he grabbed his stethoscope and began listening to Jack's abdomen while he lay on the table in the med bay.

"Yup," Jack shook his head. "I learned how to defend myself but never had to like that before."

"He shook the ship and jumped in an' out of lightnin' speed and I barfed on my breakfast," Robbie complained in one breath, as he watched the doctor perform Jack's physical.

Doc had Jack sit up and asked him to take a series of deep breaths while he listened to his lungs. "So, what did you do once Mitchell told you to handle it?"

"I accessed Beck's personal account." Jack began. "Then I asked him what he was owed for the job that he did. He told me and when I looked, Beck was about a thousand credits short. So, I told him I had two options, turn over Beck's account to the guy, which covered most of the debt and call it paid, or open fire on him and transfer the credits to our expense account to cover some of the cost of rearming." Jack smiled. "He was happy to accept payment and I was happy to not have to waste another torpedo."

“You have a wise commander here Robert.” Doc Dion smiled.

“Yeah, when he’s not makin’ me barf.” Robbie replied, earning a laugh from the other two.

"I can give you something to deal with the motion sickness," Doc said with a smile as he turned back toward Jack. "As usual, you are healthy as a horse my friend."

"As a what?" Robbie asked while Jack climbed down off of the examining table.

"A horse," Jack replied. "It's a big four-legged animal that people used to ride on or pull stuff with back on Earth."

"Like a dog?" Robbie asked as he watched his friend begin to pull his pants back on.

"Bigger. Much bigger." Jack laughed as he almost fell over.

"You don't know what a horse is?" Doc asked as he prepared the table for his next patient.

"No," Robbie answered looking back at Jack, "Do I gotta get undressed too?"

"Afraid so," Jack smiled. "You aren't afraid of Doc, are you?"

Robbie leaned toward Jack and whispered, "Is he bigger than a horse?"

With a laugh, Jack sat down and started putting his sneakers back on, "No, he's not bigger than a horse," Jack smiled wider when Doc Dion looked over and shook his head, "I mean, not bigger than some horses." Which earned the addition of a side stare and grin from the Doctor.

Stripped to his underwear, Robbie climbed up on to the table, carefully watching every move Doc Dion made. When it was time to slip his underwear off, his eyes opened a bit and his breath caught in his throat. "Jack stays in th' room, right?"

"I'm not going anywhere buddy," Jack reassured as he sat back in his chair and folded his arms.

"We'll make this quick Robert, I promise," The doctor reassured.

After a little poking and prodding, Robbie was allowed to put his briefs back on and went through the procedure to install his tracker, which surprised the boy when it really didn't hurt at all.

"What's that for?" Robbie questioned as the doctor bandaged the tiny incision.

"That my friend is a sub-dermal transmitter that relays your position to your employer. That way if you are ever in trouble, he can always find you." Doc smiled.

"But I'm always with Jack so he don't need ta know where I am." Robbie attempted to reason.

"He hasn't met Mitchell yet Doc," Jack added as he picked up the small boy's sneakers that he had simply kicked off and began to untie them.

"Mitchell? Is that my new owner?" Robbie directed toward Jack.

Jack sighed and put the boy's sneakers in his lap now that they were ready for Robbie to put back on, "I guess so, technically. I mean, we work for him, and he takes care of us. You aren't property anymore ya know."

"I don't belong to no one," Robbie stated more than asked, his gaze sadly directed toward the floor.

"You belong at my side as my crew, and new little brother. How's that?" Jack smiled.

"So, I belong to you then," Robbie continued, trying to make sense of the arrangement.

"You belong to each other." Doc added with a wink to his little patient as he rolled over a cart and ruffled the boy's hair, "Okay my friend, I need you to be brave for me a little longer. We have to get your immunizations out of the way."

"Shots?" Robbie simply asked.

"Unfortunately, yes. Shots." The doctor replied.

"Okay," Robbie scowled, "we gets shots sometimes when the doctor comes over. S'pecially when people on th' base are gettin' sick."

"This is very much like that. The only difference is we have to do a few more because now that you are traveling with Jack, you may be exposed to different kinds of sick. So, you need to be ready for the ones we know could harm you." The doctor smiled. "Okay now, just a pinch..."

Soon the two boys were back on the bridge of their ship and breaking dock. "Did you take those pills when Doc told you to?" Jack asked as he prepared the ship for the jump to light speed.

"Yup." Robbie replied, looking nervous. "Are we gonna do it now?"

"Soon," Jack replied as he locked in their current course and set the auto pilot, "need to make a call first," Jack continued as he switched his display to communications and initiated a call to Mitchell.

"Ah there you are kid," Mitchell's distorted transmission began over the speakers, "I just got word that your new trainee is in good health so you should be free for orders."

Jack looked down at Robbie as he had strapped in at the Nav station and was simply studying the controls and displays. "Yes sir, ship and crew are ready. Where are we heading?"

"Excellent. You are to set a course for the Pimo system. From where you are now, I'd expect about 1 day at full FTL. There is a base near Katufar that will be expecting you. You will be transporting dry goods for a man by the name of Tamerley Kjut. Standard procedure, he's expecting you and should be an easy pickup. The shipment needs to be delivered to the Tynkar system. A small base near the planet Podaa. Your contact there will be a government official by the name of Bley Vopla. You'll like him. He'll refuel you and probably buy the both of you dinner. This shipment is intended for one of the colonies on the planet but, their government "officially" doesn't allow outside involvement so, only talk to Vopla about the shipment when you are in his office. Understood?"

Jack brought up navigation and entered the first destination, "Yes sir, laying in a course to the Pimo system, ETA 27.4 hours."

"I wish you could see the smile on Merit's face right now," Mitchell added with the sound of Merit laughing in the background. "Safe trip kid."

"You too, Jack out."

"We gonna jump now?" Robbie asked as he tightened his safety belt.

"Those pills should help a little," Jack said as he watched the FTL drive finish charging, "You ready?"

"Yeah," Robbie half whined as he tightened his grip on his air sickness bag.

Jack watched as the small boy sat there with the bag at the ready while the ship made its jump, and smiled when he didn't use it. "You did it!"

"I don't even feel sick or nuthin!" Robbie said in excitement as he unbuckled the restraints. "The pills is magic!"

"No, but they'll make it easier to get used to jumping," Jack said with a sigh as he set the autopilot and secured his station. "So now that we're on our way, I have some work to do in engineering and you have your first virtual class to attend."

"Do I gotta?" Robbie whined as he unbuckled himself and began to refold his unused bag. "I can help wit' maint'ence an stuff."

"Next time," Jack smiled. "I know it's gonna seem like work but we gotta get your reading and math and stuff better if you ever want to help me pilot this thing."

"Me?" Robbie gasped.

"Yeah, you and I are its crew," Jack smiled as Robbie looked at the displays on the station he had just been sitting at as if he was studying them, "I would even bet that you wouldn't need those pills anymore if you were the one controlling when the ship jumps."

"But I'm not old enough." Robbie frowned as he stood up.

"Not true," Jack smiled, "I was about your age when I was piloting my dad's ship all by myself. Once you can read the displays, I bet you'll pick it up as fast as I did."

"Really? Then I gotta do the vertimal class!" The boy said excitedly.

"Virtual." Jack laughed.

"Yeah, that." Robbie beamed as Jack stood from the command chair, only to be knocked back into it by an excited boy's hug.

Jack ruffled the small boy's hair before getting him to break his death grip. "C'mon, after your class and my maintenance walk through, you and I have some cheeseburgers to take care of."

"Katufar Base, request approach and docking port to receive shipment." Jack said as Robbie sat down at the Nav station.

"Identification please." The man's simple reply broke the silence.

"Page, Jack. ID 471-Alpha-12" Jack replied as he reduced the ships approach speed.

"No sir, Vehicle Identification." The man mechanically clarified.

"Wow, high security," Jack laughed as he keyed the mic, "CSPC17850A"

"Invalid registration." The man responded, causing Jack to roll his eyes.

"That is my registration Katufar Base, please resubmit." Jack calmly requested.

"Rechecked, there is no CSBC prefix in existence, Please use long format registration."

"Unbelievable," Jack huffed before opening his mic once again. "Vehicle registration Cargo, Sol, Private Charter, 17850, Alpha."

"Format not recognized. Where are your dashes?"

"Are you serious?" Jack shook his head. "Fine then, vehicle registration Cargo, Sol, Private Charter, 'dash', 17850, 'dash', Alpha. Confirm owner Page, Jack. ID 471 'dash' Alpha 'dash' 12."

"Recognized, Identify shipper."

"Shipper name: Tamerley Kjut." Jack began to drum his fingers on his armrest.

"Approach denied. Vehicle registered on bill of lading does not match vehicle registration provided. Would you like to request a non-commercial docking port?"

"Please stand by Katufar Base," Jack replied and then brought up the main computer screen. "He's right," Jack sighed. Smiling when Robbie gave him a confused look, Jack keyed his mic once again, "Katufar Base, Bill of Lading number 00025791446-TK was scheduled to be delivered by CSPC-9105-Alpha. Please confirm with the shipper that vehicle reassignment has already been communicated by my employer."

"Please stand by." The voice replied and the cockpit went silent.

"Did we do somethin' wrong?" Robbie tilted his head and asked.

"No, not really," Jack smiled, "Some places are higher security than others. Our other ship was supposed to handle this delivery, so they want to make sure we are authorized. It's not a bad thing."

"What was all those numbers?" Robbie asked as he turned sideways in his seat to better see Jack.

"My ID and the ship's registrations. This ship is CSPC-17850-A and is kinda like a person's birth record ID." Jack answered and watched as the gears in the little boy's head obviously started working.

"I got a ID?" Robbie asked as he scratched his head.

"You do," Jack answered as he looked at his display and quickly brought up the registered crew in the ship's mainframe. "Your ID is 831-Oscar-23. It's a designation that is assigned to you at birth."

"Oscar?" Robbie shook his head. "My name's not Oscar."

Jack laughed and sat back in his seat, "Oscar stands for the letter O in your ID. It's to make sure the person hearing the ID gets it correctly."

"Oh." Robbie nodded his head. "Okay."

"You'll want to memorize your ID eventually because anytime you need to identify yourself, you'll need to add that to your first and last name." Jack smiled as the com beeped.

"Substitute vehicle confirmed, approach approved. Welcome to Katufar. Transmitting approach and docking instructions. Please feel free to enjoy our local commerce during your visit. Katufar Base out."

"Thank you, Katufar Base, Page out," Jack replied as he programmed the approach and executed it. "Watch your screen and you can see everything that I'm doing."

"Okay." Robbie smiled as he turned and began to study his displays.

Once the docking procedure had been completed, Jack had Robbie stay aboard the ship as he went to meet with the shipper. Strapping on his sidearm, Jack opened the airlock and stepped out onto an immaculate looking shipping dock.

"Can I help you son?" A large man asked as he approached with a handheld computer.

"Yes, please," Jack replied and smiled. "I was hired by Tamerley Kjut to handle a shipment."

"New face." The man smiled as he tapped on his screen. "You muscling in on the regular's turf?"

"No." Jack laughed. "I'm employed by a regular shipper."

"Ace?" The man asked looking up and raising an eyebrow.

"Mitchell," Jack replied and crossed his arms. "Never heard of Ace."

"If you work for Mitchell, you probably wouldn't have, I suppose." The man smiled. "Ace is a shipping company, not a private contractor. They handle interplanetary deliveries, mail, and even offer transportation to residents in the four star systems they cover. Your employer is considered a deep space private contractor."

"I never really thought about that," Jack smiled. "Good to know we aren't taking business away from a local company."

"Yeah, Ace has competition, but you aren't it." The man laughed. "So, to get to Mr. Kjut's office, take that lift to the fifth level and follow the signage. It's really easy to find."

"Thank you, sir." Jack smiled as he turned for the lift. A few minutes later, Jack was entering a very clean and organized office reception area. Approaching the desk, an older human woman looked up at him and smiled warmly.

"And what can I do for you hun?"

"My name is Jack Page; I am handling a shipment for Mr. Kjut. Here's the bill of lading." Jack smiled and handed the paperwork over.

"Oh yes, I was prepared for your arrival. The shipment is ready and..." She trailed off as she typed the order number into her computer, "...will be loaded for you in about 2 hours. If you like, there are all kinds of shops and eateries on the station. Show them your delivery authorization and you'll get a discount at any of the vendors."

"Wow, that's really nice. Thank you." Jack smiled. "Any recommendations?"

"That depends on what you are in the mood for," the woman smiled. "If you are in the mood for something quick and local, 'Kralar's' is pretty decent. If you are looking for something with more of a home cooked theme, 'Just Bob's' has an entire menu that is Earth specific."

"That sounds cool. I may need to check it out. Thank you so much." Jack smiled as he turned to leave the office.

Entering the ship, Jack had to laugh as he found Robbie in the air lock sitting in the corner waiting for him to return. "Is it scary?"

"No," Jack laughed, "Not at all. Grab a jacket, we have a few shops to hit while we are here. You need to learn how to make new friends."

"But you're my friend." Robbie sighed as he pulled his small coat out of his assigned compartment in the air lock and started to put it on.

"I guess it's time you started to learn," Jack said as he turned the boy away from him to pull a tag off of the new garment, "Every place we go, we visit the shops and local vendors and spend some of the money we've made. The money we spend helps them and shows our appreciation for the service they provide," Jack said as he opened the outer hatch and they both exited the ship, "We make friends everywhere we go by doing so."

"Just by buyin' stuff?" Robbie questioned as they began walking.

"Yup, and by being nice." Jack smiled.

Robbie tilted his head and watched as the butt of Jack's firearm peeked out of his jacket rhythmically as they walked, "But you have a gun."

Jack patted the boy on the head as their first stop came into view, "Be nice but, be safe."

"Oh," Robbie slowed in his pace. "Do I gotta shoot people?"

Jack stopped and took a deep breath before wrapping his arm around the boy, "Only if they are going to hurt you are someone you care about."

"That's what you do?" Robbie asked as he attempted to smile.

"That's what I've had to do, yeah."

Robbie stopped walking and looked up at the older boy, "You would protect me?"

"With my life, if I had to," Jack replied, "but for now, I want you to try something new. Do you know what a hot dog is?"

"No." Robbie grinned. "But it's kinda cool in here. I don't think any dogs is gonna be hot."

Jack laughed and ruffled the boy's hair, "This is gonna be fun, let's go."

Just a little over two hours later, the ship loaded and the boys back on the bridge, Jack stood next to Robbie who was sitting at the Nav station talking him through the next set of coordinates. " from here we have distance and need to project travel time. Remember what I said about distance and speed?"

"Yeah," Robbie said as he carefully tapped the coordinates Jack had given him into the system and with a little help decided on travel speed, "Twenny eight hours?"

"That's right!" Jack smiled. "See when programming heading and speed, the computer does most of the work. It's when you need to manually take control, especially at high speeds that it gets complicated."

Pleased with himself, Robbie looked at the screen and then back up at Jack. "It's all numbers!"

"Yup, and you know your numbers," Jack laughed, hopped into the command chair, and strapped in. "Okay Mister Turner, execute when ready."

"Wait... Me?!?" Robbie tried to turn in his seat, struggling against his restraints.

Jack crossed his arms and tried not to smile, "You forgot what I just taught you?"

"No." Robbie said with a squeak in his voice.

"Then you have your orders sir. Navigation detects a valid and clear course set, engage when ready." Jack got out before having to cover his mouth to keep from laughing as he watched Robbie nervously scratch his head.

After almost a full minute of silence on the bridge, Robbie unlocked the controls and engaged the FTL drive, lurching the ship forward. "I - I did it?" He gasped.

"Yup, you're in control buddy," Jack said with a smile as he released his restraints. "Now let me show you how to engage the auto pilot so you aren't stuck sitting there watching for trouble. We plotted a very clear path so it should need very little help from us now."

After showing Robbie how to engage and disengage the autopilot, he explained how the ship auto-adjusted course and heading as needed if it detected anything in or near its current path. It would also determine when the pilot was needed, especially if the object was a manned vessel on an intercept or collision course, and sound an alarm throughout the ship.

"The ship is really smart." Robbie smiled as he engaged the auto pilot and climbed out of his seat.

"It is," Jack smiled. "There is a simulator program on the classroom computer that can give you detailed lessons. Both on deep space navigation as well as thruster maneuvering. You'll learn all the harder stuff and even tell me how many things you hit."

"I won't hit nuthin', the ship won't let me." Robbie scowled.

"On a programmed course, you're right. The ship won't let you anywhere near anything that you could hit but, when maneuvering manually, that takes all control away from the computer and you can hit stuff. You'll set off proximity alarms but, you could dent up the ship if you really wanted to." Jack laughed when Robbie's eyes opened wide. "Don't worry, that's why you are going to do the hard stuff on a simulator. That's how you learn to handle a gun as well."

"In a similator?" Robbie asked as Jack led him off the bridge.

"A sim-u-lator." He laughed.

"That's what I said," Robbie scowled, "When do I do that?"

"Starting now, let's go." Jack smiled, remembering his first visit to the simulated firing range. "I think you'll have some fun with this..."

Almost two hours later, both boys came out of the virtual firing range, both sweaty with their shirts over their shoulders. "Fun, right?"

"Yeah," Robbie giggled, "but I'm not good."

"Practice," Jack said as he wiped the sweat out of his eyes with his shirt. "No one is instantly good at anything." He got out as an alert went off, indicating an incoming transmission. Jack shrugged his shoulders and went to the lower deck console near engineering and switched to communications. "It's Mitchell," Jack said as he opened the channel, "Jack here, what's up?"

"Jack, we seem to have run into a small problem." Merit's voice could be heard through the speakers. "I think Pacer misses his favorite engineer."

"Who's Pacer?" Robbie asked with a grin.

"Our other ship," Jack replied before opening the mic, "Is something wrong with the ship?"

"Yeah, the FTL drive blew out and we have live cargo. What's your current position?"

Jack brought up navigation and scowled, "Just entering the Donfo system. What is your current status and how can we help?"

"We lost FTL after exiting the Zaurak system en route to Lasit. When the FTL drive blew it took out our sublight drive as well. All we have is maneuvering thrusters."

"Wow," Jack said as he tapped away, "Well we can be there in 52 hours, maybe a little less if this newer FTL drive remains at 97% efficiency. Are you guys safe, is life support and everything else okay?"

After a delay, Merit replied, "Mitchell says to let him worry about keeping it in one piece. He's going to contact your next stop and let them know that you'll be delayed. If you can get here while we do the other repairs and can help us get the sublight engines back up, we may need you to complete this run as well as your own while we make our way to Lasit and figure it out from there."

"Understood, altering course and speed now. At maximum FTL our ETA is 51.4 hours." Jack relayed, making sure Robbie could see everything he was doing.

"Well don't burn out your engines getting here, we'll live."

"You let me decide what my engines can handle, and you worry about keeping Pacer in one piece until I can help him." Jack smiled.

"Mitchell just hit his head he's laughing so hard. It'll be good to see you bro. Merit out."

"It does feel like I've been separated from them for a really long time." Jack said as he led Robbie into engineering, "Now let's see about shaving some time off that estimate."

"What's this ship's name?" Robbie asked as he pulled his shirt back on.

"He doesn't have one." Jack said as he pulled his on as well and sat at the engineering console and started going over the FTL's current status.

"Why not?" Robbie asked simply, giving Jack a laugh at his abruptness.

"Cause I don't know him yet." Jack smiled as he continued his work. "Every ship I've ever known eventually did something that just told me what his name was. Why don't you ask him what his name should be?"

Robbie stared at Jack wordlessly for a moment as Jack poured through the data on the screen. Then he turned and looked at the injector housing and the visible part of the reaction chamber before walking over to it and pressing his ear against the closed access port.

"What are you doing?" Jack laughed as he turned in his seat and watched the younger boy.

"Lis'nin," Robbie said before shushing Jack, "He's only sayin' vrum vrum vrum vrum."

Jack laughed and stood from his seat, motioning toward the door, "I'm sure when he's ready he'll tell you. For now, we both need a shower and clean clothes. Last one in gets to process the dirty laundry."

"Ew! I don't want to touch your dirty socks!" Robbie giggled as he broke out into a run.

"There it is." Jack said pointing to a blip on his display, "Just floating there."

"How long 'til we can really see it?" Robbie asked as he sat down at the Nav station and looked at his own display of the scanned vessel.

"A few minutes," Jack replied as he switched to communications and signaled the other ship.

"This is Mitchell. Kid I have you on sensors, that ship made excellent time. I take it you've learned to sweet talk that engine as well."

"Robbie asked him really nice for help, last night. He sat in the engine room and talked to the bulkhead for an hour or so. I think that shaved a solid hour off. He's definitely family." Jack laughed. "I'm detecting coolant and fuel near the ship, did the engine blow through the hull?"

"Not exactly, we actually took a direct hit from a pulse cannon. We were able to shake our new fan club before the engine lost containment. I'm just about finished the repairs on the outer hull now. I hope you have some spare parts in your toy box."

"Moran sent me out with a good-sized care package," Jack said as he tapped away on his display, "Whatever you pay that guy isn't enough you know."

"Agreed. He's pulled my backside out of the fire more times than I can count at this point."

Jack looked at his display even more closely and squinted his eyes, "looking at my scans, it would probably be best to not jar the ship too much. I think docking with your portside airlock using my docking collar is probably safest."

"We can extend our docking collar portside, that would make docking the two ships easier."

"And more dangerous if we need to maneuver. You just sit back and let us latch on, that way the docking collar that needs to take the stress isn't the one attached to the compromised hull." Jack more ordered than stated.

"Yes sir, Commander Kid, sir," Mitchel replied with a laugh. "I'll just be sitting here sipping a beer then."

"Shut up," Jack laughed as he slowly maneuvered the ship into position. "Just a little kiss..." He mumbled as he extended the ship's docking collar and used the thrusters to inch the two ships together. "...and lock up. We have a positive seal."

"I barely felt it. Nice piloting Kid." Mitchell said as Jack completely powered down the ship's engines and enabled the mooring connection to combine the two systems. "Main computer recognizes your connection and has enabled computer uplink as well as combined power. Come on over, dinner's on me."

"Sounds good," Jack replied as he stood up and stretched. "Ready to meet the rest of the family?" he asked Robbie.

"I guess." The boy replied as he slowly got out of his seat and froze when an older teen entered the bridge.

"Permission to enter the bridge Commander?" Merit militantly shouted coming to full attention and saluting as he stepped through the hatch.

"Weirdo." Jack laughed as he rushed his brother and hugged him tight. "What did you two do to Pacer?!?"

"Not my fault," Merit said as he turned his attention to Robbie, "Oh yeah... Now I remember who you are, I'm Merit."

"H-h-hi sir." Robbie nervously replied as Jack knelt down to eye level with the frightened boy.

"Remember, this is family Robbie. Merit is my big brother so he's yours too now." Jack said as he wrapped an arm around Robbie's shoulders and looked back up toward Merit. "Wait til you see some of the changes we made below deck. I got it set up almost exactly the same as Pacer."

"Nice," Merit smiled. "How do you two feel about dinner before we start getting all technical?"

"I could eat," Jack laughed when Robbie smiled at the mention of food, "I believe my associate here agrees."

"Sweet, let's go pry Mitchell out of the engine room then," Merit laughed.

Entering the engine room Jack shouted, "What did you do to Pacer?!?"

"Oh, here it comes," Mitchell groaned as he inched his way out from around the injector housing, "The good news is, I think we can patch it together well enough to limp back to the Tova System for repairs."

With Robbie practically glued to his side, Jack sat down at the engineering console and looked at the onscreen diagnostic that was already being displayed. "FTL is completely offline and seized, the sublight drive is stalled out and cold. Fuel is contaminated with coolant. The coolant system is completely depressurized... You guys were close to a full power plant meltdown. Who did this?"

"Friends." Mitchell sighed. "So, I take it this is our new recruit; Robbie, is it?"

"Yes sir." Robbie meekly replied.

"Well welcome to the family young man," Mitchell smiled and patted the boy on the head, "The kid here is the best teacher I think you'll ever find."

"Hey now!" Merit whined, "Just remember who taught the kid."

"Maybe," Mitchell laughed, "Kid, did you link up command between your ship and mine?"

"Mine and yours?" Jack laughed as he watched Robbie walk over to the injector housing and put his ear to it.

"That is what I said. Is command linked?" Mitchell repeated.

"They are. That's the cool thing about you having bought a newer version of the same ship. They can both be commanded from either bridge now."

"He's sick," Robbie said as he took his ear away from the housing, "Doesn't sound anything like Chuck."

"Chuck?" Jack looked at everyone in the room before focusing on Robbie and smiling, "Where did the name Chuck come from?"

"Last night I was list'nin to him and I asked him if he was gonna tell me his name and he said 'Ah, Chuck' so, that's his name," Robbie said as he put his hands on his hips. "You said he'd tell me an' he did."

"The sound an injector recycling makes," Jack laughed, "Okay, Chuck it is then. I had a feeling he'd tell you." Jack continued as they both left engineering and left Mitchell and Merit behind, laughing.

After two full days of work, the older ship was beginning to show some signs of life. Jack decided to tie the two power plants together to have them share resources. With a temporary umbilical apparatus, the older ship was slowly getting help re-pressurizing the coolant system prior to a full engine restart. Knowing the tolerance of both systems, Jack knew just how far he could push the older ship with the newer engine. While sitting on the bridge of the newer ship, now referred to as Chuck, which made Mitchell laugh every time someone said it, Jack was monitoring the recharging of the coolant system, Mitchell finally stepped onto the bridge of the newer ship.

"May I enter Commander?" He asked as he stepped through the hatch.

"You own this ship, of course you can," Jack laughed.

"Technically, your name is listed as the owner," He replied as he sat at the weapons console, "Where this is absolutely your command, I want you to own it. In every way possible. That's what really makes it yours."

"I never thought of it that way," Jack replied as he stood from the command chair and looked out the side portal at the nearly identical ship and bridge, separated only by a very short distance. "We don't always have enough work to be operating both ships all the time though."

"True," Mitchell replied as he looked around the bridge and smiled, "That's why I talked to Moran about a space to store your ship in its downtime. We have warehousing in the Tova system orbiting the planet Simec with an available dry dock. When running is light we can dock Chuck to keep overhead low and where I don't own the facility, it protects the ship when not in use."

"That makes sense," Jack smiled, "It's too bad we can't swap the ships to give them even down and maintenance time."

Mitchell nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders, "That's the downside of being the unseen force. I need my ship and its protections to maintain the unseen aspect of the business. It would just be an unwarranted expense to make the same alterations to a second ship. At this point, you boys and a very select few are the only people alive who can match the name to the face. That ship made that possible."

Jack nodded his head and sat back in his seat, "So, what's up?"

"Well," Mitchell began, "thanks to your help, in a couple of hours we will be able to make way for repairs under our own power. Before then, there is the matter of transferring cargo we still need to deal with."

Jack crossed his arms and sighed, "I've never seen a transfer done in space. I thought you said you were carrying live cargo. How's that gonna work?"

"It's tricky but not impossible," Mitchell sighed, "First we will need to attach the portable thruster rig to the container. Then we will need to line up your cargo bay with mine. Open the hatch on both and have your brother pilot it in. Simple."

Scratching his head, Jack's expression showed his confusion, "Won't it kill whatever is inside the container to be unprotected like that?"

Thinking back to the lost cargo Mitchell shook his head "No, not for that short of a hop. Those contained environment units are able to function for about 40 to 50 minutes before the extreme vacuum and cold shut it down and cause structural integrity to fail. It'll be fine provided we waste no time transferring it."

Jack scratched his head once more and sighed as he powered down the command display and rubbed his eyes, "Is this one dangerous as well?"

"They usually are," Mitchell shrugged. "Just be sure to keep the little one away from them and you will be fine. He seems like a pretty well-disciplined kid."

"He is," Jack nodded, "he learns fast too."

Mitchell smiled and stood up, "He'll fit right in then."

A couple of tense hours later, the two ships were disconnected, and the shipping container had been transferred over without being damaged. Merit had performed the procedure of piloting the crate over, so he stayed aboard the newer ship to help secure the cargo. Once the atmosphere had been restored to the cargo bay and all was secure, all three boys regrouped at the port side airlock.

"How you gonna get home?" Robbie asked as he came out of the airlock after observing the distance between the two ships.

"EVA mobile unit, same way I got here." Merit smiled as he pointed to the bulky backpack looking device in the airlock, "It's actually really fun when you get used to it."

"FUN?!?" Robbie shook his head and backed away from the older teen, "Yer nuts!"

"You don't know what you're missing," Merit laughed, "K little bros, I need to get to work limping that mess to a port. Safe travel."

"You too," Jack forced a smile as he hugged his brother tight, "Let me know when you guys get there, okay?"

"I will," Merit gave the boy a squeeze, "It was great to actually meet you this time Robbie. Don't take too much crap from this guy. He can be a real hard ass," the older teen said as he ruffled the boy's hair, finally getting Jack to let go.

"I won't," Robbie giggled as he and Jack stepped out of the airlock.

About 20 minutes later, both boys watched from the large viewports on the bridge as Merit entered the older ship and closed the outer hatch. "Time to get moving, we have a ton of work to do," Jack smiled and cleared his throat, "Mister Turner, set course for Lasit Starbase in the Lycia system and execute at best speed."

Robbie tilted his head at the older boy and gave him a blank stare.

"C'mere," Jack laughed, "I'll show you how to look up the coordinates."