Paidi Nisi (Boy Island) Edited

by: dnrock(dnrock@rock.com)




I need to apologize to my readers. I found it critical to take a posting hiatus back in June and I failed to let you readers know. I am now back in the saddle with my field work out of the way. The editor has been more then busy too. He has not sent any more edited chapters of late either. Never fear, we are on a chapter a week schedule once again. I will post 9 and 10 later this week as I know I will be traveling for then next two weeks at least.


A kind and skilled editor has undertaken to do just that edit this story. We are reissuing it in the revised and edited html format. I trust all of you readers will enjoy our story. Nifty can also use help. This author needs a skilled editor to properly deliver the story. Nifty needs your support to deliver all the stories here. Financial contributions to Nifty are gratefully accepted.



Nine: It's Just Family¬ ¬


Max like Seb, slept both in the car and during the flight back. He woke up as Thanos throttled back the mighty Jackobs and lowered the flaps. No sooner had the forward motion stopped, Max ripped off his head set and began unbuckling his seat belt. Vlasis' huge hand suddenly reached from the right seat pinning the boy in place. "Not until the prop stops turning and the pilot tells you to open the hatch." Max said nothing but did produce one super pout expression on his face.


Thanos shut down the engine and nodded to Max, who bolted out the door jumping to the ground on a dead run for his brothers, who were standing a safe distance away.


"Sevastian Papas, Sevastian Papas," he shouted in Russian. Max literally flew into Seb, knocking him over, kissing him. "You are the best brother in the world. .. you are the best ... I love you Sevastian Papas," he exclaimed between kisses. Thanos and Vlasis knew what this was all about but the others stood around mystified. It was obvious Max was happy about something and that something must be their other little brother.


Thanos explained that Seb had requested, on Max's behalf, this addition to the Memory Wall. He recited the inscription which read: Captain Lieutenant Ganadie Troyan and the 117 other brave sailors who perished on the SSGN Kursk, August 12, 2000 [Author's Note: Ganadie Troyan is a fictional name. The 118 brave sailors who perished on the Kursk are not fictional. They are memorialized at russialink.org.uk/Kursk.] Almost instantly someone began singing: "Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, Who bidd'st the might ocean deep It's own appointed limits keep; O hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea." (from Hymn for Travelers and the Absent, William Whiting, 1825-78)


Everyone joined in except Max and Seb, who did not know the piece. They were both getting tear filled eyes, however. They did understand its meaning. Thanos put his arms around Max's and Seb's shoulders and talked to them on the way to the house. "We are all very proud to you two, very proud. Even if your are both thieves." Max looked horrified but Seb seemed to get a little twinkle in his eye.


"But dad, we would." Thanos interrupted. "You have stolen our hearts." Now Max got it and started to smile. Seb had a retort, however. "Not so, no theft occurred, it was an even up trade, ours for yours," he quipped doing his best but unsuccessful job to contain a giggle.


Thanos wondered if he was just a bit to successful with these new sons. "If they are this cleaver at almost 11 what is in store for me at 14 or 15?" What indeed, one may ask? It is sure, that just as in that famous Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times," it will be that and then some. Seven sons can produce nothing less. He and Dem could have stopped at three. In fact, they probably could have left the three with their mothers. No one forced them to look for four more. No, they did what they did as free agents and against any advice they would have been given, had either of them sought it.


Seeing how Max and Seb went from strangers to brothers in less than two months was all the reassurance Thanos needed. They were doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons. Case closed.


........................


"What on earth is gong on in there," Dem ask? Ask, is probably just a bit to polite a term. Demanded to be told, is more like his tone of voice.


"I have no idea, sounds like a council of war doesn't it?"


"No Thanos, it sounds like the war."


They stood in the hall outside the dorm listening, trying to decide what if any actions they, the parents, should be taking. Everyone was trying to talk at once, that was obvious. They were speaking a mixture of Greek and English with a bit of Russian and some French tossed in. Since no one could possible make any sense of it, volume was replacing eloquence, with punctuation by laughter.


Thanos knocked on the door but no one heard it or chose to answer. Dem, opened the door and they walked in. The boys were all gathered at the far end of the room around Yannie's computer. Every one was talking at once and pointing at the screen. Dem and Thanos stood, mouths hanging open for some long seconds. One would have thought the boys were looking at some kind of funny movie or perhaps some heterosexual porn. But no, the screen had only text.


"Um, may we interrupt," Thanos asked?


"Quite!" Dem boomed in his deepest baritone voice. The boys fell silent.


"It sounded like a small war was taking place in here," Dem continued.


The boys parted like the Red Sea, giving a clear view of Yannie and his computer.


"Well, all I have to say is, to hell with her and her stupid husband" Yannie exclaimed!


"Okay Yannie, but who is the her, are you talking about your mother" Thanos asked?


"My former mother, you mean. She can't do that to me, I won't stand for it," Yannie stated.


"Ya, we won't let her take him away." "We will fight." "Its not fair." "They can't do it." "They have to get past me first." These and many other things were being said, at rather high volumes and all at once. Dem and Thanos still had no clear idea what they were talking about.


Dem held up his hands. They stopped and he pointed to Yannie.


"My mother sent me an e-mail, telling me that she has filed with the court to gain my custody and a police boat will be docking here tomorrow to bring me to Athens." Yannie said. The boys were all about to start again but Dem preempted them by holding up his hands.


"That is not how it works, Yannie. Let me read that message," Thanos said. Yannie's face darkened as he realized dad would not rally to his defence as his brothers had.


"We need to get the facts all laid out first and see if this is a real threat or a tempest in a tea pot," Dem admonished.


"Do you mind if I read this out loud," Thanos asked Yannie? This was his privet mail and he was under no obligation to share it. Although it was obvious he had already shared at least part of it with his brothers.


After the usual mother/son chatter and news about his two, half sisters and stepfather; as kind of an after thought she mentioned that her brother, (his uncle who is a lawyer), was looking into having the custody agreement revised. So far all this was innocuous. "Phaedra was always threatening to do this, you know," Thanos blurted out to no one special. He read further but quickly became confused and had to reread.


It was a disjoint rant, about how she thought Yannie was being mistreated, poorly educated and not being given his proper standing and his birth right, being the first born, ignored. "Well you were first, by let me see ten days, hum." She accused his half brothers and "those adopted ones", of stealing his inherence and of Thanos and Dem mismanaging his trust fund. The part that got everyone's dander up was her accusation that Yannie was being held on the island against his will and that she was sending the authorities to rescue him, in the next day or so. In her home he would be treated like the prince he is.


"Do you want to go and live with your mother and stepfather," Thanos inquired?


"No, no way. Prince my ass, besides, if that means being under a microscope, like those poor British kids, count me out."


"Why not Yannie, your mother loves you and Matthias leads an exciting life, you get on with him don't you," Dem said? The other boys all wanted to jump in but realized that Dem and Thanos wanted to get Yannie's prospective.


"Her freedom is doing what she tells me. My mother wants to control everything. Who my sisters have as friends, how they dress, even what music they listen too. She would not let me do sports or anything. She would control me just like she controls Matthias. She is the one who picks his roles and gigs. Matthias is pussy whipped." He used the English phrase pussy whipped, to mean controlled by a woman. Jason translated it for Max and Seb.


"Do you have any idea what she is talking about in that rant of hers," Thanos asked?


"I think it is clear she does not like my brothers or you two."


"That may be but I suspect their is something more to it than that. Has she said anything lately," Thanos asked?


"Just her usual, you know, she thinks I am better than everyone else and I should be treated special." He looked at his brothers not wanting to be fully forthcoming with some of her more hurtful comments about them. Dem gave him an encouraging hand sign to continue. "She has never liked the idea that Spiros' and Photois' mother's families are not as, as, good as hers. I don't want to say what she thinks about..." his voice trailed off and Thanos jumped in.


"Orphans are not good enough to be her son's brothers," Dem added. Dem and Thanos would have liked to speak more bluntly about her. They would in privet, oh yes they would, but not in front of Yannie or the others. The one thing they knew that the boys didn't, was her leadership role in the little sex play activities, when they were 14. It was far greater than the other girls from both a participation and organizational aspect, for example.


"When did Phaedra start turning up the rhetoric," Dem inquired?


"Just after we got back from St. Petersburg. She was going on about our exploits and how dangerous it was and if I would come and live with her, I would not need guards or be put in danger." Yannie said this with a mocking tone of voice. "She is right I would not need guardians, I would be under house arrest, like my sisters. She thinks high Hellenic Culture is seeing her husband perform." Yannie opened his mouth wide and poked his index finger in and out, to indicate how much he thought the man's performances, "Sucked". The truth is, as an actor he was reasonably good in modern works and well thought of in classical drama. Obviously not a teenage boy's cup of tea, as the British say.


The other boys could not keep quiet any longer. "Did she say that, under house arrest," Spiros asked?


"No, she said I would be free but I know her idea of freedom . It is doing what she wants, when she wants it. My sisters keep me informed, you know. What's this trust fund thing?"

"Thanos and I did not want to tell you about it until you were older. In short, when you were born, both families put a lot of money in a trust fund for each of you. Your mother's families, except Phaedra's by the way and us, have made additional contributions." Dem turned to the adopted boys. "Thanos and I establish funds for you boys as well."


"When you are 18 you will be able to access some of the money for educational purposes and after 21 a little more and so on. You are all young men of independent means. We chose not to tell you about this until you are older. The idea is, you should learn to earn you own way in the world, before you get handed a huge pile of money. The trust funds are all in Swiss banks and managed by the best professional managers we could find. While your parents or other relatives can put money in, no one, not even you, can get it out, except under the rules established when the trust was created. The only one who knows the magic account numbers is our Swiss lawyer. If Phaedra or anyone else, thinks they can gain control of or influence those investments, they are drinking their own wine."


"Does my mom know that?"


"She should, its all in the contracts our parents signed on our behalf, before you were even born. It is all part of the adoption papers too. Her brother knows, even if she forgets. I have always hoped one or two of you would follow Thomas and I in the shipping company and Dem wouldn't mind if at least one wants to be a medical doctor, those are your choices not ours," Thanos stated.


"I think you are being kind Thanos, I suspect she is making these acquisitions to try and foster discontent in our family," Dem suggested. Thanos and Dem have always been very careful not to bad mouth the living mothers or their families, not that they haven't wanted to from time to time. It is just a poor idea to attack a boy's mother. Even though they knew in the past that Phaedra and the others to a lesser extent, had made disparaging comments about them. This puts the child in the middle of a parental dispute or difference. It just won't work in the long run.


Yannie looked at his brothers. "Well it won't work, we may not be adults but we are sure to smart to be fooled by such an obvious trick." The brothers all immediately agreed.


"Do you think she can win in court?"


"No, she has no credible evidence to present and we have been meticulous in living up to our obligations about your visitations and contact. It has always galled her that we would not make changes in our schedule just to accommodate her desires or give you more time with her than Photois and Spiros have with their mothers," Thanos answered.


"In fact, we have often given you three more time with your mothers than prescribed in the contract. Sometimes over your protestations, if I recall," Dem added.


"We won't let anyone take you away if you don't want to go Yannie. I say we boys make a plan," Jason offered. The other five were quick to agree. Thanos scrolled the e-mail message again and reread the passage about a boat picking Yannie up.


It said: "I know you are being forced to live on that reached island and that you would much rather be in Athens with your real family. I am having the authorities rescue you. They will liberate you in the next few days..."


Thanos turned around and paces the floor from one end of the room to the other. The other were all engaged in a highly animated conversation. The boy were already planning to "repel all boarders" a phrase they picked up from some pirate or sailing ship book they had been passing around. The C. S. Forester books are popular with these lads, among others. Kemp had a small collection he shared with his students.


"No," Thanos said softly. "That is just what she wants us to do. That is not to say we may not be forced into such an action but lets see if we can turn this situation to our advantage. I assume you want our help and protection, Yannie?"


Yannie kissed dad. "I knew you would not let them take me. I want to be with my real family, right here on Paidi Nisi." He was immediately mobbed by his brothers.


"Okay, this is the plan. 1. Yannie, you answer your mother's e-mail. I will tell you what needs to be said. You put it in your own words. 2. Send a copy of both messages, under separate cover, to Thomas and to our legal council in Athens. 3. Dem, raise the quarantine flag temporarily, on the mast at the end of the cay, and secure the Aphrodite. 4. We meet with everyone in the dining room in 30 minutes. 5. Spiros, go to the security office and tell them to alert me if anyone even gets close to the island. Only use secure hard lines, radio communication are off the air until further notice. Have them get everyone to the dining room for the meeting. 6. Photois, run the spy ware programs on every computer connected to the network. 7. Max and Seb go with Dem to the harbor and secure all the water craft. Take the keys from all the power boats and make sure everything is locked and chained to the wharf. 8. Jason and Kon, go to the hangers and take the master fuse from all the aircraft and secure the keys for all the quads. Someone find Angelos and ask him to come here, "double quick."


Thanos did not think all this was really necessary but he figured it would serve as both a good drill and let the boys think they were making a real contribution.


"Okay son, I think you want to piss her off and the best way to do that is: 1. refuse to even consider leaving the island until we come to Athens for the Olympics. Tell her you are having way to much fun being with your little brothers, who need their big brother Yannie. 2. You have way to much school work right now for any kind of vacation or frivolous holiday. Hum, let me see, oh yes. Tell her about all the dangerous things you are doing, flying lessons, para-saling, and deep sea diving. Oh yes, how about training for the Iron Man, no scratch that, boxing. 3. Tell her you love her and your sisters but under no circumstances are you leaving your brothers company, to become a "Nancy boy" for her or anyone else. 4. Tell her you are confused by her ranting and have no intention of going anywhere with anyone. The important thing is to say all this firmly but politely."


Yannie began writing his response by taking her letter and fitting his answers and comments into it. Until it got to the latter rant part. Then he addressed points three and four. Thanos read over his shoulder and made a few suggestions, mostly softening his language. It came out sounding way to polite and way to nice. Thanos was not quite sure if this would piss her off enough to do something stupid. He thought a bit and said, "add this, if you still insist on sending people to try and take me illegally, against my will, from my home and my dads and brothers, I will be forced to tell my Great Uncle Konstantinos and my grandfathers."


Yannie felt a lot better about being so firm. He was sure if the response was being designed to get her angry, this defiance would do the trick.


"What good is it to make threats about grandfathers and uncle Kon?"


"The custody arrangements were negotiated by Konstentime with our fathers, Phaedra's and mine. He prepared the document. They will not take lightly to her making changes in it, for frivolous reasons. The only way she can get any kind of legal removal order from the court, is by making false accusations. Your Great Uncle is a very highly placed judge, remember. He will not take it lightly if she attempts that."


During the meeting Thanos and Dem outlined the problem. Angelos thought she must be planning to have Yannie kidnapped and then when we were unable to produce him or show he is safe, get the court to see it her way. The boys were horrified by the thought. Thanos and Dem did not seem phased in the least. "I don't know for sure yet, obviously these "authorities" she is talking about are either acting on false information or people she has hired. In any event, we "repel all boarders", and keep our boys safe. The boys like that one.


One other thought occurred to Angelos. He wondered if Phaedra had taken some social services type into her confidence and that person had overtly or inadvertently, given information to some of the criminal/anarchist elements of Greek Society; since she is not a professional but a upper economic class housewife, with more time and money than anything else, perhaps she has been used.


As the discussion continued, the boys began to realize just why the bulk of their tutors and coaches were ex-military, and why all the security in general. The question was run or fight. Thanos had a sudden urge to visit Cyprus, the Twin Otter would get them there in about two hours. The boys didn't think much of that. They were spoiling for a fight. "Ah, the invincibility of youth," Angelos thought.


Angelos was on the phone to Papas Shipping's security chief. He works closely with the police, customs and the navy/coast guard. With all the security concerns related to the upcoming Olympic games, cooperation between them had been greatly enhanced. What he was able to learn in a matter of minutes was no official or government craft had left from any port for Paidi Nisi, nor were any scheduled. The Police had not received a complaint from social services, who rely on them for enforcement.


Kemp suggested they do a field trip to Thira (Santorini) which is south of Paidi Nisi a couple of hours sail on the Aphrodite. "That way we are not running away but just taking advantage of the situation to see some real good geology."


Thanos gave the order for Elias and Pavlos to join all the boys, himself, Dem his nurses, the non military trained academic tutors like Kemp and Phillip to join them. Angelos went to the armory and prepared his weapons. Thanos went to the security office to look at the radar and satellite maps. The electronics tech had already reconfigured the Doppler radar used for weather to sea state mode, which would pick up even the smallest of water craft such as a sea-scooter or a small zodiac. Nothing to report so far. He had set the alarm if any new objects appeared. The standard radar which was relatively old technology, kept a full sweep of the sea and airspace. It showed the normal high flying aircraft and usual shipping, most of which was approaching from Crete or Athens or out of Naxos.


Thanos downloaded the most recent SPOT images from earlier that afternoon. Sure enough their was a curser anchored on the other side of the nearest island, also uninhabited, about 25 km (15.5 away). It was about the right size as the one stolen from a marina on the mainland several days before. He now began to agree with Angelos these may be a reincarnation of the N-17 group. They had been laying low since 02. If so these are very bad people. Truly cowards, since they use bomb and rockets to make political statements. They killed one a large ship owner and a politician in the past.


Thanos told his men if they need to shoot, shoot to kill. Right after dark the Aphrodite sailed out of the harbor with no lights, making haste toward Naxos. Just after midnight Angelos reported to Thanos that a small craft, probably a Zodiac, was approaching Paidi Nisi from the southeast. They had watched it leave the neighboring island on a more or less straight line. He had sent George and Nik to the shore to see what they were up to. He then put the island under blackout conditions. With no moon, this would make it just a bit more difficult.


George and Nik watched from their hiding place, using night vision goggles, as two men beached their Zodiac. Nik and George were hidden behind some tall grass on the low sand duns, about 100 m (100 yards) further down. The intruders did not try and hide it, but left it more or less in plane sight, just pulling it up above the high tied line.


Angelos pickup their brief radio message on the scanner. It was still unclear if theses men were scouts on a reconnaissance or if they were some kind of back up, intending to lay low until the morning. Probably both. He sent a guard to unlock the door to the most uncomfortable little storage building on the island. It was one that he had a clear view of but one that did not provide much of a view of anything.


Nik and George followed the intruders as they made their way toward the compound. They did make one brief side trip to let the air out of the rear compartment of the Zodiac and hide their emergency hand pumps, both water and air, in the tall grass. When Nik reported this to Angelos he realized the intruders were now trapped on the island until morning.


The house and wharf area are lined with motion activated lights. They are easy to spot as they have little blinking red lights. These would keep the intruders away from the important buildings. Others like the hangers and boat houses are equipped with both lights and door open alarms, in the security office. Angelos and the others watched as they made their re-con and return to the zodiac. Suddenly the radio traffic picked up. They were reporting exactly what Angelos had wanted them too. Since they were trapped they were told to hide, be in the dock area and slip on board when they would not be noticed and to maintain radio silence.


That was all Nik and George needed to know. Before our intrepid intruders got 10 m (300') from the Zodiac they were naked, bound and place in cold storage, the uncomfortable shed. Nik turned off their radios and assembled all their gear: AK47's, hand guns, knives and so on.


This was reported to Thanos by cell phone and he in turn summoned the local Coast Guard commander, Commander Volos. Volos was not pleased about being summoned to his office in the middle of the night. When he reviewed the evidence and the recordings of the radio briefings from Angelos, his mood changed dramatically.


He got the Athens police chief and the National Security people on side and coordinated. Commander Volos sailed with the Aphrodite back toward Paidi Nisi, accompanied by one of his fastest patrol vessels, which had all it could do to keep up with the Aphrodite.


Angelos was keeping Thanos informed of the mystery cruiser's progress by cell phone and the messages were being relayed to the cutter by light signal. The course they were on was not directly for Paidi Nisi but toward Leros a large island to the east. At the last minute they would turn do south and trap the mystery vessel in the harbor. Since the cutter was half astern and just a bit to the starboard of the Aphrodite it would appear on their radar as one vessel not two.


The boys were not all that keen on being kept in the dorm while all the interesting action was taking place on the upper deck. They were all excited about the possibility of some action.


About a half an hour after sunrise, 5:30 am, the mystery curser docked at Paidi Nisi. Angelos secured the bow and stern lines. He secured them, using a most difficult knot, making a quick release impossible. He was dressed in his fanciest uniform, with the name plate "Harbor Master" in big bold letters.


On the fantail of the curser were three men, dressed in what looked like Coast Guard uniforms. Angelos is a former navel officer, he could see these men were pretend, not real sailors. The officer jumped to the dock and saluted. Angelos paused a moment to let the officer introduce himself. He did not. "State your business here, lieutenant?"


"I am here to execute a removal order for one Yannie Papas." He motioned for his men to disembark but Angelos held up his hand. To stop them.


"You have no permission to come ashore yet, sailors."


"Before I even acknowledge his presence or absence I need to see your orders, boy." He was goading the fellow and he loved it. Angelos had two radios, one in his pocket with an ear piece and one clipped to his belt with the mike key held open. The control room was patching him through to everyone else and to the Aphrodite. Angelos did not appear to be armed, he had a small 9 mm in his back pocket. The lieutenant had a holstered side arm. The sailors also had side arms. The helmsman of the cutter was moving around in his wheel house. A real Coast Guard helmsman would have remained fixed at his station until told otherwise.


"I have a court order right here." He held out an envelope, pulled from his front breast pocket. Angelos moved to his left and took the paper from a bit of a distance. The last thing he wanted to do was get in the line of fire or some kind of physical struggle.


"I will look at this while you go and get your Coast Guard orders."


"My orders were verbal." He was slowly backing up. Just as he was about to send one of his sailors to get "the orders" a shot rang out and the Helmsman fell onto the deck. With a crash.


Angelos held out his hand for the officers side arm. "My men never miss and have been given shoot to kill orders, as you can see." The officer hesitated. But it was to late Vlasis and Pavlos were standing behind his two sailors, having come out of the water, with knives held at their backs. They could see the AK-47 laying on the deck next to the dead helmsman.


"Your side arm please." He handed it over. The two sailors were now disarmed as well and laying on the deck being cuffed, Elias style. He uses lots of duct tape. Two of the others came forward to take care of the officer, while the two intruders were being lead down the path.


The pretend officer and sailors were unceremoniously stripped to their underwear, like the two intruders and all five were forced to sit in the hot sun, on the open cay.


Presently the cutter pulled in behind the curser and the Aphrodite berthed. Everyone came flying off, Yannie in the lead. This was quite a crowd. Dem looked at the dead man and his assistants prepared the body for transport to Naxos. He made sure all the boys took a good look at the dead man. Not to be disrespectful but to give the boys some feeling for what happens when a real person is shot with a real bullet. Max and Seb became physically ill at the sight of human brains all over the wheel house. The marksman had drawn his bead right between the eyes.


Commander Volos was very hard on the five, demanding answers to his questions. He did not get that many. Meanwhile all the evidence was assembled and photographs taken, etc. Thanos had Yannie call his mother and Volos called the Athens police. Yannie did not want to call but Thanos made him. He was incredulous when she asked how he was and when she could expect him. At that point Yannie started to cry and handed the phone to Thanos.


"Phaedra dear, you have upset Yannie to the point he is crying and can't continue. I will put you on the speaker phone so he can hear you."


"Yannie what have they done to make your cry, my sweet prince? Are they being mean to you? Thanos you must be more careful you know how sensitive Yannie is."


"Phaedra, he is not crying for anything we did, he is crying because you have been such a fool and so self centered, that your actions got one of his would be kidnappers killed this morning. Do you have any idea what it looks like when a man is shot between the eyes? Yannie does. He is crying because he will not be allowed to visit you in jail. He is crying because you are so self centered that all you can think about is what you want. Not what he wants or what is best for him. That door bell dear Phaedra is the Athens police, coming to arrest you, as an accessory in the attempted kidnapping of Yannie Papas, from his home on Paidi Nisi Island. Say no more Phaedra, because this conversation is being recorded."


The cops could be heard in the background. Thanos spoke to Mat briefly, telling him what he should do, who he should call and finally that he better start wearing the pants in his family or his daughters will have a prison inmate for a mother. Phaedra could be herd in the background, telling the police they could not do this to her, did they know who she was and so on. "This drama is not a play Mat, it is real but you do get to influence the script."

............


"Yannie, I think you and the others had better get prepared for dealing with the media," Dem advised.


"What do you mean the media," Kon asked.


"The news will report everything about this, including Pheadra's stupidity, what her son's name is, why he is not living with his mother and step father and so on. If I know them they will try and get comments from any and all of you, as well as pictures," Thanos added.


"Oh no, does that mean they will be reporting who our mothers are." Spiros asked, pointing to Photois and himself.


"No but it will mean we must double our guard. I don't want pictures of you guys circulating in the press, so people can recognize any of us too easily. They will bring up St. Petersburg and Copenhagen again you know. I think we should spend some time in Canada this fall and maybe into the winter."


They of course had to travel back to Naxos and on to Athens. Almost everyone went on this trip since almost everyone had to give statements to the cops. Yannie pulled himself together and prepared his press releases and even wrote a short piece for a teen magazine about the incident.


Almost immediately after the word got out Stavros called and talked to the boys and Elias. They all had to reassure him, that at no time were any of them in danger. Thanos had his manager put him on a bus for Athens with some kind of urgent message, to be hand delivered. He was most surprised when he came in the front door of the office building and was greeted by the whole Aphrodite crowd and then some.


He would over night in the dorm with his new friends. Now that school was out he was working six half days a week. Reports were good about his abilities and his interest. While he liked and respected everyone, it was obvious that he thought most of Elias. Elias seemed to like the boy a lot too. Thanos suggested that Elias spend some of his summer time off in Nafplion. Stavros would be an excellent guide and it would provide a good chance for the two to get better aquatinted. To Elias' credit, as much as he obviously wanted to do this, he thanked Thanos for the suggestion and thought it best to mull it over some first.


Max and Seb were sending long e-mails to Björn who was getting more and more excited about the Olympics every day. Photois was getting more and more excited about holding hands with Jytte ever day too. His brothers weren't to concerned about her appearance but liked the frequent e-mails, since he seemed extra passionate and sexually stimulated by them; since the pubescent boys were not encouraged to masturbate but to seek out relief from each other, this was a definite benefit.


The urgent message Stavros was carrying was a recommendation from his manager to accept Stavros in the companies apprenticeship program. Young men and now ladies are taken into the program when they graduate from high school. They work part time for the company, gain practical experience and attend university or colleges, at company expense. The apprentice does have an obligation to work for the company as a journeyman for a time equal to their apprenticeship. Apprentices have a special uniform to identify them, when not at sea. Not all jobs are at sea anymore but every apprentice is expected to serve, at least in the summers at sea, just to find out what it is all about. These young people are treated as a class or group.


The apprentices are held in special regard by Spyridon. After all he started out at 12 as a cabin boy and move to apprentice seaman as soon as he was old enough. That is how he started and from it built his company almost from nothing. A lot has changed since then. In those days tall ships were still in service and coal fired steam was common. Cabin boys were common too. Not any more, now they employ stewards, who are minimum of high school graduates. Like all rules of thumb this one too has a few exceptions. One old captain, who started with him as an apprentice, over 60 years ago, still has a young lad in the cabin boy position. This is on one of the largest and most modern double hulled tankers in the fleet. His current cabin boy is a grandson. The Aphrodite can also have cabin boys, although no one has that position. Spyridon insists that he interview every apprentice applicant, he knows every one by name and insists on frequent progress reports about each. He probably knows more about them than his own children, to him they are like his children.


After the big greeting scean in the lobby, Stavros still had this important envelope in his hand. He was trying to give it to the security guards but seeing his identification badge the guard refused to take it. It was obvious he had no idea why he was even here or who Mr. Spyridon Papas was. The envelope did say "hand deliver". This was a kind of test to see how quick and creative the lad was. He studied the envelope for a few moments. "Where can I find Mr. Spyridon Papas," he asked the guard.


The guard smiled, his office in on the 18th floor," he pointed to the elevator bank, "your badge will get you in but I happen to know, he is not in it."


"Do you happen to know where he is, or can you find out," Stavros asked.


"I can call his secretary, just a moment." He picked up the phone giving a little signal to Spyridon, who stepped up behind the boy. Everyone else was doing their best not to giggle or indicate this was some kind of joke. Stavros was doing his best 14 year old serious act.


"She does not know but will page him, hold on a moment." A pager sounded its alarm right behind him. He jumped and looked around. He knew the face if not the first name of its owner. That was the face of the his employer's board of directors chairman. He knew this because a large photograph of him hung in the Nafplion office.


"Tell her I have the page please." The guard did and hung up the phone. Stavros was momentarily stunned but when everyone began to laugh he got the message smiled and handed the envelope to the kindly old man. "Mr. Santopapus ask me to hand deliver this."


Spyridon took the envelope looked at the address. "That is my name so it must be for me, Stavros. I trust your journey was a pleasant one?"


"Ahh, yes sir." He was not sure exactly what to do. Spyridon extended his hand. "It is good to meet you in person." He examined the lad's face closely. "Your friends have told me a great deal about you, I see your face has not suffered. I guess my son's medical skills are as good as he claims." Now everyone was hoot and laughing. He put his arm around Stavros' shoulder and started him toward the elevator. "You and I have a little business to conduct. Would you feel more comfortable if Elias sits in."


"Yes sir." Spyridon signaled to Elias to come and told the others, Stavros would meet them in the cafeteria.


Once in the elevator the old man turned to Elias, "This is a fine looking boy you have befriended, his manager tells me he does very good and dedicated work." Before Elias could answer he turned to Stavros. "All the apprentices here call me Papa, behind my back. They think I don't know. In privet you can call me that too, Okay."


Stavros smiled and nodded. He was still a little shy and not completely comfortable. When they exited the elevator Spyridon told the secretary to phone Nafplion and tell them Stavros arrived and is meeting with me he will probably not be in Nafplion for a day or two.


Stavros was some impressed with the executive offices. He was some impressed with the office complex and with Athens too. Never having been away from Nafplion before, this was all very impressive. The old man's office was even more impressive with models of ships, photographs and paintings on the walls, huge leather chairs around a low coffee table and a monstrous desk. The windows looked out over the city toward the Acropolis. No sooner had they sat in those large leather chairs, coffee and soft drinks appeared. Spyridon turned off his pager and sat down.


After a bit of chat and some refreshments. Spyridon held up the envelope and asked, "Do you know what is in here?"


No Sir, ah Papa." Elias didn't know for sure either. The old man opened the envelope.


"It is your application to be appointed as cabin boy/apprentice seaman. I know this comes as a surprise to you. I have one for Elias too but before I go further I have a little story to tell. He reached for his coffee taking a sip. This is not the kind of coffee you think, it is Greek style coffee, thick, sweet and served in small cups called a demitasse.


Spyridon rambled on about being a very poor boy from the northwest coast of Greece, from a very small village. About his experiences as a cabin boy and so on. That he interviewed every apprentice the company ever hired and that he knew their names and could recite the progress of every one. Many of his captains and senior executives had started as apprentices.


"Since my day the rules have changed a bit. We in fact have very few openings for boys or girls younger than 18. We do have a few. Now days we require every apprentice to have a sponsor. That sponsor is responsible for the apprentices' education and cultural assimilation. Also for his or her protection, like a "god father". Something you Elias, have proven over the years, to be very good at. My grandsons are a fine example of your skills. Now that you know where I am coming from, Stavros what do you say?"


"I am thrilled, honored, yes sir, yes Papa."


"Elias, will you be the boy's sponsor?"


"Yes as long as I can remain assigned to the Aphrodite."


"Of course, you understand that being a sponsor is not like being a supervisor or employer. Thanos is his direct supervisor." The old man winked at Elias who was not 100% sure what that was to mean. One thing it would mean is any relationship he would have with the boy was mutual and unofficial. "Stavros, one thing you should know, your father and mother have given my family your guardianship, contingent on you taking this position. To get your mother's agreement I promised half of your wages would be sent to her. When I was an apprentice almost all of my wages went to my family. It was worth it though, my younger brother is a high court judge today and my sisters managed to get good educations."


"Elias you can advocate for the lad, that's part of being a sponsor."


"Well, Spyridon since times have changed I'm not sure you can just give part of his wages away. Perhaps we should let Stavros have some say in this."


"You are absolutely right, times have changed. I had to make that promise to get his mother's cooperation." He wrote a number on the back of the application forms. "That is your monthly pay," He divided by two, "that is how much your mother gets."


Elias smiled. Stavros was shocked, he had no idea how well he would be paid and frankly though it a bit too much. "That is twice the going rate Stavros. Spyridon has just given you your first business lesson. If you give your word it must be kept, but that word must not be detrimental to someone else." Obviously some kind of contract must have been signed with the mother.


"And my father, how did you get him to agree?"


"Santopapus did that, I believe he suggested, agree or Elias would bring him the papers in person." They all laughed about that one.


"Elias will take you to personnel and see you get your uniforms and so on. I want you to remember one thing. My door is always open to you, as it is for any apprentice, any time. In your specific case my family, my wife and I are now your guardians, we are here for you, just as we are for our children and grandchildren. Our home is now your home, its a bit like living with your football team but we hope you will like it. Elias take the lad to the cafeteria for lunch and I will see both of you at dinner tonight."


Ellis stood and shook the old man's hand. Stavros did the same but Spyridon pulled him close and bent over for a kiss on cheek, which Stavros delivered with much conviction. Stavros and Elias floated out of the office and down the elevator. Elias was overjoyed to have is little friend close to him. He hoped this relationship would grow as Thanos had suggested. He wanted it to grow, in fact he wanted Stavros to become his boy. He would court him as a lover but he must be patient. Stavros gave no thoughts to this kind of thing. He was overjoyed to be away from his father, with his new friends, boys his own age and with his protector and now sponsor.


In the cafeteria the gang had gathered for a mini celebration, mostly a toast to the new "brother". He was immediately mobbed by the boys and introduced to most of the tutors and guardians. This did not last to long since everyone had things to do. Angelos read out the "orders of the day". Stavros and Elias to personnel, etc.; Spiros to Thomas' office; Jason, Kon, Photois, Max and Seb along with George and Vlasis to tour Olympic venues and so on. Everyone to assemble in the lobby at 4 pm or at the Papas family home by 5 pm, unless on watch on the Aphrodite. We sail tomorrow for Nafplion and other interesting destinations at 9 am.


"Where is Dr. Koronios," Stavros asked?


"He and the nurses are at the children's hospital. His family sponsors free clinics for children and when ever he is in Athens he volunteers. He will be at the family dinner tonight," Elias replied.


In the Personnel Office they had many papers to sign. Stavros' photograph was added to the Apprenticeship Wall and he was issued his uniforms, uniform first, photograph after. Elias was given quite a look when he signed on as the boy's sponsor. That was because the usual additional remuneration of 10% was increased to 20. He didn't even know their was any remuneration for being a sponsor. That's why Spyridon made sure he had a higher reward. When he asked, the clark just smiled. "You can take it up with Thomas but he never overrules his father in these matters. He knows you would gladly do this for nothing extra, that's why it is so much more than normal. One of the reasons our non retirement turnover is so small." Spoken like a turn human resources functionary. What she didn't tell him was, half of Stavros' wages were coming from his, Spyridon's personal account, the half going to the boy's mother. She did not tell him because the little note in his hand writing said "confidential", next to the instructions. Which also means Stavros was not to be told either. That way he would appear on the companies books at the normal rate and he would not be taxed on money he never saw.


Is this a bribe? One could call it that. Is it charity? One could call it that too. Spyridon would call it a wise investment in the future of Papas Shipping. The MBA's on staff might find hard to understand or analyze but he built Papas by doing what was best for his employees. He knew what is best for Papas Shipping in the long run, is what is best for his employees in the short.


While all this was happening Thanos and Yannie had the unpleasant task of putting Phaedra in her place. Thanos was beginning to wonder if she was suffering from some kind of illness. Unfortunately Dem was would not be on hand to make that diagnoses.


Yannie was not happy about the meeting, he was still some pissed at his mother. (Narator's note: sometimes the author understates.) Thanos was not pleased since he saw nothing useful to come from it. Her father and Spyridon were not pleased since they both had business to run. Her husband was upset because he was told to sit in the back of the room and say nothing by her brother, the lawyer. He was not pleased since he could see there was nothing he could do to repair the damage. His hope was that she too would kept quiet. Thanos' uncle, the judge that brokered the deal in the first place, was not pleased, he had a busy court to run.


This was going to be a very difficult afternoon, that was for sure. Thanos knew it. He had sent for Dem but was told he was tending to several emergencies. Phaedra came in, her head down and her face mostly covered by a black scarf. She is a nice looking woman, tall for a Greek girl and rather slim. Unfortunately she did not have a chance to visit the hair dresser or spend hours on her makeup. It was out of jail and over to the offices.


They were meeting in the board room. After everyone was seated, Thanos pushed the button on a tape recorder and announced copies of the tapes would be made available to anyone who felt a need to have them. He thanked everyone for coming on such short notice. "It is June 15, 2004, we are in the board room of Papas Shipping, it is 1330 hours, I am Anthanasius Papas, we will move around the table and each of you can state your name please." Each did as requested. "Okay Kyriakos you requested this meeting, perhaps you would like to tell us why we are here."


"I think you all know that, we are here to review and revise the custody agreement for my nephew, Yannie Papas." Thanos gave Yannie the keep quiet sign, as he was about to tell his uncle a thing or two. "I must object to Yannie's presence in this meeting however. Phaedra and I believe he is to young to understand the subject and should be excluded." Yannie's eyes were glowing and he was getting pissed, real pissed. Thanos held up his hand and turned to Yannie. And in his most patronizing tone said,"Yannie, your mother and uncle think of you as to young and immature to understand the subject of this meeting." Spyridon looked at Vangelis, Phaedra's father and they rolled their eyes in unison. They know their grandson and they could see exactly what Thanos was up to. Mat could see his brother in law's tactic. Karyakos was about to be torpedoed by his own opening statement. Thanos put his hand on Yannie's arm in reassurance.


In as calm a voice, all be still Alto, as he could muster, he said, "I will be 15 in a few months and that would qualify me for service in the Hellenic Military. I understand both air and navel navigation and have qualified in both subjects, I have my third level, black belts in both Ti-quan-do and Karate, I have had articles published in several magazines and have been invited to write more. My self managed investments made more money this year than my mother spends on hats and shoes. I am a qualified archer and marksman. I am receiving the best education my father can provide and placed in the top 99th percent tile on my national exams. I will not be discriminated against because of my age or gender."


Kyriakos looked a Phaedra and she said, "Thanos you must send the boy our of the room."


"Must, I must, who the hell do you think you are, either of you, to make such a demand. I will not send him anywhere, nor will I ask him to do that which I know he will not agree. Nor should he."


"His mother requests him to be an obedient child and leave the room," Kyriakos said, ignoring Thanos' statement.


"If my mother wants to say anything to me, she can damn well speak for herself, uncle. She sure had a lot to say in her e-mails," he said, pushing copies forward across the table.


"Yannie please leave the room, don't be disobedient."


"No, I will not, I am not a chattel or possession. Your request has been acknowledged and rejected."


"Then you will have to be physically removed him from this room," Phaedra looked at her brother and her husband. Neither moved. Neither one was man enough to take on the boy physically, both were smart enough to realize if he didn't put them in the hospital, Thanos or the body guards just outside the door, would.


"Thanos please make him leave," Phaedra said in a pleading tone.


"No Phaedra, I will not for several reasons: 1. You have not presented any valid or logical reason for him to leave. 2. Since this meeting concerns him, he not only has a right to be here but I have an obligation to see that he stays. 3. Like it or not he is old enough to have a say in what he does and who he does it with. 4. I don't need to establish my authority and power over him, he respects me as I respect him, as a person and as a parent."


She pushed back her scarf and began weeping. Yannie was incredulous and bordered on curl in his critique.


"Mother, I can see why you do not also make a living on the stage. Your performance is well practiced but poorly given, leave the acting to Mat." He knew how to push her buttons and push he did. Phaedra instantly stopped crying and flew into a rage.


She wanted this and she wanted that. She demanded this and she demanded that. She was devastating in her criticism of Thanos, Dem, their other sons, the agreement and on and on. After about 5 minutes she blew herself out like an over inflated balloon. It was all about her, nothing about Yannie, her girls or Mat.


Kyriakos, was dumb founded, gobsmacked, he had never seen his sister like this; a spoiled, manipulative princess maybe but not like this. Mat and the grandfathers had smirks on their faces, they obviously knew it was coming, or smelled a victory. Thanos was enraged and primed, he was visibly shaking. Some how he kept his cool, no mean feat, given the insults and slurs hurled at him and those he loved.


"This meeting is over. I am sorry that you all wasted your time here this afternoon. I am sad that Phaedra showed her true feelings and personality. If this were one of Mat's plays it would be comic relief scene in a soap-opera drama. I am sorry that Yannie had to see his mother make a complete fool of herself. Under the terms of the existing agreement, which I see no logical or valid reason to amend, I am suspending your visitation rights until Yannie requests, in writing, that they be renewed. Look at page 12, second paragraph for the legalities, Kyriakos.


If Mat, his sisters and grandparents wish to visit with him they can do so in my father's home, you Phaedra are persona non grata until further notice." Thanos switched off the recorder.


Yannie rose and moved over to engage his grandfathers and great uncle. Mat came up to Thanos and shook his hand and whispered something to him, then moved over to Yannie and spoke to him, they smiled and shook hands. Mat may be pompous and ego driven in his professional life, a persona many actors project. He may be a controlled, pussy wiped husband. He may be less than effectual as a father figure but under it, he is a good person. In fact he is a gentleman of the old school and likeable.


Whether it was good acting or a reflection of a new reality, no one knew, but Mat totally controlled the situation, stole the scene, took Phaedra by the arm and lead her out. For now he was in control.


"You three planned this didn't you, you let me make a fool of myself to punish my sister," Kyriakos said to the older gentlemen.


"No son, to get your sister, my daughter back from her delusions and into some kind of help."


"Spyridon added, "In modern American terminology, `she must take ownership of her problems'".


"We grandparents love our children and we love our grandchildren, you know that from experience. No matter how much I love my daughter, I can not allow that love to cloud my judgment where my grandchildren are concerned, none of us can."


Yannie's Great Uncle rendered his judgment, "This boy has shown his metal and he is not wanting. It takes something special for a boy to stand up to his mother. We have all done it at some point in our lives, even you Kyriakos, we all know how hard that is. More so when that mother is in some kind of distress, as his must be. Yannie has taken a giant step toward becoming a man. Your fathers, brothers and grandparents are proud of you. Your mother will be too some day. Your sisters and dare I say stepfather, will thank you for showing them the way."


Yannie had been on emotional roller coaster for several days now. He fought the good fight and won, but at what cost? Teens can be highly emotional and overly self critical. Yannie is no exception.

...........


[The name Kursk comes from the largest tank battle of the Second World War or the Great Patriotic War, as the Russians call it. This was one with terrible losses on both sides but one in which the Russians prevailed. The Germans never recovered from those losses.]