The emergency beacon was coming from within a nebula. The Sooloo proceeded with caution to a rogue planet. A rogue planet is a planet without a star. Scanners indicated that the rogue planet was possibly one that originally orbited Azazel, the rogue star. They also indicated that no life was on the surface of the planet, but inside the planet.
A forcefield kept the atmosphere inside and also protected the planet from visitors who could not answer a riddle. It took time, but Brad was able to make it so there was only one riddle.
Commander David Lucas used the Bubbas to rescue the SS Joseph Hooker crew. Since they were using the Bubbas, he thought the Sooloo crew should have rescued them while they rescued the other group, but Jordan explained that Kyle's grandfather may be among the Explorer of the Stars crew.
With all the shuttles safely aboard the Sooloo and the Darastix, Fleet Admiral William Mirah made an announcement to both ships.
"I think recent events have proven that the Explorer Program is a vital and necessary addition to Space Fleet.
"Today marks a very auspicious day. Not only have Explorer ships found and rescued the crew of a ship that had been missing, but they also solved another disappearance. One that occurred before any of them had been born.
"Twenty-plus years ago, a mission left Earth to explore space very distant from Earth. Errors of Space flight caused that mission to go awry. That mission was led by a man named Robinson. That man happens to be the father of Admiral Gregory Robinson and the grandfather of Commander Kyle Robinson.
"Not only has the crews of the Sooloo and Darastix found and rescued the missing ship, the lost Captain Robinson and most of his crew, but they happened to do that on the fifth anniversary of the inception of the Explorer Program.
"The many accomplishments of the Sooloo and all of the other ships crewed by 'children' have far exceeded the hopes and dreams of those who developed and supported the program. I want to congratulate those crews. Space Fleet is enriched by your participation."
"Sir, there are three assault ships coming out of the planet," Ensign Erickson warned. "Their shields are up, and weapons are ready."
"Fire capabilities?" Hal inquired.
"Our Navigation shields are strong enough to deflect their shots," Doug chuckled.
"Hail them," ordered Hal. "And put them on screen."
"I am Drekzul," the commander stated. "You have stolen our slaves and we want them back. If they are not returned, we will destroy your ships and add you to our groups of slaves."
"Sir, I am Captain Hal Tietokone of the SS Sooloo," Hal replied. "I am told that our navigational shields are more than enough to withstand an attack from you. I advise you to lower your weapons and discuss this. Those slaves, as you called them, are members of Earth's Space Fleet. Any that wishes to remain with you may do so, but not as slaves."
Dr. Tom checked out Dr. Kizil Nazif first, then had him assist with his crew. "You are free to observe or work with me, but since this is your crew, I request that you stay here."
"I'll gladly assist," Nazif responded. "All my patients were normal when we arrived, so if anything is abnormal, I would like to know about it. And I will fill you in on any important matters as we exam each patient."
One by one, Tom and Nazif examined every crew member of the "Fighting Joe." They all seemed perfectly healthy. During the exams, a young boy approached to be examined, "And who do we have here?" Dr. Tom asked.
"His name if difficult to pronounce. Morgan and I started calling him Yulong and he seems to like it."
The boy smiled, "I am Yulong, which means Fish Dragon. I like to swim."
"Nice to meet you, Yulong. That seems like a splendid name for a boy who likes swimming," Tom chuckled. "We just came from a planet whose name means Dragon. I bet you would have liked being there."
"You mean you found Draconia?" Nazif inquired.
"We did, but we also found out in their tongue, they call their planet Darastix." Tom turned to Yulong, "So what are your plans now that you've been rescued? Go home to your family?"
Yulong looked down and Tom thought he heard crying. Nazif replied, "He was born here, and his mother died during birth. He sorta adopted Morgan and me, so he will stay with us until we get to Earth. Morgan and I would like to get married and adopt him, but that's unheard of in the Explorer Program."
Dr. Tom started laughing, "You've got to be kidding. Unheard of in the Explorer Program… On the Sooloo, we have several marriages and eighteen adopted boys, plus one android."
"Seriously?" Nazif's face brightened, "So it's possible that Morgan and I can marry and possibly adopt Yulong?"
Tom was happy to see how elated he made Nazif; he just hoped no one stood in the way of making this happen. "You are in perfect health, Yulong. Do you want to stay with Nazif and Morgan?" Yulong grinned from ear to ear. Tom knew his answer.
The next patient was Cody Zeller. Before Tom could ask anything, Cody inquired, "Are there really seven married couples on the Sooloo?"
"Nope, that is not true," Tom chuckled. Nazif's smile disappeared. "There are eight married couples. One couple just wed before we left Darastix." Not only did Nazif's smile return, but he also started to chuckle and cry.
"Well, Kizil, now that we know that, I would be happy to wed you and Morgan," Cody offered. "And I'm guessing since there are adoptions on the Sooloo, as well, so we will get your paperwork to adopt filed immediately."
"Yes Sir, and it might hit Earth by the time we get there."
Tom suggested, "Talk with our captain and Commodore. We have instant transmission, so your filing will be immediately."
"How is that possible?" Cody was surprised. "Do you have instant communication, too?"
"That we do, and I order each and every crewmember of the Hooker to contact their families. Many of them fear that you are all dead."
John stopped in Med Bay with another crewmember from the Hooker when Cody spotted him. "John? John Luke?"
"Uncle Cody! I knew you were captain of the Hooker but wasn't sure I would get to see you. Your brother, my Uncle Evan, is running for the Senate. Wait until you see his face and let him know you are alive."
"He was considering it when we left." Cody was almost in tears which John didn't fully understand.
Though at this time, Kyle and Danny were not planning to stay on the Darastix, Captain David thought they would like private quarters to freshen up and relax before heading back to the Sooloo. "Well, what do you think, Danno?" Kyle asked Danny.
"I think we do it. Let's go ask Hal to approve it," Danny replied. "And by that, I mean ALL of it."
"We couldn't do it any other way. I guess we should start by asking Captain David to approve our second request. If he doesn't approve, then there's no use asking Hal to approve it."
"Have you talked to your grandfather about what we plan to do?"
"Not yet. I wanted to make sure you approved of my ideas first."
"Why wouldn't I?" Danny asked.
"I was sure you would but remember what and Alicia and Miranda said about communication when we asked for advice on being married. I wasn't going to decide anything without talking to you first," Kyle said.
"I knew there was a reason I loved you so much. You forget I grew up in a home where communication wasn't a strong point."
"Both of us did."
"True, but your dad has made amends to you and mine is still an asshole."
"Let's go talk to Gramps before we do anything. Keep the communication going," Kyle suggested.
Kyle and Danny found William Robinson playing cards with two of his senior officers. "Hey, Gramps," Kyle said as they at their table. Kyle enjoyed giving his grandfather a hard time when his officers were around. He knew they loved adding to it by giving him a hard time about what a precious little boy he must have been.
"And here I always thought toddlers couldn't impregnate a woman," Fred Baker, his first officer, would state in many different ways.
"I thought we weren't meeting until dinner," William said.
"We weren't, but Danny and I got to thinking."
"It can be very dangerous when children start thinking, wouldn't you say so Fred?"
"Only if they had grandfather who went around getting girls pregnant when he was three," Fred answered.
"Just remember, who here has some unknown family of his own who will be wondering about their grandfather as a child," William chuckled. The captain could dish it out as well as take it. "Did you need to ask me something private?" he asked Kyle and Danny.
"Nah, it's cool. These guys can listen since they're going to hear all about it anyway," Kyle said.
"So, what is it your two devious minds have cooked up?"
"Two things. First, we want to see what you think of our ideas. We would like to go back to Earth with you, which means we'll have to ask Hal for a leave of absence. We wanted you to be okay with it first."
"I'm more than okay with it. We're talking a full family reunion here. What is the second thing?"
"We want to take Koji and Duskin with us. And if that won't work at least see if they can be shuttled over here to the Darastix so you can meet your great-grandsons," Kyle replied.
William sat still for a couple of moments before quickly wiping his eyes. "I would like nothing better, Kyle," he finally said. "Bring the little rug rats over. And I will do everything in my power to help you. Now, let's get to work and make both of your requests happen."
"I'll contact Captain David and ask for Danny and me to have a meeting with him. Do you want to join us, Gramps?"
"I will leave it in your capable hands. If the good captain gives you any grief, remember you have a captain as well as an admiral ready to come to bat for you."
"Speaking of admirals, are you still going to meet with Dad?" Kyle inquired.
William grinned inwardly at the irony of having Kyle, who was his grandson, calling Greg, who was his son, "Dad" when in many ways Greg was older than William was. "I assume so since I'm not changing my plans. The two of us have a lot left to talk about. It took me a while to get over the shock of having my son and my grandson on the same starship with me when I came up from that hideous piece of shit prison planet. Figure the odds of that happening."
"Well, my schedule now will be based on what Captain David says about us meeting with him. You and dad have a good meeting if I don't see you before."
Kyle and Danny left the Officers' Lounge. Kyle pulled the communicator he had been issued and called the captain's ready room.
He wasn't sure of what the procedure was on the Darastix, but on the Sooloo he had the privilege of making direct calls to the captain in non-emergency situation. It turned out that was not the case on the Darastix. Maybe it's because Kyle wasn't a member of the crew, maybe it's because Captain David was new to being a captain. Kyle wasn't sure of the reason behind the difference, but he was given the Second Officer's name to contact first, which he did. Commander David Lucas, the Second Officer and Chief of Operations, listened as Kyle told him he needed to make a request to the Captain that had to do with his grandfather. Lucas told Kyle he would get right back to him and within ten minutes Kyle and Danny found themselves sitting in the Captain's Ready Room.
Captain David listened and nodded. When Kyle indicated he was finished, the captain said, "I have no problem with you traveling to Earth with us for a family reunion as long as your captain approves you taking a leave. As for your boys, they are welcome with the understanding that you two will be fully responsible for their behavior and their education. We have the space of them to sleep for the time it will take us to travel to Earth, but they must remain in their quarters unless under the direct supervision of one of you or a family member." Kyle read "family member" to mean his father or his grandfather. He was pleased that Captain David was interested in getting the entire Robinson family involved.
"The Rafael will be returning to the Sooloo at 1700 hours. I will inform her commander to expect you on board. I will also inform Captain Tietokone that I have approved of your requests."
"The commander of the Rafael has been officially informed," Danny said formally. He and Kyle weren't used to the formality of the Darastix Captain. The atmosphere in Hal's ready room was almost always an informal one. If Hal had to get formal with his officers, it was generally on the bridge.
"My apologies. It slipped my mind that you were the commander of the Rafael." Captain Frank David felt chagrined by his error. Even though he was superior in rank to Kyle and Danny, he was still getting used to being a starship captain. To top it off, Kyle's father was an admiral, and his grandfather was a veteran starship captain. He had felt somewhat intimidated by the situation and made a basic mistake that a starship captain should never make.
On the flip side, he had already used Captain Robinson as a resource once and could see he needed to have another chat with him. The topic would be how to maintain focus in stressful situations. And by that he didn't mean the kind of stress that happened on the bridge—doing what he needed to command a starship came naturally to him. It was in dealing with personnel that he needed some guidance. His First Officer, Commander Aaron Reagan (his former captain) could also give him some guidance to that effect.
Kyle and Danny enjoyed a quick bite in the Officers' Dining Room. After eating they grabbed what little personal items they had packed and headed for the ship's shuttle bay. They boarded the Rafael at 16:50 and Danny began going through his preflight checklist. He would go through it again when Brad came on board. Brad would be his co-pilot, giving him the time he needed to keep his reserve pilot status current. After finishing the checklist, Danny flipped a switch that put the oxygen gauge into training mode. He then programmed it to read that while the oxygen level in the cabin was adequate, it was below the recommended level for launching.
Kyle and Aiden would be returning on the flight as passengers. The Mercury, Mars, and Donatello were still berthed on the Darastix ready to take any of the four Sooloo crew members remaining back to the ship. Kyle was happy to be on the Rafael which was special to both him and Danny.
Brad and Aiden boarded the shuttle at 16:51. Aiden took the seat next to Kyle and Brad settled into the copilot's seat. Danny handed Brad his checklist, commenting, "You're a minute late." Brad saw that everything was checked satisfactory. He knew that if a shuttle had two pilots assigned, both had to sign off on the checklist. He went down the list until he got to the oxygen gauge. Danny had checked the oxygen level as satisfactory, which would be the case if that had been the reading a couple of hours into a flight but was not satisfactory for a launch.
"Um, Danny, I think you made a mistake here." Brad said.
"Who me? A mistake?" Danny asked with mock seriousness.
Brad pointed to the oxygen gauge. "Unless yours reads differently from mine, this reading is not good enough for launch. And if yours reads differently, then we have another problem."
Danny reached under the control panel and flicked the training switch off. Right away, Brad's gauge showed the proper level. "Good job, Brad," Danny said. "Just checking to see if you were awake."
"Oh, you are so evil, treating me like a rookie."
Danny made a what-the-hey gesture. "Hey, what are friends for but to keep you on your toes."
"I know, I know, but I can still give you some shit over it. There is a reason why you command the ship's pilots, because everybody knows that even your best friends have to be ready to do your job." Brad signed the copilot's line on the checklist and handed the flight list back to Danny.
"We're ready to launch," Brad said. "But I'm willing to bet Steve's next salary payment that we won't be leaving within the next ten minutes."
"Once again you show that you're right on top of things," Danny grinned.
They heard someone board the shuttle and turned to see Captain David. "Sorry for interrupting, but I wanted to ask Kyle something before you left."
The use of his first name told Kyle that the captain wasn't going to be as stiff and formal as he had been in the ready room.
"Ask away, Captain," he said formally, just in case he was wrong.
"Frank will do fine. We're all officers. If Captain Tietokone approves of your leave, I would like to ask a favor of you, Commander Robinson."
"Whatever you want, Captain David."
"Frank, you may call me Frank," Captain David declared. "Anyway, Admiral Mirah had been assisting Lt. Commander Lynch with the Astrogating since Lynch is the only Astrogator I have at the moment. Would you be willing to assist him?"
"Tyler's a good Astrogator," Kyle grinned. "I hated losing him, but he had a chance to advance, and I had a man able to step up. I would be more than happy to help. I'd feel lost without being able to hang around the Astrogation table some of the trip."
"Yes, Tyler said that you are the best and he's learned a lot from you."
"Danny can assist with Astrogation, too."
"Two astrogators, one fresh out of the academy and the other returning from leave transferring from another ship, have been assigned to me, but your help on the way to Earth will be greatly appreciated. We all know that the course will be laid in and the Darastixian system does not need constant adjusting like the old one, but we both know one other thing, and what would that be?"
"That Mr. Murphy always lurks in the bowels of a starship," Kyle replied.
"Thank you, Commander. That's proof that you know your stuff," Frank laughed.
The crewman working the Darastix's shuttle bay unfastened the Rafael's two droplines from the deck and Danny, as the copilot, operated the motor that reeled them into the hull. Brad eased the Rafael out of the shuttle bay and they were on their way. Brad breathed a sigh of relief as the shuttle left the tight confines of the bay allowing him to accelerate in the direction of the Sooloo. The trip would be a straight shot with nothing to dodge. Tyler Lynch had plotted a course to the Sooloo, which Brad laid into the shuttle's navigation system. He and Danny could have simply flown on their own but were happy to have Tyler plot the course for them.
It didn't take long for the Sooloo's Shuttle Bay to come within visual range. Brad radioed the ship for berthing instructions. "Rafael to Sooloo, requesting docking instructions."
"Welcome home, Rafael," Lieutenant Erikson, answered. The young ensign was working on his studies while manning ship's communications on the quiet bridge during his watch. With the ship in standard orbit there wasn't much for tactical to do. With Hal visiting with Drekzul, the Conn wasn't currently manned. "I thought Danny Robinson was commanding the shuttle."
"Yes, he is, Doug, but he turned the journey over to me so he could do what he specializes in, which is slacking."
"I'm sure Danny put the shuttle into good hands," came the ensign's still high-pitched voice. "I will turn you over to shuttle control. You have permission to approach the ship."
Thirty seconds later a teenage voice came over the Rafael's radio. "Rafael, this is Sooloo shuttle control, crewman Gross speaking."
"This is the Rafael. Good to hear your voice, Jesse," Brad acknowledged, knowing that once the contact protocols were established radio contact could become informal between the Sooloo and her shuttles. "Where are we heading?"
"I am assigning you to Berth One." A diagram of the Sooloo's shuttle bay appeared the Rafael's viewscreen with Berth One lit up. Jesse opened the shuttle bay doors and Brad steered the ship carefully toward Berth One, watching the green line on viewscreen. The color changed to yellow once, but he made the necessary adjustment to return it to green. Had the line turned red he would have had to bring the shuttle to a stop. Being red lined was rare and something everyone did their best to avoid. Brad had learned how to deal with a red line in his early training on the simulator.
Brad flawlessly piloted the shuttle to Berth One. The shuttle settled on the deck and Danny lowered the drop lines. As soon as the bay's atmosphere was replenished, Jesse attached the safety lines to the floor. Once life support and power from the ship were connected, Brad shut down the shuttle as Jesse opened the shuttle bay hatch.
"Awesome job, Brad. Have you ever given any consideration to becoming a shuttle pilot?" Danny asked with a grin.
"Trust me, I would much rather pilot the chair at my computer desk. It can't go bumping into things. As you well know, I flew this mission because, as a senior officer, I must fly a shuttle at least once every three months to maintain my pilot qualifications. And since you seem so in love with my piloting, how about rewarding me for doing an awesome job."
Kyle, who was heading for the shuttle's hatch stopped and looked back. "Just remember, Danny, Brad loves being fucked hard." Kyle laughed hard as he disembarked.
"He's right you know," Brad said. Brad gestured with his eyebrows.
Danny agreed, "Just set up a time, and I'll be there."
"I'll have to talk to the war department, first." Brad was referring to his husband Steve. "He may want to be there to watch, perv that he is."
Jesse poked his head through the hatch. "Hey, are you Senior Officer types going to leave so I can take care of the postflight protocols, or are just going sit there congratulating yourselves for bringing a shuttle home in one piece."
"We're on our way," Danny replied. He and Brad stepped off the shuttle. "It's been a while since I've done a shuttle inspection with you," he told Jesse.
"Best time to do a full inspection is after we get underway."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Jesse was now doing his job as a hostler. Once finished with the protocols, Crewman Curtis Nichols would unfasten the two droplines, Jesse would reel them in, and then move the Rafael to Berth Twenty, which was her regular berth.
When Danny entered his quarters, he found Kyle reading the daily bulletin Steve sent out from Operations. "Where are the boys?" he asked.
"Probably at Will and John's quarters. I contacted Hal to see if he was free. He said give him ten minutes and we can meet him in his Ready Room," Kyle responded.
"Then let's go see him and get his okay for our plans."
Kyle and Danny headed for the Captain's Ready Room confident that Hal would approve of those plans.
As Tom was almost done checking those rescued, a boy that was from neither the SS Joseph Hooker nor Captain Robinson's ship was next in line. The boy was wearing some kind of harness and a loin cloth more closely resembling an Earth jockstrap. Dr. Tom asked Kizil, "What's his story?"
"We don't know," Kizil replied. "He was here when we arrived. According to Captain Robinson, he was here when they arrived."
"This boy has to be at least thirty years old, then," Tom surmised. "Does Yulong know him?"
Kizil smiled, "Yulong said the boy was here before his ship was captured, too, but he arrived after Robinson's ship, so that makes sense."
Dr. Tom approached the boy, "Do you have a name?"
"The… masters… call… me… Anonymous," the boy stated in broken English.
Anonymous is no kind of a name, Tom thought. Tom reached for the harness, "I'm going to take this off you. You are no longer a slave."
"No, I… must… always… wearing," the boy declared. "It… can… never… come… off…, or I… die."
Tom scanned the harness. It was merely some kind of leather with a metal ring in front to lead the boy. It appeared to have nothing health related to it. "Okay, I'm not going to take it off, but can I loosen it so I can check you out better?" Tom used his gentlest voice, hoping to gain some trust from the boy. The boy nodded, so Tom unbuckled the straps in back. The boy held the harness close to his chest while Tom examined his back. He was aghast of what he saw, yet not really surprised. "This boy has been beaten numerous times. Scan indicates some of these scars are a hundred years old."
"Well, for such an old man, he looks really good," Kizil tried to lighten the mood.
Tom asked the boy, "Do you know how long you've been here?"
"I… was… born… here," the boy replied. "I… here… to… please… others. Do… I… please… you?"
Tom was about to reply when the harness slipped forward. It was no longer touching the boy's chest and he looked scared. "Everything is perfectly all right; you have nothing to be afraid of," Tom assured. "It would please me if you could remove the harness."
"You… tell… Masters… that… it… pleased… you?" the boy requested. "Then… they… not… kill… me."
Tom noticed the boy's speech was slowly improving, but what the boy said spoke volumes. "Yes, I will tell them that it was my idea, but you needn't worry about them anymore. You will never see them."
The boy let the harness fall, as did tears. He let what Tom said sink in. "I… your… slave… now?"
"No, you are no one's slave. You are free."
"But… I… slave… since… birth," the boy protested. "I… never… free."
"You are now," Tom placed a hand on the boy's knee. His face lit up as he repeated, "You are free."
The boy grabbed Tom and held him tight as he cried. Tom was glad that he was nearly done because he had no intention of stopping the boy. He knew that the boy needed this, and he was going to let it happen at whatever pace the boy needed. Kizil looked surprised. "We have been trying to get him to remove that harness ever since we arrived. Seeing him willingly take it off…" Kizil couldn't help himself, he reached around Dr. Tom and the boy.
Kizil wasn't sure how the boy would react, but he felt too emotional. At first, he was worried that he would upset the boy, but he felt the hug was necessary. The boy spoke in Kizil's ear, "I free." That made Kizil feel even more that the hug was indeed the right thing to do.
Once the hug was done, Tom asked the boy, "Would you like a new name? Anonymous just doesn't work for you anymore."
The boy looked between Tom and Kizil, then stared at Tom. His speech was far less broken as he felt more assured of his freedom, "You, name, me. I like, whatever, you, decide."
"In that case, what about the Latin name Liber? It means free."
"I, am, Liber," the boy smiled. "I, your, son?"
Tom had two thoughts running through his head. He didn't know how to answer the boy without upsetting him. His first thought was this boy is old enough to be my great great grandfather. I can't be his father. He also considered what was stated in a staff meeting. The ship was at capacity for adoption except in an extreme situation. "I will talk with my captain to see if that is possible," Tom told the boy.
Commander Trey Jelico, the Hooker's First Officer, had entered the Medical Bay and heard the conversation. He waited before interrupting. Then he asked, "What about me, Liber? Lieutenant Aaron David and I have asked about marrying since Captain Zeller said it is possible. Would you consider being OUR son?"
Liber smiled, "You, nice, man, Father." Trey gave him a hug.
Dr. Tom was curious, "Is Lieutenant David any relation to Captain Frank David?"
"His older brother," Trey grinned. "He's on the Darastix now, having a small family reunion."
The door to the ready room was open. Since Hal had an open-door policy, that was as good as a written invitation for Kyle and Danny to walk in. However, in the cause of etiquette and protocol, Kyle rapped lightly on the door as the two of them entered the room. Kyle gave his standard one-word greeting for the captain. "Hihal."
Hal grinned on hearing Kyle's familiar greeting. "Hey, guys, come on in. I've been expecting you."
"I guess Captain David has talked to you already."
"Frank came on the horn while the Rafael was still in visual range," Hal chuckled as Kyle and Danny took their seats. "But, just to make sure we're all on the same page, tell me what I'm supposed to approve of."
As usual, when Kyle and Danny were together, Kyle acted as the spokesperson. "First, you're going to approve a long-term leave for Danny and me so we can accompany my grandfather home to Earth and be part of having our three generations of family together for the first time ever."
"You realize that leave didn't start accumulating until we launched in August of last year. Given a week every two months, each of you only have four weeks of leave coming and this trip is going to be much longer than that," Hal pointed out.
"Right. It will take us two weeks to travel from here to Earth on the Darastix. We plan to spend a week with family. And then, depending on where and how far the Sooloo has traveled, anywhere from three to four weeks to return."
"Which totals up to at least six or seven weeks, and maybe longer."
"We are allowed to take leaves without pay when there are special circumstances. Danny and I think this qualifies as something special, right Danny."
"Absolutely," Danny said.
"Since you said I am going to approve, you make it sound like a done deal. I assume you have a plan for who will fill in for my Chief Astrogator and head pilot while they are off partying, should I approve of this off the bulkhead idea."
"Hal, this is serious," Kyle growled.
"Kyle, loosen up and give me your plan. One thing about you is you always have a plan, so fire away."
"I want Will to take over as chief astrogator for the month."
"Will, not John Luke? We do have a command structure to follow, you know."
"Of course, I know. I was thinking in terms of handling the astrogation itself. He would plot the courses and sign off on course changes, keep the astrogation logs, and all the rest of that. John Luke would still handle the responsibilities of a chief officer."
Hal thought for a moment and then said, "I like it. This would be a great experience for Will, especially since he has shown himself to be a very knowledgeable and talented astrogator."
"Plus, he always has John Luke available if he needs any help. But I think he's going to do great."
"I approve of that part of your plan. I assume you have one as well, Danny."
"My mind works way different from Kyle's," Danny said. "I don't know where he comes up with his um…off the bulkhead ideas as you put it, but they always seem to work. I don't have any surprises. Juju will take over as head pilot while I'm on leave."
"And he will report to John Luke, I assume."
"Well, as far as I know nobody has ever split the position of Chief Astrogator and Chief Navigation Officer, but I think it will work here. I will become the first Captain to do so. I will appoint Will the interim assistant chief so he can learn the leadership ropes from John Luke and take on some of those responsibilities before you return. There is still one more part to your plan I need to hear—how do you plan on getting back?"
"I'll let Danny answer that one," Kyle said.
"We'll be taking the Darastix to Earth, of course, which will take approximately two weeks," Danny responded. "What we'd like to do is shuttle to the Darastix on one of the Type-B shuttles, berth it in their shuttle bay, and fly back to the Sooloo in it, which would take at least two more weeks depending on where the Sooloo is positioned."
"I do have one question," Hal said. "Would it be possible to cut your time on Earth to less than a week? This would leave you with some slack should the Sooloo travel beyond your return intercept schedule."
"How about we make it, say, four to seven days and try to leave earlier if we can do it without stepping on the toes of a certain admiral?" Kyle replied. "We can keep track of the Sooloo's route and if it looks like we will need the extra time we can leave early if need be."
"It sounds like a plan," Hal said. "Now, I know what the regulations say about taking leave time beyond your allotment. That is usually not an issue when assigned to space duty for obvious reasons. I am going to approve of extended leave for both of you. I will approve of all facets of your plan you have told me about so far. You two have obviously thought this through."
"Yeah, thanks," Danny added.
"You said there would be two requests," Hal said. "What is part two?"
"Well, I said earlier that the reunion would be three generations of Robinsons. But if this is going to be a true family reunion, then we think all four generations should attend. So, we'd like to take Koji and Duskin with us," Kyle told him.
"I had a feeling that was coming. Frank did not say anything about the boys. Did you discuss it with him?"
"I did and he approved. You can double check with him."
"No need; I trust you implicitly. It apparently slipped Frank's mind during our discussion. If he approved, then I will approve as well with this codicil: They keep up with their studies."
"With the near instant communication, they will be able to virtually attend class most days while we are underway in space. It may be harder on Earth since we will be doing a lot of…um…partying, as you put it and may not have the electronics we need at my father's house."
Hal chuckled and said, "I approve of their traveling with you then. I will leave it up to you to work with Ali on providing the boys with a program. I know you two will make sure they stay out of mischief. Now, I have something important to bring up which may be the only thing you haven't thought out. The two of you won't be enough to handle the shuttle on the return journey—you will end up working yourself to exhaustion. You're going to need a third person on your crew."
"I told you so, Kyle," Danny said.
"You mean you did think of it?" Hal asked.
"Well, he didn't really. I just said I didn't think two of us would be enough for a four-week trip."
"And I kind of let it drop with all the other stuff going on," Kyle admitted. "Dang, and here I thought I had a perfect plan. I guess I don't always have a plan."
"Oh, you had a plan, Kyle, a very detailed one. You just left out one detail is all. You have a brilliant mind, Kyle, but it's still a twelve-year-old mind and behaves like one on occasion," Hal said. "Remember what you teach your astrogation crew—write everything down. I do believe your electronics has the capability to write…"
"…yes, it does. I'll be sure to let Danny give my butt a few whacks for forgetting."
Hal gave Kyle and Danny a smirk but said nothing.
"But who are you going to pick?"
Hal grinned. "Captains often have to fill in the blanks their underlings have in their brains, plus they must continually think ahead. I've already given this some thought, and I've chosen Kash to be your crewman. Which will make Steve the acting Chief of Operations. And, in case you're wondering about Jay, as long as Ali is going to be putting together two plans, it shouldn't be that much work to come up with a third one."
"It's what you pay him the big bucks for, right?" Danny grinned.
"Something like that."
"I have one more thing to ask, which isn't really a big deal," Danny said.
"Go for it."
"We'd like to take the Mars as our shuttle."
"Which ever one suits you is fine with me," Hal responded. "Any particular reason?"
"Koji is fond of 'Marsh,' so why not let him fly in it?"
Kyle jumped in with the answer. "When we took a family excursion to Mars, Koji said everything from the planet was Martian and not Marsian, so he insisted on calling it Marsh, since it made total sense to him."
"As with so much that Koji says, it makes perfect sense when you think about it. The Marsh it shall be. What is your estimated departure date?"
"Whenever Captain David decides the Darastix leaves, we'll be ready to go."
After Dr. Tom Abernathy declared him in perfect health, Crewman Timothy Cooper was led to a conference room where he was allowed to contact any family members that he wished. While there was no limit in the number of calls, he could make, he only had two surviving family members, Senator Allen Cooper and his younger brother who lived with the senator. "Grandpa, it's good to see your face, even with the tears running down it."
"I thought I had lost you forever. These are tears of happiness at seeing you," the Senator wiped his face.
"I've been told that you want to dismantle the Explorer Program, Grandpa," Timothy averred. "Please stop, Grandpa, I love being in the Explorer Program."
"I can't, Timmy." Senator Cooper was one of two people who called him Timmy. To Timothy, coming from his grandpa, it sounded cute, but from anyone else, it would irritate him. He thought it sounded childish. He would answer to Tim or Timothy, but never Timmy unless it was his grandfather or younger brother Jimmy speaking. "You boys deserve to be home acting like the young adolescents that you are. Is it wrong of me to want you safe?"
"Wanting me safe is one thing," Timothy declared, "but I am just as safe on a starship as I would be in your home."
Senator Cooper argued, "Your ship was lost, how is that safer?"
"Remember when I was seven, I was kidnapped, Jimmy was put in the hospital and our parents were killed?" Timothy recalled. "They were trying to shut you up about some project you were against. How is that any different? And that was also why you put me in the Academy. You thought I'd be safer with Space Fleet protecting me."
Senator Cooper's complexion became ashen. He always blamed himself for his son's and daughter-in-law's deaths. He thought then that he had lost Timmy, too. It was thanks to members of Space Fleet that Timmy was returned to him unharmed. The project that he was against could have returned the planet to the time prior to the nuclear wars, and he was pleased when the project was cancelled. Senator Cooper isn't totally against Space Fleet, just the Explorer Program part, but he would take whatever action he deemed necessary to protect Timmy. "Grandpa, I need to go, but I leave you with this thought. I am happy in Space Fleet, and I felt like I owe them. Yes, I was scared when our ship was captured, but thanks to the SS Sooloo, we are rescued. Commander Kyle Robinson is going to show me some of the changes we can expect when we get back to Earth. I understand that we will have a month or more to recuperate after our ordeal, plus time during the refit. We are the last ship scheduled. I would like to spend that time with you, but if you continue campaigning against Space Fleet and the Explorer Program, Space Fleet regulations will not permit me. I want to spend time with you."
"I will consider it, Timmy." Senator Cooper wondered, could his actions have cost him Timmy? He would have to think long and hard before deciding his next move. He did counter with, "Just remember, Jimmy is living with me. If you shut me out, you will be shutting him out as well. Do you really want to shut out your younger brother?"
"I don't want to shut either of you out, but if you don't stop, I will have no choice," Timmy started to cry.
Brad walked into the IS Department to see a crewman from the Hooker at work with one of the terminals. "What are you doing in here? Who authorized you being in here?"
"Sorry," the boy offered, "I'm Timothy Cooper, and I'm stationed with the IS department on the Fighting Joe. That was General Hooker's nickname during the Civil War, so we adopted it for our ship's."
"Cooper?" Brad questioned. "Any relation to Senator Cooper?"
"He's my grandfather, but I don't agree with what he's been saying," Timothy replied. "As for your other question, on the Fighting Joe, no one felt comfortable with an older Doogie, so we made him closer to our age. Doogie, can you come here?"
A much younger version of Doogie appeared, "What seems to be your problem?"
"None, Doogie, but I thought Brad should meet the new version of you and form his opinion.
"Question is," Brad thought out loud, "how do you feel about this change?"
"I like it," Doogie stated, "I believe the crew will relate to me better. If I have any say, I would like to keep this form."
"It's your appearance, so I think you should have a lot of say in whether you keep it or not. I believe we can make that happen," Brad assured the HMH. "I have to admit, I was hoping you liked it, but if you didn't, I didn't want to force it on you." Brad turned to Timothy, "You did good work. I wish it were my idea, but I am happy to implement it regardless."
"There is one more thing," Timothy nervously bit his lip. Brad had a feeling about what Timothy waited to discuss but didn't want to bring it up in case he was wrong. "I noticed a program in your systems. Were you having issues with your emails and texts, especially with those originating in Operations?"
"How did you know?" Brad inquired. "We did have, but one of our IS members found it. We've been sending it some false information, hoping whoever put it there slipped up and mentioned the misinformation."
"I can save you some time," Timothy declared. He opened up a PADD and punched a few buttons. "This is the very first program that my father taught me. He learned it from his father, my grandfather Senator Allen Cooper."
"That has the same core framework as the program," Brad realized very quickly.
"THAT is my grandfather's handiwork, however, I have no clue how it came aboard your ship," Timothy started to cry, "I'm sorry."
"No need to be sorry," Brad grinned. "I have no right to ask you this, but would you be willing to say that in a Space Fleet tribunal?"
"Since my grandfather isn't Space Fleet, I'm not sure what that would do, but he is trying to destroy something I love, so I am in."
"I can't say for sure, either, but it should, in the least, make his reelection harder."
"I love my grandfather, but he needs to stop attacking Space Fleet. I chose to join, and that pissed him off." Timothy added, "The election is tomorrow, so if we want to affect his reelection, we need to contact Space Fleet NOW!"
After the last of the crewmembers from the SS Joseph Hooker were examined, Dr. Nazif brought a boy who looked to be fifteen. "This is Ronnoc, he's been on the planet for a very long time and would like to leave it."
"How long have you been on the planet, Ronnoc?" Dr. Tom asked.
"I'm not sure," Ronnoc replied. "My ship was taken in 1348. I was thirteen at the time."
Tom was surprised, "That puts you at 787 years old."
Kizil was shaking his head, "He doesn't mean 1348, Earth year."
"That's right, you are Ajagaron," Tom realized.
"How… how did you know that?" Now it was Ronnoc's turn to be surprised.
"Your eyes gave you away," Tom explained. "How does the Ajagaron year compare to the Darastixian year?"
"You've heard of them, and used their correct name?"
Tom chuckled, "Yes, we left Darastix right before we received the Hooker's distress call."
"What year is it there?" Ronnoc asked.
"2348," Tom answered. "So, would it be 2348 on Ajagara?"
"No," Ronnoc shook his head. "It would be 2335 on my planet. It was always confusing when our family went there and returned. The years are so close to the same."
"I can imagine. They have an eight-day week, and we have a seven. Not to mention, we have thirty-five more days per year." Tom calculated, "That would make you exactly 1,000 years old; when's your birthday?"
"Ajagara has a seven-day week and 348 days a year," Ronnoc informed. "My birthday would be 24th of Sae which would be 26th of Shigatsu on the Darastixian calendar this year."
"Shigatsu 26th would be today. Happy 1000th birthday. You don't look a day over fifteen," Tom teased. "Now, I just need a sample of your DNA so our Lab Tech, Crewman Scott, can run it. Then you are all set."
"Dr. Soto from the Explorer of the Stars had been training me in medicine ever since their ship was captured. He said I would make a great nurse but doubts I can ever be a doctor."
"Are you wanting to be a nurse?" Tom asked. "If you are, I can talk to my captain and see if he can arrange for that to happen."
"Would it be on this ship?" Ronnoc inquired. "I like you and all the crew that I've met seem very friendly."
"I don't know and can't make any promises, other than I know Captain Tietokone will do his best to make it happen."
"I would like that."
"Um… Sir," Crewman Scott interrupted as Ronnoc was about to leave, "It appears that Ronnoc may be related to a crewmember."
"Connor?" Dr. Tom questioned, "He's the only one with any Ajagaron blood in the crew. How close are they related?"
"Father and son," Wesley Scott informed them.
"How? Ronnoc has been on this planet for 987 years."
"Apparently, someone took some of his semen to Earth, but they are definitely related."
"I have a son?" Ronnoc pondered what he just heard. "Can I meet him?"
"Right now, he's on the Hooker making sure she's ready to head to Earth," Dr, Tom replied, "but I will be sure you get a chance to meet him."
Kyle and Danny were in their quarters reviewing what they had missed during their absence, most of which wasn't important. Their real reason for being in the quarters to wait for their sons to come home from wherever they were.
When the door opened the two urchins screeched with happiness. "Daddy Danny!" Koji yelled out while at the same time Duskin screamed, "Opsola Kyle!" in their high-pitched little boy voices. They and ran to their fathers for hugs which they received with joy. As if they were communicating by telepathy, they broke their hugs at the same time and switched dads to get their second hugs.
As the family settled together on the couch, Kyle told them about finding their great-grandfather William on the rogue planet.
"What is great-grandfather?" Duskin asked.
"Genonafopsola," Koji told him.
"Ohhh," Duskin said softly. "He's so old he must be a fip."
Danny looked at Koji, who translated. "A ghost."
"Yes, he's old, but no, he's not a ghost, Duskin," Danny said.
"In fact, he looks very young. He looks even younger than Nafopsola Greg," Kyle informed the boys.
"How can that be?" Koji asked.
Kyle explained the theory that because they received on sunlight on the rogue planet the aging process was slowed way down.
"Does that mean if we lived there, we'd always be little boys?" Duskin asked.
"That's a good question," Kyle responded. "I don't know the answer and we don't plan on hanging around to find out. I know I don't want to stay twelve years old forever—I want to grow up. Right Danny?"
"I don't know, there are some good things about being twelve, but, yeah, I want to grow into an adult, I guess," Danny responded. "I know your opsola Kyle wants to grow up so he can be a captain, which is not something I want to be."
"I want to grow up, so I don't have to go school anymore," Koji said.
"Me too." Duskin agreed.
Koji decided it was time to hop on to a new subject. "Iosta Tommy was nice."
"Did you do everything your uncle told you to do?" Danny asked.
"What does almost mean?"
"We are always nakey in our home and he wanted us to put on clothes and then he said it was okay if we were nakey but only in our home and I asked what about when we had nakey time in school and he said we could be nakey then too."
"Tommy said you two behaved very well and he had fun with you," Kyle said.
"He liked us nakey but he was only nakey in his room."
"How do you know that?" Danny asked.
"I saw him nakey once when he went out to the bathroom," Duskin said.
"Will we get to see Genonafopsola Willy?" Koji asked with another change of subject.
"It's great-grandfather William and yes you will get to see him," Kyle told him.
"Before he goes to Earth?"
"How did you know he would be going to Earth?"
"Where else would he go?"
"Good point, son. And, yes, you'll get to see him. We're going to Earth with him on the Darastix."
"You mean you and Daddy Danny are going to leave us again?" Duskin asked in a panicky voice.
"And for a really long time, right?" Koji added.
"We're all going to Earth together," Danny assured his sons.
"We are? All of us? Me and Duskin and you and opsola Kyle are all going to Earth together on the Darastix?"
"That's right. All of us."
The smiles on the faces of Koji and Duskin lit up the room. "And then we come back on the Darastix together?"
"We're going to return to the Sooloo on the shuttle Mars," Kyle answered.
"On the Marsh? All the way to the Sooloo from Earth? Just us?" Koji asked incredulously.
"Not quite. It takes at least three to handle the shuttle for that long, so Kash Rivers has been assigned to come with us to help us get home."
"But we won't have any friends to play with," Duskin said.
"He will be bringing Jay with him."
"We like Jay," Duskin and Koji responded together.
"We have Jay for company and there will be no school so it will be so much fun," Koji said.
"Oh, there will be school," Danny said.
"Awww…," Koji moaned. "How?" Duskin asked at the same time.
"Your opsola Kyle and I are working with Ali to have lessons made out for you plus you'll be going to class virtually as much as possible," Danny told them.
"Oh well, we'll still have fun, right Duskin?" Koji said.
"Right. But my isthasy (brother) said something wrong," Duskin replied. "He said we were going take the Marsh home, but it is the Mars like opsola Kyle told us."
"No, it's the Marsh," Koji insisted. "People from there are called Martians so it has to be called Marsh and not Mars."
"But there is no h in Mars and Ali said we call it Mars, so it's just like cars and jars."
"That's because the H is invisible," Koji told his brother. "It's like the E in Kyle is silent, well the H in Marsh is invisible." Koji gave an emphatic nod as if to say this fact should be apparent to everyone.
Before Kyle or Danny could respond to that bit of Koji logic, Kyle's communicator sounded with an incoming call from Commodore Dave. Oh shit, I wonder what he wants, Kyle thought. Maybe he wants to overrule Hal's approval. Nah, that wouldn't be like Dave at all—no way he would do that.
He pressed the answer icon on the screen. "Commander Robinson." Communicator calls from a superior officer were always answered formally if the purpose of the call was not known.
"Hi, Kyle. If you and Danny have a few minutes, Hal and I would like to talk to you in my ready room. And no, there isn't a problem," Dave said, knowing from experience how Kyle's mind operated.
"We'd need to park Koji and Duskin somewhere."
"Not a problem. Just bring them along. The meeting is some boring paperwork stuff which I hope won't put them to sleep."
"We'll be there ASAP," Kyle said.
"Sounds good." Dave disconnected.
Kyle told Danny and the boys that they were all heading for a quick meeting with Dave and Hal.
"I was good in school today," Koji assured his opsolas as the four of them rose from the couch.
"I'm sure you were Koji, but I don't think we'll be discussing your behavior in school."
"Oh, good," Koji said emphatically, making Kyle and Danny both wonder what Koji might have done in school.
When they reached Dave's ready room, the door was open. Dave signaled them to take a seat as they entered the room. The commodore's ready room was added as part of the Sooloo's remodel, making it, in essence, a flagship.
"Good to see you all," Dave said. "Other than Hal, Lars, Oliver, and the two ensigns who make up my personal staff I don't have as much contact with the crew as I would like."
Koji and Duskin sat straight and looked forward as they would in the classroom. "Did you bring your pocket computers with you?" Hal asked them. They nodded. "Feel free to move your seats by the wall and play games if you wish. Just do it silently." The boys grinned and shifted their chairs away from Dave's desk.
"I'll make this quick," Dave said. "This has to do with the decisions Hal made regarding your trip to Earth." Dave saw Kyle stiffen as though he was ready to protest whatever came next. He grinned inwardly knowing Kyle was being Kyle. Some things didn't change. He was pleased that Kyle at least waited until he made his presentation before protesting; it was a good indication of how much Kyle had grown up since his early days on the Sooloo.
"First, Hal's decisions were good decisions and were made based on the knowledge he had. However, I dug deeper into the Admiralty Manual and found some interesting loopholes that should work in your favor." Kyle liked how this was starting out and relaxed some.
"Captain David has said he was going to use you to do some training on the astrogation table as well as maybe man the table a time or two. The Manual says that any day he does this will be counted as an active-duty day with that portion of your salary being charged to the account of the Darastix."
"Sweet," Kyle said.
Danny looked a bit disappointed that he wasn't going to be in on the fun. "Don't worry, Danny. Hal and I have thought of you, too. After a discussion with Captain David, we ascertained that his new pilots need more training in dealing with possible combat situations. Lt Faita is doing a good job training them, but Frank believes with your help, the training will be better. That's going to be your job—giving added pilot training."
"Thank you. I'll do the best I can. How many fighters do they have?"
"I know you will," Hal grinned, "because you are best. As for fighters, the Darastixians left six aboard. They are the style you flew during the Lizon attack."
"Thank you, Dave and Hal. This is way more than I ever expected," Kyle said.
"Oh, but there's more," Dave told him. "Because you will be expected to be prepared for duty when you're not actually active, none of your time aboard the Darastix will be counted against your leave time."
"Wow! That is totally sweet."
"And all of your return time on the Mars will be active-duty time since you will be returning a shuttle to its mother ship. So, of course you get full pay and keep all your leave time. The only leave that will be charged to you two will be the time spent on Earth."
"It's the Marsh," Koji called out, indicating that he had been half-way listening to the conversation. The glare coming from Opsola Kyle cause Koji to snap his mouth shut and place his hand over his lips.
"Marsh?" Dave asked.
"A long story which I'll be happy to explain later," Kyle said. "And apologies for the interruption. Koji is better than that."
"Yes, and Koji is sorry Commodore Dave. I should have said nothing," Koji said sincerely hoping he would escape a later punishment, like no dessert.
"And speaking of your sons, Captain David told me that he has enough space that the three boys will have their own quarters which will be situated between Kash's quarters and the one you two will occupy."
"Once again, a big thank you," Kyle said.
"Yes, big thank you," Duskin said wanting to be heard at least once.
"When you leave, I suggest you head for Shuttle Bay 31 and see what the technicians have been up to on the MARS," Hal said. He smiled at Koji when he emphasized the "Mars" pronunciation.
Kyle and Danny knew that was their clue to leave. The rose from their seats, thanked Dave and Hal for all they had done, and left the room with Koji and Duskin trailing them.
When they boarded the Mars, they found Jesse Gross and Curtis Nichols were working at the stern of the shuttle putting together what looked to be the metal frame for a bed.
"Uh, oh, be on alert, officers are on board," Jesse informed Curtis, as if he didn't know.
"Don't worry, you won't have to salute," Kyle kidded. "The captain said we should look at your work. It looks like you're putting a bed together."
"Yes sir, we are" Jesse said with a smile and a quick salute. "I know it's not in the regulations, and if you were on a couple day trip, meh, you can all squeeze in. But damn, three to four weeks… you need more than three beds. Would you like a tour? Well, maybe Danny doesn't need one since he's the chief pilot and knows the shuttles almost as good as I do, but maybe the other Commander Robinson or the boys would like to see how this works."
"I would," Koji said eagerly. He was always eager to find out where he would be sleeping and doing other things. Then he realized he may have spoken out of turn and looked up at Kyle for forgiveness. Kyle smiled and nodded, and Koji smiled back, knowing he wasn't in trouble.
"Okay," Jesse began, "these shuttles are built to do long distance trips if needed. They usually don't, but they have three beds stacked over each other for overnight trips. There's going to be six of you, in three beds. Like I said, one night, but you tough guy officers can live with it, but this is a lot longer. So, Curtis and I procured some metal work from shuttle bay stores, with the okay of Commander Boyer, to construct one more bed big enough to sleep two more.
Which space is for me and Koji?" Duskin asked.
"That will be up to you guys," Jesse said. "And by you guys, I mean your dads. Remember, somebody's gotta be awake and on watch all the time, so all six of you will never be sleeping at once. But, I suppose you three kids will be."
"The bunks have privacy curtains, right?" Kyle asked.
"Curtis knows that one," Jesse said, trying to get his teammate involved.
Curtis, who preferred to stay in the background, gave the answer. "Yes, you can see where they hang at each bunk. We took them to the laundry, and they should be done real soon."
Jesse proudly went continued talking about the bed. "We have the bed set up so we can tie it down to a hook we attached to the bulkhead and raise one end up and tie it down to another hook. The hooks are attached with Pachat Glue, so it will be easy to use the Pachat Solvent to dissolve it and remove the hooks' attachment off the bulkhead. (Pachat Glue came from the Pachat plant which was found on the Earth colony).
"Why not just use one of the inflatable mattresses? Wouldn't it be a lot less trouble to store?" Danny asked.
"We thought about it, and you're right, it would be a lot less trouble to inflate it when you need it and deflate it when you don't. But Curtis suggested we check with Science first, which we did. Lieutenant Abernathy suggested we ask crewman Crisman about it." Crewman Lamont Crisman, a thirteen-year-old five-ten Black-kid, was a lab technician who had been studying atmospheric effects during his education shift. Lamont didn't have the opportunity to attend the Space Academy but made an impression in a space camp which earned him an invitation to enter the Explorer program as a crewman. His ambition was to move up in the Science hierarchy and he studied hard to get an opportunity to become a science officer someday. He also enjoyed playing one-on-one basketball against Kyle on the Holodeck when they could get together to do it.
"He said he thought it was doable but didn't like the idea of taking that amount of air out of shuttle's air supply for that much time and then dumping it back into the system. He told us it should be tested first. I didn't think we had the time to test it, so we went with the bedframe idea."
"The freezer and fridge will be loaded with tasty food prepared by Chef Randy for you guys to microwave, along with cereal and shit like that."
Duskin looked quickly at Koji and both boys giggled.
"Oops, sorry sirs." Jesse quickly apologized.
"They've heard the word before," Danny scolded. "But be a bit more careful, crewman."
By being referred to as crewman instead being called by name, Jesse knew he had just been politely read out. It wasn't the first time for him, and he always recovered quickly. Besides, he and Danny were often intimate, at least as far as mutual masturbation and Danny giving blow jobs were concerned, and he knew his time in the doghouse was just going to be a matter of seconds. Danny's little act was pretty much for show.
"Do you guys have any more questions?" Jesse asked. Nobody did. "Then the next time you board the Mars it will be all set up for your long distance flight.
Kyle and Danny waited for Koji to say "Marsh" but all he did was give them a silent grin as if to say he was fully capable of keeping quiet when he had to.
As Danny, Koji, and Duskin disembarked the shuttle, Kyle stayed behind. Had it been Danny, Jesse would have had thoughts of the sexy officer giving him and Curtis back-to-back blow jobs, or even taking care of both of their cocks at the same time. Since it was Kyle, he was certain this visit was going to be ship's business. He couldn't help but wonder how Kyle and Danny ever managed to have sex with each other. Jesse was a little surprised then it turned out that Kyle's business ended up being more personal.
"Great job, Jesse and Curtis. You two have been right on top of things. The extra bed idea and how you went through channels to get the material was epic."
"Thanks, Kyle. Curtis and I asked Operations if they could do the work. They said because the work would be on a shuttle and not on the ship, the work was supposed to be done by Engineering. So, I asked Engineering, but they said the Hooker needed help with some Engineering problems, so they had other priorities. We volunteered because we knew you would want to leave before they could do the work. Besides, I really love doing this kind of shit," Jesse explained. "The bed really isn't necessary, but we thought it would help make things more comfortable for everybody."
"That it will." From what he knew of the two crewmen, Kyle was certain that the true story was that the bed had been entirely Jesse's idea. He was right on the mark, that is exactly how it happened. "You guys really thought things out and it looks like it's all going to be ready soon."
"Like, it will be ready tomorrow."
"Jesse, you're a really smart guy. You'd be doing really well as an officer if you'd stuck with the Academy."
"I don't like the studying shit." With the two boys gone, Jesse figured he didn't have to be as careful with his language. "As much as I wanted to be in space, I dropped out, which didn't make my parents happy, and returned home and went back to high school. I figured I could work on a passenger ship or a freighter after I graduated. But then I got called by somebody in Admiral Mirah's office saying I was qualified to be a crewman if I wanted it. He didn't have to ask twice and here I am." Kyle knew that Curtis had problems because he'd come from a dysfunctional family and couldn't stay in class. Even though he had been a poor student, he succeeded in making an impression on one of his instructors and ended up on the Sooloo.
"With your brain and the way you work, you should think about taking the Academy program virtually. Danny's brother Tommy is doing it, and as I'm sure you know, so are some of your fellow crewmen."
"Right now, I'm happy doing the basic school shit I gotta keep up with and working on the shuttles. Like I said, I love this job and don't see why I should study all that Academy stuff when I'm doing a job I like, and I like just being a crewman."
"I gotcha, Jesse. But I still think you should give it some serious thought. Hell, while you work on these babies of yours, you should start thinking about flying them someday." Kyle paused and then said, "Thanks again for the special work you've done on the Mars. I'll make sure it's noted in your file." Kyle turned and left to meet his family.
When the Robinsons went to dinner that evening, Kash asked if he and Jay could join them. Kyle and Danny were happy to have the opportunity for everyone to do a little bonding. After all, they were going to be together for a while.
"Are you sure we'll be okay in there?" Kyle asked Danny as they snuggled on the couch in their quarters.
"Trust me, I know the working of the shuttle bay," Danny assured his husband. "It's my job. I checked who's in there, you looked at the duty roster, and I know that no shuttles are due on or out in the next two hour. All the shuttles in the shuttle bay are in complete readiness. Koji and Duskin are staying with friends. And that bed is begging for a test."
Kyle and Danny had been talking about testing the temporary bed Jesse Grosse had built with a quick round of sexual acrobatics. "If we're going to be living there for three to four weeks, we really need to know how that bed will stand up," Kyle had said to Danny. "What better way to test it than subject it to some hard fucking?"
"Wouldn't wrestling match between Koji, Duskin, and Jay do an even better job?" Danny had asked.
"Do I really have to answer that question?" Danny laughed and shook his head.
Now they were ready to head to the Mars and put Jesse's handiwork to the test. "I'll ask one more time, are we going to be okay in there?" Kyle asked as they rose from the couch.
"What can go wrong?" Danny asked.
"Let me reintroduce you to Mr. Murphy."
"You worry too much, sweetie. It turns you into a sourpuss. Now, let's go while we still have plenty of time and FUCK!"
Kyle and Danny boarded the shuttle though the starboard hatch. Kyle reached for the keypad to set the alert chime on the door, but Danny stopped him. "If we're naked on the bed and the alert goes off, are we really going to have time to jump into your uniforms?" he asked.
"I guess not," Kyle answered. "We know I can get out of my uniform that quick since I've done it to jump your bones in our quarters, but getting in? If somebody boards the shuttle, we're doomed no matter what."
"Right, so let's be quick about it."
Danny unlatched the bed from the rear bulkhead and lowered it to the deck. "It's not very heavy and is easy to handle," Danny observed. "I don't think any of the three urchins could handle it, but for you, me, or Kash it's a piece of cake."
"Could two of them handle it?" Kyle asked.
"Probably, but we'd need to give them some instruction first." Danny latched the bed to the deck, which was actually the stern hatch. "But now, the question is, can we handle taking our uniforms off."
"I think it works like this," Kyle said as he kicked off his slippers and trousers almost at the same time. In what seemed like an instant the two were naked and kissing madly on the bed.
"Why we named the ship the Joseph Hooker?"
One of our editors was Darrell R Hooker, so we looked for a famous person named Hooker for which to name the ship. We came across a famous General of the Civil War named Joseph Hooker, so we gave the ship his name as a way to honor our editor. Sadly, Darrell passed away on Wednesday, 22 March 2022, and so we honor him with this memorial and this ship.
Darrell not only edited Voyagers, but many of our personal stories, like Piano Forte, Priorities, Another Chance and Still Another Chance. The Voyagers authors appreciate everything Darrell did to help make Voyagers and our own stories better than what we could have done alone. Thank you, Darrell, for your contributions to our work.
Darrell also edited the stories written by the late Juju Author and countless others.
TrueFan, Zarek A Dragon and Douglas DD
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