By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 14

Lazarus and Lucas lounged around in bed for an hour later than usual; however, their internal clocks woke them at their usual time.  They lay there and talked.  They both were sporting roaring erections, but it didn’t seem to bother either of them.  They lay together with the obvious fighting for room between their closely pressed bodies.  Lucas never had much affection shown him by his family, and he certainly wasn’t going to pass up any chance he got to be close to Lazarus.  It was a new world for him to be able to enjoy the luxury of another person’s touch, especially someone he had come to love and admire.  He soaked up Lazarus’ attention like a landlocked sponge at high tide.  Lazarus wondered if he was being too familiar with the boy, but what the hell, Lucas was his slave.  He owned the boy.  He made the rules.

Lazarus knew the rigid ideas of the so called religious right; however, curiously enough they looked the other way when it came to slaves.  They were good at segregating from their narrow minds that which they chose to pass judgement on and that which became acceptable through manipulation of their own twisted thinking.  What was taboo for freemen together was considered acceptable between Master and slave.  Even then, it depended on the level of self-adjudged holiness of the self-righteous bible thumper who felt it their God given right to interpret the law as well as God’s holy word; however, while it varied from pulpit to pulpit, there was very little consensus.  Beliefs and practices became a hodgepodge of chaos.  They held little rhyme or reason in relation to their original intent.

Lazarus wasn’t one to put up with nor tolerate the hypocritical neo-fascist conduct codes of the extreme right.  He felt each individual situation merited its own consideration.  In Lucas’ case, he was laying next to a young man, who less than three months before was about to be sold for dog food by his ultra-conservative Christian father when Lazarus rescued him from certain death.  Now, Lazarus was showing him some physical affection by holding him in his arms.  He chastised himself for questioning his motives.  Motives be damned.  This was one of those times Lazarus knew his actions were right without question.  He was above any man or god’s judgement at that moment.  It felt meet and right for him so to do.  His compassion for the boy was considerably more holy an act than ignorant fools rolling on the floor babbling in tongues.

“You know, I haven’t said nothing to you about your heroism Halloween evening.  You saved the sheriff’s life.  I hope you know I was only kidding about turning you over my knee.  What chu’ done was a courageous act of selflessness which only springs from the heart of a man who is strong and full of compassion; so full of the need to live and be a part of the greater good he willingly thinks of those he loves before himself even if it places him in harm's way.  Such a man is born and not made.  He is to be treasured and should be treated with equal compassion and selflessness by others.  By rights and by conscience, as your owner, I’m morally obligated to offer you your freedom.  I’m ready to set you free this day and raise you as my own son, Lucas, if you so wish.”

Lucas didn’t know if Lazarus was serious or not; however, he didn’t think he liked the sound of what he was hearing.  He held onto Lazarus tighter than before.  Lazarus could almost feel the fear pulsing through the boy's body.  It was almost palpable.  He stroked, petted and generally tried to soothe Lucas.

“Please, Master, I don’t want that.  I’m perfectly willing and happy to be your slave and take care of you as long as you need me.  I never had me no purpose in life until you come along and rescued me.  I live because of you.  You give my life definition.  You told me who I am.  I'm Lucas Long, yore' slave.  If you take that away from me, I have no reason to be.  Better you should a' let 'em make dog food out of me than to set me free.  I'd be packed in cans, sitting on a shelf in some warehouse, waiting to be delivered to a supermarket for somebody to buy me, take me home and feed me to their pet; but, I would have a purpose.  I know how to be your slave, Master Long, but I don't know how to be a free-boy or your son.

I’ve come to love you like no man I ever know'd.  You’re the first man I’ve ever known other than ma’ brothers and ma’ dad.  I never knew there could be men like you and Master Charlie in the world.  Until I met you I jes’ assumed all men were like the men in my family; at least that’s what they told me.  Please, Sir,— I didn’t do what I done to be no hero or to get out of being your slave.  I did it because the Kryscellians told me to.  They didn’t exactly tell me to do it, they told me what was going to happen and what the results would be if’n I didn’t make an attempt to save the sheriff.  I knew he was important so you could establish a greater family here.  While I certainly didn't want the sheriff to die, what I done, I done for you, Sir, not Sheriff Lassiter.  If I could save him, I  knew he was more important to you than I am in the scheme of things.”

“That ain’t true, Son.  You’re ever’ bit as important to me as Sheriff Lassiter.  You’ve become very important to me.  Do you think I’d be laying here this close to you, holding you like I am and not be very much in love with you?”

“Ain’t never had nobody hold me like this before, Sir, but I love it and I feel comfortable.  I’m afraid if’n I ain’t chore’ slave no more and become yore’ son,— maybe we couldn’t do this no more.”

“Well, there is that possibility.  I tell you what,— how’s ‘bout we let it be for a while, and you think on it.  There’s no hurry, we can discuss it later.  Right now, we better git a move on, honcho.”  Lazarus said quietly as he stole a kiss from Lucas.  The boy sighed deeply.  He longed to lay in Lazarus’ big cowboy arms a while longer, but he knew his first duty was to his Master’s needs.  “We need to git chu’ to the ship, because my partner, Arlen, is due through the portal with his assistant from the jungles of the Amazon at eight.  I want you to meet him, and for him to be there when the med-bots run your tests.  Over the years, I sent him to medical school and he specialized in neurosurgery and diseases of the brain.  He would be better able to tell us what’s going on with you.  He’s been up to visit before, but we stayed on the ship.  Now that we have a house to ourselves, it will be more comfortable to bring him here and introduce him to Master Charlie and the boys.

Lucas nodded his head he understood, gave Lazarus a final good morning kiss, got out of bed and laid out his Master’s clothes for the day.  Lazarus was beginning to know what outfits Lucas was most likely to pick.  There were certain combinations of clothes Lucas like to see Lazarus wear.  The boy helped his Master dress and held his boots for him to put on, then he went to his room and quickly dressed himself while Lazarus shaved and took care of his morning toiletries.

They walked to the big house together and were greeted by a raucous group of cowboys.  Waco, Travis, Little Bear, JR, Hank, and Charlie were all in a good mood.  Even Ida Mae joined in the fun.  After Lazarus and Lucas arrived, they were fair game for kidding.  Waco knew without asking Lucas told Lazarus all about his reading and telling the Kryscells about the books he read.  Lazarus asked Waco how he found out about Lucas’ ability to remember entire books.

“We were watching a DVD of an old movie from the Twentieth Century about a world where they burned all the books and folks had to memorize a complete book to preserve the classic literature.  They each would become the book they memorized and it would be passed down from generation to generation.  The last scene, they were walking around the woods, each one reciting his book.  Lucas watched and called them “light weights” under his breath, except we heard him.  We asked him why he said it, and he told us he could remember every book he read.  We didn’t believe him and got several of the books I knew he’d read.  He could recite every one of them.”  Waco laughed, “We don’t watch a lot of Television no more.   We jes’ git Lucas to recite us a couple of chapters from one of our favorite books.”
Charlie and Hank listened to all of this and just shook their heads.  Nothing surprised them anymore from the boys.  They noticed dramatic changes in the boys since they started drinking lummox milk.  Their bodies were developing at an enormous rate.  Lazarus suggested they might want to cut back on the lummox milk or they were going to be giants living among the Lilliputians when they go to school.

They thought that was funny, but they groaned at the suggestion they should limit their intake of lummox milk.  They liked the fact they were growing bigger and faster than their school mates.  They liked being the biggest men on campus.  Waco, Travis, Little Bear and JR were already beginning to look like young body builders and Lucas started working out with them.  It wouldn’t be long before he would begin to look like them.

“So we get to meet Mr. Jones this weekend?”  inquired Charlie of Lazarus.

“Yes, Sir, he’s due on the Bandersnatch at eight this morning.  We’ve got plenty of time to get there.  I’m gonna’ have the med-bots run some tests on Lucas to find out exactly what the Kryscellians have done to him, if anything.  Arlen is an expert in the field of neuroscience.  He’ll be able to explain to us what’s going on.  It’s possible Lucas had this talent all along and no one ever knew about it or he never had the chance to use it.  One way or the other, we’ll git to the bottom of it so we can have a better idea how to work with him and give him some ideas how to use his gift.”

“We’ll look forward to meeting your partner, ramrod.” Charlie said sincerely. “It’s too bad he couldn’t make it for Thanksgiving.”

“He had other obligations for the day that couldn’t be postponed.  While the holiday has been a national holiday since 1863, Arlen doesn’t miss the holiday because it wasn’t celebrated much when he grew up and became a young man.  We’re looking forward to a couple of days together.  I think he’s bringing him first mate with him.”

“Bring them to supper this evening if you like, and I’ll let Ida know.”  invited Charlie.

“Thanks, Boss, I appreciate that.”

Lazarus and Lucas said their goodbyes and left the house.  Waco and the boys wanted to go with them in the worst way, but Charlie admonished them their ramrod needed some time to himself.  He reminded them Lazarus was always generous with them and allowed Lucas ample time to be with them.  He also reminded them, just like Travis and Little Bear had their responsibilities to their Master, Lucas had his duties to his Master.  Charlie didn’t have any feelings of being left out by his ramrod.  Lazarus was good to his word.  Anytime he needed his itch scratched, Lazarus was willing.

The men arrived at the ship shortly before eight and went to a large room which acted like a cargo bay receiving dock.  Lazarus explained it was a larger portal than the ones they normally used.  It was for moving large things from one long distance to another.  It was also decidedly more powerful than the small portals they used locally.  If his buddy needed to bring something with him of good size there would be no problem, or if he needed to take supplies back with him they would be more easily transported through the larger gate.

Right at eight Arlen walked thought the gate followed by a younger man who looked for all the world like Lucas might imagine Lord Greystoke from one of Waco’s books he read by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle.”  Lucas was undoubtedly impressed by his Master’s partner, Master Arlen Jones; however, he was stunned by the masculine beauty of Arlen’s assistant.  Arlen went to Lazarus, gave him a hug and a kiss in greeting, then his companion had a hug and a kiss for Lazarus as well.  Lucas noticed the young man called Lazarus  'uncle.'

“Welcome, gentlemen.  So glad you could both make it.  Allow me to present to you my new slave, Lucas Long.  Son,— ”  Lazarus snapped his fingers and Lucas was kneeling in front of Master Jones in an instant.  They went through the ritual together.  Arlen picked Lucas up and rested the boy on his huge chest to give him a good kiss.  Lucas felt like he was laying on a man-mountain as he returned Arlen’s kiss.

“Master Jones is Captain of his own vessel, 'The Raven,' and you may call him ‘Master Jones’ or ‘Captain Jones,’ or since he’s my partner you may call him ‘father’ as well.”  Lazarus told Lucas.

“I visited the Bandersnatch for a weekend, and I seen you while you’s still recovering, Son.  Your father done a good job on you.  You look great.  Glad to finally meet you, boy.”  Arlen said to him.

“Thank you, Sir.  It’s good to meet you.” Lucas responded politely.

Arlen introduced Bryce Cannon to Lucas as his Science Officer, collections expert, and First Mate on his ship.  Lucas was about to go through the ritual with Mr. Cannon when he stopped him.  

“I’m not a master, little brother, but I’m not a slave either.  Jes’ call me ‘Bryce.’  However, I would very much appreciate a big hug and a nice kiss from one so handsome as you.”

The kiss Cannon gave Lucas was incredible.  The man moved things down deep inside Lucas’ soul.  He didn’t have to ask to know if Mr. Cannon was as impressed by him.

“I’ve been hearing about you, young man.  Captain Long sent us pictures, but they didn’t do you justice.  It’s good to finally meet you in person, Lucas.”

“It’s good to meet you, Mr. Cannon.”

“‘Bryce,’ Son,— jes’ call me ‘Bryce.’

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Come, gentlemen, we have to run a couple of test on my slave.  It seems he’s developing some remarkable abilities, and you can help me determine if they’re natural or if our Kryscellian friends are nudging him in that direction.” Lazarus explained to the men.

They left through a portal and were directly in sickbay.  Cable, David and Jonathan were there to greet them.  Lucas noticed the androids called Master Jones ‘Captain Jones’ but referred to Mr. Cannon as ‘Bryce.’  Then the thought occurred to Lucas, ‘Could Bryce be a bio-man?’  He was so different from Cable, David and Jonathan.  While he was a perfectly formed male, he didn’t seem to have the perfection they had.    

The androids had a hug for their little brother.  They helped him undress and get on the table in a small room adjacent to the main room in sickbay.  There were all sorts of instruments and electronics in the room.  They covered him with a warm blanket and left him alone on the table while they and the men went into a side room to watch Lucas through a window.

“Don’t be afraid, Son.  You can see us through the window."  Lucas heard Lazarus' voice through a speaker,  "We can’t be in the same room with you while we run these test.  Our brain signals and vital signs would interfere with yours.  This won’t take long, and we’ll have you out of there in no time.  Are you comfortable?”

“Yes, Father.”

“Good.  I think we’re ready to begin.”  

There was silence for a few minutes, but Lucas could hear the soft hum of machines and the men talking softly to each other.  Finally his Master spoke to him.

“Son,— start reciting the first chapter of “Moby Dick” for me.”

Lucas started and continued for sometime.  He could hear the men talking, but he couldn’t quite make out what they were saying as he had to concentrate to recite the text.

“My, God!” commented Arlen, “That’s incredible.  The boy's using almost eighty percent of his brain capacity.  The average human uses less than six percent total.”

“I wondered about that.” said Lazarus. “I knew to be able to recall even one complete novel, especially the size and scope of ‘Moby Dick’ he’d have to be using a lot of his brain.  Of course we have no idea exactly how much the human brain can store or how it does it.  Do you think it’s a natural evolutionary progression in the boy or do you think he’s been enhanced by the Kryscells?”

“It’s difficult to say without a marker to compare.  You say he has brothers?”

“Yes, but I doubt we could get one for testing unless we staged a phoney ‘alien abduction’ like them nasty little grey critters.  Then again, with us what’s doing the abducting, maybe it would seem pert-damn alien.” Lazarus laughed.

 “Have you thought about just asking the Kryscells?” Arlen asked.

“You know me, brother, I always do things the hard way.” Lazarus laughed. “However, believe it or not, that was going to be my next step after seeing what the boy’s brain was doing.  That’s enough for now.  Cable, will you men help the boy get dressed, please.”

“Right away, Father.” Cable replied.

“He certainly is fine looking, Uncle Lazarus.” said Bryce innocently.

“Even though he was sexually abused for years by his brothers by making him suck them off, surprisingly they never fucked him.  He’s a virgin anally, Son, and I’d like to keep him that way for a while.  I’m going to guide him in the ways of a slave and master very carefully.  I want him around for a good while, and I don’t want him damaged beyond what he’s already suffered at the hands of his previous family.  It’s almost like I’ve got a clean slate to work with the boy.  He ain’t naive, but he is simple and still trusting in a childlike way.”

“Are you suggesting I would do such a thing, Captain?” Bryce asked with more than a little annoyance and a bit of anger in his voice.

“Bryce would never take advantage of the boy, brother, you know that.” Arlen came to Bryce's defense.

“I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort.  I meant no disrespect, Bryce.  I trust you completely.  I was just stating my hopes and ambitions for the boy.”

“If you’re concerned, I’ll be happy to return to our ship so you won’t be troubled, Sir.” Bryce offered curtly.

“Your uncle didn’t mean anything by what he said, Son.  Perhaps he could’ve chosen his words better, but don’t blow this out of proportion.” Arlen acted as the great arbitrator.

“Arlen’s right, Son,— I could’ve chosen my words better, and I apologize for any misunderstanding or discomfort my words may have caused you.  Of course I don’t want you returning to your ship.  I want you here as much as yore’ father.  Forgive your insensitive old uncle, relax and enjoy yourself.”

Bryce didn’t say more, but he nodded his head he would stay.  Lazarus could see he unwittingly hurt his nephew’s feelings.  He felt bad, but he didn’t know what to do about it at the time.  Any further concessions he might have made might seem disingenuous.  It was one of those unintended slights that occur between humans from time to time and what was done with no malice aforethought nonetheless cut to the bone.  Wounds of that nature usually don’t lend themselves to self-healing.  One needs to tend to them to have the proud flesh return to normal.  Fortunately for Lazarus, Bryce was a forgiving man or at least he thought so.

* * * * * * *

Ping devised a binary program with a sophisticated algorithm to enable humans to communicate directly with the Kryscells.  If a person lay in front of their rays long enough like Mary, Elsie and Lucas and even the brief time Waco and his men stood before them they could learn enough of their language to communicate with them.  The computer program allowed immediate one on one communication.

“Dear friends,” Lazarus spoke into the interface which changed his voice into a digital message. “this is Captain Long speaking.  We have noticed our slave, Lucas, has developed some unusual gifts for a young man his age.  Have you enhanced his brain?”

“Captain Long, it is a pleasure to hear from you again.  It’s been a while.  Before we answer your question let us say how much we appreciate you allowing us to dwell on your ship and within our savior’s domicile.  We are very grateful and we are most comfortable.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Sir.  You’re most welcome here and we greatly appreciate your generosity in seeing some of our folks who need your help.”  

“We are only too happy to oblige, Captain Long.  We didn’t enhance anything in our young friend’s brain.  He already had a brilliant mind for an organic; however, he suffered a massive contusion when he was younger when one of his brothers hit him in the head with something they call a baseball bat.  He almost bled to death within his brain.  We saw evidence of massive cerebral hemorrhaging.  No one did anything for him, and consequently he lapsed into a coma for about a week.  He was young and strong and by some unknown force of will, we cannot discover, perhaps a staggering need to survive, he healed himself and forced his body to rid itself of the blood that was surrounding his brain.  He willed it to pass through his liquid and solid waste.

We have never before observed this in another organic.  We could only attribute it to his higher developed brain functions already present at the time. We simply repaired his brain to it’s original condition and rejoined some neural pathways he enjoyed before, but no longer had use of after the blow to his head.  We taught him how to access those portions of his brain which were cut off to him.  They were just sitting there unused like fallow ground waiting to be tilled and planted.  Now, he should be operating at almost ninety percent of his brain capacity with a ninety-three point eight percent chance of reaching even higher percentages.  Did we do wrong, Captain?”

“No, no, absolutely not!  You did fine and we greatly appreciate your help.  I understand you are enjoying exchanging stories and ideas with him.”

“Oh, yes, Captain.  He has revealed a new world to us of the lives and experiences of organics we could only heretofore dream about.  He has been a revelation to us.”

“And have you done the same for Mrs. Gibbon’s infant and Mrs. Jessup’s baby?”

“Not exactly, Captain.  They are doing it themselves.  They asked us to join certain neural pathways so they could develop faster.  They were bored and felt so alone within their mothers they wanted to be able to communicate with the outside world like they were communicating with us.  They are now able to converse with one another, and they will until they’re born.  We are trying to help and guide them, but they are of a new generation of organics who are following in the genetic wake of an evolutionary development flowing from where we do not know.  We suspect there is a connection between our young Lucas and these infants; however, they are developing mental abilities far beyond what even he is capable of.  They will be able to communicate when they emerge from their mother’s womb.

The most amazing fact we’ve discovered for organics and ourselves, is evolution doesn’t take millions of years to occur.  It is happening every day all around us as well as within ourselves.  It happens in jumps and spurts or as we’ve heard used in your language, by leaps and bounds.  Why, only a short time ago young Lucas sang to us another form of mathematics we were totally unaware of.  We are still digesting the significance of this discovery.  It is a far more fluid system and has greater applications than we were capable of with our binary system.  We never knew just how limited ours was until recently.

We are on the verge of a huge evolutionary jump for our species.  We’re looking forward to learning more from Lucas as he grows.  There are mathematical probabilities that are inconceivable to us right now that we feel he might be able to bring us.  We are most excited.  For us, new information is like growing a new limb for you, or in Lucas’ case, sweeping out the cobwebs and clearing the dammed up flow of his natural brain processes.  He’s always had the ability, we only opened a spillway, but I’m afraid the dam burst.  We are most anxious to continue with Lucas and the other three boys our savior, Garron, brought before us.  We have decided if they are willing they could help increase our knowledge base considerably.

But the most astounding discovery we think is happening we will share with you even though we haven’t completed all of our calculations.  We feel strongly your species is evolving into a much more advanced race of organics.  You may be evolving into three separate sexes.  We add the qualifier ‘maybe’ because all our computations aren’t in yet.  It may take us a number of years, but we will share with you what we have as we go along.  

The final thing we’ve discovered is too fantastic to tell you about.  We don’t want to embarrass ourselves by presuming we have been singled out as a species or race to have this information evolve with us, but when we’re sure of our findings we will share it with you as well.  In the meantime, are we helping or hindering young Lucas and the infants?”

“Again, Dear friends, you have done nothing wrong, and you are doing nothing wrong.  You have done wonderful things for us for which we can only thank you.  I only wanted to know what was going on with Lucas’ brain to best be able to help him and the infants.  Their mother’s asked me some questions about things they’ve experienced with their babies, and I couldn’t answer.  Now I know and can give them reasonable answers.  You have answered my questions eloquently.

We are most grateful for your help. Seeing to your comfort and protection is the very least we can do for you.  It is an honor and a privilege to have you on board the Bandersnatch.  Our offer is still open ended, if you find you would be more comfortable on a world by yourself, it would be our honor and privilege to take you there and check back on you occasionally.  In the meantime, I will allow Lucas his regular visits with you and speak with Master Waco’s father about allowing the boys more exposure to you.  As I see it, it could only be a good thing for both species.  Perhaps what they can bring to you will expand your knowledge base to allow you to reach your conclusions sooner.”

“Ah, that would be wonderful, Captain Long.  Never worry about asking our help.  We’re glad to be of service.  It allows our species to grow and know each other more.  Thank you for our last solar feeding period.  It truly was a wonderful feast and the sun in this system tastes particularly delicious.  You’ll be happy to hear we have twenty-three females pregnant who will give birth by their side in three of your solar years.  We are most excited.  We feel our species has been given another chance, and you have become our guardians.  You humans speak of angels from another realm who guide, protect and assist you in your journey through time and space,— we have accepted that analogy for you and your kind.  We are most grateful for a second chance.”

“I hope our species may coexist and enjoy each other for a long time to come, Sir.  Our best wishes to you and your expectant mothers.  May your lives be filled with joy and a continuous flow of new information.”

“Thank you, Sir.  Please stay in touch.”
Lazarus shut down the computer and sighed.

“That’s what they did for me, Father.  I didn’t know how to explain it, but now I understand.  I thought it was all a dream, but I guess they did it while I was sleeping.  I remember now.  They removed the dam.  I watched them do it.  I think I’ll be able to communicate with Mistress Gibbon and Mrs. Jessup’s babies soon.  I jest feel it.”  Lucas told Lazarus.

“C’mere, Son.”  Lazarus opened his arms to Lucas and held him for a minute.  “Are you comfortable with all this?  Do you want to keep visiting with the Kryscellians?”

“Yes, Father.  I enjoy them very much, and they need me.  I like being needed.  That’s part of why I love you,— you need me.”

Lazarus laughed and so did Arlen and Bryce.

“I do, indeed, need you, Son.  We all do.  You’ve become a part of us.”

“Well, partner, I’m looking forward to seeing the ranch where you and Lucas are living.” Arlen spoke and he rubbed his hands together in anticipation.

“Good!  Let’s go then.”  Lazarus ushered them out of the room and to the portal to the ranch.

Arlen and Bryce were already dressed in Western clothes when they came through the portal onto the Bandersnatch.  They each brought backpacks with them with a change of clothes.  As the men exited the old barn they were met by three young cowboys running toward them followed by what looked like a giant ‘cousin it’ wearing heavy tall boots, a leather harness and an overcoat made out of fur.  Ox’s Winter pelt, Waco wanted him to grow for his warmth and protection, was almost completely grown in.  The boys took constant care of Ox’s new coat and it shown a bright redish-brown in the sunlight and flowed smoothly with the big creature's movements.  Ox looked more handsome than Arlen or Bryce could remember.  He positively glowed.  Arlen called out to him.

“Garron, my son!  You look wonderful!  I’ve never seen you look better!  It’s so great to see you again!”  Arlen hugged him followed by Bryce who was also pleased to see the giant lummox.  The boys looked at one another when the tall, handsome man with Captain Long and his mate called Ox, 'Dad Garron.'

“Captain Arlen Jones, this young cowboy is Master Waco Goodnight, my boss’s son, his little brother JR and Waco’s two slaves Travis and Little Bear.” Lazarus introduced Waco and his men.  Waco and JR shook the men’s hands and welcomed them to the ranch.  Travis and Little Bear went through the slave/master ritual with Master Jones, but once again Bryce told them he wasn’t a master, and it wasn’t necessary for them to pay homage to his boots; however, he would like a hug and a kiss from each of them.  They gladly gave him both.

The boys were concerned about Lucas, and he told them pretty much what the Kryscellians told Lazarus.  They all walked to the big house where Lazarus introduced the men to Charlie, Ida Mae and Hank Morgan.  Hank surprised Lazarus and paid homage to Arlen’s boots.  Lazarus told Curley Jones and Hank if they paid homage to him at the start of every week he would be happy.  Every Monday morning, in front of all the slaves the crew leaders would each pay homage to his boots for themselves and their men for the week.  It was fine with Lazarus.  He wasn’t into a lot of bowing and scraping.  Lucas noticed Bryce insisted Hank not pay homage to his boots.  Instead he offered his hand for Hank to shake.

Lazarus took the men to his house to get them settled.  They were impressed by the size and comfort of the old foreman’s house.  It was just understood among the men Arlen would be bunking it in with Lazarus; however, Lucas asked Bryce if he would like to bunk it in with him in his room as he had a large, comfortable bed.

“I appreciate the offer, Lucas, and I’m sure I’d enjoy staying with you; but, I think it would be best if I stayed in a room by myself.” Bryce replied without the least edge to his voice, but he looked right at Lazarus as he spoke.  “If you don’t have another room I could stay on the Bandersnatch, Captain.” he volunteered.

“Son,— ” said Arlen in a soft voice to Bryce, but he didn’t finish because he knew his boy was right to feel the way he did.

Lazarus knew Bryce was still smarting over his territorial bull-of-the-woods comment about Lucas earlier.  He decided he deserved the point Bryce was making, but he felt awful about it.  

“We have three other bedrooms fully furnished.  Take yore’ pick.  Lucas, please show Bryce the other three bedrooms.” Lazarus had a perturbed look on his face.

Bryce understood it was Lazarus’ way of dismissing him by having his slave boy show him the rest of the house.  He smiled a half smile at Lazarus, nodded and bowed slightly.  He knew he’d gotten his point across.

Arlen followed Lazarus into his bedroom and closed the door behind them.  Lazarus knew what that meant.  Arlen threw his backpack in one of the overstuffed chairs, but he didn’t say anything.  He just stood there with his arms folded across his huge chest.  Lazarus looked up at his silence.

“What?” asked Lazarus, “I apologized to the kid,— what more does he want?”

“The only thing he’s ever wanted from you, brother,— yore’ love.  He’s had to fight all his life for your approval.  He’s convinced you don’t care about him, and all his hard work and devotion don’t amount to a hill of beans to you.  Bryce has worked his ass off, and the boy’s come a long way from what he was when he was younger.  He had a rough time adjusting to having four fathers,— well, three fathers and an uncle.  He didn’t know whether he was coming or going.

Shore,’ he’s made some mistakes.  Who the hell ain’t?  You’ve made yore’ fair share, bubba.  The only difference is, you don’t never let him forgit about his, and you jes’ expect ever’ one to overlook yours.  When you step on somebody you pass out apologies like they’s fresh baked brownies, hot out of the oven you made yourself, but chu’ never follow through.  It’s like folks you slight is so much road kill you don’t even slow down to see the damage you done.”

“Now, wait a minute,— !” Lazarus protested.

“No, you wait jest a damn minute!  You jes’ done snipped that boy’s balls off up to his neck and now you wanna’ slap a band-aid on his boo-boo.  He ain’t no kid no more, brother.  Bryce is my strong right arm and your left arm.  I wouldn’t a’ know’d where to start the job you give us to do if’n h’it weren’t for him.  Damnation,— do you have any idea how much fuck’n shit is in the Amazon?  Do you have any idea the things we’re discovering no man has ever seen before?  We can’t get it into the ship fast enough.  We’ll be collecting another eight to ten years at least.  Bottom line, brother,— I need Bryce and you need him.

Ah, what the hell a’ my talk’n to you for?”  Arlen barked in disgust,   “You got a harder head than a damn Kentucky mule.  You been jealous of my love for that boy since I give birth to him.  God knows I don’t know why.  He loves you as much as I do.  Who’s idea was it for me to have Joe Cannon’s son in the first place?  Huh?  I ain’t sorry I done it.  When Joe was dying, we promised him we’d see to it he had a son with or without him, and we kept our promise.  You know I think on Bryce as ma’ own son.  I wanted you to think on him as yours, but you never done it.  You kept him at arms length all his life.  You always had him call you ‘uncle.’  You’d never allow him to call you ‘dad.’  Anytime he come to you for some’um you’d tell him to go see his dad.  

How do you think Bryce feels.  He comes up here and sees this beautiful new slave boy you created for yourself and the love what flows between you is palpable.  You could stir it with a stick.  You even allow him to call you ‘father.’  Some’um you ain’t never allowed Bryce to do, yet on the other hand you keep Lucas at arm’s length from you by insisting he’s your slave.  What’s wrong with this picture, bubba?  The kid would do the same damn things for you even if he weren’t no slave,— he loves you that much.  You only want him as a token son.  You’re doing the same damn thing to him you done to Bryce.

You promised Joe jes’ like I done.  You swore to him on his deathbed you’d see to the boy’s happiness.  Do you think you can stand there, in all honesty, look me in the eye, and tell me you’ve worked very hard to keep yore’ promise?

“All right!  All right!  You win!  I know I hurt the kid.  You tell me what to do.  I’ll do anything it takes.  I was wrong,— dead wrong.  You’re right about ever’ damn thing you said.  You know I don’t do “smoothing over” very well.  How many times I hurt chore’ feeling, apologized, kicked you in the butt, and told you to be the cowboy you is and git over yourself?”

Arlen laughed. “Which century?” he asked.

Lazarus laughed with him. “Yeah, well that’s my point.  You got to know the way I am,— you managed to stuff yore’ pride back in yore’ britches and go on.  Although, I will admit it took me some fast talking and some major love’n to git chu’ to come around a couple of times,”  he grinned at Arlen, “but we made it through.”

“Yeah, but there’s more to this than just you being a horse’s butt.  There’s something in yore’ past what’s traumatized you to having kids get close to you.  You let ‘em get only so close, and then you push ‘em away.  You’re already doing it to Lucas and the boy worships you.  You’ve become his guardian angel, the kid will accept anything you dish out as God’s gospel truth.  You know I ain’t an abolitionist, but why keep a kid that beautiful for a slave.  Raise him as your son, Lazarus.  He even looks like yore’ son.  Does all this have something to do with yore’ boy you won’t never talk about?  The one what refused to be manipulated by you and gave up his life for what he believed in?”

“Manipulation had nothing to do with it.  He refused to obey his father.”

“Whatever.  What da’ ya’ want, Lazarus?  I’ve done told you a hunnert’ times I’ll have yore’ son if’n you want me to.  Garron is here.  Fuck it!  Knock me up while I’m here, and we can have you a little one to bounce on yore’ knee this time next year.  I ain’t never stopped loving you, Lazarus.  Even when I’s carrying Bryce I never said ‘no’ to you.  Have I ever denied you when you needed me?” Arlen didn’t wait for an answer, he knew the answer, “When I threw my lot in with you, I didn’t know what the hell I was git’n myself into.  I could a’ found myself in some alien stew pot.  I’s jes’ about the dumbest damn cowboy on the planet, but I took yore’ offer to be your partner seriously.  I fell deeply and madly in love with you, and damn it, after all these years, I still am.”

“Alien stew pot?” Lazarus slapped his knee and fell out laughing.  “I don’t think so, brother, you ever tried to clean one a’ them cowboys?  Hell, you gotta' soak 'em for a week!” Lazarus roared with laughter. “All joke’n aside, partner, y’ain’t told me what to do about it yet, and I jes’ know you got an opinion!”  Lazarus emphasized the word ‘know,’ smiled and rolled his eyes.
“You wanna’ know what to do?  I’ll tell you what to do.  Go to the boy, lay yore’ cards on the table, do some of that fast cowboy talk’n yore’ so damn good at and lay some major love’n on the boy.  I know damn well you’re capable of it.  He deserves your love and consideration.”

“All right!  I’ll do it.  I ain’t real good at eat’n humble pie, but I’ll do it for Bryce.  I’ve gotten this far in my life by realizing there’s a few things,— well, maybe one or two,— I shy away from, but I ain’t afraid to try ‘em; otherwise, I wouldn’t a’ ended up with you for a mate.”

“Gee, thanks, buddy, that really warms the cockles of me old heart.” Arlen sneered. “It’s shit like that what got you in this mess in the first place.  Once upon a time that would a’ hurt my feelings,— today, h’it rolls off’n my back like a Sou’wester.  I know what chu’ mean, but most folks don’t.  Since you be trying new things, try make’n shore’ yore’ brain is running afore you put chore’ mouth in gear, bubba.”

“Roger that, pod’na.’  Now, gimme’ a kiss for luck.”

“I’ll give you a kiss, but it won’t be for luck.  You don’t need no luck to do the right thing.  How many times you done told me that?”  Arlen asked.

“I didn’t ask no cowboy to become my mate, I asked a damn parrot.” Lazarus laughed.  

“Speaking of which, we discovered a new species of flightless parrot what lives on the jungle floor of the Amazon.  Remarkable birds.  Biggest damn parrots on Earth.  The size of a tom turkey or bigger.  All they do is eat, shit, and squawk.  Makes you wonder how researchers could miss some’um 'at big.  They be mean bastards.  Som'bitch took off one of our android collector’s fingers.  We had to keep him on board the ship for a week the poor thing was so traumatized.”  The men shared a laugh. “They’s intelligent birds.  Found out them squawkers can communicate with one another.  Bryce is beginning to understand their language, and he’s teaching them ours.  We rounded up several pair and when he explained what we was doing they settled right down and marched onto the ship two by two.  All the test results ain’t in yet, but we think they might be sentient.”

“That’s amazing, bro.” agreed Lazarus.

Lazarus left and went to Lucas’ room and found him reading at his desk.

“What room did Bryce pick, Son?”  Lazarus asked quietly.

“The one downstairs off the kitchen, Master.  Is there something wrong, Sir?  I got the feeling Bryce feels left out.  He didn’t say nothing, but he was awful sad about something.  I told him I wish he’d stay with me, but he said ‘no.’”

“Yeah, Son, there is some’um wrong.  Your Master was an asshole to the young man earlier this morning, and I hurt his feelings.  I got to go down there and set it right.  Should I tell him you still want him to bunk it in with you?”

“Yes, Sir, I’d like that.  I think he’s very handsome.”

“He is,— he’s a damn good looking man.  His daddy was one of the finest looking men I ever did know, and he looks jes’ like him.”

“Ain’t Master Arlen his dad, Master?”

“He is and he ain’t, Son.  There’s a little more to it than normal human reproduction.  I’ll explain it to you latter if’n you’ll remind me.”

“Should I get something ready for lunch, Master?  We have all that food in the fridge Ms. Wallace gave us.”

“That ‘ud be a good idea.  If I git through talking with Bryce soon enough, I’ll come in and give you a hand.  Come, I’ll walk downstairs with you.”

The men walked downstairs and Lazarus went to knock on the door to the bedroom Bryce picked.  He knocked lightly.

“Come in.” he heard Bryce’s voice.

Lazarus opened the door, walked into the room and closed the door behind him.  He sat down in a large, comfortable, overstuffed, wing-backed chair.  He sat there for a minute looking at how handsome Bryce was and marveling at how much he looked like their old buddy, Joe Cannon.  There was no doubt Bryce was his father’s son.  Lazarus could see the young man had been crying.  He didn’t try to hide it from Lazarus.  Lazarus leaned forward in the chair and rested his arms on his knees with his hands together.

“I’ve got some things to say to you, Bryce.  First of all, I’ve been an asshole, Son.  I know I done give you an apology for my words before we left the ship, but I realize that weren’t enough.  I come to beg your forgiveness.”

“Don’t Uncle Lazarus,— ” Bryce couldn’t finish and held up his hand like he didn’t want to hear anymore.  It was like he had just given up on his uncle.

“Okay, yore’ dad and I had words, but he was right.  Ever’ damn thing he said was true.  I ain’t been the parent to you I promised yore’ daddy I would be.  I thought if you called me ‘uncle’ and thought on me that way it might make it easier for you to accept how you came to be.  I was wrong, Son.  You needed two parents, even if they was both daddies, and like Arlen accused me, I admit, I've stiff armed you all your life.  I don’t really know why.  Maybe it’s because Arlen loved you so much I felt like you was taking his love away from me.  Whatever reason, h’it weren’t right.  I never thought about it before Arlen brung it up, but I guess I’m doing the same thing to Lucas.  I find myself thinking on him as a son, and yet I keep insisting he be my slave.  I know you have an aversion to slavery of any kind, but I also know you don’t like to be labeled an abolitionist.  I won’t go into some of the possible better arguments for slavery, because I know you already know all the pros and cons.”

“I’m beginning to re-think my position, Uncle.”  Bryce admitted.

“H’it don’t never hurt a man to re-think some things.  When you come to a consensus with yore’self, I’d like to hear your thoughts, Son.  The point I wanted to make is, by insisting Lucas be my slave it’s really sort of a way for me to train him,— ”

“— and to have him sexually even though I know your strong opinions about the age of taking a young slave.”  Bryce interrupted and completed Lazarus’ sentence for him.

“That weren’t what I was gonna’ say, but I’ll admit, there’s some truth to that.  What I was gonna’ say is, I see it as a way to train him to be a son to me outside the parameters of the society we’re forced to live in on this planet.  Then, maybe later,— ”

“On this ranch,” Bryce interrupted him again, “miles away from nowhere, who’s gonna’ know one way or the other how you live your life and what relationship Lucas is to you?  You already gave him your last name, and you had him re-created in your image.  Most folks would think you were father and son.  You let him call you ‘father.’  Now, they’re just gonna’ think you enslaved your own son.”

Lazarus could see he was losing ground fast.  He had to get to the point of his visit and soon.  He was going down for the last time.

“Yes, there’s that.  I’ve thought about it, and it has been brought up to me by several others; however, Lucas ain’t the reason I come down here to talk with you.  I ain’t trying to git out of discussing it with you,— I’ll be happy to talk about it after I’ve said what I have to say to you.

Mainly, I jes’ wanna’ tell you how sorry I am for not thinking before I opened my damn mouth this morning.  I’m also sorry for any neglect or lack of love you feel I didn’t show you over the years.  I’m asking your forgiveness, but I know simple apologies and seeking forgiveness is empty if’n it ain’t followed through with action.  If you can find it in yore’ heart to forgive me and gimme’ another chance, I’ll make you a promise I’ll try to be more loving and more considerate of your feelings in the future.”

Bryce sat on the bed not knowing what to say.  He had been hurt pretty bad by Lazarus numerous times before, but he realized they were all similar situations where Lazarus spoke before he thought or Lazarus snubbed or ignored him.  As Bryce grew older, he developed a shield against Lazarus, but every now and then, his uncle could say something that would really eat on him for days.  Usually a good talk with his dad would help him see things differently, and Bryce would over look it; however, he was dangerously close to writing Lazarus off.  He felt he had a right to speak his mind, but he knew his position as First Mate and Science Office on board a star ship in a fleet under Admiral Long might be in jeopardy.

“Are we speaking as superior officer to a line officer, Captain Long, or are we speaking with each other as uncle and nephew?”

“Neither,— no labels,— we’re talking as family to one another, Son.  Say what’s on your mind.” Lazarus braced himself.

Bryce sat there for a long while not saying anything.  Lazarus didn’t push him.

“All the things I’ve ever wanted to say to you leapt into my mind, and now,— they don’t seem important no more.  Not because of your apology or promise you wanna’ make to me, but because I can’t worry about it any longer, Uncle Lazarus.  I’ve always loved you, but I never felt you loved me or cared a damn about me beyond being Arlen and Joe Cannon’s boy.”

Lazarus hung his head in shame.

“I forgive you, Uncle Lazarus.  I forgive you for implying I’m a sex crazed hound dog what’s got no control over himself and couldn’t keep from raping a young slave I just met for the first time.  I forgive you for all the other times you slighted me and ignored me, but it jes’ come to me,— h’it ain’t for me to forgive you, Uncle.  It’s for you to forgive yourself.

I’ve always loved you and tried my damnest to gain your love and approval, but you always had other things more important to do.  I was always in the shadow of your and my dad’s love.  I was just a necessary nuisance to you.  Over the years I watched  the way you treated slaves you had some affection for and wondered why you couldn’t show me a little.  Most of the time you treated them better than you treated me.

Do you know I talked with dad one time about giving myself to you as your personal slave?  I thought if I became your slave, maybe you might show me the affection or attention I wanted from you.  Hell, you show your androids more affection than you ever did me.  I don’t care how damn sophisticated they’ve become, they’re still robots.  It said to me, ‘Bryce, you’re less important to me than a damn machine.’

“That ain’t true, Bryce.” Lazarus said shaking his head.

“You don’t want it to be true, but you know it is, Uncle Lazarus.” Bryce said quietly, “Once in a great while you’d throw me a crumb when you felt bad about neglecting me; after all, your mate gave birth to me.  But it wasn’t until my dad started showing me a little physical love you withdrew from me altogether.  You thought I was in competition with you for his love.  I ain’t.  I never have been.  I have my dad’s love in a way you never will.  What little physical love we share, on a mutually agreed basis, is completely different from anything you’ll ever have with him.  I don’t mean it to sound smart mouthed, as an affront or to hurt your feelings because, on the other hand, what you have with my dad, I will never share.  I will never know the greatness of your love for him or his for you, and that’s as it should be.  All I’ve ever wanted was to be a part of both of you.”

Lazarus watched out of the corner of his eye as Bryce tried hard to be strong and not show any emotion, but his eyes wouldn’t cooperate.  A couple of big tears escaped and ran down his cheeks.  Lazarus got up and went to the young man, sat on the bed next to him and took him in his arms.  Then Bryce really did break up.  Lazarus held him tight and stole a kiss from him.

“I’m so sorry, Bryce.  I’ve always kept myself a bit apart from you because I didn’t wanna’ come between you and yore’ dad.  You have a close relationship, and I always felt like a third wheel.  I always felt like an outsider, but one thing I didn’t take into consideration is you were growing up and needed two parents.  

What can I do to make it right with you, Son, beyond jes’ trying to be a better parent to you?  I guess I ain’t never told you enough how much I love you, but I do.  Yore’ daddy is a good man, and he done raised you right.  He couldn’t a’ done the job in the Amazon if’n it weren’t for you and your knowledge.  I know it must be hell crawling around that jungle in the heat and rain, but it’s gotta’ be done.  I’m damn proud of Arlen, but I’m just as proud of you, Son.

The bottom line is I do love you, Bryce.  I love you like you was my own son.  If’n it would help call me ‘dad,’ I don’t care anymore.  Many years ago, more than I’d like to recall, I lost my boy in a tragic accident, after he refused to obey me jes’ to prove a damn point.  While I admired my boy for his convictions, I felt betrayed, humiliated and guilty I lost him as a direct result of those convictions.  All these years I could never stand the thought of another male child calling me ‘dad.’  I ain’t never allowed nobody but Garron to call me that again.  It was jes’ too damn painful.  Like I said, it happened many years ago.  Arlen tells me I’m still carrying that baggage around with me.  I learned my lesson the hard way, the lesson my son was trying to teach me, and I should let it rest with him.  I guess it might also account for the way I’m treating Lucas; however,— ”

“Are you serious about doing anything to set it right with me, ‘Dad!’” Bryce interrupted him again.  This time he emphasized the word ‘dad’ at the end of his sentence to make a point, then grinned wickedly at Lazarus.

“Anything, Son.” Lazarus knew better, but he was backed into a corner.  He winced internally knowing he just set his head inside a bear trap and the spring was about to be sprung.  The huge jaws would be snapping shut on his neck at any moment.

“Free Lucas.” said Bryce, “Give me a little brother to bind us together as a family unit.  Share him with dad and me, and I can promise, neither of us will butt fuck him.”  

Lazarus sat there for a long moment and hung his head again.  He tried twice to tell Bryce he already offered Lucas his freedom.  He thought he’d play this out a little differently than he originally planned.

“Will that set things right between us?” he asked Bryce.

“Yes, Sir, up to this point in time.  I can’t promise about the future because that’s gonna’ depend on how serious you are about making it up to me,— now, won’t it?”

“I guess yore’ right.  Sounds fair to me.  I’ll offer him his manumission over lunch today.”

“No,— no offer of manumission.  It has a slightly different connotation than emancipation.  He’s young and he’d be anything you wanted him to be.  If he thought for a minute you’d be happier with him as your slave, he won’t go for it.  You tell him you’ve decided to free him and raise him as your boy.  Then you let him call you ‘dad,’ too.”

Lazarus grinned at Bryce.

“Damn, boy, you drive a hard bargain.”

“Not at all, Dad,— remember, I’ve seen you in action for years.  I know how you operate.  Put chore’self in my position.  For years I’ve been on the outside looking in.  You done opened a door for me, why shouldn’t I walk in and demand my piece of the pie.  After all, you were the one what offered.”

“You’re right, I did.  All right, I’ll do it.”  Lazarus spoke softly.  “But chu’ gotta’ gimme’ a hug and a kiss to seal the deal.”

Lazarus hugged Bryce and kissed him on the mouth with more than a fatherly kiss.  He meant it to convey his love for Bryce and convince him of his seriousness.  Bryce was almost taken off-guard, but caught himself and responded in kind.  He couldn’t remember a time he ever kissed Lazarus on the mouth before.  There came a knock at the door.  

“Come!” hollered Lazarus over his shoulder still holding Bryce in his arms.

The door slowly opened, and it was Arlen.  He came into the room and smiled as he saw Lazarus and Bryce in each others’ arms.  He grinned real big.

“Everything all right in here?”

“I’m okay.  You okay, Son?”  Lazarus asked Bryce.

“I’m okay, Dad.”  Bryce meant for Lazarus, but Arlen thought it was for him.  Then he raised an eyebrow.  He wasn’t sure, but he wasn’t about to comment.

“Great!  That’s just fine.  Lucas has lunch ready for the three of us.  He didn’t make himself a sandwich because he didn’t know what his Master wanted him to eat for lunch, and he wasn’t about to disturb the two of you.”

“Ah, hell, tell the boy to make himself a sandwich.  We’ll be there in a minute, brother.”

Arlen grinned, nodded he understood, turned and left the room closing the door behind him.

“Let’s try that one more time,— shall we, honcho?”

“With pleasure, Dad.”  Bryce chuckled.  They kissed an even more passionate kiss and both got roaring hard.

“Does that mean what I think it means?”  Lazarus felt Bryce’s hard cock through his Wranglers.  Bryce felt Lazarus’ hard dick in return.

“Damn straight!  It does if you want it to, Sir.  My dad don’t have no anchor tied to my ass, and I’m over legal age.  It ‘ud go a hell of a long way toward mending fences, don’t you think?”

“Won’t gainsay that, Son.  I’ve mended a lot of fences with my old hammer.  I think repairing yore’ hole would be a sweet job.”

“You could a’ had it anytime you wanted.  All you had to do was ask.”

“I jes’ always thought on you as Arlen’s boy, Son,— I’m sorry.”

“I’m willing to make up for lost time, if’n you are, Dad.”

“Sounds good to me.  C’mon let’s us go git a bite to eat and tell yore’ little brother the news.”

“Oh, and by the way, Dad.  I will be bunk’n it in with my little brother for our stay.”

“Good.  The boy could use an older brother to share things with.” grinned Lazarus.

* * * * * * *

The men sat down to lunch.  Things were touch and go, but they were basically upbeat.  Arlen knew better than to asked what transpired, but he could tell his boy was happy.  Maybe, for once, his mate dropped his ‘old ironsides’ persona and decided to try to be a dad to Bryce, but Arlen was unprepared for what came out of Lazarus’ mouth next.

“Lucas,— Son,— after discussions with my partner and our son, Bryce, I’ve decided it’s time we formed a family.  Therefore, I’ve decided I don’t wanna’ raise you as my slave.  I want you to be a free boy, Son.  I want to raise you as my son.  So, I’m freeing you as of today; however, since it’s a long weekend the paperwork and legal stuff will have to be done later.”

Bryce smiled, Arlen’s mouth dropped open, but Lucas surprised the two men.  He burst out in sobs.  That’s exactly what Lazarus was hoping for.

“What's a’ matter, little brother?  Why the tears?” inquired Bryce, “Ain’t chu’ happy to hear the Captain wants to raise you as his son?”

“Yes,— I suppose, but I don’t wanna’ stop being Master Long’s slave.  I feel safer than I ever felt in my life.  That means a lot to me.  My brothers made me their slave from the time I could understand.  The only thing I knew was taking care of their needs, but my dad almost killed me.  Master Long rescued me from becoming dog food and fixed me up.  Now all I wanna’ do is take care of this house and my Master.  I been kept in a cage all my life and made to be a slave for my family.  I wouldn’t know how to be a free boy.  Please, Master Long, Sir, I’m happy being your slave.”

Lazarus didn’t say a word he just left it up to Bryce.  He was the one who wanted Lucas freed, let him convince him he should accept his Master’s offer.

“You would still take care of Master Long, Lucas, only now you’ll be taking care of him as your dad.  You can go to school as a freeman and not have to worry about people being mean to you.”

Lucas wasn’t buying any of Bryce’s explanation.  He only started to sob more, like his heart was breaking.  Arlen was beginning to put two and two together, and while he was thrilled and moved by his partner’s magnanimity he could understand where the catalyst behind his decision originated.  It was part of Bryce’s negotiation with Lazarus.  He had to admire his son, but he was beginning to wonder if it was such a good idea after all.  Lazarus continued to remain mute.  He wondered how much of Lucas’ protestations were real and how much was for Bryce and Arlen’s benefit.  Whatever,--- the boy was convincing.  Lucas got up, ran around the table and threw himself at Lazarus’ boots.  He didn’t stop to ask permission, he just started paying homage and making love to them like he was a starving man.

“Please, Master Long, don’t free me!  I’m a’ beg’n you, Sir.  Them slave papers say I belong to you, Sir.  I know I belong to you,— it says to the world I’m yore’ slave, but if you free me there won’t be nothing to say you own me no more.  I don’t need that right now, Master.  I need to be your slave.  What if you free me and my daddy finds out you done took me in and fixed me up?  I know my dad, he’d do ever’ thing in his power to git me back only to sell me again for more money, and next time, I might not be so lucky.  As yore’ slave I have some protection against him.  He don’t own me no more,— you do.  I’m yore’ property.  You have a receipt showing how much you paid for me.  

I been working hard to learn to be a good slave for you, Sir.  Ain’t chu’ happy with me, Master?  You already done told me you might not keep me as a slave all my life if’n I worked hard for you and pleased you.  I trust you, Master Long.  I don’t think you’d ever lie to me.  Please, Sir, I’m a’ beg’n you, Master, don’t do it!  I’ll do anything you ask, Sir, jes’ don’t make me a free boy!” Lucas broke down again at Lazarus’ feet sobbing his heart out.

“Git up here in my arms, Son.” Lazarus ordered the boy.

Lucas jumped up into Lazarus’ lap, threw his arms around his neck and continued to sob on his shoulder like his heart was breaking.  Bryce had a defeated look on his face, and Arlen saw something click in his son’s head.  Arlen thought it was time for him to say something.

“Lucas had a really rough time with his previous family, Son.”  Arlen spoke to Bryce.  “He ain’t like yore’ average young slave.  He don’t only come with baggage, he comes with a complete set of luggage and a large steamer trunk.  Would you take his security blanket away from him just when he’s starting to learn to walk in the world?  For many young slaves, slavery can be a molding situation what allows them to function in society with training wheels.  They’re taught manners, given parameters to operate within, and they quickly learn all of life is that way, even for free men,— especially in this world today.  Lucas is right.  His slave papers say his Master owns him.  Nobody can take him away from his Master.  Are you insinuating yore’ uncle is such a bad master Lucas should be freed against his will?”

“No, dad, not at all,— on the contrary,— I ain’t never known me a better master than Captain Long.”

Lazarus sat quietly looking at the table stroking Lucas and trying to comfort him, but the boy wasn’t to be consoled.  For the first time since Lazarus brought him home after his stay in sickbay, Lucas was really afraid.  Obviously, the boy had time to think about their conversation from earlier that morning and came up with some damn good arguments why he didn’t want to give up being Lazarus’ slave.  Lazarus was a bit smug and proud of Lucas.

“The Captain didn’t tell me he planned to free Lucas after he was a slave for a while.  When did you plan to free him, Sir?” Bryce inquired.

“I ain’t decided a date, Son.”

“Yes, you did!” interrupted Lucas, “You done told me after I served you for a couple hundred years you’d gimme’ an option.  You said you’d give me the option of being a freeman or continue as yore’ slave, ‘cause I might not wanna’ be freed,— I might find out I enjoy being yore’ slave and serving you.  I might feel differently then, but right now, I don’t wanna’ be a free-boy, Master.  Shouldn’t I have a say in this, Master?”

After that statement, there was no doubt in Lazarus’ mind, Lucas was playing to his audience.  He was milking this performance for all it was worth and making his Master look like a hero.

“Of course you have a choice, Lucas.” Bryce spoke for Lazarus. “It’s my fault, little brother, I asked your Master to free you to give me a little brother to love.”

“Can’t chu’ love me as a slave, Bryce?”

“Of course I can.  I didn’t know enough about your background to make that decision.  I apologize, Dad.  I guess if you plan to free him eventually and have agreed to a time, if’n he want’s to remain your slave, it should be his decision.”

Lazarus was still quite, but started kissing Lucas to calm him.

“Couldn’t you accept him as your little brother even if he was a slave?”  Arlen asked Bryce.

“I already have, Dad.  Calm down, Lucas.  Is that offer to bunk it in with you still open, little brother?”

“Yee, yes, Sir, Bryce.  I’d be pleased to have you bunk it in with me, but I don’t wanna’ be no free-boy.  Please say you won’t free me, Master Long.  I promise, Sir, I won’t never call you ‘father’ again.”

“Why would you punish me, Son?”

“Ain’t no punishment,— jes’ respect for my Master, Sir.”

“Okay,— I want a full agreement from ever’ one at this table.  What is to be Lucas’ fate?  Obviously, Lucas votes ‘no’ on freeing him.  After hearing his well thought out plea I vote ‘no’ as well.  If either of you vote to free him, it will be done.” Lucas shot a look of anticipation at Bryce and Arlen.

“I vote he remains a slave.” said Arlen.

“I guess I do, too, Dad.  I can understand his fear.  It’s real.  Ain’t never seen a kid express that much fear.  I suppose this is one of them unusual situation what’s beginning to make me look at slavery in a different light, Captain.”

“Okay,— then let it be understood, Lucas will remain my slave until his eighteen birthday, at which time he will be given the choice of his freedom or remaining my slave on a renewable option basis from year to year or for a longer period depending on his decision.  I’ll have it written up and notarized as an addendum to his slave papers.  Until his eighteenth birthday, he will be treated like any other slave.  Is it still all right if’n I think on you as my slave-son?”  Lazarus asked Lucas.

“Yes, Sir, h’it’s fine with me, Master.  Thank you, Master Long.  You’ve put my mind at ease.  I thought for a minute there, my heart would break.  Thank you, Sir.”  Lucas was all over Lazarus kissing and hugging him.  Bryce smiled, but shook his head in wonder.

“Maybe I should a’ followed through with my plan to give myself to you as a slave, Captain, if’n that’s the way your slaves feel about you.”  Bryce commented dryly.

“You told him about that, Son?” Arlen asked.

“I ain’t ashamed of it, Dad.  If’n I ever lost my freedom I wouldn’t want no other master but Dad Long.”

“Why do you call them both ‘dad,’ Bryce?”

“It’s a long story, little brother.  I’ll tell you later this evening when we’re alone in bed together.”

“How would you men feel about helping to take care of a baby brother?”  Lazarus spoke to Bryce and Lucas.

“You mean it, Captain?  That would be great!  I’d love it!  I’ll do my part.” promised Bryce.  

“I would love to have a baby brother, Master, especially if’n he was yours.” said Lucas.

“Is your offer still open, cowboy?” Lazarus spoke to Arlen.

“Absolutely!  I’m call’n yore’ bluff, partner.  You borrow the boy’s lummox for tomorrow evening, and I can be pregnant before midnight.”

“You men up to being witness’s at the conception for your new little brother.”

“I am.  I wanna’ see how I was created.” allowed Bryce.

“I’m curious as can be, Master.” Lucas responded.

“Good.  You can tell us when your dad’s pregnant, Son.”  Lazarus said to Bryce.

Lazarus helped Lucas clean up after lunch.  Arlen and Bryce went off to another part of the house together.

“Guess you had time to think on what we discussed this morning,— huh, Son?”

“Yes, Sir.  I was gonna’ talk with you later, but I got the feeling you were being pressured.”

“Smart lad.”

“Was it too much, Father?  Did I over do?” Lucas smiled.

Lazarus put his arm around Lucas and hugged him tight.

“You convinced me.  No,— as the Brits are wont to say,— you was spot on, Son.  I’m proud of you.  How does your eighteenth birthday sound to you?”

“It makes me a bit nervous, but I might feel differently then.  It makes me feel better knowing I’ll have a choice.  My greatest fear about going to school is Caleb’s brothers attend the same school.  Even though they might not know who I am, it would still be difficult for me to see them ever’ day, Master.”

“Don’t chu’ worry none about them.  I’ll have that situation taken care of before you ever walk through the door of that school,— trust me, Son.”

“I do trust you, Father.  You ain’t never lied to me yet, I don’t expect you will, either.”

“Bank on it, boy!  Are we all right?”

“Better’n all right, Father.  We be fine.”

They shared a laugh.

"All right.  One more thing,— since you and I have an understanding between us, and I've given Bryce permission to call me 'dad,' how 'bout you drop the 'father' thing and call me 'dad' when we're in private or with our immediate family.  After all, you agreed it would be all right for me to think on you as my slave-son, and since it's pretty much the android's thing to call me 'father,' I think it might make a difference for both of us.  It would help me git used to having a young man I love and take care of call me his 'dad.'

"I'd be proud and honored to call you 'dad,' Sir.  It seems less formal than 'father.'  I promise, I will still show you proper respect as my Master around others.  Are Master Arlen and Bryce our immediate family, Sir?"

"That's right,— also, Ox and the androids." Lazarus replied. "And if you slip and call me 'dad' around Master Charlie, the boys, or anyone around the ranch, you won't be corrected or punished." Lazarus grinned and winked at Lucas.

"I understand, Dad.  Thanks."  Lucas smiled back.

"You earned the right, Son."  Lazarus assured the boy.

* * * * * * *

At supper that evening, the boys and Charlie were interested to hear about Captain Arlen and Bryce.  The boys knew a little about them from Ox.  He didn’t tell them too much because he didn’t know how much his Godfather would want them to know.  He left it up to Lazarus to fill in the details if he wanted to.

Lucas came to the big house early to see if he could help Ida Mae.  She welcomed him with open arms and could tell he was troubled.  He didn’t want to tell her about what happened earlier, but Ida had a way about her.  He told her everything and cried again.  She consoled him and told him she didn’t think Master Long would do anything like that to him.  If he wanted to remain a slave she didn’t see Master Long going against his wishes.

They got supper on the table and Ida Mae called the men to gather around the table.  Lucas volunteered to get anything else the men needed and Ida asked Charlie if she might be excused to get supper for her family.  Sometimes she liked to prepare a meal for Hank and JR separately so she could enjoy their company over a meal.  Charlie told her to go with his blessings.  They could handle everything.  The boys said they’d help Lucas with cleanup.

Charlie was impressed by the size and gentility of Arlen Jones.  There was no doubt he was or had been a cowboy in Charlie’s mind.  He seemed forthright and honest and had a big hardy laugh.  He was the exact opposite of his cool, calm, collected, never ruffled mate, Lazarus Long.   Charlie could see how they seemed to fit together like two bookends.  One complemented the other.  If Charlie didn’t feel so secure in his relationship with Lazarus he might have been jealous.  

Bryce Cannon was somewhat of a conundrum for Charlie until Arlen said something about Bryce being his boy.  While Bryce was an exceptionally fine looking young man, he looked nothing like Arlen Jones.  He was more Lazarus and Charlie’s size and instead of ruggedly handsome good looks like Arlen and Lazarus, Bryce was a handsome man.  The only rugged thing about him was his solid body.  There was no question he worked out and kept himself almost but not quite as buffed out as Bill Birdsall and Charlie’s baby brother.

“If Bryce is your son, Captain Jones, how is it he has another name?”

“He don’t really.  His full last name is ‘Cannon-Jones.’  A close friend of Lazarus and me named Joe Cannon was wounded real bad in a battle we had against the same aliens what have been visiting your planet for centuries.  He didn’t make it and on his deathbed, Lazarus and I promised we’d see to it he had a son to carry on his name.  So, I carried Joe’s baby and gave birth to Bryce.  I was his primary parent.  Our Godson was his secondary parent.”

Charlie stopped eating amd put his fork down.  There was a hush around the table you could feel.  Waco, Travis and Little Bear were sitting on the edge of their seats.

“I understand you have advanced medical and surgical techniques, but how it that possible?”

“Through an intermediate sex, Boss.” Lazarus spoke, “You remember me telling you Ox’s species is one of the most remarkable and adaptable in the universe, and he has talents you have yet to know about?”

“Yes, I remember.  When we were riding back from your ship the first time.”

“Ox's species, as far as we know, is unique in the universe.  Although they evolved along similar lines as us, they have several unusual things about them.  They are one of only a handful of species which evolved with more than a double helix strand of DNA to define them.  Ox's species, the Volgorons, have an extra strand of DNA, and it makes them highly adaptable.  All life on Earth evolved from a double strand of DNA, and we are limited to one form of sexual reproduction;  however, according to the Kryscells we may be evolving into three separate species.  The Volgorons are not so limited.  They are capable of reproducing in several different ways.  Ox’s species is not only capable of procreating their own kind, they can act as an intermediary sex for other mammalian species, and believe it our not, several non-mammalian species.

Ox is capable of having sex and procreating normally like any other mammal; that is, a male lummox and a female lummox.  He can produce his own sperm to impregnate a female's egg of his species; however, his sexual abilities go much further than ours.  His body also produces proto-embryos that are pristine unto themselves.  They can be fertilized in a number ways.  They can be injected by means of his penis into the womb of a female of any other mammalian species, and if fertilized with his sperm, will produce another of his species, almost an exact duplicate of him; not a clone, but a genetic double.  Will it be just like him in every way?  No, there will be some minor differences in appearance and personality.  Personality can be closely mimicked due to DNA similarities, but it won’t be an exact copy.  The variables of life and experience are too great.  

One of the more remarkable feature of the Volgorons is the ability of their proto-embryos to be implanted in the lower digestive track of any male of a mammalian species and in the case of humans, four and a half months later out pops a baby what’s completed its first half of development; however, it has four and a half more months to bake in a secondary parent's womb.  Like the marsupials on your planet, where the babies are born as proto-infants and must crawl into their mother’s pouch, so must the newborn human baby crawl from its primary parent into the pouch of a male of Ox’s specie.  There it will reside in perfect contentment for another four and a half months, only to come out when it’s hungry to crawl to his daddy’s teats for feeding.  Thus you have the reason for male lummox milk.  It’s also one of the reasons Ox’s specie is so hairy.  The infant has something to grab hold of to aid in its trip from the pouch to his daddy’s teat and back again.

The females of the Volgorons only carry their babies for half their bearns gestation period.  Their infants are called ‘bearns.’  Their gestation period is twelve months to our nine.  The female carries the fetus for the first six months, then after she give birth, the male carries it for the last six months.  This isn’t unprecedented within the biological diversity of your own planet.  In many species the male is the one responsible for the gestation of the young.  It also makes it possible for a Volgoron male to make his mate pregnant while he’s still carrying their first bearn.  It’s almost like an assembly line baby factory.  It increases the probability of specie survival by fifty percent.  Surprisingly, infant mortality among Volgorons is almost unheard of.  In all my years, I’ve never heard of a Volgoron losing a bearn.

“Are you telling me that’s the way Bryce was born?” Charlie asked in amazement.

“That’s right, Boss.  Captain Jones gave birth to Bryce and Ox, or Garron as we call him, carried him for another four and a half months in his pouch.”

“We bathe Ox every day, Master Long, how come we ain’t never discovered his pouch?” Waco asked.

“It closes up so it can remain sterile until he gets ready to receive a young one, then it opens up."

“Cooool!” exclaimed Waco with a big grin on his face looking at Bryce the handsome spaceman.

“Way, cool!”  allowed Travis.   

“Supreme-o cool!”  laughed Little Bear.

Charlie laughed at his boys enthusiasm and shook his head in disbelief.

“If’n any man told me this six months ago I’d a’ called him a damn liar;  however, I’ve seen too much.  How did you have Mr. Cannon’s son without him?”

“Good question, Mr. Goodnight.” Arlen spoke up. “Once Ox released the proto-embryo and it attached itself to the wall of my lower intestine, it began looking for genetic information to tell it what to become.  If Ox were to release his sperm into me shortly after the embryo attached itself, it would produce another Ox.”

“What about genetic information from you, its primary parent?” Charlie asked.

“Another good question.  It won’t take information from its host unless Ox tells it to.”

“You mean he can communicate with his,— ?” Charlie didn’t know what to call it by this time.

“His proto-embryo, Sir?  Yes, he can to a limited degree.  After seeing what he can do so far would you doubt it?” Lazarus smiled at Charlie.

“Not me!” exclaimed Waco.

“Nor me!” exclaimed Travis.

“We know what he can do!   Ain’t no doubt in our minds.” added Little Bear.

“Okay, so where does the father’s genetic information come from?” grinned Charlie like he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“From his sperm, Sir.  The embryo looks for genetic information within the host digestive track.  There’s three ways to get the information to the embryo.   The father’s semen may simply be ingested if there’s enough of it or in Joe Cannon’s case his semen was injected into my lower track immediately after the proto-embryo attached itself.  There’s a little more to it than that, but Captain Long has an instructive and informative video of an inception of a pregnancy between a male Volgoron and a male human he can show you on the ship.  The proto-embryo may also be fertilized prior to a lummox’s ejaculation by the father having ejaculated into his lower digestive tract by way of the lummox’s anus.  There it’s quickly absorbed and the information sent to the embryo before the lummox releases it into the host’s lower tract.

“Wouldn’t the human body have a tendency to reject the embryo?”

“Naw, Sir.  All embryos,— even normal human embryos are parasitic by nature.  They take over the host body whether it’s male or female and tell the body what to do to insure its survival.  It immediately floods the host’s system with anti-rejection enzymes that won’t allow the body’s defense mechanisms to recognize it.

Charlie sat there stunned.  The boys were on the edge of their seats.  Lucas had been silent during the whole discussion; however, he did something that almost tore Bryce’s heart out of his chest.  He was sitting next to Bryce, simply reached over, took Bryce’s hand in his and held it as a gesture of understanding and brotherhood.  Bryce almost lost it.

“We wouldn’t have gone into such detail over the supper table, but you seemed to be interested,— and we have a favor to ask.” Lazarus told Charlie.

“No,— it’s all right.  You know we can discuss most anything.  Lord knows we discuss breeding and calving cattle over supper.  Ain’t too much difference.  Besides, listening to all this is like watching a cross between ‘Wild Animal Planet’ and ‘old Jerry Springer re-runs’ on T.V.” he laughed. “What favor do you have to ask of me?”

“Well, some things have come up family-wise between me, Arlen, Bryce and Lucas.  Arlen and I’ve been talking about raising a family for years, but we jes’ ain’t never got around to it.  We ain't never had us a place where we planned to stay long enough to consider it.  Arlen and I already have two fine young men and a Godson to claim as family.  We couldn’t be more proud of Ox, Bryce and Lucas, but I think we need one more to bind us together as a whole.  I got to think’n about being here in a pretty stable environment for a number of years, and thought we would ask your permission to have one more kid, another son for us?”

“Yes!” shouted Waco and high-fived his brother Travis sitting next to him, “Another little brother!  Wow!  How great is that?” he went on.

“Excellent!” commented Little Bear.  The boys were like a Greek chorus in an ancient play.

“You don’t need my permission to have a child, Lazarus.”

“Beg’n your pardon, Sir, but we do.  You see, we have to borrow Master Waco’s lummox for an evening to make it happen.  Arlen has volunteered to have my baby, but that means Ox will have to carry it for its last four or five months.  Usually the baby ain’t ready to vacate right away at the end of four and a half months.  Eviction can be traumatic for a bearn, and it will run back to the safety of his daddy’s pouch for another couple of months after that.  Of course, as your slave, you and Master Waco have the right to attend and watch Ox impregnate my partner.

“Cowabunga!  Do my brothers get to come?”  Waco blurted out without thinking.  

“No, only me.” shot back Lazarus with a grin.  Everyone at the table broke up.  

“When do you plan to do it, ramrod?”  asked Charlie.

“Since they’ll be here through Sunday, we thought tomorrow evening would be good for us.  We’ll do it on the ship where we have facilities in case an accident occurs.”

“Accident?” inquired Charlie.

“Nothing major, Boss.  Ox has to fill Arlen’s lower colon with a fluid similar to amniotic fluid in humans.  In fact, it’s exactly the same degree of salinity as  human fluid.  The proto-embryo uses it to swim in to anchor itself.  The fluid may also act like a swimming pool for my sperm to fertilize the embryo should we choose to inject it directly into my mate’s lower tract.  We may try both ways to insure conception.  Once the proto-embryo attaches itself, Arlen’s body will absorb the fluid, but sometimes a little slips out, especially after having a penis as large as a lummox’s up his butt for an hour or more.”  

Lazarus was so matter of fact about his explanation, Charlie didn’t know whether to laugh at him or not; however, the boys couldn’t contain their giggles, so he compromised by laughing at them.

“Of course you have my permission.  Are you kidding?  If I said ‘no’ I’d be lynched by my own family.” Charlie roared with laughter, “Furthermore, it shore’ as hell will beat watching re-runs boring political rants on the boob tube for a Saturday night.  What are you gonna’ name him?”

“We ain’t even talked about it.  We probably will this evening.” said Arlen. “Since it’s gonna’ be Lazarus’ son,’ I’m gonna’ let him name him what he wants.”

“Okay, then, we’ll look forward to it.  Do my boy’s slaves git to attend?” Charlie laughed making sure he didn’t make the same mistake Waco did.

“Don’t see why not.” A cheer went up from Waco and his men. “H’it’s gonna’ be a family affair for us.  Bryce and Lucas will be there to witness the conception of their new baby brother.  Travis and Little Bear are family.  I’m going to invite Hank, but I think JR is a little young.”

“I agree with you, ramrod.  I think Hank would be honored and could handle it as well as any man.”

“I may want to invite a couple more people if’n that’s all right with you, Boss.” Lazarus said, “It’s a tradition with the Volgoron to have whole families present for the conception of any bearn.  Arlen and I have adopted their tradition.  It jes’ seems right somehow.”

“In a way, it has a lot more going for it than jes’ two people in a dark room.  It sort of celebrates the beginning of a new life.”

“I’ve always felt that way about it.  We had several families of Volgorons present when Arlen conceived Bryce.”

“Wait a minute!  I mean no disrespect, Son,” Charlie spoke to Bryce, “but are you half human and half lummox?”

“Naw, Sir, Master Charlie.  I’m completely human.  Well, to be totally honest, I’m one tenth of one percent Volgoron.  So, technically, Garron or Ox is one of my three fathers.

“You see, Boss, that’s the beauty and simplicity of the Volgorons.  They can, but they usually don’t leave their genetic imprint on another species.  In most cases they choose to keep the integrity of the species they’ve been asked to reproduce.”

“I have a feeling the next ten years is going to be a never ending rodeo.” Charlie laughed. “That’s all right, it keeps life from getting dull and boring.” he allowed.  “We’ll certainly look forward to tomorrow evening.  Now, is this all the talents our lummox is capable of?”

“Naw, Sir.  There’s a couple more what’s almost equally mind blowing.  I know I didn’t believe it until I saw it with ma’ own eyes.  You won’t either, Boss.”  Lazarus laughed.

“I won’t ask.”  Charlie smiled.

“Best you don’t until you witness it for yore’self, Sir.” Lazarus winked.

* * * * * * *

The men said their goodbyes and returned to the foreman’s house.  Waco wanted Lucas to stay and talk with them some, but he was still charged from the conversation at lunch and begged to be excused to return with his Master.  Waco was disappointed, but he understood.

Lazarus was pleased to see Bryce throw his backpack into Lucas’ room.  The two of them had become thick as thieves since lunch.  Bryce was blown away by how much Lucas learned in such a short period of time.  He was convinced the Kryscells were good for him and encouraged him to continue his visits with them.

The time came for bed and Lazarus and Arlen were anxious to retire early.  They said they had a lot to discuss.  Bryce and Lucas laughed at them.  They knew what they were going to do, and it didn’t involve much chit-chat.

Lucas helped Bryce with his boots and then his clothes.  Bryce wasn’t used to anyone helping him, but he went along with it.  He got the feeling it was what Lucas wanted to do for him as opposed to doing it because he was trying to be a good slave.  He wondered how much if any thoughts entered Lucas’ head about being a slave.  The kid seemed so natural in his role and for all Bryce could tell was very happy being Lazarus’ slave.

Bryce felt more comfortable around Lazarus since their talk and Lucas’ insistence he didn’t want to be a freeman.  He wondered why he felt that way because, it all went against his beliefs and convictions.  Had he misjudged Lazarus all these years?  Was he too critical and analytical of his uncle?  Why was he back to thinking of Lazarus as his ‘uncle’?  Because it felt more comfortable.  He felt like he didn’t need to think on Lazarus as a dad, he had Arlen, Joe Cannon and Garron to think on that way.

Bryce and Lucas got into bed and Lucas asked Bryce to hold him.

“I’ll be happy to, little brother, but you know I ain’t gonna’ get involved with no hanky-panky.  I gave my uncle my word, and I’ll keep my word to him.”

“I don’t care about that none.” said Lucas. “I jes’ don’t want you to be mad at me for not wanting what you wanted for me.”

“I ain’t mad, Lucas.  In fact, I’m happy for you if it’s what you're comfortable with and it’s what you want.”

“It is what I want, Bryce.  I love Master Lazarus.  If I’m to become his son one day, I want to be worthy for him to think on me as his son.  In a way, it will be better than being born his son.”

“How’s ‘zat?” Bryce asked.

“I will have earned his love as a dad.”

“That’s a healthy way of looking at it, Lucas.  You don’t have to do no work to be my little brother.  You done earned that right in my eyes.”

“You too, Bryce.  I know you’re a good man.”

As Bryce drifted off to sleep he thought about a video of his dad, Joe Cannon, Arlen and Lazarus made up from bits and pieces of recordings taken on the ship and personal recordings the three of them made together.  He watched it many times.  He couldn’t remember how many.  He kept coming back to one scene on his deathbed Joe spoke directly to him.

“It ain’t gonna’ be easy for you, Son.  Without me you’re always gonna’ wonder what it would a’ been like to have me by your side.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there in person, but Arlen and Lazarus will take good care of you and raise you right.  Follow your heart, Bryce.  Stand up for what you believe in and show compassion in all things.  Temper all your judgements with love and a good heart.  Always remember, you’re Joe Cannon’s son, walk tall and you’ll never walk alone, boy.  Save room in your heart for me, and I will always be with you,— I will always be by your side.  The love of a father for his son knows no grave.  It's one of the few cosmological constants in the universe.  I love you, Son.” and then,— Joe Cannon allowed himself to slip away.

End Chapter 14 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2006 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
Mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com