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Connor and Kyle were sitting in the briefing room so they could work without distractions.
"I think we should start by trying to figure out the average speed we had to have been going to get as far as we did in the time we were at FTL-9." Connor suggested.
Kyle shook his head and said, "That really doesn't impact our test. What we need to do is to figure out whether the speed is constant or if it's logarithmic. If it's logarithmic then the longer we're at FTL-9, the further we'll go relative to our starting point."
Connor thought about it and said, "That makes sense. So, how do you think we should proceed?"
Kyle offered, "We should start by taking detailed readings of our exact position. Then, go to FTL-9 for a period of about 15 minutes. We're more than 5 light years from our destination so those short bursts shouldn't get us going so fast that we overshoot the destination."
Connor then continued, "So, then we'd take new measurements, calculating where we should be based on the theoretical speed and comparing it to where we are after the burst?"
"That's right. Then we do another burst of say 10 minutes following the same steps. After that we do one of 20 minutes. With those three readings, we can determine if the speed is constant or if it's increasing. If we find that it's increasing, we do another test of say 30 minutes. That way we can get an idea of the logarithmic curve. Once we're done, we recalculate our distance to our destination. Using the data we've amassed, we should be able to calculate how long a burst we'd need to get within ½ light year of the destination. Once there, we'd just use a lower FTL setting to get us the rest of the way."
"Dang Kyle, you really do know this stuff! I think we have our plan."
"Actually, I want to run my figures by Jace. If my method, logic or math is flawed, he'd be the one to catch it. I also want to present our plan to the Captain, so he can either tell us to go ahead, or whether he wants us to come up with an alternative."
Connor called Jace on the Comm. "Sir, can you meet Commander Robinson and me in the briefing room? We have what we feel is a workable plan, but would like you to review it."
"I'll be there in a few minutes. I'll have to make it quick because it's going to be time for me to watch my boys soon. Jordan is set to go on duty."
A few minutes later Jace entered and the two outlined their plan. He looked it over and thought the method was sound. He couldn't find any error in their math either. He told them to go ahead and present it to the captain. If asked, they can say he's approved the plan.
After thanking Jace, the pair took their notes, calculations and formulas to the Captain's ready room and rang the bell. Being told to enter, they gave the Captain an overview.
"We had Commander Blackwell review our data and he agrees that this is a workable plan." Connor volunteered.
"Looks good, Gentlemen. Good work. In the immortal words of a famous television Captain… Make it so."
The three laughed at the Captain's joke and the meeting broke up.
Aiden entered the conference room, having been summoned by the Captain. When he entered, he saw Dave, Hal and Jordan waiting for him.
"Commander Douglass reporting as ordered, Sirs."
Dave replied, "Take a seat, Aiden."
After he was seated, Dave opened up the meeting. "I'm told by Jordan that you two interviewed all ten of the complainants against Richard Head. I've heard what Jordan feels, now tell me, what were your findings?"
Aiden took a deep breath before responding, "Sirs, it seems that the complaints were valid. He's been acting like a bully, plain and simple."
Hal then asked, "You are the Chief of Security. If it were totally up to you, what would you do?"
"Well, I would definitely replace him as Assistant Chief, that's a given. But further, I think I'd try to find somewhere else for him to work other than in Security. I feel that if he's going to act in this manner, simply having the authority of a Security Officer, he could continue as he has been."
Dave asked, "If you removed him as Assistant Chief, who would you recommend to replace him?"
"Well, Lieutenant Head was already chosen as Assistant Chief prior to my being offered the position of Chief, so I didn't have any say in who would fill that position. Had I been consulted before we launched, I'd have chosen Ensign Enzan Kage to fill that position. Ensign Enzan and I had a number of classes together at the Academy. It was almost like he was bred to be in some form of law enforcement. His father, brothers and most of his uncles work in that field, and he's told me it's kind of a family tradition. Males in his family going back for generations have done that kind of work. That's not why I would choose him though. I've seen him in action. At the Academy, a couple of the guys got into a bit of a fight. Not only did he break them up, but he was able to mediate their dispute and come to a resolution that was agreeable to both. He's got a very fair-minded view of things and can quickly resolve just about any situation."
Jordan was confused. "His full name is Enzan Kage but you referred to him as Ensign Enzan, wouldn't it be Ensign Kage?"
Aiden replied, "Sir, his family is Japanese. Their tradition is to place the family name first, then given name. His name, using the western convention would be Kage Enzan."
Jordan nodded, "OK, that makes sense."
Dave seemed to be thinking before he said, "Ok, if we demote him, where could we transfer him so he wouldn't have the power to cause additional problems of this nature?"
Jordan looked at his pad before responding, "Well, I would avoid having him in any position that allowed him access to any of the ship's critical systems. So, that would preclude him working in Engineering, Information Systems or Tactical. I don't think putting him in Navigation would be a good idea, knowing how he feels about Kyle. That would leave only the non-critical areas of Operations. There are no open positions in Ops, but… during my tour this morning, I noticed that the crewmen's off-duty areas were a mess. What do you think of us creating a position to give someone the responsibility of maintaining that area. Keeping it clean and organized."
Aiden laughed. "You want to demote him and make him a Space Janitor? Can we demote him below the rank of Ensign? He has been commissioned."
Dave replied, "In the case of a gross dereliction or abuse of his position, I have the authority to strip him of his commission. So, in answer to your question, yes, I can demote him to the rank of Crewman. I'm not sure that there would be enough work for him if his only responsibility would be cleaning up in the crew quarters. I think a general janitorial position for the common areas only of the entire ship would be a more fitting area for him. It would definitely keep him busy."
Hal said, "That would basically move him from being an Assistant Chief to the lowest ranking member of the crew. I despise bullies and my first thought would have been to bring him to the nearest airlock and open the outer doors… but… I think Jordan's suggestion, as Dave modified it, would put him in his place. If he caused additional problems, we do have five empty holding cells in the brig."
Dave said, "Ok, now that we know what we'll do with him… we need to bring him in and confront him with what we've found. I'll make the final decision as to what we'll do. Aiden, call him to report here, on-the-double. When he arrives, as Chief, you will begin the proceedings. Hal, Jordan and I will jump in when we feel we have something that needs to be asked. Handle this like a tribunal. As the three senior officers on the ship, we'll act as the judges."
Aiden opened the ship-wide comm channel and announced, "Lieutenant Head, report to the conference room, immediately."
As they waited, Aiden offered, "If we demote him we'll need to change all of the security passwords and codes. I would also recommend that we change other command codes and even the entry codes for those with private or semi-private quarters since he would have had access to them as well."
"That's why you're Chief of Security, Aiden. I'd never have thought of the command codes. After these proceedings are completed, if needed, we'll do just that. You can inform your departments at the beginning of the next shift during your pre-shift briefings."
At that time, Richard Head entered the conference room. The expression on his face when he saw who was there was one of contempt. Aiden looked over at him and said, "Take a seat, Lieutenant."
Head took his seat and asked, "What did you need from me?"
All the assembled officers noticed that he had no respect in his voice. His failure to use the common courtesy when addressing a senior officer by saying, "Sir" or "Sirs" wasn't lost on them either.
Aiden's voice showed his nervousness slightly as he said, "Lieutenant, we've received a number of complaints against you. We have investigated as well as spoken to each of the complainants and we find that their complaints have merit. Do you have anything to say about this?"
Head's face was red. He was seething. "Did that little baby pissant Robinson cry to the Captain about me?"
Dave was angry, something he rarely expresses, "No, Lieutenant. COMMANDER Robinson hasn't said anything to us. I, however, noticed your expression, and I heard your comments when Commander Robinson came to my door yesterday. You'd made no overt action against him other than verbal, so I chose not to say anything at that time. You would be wise if you remembered that you should show respect not only to, but in regards to, anyone senior to yourself."
"He doesn't deserve my respect."
Hal jumped in, "I think this shows us what we needed to know. When given the opportunity to defend against the complaints against you, you've chosen to attack one of the Senior members of the command staff."
Dave looked over at Jordan and asked, "Do you have any questions, Commander Rivers?"
"I think we know what needs to be done, Sir."
Dave looked at Head and said, "Richard Head, it has been determined by this Tribunal that you are guilty of Abuse of your Authority and Gross Dereliction of your Duty to this Ship. I hereby remove you as Assistant Chief of Security, and furthermore, as is my power as outlined in Space Fleet Regulations, I strip you of your commission and demote you forthwith to the rank of Crewman. At the beginning of the next duty shift, you will report to Commander Rivers, who will assign you to duties more in line with your temperament and abilities. You will immediately go back to your quarters and pack up. Move your things to the crewmen's quarters. You will change into a crewman's uniform and turn all your officer's uniforms in to Lieutenant Boyer before the end of this shift. You are dismissed, CREWMAN HEAD."
Head stood and left the room without a word.
The room was silent for a time when Dave said, "Aiden, where would Ensign Enzan be at this time?"
"He and another crewman from Security should be on the bridge manning the security station there, Sir."
Dave opened a comm channel to the bridge security station. "Ensign Enzan, please report to the conference room as soon as you can."
Aiden replied, "I've used my pad and changed all of the command level codes for Security. I did that as you were passing judgment on Crewman Head."
"Good thinking," was all Dave could get out before the door opened and Kage entered. He stood, saluted, and said, "Ensign Enzan, reporting as ordered, Sirs."
Dave smiled and said, "Take a seat, Kage."
Kage took note of the Captain's use of his given name as he took a seat.
Aiden said, "Richard Head has been removed as Assistant Chief of Security, Ensign." He paused a moment to see what reaction, if any, Kage had.
"I understand, Sir."
"Ensign, when I was posted as Chief of Tactical and Security, I wasn't given the option of who to select as Assistant Chief. Head had already been given that position. Now that he's no longer holding that position, I'd like to know if you would be interested in taking it."
Kage was surprised and it was evident in his expression. "Are you serious, Sir?"
"I've known you for almost a year, Kage. I've found you to be a fair and impartial person when you are confronted with an issue. I've seen you go above and beyond to try to find amicable and peaceful resolutions to issues you've come across. I feel you'd be the perfect choice for this position."
"Sir, I'm flattered. Yes, I'd be willing to accept that position and its associated responsibilities."
Dave reached into his pocket and pulled out a box. He handed it to Kage and said, "As Captain of the Sooloo, I hereby promote you to Assistant Chief of Security." As Dave was speaking, Kage opened the box and saw a set of Lieutenant's bars. "I furthermore promote you to the rank of Lieutenant."
The now Lieutenant Enzan was all smiles. "Thank you, Sirs. I will endeavor to live up to the faith and trust you have placed in me."
"Of that we have no doubt. Congratulations, Lieutenant Enzan."
Aiden said, "I want you to prepare a schedule of meetings at the beginning of each shift so the entire Security staff can be informed of your promotion. I also want you to review the current security status. You and I will have a one-on-one meeting in two hours to go over things. Congratulations, Kage. You are dismissed."
"Thank you again, Sir… actually all of you, Thank you." Enzan Kage was all smiles as he left the conference room.
Hal said, "I think we made the right decision here. I am just worried about what Dick Head will do now."
Aiden smiled, "I'm ready for him. Trust me, I'm ready and able to handle anything he tries."
"Jordan, please notify all of the Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs in all departments of the changes we've just enacted," Dave said, professionally.
After taking detailed positioning readings and having them verified by John Luke, Kyle gave the go-ahead for a fifteen-minute jump to FTL-9. Using theoretical speeds, he had calculated exactly where they should drop out of FTL.
At 14 minutes 50 seconds Jordan ordered the helm to prepare to come to all-stop on his order. At exactly 15 minutes he issued that order.
For the next ten minutes, Kyle Robinson and John Luke made independent measurements and determined the ship's exact location. When they compared where they were to where they expected they'd be at theoretical speed, the locations were exactly the same.
Jordan asked, "So, if there's an anomaly it's has to happen after fifteen minutes, right?"
Kyle shook his head, "We really can't say that yet, Sir. We need to do another test exactly the same as the first to verify our findings."
"That makes sense. Carry on, Commander."
Kyle and John Luke, even though they'd just taken a reading of their position, decided to recalculate, just in case there was any drift while they were at all-stop.
Fifteen minutes after Kyle gave the go-ahead for the second test, another all-stop order was issued. Kyle did his analysis. When he was done, Jordan heard him say, "What the hell? John, are you done with your calculations?"
"Yes, Sir. According to my readings, we're 1/8 of a light year further than we should be."
Kyle approached Jordan and said, "Sir, in this test we exceeded the theoretical speed… I'm just not sure why yet. I mean, what was different in the two tests. The NAV computer's readings are identical."
Jordan opened his comm unit. "Commander Blackwell, Commander Kanye, and Commander Marlin, report to the bridge immediately."
Three minutes later, Kyle, Jordan, Jace, Brad, Connor and Dave were in the conference room. Hal was at the conn.
"I have no idea how this is happening. I suggest we run full diagnostics on the NAV Computer and the FTL engines. That will take about three hours," Jace suggested.
Dave nodded his head saying, "That sounds like a prudent move. Commander Robinson, you've been working very hard, why don't you take a break? I've been very impressed with how you've been handling your command responsibilities. You've been a good mentor to John Luke. Relax a bit, you deserve it."
Jace spoke up, "Sir, I know Jordan still has an hour on his duty shift; with your permission, I'm going to head to my quarters and watch the boys. Connor and Brad are qualified to run those diagnostics, and I'll be available by comm if needed. When Jordan's off duty I can make myself more available."
Dave replied, "Quite alright, Jace."
"Sir, if I may, I'd like to drop by your quarters. I have something I'd like to bring by." Kyle asked Jace.
"You're always welcome, Kyle. I'm sure the boys would love to meet you."
Dave had a knowing look. He knew what was about to happen.
Thirty minutes later; the diagnostics were in full swing when Kyle rang the bell on Jace and Jordan's quarters. The door opened and one of the twins was standing there looking slightly up at Kyle.
Kyle smiled down at the boy, his hands behind his back and said, "Hi. I'm Kyle. Is Jace here?"
"I'm Jonas. You're a little kid like me!"
Kyle smiled as Jace approached the doorway. "Come on in, Kyle. Jonas, go find your brother."
Moments later, Kyle was sitting on the couch by the window. Both boys approached him. Looking at the boys he said, "You're Jonas, so," turning to the other boy, "you must be Jason." The boys nodded their heads. "I wanted to come and thank you for taking such good care of Megrez while he was with you."
Noticing the puzzled look on the boys' faces he explained, "The stuffed penguin. His name is Megrez and he's been my friend since I was younger than you. I'm glad he was able to make you less scared, he does that for me all the time."
"We're s… s… s… sorry we took him." Jonas was finally able to get out while trying not to be scared and cry.
Kyle patted his lap and Jonas climbed up. Wrapping his arms around the smaller boy, Kyle said, "Don't be scared. I'm not mad. Actually, I wanted you to have something. Before we left, my dad gave something to me to remind me that I'm not alone and I didn't need to be afraid, and to let me know he loved me."
Kyle pulled Al the Bear out from behind him and handed him to Jason. "This is Al the Bear, he's an admiral. I want you and your brother to watch out for him. He can let you know that you're not alone, and that someone loves you."
"Look Jonas, he's wearing purple like us and has four stars, too," Jace was surprised to hear Jason comment.
"The stars show that he's an admiral, like I had already said," Kyle explained. "And purple is command, but he's wearing dress whites while you are wearing the everyday uniform."
"Thank you, Kyle," Jonas replied, "Can we call him Kyle?"
With a tear running down his cheek, Kyle nodded his head and almost instantly, was in the middle of a twin sandwich. As his own tears were running down his face, voices in his head told him, 'look at the stars, their attractions cross and change things.'
His eyes got big and without breaking the hug with the twins he said, "Commander Blackwell, the stars just gave me the answer."
"In my quarters, it's Jace, we're friends, and what did they just tell you?"
Kyle was looking flustered, "Sir, I would feel better if I could check and see if what I think I understood is what I thought I understood."
Jace chuckled before saying, "Now I'm frightened because I understood that. Go check things out. Let me know what you find out."
Kyle hugged the twins again and said, "I love you guys. We'll see each other soon."
Jason smiled and said, "We wuv you too, Unca Kyle."
Kyle grinned widely as he ran out of the room and down the corridor to the lift that would bring him to the bridge.
Once there he took out a protractor and the star charts from the first and second time they initiated FTL-9.
On the first he drew circles from the closest three stars to the ship. Their gravity wells did not intersect anywhere near the ship. On the second chart, he repeated the process and found that all three stars' gravity wells intersected at the same spot in space where the ship was when it entered FTL-9.
He then took readings as to the exact location of the ship, drew his circles and noticed that there was another convergence.
He turned to Captain Bowman who was at the conn. "Sir, I think I have an answer. If my theory is correct, if we enter FTL-9 now for fifteen minutes, we'll travel 1/8 light year beyond where we should… based on theoretical speed."
Bowman looked at his Astrogation Officer for a moment before calling out. "Helm, on the same course as we were on before, initiate FTL-9 now for fifteen minutes then come back to all-stop."
For fifteen minutes, Kyle explained what had happened. When the ship came back to all-stop, with the Captain looking over his shoulder, Kyle repeated his positioning readings and smiled when he said, "Exactly 1/8 light year too far. Now, we need to test what happens with longer periods of time in FTL-9 to see if the effect is constant or cumulative."
"Good work, Commander. We need to have a senior staff meeting to discuss this before we make planet-fall at our first destination."
"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."
As everyone took their seat, Dave began the meeting, "Most of you are aware of the anomaly that we experienced. For those that are not, we managed to travel almost 490 light years in about four hours. Commander Robinson has an idea of how that happened and has been conducting tests. Kyle?"
Kyle explained what he and Connor had been attempting in the way of tests. He explained the differences they experienced with the two identical tests and how their location compared to the stars affected the results. He concluded, saying that they still needed to conduct more tests to have a better understanding, but was confident that they would be able to complete the tests before they reached the first planet.
Dave looked over at the Chief Science Officer, "Commander Thompson, have you had a chance to look at the data?"
"If I'm going to call you Dave, can you please call me Randy?" Lt. Commander Thompson asked. "And yes, I did. While I do understand a little about this, I am more a Xenoanthropology…"
Someone asked, "What's that?"
"I study alien cultures," Thompson replied. "As I was saying, that is my specialty, and my Assistant Chief, Lieutenant Ali Bakabazi is more cybernetics, so I asked Ensign Crusoe to look at it. Ensign?"
"My name is Will," Crusoe started, "and my specialty is Stellar, or Astro-Cartography. From looking at all the data, I believe that Commander Robinson is on to something. I would love to work with him on this, and hope he doesn't mind if I bring my little friend." Kyle smiled and nodded.
"Anything else before we adjourn?" Dave asked.
Brad spoke up, "Sir, what do the regulations say about a senior officer dating or marrying a junior officer?"
Dave hung his head. He didn't want to quote regulations, especially not to a Senior Officer. Besides, he wasn't too sure how to enforce a rule that affects the heart. "Per the Regulations, Senior Officers are not to fraternize with the junior staff, but I feel that the heart loves whomever the heart loves, regardless of rank. Provided the relationship does not interfere with the performance of one's duty, and that includes showing favoritism, I am not overly concerned with whom you date. If there is nothing else, meeting adjourned."
Aiden and Kage waited for all of the off-duty Security Officers to take a seat at the table in the large conference room created on the Holodeck. They would do another meeting for those who are on-duty immediately after this shift ends.
Once he had everyone's attention, Aiden stood, and in a clear and confident voice, addressed his staff.
"As some of you may know, we have received several complaints against the former Assistant Chief of Security. With my job split between Security and Tactical, it is imperative I have a person working as the Assistant Chief who is capable and beyond reproach."
"Richard Head abused his power. Plain and simple. He chose to use his position to bully members of this crew. This will not be tolerated. Mr. Head has been stripped of his commission and demoted. I will not hesitate to take similar action if we are able to substantiate claims of this nature in the future. This is one area where you will not get a second chance."
"Replacing Mr. Head as Assistant Chief of Security is, now Lieutenant Enzan Kage. Are there any questions?"
One of the security personnel raised his hand and said, "Sir, is the rumor true that he was busted down to Crewman and reassigned as a janitor?"
"I'm not sure where that rumor came from. I'm not sure as to where Commander Rivers will assign Mr. Head. This does bring up a point though. Our job is to maintain order on this ship and to protect it against anything that might present a danger to this ship. We are not in the business of passing on rumors. Also, I know of the nickname many of you and the rest of the crew had for Mr. Head. DO NOT use these feelings to get any sort of retribution on the former Assistant Chief. If I hear of it, I will consider it an act of bullying and you will be dealt with. Am I understood?"
A resounding "Yes Sir!" was heard throughout the room.
"Very well. I will leave the rest of this meeting to Lieutenant Enzan. Thank you, Gentlemen, and stay safe."
Aiden walked out of the room and as the door closed he let out a sigh of relief. Now all he had to do was repeat that in a few hours' time. What he wasn't aware of was that the room was being monitored.
Jordan was waiting in the OPS office for Richard Head to show up. Part of him hoped that he didn't so he could take further action. He has no place for a bully, and he feels as though the ship would be better if Head was no longer on it. Still, he has orders, and despite his own feelings, he knows that the Captain is doing the right thing. While he was waiting, he looked at Steve Boyer, "Did you really give the twins uniforms with the command colors and four stars?"
Steve smiled, "I thought it would look cute, two little admirals."
"I just hope they don't think they can boss us around, or Dave," Jordan chuckled.
Steve cooed, "Oooooooo, I'd love to see that if they do. Here comes your guy."
"You remind me of Radar from M*A*S*H; you know that?" Jordan chuckled before turning serious as Head entered the office. "I see that you are right on time, Crewman Head. And a red shirt looks good on you."
"And what do you plan on making me do? Scrub toilets?" Head sassed.
Boyer gave Head a dirty look. Jordan snapped, "What was that? Lieutenant Boyer, did you hear anything?"
"No, Sir, I did not. Perhaps if he learned some respect and spoke properly we could have heard something, Sir," Steve purposely emphasized the words 'Sir' to maybe get through to Head.
Head groaned, "And, Sir, what do you plan, Sir, on making me do, Sir? Scrub toilets, Sir?"
"Overdoing it, but at least you’ve finally realized how to say 'Sir'," Jordan replied. Steve noticed that he was fighting to hold back his anger. "You will start off by cleaning up the Crews' Quarters. It may take you the entire watch to do so. If not, return to Lieutenant Boyer to get your next assignment, perhaps the toilets, since you seem to think they need scrubbed."
"Yes, Sir," Head growled.
As Head left, Boyer looked at Jordan, "Isn't the ship self-cleaning, Sir?"
"When it's just the two of us, you needn't call me 'Sir.' Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the respect and want you to do it in front of others, but it isn't necessary when alone. As for the ship, it was self-cleaning, but with the Captain's permission, I asked Commander Blackwell to disable it."
Steve just smiled, and then stated, "You know, even if he can clean those quarters before the end of the watch, he will take his time to stretch it out."
"I know, but I had to mess with him a little."
Steve nodded, "If anyone deserves to be messed with, it's him. Before my watch is over, I would like to check with everyone who has private quarters and be sure they've changed the entrance code, especially Kyle. If Head tries anything, you know it will be with Kyle."
"Go ahead and do that now. I have a few things I need to get done in here, so you have time."
"Yes, Sir," Steve chuckled. Jordan just shook his head, wondering what he would do if Steve ever leaves the ship.
Jace was playing with the boys when Jordan walked in; Jordan looked beat. "Boys," Jace started, "since you will be staying with me, you will be staying with Jordan as well. He's my husband."
Jonas gave Jace a funny look. "You can't have a husband, you are a boy."
"How does that make me not able to have a husband?" Jace asked.
"Daddy always told us that boys marry girls and girls are called wives."
Jace nodded his head, "That is the traditional family, but boys can also marry other boys and they are both husbands."
"OH, COOL!!!" Jonas shouted.
"Jonas," Jordan decided to inquire, "can you tell us how you got onto the ship? I promise, you won't be in trouble." Jonas looked thoughtfully at Jordan; Jordan thought maybe he was trying to think of what to say. "Just tell us the truth, I promise, we just need to know."
"Well, " Jonas said, "We snuck onto a smaller ship full of people. And they flew here. Then we heard church music and were afraid to go watch in case we were spotted."
"Church music?" Jace asked.
Jonas clarified, "Yeah like for a wedding."
A light went off in Jordan's mind, "OH, you rode in a shuttle craft with the families coming for our wedding. Well, ours along with Dave and Hal's."
Jonas informed them, "One of the ladies kept calling a guy Jason and I was worried that Jason would answer."
"That would have been my daddy. His name is Jason."
Jonas turned his head sideways as he looked at Jace; he asked, "Is that why everyone calls you Jace?"
Jace smiled, "It is."
"Thank you for telling us," Jordan gave him a smile. "Now can you tell us your last name? See, Jace and I really like you and would like to adopt you, eventually."
Jason spoke with a smile, "Medici."
Jonas nodded, "That's our last name."
Jace laughed, "There is a really old story in the computer called Dragon Earl Universe. One of the characters is named Jonah Medici. I think it's a good name. And how old are you boys?"
"We're eight," Jonas chirped, and to prove his point, he held up both hands with the thumbs tucked in.
"Yes, we are learning a lot about you. When do you turn nine?" Jordan was feeling good.
"First of December."
"As I understand it, you climbed through air ducts? That couldn't have been easy."
"Daddy used to say I'm half monkey cause I'm always climbing. Then I opened the door for Jason."
Jace grinned, "Well you can be our little monkey, but no climbing in the air ducts, OK?"
Jordan suggested, "I'm hungry, what do you think about us going to get something to eat?"
Jason nodded, and patted his stomach. Jace and Jordan laughed. As they headed out the door, Jason grabbed Jace's hand and Jonas grabbed Jordan's.
In the Mess Hall, Jonas asked, "Do they have sketti? That's Jason's favorite."
"We can find out," Jordan replied. "What's your favorite?"
Jonas had a perplexed look on his face before answering, "I don't know, I like so many."
Jordan nodded, "Yeah, I have that problem, too, but if I had to choose just one, I would have to say steak."
Jonas scowled a little as he thought, "I really like pizza with bacon and mushrooms and cheddar cheese. And also, peanut butter and jelly."
Randy Jenkins was standing there, listening to Jonas talk. Jordan noticed that he disappeared into the kitchen. After a few minutes, he returned carrying a tray with sandwiches. Jordan smiled as Randy said, "I just talked to the chef and we will be having spaghetti for supper tonight. He assured me that we will have pizza tomorrow night. For now, I have peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches." Jonas' eyes lit up.
Jordan just mouthed a 'thank you' to Randy. As they sat, Jace asked, "What's your favorite color?"
"Blue!" Jason shouted. Jordan looked around and saw everyone took a quick glance and went back to what they were doing. Part of him wanted to hide, but he shook that feeling off. Knowing Jason has autism, and from what little he knows about the disorder, he considers himself lucky whenever Jason did talk to them.
"Jason likes blue and I like red, but blue is my second favorite color," Jonas added.
Jace looked at Jason and said, "Blue is my favorite, too."
Jonas had a sad look in his eye, "Is that why the blanket we stole with the dragon was blue?"
"It is, and if you boys want to use it, you can. It was a wedding present from Jordan's mom and dad. I'm sure they won't mind you using it."
Jonas went around the table and gave Jace a hug. "I'm sorry that we took it, but Jason was getting cold in that room. I took another blanket, too."
"I know you did," Jace stated, with a lump in his throat. "That one belonged to Captain Bowman and Hal."
"And a pillow," Jonas added.
"A very special pillow," Jordan explained.
With a tear running down his face, Jonas took his seat beside Jordan. He whispered, "I'm glad we don't have to hide anymore."
Jordan kissed Jonas on the forehead and whispered back, "I'm glad we found you."
Connor was exhausted. They'd completed the full diagnostics of the engines only minutes before the staff meeting. After that, he needed to go back to Engineering to make sure everything was set to return to FTL. Now he was on his way to his quarters to spend a quiet evening with Aiden.
Aiden had finished for the day right when the meeting adjourned and had put together a surprise for Connor. Looking at the time, he figured he only had a few minutes until Connor got home so, he ordered the computer to turn off the lights and only turn them back on at his command.
Randy Jenkins had come through for him by putting together a nice candlelit dinner for Connor and him. He wanted to have a nice, romantic dinner with the young man he loved so deeply. Everything was ready when he heard the door slide open and Connor calling out, "Computer… lights." After a pause, "Computer! Lights!" He then called out, "Aiden, why aren't the lights working?"
"Well, gee babe, you're the Engineer… come on back here. I want to show you something."
Connor carefully walked around to the back side of their cabin and saw the glow before he could figure out what it was, actually. Once he'd rounded the corner and saw the table, his smile said it all.
"Have a seat, Babe. You deserve to be pampered a little. You've had a busy day."
Connor sat, commenting on how good the table looked, and how wonderful the food smelled. He hadn't realized he didn't take time to eat anything since very early that morning. The pair enjoyed the meal together, talking lightly about their day. At the end of the meal, they sat on the couch and looked out at the stars. The ship would be returning to FTL shortly.
As they cuddled on the couch, Aiden said softly, "You know, I've been thinking. I know we talked about getting married at some point, but I was trying to figure out, why wait. I'm not saying we should do it tomorrow, or even next month, but… why don't we set a date?"
"No argument from me, did you have a date in mind?" Connor asked.
"I was thinking that we should do it on the anniversary of us agreeing to be boyfriends." Aiden offered.
"You mean the day Captain Bowman said that we were going to be on the same ship?"
"Yes, January 7."
"I think that would be a great date. We should notify Dave and Hal."
Aiden peered into his husband-to-be's eyes and moved toward him. Giving him a very passionate kiss. They reclined there, making out for a time before moving the 'party' to their bed. They lovingly undressed each other and cuddled on the bed, embraced in one another's arms. They made out for a time before Aiden began kissing down Connor's body, stopping only briefly to tease the dime-sized nipples on his developing chest until he reached his goal. He engulfed the object of his desire and gave Connor the best he knew how to give.
Without dislodging himself from the warm cavern that was holding his favorite appendage he maneuvered himself so that he could give Aiden the same pleasure. They expressed their love for one another then cuddled close and drifted off to a peaceful sleep.
Brad lay naked on his bed staring at the ceiling. He was thinking about what had happened on this very bed not very long ago, earlier that day when he'd moved into his quarters.
His thoughts were about Steve Boyer. Organized, always under control, Steve Boyer. Steve Boyer, the one everyone seemed to depend on for keeping the operations of the ship running smoothly. Steve Boyer was friendly, but kept to himself. Who listened to everyone and worked to see that their needs were met. That was the Steve Boyer he thought was with him in his room.
But there was also another Steve Boyer. The Steve Boyer, who was one HOT boy and who he'd crushed on almost from the moment he first saw him. The Steve Boyer who returned the feelings Brad had and then some. The Steve Boyer who fucked him not once, but twice, then sucked him dry. He'd had no idea that Steve Boyer existed until the two of them were naked together on this bed.
Brad looked at the time; he and Steve would be having dinner together in the mess as soon as Steve was off duty. Brad got up and dressed. He adjusted his uniform pants to make sure the bulge of his boner was covered.
He wondered if this was what being in love was about, and decided it was. This wasn't a crush. He'd had crushes. This was love. He and Steve had said they loved each other. And even more importantly, Steve had said he wanted them to be boyfriends. That was all fine with him; he just needed to ask Steve one more thing.
Brad broke out in a huge smile when he reached the mess and saw Steve waiting for him. The grin was returned instantly.
"Why are we eating here, instead of your cabin?" Steve asked as they entered the line for dinner.
"Well, because I wanted everybody to see what a fantastic and beautiful boyfriend I have," Brad answered sincerely. "And because I wanted everybody to see who I am in love with. I want them to see me ask you something really special."
The ensign in line in front of them turned back and gave them a quizzical look. "Just turn around, Brandon," Brad said in a friendly tone of voice. "It will all be public soon." Brandon Cox, one of the junior tactical officers, smiled like a lightbulb had just gone off in his head, then turned and stepped up to pick up his food.
"So, what is so important that the world needs to know it?" Steve asked Brad as they sat down to eat.
"I just wanted you to have plenty of forms to fill out," Brad replied.
"Forms? I always have more than enough paperwork."
"Not the kind we're going to create. And what is paperwork?"
"It's an ancient term for forms, when they made had hard copies on paper that had to be filled out instead of everything being digital."
"Sounds like a lot of extra work and wasted paper to me."
Steve chewed on his chicken leg as his mind chewed on what Brad was saying. Steve had figured out that while he may be a year older than his thirteen-year-old boyfriend, it was his boyfriend who was the alpha male in their relationship. That didn't bother him. He was a bright boy who could see how their strengths and weaknesses meshed.
"I think I know what you're going to ask," Steve said after he finished chewing, "although I don't know if this is the place to ask it, and it certainly doesn't need any forms to be filled out."
"Oh? Well, I don't know what you were thinking, but I was thinking of the directive Dave had issued about senior officers and cabin mates."
After Brad explained what Dave had said, Steve looked directly at Brad. It was difficult for Steve to keep from whooping at the top of his lungs. "Do you mean…"
"Of course, I mean I want you to move in with me. We're boyfriends; we love each other; that's what the directive was all ..."
Interrupting Brad, Steve almost shouted, "Of course, I want to move in with you. I'll have the forms on Dave's computer by 0800 tomorrow. I mean, I've filled out forms enough, so I should be able to fill them out pretty quickly."
After finishing dinner, the two young teens walked down the corridor and entered Brad's quarters. They exchanged a long, hard, deep kiss, their hands wandering over the hard package covered by their uniform pants.
"What did you think I was going to ask?" Brad wondered after they broke their kiss.
Steve blushed a deep red. Brad loved it when Steve blushed; he thought it made his boyfriend look cute and sexy. "I thought you were going to ask if you could fuck me—give me my first fuck up my butt."
Brad kissed Steve lightly on his lips. "I won't fuck your sweet ass until you ask me to."
"I know, but…"
"No buts. It's your butt, in fact. You ask, and then your virginity will be mine."
"Okay, then we need to fill out that paperwork, because the first night we spend in OUR bed in OUR quarters will be the night I will lose MY virginity to MY lover."
"So, what are we going to do tonight before you have to leave?"
"Paperwork, of course."
Kyle entered his dark quarters. He'd just finished his watch on the bridge and was tired and hungry. He closed the door and stood still in the darkness. There was very little ambient light which allowed him to soak in the dark. His watch had been a wild one with surprises, calibrations, theories and the stars telling him what to watch for. Right now, the quiet blackness of the room felt good.
He knew the layout of his quarters well enough that he could slowly make his way to his bed and flop down on it. Dinner was still two hours away, although he could get a snack anytime. It went without saying that a ship crewed by pubescent and adolescent boys should always have food readily available. But as hungry as he was, at this moment the quiet and darkness were more appealing.
The old feelings of loneliness started to creep into his being. Being busy on the bridge, surrounded by his peers—his crewmates—kept his mind off himself. He had been working hard on focusing his mind on the business in front of him and pushing his personal feelings away. He knew he wasn't always successful. Trudging down the corridor carrying Al the Bear, who was now Kyle the Bear, and bawling like a baby told him how much work he had to do. Sure, Dave had told him he'd acted maturely and grown up so much in a short time, but he couldn't help but wonder if Dave was just playing the good Captain and trying to boost his self-image. Yep, they were told all about how important self-image was in leadership training. Dave was just doing his job, Kyle thought, because he knows my self-image sucks.
Thinking about that trek to Dave's ready room brought up thoughts of the twins. They were such a cute pair of little boys. They wanted so much to love and to be loved. Wandering through the air ducts had to have been so frightening and so lonely, but they had each other, plus they had one other thing to love.
"Lights on low," Kyle called out and his voice activated environmental system quickly turned the lights on to their lowest setting. Even so, it took a moment for his eyes to adjust from almost total darkness to having the room lit. He looked at the nightstand and saw his friendly stuffed friend sitting with his usual half-smile on his red beak.
"They loved you, Megrez," he said, "and I love you. And you keep me from being alone because we love each other."
But, Kyle knew that as much as he loved the little penguin, Megrez wasn't human. What he needed was a human whom he could talk to and who would reply to what was said. As weird as Derrick Lewis had been, he still ended up being a good friend at the end. Brad Kayne had been an in-an-out-roommate, but in their short time together they managed to develop a kinship between them.
He looked at Megrez again. "I know what you're thinking, you scheming little penguin. You're thinking there is plenty of room for Danny here."
He couldn't not think of Danny. Since their dinner together in Kyle's quarters with their declaration of friendship forever and their near kiss, Kyle and Danny had kept their relationship platonic. They related to each other as friends, but neither one was willing to initiate the next step. They knew what they wanted, but neither was sure what the other boy wanted.
The day they had been caught naked in Kyle's bed masturbating each other by Kyle's father had created what seemed like an impenetrable wall between them. Kyle and Danny both lived through Danny standing naked outside of Kyle's house, bawling as he awkwardly dressed in the front yard. The hug on the shuttle, the dinner, the declarations of friendship, and the near kiss all put large cracks in that wall—cracks that, in their youth and lack of experience, they were unable to detect.
"We both know what we want, Megrez and Dave made it easy for us to get it. So, why can't we do it? Why do we just say hi when we see each other somewhere in the ship? Why don't we talk about the hug and us being friends and… and… how much we wanted to kiss each other?"
Megrez looked at Kyle, his head slightly tilted to the left, a knowing look in his dark eyes. Danny was kicked out of your house, the penguin told him silently. I know, because I was there when it happened. It wasn't his home and it wasn't your home, it was your dad's house. Now, it is up to you, Kyle Robinson, to bring him home. Here. To this room. It is your home. Make it Danny's home, too."
Kyle wiped away a tear and rose from his bed. "Light, medium," he commanded and the room was lit up to the next level. He grabbed his comm unit and texted Danny. "I need to see you as soon as possible. Please."
He didn't know what Danny's watch schedule was that day, so he didn't know when he would get an answer. His reply came ten minutes after he had sent his message. It didn't come from where he'd expected it.
After sending the text he opened his uniform pants and casually played with his half-hard, almost four-inch cock. He was thinking of the good times between him and his best friend. He thought about the times they lay naked together on Kyle's bed exploring their bodies as well as each other's bodies. He was rock hard when his door chime went off.
"Eeek," he screeched in surprise. He quickly pulled up his pants, trying unsuccessfully to cover the bulge in front. His cock was deflating so quickly, however, that it wasn't noticeable by the time he opened the door. Standing in front of him was the most beautiful boy in the world, Danny Harper.
"Hey, Kyle," Danny said with a grin that melted Kyle's heart. "You sounded like you needed to see me badly, so I got here as fast as I could."
Kyle stood unmoving at the door, mesmerized by the presence of the person who had him boned up and ready to jerk off thinking about him just minutes ago.
"Hello? Earth calling Kyle Robinson. Can I come in?"
Kyle broke out of his trance. "Oh… yeah… sure, sorry. Come in." He stepped aside and let Danny enter the room. He shut the door and followed his friend into his quarters.
"Shouldn't that be 'Sooloo' calling Kyle Robinson? I mean, we're a long way from Earth," Kyle joked as he returned to reality.
Danny sat on a chair while Kyle took a seat on the small couch along the outer bulkhead. "You wanted to see me for a reason, and here I am."
Kyle decided to cut right to the chase before his thudding heart put him into a state of panic and freeze him up again. "Are we still best friends?" he asked.
"Yeah, I guess. I mean why wouldn't we be? We said we were, remember?"
"What do you mean, you guess we're best friends?"
"I didn't mean it that way. I meant, I don't know. It's like we've acted more like crewmates who like each other than like best friends since the last time I was in your quarters."
"I was scared," Kyle confessed.
The confession was followed by a long silence as the two friends looked at each other, wondering what to say next. "Me, too," Danny finally said. "I was scared to say what I wanted to say and do what I wanted to do because I was scared that dinner we had was like it wasn't real."
"I wanted to kiss you so bad before you left," Kyle said. "But, I was so scared you'd get mad at me for trying to kiss you."
Another long silence followed. "I thought the same thing," he said with a quiet, but firm voice.
"Come sit with me." Kyle patted a place on the couch, which Danny soon filled. "Have you heard anything about what Dave said in the staff meeting?"
Danny shook his head, "I'm not privy to what goes on in there unless it's important enough for the whole crew to know."
Kyle smiled, "Dave told us that as long as it doesn't interfere with us doing our jobs, he doesn't care who we love."
"Seriously?" Danny's heart started racing, "Did you ask because of us?"
Kyle chuckled, "No, Brad asked. I heard that he asked Steve Boyer to move in with him."
"Oh?" Danny replied flatly.
Now was the big moment. The moment in time that had Kyle's heart really thumping. The moment that would tell him that Megrez was right and that he could start removing the big hole of loneliness that festered inside of him. "There's plenty of room for two to live in here."
This time Danny went into a daze. Kyle thought that Danny was trying to find a way to say no, but a closer look told him everything—the slow trickle of tears starting down his friend's face told him what he needed to know. Kyle ran Megrez's words through his head and said with loving softness, "This would be your home and my home. It would be our home because…because, you see, Danny…well, because…oh, fuck Danny, you are so much more than my best friend, cuz…," Kyle finally stopped and took a deep breath as his cheeks became as damp as Danny's. "I want you to live with me, because you see…," Kyle finally forced it out, "I love you Danny Harper. Please live with me and be my boyfriend."
Neither boy had to say a word. Their answers came in one loving gesture. Danny scooted close to Kyle and laid his lips on those of his friend—no—his boyfriend. The tears of the two twelve-year-old-boys who had been lost in their loneliness and insecurity as they shared their first kiss. It was a kiss that was long and warm and full of more love that neither boy, his youth and knew he could feel in the uncertainty of young adolescence.
Kyle heard, "I love you, Kyle," and dropped his face into Danny's shoulder and got yet another uniform shirt wet with tears. He looked up and initiated another kiss, a kiss filled with the certainty that this small room would be home as long as it had Danny Harper living in it with him.
Kyle Robinson was going over his figures for the third time. He knew he wasn't going to get a different answer, but he was nervous for some reason. Something felt off to him again and he just couldn't figure out what it was.
"Are we ready, Mr. Robinson?" Captain Bowman asked for the third time.
"I believe so, Sir. Something feels wrong, but I can't find anything out of the ordinary."
"I understand you're being cautious, Commander; however, we do need to get back en route. Helm…"
The Captain was interrupted by Scott Trevor, the Assistant Chief in Tactical. "Sir, I'm reading a vessel approaching on an intercept course. We wouldn't have seen it but while we were waiting I was running a diagnostic on the new software we've installed in one of the sensor arrays."
Dave went over to the Tactical station and reviewed the data. "Computer, set Tactical Alert." He opened the ship-wide comm channel and announced, "Tactical Alert… Tactical Alert… All senior staff to alert stations. All crew to battle stations. This is not a drill."
"How long until intercept, Lieutenant?"
"She's really moving, Sir. I'd estimate no more than forty-five minutes."
"Communications, see if you can contact that ship. Let them know we're friendly." Dave ordered.
"No response as of yet, Sir. I will keep trying."
"Mr. Trevor, as soon as you can, I would like a visual on that ship. Mr. Robinson, can you find her through your telescopes?"
"I'm looking, Sir. If I am able to, I'll let you know."
Dave sat nervously. Jordan, Hal and Jace arrived on the bridge, followed moments later by Aiden, Randy Thompson and Ali Bakabazi. When Dave noticed them, he said, "Take your stations, Gentlemen. We have a ship inbound on an intercept course. I need an analysis as soon as you can possibly give me one. Commander Douglass, I need weapons at the ready as soon as you can do so."
"Lieutenant Trevor already has them available at your command, Sir." Aiden responded crisply.
"Well Gentlemen, you all know what to do. Remember your training… all we can do now, is wait.