Bob Adams was surprised by his new assignment. He had been told he would return to the ore runs in the Asteroid Belt. Instead he was on the Martian Hauler, heading to the red planet for a load of iron ore. Loading the large chunks of ore would be much different than loading the smaller pieces of mineral mined in the asteroids.
But he was a skilled load master. To make sure the ore was properly loaded and secured on the ship, he was busy reviewing his loading manuals when his communicator pinged. He checked to see who was contacting him and saw that he had the promised emailing from Admiral Mirah. He had already given up ever seeing anything, but now that something had finally arrived, he decided to give it a look. He had put in a full day already and decided he had earned a little bit of amusement.
The message was curt: "Sorry for the delay. Had a lot going on. I think you will be amazed by what you see. Regards, W B Mirah, Fleet Admiral." There were four attachments. Bob decided to open the video.
He thought about the conversation he had at breakfast with Neal Bryant, the first mate. The subject of the Explorer program came up. Bob told how he had driven one of the boy officers without mentioning his name. "A little gay boy with a so-called husband even if they aren't even thirteen yet and they have a kid. Talk about finding ways to bend the rules, or the laws even."
The men enjoyed a laugh and Bob finished by saying how his son could clean the clock of the little softy in every way imaginable. And yet, even as he said that, he remembered the look on Kyle Robinson's face on the ride back to headquarters.
Bob started the video and soon saw that he had been sent a combination of different scenes on the SS Sooloo. The production was professionally done and quickly grabbed his attention. As he watched the skinny little boy being praised for finding and correcting a major error in some Astrogation manual, Bob had to admit the boy must know his stuff. But knowing math and performing under pressure in space were two different things.
As the video played, he became enthralled by the confrontation with the rogue star, Azazel. Who ever heard of a rogue star? he thought. The video made it plain that Kyle Robinson was in charge of the space shuttle that took on the rogue. It pointed out that the maneuver that saved the shuttle was performed by Danny Harper, who was Kyle's mate.
He saw a video of routine work on the bridge by Kyle, and a video of Kyle saving the Sooloo from colliding with a forming planet using a last second maneuver that Bob couldn't believe any spaceship was capable of.
As he saw how each of Kyle Robinson's awards were earned, he realized the boy he saw in the front seat was the boy in the video, not the soft little faggot he believed sat in the backseat.
Maybe Corey could beat Kyle in a physical fight, he thought, thinking of his twelve-year-old son, but there was now no doubt in his mind that the little softy (no, make that the little hard ass) was more of a driven boy than his son. Bob began thinking of him as a young man more than a boy. Admiral Mirah was right, this was indeed a remarkable person, certainly not a little momma's boy. He might be gay, but he was obviously tough as nails.
Bob saw that one of the other attachments was a video about Danny Harper. He played it and watched in awe as the little boy—young man—deftly flew an alien fighter in space battle against an alien race he would later learn were the Lizons.
Bob Adams rose from his seat to find the first mate. Being forced to eat some crow and tell Neal what he had just seen, he decided Neal should watch the video and come to his own conclusion. Then when he was to return home, telling Corey what he had learned was a must. He had mocked his nameless young passenger, telling his son how he was better than the little sissy in his costume in every way possible.
Now however, he would have to eat crow in front of this man. Bob Adams may be an arrogant twit, but he was also an honest man who could admit being wrong, even though the proof would have to be overwhelming for him to do so.
Corey would now have to be told what kind of a boy his young passenger had been. He would have to tell his son that even at age twelve, it was possible for a boy to be more of a man than many men he had met. Corey might be able to win the physical battle, Bob Adams thought, but the young Space Fleet Commander could teach his son a lot about being that kind of a man.
Tom and Christian awoke early... today was the day they would celebrate the birthdays for Ronald and Christian... exactly twelve days after Christian's and twelve days before Ronald's. The tradition came about because the boys were genetically twins, but were not born on the same day, so they chose to 'split the difference' between the days they actually emerged from their mother.
James and Erica took an immediate liking to Dr. Tom. James even joked that his son was smart enough to find someone with the same last name. Of course, the usual checks had been made to make sure they weren't in any way related, but other than sharing a last name, they were as distinct genetically as they could be.
The family spent the morning together, celebrating the 'twins' birthday. When they sat down to lunch, Christian posed a question. "Dad, should I hyphenate my last name when we marry?
"Abernathy-Abernathy," Mr. Abernathy teased right back, "Well, if you simply take his last name, you're out of my will."
This was met by Dr. Tom merely shaking his head and Ronald retorting, "See what I had to put up with growing up, Tom?"
After lunch, James and Erica told the others that they were going out for the afternoon, but everyone should be ready at 6:00 pm to go out for dinner. The two birthday boys and Tom were happy with this arrangement as it would give them some time with just the three of them.
After their parents left, Christian turned to his brother. "I'm facing a dilemma, Ronnie. Normally, we'd do some 'stuff' together on our birthday celebration day, but with Tom here, I don't know if we should." Christian was experiencing mental turmoil over his feelings about sharing Dr. Tom. and decided to get it out in the open. "I would just ask Tom to join us, but I'm not sure I want to share him in that way."
"I completely understand, Chris..."
Tom appropriately decided to remain quiet as the brothers had their discussion.
"I love you, and I love Tom..." After a pause, Christian took a deep breath and said, "Maybe, on this one day of the year, assuming you are both in agreement, I could make an exception."
Dr. Tom was comfortably relaxed between Christian and Ronald. The threesome they'd just created a fond memory. Ronald turned, looking over Dr. Tom's chest at his brother. "Thank you, Chris. You are definitely lucky to have found a partner as talented as Tom here. I just hope that I will have as much luck."
"Well, now that you're going to be on the Sooloo, things might just work out for you."
Tom smiled and replied, "Actually, I think I'm the lucky one, Ronald. Christian is a very special young man, as you already know. As far as finding someone..." Tom reached over and picked up the gag gift he had purchased for Ronald and handed it to him.
Ronald opened it and inside found one of those old 'Magic 8-balls.' At Tom's prompting, Ronald asked it, "Will I find someone as good for me as Tom is for Christian?" He shook the ball and turned it over so he could see its response. Once he'd read it out loud for the other two to hear, they couldn't help but laugh... the response...
"It looks favorable."
Kyle was surprised when he received a breakfast invitation from Zarek to come to Trump Towers, the place the Draconians were temporarily using as their headquarters. When he arrived, he was taken directly to the Royal Suites on the top floor. Zarek greeted him, "Do you have time to chat?"
"I have some time, my dad is taking us to Mars, or Marsh as Koji likes to call it…" That brought laughter to the group. Kyle continued, "We will be leaving in a few hours."
"What I have to say should give you plenty of time." As they walked to the dining area, Zarek added, "I hope you don't mind, but I asked Jace to join us."
"I don't mind. I know that he is half Darastixian, too." Kyle was pleased that he used their word. He did it to honor Zarek.
"Yes, and you two are distant cousins. You and the twins are from Medici's side of the family. Jace and my family come from the Ryoujin side. Ryoujin and Medici were brothers."
"So, I am a distant cousin to you? Do you ever talk to the stars?"
Zarek shook his head, "No, from my understanding, that was a gift from Megrez to Medici's side of the lineage for the sacrifice he made. Jace and I will be visiting him in February, if you would like to come."
"Medici is on earth and still alive?" Kyle couldn't believe it. "Yes, of course I would like to go with you."
"Good, I believe he will be able to explain several questions you might have."
Kyle looked thoughtful, "Your dad knew that Jace was half-Darastixian. Did he know that I was? Did you know that I was?"
Zarek smiled, "We did, but you weren't ready for the discovery at that time. Dad was hoping that Megrez would tell you when HE thought you were ready."
"When I told you, I thought you had known," Jace stated.
"So… Mom, was she…" Kyle wasn't sure how he wanted to phrase his question.
Zarek smiled, "Half-Darastixians are always male. Your mom had to be full blood. Darastixian blood is so strong that even their offspring are consider half. The fact that you are a true half-Darastixian of Medici's lineage gives you a stronger connection with the stars, and mainly Megrez. None of the people on Darastix have the ability. And before you ask, 'what about Koji?'… he doesn't actually speak with the stars, he hears what Lars hears. Though he hasn't developed his telepathy yet, he HAS established a link with Lars and Jason. It was a part of the prophecy. Does that help?"
"Speaking of Lars, he can talk with the stars," Kyle pointed out, "but he has blond hair and brown eyes."
"Does he actually talk with them, or does he listen? Many races have visited Earth since its creation. Several have the ability to listen to the stars and have seeded the population. I believe that Lars may be from one of them."
"That could explain it." Kyle conceded.
"I look forward to hearing about your trip to Marsh," Zarek laughed. "Go and enjoy yourself."
Kyle left the Royal Suites and took an elevator down to the lobby where his father was waiting for him. As soon as he saw his son, the Admiral rose from his seat and walked over to meet him. "That went faster than I thought it would," Gregory Robinson stated.
"Yeah, Zarek doesn't waste time. He always gets right to business," Kyle responded.
"From what I've observed, that seems to be the Darastixian way." Greg and Kyle walked out of the lobby and headed to the main parking lot. "When I think of all that we can learn from them, teaching us how to eliminate long winded meetings might just end up being their greatest gift," he chuckled.
"I learned a lot about my family background," Kyle told his father. "It was interesting, but I don't know if I like having royal blood in me."
"I don't think it really matters to you on Earth. Royal blood will not keep the casinos from sucking the credits out of your pockets."
"Oh, they will never get mine," Kyle said sincerely. "Besides, it's going to be over five years before I can gamble, plus I plan on spending my life in space with Danny. I'd rather be a starship captain than some member of royalty anyway. So, forget me losing money."
"I like how you think, Son. Now, how about we get us some breakfast at the Pancake Palace."
"I thought Alicia was going to cook us breakfast."
"You were mistaken about that, so instead we'll enjoy the best pancakes in the known galaxy. But, don't tell Alicia I said that because hers are mighty fine."
"I'm so starved I could eat cardboard pancakes."
"These are far from it. You're going to love them."
They reached the car and took their seats. Since the car was autonomous, Gregory just had to make sure the system was working and be ready for sudden, unexpected incidents. Gregory punched their destination into the GPS, buckled his seat belt, punched the start button and left the driving to his 2122 Dodge Sovereign, which was two months old.
"We're staying in like an apartment with our own kitchen and everything, right?" Kyle asked.
"That is correct."
"And so that's why Alicia is coming with us, so she can be our cook while we're there. At least that's what Danny and I think."
"That is not correct. In fact, she won't be doing any cooking at all."
"Not even on the transport? I guess we could go to restaurants and stuff in Dawes City, but you said we'd have lunch and dinner on the way to Mars."
"A light lunch. But Alicia will not be cooking at all, on the transport or in our quarters."
"Then why is she coming, to clean the place?"
Greg wondered how Kyle could have missed all the clues as to what was really going on between Alicia and himself. He had shown himself to be a very perceptive boy, and yet he seemed to have missed everything happening around him. "We'll discuss it over breakfast," Greg said as the car turned into the parking lot of the Pancake Palace.
After perusing the menu, Kyle told his dad he wanted the quad stack with two eggs over easy and bacon plus a large orange juice. Greg looked at his slender tween son and grinned. "The pancakes here are a generous size," he cautioned. "You may want to try for a dual stack or the trio at most."
Kyle knew he was hungry and wasn't going to give in, but just as he was ready to open his mouth and stand his ground, a waitress went by balancing two plates of pancakes. One thing Kyle had learned during his time in training and as an officer was when to compromise. "Oh, yeah, they are pretty big. Okay, I'll go with the trio, but only to get me in shape for a quad if we come back here again." Greg ordered an omelet with two side pancakes and sausage. Since he worked out almost daily, he figured he could handle the two smaller pancakes.
After they placed their orders, Kyle asked his father about Alicia. "If she's not cooking or cleaning, why is she coming?"
"You really haven't figured it out?"
There was a long pause. Greg could almost hear the wheels turn in his son's brain. He wondered if maybe Kyle might know more than he was letting on. It was like his innocent sounding questions were really probes to see what kind of information he could glean from them.
"Well, I have this idea, but it has to be wrong," Kyle finally said.
"Take a risk and say it."
"Danny and I both have been watching you and Alicia and well, we have been guessing that she might be, like, more than just a housekeeper and a cook. It's like you two are really good friends, but I didn't want to say anything because you might have thought I was…"
Greg cut him off. "You can stop right there. First, you don't ever have to be afraid to tell me what you think. Those days are over. Second, I know you're a very perceptive young man and I was wondering how long it would be before you would say what you and Danny were thinking."
Kyle nodded. "When you took her to the New Year's party, that's when we figured it out for sure."
"You're right. Alicia is more than my employee; she has become a very good friend. With your okay, I plan on asking her to marry me while we're on the trip."
That led to another long moment of silence. "Wow. Congratulations, Dad, but why do you need my okay? I mean you two are adults and all."
"I wanted your okay because you would be getting a new mother and I thought you might want to have a say in that."
"Well, I really like Alicia a lot and so does Danny and I think she likes us, too"
"She does. She likes you both very much."
"Can I ask a really personal question?"
Greg had a good idea where Kyle was going. He had anticipated the question Kyle was most likely going to ask and had already formulated his reply. "You can ask, but I reserve the right not to answer."
"Um… have you and Alicia… um… you know, been like, well… um, like intimate?"
Greg was happy that he had expected the question, or he might have blown a fuse, which was the last thing he wanted to do. "Well, Son, even though I have the right as your parent to do so, I don't recall having asked that question about you and Danny."
Kyle blushed with shame, wondering what he had been thinking. "Yeah, you're right, that was stupid of me. It's just, well, since I'm giving my okay, I guess I wanted to make sure you like, did a test drive so you could know for sure who you were marrying."
Greg didn't know whether to laugh or cry or do both. He finally belted out a loud guffaw, catching the attention of nearby diners. "Test drive? I like it, I truly like it. I can see that you're embarrassed and I'll embarrass you a bit more by telling you that I know Alicia as intimately as you knew Danny before you married him."
The look of horror on his son's face had Greg laughing longer, although it was toned down from his previous chortle. "And now, I will say I love you and trust you and I eagerly await your answer."
Kyle took a deep breath to get his emotions back under control. "I love you too, Dad, and I think you should ask her because it will make you happy, and it will make Alicia happy, and it will make me happy and proud to call her mom."
The conversation was interrupted by the waitress delivering their breakfasts. When their chatting continued, it was on the subject of their transport's routing to Mars—like the Darastixians, Greg and Kyle Robinson knew when it was time to put a topic to rest.
On the way home after breakfast. Greg told Kyle they would be picked up for their flight in an hour. "I assume you're packed and ready to go."
"Dad, I'm a senior officer in Space Fleet, of course I'm packed and ready to go," Kyle huffed.
"It was the referring to the ready to go part. I knew you were packed last night, but it's the little imp who may still need some checking on."
"Koji was packed five days ago," Kyle laughed. "We had to do a load of wash to make sure he had enough clean clothes to pack and to wear until we left. I think your grandson is just a wee bit excited."
"The way he's been bouncing off the walls since New Year's Day certainly communicated that," Greg laughed.
"If Alicia isn't doing the cooking then who is?"
"We're paying an experienced Fleet cook who has cooked on a spaceship and in different kinds of gravitational fields. Yes, we will eat out some, but we'll have some meals in our apartment as well."
"Are you and Alicia going to get married before Danny and Koji and I leave?"
"I can't say. I haven't even asked her yet. That will happen on the transport on our way to Mars. I think that is the appropriate place since her son and potential stepson and son-in-law are space explorers."
Alicia had arrived while Kyle and his father were away. She gave Kyle a hug and listened to him tell about his meeting with Zarek. He kept his story brief because he wanted to talk to Danny before they left for the trip.
After telling Danny about what his father had revealed, Kyle was relieved that Danny was so accepting, not that he expected any other reaction. Still, it was better to know than to think you knew. They agreed not to tell Koji until Greg had popped the question since Koji was known for his inability to keep secrets.
Everyone was ready to go, and the Admiralty staff car arrived on time. The driver was Lieutenant Commander Perry Lansing, who had been serving as Assistant Navigator on the John Herschel Glenn Jr., an interstellar transport serving Earth's two colonies situated out of the Solar System. He had been assigned from Interstellar Space Travel to working in the Admiralty office in order to be with his wife and newborn son. Not only was he the driver of the staff car, but also the Navigator of their Mars transport.
Jordan Rivers entered the outer office of Fleet Admiral Mirah. He approached the Aide sitting at the desk, "Commander Jordan Rivers to see Fleet Admiral Mirah. I believe he is expecting me."
The Aide hit the comm and told Bill Mirah that Jordan was there. Bill told the Aide to send him in right away. Jordan was surprised to see Dave sitting there, but Jordan marched to the front of the desk, saluted and stood at attention. Bill didn't salute back. Instead he chuckled, "Knock that formal stuff off. It has its place, but I like keeping a friendly tone amongst friends. I believe you know Captain, soon-to-be Commodore, Dave Bowman."
"Yes Sir, I do," Jordan smiled.
"So, have you reached a decision about taking command of a ship?"
"I have, Sir…" Jordan began.
Bill interrupted, "Bill, my name is Bill when amongst friends, not Sir." He smiled, trying to get Jordan to loosen up a bit. Dave displayed a grin but was eager to hear what Jordan decided.
"Bill…" Jordan smiled, "I have talked with Dave, Hal, Jace and our boys. Dave and Hal suggested that I look at the pros and cons of my choices, then select whichever seems best for my family. Jace told me that he would follow me to whichever ship I decided, then helped me look at all the options and weigh my choices."
"And the twins?" Bill inquired.
Jordan sighed, "I'm not sure if they made my choice harder or easier. They each grabbed hold of one of my legs and begged me to stay on the Sooloo."
Bill smiled and looked at Dave, "I think we will need to find another Captain. I plan to offer Commander Frank David either the Darastix or the Hawking, then we can…"
Jordan said, "Wait a minute, I didn't give you my answer yet."
Bill looked seriously at Jordan, "Am I wrong?"
Jordan couldn't help but laugh, "No Bill, you are not wrong. I am honored that you asked me, but I think it is in the best interest of my family that I stay on the Sooloo for now. Although, should the opportunity arise in the future, I would like to be considered."
"Thank you, Jordan, for the prompt reply. I know coming to a decision so fast couldn't have been easy, but you did it. I believe you are ready for command and will keep you in mind in the future. Unless you would like to hear what we are doing to various parts of the Sooloo, you are dismissed."
"I would like to hear, Bill."
"Then, grab something to drink and pull up a chair," Bill ordered, then started telling Dave and Jordan about renovations planned for the Sooloo and the other Explorer Class vessels.
Kyle keyed into Perry right away and the two talked navigating, manning the helm of a starship ("Or in your case one could call it boying the helm," Greg chuckled), and astrogation. Before Kyle knew it, they were at the spaceport and boarding the transport that would take them to their space transport: The Wernher von Braun.
As required by regulations, Perry took over control of the car once it entered the tarmac. All vehicles operating in an area utilized by spacecrafts had to be manually operated. He parked the car next to Shuttle 4014. He and his five passengers exited the staff car and removed their luggage from the storage area at the rear of the car. Perry's baggage was already loaded in the shuttle. A spaceport worker took the drivers' seat and drove the car away once it was unloaded and another worker loaded the luggage into a storage bin in the hull.
The group climbed the loading ramp and entered the shuttle. One of the first things Kyle noticed when he looked around was the two boys sitting in a row of seats toward the rear. "Randy! What are you doing here?" Kyle asked in surprise.
Randy Jenkins turned from the window and looked up at Kyle. "Hey, Kyle, great to see you, too. I was asked by this Admiral dude if I wanted to earn some extra credits and enjoy a trip to Mars. How could I turn an offer like that down? I said I'd do it if my little brother Gordy could go, too, and the Admiral dude was cool with it." He put his hand on Gordy's shoulder and introduced him to Kyle.
Kyle was blocking the aisle, so he took the seat next to Randy across the aisle from the Jenkins brothers. "Wow, that means missing a whole week of school."
"Yeah, Gordy was excited about the idea of going into space and even more excited about missing a week of school. It was missing a week of basketball that just about killed the deal. Our dad was like, 'Really dude, you're passing up five days on Mars so you can put a round ball in a round hole?'"
"I told Dad that I couldn't let my teammates down and he said if I was going to be stupid, he should call Coach Jackson and tell him I wanted to be stupid and see what he thought. If the coach said no, I had to stay, then we'd just have to live with it."
"I guess the coach said it was okay," Kyle surmised.
"He said that our only game for the week was on Friday and that we were playing the last place team. He said going would be my decision, but if I decided to stay home, he'd bench me for the that game and the two games the next week for being stupid." Gordy looked over at Randy. "I swear that Dad and Coach read the same manual on talking to kids."
"My other question is, what do you need extra money for?"
"Who doesn't need extra money?" Randy laughed. "But Gordy is going to be helping me out and earning some of that pay so he can have the cash to entertain his girlfriend."
Gordy said nothing, but his deep blush said it all.
Perry and Greg were the last two to enter the shuttle. Perry asked to sit next to Kyle, which pleased Kyle immensely. The shuttle had passengers Greg, Alicia, Kyle, Danny, Koji, Randy, Gordy and Perry. The rest of the von Braun crew had been flown up the day before to give them time to prep the space transport for the trip.
"I feel really nervous," Gordy told his brother loudly enough that Kyle overheard him.
"There's nothing to be nervous about bro," Randy reassured him. "Standing on the free throw line with your team down by one and no time on the clock has gotta be more nerve wracking than this launch. This is a piece of cake in comparison. Just ask Kyle, he's played some big time school basketball."
Gordy turned to Kyle who nodded and said, "Randy is right—shooting those free throws with the game on the line would be way more nerve wracking. I know, because I was there once. This is like riding your bike out of the driveway."
"For real? No time left, team down by one, and you're on the line? How did you do?"
"For real. I had two shots and hit both and we won 27-26."
"But you weren't shooting straight up into the air."
"Nope, but I've done it a few times. The G-force will push you back some, but that's why you have the comfy, high-backed seat. You'll be fine. We'll be zipping down the runway, moving way out over the desert, and then there will be a ton of noise and the next thing you know, we'll be in space seeing a ton of stars that don't blink. So, sit back and enjoy."
Kyle could see Randy holding Gordy's hand as the shuttle started to move to the middle of the tarmac and then taxi to the runway. The pilot could use the thrusters to lift it off the ground but doing a takeoff would move them away from Vegas faster and was generally the preferred launch at the Tiberius Spaceport.
As soon as the shuttle began moving, Kyle could see the excitement build on Gordy's face. For Gordy, everything happened so fast he could barely keep track. One moment the ground was racing by, the next they were out over the desert. Then there was a roar, a sudden change in direction, G-forces pushing him back in his seat, and just as he adjusted to the change, they were in the blackness of space. As Gordy looked out of the window at the myriad of stars, he had no doubt that what he was doing right then was better than beating up on the last place team could ever be.
After leaving the atmosphere, it took the 4014 only fifteen minutes to reach the Wernher von Braun. Kyle asked Perry why he was doing double duty—being both the driver of their car and the navigator of their transport. Perry said that he was filling in for Admiralty personnel on vacation and ended up filling in for two jobs at once.
Kyle then peppered Perry with questions about interplanetary navigation which Perry willingly answered. Perry was surprised that Kyle had so many questions until he realized that the boy's experience, awesome as it was, was more oriented to interstellar astrogation than interplanetary navigation, even though the Sooloo had to be navigated within star systems. He realized Kyle was digging for more information on the ins and outs of dodging asteroids and meteors, and dealing with the varying distances between planets.
In the other seats, Gordy and Randy busily chatted about an array of topics, the two hyperactive boys barely sticking to one subject for two minutes. Koji was leaning against his Danny Daddy, enjoying some cuddle time. Alicia sat with Greg; she could feel a bit of tension in his manner and wrote it off to the trials of being a family man herding the family cats on a family vacation.
For Kyle, who had been gleaning all kinds of interesting information on interplanetary navigating, the fifteen minutes had seemed like fifteen seconds when the shuttle docked alongside the transport. Before the group started to disembark, Greg stood and reminded everyone that the transport was set to Martian gravity and to step carefully.
Except for Perry and Greg, who had been on board the von Braun before, everyone was awestruck by the beauty and luxury in the main cabin of the transport. The transport had once been the space yacht of multi-billionaire Russell Park, who was instrumental in the construction of the Martian cities and infrastructure that helped make Mars habitable. The Admiralty knew that Park had made them the beneficiary of the yacht in his will and it became the prime transport for Admiralty trips, both official and unofficial.
It took twenty minutes to transfer the passengers, luggage, and a small amount of goods needed for cooking dinner that evening. As soon as the 4014 was uncoupled from the transport, Commander Wanda Kochanski, who was the captain of the transport, introduced herself, her second and the two engineers. "I believe you've all met Perry, our navigator, already," she grinned. The passengers were sitting on soft couches and chairs, amazed at the luxury and comfort they were enjoying.
As soon as the transport left orbit, Randy and Gordy set out sandwiches in the dining area. The sandwiches had been prepared in advance at the spaceport commissary, so their job was just a matter of making them available. After lunch, they would be starting the dinner, which was scheduled to be served an hour-and-a-half before their 1800 estimated arrival time at Mars. Of course, Randy's special recipe for shimmy stew would be the featured item on the menu.
After lunch, Kyle noticed Greg disappear with Alicia to the aft area where the bedrooms were. He was certain he knew what they would be talking about and was pleased when they returned ten minutes later holding hands and sporting wide grins.
"Alicia and I would like to make an announcement," Greg declared. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and went on. "I have asked Alicia to be my wife and she readily agreed." At that point they shared a long kiss to the sound of cheers and applause.
"That makes her my Grandpa Admiral Grandma," Koji noted with authority. He beat everybody to the couple and gave them each a loving hug.
Kyle followed with his own hug. "I'll get to call you Mom now," Kyle said in her ear. "You are making my dad really happy."
"And how do you feel?" Alicia asked.
"Just as happy as he is." Kyle hugged her again, after which Danny gave her a loving hug and, for the first time, hugged his father-in-law.
Randy and Gordy offered handshakes and congratulations. Randy walked over to Kyle. "Now you've got a complete family," he told his friend. "Mom, dad, husband, and son, with some cousins thrown in. All you need now is a brother and you can run for family boy of the year."
"You're crazy," Kyle chuckled. "Actually, after they get married, I will have a brother… well, two stepbrothers and a stepsister, anyway."
"Oh? Have you met them?"
"Yes and No. One's name is Ronald and he's the Chief Engineer on the Victorious. So, yes, because we've had some classes together, and no because I never got to really know him. Danny remembers seeing him, but that's about it. As for the other brother and sister, no."
"When's the wedding, Dad?" Danny asked his father-in-law.
Greg replied. "We don't have an exact date yet, but we plan on tying the knot before the Sooloo prepares to leave. That way we'll have our family there, both hers and mine."
"Will my brother be there?" Kyle asked.
"Your brother?" Alicia replied with surprise. She looked over to Greg. "You never told me Kyle had a brother."
"I believe he's referring to Ronald, sweetheart."
Kyle was stunned by his father saying, "Sweetheart." In fact, he was amazed that his father even knew the word. He was seeing yet one more facet of his father since he had become involved with Alicia.
"Yeah, I meant the brother on the Victorious, since I figured my other brother would be there since he's not in space."
"And your new sister will be there also," Alicia added.
"Oops, I forgot about her."
"Don't worry about it. After all, I never thought about my future stepson's future stepbrother when you mentioned your bother. I'm sorry, Kyle."
"That's okay, Mom," Kyle said with a heavy emphasis on the word "Mom." "Everything is happening so fast it's easy to lose track. It looks like we both did."
Alicia signaled Kyle to sit next to her. As soon as he sat, she wrapped her arms around her soon-to-be son and gave him the kind of motherly hug every twelve-year-old loves to get, even if he won't admit it. "I love that you're calling me Mom anytime you want… Son."
After tears were dabbed from some cheeks, Kyle pointed out that his question still hadn't been answered.
"The answer to your question is yes," Greg responded. "The Victorious is due to arrive on February first, and you won't launch until March. You can't believe how much that news pleased your… yes… yes, your mom. Not much of the fleet will have returned by then, so we all got lucky. There are still three ships who haven't responded to the call to return to Earth and some others are three or more months away. Anyway, we will work out the wedding date during the trip and announce it when we get back to Earth."
Koji sat next to Alicia and grabbed her hand. "Saying Admiral Grandpa Grandma takes a long time," he said softly.
"Just call me Grandma. It works perfectly," Alicia assured him.
"Grandma? Not even Admiral Grandma?"
"Just Grandma. The only Admiral is your grandpa," she assured him.
"I love you, Grandma."
"And I love you too, Koji, my new grandson."
After that, the topic moved away from the upcoming wedding and other related family business to going over their plans for their stay on Mars, to just looking out one of the windows to catch glimpses of Earth which had retreated into the distance.
A couple of hours into the trip, Perry came into the main cabin and invited Kyle to join him on the bridge. Trying to look calm, Kyle was on his way the instant Perry finished his invitation, the excitement emanating from him like an erupting volcano.
Perry took the helm back from Rolf Schmidt, the second officer, and showed Kyle how the helm worked and explained the navigation system. "The big thing is knowing where the asteroids are. As you know, the idea that all the asteroids are in the asteroid belt is a fallacy. There are some stray ones wandering around as well which are taken into consideration when mapping out our route to Mars."
Kyle got to handle the helm for around ten minutes to get the feel of being in control. The von Braun was doing fine on her own, but just like with the autonomous car, somebody had to be in charge.
"Sitting at the helm of this ship must feel like a step down from being at the helm of a starship," Captain Kochanski commented.
"No, Ma'am, everything you do in space on any ship is special and important."
"I like you, Commander Robinson. I can see how you got to where you are. Do you think your partner would like to ride up here for a bit?"
"Danny? For sure!" Kyle didn't think it was important to tell her that Danny was more than his partner, he was his husband; it would simply take too long to explain.
The rest of the trip seemed to pass in an instant. Danny had a great time on the bridge. As they prepared dinner, Gordy babbled on to Randy about how awesome it had been to see Earth from space and how he couldn't wait to see Mars. He asked a few dozen questions, including what it would be like to shoot hoops on Mars. Koji took turns cuddling with Greg, Alicia and Kyle—Danny missed out when dinner was served.
Just as they finished their dessert, Captain Kochanski announced they were on approach to Mars, which sent everyone to a window to watch the Red Planet come into view.
The Wernher von Braun would be landing on the planet, using thrusters to make a vertical landing outside of Dawes City. Since the city was covered by a transparent dome, the landing and takeoff of the ship would not be heard within the city. Also, the lighter gravity of Mars as well as the size of the von Braun made a shuttle transfer unnecessary. The landing did have to be precise, so the pressurized jetway could be moved against the ship's airlock.
The ship landed routinely at the small spaceport and the passengers quickly disembarked. They were greeted as they entered the terminal by Admiral Walter Evans, the commander of the spaceport and Space Fleet activities on Mars, and Lieutenant Commander Lila Donaldson, his Chief Adjunct. A half-hour later Greg's crew was situated in their quarters, which were in a three-bedroom condominium leased by Space Fleet for visiting dignitaries and high-ranking guests.
The condo was on two levels. The lower level contained the living room, den, kitchen, dining area, a half-bathroom and two bedrooms, which shared a full bathroom with walk-in shower. A spiral staircase led to the upper level, which had the master bedroom, a home theater, a spa with a hot tub and another full bathroom. The master bedroom had a master bathroom which included a sunken bathtub. While the condo reeked of luxury, none of it was paid on the tax-payer's dime; it had also been willed to Space Fleet for use by the Admiralty and guests by Russell Park.
The official time in Dawes City was 2330 when they settled in, which was over four hours later than the official time on the von Braun. As much as the boys wanted to savor their first night on Mars, Greg reminded them that the best way to acclimate to a new time zone was to go directly into the routine of that time zone, which meant going to bed and working to get some sleep.
Greg and Alicia shared the master bedroom, which had a king size bed. The two lower-level bedrooms each had two queen size beds. Danny and Kyle started out sharing one between them, but Koji was not about to sleep alone in a big bed, and he quickly squeezed his naked body between his naked dads. Only one bed was needed for Randy and Gordy, since the two naked brothers shared one bed. They would have done just fine in a bed half the size.
Although the boys didn't think they were tired and could stay up and chat and do more, mother nature said otherwise. Koji dropped off instantly and his dad followed suit. Randy and Gordy did some light petting which ended when Gordy lost his battle with the sandman.
What the five boys didn't know that night was that they would be playing musical beds the next four nights.
When Greg came downstairs in the morning, he was certain he would be the first one awake. He was surprised to find Randy and Gordy in the kitchen preparing breakfast or, more accurately, Randy was preparing breakfast with the assistance of Gordy, who was rapidly learning his way around the kitchen.
"Good morning, boys," Greg grinned as he entered the kitchen. "You are certainly an ambitious pair."
"Good morning, Sir," Randy said. "When your job on a starship full of hungry boys is fixing the meals, you learn to be up early."
"And trust me, Randy, that fact is appreciated by us all. A reminder that our guide will be here by ten, so schedule yourself accordingly."
Randy was tempted to tell the Admiral that he knew what the fuck he was doing, but the Admiral was an Admiral after all, not to mention Kyle's father. So, he did what he learned to do on the Sooloo and that was keep his mouth shut.
"What's on the menu?"
"French toast, scrambled eggs, crisp fried bacon, and blueberry muffins."
"I'm saving the best for our trip to the mountain." As soon as Randy agreed to be the head cook for the trip, he went to work ordering the supplies he needed through the Space Fleet commissary. There would be a variety of meals with plenty to eat.
Everyone was showered and dressed by eight-thirty. They were all a bit rummy as their bodies adjusted to the new time zone, but they were hungry and eager for a full day learning about Dawes City, the largest of the five domed Martian cities.
Just before ten, Commander Donaldson arrived with Eduardo Soler, who would be the group's guide for the duration of their stay. Eduardo was a recent graduate of Mars University, majoring in history. He worked for the Martian Culture and Tourist Bureau. Greg, Alicia and the boys loved his friendly demeanor and his obvious love for his job. As their tour progressed, they were also impressed by his deep knowledge of Martian history and culture. The boys noticed that Eduardo was carrying a blue canvas bag over his shoulder and wondered what was inside. Added to all of that, Randy developed a deep teen crush on the handsome young guide.
Eduardo had the day well planned. They traveled by van and also sampled the city's subway and streetcar system. The morning saw them touring the city's environmental station, which recycled the air within the dome, and provided the city's electricity and water. There were two water systems in the city: one system for drinking water (also used for cooking and bathing) and one for industrial use, toilets and the fountains seen in some parts the city. They were closed systems and were recycled separately. The planet also had a third watering system for irrigation, but that system did not run through the Dawes City system.
They learned that in the early history of Martian settlement, Space Fleet ran water tankers that brought fresh water from Earth, a very expensive system that impeded colonization. But as the amount of water available increased through recycling the Martians were soon able to produce all the water they needed. Even irrigation water could be captured and reused.
"This is like how our water system works on the Sooloo," Kyle observed.
"Except we don't have a separate irrigation system," Danny added.
Another stop was the Holst Tower, the tallest structure on Mars. At six hundred feet tall it was situated at the center of the dome and offered an impressive 360˚ view of the city from the observation deck.
"This is a long way up," Koji shouted as he ran around the deck a half dozen times trying to see everything at once. He stopped when he caught sight of a shuttle arriving at the space port. "Look, a space ship," he yelled out, pointing at the craft outside of the dome.
"I think it's a shuttle," Kyle corrected.
"Yes, it is a shuttle," Eduardo said. "The Regal Star is due in today and that is probably the first load of tourists being flown down. The guides are going to be very busy this week, since another ship is due on the day you leave." Eduardo noted that Randy hadn't left his side the entire time they were on the deck. The handsome young man was used to the attention, although he generally received it from gaga-eyed teen girls rather than a teen boy. He always did his best to be professional about the situation.
They enjoyed lunch in the rotating restaurant below the observation deck. After lunch they were given the opportunity to shop for souvenirs in the store at the base of the tower. Greg and Alicia noted that the piped in music was from The Planets by Gustav Holst, for whom the tower was named.
Their favorite afternoon stop was Wright Park, the largest park in the city. They walked around the lake, noting the fountain that kept the water aerated and watched the ducks that seemed to be a requirement of any city park. Even at their age, they were excited by the swings. In the lower gravity of Mars swinging on them was an adventure.
A big find for Gordy was the basketball courts on the south end of the playground. "Dang, I would kill for a basketball," he wailed.
Eduardo, who had done his homework before arriving at the condo in the morning, reached into a canvas bag he had been carrying, and pulled out a basketball. It was the first, but not the last of Eduardo's surprises.
"Holy crap," Gordy screeched, "how did you do that? How did you know?" He caught a disapproving look from Greg and quickly backtracked, "Um, sorry, I meant to say… um… WOW!"
Greg swallowed a chuckle and chided Gordy gently. "Just be sure you engage your brain before opening your mouth."
The ball was a junior size ball, which was what Gordy and Kyle were used to. They went right to work shooting the ball, trying to compensate for the lighter gravity. Kyle had been helping Koji with basketball skills in the holodeck and beckoned his son to join them. Koji grinned, ran up to Gordy, stole the ball out of his hands, and dribbled it in for a layup. He was surprised when the ball caromed high off the backboard.
"I shot it too high," he lamented.
"You have to remember the lower gravity," Kyle reminded him. In Koji's case, he had to remember double since he had lived on a planet with heavier gravity than Earth. Gordy ran down the ball only to have Koji grab it out of his hands again.
"You are so doomed," Gordy yelled as he chased Koji to the basket, but Koji passed the ball to Danny who decided to join the hoopsters for fun, even though he was not very skilled at basketball.
Koji kept running, laughing and shrieking as Gordy caught up to him and started tickling him. "I won't steal the ball again, I promise," Koji said between gasps of laughter. Kyle got everybody calmed down and suggested they have a shootaround to get used to shooting in the lower gravity.
Kyle was surprised when his father joined them, and even more surprised that his father knew how to shoot, even in the different gravity. Kyle wondered if the smaller ball might have helped, but his father's shooting mechanics were almost perfect.
"Where did you learn how to shoot?" Kyle asked his dad.
"I played middle school, high school and college basketball," Greg said. "I made a shot or two in my time." Kyle was learning more and more about his father while on the surface of Mars.
After forty minutes of shooting around, Eduardo said it was time for them to return to their quarters. They handed him the ball, which he placed into his magic bag, and walked to the park; they saw what looked like an old Earth steam locomotive on static display near the entrance.
"What's that?" Danny asked Eduardo.
"That is an amazing history machine," Eduardo answered. "You will learn its story tomorrow at the museum." Kyle noticed that the locomotive's identification number was 4014 and wondered if there was a connection to the shuttle they took from Earth or if the identical numbers were a coincidence. They walked on to the main street to catch the Green Line streetcar, which would take them to within a half-block of the condo.
Randy and Gordy prepared chili for dinner with hot fudge sundaes for dessert. The group spent the evening talking about their day, watching a movie in the home theater or making plans.
Gordy and Koji had become friendly since they played together at the park. The older boy had a big brother feeling for the younger one, and Koji thought Gordy was cool for somebody who was the same age as his dads.
Gordy asked Koji if he could wiggle his ears. Koji replied by wiggling them. Gordy then wiggled his own. "Me and Randy talk by wiggling our ears," Gordy told Koji.
"What do you say?" Koji asked.
"We say we want to play together and sometimes sleep together."
Koji liked the direction in which the conversation was going. His reply was to wiggle his ears.
"Serious?" Gordy asked.
Koji wiggled again and smiled when Gordy wiggled back. "Koji wants to sleep with Gordy tonight."
Gordy thought it strange that Koji had referred to himself as Koji but said nothing. "I'll talk to Randy and see what we can do."
"You better treat Koji good," Randy told Gordy. "You don't want to piss off his grandfather, and you REALLY don't want to piss off his dads.
"Don't worry, we're just going to sleep together. I won't do nothing with him—he's just a little kid."
"I'm gonna tell you again, just to be sure—DON'T mess around with him."
"I'll be good."
"I'm trusting you."
"I might be horny a lot, but you know you can trust me."
"Good, because I'd like you to live to see your thirteenth birthday."
That started the first night of musical beds. Koji slept with Gordy and Randy slept in the same room as Kyle and Danny. While he started out in the second bed, he ended up in bed with Kyle and Danny. Koji enjoyed sleeping with Gordy because he didn't like sleeping alone and because Gordy was nice to him.
Randy, Kyle, and Danny got a little steam with each other, enjoying a three-way mutual masturbation session. Randy slept in his own bed after they all climaxed; he wanted to disturb the other two as little as possible when his early alarm sounded.
Randy quickly shut off his alarm after it sounded. Kyle and Danny looked like they were still asleep, so either the alarm didn't awaken them, or one or both was faking. He took his clothes into the bathroom and quickly showered and dressed.
He exited the bathroom through the second door, which brought him into the other bedroom. Gordy and Koji were sharing the same bed but weren't cuddled together. He shook Gordy awake. He was pleased to see that his little brother, who just about always slept naked, was wearing boxers. Randy left for the kitchen, certain that Gordy had kept his word.
The brothers prepared pancake and egg breakfasts, with eggs cooked to order. As soon as everyone was sitting at the dining table, the cooking began. "Another marvelous feast," Greg said as the feasting ended.
"I would hire you as a cook any time," Alicia told him.
"Well, I guess you could say that the Admiral has already hired me to keep his son and family well fed on the Sooloo," Randy grinned.
Randy had noted that there was a bit of ear wiggling between Koji and Gordy. Koji followed Gordy to their bedroom door and a quick discussion ensued between the two boys. It ended with a shrug from Koji who went into the bedroom alone.
"What was that about?" Randy asked Gordy who came back to help with the cleanup.
"Koji wanted us to shower together. I told him some other time, that I had to help you," Gordy replied.
"I don't think being naked together in the shower should be a problem."
"It is if you don't trust yourself," Gordy smirked. "I didn't even get a chance to jerk off last night and I am mega-horny." He grabbed his crotch to reveal that something hard was occupying his pants and gave Randy an ear wiggle. I'm sleeping with you tonight."
"That suits me just fine, bro." That arrangement ended up not being the case, however.
Eduardo showed up five minutes before his scheduled 0930 time. As far as timekeeping went, Kyle was impressed by the guide operating on ship's officer's time. Eduardo had the blue canvas bag slung over his shoulder once again.
It took the group less than ten minutes to get to the streetcar stop where they would be catching a Red Line streetcar. Alicia knew that herding a group of kids could be more difficult than herding cats, but that was not the case with this group. She was impressed with their self-discipline; even young Koji fell in line. She assumed Kyle and Danny had a lot to do with that and learned later that Greg had spoken to the young fireball, as well.
A streetcar arrived in just under ten minutes and arrived at their destination fifteen minutes after they boarded it. Eduardo presented a group ticket at the front gate and they entered the Museum of Mars.
The boys were fascinated by the history and the many interactive exhibits. They participated in the activities and were amazed as to how much they were learning. Gordy thought he would be bored by the museum, but that ended up not being the case at all. This is way more fun than school, he thought, and I'm learning a lot.
One of the exhibits that stuck with Kyle was the story of the 4014, the shuttle that had ferried them from Earth to the von Braun. A museum docent was available to add some facts to what they learned in the exhibit and to answer questions, but Eduardo knew his facts so well the docent learned some new things.
The history of the number went back to the mid-twentieth century, the 1930s and 1940s. Most of the trains of the time were steam powered and the locomotive builders were making the engines bigger and bigger in order to compete with the upstart diesels. Some of the biggest steam locomotives were called Big Boys and were ordered by the Union Pacific Railroad. One of the Big Boys, built in 1941, was the 4014. When diesels finally took over, most of the big locomotives were scrapped, but some were preserved. One of those was the 4014 which was preserved in a Los Angeles area park.
In 2016 the Union Pacific purchased the locomotive and rebuilt it in their shops for the 150th anniversary of the building of the first transcontinental railroad. The boys enjoyed old black and white videos of Big Boys pulling freights and the 4014 pulling Union Pacific passenger cars on a special train put together for the anniversary in 2019.
They learned that the connection between the locomotive and the shuttle went through Barry Wright, a friend of Russell Park as well as a fellow billionaire. He was fascinated with Earth railroads. He was also one of the early investors in the Martian colony.
The early ore mines on Mars used a railroad system to connect the mines with Dawes City, then the only city on Mars. From there the ore was transloaded onto ore shuttles which carried the ore into space and to an interplanetary ore carrier. Wright had one of the locomotives built as a smaller version of the 4014 and given the same identifying number. The locomotive was a modern piece of machinery that was hydrogen powered, not steam powered.
But technology changed quickly and soon ore carriers were built that could land and takeoff from the planet. They were big and slow, but their powerful engines could land the ship vertically and lift the heavy payload off the planet. The miners were transported from city to mine and back by fliers rather than rail and the tracks were eventually torn out. The Martian 4014 was the locomotive they had seen at Wright Park the day before. The Shuttle 4014 was given the number as a salute to the retired locomotive.
"We took the Shuttle 4014 from Earth to the Wernher von Braun," Randy commented to Eduardo. "Why isn't it working here on Mars."
"That question is one reason I'm working at this display, because it is there and not here," Eduardo replied. "The 4014 was towed to Earth for a complete refit. It is shuttling from Earth to spaceships until they're sure everything is working perfectly."
"You mean we were, like on its first trip?" Gordy asked in shock.
"No, they would never carry passengers on a first trip," Greg interjected. "Or a second or third. Right now, they're getting it fine-tuned before they return it to Mars."
"It will fly all the way to Mars?"
"No, it's not built to do that. It will either be towed by an ore ship, clamped to a transport, or carried in the shuttle bay of a starship. It depends on when they're ready to send it back to Mars."
Before leaving the exhibit, the boys became virtual engineers, driving either the Union Pacific 4014 or the Mars 4014. Lorrie, the museum docent assigned to the exhibit, started up the model of the 4014. The locomotive traveled around the Marscape on the table, riding on HO gauge tracks. As they moved on to the cafeteria for lunch, the boys agreed that was their favorite exhibit so far.
Their favorite exhibit after lunch was the one that showed how life may have developed on Mars at some time in the distant past. The displays pointed out that the life was probably microscopic, but the evidence found in the depth of the mines and in the ancient aquifers had evidence of possible life.
Kyle asked if extraterrestrial explorers may have landed on Mars. "Excellent question," Eduardo replied. "Let's take a look at the exhibit behind you." The group moved across the aisle. "This happens to be my specialty, and we've found evidence of more than one landing."
"Were they Darastixians?" Koji asked eagerly.
Eduardo pointed to an animation of a ship landing on the Martian surface. "We are certain that the ship that landed on this sea was what we call Draconian."
"But WE call ourselves Darastixian," Koji stated emphatically.
"Either way, the museum is in the process of changing this animation now that we know what Draco… no… Darastixian ships actually look like."
At the end of the museum tour, Eduardo and Lorrie, asked if anyone had questions about the museum, the exhibits or Mars in general. Koji dutifully raised his hand.
"If people who live on Mars are called Martians, how come the planet is not called Marsh? I ask people and nobody tells me, so I understand."
Eduardo was becoming used to Koji's quirks and managed to swallow a laugh. "That is an interesting question, Koji," he replied. Greg gave Eduardo bonus points for not belittling his grandson's answer. "It has to do with the language. It was explained to me when I was your age that it just works better than saying Marisians or something. The people who live in Venice, Italy, are called Venetians. If they were Venisons, then they would be deer meat."
"Shimmy is better."
"Also," Lorrie interjected, "the planets of the Solar system are named for Roman gods. Mars is named for the Roman God of War, Marsh simply wouldn't work."
Koji chewed on that fact for a moment and then said, "Koji thinks English is much more complicated than Darastixian and can be hard to learn. But now I like the name Mars because it likes to fight."
Koji's comment brought friendly laughter which ended the museum tour.
The last part of the afternoon was spent at Wright Park. Eduardo had a basketball and a playground ball in his canvas bag. Between the balls and the playground equipment the boys had fun blowing off their built-up energy.
Gordy and Kyle played some one-on-one basketball. Much to Gordy's surprise, Kyle was close to his equal on the court and won one of their three hotly contested games.
After they arrived at the condo, Alicia told Kyle and Gordy that the hot and sweaty boys needed to take a shower before dinner. The two twelve-year-olds agreed.
"Let's get it done quickly and shower together," Gordy suggested. Kyle looked over to Danny who nodded his head with a grin.
"Sure, why not."
The shower ended up not being quick as the two horny tweens managed to be turned on by each other's naked bodies. The viewing made them hard, so they jerked off together, and decided they would sleep together that night.
That night, Gordy and Kyle discovered each other's love of the number sixty-nine. Danny and Randy jerked each other off and slept together while Koji slept with his grandparents, taking up half of the king-bed for himself. He didn't even object to sleeping in pajamas instead of in the nude. He simply liked the company of Grandpa and Grandma Admiral.
The morning shower pair was not Kyle and Gordy, but rather Kyle and Danny.
"You know he's a hottie," Danny told Kyle as they washed each other. He was referring to Kyle's bedmate the night before, Gordy.
"Yeah, he is, and you know you want to mess around with him, too," Kyle's leer said it all.
"I'm going to work on it for tonight, if you don't mind."
"Of course I don't mind, doofus. I mean, I messed around with him last night, so you should get a chance, especially since you're the wild sex boy in our marriage."
"You guys jerked off and sixty-nined, right?"
"Randy told me he doesn't want to sleep with you because you're a senior officer."
"As a cook, he's a supplemental member of the crew, so I don't think it's a big deal. Oh well, his loss I guess."
"His loss for sure," Danny grinned. "You're still the best."
"If we didn't have to hurry out, I'd show you why I'm the best."
"Tomorrow night will be ours."
"Not if Koji has his say, but when we do have our night, I will show why we're both the best."
Danny turned the water off, ending the shower.
Eduardo showed up at 0820 for their meeting time. Breakfast had been a light one of cereal and toast. At Greg's suggestion, Randy invited Eduardo for breakfast the next morning. "You're gonna love my shimmy omelets," Randy said.
Eduardo accepted the invitation. "Thanks for inviting me. I guess I should see what they're about." Eduardo had gained a real affection for his little tour group, thinking it was the best gig he'd had yet on his job. Greg Robinson was not the stereotypical snooty Admiral, and his fiancée was a fantastic lady. And the kids were bright, inquisitive and, most importantly, well behaved.
They left at 0830 sharp and took the Red Line to the spaceport terminal. From there they were loaded on a flier, which took them to the Utopia Basin Mine. As the flyer landed, the boys with window seats noticed a large spaceship parked next to the mine's entrance, connected to the mine in three different places.
The flier taxied into an airtight chamber drilled into the side of a hill, where they were met by the mine's assistant general manager. Eduardo introduced him and he proceeded to explain the workings of the mine and what they would be seeing on their mine tour. After finishing his short talk, he asked if there were any questions. It was all everybody could do not to look at Koji. Unaware that he was expected to ask a question, he dove right in.
"If Marsh has an atmosphere, why did they take us inside?"
Eduardo looked at the mine manager, who nodded for him to go ahead. "The atmosphere of MARS is not breathable by humans, which is why we need domed cities. It is around 95% carbon dioxide and there is virtually no oxygen. Plus, the temperature can go from very hot to very cold depending on the time of day and the altitude. It can get so cold the carbon dioxide freezes into dry ice."
Koji nodded, understanding most of what Eduardo said and knowing that he would need to read about it to find out more. After seeing there were no more questions, they stepped into a large cavern that contained gondolas loaded with ore. Machines were loading the ore onto a conveyor that carried it through an entry and onto the ship.
"The loadmaster is going to talk to you about what is happening on the ship. You can see it on the screen to the left since it could be dangerous to allow you to actually watch the process on the ship," Eduardo told them.
When the loadmaster came into the cavern from the ship, Kyle was surprised to see Bob Adams, his one-time ass waffle driver. Bob was not surprised to see Kyle, however, since he had been informed he would be talking to Admiral Robinson's party. Other than a cursory nod by Bob, he and Kyle pretended not to know each other.
Bob introduced himself and explained how the ore is loaded onto an ore carrier. "The load has to be balanced, both by size and weight. You can see the conveyor belt measuring and separating the ore, but it is up to me and my assistant, Roger, to make the final loading decisions as far as to how each of the compartments on the ship are filled. The computer is indispensable in giving us the data, and the AI shows us the optimum loading pattern, but what we see as the compartments fill also influences our decisions."
After Bob explained the loading process, it was time for a ride into the mine in an inspection car. The car ran on the rails and could seat four, including the driver. The car would make three ten-minute trips so they could all see where mining was actually taking place.
The seating arrangements had been made while on the flier. The first trip had Greg, Alicia, and Koji riding together. Koji had insisted on riding with his Admiral Grandpa and his soon-to-be Grandma, a desire that met with no arguments.
Kyle was again surprised when Bob Adams walked up to him while he was waiting for his turn to ride in the inspection car. "I would like to speak to you," he said in a flat voice. When Kyle didn't react, he added one more word, that had a sense of urgency attached to it. "Please."
Curious about what the arrogant man wanted from him so badly that he was willing to lower himself to saying, "please," Kyle demurred and stepped away from the other three boys. Danny kept a sharp eye on his husband and the man whom Kyle had not liked in any way. He was ready to step in if he saw even a bit of trouble.
They walked to a corner of the cavern where Bob stopped. Kyle stood so he was in front of the man and looked up at him. He was going to let the ass waffle make the first move.
Bob Adams cleared his throat and nervously shuffled his feet. "I… um… asked to talk to you because, well… um… I wanted to apologize for being a jerk when I was assigned to be your driver." Kyle maintained his silence, having learned from the best that a person could learn a great deal by being silent.
The loadmaster scrutinized the handsome boy in front of him. He looked much different in a polo shirt and shorts than the boy who wore an officer's uniform that made him seem like an annoying little prick at the time. Once again, he cleared his throat. "I was wrong about how I treated you and how I talked to you. I thought you were a spoiled little phony. I found out from Admiral Mirah that is not the case. I learned you are quite a remarkable young man who has earned every bit of my respect."
Kyle could have gone into a litany of complaints about Bob's behavior; instead he held out his hand. "Apology accepted," he said, as the two shook hands.
"You must have thought I was a real asshole. And if you did, you were right."
"Nah, I thought you were more of an ass waffle."
"You can look it up," Kyle grinned.
Bob changed the subject by bringing up his son, Corey. After reading Admiral Mirah's email and viewing the video about Kyle, Bob knew he had to make amends for the misinformation he had sent his son. He wrote Corey an email apologizing for giving him the wrong impression about Kyle and implored him to look at the attached video about Kyle's exploits. "I think you'll find he is much different than how I described him. Look at the video and make your own conclusion." It was unquestionably the biggest apology Bob Adams had ever made to his son. It was now time to tell Kyle about Corey's conclusions.
"Corey has done some research on you and has completely changed his outlook. He now calls you the 'awesomest boy in the galaxy.' He now thinks he wants to go to the Academy and get involved in space exploration. You've become his hero and, well, he wants to meet you and see what you have to say.'
"Yeah, that's cool. I'll be happy to meet him and tell him about what he would need to do."
"Thanks. If it's okay with you, I'll contact you after I return to Earth and get things set up." Kyle and the Wernher von Braun would be returning to Earth before the ore carrier. It would take at least another two days to load it, and the lumbering ship would take two days to make the trip compared to ten hours for the von Braun.
Kyle and Danny took the next ride into the mine after Koji and his grandparents returned. After Gordy and Randy returned, everyone was loaded into the flier and flown back to Dawes City. They had lunch at a café near the terminal and then got a tour of the spaceport. While most of the tour was nothing new for Kyle and Danny, Koji, Gordy and Randy were interested in how the dispatcher and spaceport crew took care of not only spaceships and shuttles, but also the fliers and the ore ships.
That night, Kyle surprised Greg and Alicia by sharing their big king bed. Like Koji he wore a pair of the pajamas Greg had ordered for their stay in the condo just in case they were needed.
"This is a nice surprise," Alicia told Kyle as he crawled under the covers.
"It's a surprise for me, too," Kyle admitted.
"Works for me as long as you don't kick and snore," Greg said.
"If I do, you can drag me out to the couch to sleep." That, fortunately, did not happen.
Koji slept with his Daddy Danny while the Jenkins brothers enjoyed a very erotic night together in their room.
The morning schedule for the fourth day was much more leisurely than the day before. They would be taking a flier tour of Olympus Mons, the tallest planetary mountain in the solar system. Because a large number of Earth tourists who had arrived on the latest space cruise were on Mars, there were seven flights scheduled to fly around the mountain that day. The Robinson party would be leaving on the 1100 flight.
Randy and Gordy were up early for breakfast, barely beating the Admiral. Since they had a lot of time to cook up breakfast, Randy thought this would be the perfect day to make shimmy omelets with blackberry muffins. Gordy worked as his big brother's assistant. They mixed the ingredients for the omelets and prepared the muffins.
The muffins were baking as Kyle came into the kitchen. "You guys look like you were up all night," he observed.
"Not quite, but we did stay up late," Randy replied with a sensuous grin.
"I won't ask why since I am sure I already know the answer."
Gordy rubbed his ass through his shorts, pushing his fingers where his crack would be. "Twice, as in two times. Am I sexy or what?" he chortled.
Since he and Danny had been married, Kyle had never had the urge to fuck anybody as much he wanted to fuck Gordy. "I'm glad you guys had fun," Kyle told them as he exited the kitchen before his boner tore a hole in the front of his shorts.
"Did you see his crotch?" Gordy asked his brother.
"Yep. I think he's hot for you."
"I do too. I wish there was a way to do it after we get back to Earth."
"Only if he wants to come to Minnesota to get laid," Randy laughed. "You'll just have to be satisfied with your big brother."
Eduardo arrived soon after. He was hungry, and the smell of breakfast being prepared had his stomach juices churning. Not long after his arrival, the group was seated and ready to eat.
As they ate, Eduardo gave them a quick lesson on Olympus Mons. He told them it was a shield volcano, rising to over twice the height of Mount Everest above sea level. Being a shield volcano, similar to the large volcanos making up the Hawaiian Islands, it covered a large area. It was around 370 miles (600 km) wide. "It's estimated that its last eruption was twenty-five million years ago, but it still has the potential to be active. But don't worry, it won't erupt on us—when it is active the lava flows out like those Hawaiian volcanoes."
He told them they would hear a lot of the same facts on their overflight, but it always helped to be prepared. "You're going to love the flier," he added. "It is made of clear alumitanium, the same material the city domes are made of, and the shells of the starships, only those are not clear. They are like glass shuttles, so you can see everywhere."
"Even underneath us?" Koji asked.
"Not totally. The center aisle is alumitanium, just not clear, as is the flooring directly under the seats. That's where the framework for the flier is. But if you look straight down between your legs, it's all clear alumitanium; you can see directly below you."
"I'd be afraid of it breaking and falling out," Koji said with a quiver in his voice.
"It's perfectly safe. The alumitanium is a synthetic metal and the roofs are strong enough to withstand meteor strikes, so I would say it is nearly impossible for it to break under your feet."
You don't know Koji, Kyle thought, as he imagined Koji pounding his feet on the clear floor to see if it really was unbreakable.
"That was the best omelet I ever had," Eduardo remarked after finishing his breakfast. "That shimmy meat is delicious, wherever it comes from."
"It is what you call skunk." Koji informed him.
"You mean Draconian skunk?" Randy and Koji nodded together. "It seems they certainly know how to raise skunks."
"Wait until you taste my lasagna tonight," Randy said.
"Does that mean I'm invited?"
"That would be a big yes!"
After everyone finished breakfast and the dining area and kitchen were quickly cleaned under the supervision of Alicia, they headed out to catch the Red Line to the spaceport. Once there, they found the tourist flier had not yet arrived from its previous flight.
They waited in the observation lounge. Koji was the first to see the incoming flier. "It really is all glass," he noted. "I can see the people in it, and I can even see their feet."
Once the flier was unloaded, the boarding process started for their flight. The flier held fifty-two passengers and four crew members: a pilot, copilot, cabin attendant and tour guide. Grayson, the tour guide, was a good friend of Eduardo.
After Danny helped buckle Koji into his seat, the young boy started doing what Kyle had predicted, by starting a rhythmic pounding with his feet.
"Koji, stop!" Danny ordered. Kyle had told him what he thought could happen and Danny had to agree. It's amazing how well we know the imp, he thought.
"But I want to make sure it's strong enough," the boy protested.
"Trust me, it's more than strong enough, and what you're doing is extremely annoying."
Koji stopped his pounding. "Okay. If Danny Daddy thinks it is strong enough, then Koji thinks so, too." Danny and Kyle were certain Koji would stop when asked to. Their parenting was doing something right, even if it wasn't always apparent.
"Why is this a flier and not a shuttle?" Randy asked Eduardo, who was sitting next to him.
"Shuttles can fly into space and fliers cannot."
They soon took off and headed in the direction of the big mountain, which quickly came into sight. The flier did a low altitude flight around the circumference as the tour guide talked about the mountain. Three other circuits were made, each at higher altitudes. The final look at the mountain was a flyover, with the flier skimming the peak of the giant mountain. The highest the flier could fly was two thousand feet above the peak. This was where the floor view showed off the best view of the tour. The flier crossed the top four times in four different directions. The tourists were going wild taking photos and videos.
Because of the transparent floor, the landing was exciting as the passengers watched the runway seemingly rise to meet them. Koji thought this had been the best day of the trip.
After they arrived at the condo, Eduardo spent time talking with Greg, answering some sophisticated and technical questions for the Admiral. Greg was impressed by Eduardo's knowledge and Eduardo was impressed by the Admiral's own wide range of knowledge.
After eating Randy's "galaxy famous" lasagna, Eduardo once again praised Randy's cooking and the flavor of shimmy. "I hope we will get this meat on Mars someday," he exclaimed.
"You will. They're looking into importing shimmy to Earth, and I bet it will then come here to Mars."
"Just in case it does, could you send me some recipes? This could promote my girlfriend from a very good cook to a master chef."
"I'll send some to you before you leave."
Eduardo left after dessert with Randy's recipes in his phone. It was now time to start packing since this would be the last night of their trip. They would be visiting a school campus in the morning to meet with some classes. The school housed grades K-8.
That night they slept in the same setup as the first might. Greg and Alicia in the master bedroom, Kyle, Danny and Koji in one of the downstairs bedrooms, and Randy and Gordy in the other. Between being tired and having an early morning wakeup call, the five boys quickly fell asleep.
It was Friday, a week and a day before their wedding, so Will and John went to Penn's Landing Marina in Philadelphia to check on the yacht and see how the decorations were coming along. As they boarded the yacht, they spotted a boy. He saw them and took off. As he was about to dive off the yacht, Will grabbed him.
"Let me go," the boy ordered.
"Not until you answer some questions." The boy put up a fight, trying to get away, but Will maintained his hold, though it wasn't easy. Will asked, "What's your name?"
"Drake," the boy replied, "Drake Alexander."
"Do you have a middle name?" John Luke questioned.
The boy looked down, "I… I don't think so. At least my mom never told me it, if I did."
"Where is your mom?" Will inquired.
The boy looked on the verge of tears, but he answered, "She died when I was seven. They put me in a group home, but I don't like it there."
Will's heart was aching as he spoke with Drake, "What if we see if you can stay with us while we are here. If you and we like it, we can see about making it permanent."
The boy smiled for the first time since John Luke and Will found him hiding on the yacht, He calmed down and Will finally let him go. "Are you serious? I thought sure you would make me go back. That's why I ran when I first saw you."
Will explained, "This is my mom's yacht. John and I are getting married next Saturday. You seem like a smart kid, so you probably have your reasons for not wanting to go back. We are also in Space Fleet as part of the Explorer Program. I'm not sure when we will be leaving, but until then, we want you to live with us. If you agree, we can arrange that."
"But what happens when you go back to space?" Drake questioned.
"Then we have choices, either we adopt you, you stay with my mom, or you go back to the group home, or another group home."
Drake looked like he was thinking about his options.
John kinda chuckled, "You don't have to give an answer right away, but you know, if we do adopt you, I like the name Drake Alexander, so you can either keep your name, or make Alexander your middle name and take one of our last names or hyphenate them."
"What are your last names?"
"Well, I am John Luke, and my husband to be is Will Robinson Crusoe. As we said earlier we are getting married in just over a week and were just checking out Will's mom's yacht when we saw you."
Looking at Will, Drake inquired, "So, you have money?"
"I have some, but this is my mom's yacht, not mine. I or my brother may inherit it, eventually, but until then, it's not mine."
"That's cool. I'm glad you don't claim it. Rich people tend to not like orphans, or so my experience has taught me."
"Just remember, not all rich people are the same. My grandfather is very rich, and my mom was an orphan until he adopted her. She has a lot more money than me, but not as much as Grandpa. When she was barely out of school, she and my dad married. I was born, and then a few years later came Robby. Dad died before Robby was born."
"How did he die?" Drake asked.
"All I know is there was a Shuttle accident outside Vegas, whenever I ask Mom, she just starts crying. They never found his body, and believed the explosion incinerated him. We buried an empty coffin."
"I'm sorry," Drake apologized. "From what you told me, I have a feeling you really loved him."
Will gave Drake a hug, "Yeah, I did, even though he is gone, I still do. I tried looking into his records, but I don't have high enough clearance."
John suggested, "I bet Jace, Jordan, Hal or Dave might. And if not, Jace is one of the best hackers we know."
"Yeah, but Jace doesn't like hacking unless necessary," Will considered the idea.
"Brad's not too bad at Hacking, in fact, he is almost as good as Jace."
"Thanks, I'll try legal methods first. Perhaps once Dave is a commodore, he will be even more able to check into it."
John and Will took Drake back to Will's mom's home. As soon as they walked in, Danielle asked, "Who is this handsome young man?"
"This is Drake, Mom," Will replied. "John and I found him hiding on the yacht. We are going to the group home to request he stay with us to see if we are compatible with him."
"He should stay here while I fix him something to eat," Danielle suggested. Looking at Drake, she added, "You must be starving." Drake nodded his head.
Robby, wanting to be of help, suggested, "He can sleep in my room."
Will and John thought things might go smoother if they were dressed in their Space Fleet uniforms, so they changed. At the orphanage, they requested to speak with the person in charge. "What can I do for you?" a man asked. "My name is Head Master William McVette."
"Mr. McVette, do you have a boy here by the name of Drake Alexander?" John inquired.
"We did, but the little troll ran off," McVette replied, his expression showed his contempt. "What did the lad do, steal something from you?"
"We found him on my mom's yacht," Will replied, "and we are seeking permission for him to stay with us in hopes of adopting him. You see, he did steal from us, he stole our hearts."
"You seem a little young to be adopting," McVette criticized. "Are you married?"
John smiled, "We will be getting married next Saturday."
"Technically, I shouldn't allow you to take custody of a boy until you are married, but since you are asking about him, I will," McVette looked more relieved than concerned.
"What do you have against Drake?" Will asked.
"He runs away at least twice a month, he's tried kissing every child in this home and I've had to put him in a time out room almost every day."
"Did you ever think that maybe you make him feel unwanted or that maybe he is looking for affection from someone? And what is a time out room?" John seemed agitated.
"A time out room is simply a small room where the boy or girl can sit and think of why they were in there. It has a seat, four walls and no windows."
"Like a closet? Does it at least have a light?" Will questioned.
"I will not have you question my methods this way. I will gladly approve you taking Drake, but if you decide not to adopt him, please take him to a different orphanage. I will gladly transfer his paperwork."
"That won't be necessary, we will be adopting him," Will glared. "He deserves better than this."
"Upon you getting married, I will approve of you adopting that brat. I just never want to see him again."
John and Will took care of the legal documents for them to retain custody. As they were leaving, Will huffed, "I can't blame Drake for running away from here. I am glad WE found him."
"Drake, we have some bad news and more bad news," John Luke lamented as he walked in the door.
Drake looked nervous, "Please don't make me go back to that Home."
"We... you can't go back there, in fact, after visiting there, we can understand why you ran away. McVette is a real..."
"Dick head," Drake finished. Then looking at Danielle, he apologized.
John smiled, "That wasn't the word I was thinking, but mine wouldn't have been any better."
Drake asked, "So what's the bad news?"
"Well... that WAS the bad news. The more bad news is…" John paused and sighed. "Will kind of committed us to adopting you without seeing if you were interested," John chuckled.
"REALLY?!?!" Drake got excited, "You two really want me to be your son?" Drake ran over to Will, hugged him and kissed his cheek. Then he did the same to John.
"Huh?" Will gave Drake a puzzled look, "John, I could be wrong, but I don't think Drake is devastated at all. He probably doesn't think any of it was bad news."
Drake sat down and looked serious, so John asked, "What's wrong?"
Drake stewed for a few minutes, then asked, "Which one of you is my daddy and which one is my mommy?" After seeing the look on Will and John's face, Drake smiled. Finally, he looked at John and said, "You can be Dad and…" looking at Will, "you can be Papa."
Randy served a continental breakfast in the morning, consisting of cereal and pastries all provided by the Space Fleet commissary at Tiberius spaceport. Randy told Gordy he could handle everything. "You can hang with your new buds," he said to his brother. "You don't know when or if you'll see them again."
"Thanks, bro," Gordy responded. "You're the best."
Gordy focused his mingling time on Kyle, wondering if he would ever get a chance to have sex with him again. He thought Kyle was hot, both in looks and personality. I might be straight, Gordy thought, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate a hot boy.
Eduardo arrived at eight-thirty. The itinerary for the morning was to load their baggage into the van that Eduardo arrived in, make sure the condo was empty (a cleaning crew would come in to do the final cleaning) and drive to the school. After the boys visited a class or two, they would go to the spaceport where they would board the Wernher von Braun for the trip home.
The school visit was a big success. Koji, accompanied by Greg, was invited to meet the two third grade classes, which were combined in one room. He told them how he was from Darastix, which confused the class.
"We know it as Draconia," the teacher interjected.
Some students nodded their heads. "That means you're an alien," one girl said.
"He doesn't look like an alien, he looks like us," a redheaded boy observed.
"How did you get to Mars?" another boy asked.
Koji told them about being an orphan and being adopted by two boys who were officers on the starship Sooloo. "They are talking to the big kids," he informed the class. "Kyle Daddy and Danny Daddy are twelve."
"That's how old my brother is. How can they be your daddies?" the redhead asked. "Are they mean like my brother."
"My daddies are never mean, even when Koji is bad. They are the best daddies in the galaxy." Greg was proud of how Koji was maintaining his poise in front of the class.
"Do you go to school?" the teacher asked, knowing that he did, but wanting her students to know.
"Yes, we have a school on the ship for all the adopted boys."
"Do your daddies go to school?" a girl asked.
"No. Since they are officers they work. Sometimes Kyle Daddy teaches our class."
"So, he's a teacher?"
"No, he's an officer. He's an astrobator."
Greg saw the teacher raise her eyebrows and quickly corrected his grandson. "Kyle is an astroGATOR."
That led to a teaching moment and a quick lesson on what an astrogator does.
While Koji was with the third graders, Kyle talked to the sixth graders, Danny talked to the fifth graders, and Randy to the seventh graders. Even though he wasn't a space explorer, Gordy talked to the fourth graders about living on Earth. The class was most interested in what playing in the snow was like. Alicia had a great time with the second graders. That left only the eighth graders, since the other students were considered too young for the boys to talk to, plus there were three first grade classes.
There were three eighth grade classes. One class was split in half and each half sat with one of the other classes. Kyle and Gordy met with one group while Danny and Randy met with the other. The eighth graders had been prepped to come up with questions. They challenged their visitors with their prepared and follow-up questions. When it was over, the four Earth boys agreed that they had a great time with the eighth graders. The feeling ended up being mutual.
When they were finished, Greg, Alicia and the boys were driven to the spaceport by Eduardo. Eduardo was thanked profusely for the great job he did as tour guide. Greg told him if he ever needed a recommendation to contact him.
The von Braun left Mars on time at 1215 Dawes City time. Official time on the transport was 0815, which was Pacific time on Earth. On a long trip, the official time would be Zulu, but on a short hop it was advantageous for everyone to be on the same time as Vegas, where they would be landing. The meal served after they departed was a continental brunch.
"I can hardly wait to have a hot meal again," Greg lamented.
"Gordy and I are serving mac and cheese for dinner," Randy informed him. "Hot and simple."
For some of the trip back, Gordy sat with Kyle. The boys got to know each other better and agreed it would be great if they could figure out a way to meet before the Sooloo departed in March. Kyle had an idea that he kept to himself. He thought that after the time they all spent together, it would be a great idea to invite Randy and Gordy to Greg and Alicia's wedding.
The trip ended with hugs and promises to meet again. Randy and Gordy were shuttled to the airfield and were soon on their way back home.
That night, Kyle's mind went into spin cycle and he couldn't get to sleep. He tried not to toss and turn since Danny had dropped into a sound sleep. As he waited for sleep to hit him, Kyle thought about the biggest thing he had learned on the trip.
Just before he launched on the Sooloo, he had been a boy whose mother left him (or so he believed), whose father ignored him except when it came time to bail him out of trouble (and he caused some of that trouble just to get his father's attention) and had no close friends that he knew of. And tonight, returning home from his trip to Mars, he and his father were closer than ever, he had a wonderful husband in Danny, his best friend, a loving and loveable son, and he was about to get a new mother. Not only that, but he had close friends like Steve and Brad, and new friends like Gordy and Randy.
In just a few months he had gone from a lonely student to a respected and decorated officer. He had gone from a distant family to a close and growing family. He not only was loved but was also able to give love to those close to him—love he never thought he was capable of giving. He finally fell asleep with those thoughts in his head.
Two hundred boys were lined up in a hangar, many of them anxious to take their seat. A commander approached the podium at the far end of the hangar, "When I call your name. you will approach me. After I have evaluated you, you will either have a seat or I will dismiss you. Ensign Julian Danvers!"
Juju walked to the podium, saluted the Commander and stood at attention after the commander returned the salute. "I understand you were a crewman and shuttle pilot on the Sooloo. What makes you think you can fly a fighter?"
"My Captain believes I am the second-best pilot in the Fleet, Sir. He has faith in me, and I have faith in myself."
"Are you a hotshot pilot?"
"I would never call myself that, but I believe I can fly circles around most of the ensigns here, Sir."
"Fleet Admiral Mirah believes you are good. In fact, he recommended your Captain ask you to join the Fighter Squadron program. He would like to make you the head pilot aboard the Darastix, but said the choice was yours. Upon completion of this course, you may either return to the Sooloo or be the Chief Pilot aboard the Darastix."
"If the choice is mine, Sir, I would like to return to the Sooloo."
"Very well, I will let Mirah know. Take a seat." As Juju headed for the seats, the commander called out the next name, "Ensign Marcus Robbins!"
One of the older boys walked up to the podium. "Ensign Danvers believes he can fly circles around you, do you believe that?" Juju thought, I never said that, I said most.
"That little kid? He should still be in diapers. I'll show him a thing or two, make him wish he were wearing a diaper."
"What if I told you that your instructor is even younger?"
"Guffaw, then he shouldn't be the instructor. How can a thumb-sucking toddler show me anything about flying?"
"Lieutenant Danny Harper is the best pilot Space Fleet has and he is only twelve. Age doesn't matter."
"I am almost tempted to tell you to take a seat, so you can see how little you actually know, but… you are dismissed."
"Your loss," Ensign Robbins claimed as he went to the door.
"Ensign Billy Angels!" Billy made his way and saluted. "What is your opinion of Ensign Danvers?"
He's awfully cute, I hope we end up on the same ship, Billy thought, but he responded, "If he's half as good as I hear, I wouldn't mind being his copilot or wingman, Sir."
"He's a year and six months younger than you."
"That doesn't matter, Sir. I have no problem with age as long as they know what they are doing."
"Have a seat beside Ensign Danvers. Ensign Shawn Quinn!" Shawn walked up and saluted. "You are from a town called Forget?"
"Yes Sir, but it is pronounced Forjay."
"And you feel comfortable correcting me?"
"Only with the pronunciation of my town, Sir. I would never assume that I know more than you, otherwise."
"And if I said, 'man that sky looks lavender'?"
"In that instance, I may ask in a respectful manner if you meant blue, but I would not claim it is blue, Sir."
"I have no problem with you correcting me as long as you remain respectful, you may have a seat. Ensign Gabriel Cardiff!"
Gabriel walked up to the podium and saluted. After a few questions about his heritage, Gabriel was told to take a seat. The commander called boy after boy and dismissed fifty of them. Finally, he called the last boy standing, "Ensign Finlay Lynch!"
Finlay followed the examples set by those who were seated. "You have been standing for a long time, would you like to have a seat?"
"Only if ye tell me I can, Sir. I will stand for a donkey's year if ye wish, Sir."
"Is that an Irish brogue I detect? Where are you from?"
"Aye Sir, I was born and raised in Dublin."
The commander smiled, "Have a seat, Ensign." As Finlay took his seat, the Commander announced, "Your instructor is Lieutenant Danny Harper. You will treat him with the same respect that you have given me. He is only twelve years old but has accomplished more than many twenty- or thirty-year-old officers have. Many of you have stated age doesn't matter and I concur; you may have heard me tell a few of those dismissed that same thing. I can tell you that Lieutenant Harper IS a better pilot than me. If any of you have problems taking orders from a twelve-year-old, you are free to leave now." The commander waited, but no one got out of their seat.
"I will be working around the hangar, so if Lieutenant Harper needs me, he can call on me, but this is HIS class and HE is in charge. You will not even see me unless he calls me. Is that understood?"
The entire class chanted in unison, "Yes Sir!" The commander turned to Danny and nodded before leaving. Danny felt relieved that the Commander removed those that might have been a problem.
Commander David approached the Aide, "Commander Frank David reporting upon the request of Fleet Admiral Mirah."
"Ten minutes early, I like that," Mirah had just come out of his office before the aide could call him. "Come on in, Commander."
Once the door closed, Bill asked, "Do you mind if I call you Frank? I never really liked the formal stuff behind closed doors."
Commander David gave a grin, "Sir, does that mean I get to call you Bill?"
"Behind closed doors, when it is just the two or three of us, yes. You know Captain Bowman, who will officially be promoted to Commodore later today."
"Yes Sir, it was his ship that rescued me. It was also his final decision that allowed me to join the away team and take command of the Hawking to bring her back to Earth." Commander David shook hands with Captain Bowman.
"Since Commodore Bowman will be overseeing Hawking and the Darastix, I asked him to join me in asking if you were interested in taking command of either ship."
Commander David was surprised; he had no idea that he was even being considered. He knew that Jordan was asked; that kind of thing gets around the gossip mill rather quickly. "Sirs, first, I want to thank you both for considering me. To be honest, I don't know if I can feel comfortable on the Hawking after what I was put through, even as her captain. Second, I hear that Captain Reagan and the crew are responding very well to treatment. Doctor Otis Wren believes they will be back to normal in three or four months. Captain Reagan was a good captain before we visited that planet. I believe he should remain as captain."
"Yes, I heard that Captain Reagan will be back in condition, but he won't be a captain, anymore."
"Please Sir, give Captain Reagan another chance. I am willing to accept your offer for the Darastix, but I honestly believe, given a second chance, Captain Reagan will do you honorably."
"Captain David," Mirah looked solemn, "read this note. Captain Reagan sent it right after you arrested him."
Fleet Admiral Mirah,
I am sure by now, you have heard that I was planning to use the SS Stephen William Hawking to attack Earth. Dr. Abernathy from the SS Sooloo told me that vegetation from a planet caused this. I accept his assessment but submit myself to the Disciplinary Board for my actions. Please, place all the blame on me. My crew merely followed my orders, well, all but one did. I am proud that Commander David stood his ground, even to the point of us abandoning him on the planet. With the aid of the Sooloo and her crew, he arrested me and took command of the Hawking. I believe he will make a fine captain for her after I am court-martialed.
Captain Aaron Reagan
"But if he's not under the influence of those plants anymore, he shouldn't get court-martialed, Sir."
"The Disciplinary Board tends to agree with you, yet they feel he should still face some kind of disciplinary action; he will be stripped of one rank. What do you think of having him as your First Officer?"
"I'd be honored, Sir, and I would promote Commander Davis to Captain. He was the perfect First Officer and…"
"No, while he's not being formally disciplined, none of the Hawking crew except you may be promoted for one year. We have a class graduating before the Hawking will be ready to fly again, so we may pull her next captain from there. Commander Davis agreed that it was the right choice."
With the exception of Danny and Juju, the entire crew of the Sooloo were called to sit in on this session. Danny and Juju were in the Pilot Training course with Danny as the instructor. Several members of the Draconian delegation were present, including Prince Zarek and Prince Zifaa. Admiral Pershnell (nicknamed "Per Smell" when he's not around) stated, "Admiral Mirah, I think we should postpone today's ceremony until after these proceedings, and I think we should debrief each crew member individually and in private."
"These proceedings will have no bearing on the ceremony. I see no reason to postpone it. And none of these fine young men are facing charges, so I see no reason to be private with what they say. Having it as a joint session will speed things up."
One by one, the crew was called forward and asked about certain events. When Kyle was called forth, Admiral Pershnell asked, "How does a twelve-year-old boy get married and adopt a child? The Explorer Program wasn't designed so you boys can have sex in space."
"Sirs, my marriage to Lieutenant Daniel Harper, and our subsequent adoption of Koji Robinson-Harper was legal according to Draconian law. According to Regulation 14 of the Space Fleet Regulations, I was within my rights under their law as a legal adult in their culture to do so."
"But you are only twelve, and according to their laws, you must be thirteen to marry and adopt."
Zifaa stood up, "Actually Sir, Darastix only has 330 days in a year and twenty-hour days. If you were to calculate Commander Robinson's age in our years, he would be 16.38 years old."
"And who are you, again?"
"I am Prince Zifaa. My father, the King, gave Commander Robinson permission to marry and adopt. If you do not understand him having this authority, perhaps you are as stupid as you look."
Fleet Admiral Mirah chuckled as this Draconian Prince at the age of ten in Draconian years put an Admiral in his place.
Hearing what Zifaa said, Admiral Pershnell started getting angry. He turned to the prince and advanced on him. Zifaa's personal guard stood, ready to protect their Prince and stop him from being injured. Zifaa held his hand up to tell his guards to stop.
Mirah ordered, "Admiral, stop where you are and return to your office. We will discuss this matter later."
Once Admiral Pershnell was out of the room, Mirah assured Zifaa that he would be dealt with.
"Admiral, you should make sure he knows that attacking a member of the royal family is one of a very few crimes which allow for the death penalty on Darastix. But, as your people are bound by the laws of a planet they are on, I am bound by yours."
"Very good," Mirah addressed the crowd and Zifaa sat down, "Any further questions for Commander Robinson?"
"I have one, which may not be pertinent, but I am curious. Commander, how are you liking being a parent?" Admiral Vincent Malcolm asked.
Kyle chuckled, "It is harder than Astrogation, but I am happy to have Koji in my life."
Malcolm smiled, "Spoken like a true parent, I know you will guide your son as best as you can."
"You may go back to your seat, Commander."
"We have a ceremony to prepare for, so we will hear one more testimony today and reconvene tomorrow at 0900. Commander Thomas Abernathy, would you please come forward and explain exactly what you discovered on the SS Stephen William Hawking?"
Dr. Tom replied seriously as he took the seat in front of the Admirals, "There is a lot to tell, I hope I don't run over the time you have allotted for today."
"If you do, we will stop you and we will reconvene tomorrow, starting with where you leave off," Admiral Griswold informed.
"When I boarded the SS Stephen William Hawking, those necessary were already confined to their quarters. They didn't even resist. I examined the Captain first, and I think the plant he had eaten was already losing its control over him. We did blood work and every test that we could run on every member of the Hawking's crew. Captain Reagan had tears in his eyes and kept apologizing."
Dr. Tom continued giving a detailed testimony of everything that happened while he was on the SS Stephen William Hawking until Fleet Admiral Mirah stopped him and called the debriefing to adjournment until the next day.
On this day, Lt. Danny Harper was told to cut classes short, so he and Ensign Danvers could be at the ceremony. Most of the day was spent selecting those who would be in class. Danny and Juju arrived five minutes before the ceremony started and took their places.
At 1400, Fleet Admiral William Mirah walked to the lectern and began to speak, "Greetings everyone. We are here today to honor the young men standing behind me." Mirah went on telling everyone about the accomplishments of the SS Sooloo and her crew.
"Now, to the entire crew, we have a new plaque which will replace the one currently on the bridge. Soon-to-be Commodore Bowman, since you were Captain at the time of launch, we left it as that. Those on the Senior Staff will all be Commanders in just a few minutes, so we do have their promotions."
"That's fine," Dave declared. Dave accepted the plaque, then handed it to a maintenance crew to be properly placed. Then Dave went back to his spot beside Hal.
Fleet Admiral Mirah called out each of the Senior Officers who were still Lt. Commanders and promoted them to Full Commanders. After naming each Senior Officer by name, Fleet Admiral Mirah grinned big, "Before I announce the next promotion, Prince Zarek of Darastix has his own presentation."
Zarek and Zifaa walked up to the dais. "Actually. Sir, our father asked my brother to be the envoy, but I stand here as the crown prince backing him up."
Zifaa smiled at his brother, "Fleet Admiral William Mirah and Captain David Bowman, on behalf of the people of Darastix, it is my honor and that of my brother's to give to you the RDS Kaisokusen. I understand that tomorrow there will be a ceremony to rechristen her as the SS Darastix and present her to Commodore Bowman as part of his task force."
"That is correct and that brings us to our next promotion, I would like to announce the promotion of our first Commodore in the Explorer Program. Captain David Bowman has been instrumental in bringing a treaty between Earth and the Darastixian people. We have always referred to them as Draconian, but in their tongue, it is Darastixian. For that, I present you with the Medal of Valor, as well as promote you to the rank of Commodore. Congratulations, Commodore Bowman. Prince Zarek of Darastix has asked to be the one who pins your Commodore insignia on you. Once he does, I believe you have a few words to say."
Dave stood at the lectern, "Nearly 500 years ago, the Dutch, a group of people from a nation in the region known as the Netherlands, needed a way to recognize those Naval leaders who were responsible for more than one ship in their navy. They came up with the title of Commodore. During the years, the title has resurfaced several times. Space Fleet has decided to revive the title once again.
"I have been chosen to be the first of these new Commodores, an honor I hope and pray I can live up to. My task force, consisting initially of the SS Sooloo, the SS Stephen William Hawking, the SS Endurance and the newly donated RDS Kaisokusen, soon to be the SS Darastix, will be responsible for exploration of a specific region of space. I have no doubt that they will serve Space Fleet through me with distinction.
"My being promoted leaves a gap in the command structure of the SS Sooloo. It is my honor at this time to announce three additional promotions. First, the new Captain of the SS Sooloo will be Captain Hal Tietokone. Congratulations, Captain. Next, Captain Tietokone's Executive Officer, who recently turned down a Captaincy of his own, Commander Jordan Rivers, as Second Officer, I would like to congratulate Commander Jason 'Jace' Blackwell.
"Additional assignments for two of the other ships will be forthcoming in the next few days. I want to convey my thanks and pride to the Admiralty for placing their trust in me, I will endeavor to live up to that trust each and every day. And now, Commander Rivers, I believe you have even more promotions to announce."
Jordan shook hands with Dave, then stood at the lectern while Dave went back to stand with Hal. Jordan spoke up, "I am both proud and honored to have as my first official duty as Executive Officer being to announce the promotion of our Acting Ensigns to the status of Ensign. These young men started working on the SS Sooloo, then took the Academy Entrance Exam. They all passed and then took a fast track course and the Ensigns' Exam. As I call your name, please stand behind me. Once I have called everyone, Commodore Bowman, boy that has a nice ring to it…" Everyone laughed. "… Commodore Bowman will shake your hands and remove your Acting Ensign insignias. Then Captain Tietokone will follow behind, shaking your hands and pinning on your Ensign insignias."
"Shasho Boyer," Jordan called out. "Shasho has been working in the Operations Department. He is the most organized young man that I know. Both Steve and I were very well organized when I was the Chief of Operations, but then Shasho joined us, and working with him has been a pleasure." Shasho walked to Jordan, shook his hand and took his place.
"Jinzo Kohl," Jordan continued. "Jinzo surprised us when he asked to take the exam. He wasn't actually an Acting Ensign, but he is a creation of one of our Acting Ensigns. Jinzo said he doesn't mind my saying he is an android. He has been given knowledge in every field of the ship and is willing to cover any spot needed. As such, he will be working with Ensign Boyer in Operations." Jinzo shook Jordan's hand and stood beside Shasho.
"Tomo Kohl," Jordan called. "Tomo is in essence the father of Jinzo. He had help from the boys in our school, and he worked on Jinzo during his free time. Tomo will mainly be working in Engineering, but also putting in some watches in the Science Department, mainly working on Cybernetics." Tomo shook Jordan's hand, and hugged Jinzo before taking his place beside his "son."
"Juro Marlin-Douglass… Juro has been essential for the SS Sooloo. He advised on how to save the Sooloo doing the creation of the planet named Kairu. Commander Robinson used Juro's advice and though it wasn't easy, he saved the ship. Ensign Juro will be receiving a commendation as well as being made an Ensign. I know his parents are very proud of him." Juro was grinning as he shook Jordan's hand.
"And finally, Sukotto Ruukaso Trevor. Sukotto took the Bridge Qualification Exam and passed on his first try. I am proud of all of these young men standing behind me. Commodore, if you would like to start removing their Acting Ensign insignias, I will turn this back over to Fleet Admiral Mirah."
"As Commodore Bowman and Captain Tietokone work behind me, I would like to say that I too, am proud of these young men. And after much discussion by the Admiralty, we have decided to declare emancipation for all of the crew of the SS Sooloo. As such, the drinking age is still nineteen." While the United State of America did have a minimum age of twenty-one, when they became a part of the United States of Earth, their drinking age was reduced to what the majority of the countries were.
"And you will still need to have a license to drive a car. The difference is, you had to have parental consent to apply at the age of fifteen through eighteen. Now, you just need to be at least fifteen years of age. Aside from those differences, you have all the legal rights of an adult."
With that, the ceremony was over, and Dave told everyone to meet in the ball room where he held the New Year's Eve party. He was standing beside Bill and stated, "Don't tell Fleet Admiral Mirah, but I was given two bottles of sake for my birthday, and I plan to use them to celebrate."
Bill chuckled, "Okay, I won't tell me… or any of the other admirals. Hopefully, I am invited."
"Of course, you are," Dave grinned. "You know me, would I have said anything with you there and NOT invited you?"
"I'll be there in a few. Right now, I need to meet with Per Smell... er, I mean Pershnell," Mirah quipped.
Fleet Admiral William Mirah knocked on Admiral Melvin Pershnell's door, but he didn't wait for a response before entering.
"Bill, why did you tell me to come to my office?"
"Admiral Pershnell, you were out of line today. What do you have against the Explorer Program?" Mirah's face told Pershnell that this was a time to be formal. Fleet Admiral Mirah probably was NOT pleased with him using the Fleet Admiral's first name.
"Sir, I have nothing against the program, per se, but most of those boys are faggots, then they go and get married on an alien planet, and adopt alien children, probably turning them into faggots…"
"And here I thought we were in the twenty-second century, but I must be mistaken. Is this the eighteenth century?"
"Excuse me, Sir?"
"Admiral Pershnell, your thinking seems to be eighteenth century thinking. First and foremost," Mirah got right into Pershnell's face before yelling, "YOU CAN'T TURN SOMEONE GAY!!!"
Pershnell started rubbing his ear as though the yelling hurt. Mirah was happy it had that effect.
"Second, 'faggot' is a term best left in the past. I will not tolerate the use of outdated, pejorative terms under my command. Third, these boys will be together way into their adult life. I see no reason they cannot marry even as young as Commander Robinson, and from what I understand, his son kind of chose him."
"Sir, I believe homosexuality is a choice and a sin."
If Mirah were a Draconian, his eyes would have been bright red. Even though his eyes didn't turn red, Melvin Pershnell could see the anger. "Homosexuality is genetic; sure, some of these boys may be straight and choose to experiment, but those that ARE gay were born gay. They didn't choose. And who the hell made you their judge? You say that homosexuality is a sin, but that same Bible says, 'Judge not lest ye be judged.' By you judging them, YOU are sinning. I believe you need to transfer out of this program. I will have your papers by tomorrow."
"Sir," Pershnell seemed worried, "where are you transferring me to?"
"I haven't decided, but if you ask me, the Star Base being built around Neptune isn't far enough."
"May I make a request, Sir?" Pershnell started sweating even though his office was 18.33c (65˚).
Mirah scowled at Pershnell, "No, you may not." Bill headed to Dave's party.
The Pilot Trainees were standing at attention. Danny walked to the lectern, "At Ease, men. It has become apparent that several of you are pretty much definitely going to pass, while others are struggling and will definitely fail. I would like to break you up into squadrons... placing one of those I believe will be a definite pass as Squadron Leader. Squadrons will have ten pilots each, including the leader. The top fifteen candidates will be the SL. While in this classroom, they will be honorary Lieutenant Junior Grades. I cannot make the promotion official, so don't think you are promoted."
Some of the candidates whispered amongst themselves for a few seconds until Danny cleared his throat. "I will split the class down the middle in accordance to your scores. The pilot with the lowest score will go into squadron with the best pilot, but the only ones we are naming will be the Leaders, so no one, including yourself, will know who the worst pilots are. I believe that by working in this manner, we can raise everyone up to passing level."
Everyone was anxious to hear who was going to be the Squadron Leaders. "Lieutenant Danvers, as the Alpha Squadron Leader, will you pass out these nine envelopes? Now, don't think you are in Alpha Squadron JUST because Danvers is handing you an envelope. These are in alphabetical order. Your Squadron Leader may or may not hand you your envelope. Inside the envelope will be a piece of paper either telling you what squadron you are in, or to see me. Seeing me is NOT a bad thing."
Danny finished calling out the Squadron Leaders and handed each nine envelopes to pass out. Once everyone had received an envelope, Danny ordered, "Open your envelopes and report to your Squadron Leader. Those that have a "See Me" paper, line up along the east wall. Once we chat, I will send you to your Squadron Leader."
As Danny stepped down, the candidates opened their envelopes. Juju looked at Ensign Angel, "Which squadron are you in?"
"I don't know, I have one of the 'See Me' papers."
Juju tried to make Billy feel good, "Remember, Danny said that seeing him is NOT a bad thing, maybe he wants you to be an Assistant Squadron Leader."
"That would be sweet, especially if I am YOUR Ass Leader," Billy chuckled and went to see Danny.
Danny called him first, "May I call you Billy?"
"Billy, I hate to say it, but you came in sixteenth on the scores. You were almost a Squadron Leader. As such, I would like for you to be the Assistant Squadron Leader for Alpha Squadron."
"Juju was right."
"Then you'll take the position?" Danny knew the answer before asking.
"Most definitely, Sir."
"We will be moving those rooming with Squadron Leaders out of their quarters and moving Assistant Squadron Leaders in with their Squadron Leader. Are you good with sharing quarters with Juju?"
"Again, most definitely, Sir."
"Good, then secure your tent and report to Juju."
"My tent?" Billy seemed confused. Danny pointed to the front of Billy's trousers, and chuckled.
Oliver awoke this day to a very wonderful feeling. It took only a moment to realize that Lars was giving him an early (in the morning) birthday present. Today, Oliver turned 9-years-old. Lars worked diligently to bring Oliver to a very satisfying dry orgasm, then picked his head up and said, "Happy Birthday, Oliver."
Oliver was excited for more than one reason. Since he was 'caught' that day shortly before Christmas, Oliver had experienced, for the first time in his life, what it was like to have a real family. He had spoken to a Judge on the 14th and today he was to find out if Dave and Hal would become his official parents... and Lars, his official younger brother.
Mama had prepared what she had found was Oliver's newest favorite food for breakfast. Ever since Randy Jenkins had popped over the other morning and made his famous Shimmy Omelets, Oliver found he couldn't get enough of that delicious meat. Surprisingly, Mama loved it as well, and she was never known to enjoy trying new foods.
Dave and Hal took Oliver and Lars out to Magic Desert shortly after breakfast and when they got home late that afternoon there was an official looking car out front. They entered the house and Oliver saw the Judge sitting in the living room with Mama.
Nervously, Oliver approached him. "Good Afternoon, Sir."
"Good Afternoon to you, Oliver. Happy Birthday." The man said with a smile on his face, then he continued, "Well, I won't keep you in suspense." In an officious voice, the Judge started, "On behalf of the United States of Earth, seeing no reason impeding this decision, I hereby grant the adoption of Oliver Tietokone by David and Hal Bowman-Tietokone."
Hal and Dave had discussed it and decided that in matters not directly related to Space Fleet they would assume the hyphenated last name for their family. Dave and Hal, in turn, gave Oliver 'welcome to the family' hugs then Lars gave Oliver his own, including a deep kiss.
The Judge laughed and said, "I've heard of kissing cousins, but now I've seen everything. It's is apparent that Lars loves his new brother."
The Ballroom wasn't too full, mainly in attendance were John's and Will's friends from the Sooloo and their families. In all, about forty people attended. John Luke and Will were standing at the back of the ball room. Everything was decorated in white and blue, the shade of the Operations Department. Drake Alexander walked slowly down the aisle carrying the pillow with the rings. The pillow was blue with white trim. Once Drake was halfway, Robby walked down the aisle. Will had asked Robby to be his best man. Robby was excited when Will asked.
After Robby reached halfway down the aisle, Matthew, John's brother and best man, took his turn. Before he started his walk, he whispered to John and Will, "I'm wearing the butt plug you gave me for my birthday." Finally, John and Will walked the aisle together. They were smiling because they loved each other, and they were thinking about what Matthew had just said.
Once they reached the front, Dave started the ceremony, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here, in the face of this company, to join these two men in matrimony.
It is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, advisedly, discreetly and solemnly. Marriage is the union of two people in heart, mind and body. It is intended for their mutual joy, and for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity. Through this union, John James Luke and Will Robinson Crusoe make a commitment to embrace their dreams, realize their hopes and to accept each other's failings.
"Since the days of the first ships, Captains have enjoyed the joining of two people together in the bonds of holy matrimony. There is no greater joy for a Captain than to unite members of his crew. We are here today to witness this occasion, the celebration of love and commitment with which these two men begin their life together. Not separately, but as two halves forming a whole.
"If any person can show just cause why they may not be joined together, then let them speak now, or forever hold their peace."
At that time, there was a lot of noise as a shuttle was hovering over the bow of the yacht. A ladder extended down and a man in Operations Blue Dress uniform climbed down. Will looked confused when he saw the man. His mom almost fainted but called out, "ROBERT?!?!"