By Waddie Greywolf

Chapter 38

Stan and Jimmy-Bob tried to rest on the return trip to Earth, but they were too apprehensive about what they would find.  Jimmy-Bob seemed calm and collected.

“H’it don’t matter none.  We done what we done, and I ain’t sorry we done it.  I was so worried about ever’ thing before I met you, Stan.  Then you and your family whisked me away in a fly’n saucer and take me on a fantastic journey like it was an ever’ day thing with ya’ll.  I ain't never had me no better time in my life than I did with you, brother.  I guess, in a way, it’s just what I needed.  I felt so lost and depressed.  You gimme’ new hope.  I don’t fear the future no more.  No matter what happens we’ll make it through.  I know that now.  I know my family is gonna’ be saved and once we do what we gotta’ do, I’m looking forward to living our lives like we want.  We can do anything together.”

“You’ve really changed, J.B.  I like the new you.  You’ve even changed in our love making.  I couldn’t ask for no better partner.  You pour yourself and your love into me like it’s the finest thing you’ve ever done.”

“It is the finest thing I ever done, but it’s only because you let me, Stan.  I weren’t kidding when I told ju’ I wanted to be your man.  I don’t care how I have to do it, but I wanna’ take care of you and Moe.”  They managed to get in some more love making before they collapsed in each others’ arms and passed out from exhaustion.  They tried to cram too much living in too short a time, but they were young and could handle it.

The pipe from the bridge broadcast over the ship announced reveille way too soon.  They dragged their asses out of bed to get ready to take Moe for his morning walk.  To their surprise they were joined by almost everyone on the ship.  Everyone knew Stan and Jimmy-Bob would be the first to be dropped off at the Holy City to resume their lives.  They wanted to say ‘goodbye’ and wish them well.  They had just enough time for a walk and a bite to eat.  Everyone watched the Earth rise on the holo-vid screens.  There was more than a few tears shed at the beauty of their home world.

Sonny and Vivian were showing their two new children the world where they would be living.  They were impressed.  Stan and Jimmy-Bob were hugging everyone and saying their last farewells.  Moe was beside himself.  He didn’t want to let them go.  They had to be extra loving with him.

“Look, little brother, we’ll be together sooner than you think.  I got this big cowboy to look after me and cover my back, and I’ll look out for him.  Ain’t nothing gonna’ happen to us.  You’ll see.”

“Let me go with ya’ll, Master Stan.” Moe begged.

“We can’t, little buddy.” said Jimmy-Bob.  “H’it ain’t no place for you.  Besides, you can come visit us by holo-vid.  I know it ain’t quite the same, but it’s better’n nothing.   We love you, and we’ll keep in touch.”  Moe finally calmed down, but not until Warren Steele came over and held him.  They were over the Holy City and Lucas asked where they wanted to be dropped off.

“We’re suppose to be in Officer Brick’s extra bedroom.  I guess that’s as good a place as any.” said Jimmy-Bob.

“You don’t have to click your boot heels this time.” Stan laughed.

“Shoot!  You take all the fun out of it.” grinned Jimmy-Bob.  “Bye, everyone.  We love ya’ll.”

“Bye!”  Everyone waved and spoke.  “We love you, too.  See you soon.” and they were gone.  Moe let out a small wail but Warren held him tight and tried to soothe him.

There was a flash of light.  Stan and Jimmy-Bob looked around.  They were in Brick’s spare bedroom.  The door was closed.  No one seemed to be home.

“What’ll we do?” asked Stan.

“I don’t know about you, but I could use another forty winks.  We didn’t git a lot of sleep last night.”  he grinned wickedly at Stan.

“Thank, God!” answered Stan.  “You can keep me awake anytime for another evening like that.”  he grinned.  “Sounds good to me.  Let’s crawl in bed and get a little shut-eye.”  The men shucked their clothes and crawled into bed.  It was still early morning, but they slept for several hours until they heard a ruckus in the apartment.  It sounded like angry voices.  Stan heard someone say,

“We have orders from the Holy Father to search your apartment.”

“Why, we have nothing to hide?”  they heard Officer Brick complain.

“We ain’t worried about you hiding anything.  We jes’ wanna’ know what happen to the two men you said were here.”

Stan poked Jimmy-Bob and whispered. “Remember, we got terrible colds.”

Jimmy-Bob nodded his head and started coughing his head off.  Stan started sneezing.  They grabbed a box of Kleenex and passed it back and forth rubbing their noses to make them red.  Suddenly the bedroom door opened and they sat up in bed with red eyes and a tissue shoved to their face.  They saw it was one of the Temple Guards they met at the pool party on the Fourth of July.  They didn’t even bother to say ‘hello’ or acknowledge him.  They just both groaned and rolled over on their sides.

“Sorry, guys.  Go back to sleep.  You sound dreadful.  Get some rest.”  he admonished them.  They waved their tissues at him.  He left and closed the door.  Stan rolled over into Jimmy-Bob’s big cowboy arms and they shared a silent laughing fit together.  They heard the big guard apologizing to Brick and Tim and telling them they would put in a good word to the Holy Father for taking care of the sick men.  It wasn’t long before the door was opened again and Brick and Tim stormed into room.

“All right, you guys, where the hell you been?” Brick demanded.

“Be gentle with us, Officer Brick, we’s powerful sick.” groaned Stan.  Brick elbowed his mate and chuckled.

“My ass!” sneered Brick.

“If we told you where we been, you wouldn’t believe us no ways.” Jimmy-Bob told them.

“I don’t care, try me.  I think you men owe us the truth.  And how did you get into this apartment without being seen?”  Brick demanded.  “Oh, and by the way— great acting job with the colds and all.” he smiled.

Jimmy-Bob looked at Stan and Stan nodded his head to tell them the truth.

“We were on our honeymoon, Officer Brick.  I took ma’ mate on a trip across our solar system.  We were beamed up into a beautiful flying saucer, we had our very own private cabin, and we traveled to every planet in our solar system except Mercury and that was only because we didn’t have time.  None of our friends who went with us wanted to fly that close to the sun anyway.  We got to say ‘hello’ to the atmospheric Bladder Whales of Venus and hear their songs.  They’s huge, beautiful intelligent creatures.  They told us the Venusians wanted us to land.  Our Captain hadn’t planned on it, but it was a great honor to be asked to land on Venus.  The Venusians are a solitary race of folks, somewhat xenophobic, what don’t mix with other species much until recently.  We stayed an evening on Venus, then traveled to Mars.  We stayed on Mars longer than we planned, but we tried to git back as soon as possible.  We been here since about eight o’clock but you two were gone.  We were tired.  We were up most of the night on our way back to Earth doing what young honeymooners do.” Jimmy-Bob grinned wickedly and winked at Brick and Tim.

“Ya’ll expect me to believe that?”  Brick grinned.  “Hell of a story, though.  For a minute there, what with the Venusians and Bladder Whales, I almost bought it.”

“Uh, Brick, honey— excuse me, but I think I do buy it.  Jimmy-Bob ain’t the same.” was the first words Tim said.

“Yeah, he does seem a little more sure of himself, but hell, a good partner will do that for you.  Look what you done for me, darlin.’” Brick grinned at Tim.  “And, I suppose your dog, Moe, your little buddy, went with you?”

“Yes, Sir, he did.  He had a great time.  We damn near couldn’t git him away from the Woolly Mammoths on Mars.  He thought they was jes’ about the neatest critters he ever did see.  He’s a cow-dog by nature and he was trying like crazy to herd them big creatures.  They didn’t pay him no never mind though.  He was pretty fond of the Evanescent kids, too.  We just left him a little bit ago.  He wanted to come with us, but we told him this place weren’t for someone as good as him.  He just wouldn’t fit in here.  We sent him on back home to the ranch where he belongs.  We told him you advised us not to let him visit no more for his protection.”

“Mammoths on Mars?  There ain’t no atmosphere on Mars to speak of.”

“They’s in huge underground caverns with artificial light sources left behind by an ancient race of folks called the Krell.” said Jimmy-Bob.

“What proof do you men have?”  Brick pushed.

“We’re back ain’t we?  We didn’t have to come back.  We could a’ stayed on Venus or Mars.  Mars is really nice this time of year and there were lots of wonderful folks on both worlds who we fell in love with.  We had to come back, Office Brick.  We didn’t have no choice really.” Jimmy-Bob told him.  Stan was so proud of his cowboy.  He just let him run with it.  He was doing a fine job.

“I don’t understand.  If you didn’t have to come back, why would you men return?  I know neither one of you wanna’ be here.”

“We had to come back for you and Tim, Sir.  We didn’t wanna’ git chu’ and Tim into no trouble and besides, you’re gonna’ be need’n us.” Jimmy-Bob insisted.

“How?  For what?” questioned Brick.

“We ain’t real sure yet, but we’ll be here for you when you need us.” Jimmy-Bob assured him.

Brick cocked his head like he was really touched and shot a glance at Tim.  Tim’s expression was one of wonder.  Brick didn’t have to ask, he knew the men had captured Tim’s imagination and his heart.

“You sure you men ain’t witches?” Brick demanded then grinned real big.

“That would be ‘warlocks’ if’n we’s male witches, Officer Brick, and no we ain’t Warlocks neither.  We jes’ be pure-dee old brown-dirt plumb-dumb-as-a-box-a-rocks cowboys what were offered a ride on a spaceship to celebrate our git’n together, and we jumped at the chance; we took it.  Wouldn’t you?”

“I would!  In a New York minute!” said Tim holding up his hand to be counted.  Brick shot another look at him that said, ‘For God’s sake, don’t encourage them!’  The worst part of it was, Officer Brick Armstrong wanted to believe them.  There was just something about the two men that instinctively told him they weren’t lying to him.  But a spaceship?  

“No more shenanigans?” Brick pointed a finger at them and asked.

“No more shenanigans, Officer Brick— no shilly-shallying neither, until you and Tim need us.  J’ever hear of the rapture, Sir?”

“Of course, who hasn’t?  The Holy Father preaches on it ever’ other Sunday.  What about it?”

“Well, Sir— the rapture is happening right now, only our government and religious leaders ain’t saying nothing about it.  You know why?”

“It ain’t happening, or I would’ve heard about it.  Why, our Holy Father would be one of the first men raptured, then all his faithful followers.” Brick insisted. “Why do you think they wouldn’t tell us?”

“‘Cause it ain’t none a’ them what’s being taken.  Don’t you think that says something about them?”

“Careful, Mr. Dodge, you’re talking to a man what believes in our Holy Father.  I’m a God fear’n Christian man.  I’ve given my life to serve the Lord. My saviors are Jesus Christ and our Holy Father, Dr. Jeremiah Scudder.”

“You know what, Officer Brick?  My mate made me see something about you I didn’t believe at first.  You’re a good man in spite of what you believe.  You’re a man worth saving, but it won’t be your dedication to Christianity or the Holy Father what will save yore’ muscled butt.  It’ll be because of your love for Tim.  It’ll be because of what you do for other men who are brought here against their will, scared and depressed with no hope for the future.  It’ll be because you got a genetic marker within you what knows the difference between right and wrong.  When the time comes, you will make a decision and you will choose to do the right thing— only, you won’t think what you done is the right thing at the time.  Just keep my words in mind when you’re going through it and have faith you will be saved.  Stan and I won’t let no harm come to you or Tim.”

Brick didn’t see that one coming.  He didn’t even have time to duck.  He certainly didn’t expect such a strong, well thought out response from a young cowpoke who claimed to be dumb as a box of rocks.  He didn’t sound so dumb to Brick, and he had no comeback.  Jimmy-Bob just shot his legs out from under him, but made him feel good about it.  How could this be?  He was older and more mature than these men.  He felt he should be the one to know things and be in charge.  Then something inside him asked him a question, ‘Are you so proud you can’t humble yourself and admit you ain’t sure what’s going on here?’

“Genetic marker?  What the hell are you talk’n about, Son?  Look, I ain’t gonna’ say nothing about your time away.  I’m already committed to that.  It’s me what should be trying to protect you men.  Tim can tell you; I do what I can for the men what comes through here.  I try to help them adjust, and I work hard to keep them out of harms way.  I run interference for them when I can.  I only wish I could get Timmy away from here permanently.  He don’t belong here.  I have to share him with the Holy Father.  I don’t feel good about that, but there ain’t a lot I can do about it.  In my heart, I don’t believe you men should be here either.  You belong at home with your families.  I’m here because I ain’t got nowhere else to go.  Until recently the Holy Semi-vestal Virgins were all young men who volunteered.  Now, the Holy Father’s gotten into taking or saving those he chooses.  I ain’t sure that’s right.  I guess I’m beginning to have doubts.  The more I stay off my meds and the roid shots, the clearer my thinking is becoming, and it scares me what I’m feeling.”

“Don’t be afraid, Officer Brick.  We’re here to help you through this.  We know what you do for the men.  We know what you done for us, and we appreciate it.  It’s just our way of thanking you by letting you know you’re a good man no matter what you feel about having to share Tim with the Holy Father.  You’ll make a decision about it when the time comes, and you won’t have to share him no more.”

“How do you men know these things?  How do you know you’ll have to save me and Tim?”

“We don’t know for sure; however, it’s like the old song says, ‘We done heard it through the grapevine— .’  Jimmy-Bob sang the first four bars of the song and Stan joined in by snapping his fingers.  Tim laughed.  Brick grinned.

“Okay, whatever— I’m getting a headache thinking about it.  I’m just gonna’ trust you men to do the right thing from now on.”

“We promise; we will.  We won’t give you no more grief, Officer Brick.”  Stan spoke up.  Jimmy-Bob reached over and took Stan’s hand, slowly raised it to his mouth and lovingly kissed the back of it.  Tim watched Brick’s reaction and saw his lover was deeply touched by Jimmy-Bob’s simple act of love for his partner.  Even though he might not have understood, it was like Brick accepted what the cowboy told him at that moment.  After Tim and Brick left the room, Stan looked at his big cowboy and gave him a knowing grin.

“What?” questioned Jimmy-Bob at the look Stan gave him.

“We’d ju’ git all that stuff about making a choice and doing the right thing?  Impressed the shit out a’ me!”  Stan patted his mate on the back.

“I really don’t know.  It was like somebody else was in my body for a few seconds and used my mouth to say them things.  I could swear I could hear the voice of that giant Bladder Whale in the back of my mind.”

“Ya’ think there might be a connection?”  Stan looked nonplused.

“Are you kidding?  After what we seen and done the last three days and nights, is there any doubt in your mind, Darlin’?” Jimmy-Bob laughed.  “Jes’ remind me to thank Father Chuchulack the next time we run into him.” he added like he was sure it would happen.

* * * * * * *

On the return trip to Earth few folks got much rest.  Keekepata confided in Waco and Trey what was going on with Waco’s twin brother.  Waco thanked her but didn’t comment on what he planned to do about it.  They could tell Keeke was worried.  Trey commented he’d never seen her form such a strong attachment for anyone other than himself.  He wasn’t the least jealous of Keeke’s attachment to Blue.  Trey knew his ‘little sister’ would be going out in life and forming her own associations; he just figured it would be with Captain Waco.  There was no doubt Keeke found in Waco what she sensed earlier and risked her life to find out about; however, her heart belonged to Blue.  Unknown to Waco, Trey and Keeke, Blue had already been talking with Jesse, Chief Tin Penny, Lazarus and Charlie.  It wasn’t until the final walk in the forest with the animals before everyone retired to their cabins for the evening they all converged to talk with Blue.  

“How are things going between you and your host, Son?” Lazarus asked in a concerned tone.

“Fairly well, Admiral.  It ain’t like we can bolt and run from each other.  I think he was impressed by our participation on Mars being part of something greater than either of us.  Since we are a part of each other he was as much a part of it as I was.  He seemed to understand and took some comfort from it.”

“Does he ever come forward to communicate with others?”

“Not readily.  He lets me do most of the talking, but he can communicate.  He just ain’t done it yet.”

“Can we speak with him, Son?” Jesse inquired.

“Sure.  Do you feel like speaking your feelings to these men?”  Blue said out loud to the other inside him. “He’s never tried before, gentlemen.  He might find it awkward.  Speak, brother, tell them what we’ve discussed.”

It was like a transformation came over Blue and his whole demeanor changed.  He suddenly took on a look of a scared young boy who lived his life outside of all contact from others and was suddenly cast into the spotlight of having to relate for the first time.

“Hello.” he said cautiously.  The men smiled at each other.

“Hello, Son.  Don’t be afraid.  We ain’t gonna’ hurt you.  Can you tell us what’s going on with you and how you feel about Blue being a part of you?”

“I don’t know.  It don’t feel right.  I don’t know nothing I ain’t learned from him.  I guess I feel like I’m him sometimes, but there’s a part of me that keeps growing apart from him.  It ain’t like we’re in conflict with one another or nothing.  We ain’t fight’n each other.  I don’t seem to have a purpose.  I feel useless next to him.  He knows everything, and I don’t know nothing.”

“But doesn’t your knowledge grow from day to day the more you learn from Blue?” asked Chief Tin Penny.

“Yes, Sir, but it’s slow.  It was all right when I didn’t know nothing.  I just went along with everything because that’s what I thought I was suppose to do.  Now, I’m beginning to think about things, there don’t seem room for my thoughts or feelings.  He don’t tell me to shut up or nothing; he don’t ignore me, but I know it annoys him when I butt in ‘cause I don’t understand something or I question him.”

“If I was a psychologist or psychiatrist listening to this, I might reach an immediate diagnosis of schizophrenia multiple personality disorder; however, in this case we’re actually dealing with two distinct personalities.” mused Lazarus.

“It’s hard for me to think on Blue like that because he looks just like Waco, and I’ve come to accept him as one of my sons.” said Charlie, “Now it creates a riddle for me, because I’ve separated Blue from Waco in my mind and now it’s like I’m being faced with the acceptance of another son apart from the two of them.  How does Blue’s presence make you feel, Son?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t feel angry or upset.”

“Confused?  Frustrated?” prompted Jesse.

“Yes, Sir.  I don’t understand why it has to be this way.  I’m confused as to why I can’t be more a part of ‘us’ and frustrated because he won’t let me be more a part of him.  He tells me that’s just the way things is.  He respects me and is kind to me, but I can’t have more of his knowledge than what he wants to give me.  I get real frustrated, and then I get mad at him.  Sometimes I don’t wanna’ cooperate with him and he forces me.  Like when we was dancing with Keekepata.  I wanted to do something one way and he made me do it his way.  Why was his way any better than my way when all of art or dance is subjective?”

“Interesting point.  Maybe Blue is protecting you.  Maybe he’s trying to lead you by example.” said Lazarus, “You’re young.  Perhaps he feels like his many more years of gathered knowledge and information would only confuse you if he were to dump it all into your organic brain.  Kryscellians have a different way of organizing information that might prove detrimental to you. Your purpose was to provide an organic body for him so he could have greater mobility, and he in turn would direct your physical and mental functions with his intelligence.  We didn’t consider you might develop a consciousness of your own.  To be honest, we’re sailing in uncharted waters.  We’re learning as we go along with you and Blue.  Don’t get us wrong.  We ain’t saying you don’t have a right to exist and develop on your own, it’s just we need time to consider everything carefully.  If things get too bad we may have to remove Blue from you.” Lazarus explained.   

“I don’t know that I want that.  I don’t know what I want, but I know I ain’t comfortable.  I feel like Blue ain’t all that comfortable neither since I woke up.”

“When did you wake up, Son?  Can you recall?” asked the Chief.

“Yes, Sir.  When our brother Waco was making love to us.  He touched Blue in our mind, and I recognized him and me as separate from him and Blue.  He touched that part of me what was him and woke it up.  Does that make sense to you?”

“Strangely enough, I’d venture to say, it makes a great deal of sense to every man here, Son.” replied the Chief empathetically.  “This may sound strange coming from a Native American— it’s very Zen, but it makes sense.”  the Chief added.  

“Genetic identification of mutuality?  Cellular memories?  Brain functions not insular?  Wow, that would give the concept of ‘soul’ a new meaning!” exclaimed Lucas.

“Yeah, it would even give the idea of reincarnation some credibility.” confirmed Trey.

“Maybe there was more to the Shroud Of Turin than they thought?” whispered Lazarus as if to himself.  “Move over Darwin, take a sidetrack,  there’s a new freight train coming through.  My God, the implications are staggering.  Simple, but freaking awesome.  In my many years I ain’t never come across anything that points to a more profound sense of the definition of ‘self.’  I had a feeling you men were into something important with this experiment.”  Lazarus said to Waco and Lucas. “No matter how this turns out, the knowledge we’ve gained for three species, Kryscells, Humans and Visallians is invaluable.  Hell, its importance to any species is incalculable, even our beloved critters.  What started out to be an exercise in love and appreciation for another species may unwittingly prove to be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time.  Well done, gentlemen!”  Lazarus praised the men.  “However,” he continued, “let’s not get lost in our discovery and forget the young men who have come to us with a very real conundrum.  What can we do for them?  What should be done for them?  Is there anything you wish for us to do for you, Son?” Lazarus asked him.

“Naw, Sir, I can’t think of anything.  I don’t know enough to ask.  Speak with Blue; he holds all the answers.  At least, that’s what he tells me.  I have to believe him.  I don’t know nothing else.  I don’t know what to believe.” he said like he was a defeated soul.  There was a silence.  What the men just heard was crushing to their ideas of freedom and individuality.

“Okay, Son, thanks for speaking with us, we’ll keep in touch.  Let us speak with Blue again.” Lazarus told him.

“Yes, Sir.” he sighed, and it became obvious Blue was in charge again.

“What do you think of what the boy had to say, Blue?”

“He’s right.  I can’t lie to you; that’s not the Kryscellian way.  I haven’t let him become a part of me or delve into my knowledge base.  I’m not sure I could teach him how to access it, but spoon feeding him everything I know would be tedious.  To be honest, I haven’t tried.  Being a different life form I’ve always had it impressed on me the privacy of individual thought is the greatest asset we Kryscells have.  From my earliest recollections, I’ve always been taught, while we are to garner information and ideas from others we are individuals and as such should never think on ourselves as a part of anyone else.  Having to share that part of me that is the culmination of me with the awakening identity within this body is an anathema for me.  I would be forced to go against everything I was taught and become something I don’t think I want to become.  I’m not sure it has to do with sharing.  I think our race has proven our genuine interest in helping and sharing with your race.”

“No one would argue that, Son.” Lazarus told him. “You came to us with this, we're concerned, but we’re mere observers.  I think I know your species well enough by now to predict if you go to them they will tell you much the same thing.  While we may give thought to ideas or concerns it is ultimately up to you to solve this conundrum.  No one is here to condemn or try to place blame.  Do you feel you’ve reached a crisis in your relationship?”

“No, Sir, but he is growing stronger everyday and he’s right, it becomes annoying to me to have to cope; however, in his favor— he is more patient with me than I am with him.  I could be more understanding sometimes, but I’m not.  He retires and pouts; then, we both feel bad.  I’m going to make an effort to be more gracious.  He doesn’t deserve to be pushed aside and ignored.  It would be like me being rude or unresponsive to my brother Waco or my little sister.”

Okay, then we’ll speak again when you feel the need.  In the meantime, I would urge you to take this up with your family.  I think they might have some thoughts for you we haven’t covered.”

“We will, and thank you gentlemen for listening.”

The men told Blue and his alter ego they were welcome.

* * * * * * *
The folks who went on the trip with them were changed people.  They saw a new beginning.  It brought home to them they were not the only ones in the Universe who were in danger of losing their world to the reptilian race.  Even though none of them had run into one, Lazarus showed them videos and enough pictures to convince them they were a real threat.  Combined with the honest sincerity of Captain Trey Vinceeth and his men, they had no doubt they were telling the truth.  The Reptiles and Greys posed a serious threat.

Sonny and Vivian took their two new children home and got them settled it.  There was an adjustment period but the kids were bright and were fast learners.  Their older human brothers, sister and cousins didn’t know quite what to make of them, but they adjusted.  The children had seen enough trauma with the recent loss of their parents.  Their parent’s sacrifice for them impressed on the children their need to comply and fit into their new world or perish like the rest of their family; however, they were young and children of any species will still be children.

Abigail Steele didn’t know what to make of them.  She wasn’t told they were another species from another world.  Vivian just knew her fundamentalist daughter wouldn't be able to accept it.  The children were warned never to dissolve in front of her.  They were good about minding their new parents.   Abigail was sort of put off by her mother from the very first meeting with the children.  She immediately started questioning them about what they knew about God and Jesus.  Her mother got her aside and told her she was never to mention religion to them again.  They were of another faith and she didn’t want them contaminated by Abigail and her husband’s beliefs.  Abigail almost came unglued at the hinges.  She was struck dumb.  She was incensed with her mother, but Vivian stood her ground.  Vivian was backed up by Sonny and Warren.  Finally, her brothers came to their parents defense and told her it was none of her business the way these children were to be raised.  They insisted she had no right to impose her beliefs in supernatural fairy tales on them.  Her brothers and their supporting wives shot her down with extreme prejudice.  Abigail never knew her family didn’t totally believe the way she and her husband did and was devastated.  What made it worse for Abigail was the kids were so damn cute and perfect in every way.  She had to bite her tongue on more than one occasion, but she decided to be gracious and not impose her God given right to evangelize the children.  Adam and Eve were never left alone with her and David.  Her brothers and their families soon embraced the kids as just another part of their family and they flourished.  Sonny and Vivian knew they could trust their boys before they considered bringing the kids back to Earth.

* * * * * * *

Jack Hall and Warren Steele bonded on the trip and since they didn’t have anyone else to talk with about their experience found themselves gravitating to one another for companionship.  There was absolutely nothing sexual between the men, but as cowboys will, they talked about it a lot with each other.  They would get together regularly and take their ‘kids’ as they called the pups and young lummox on an outing.  They became the protectors and sitters for the critters and they all loved Uncle Jack and Uncle Warren.  The all had permission to go through the gates wherever they wanted and if they weren’t with Jack in Parson they were at the Steele ranch with Warren.  They became regulars at the Steele ranch.

The Stamper boys no longer had a problem paying homage to Lazarus or Master Charlie’s boots.  They were so grateful for the trip, everyone came and insisted each man make  homage to them and Captain Waco upon leaving the ship with their boss-man Blake Tindell and Hoot and Cotton.  They returned to their world with stars in their eyes.  Their eyes were opened to another universe out there where they possibly had a part to play that was so much more than any of them ever imagined.  Waco was good to his word and soon set up a school for Burt and Phil to attend to learn about the scout ships and how to pilot them.  The younger Stamper boys were green with envy of their older brothers, but they also looked up to them with a new respect bordering on hero worship.
With Lazarus’ approval, Jack and Warren took the boys to visit their dad in Jail.  His trial was coming up shortly and they knew they probably wouldn’t get another chance to see him.  Since he was sober and had been in jail for sometime, Elam Stamper was a humbled man.  He was such a little man as far as life was concerned, he had a difficult time understanding how his boys could forgive him and wish him well in his trial.  They knew he was going to be a slave the rest of his life, but they genuinely seemed loving to him.  He apologized to them, but they didn’t seem to care they were slaves.  He seemed puzzled when they assured him it was the best thing he could’ve done for them.  Lazarus approached his boy on the subject of Elam Stamper one night as they were lying together in bed.

“Have you given any thought about going to see Caleb’s dad before he’s shipped off somewhere as a slave, Son?  I understand Jack Hall plans to buy him and give him to his older brother to become a cowboy-slave in Colorado.”

“Naw, Sir.  Why would I give it any thought, Dad?”

“I just thought I’d ask.”

“Caleb’s not a part of me no more, Dad.  Through your goodness I was reborn as Lucas Long.  I’m proud of who I am.  I’m very proud of you and what you’ve accomplished here.  Elam Stamper died to me the minute I said ‘yes’ to becoming your son.  I’m even proud to be your slave.  I don’t care to give up that title anytime soon, either.  It sort of connects us and gives me a sense of being owned and belonging over and above being your son.  It damn near scared me to death when Bryce and Captain Jones began to talk about you setting me free.  To be honest, it still does, but not as bad.”

“So, what you’re telling me is you’ve already done your grief work for Caleb’s dad?” Lazarus asked.

“I did my grief work for him during the period I was recovering and going through all the medical changes.  The Kryscellians helped me work through it.  That’s why I’m so attached to them.  Probably always will be.  My grief for Caleb’s dad lies buried with them.  They are the guardians of Caleb’s memories.  I left Caleb behind in good hands where he will always have a loving home and be well protected.  Believe it or not, I visit him from time to time.  We’re slowly working things out.  He no longer resents me, and I’m no longer afraid of who he was.  One day I hope to have him join me again.  We belong together, but until then, I have no reason to see his dad.”

“My God, you sound like Blue and his other.”

“That’s where I got the analogy.  I just never knew how to explain it before, but when we talked with Blue, I knew his family would understand because of me’n Caleb.”

“So they actually hold the memories of Caleb with them?”

“Yes, Sir.  You’re welcome to check.  They’ll let you visit him.  You’re the only person who has permission.”

“Would you mind if I did?”

“No!  Not at all.  I wouldn’t have told you otherwise.  I could’ve just kept quiet about it, and you would’ve never known.”

“I appreciate you sharing that with me, Son.”

“I’m glad I’ve reached a point where I could.  So much has happened since I was reborn, I’ve come to accept it more readily than before.  It won’t be long before I accept Caleb back with me.  I guess my telling you is part of letting you know what’s happening.”

“When will I know?”

“When I come to you and ask you to allow me to accept Caleb’s name as part of my own.”

“Lucas Caleb Long?”

“Yes, Sir— in that order.  Caleb is accepted between Lucas and Long.  He does not come first— Lucas will always be first.  Caleb will be accepted back into the whole.  As the Chief might say, ‘It’s all very Zen.’” they shared a laugh.

“Who would think a Native American Chief would know about Zen Buddhism?  I always suspected there was more to that old man than met the eye.” Lazarus laughed.

“Why would you think that, Dad?  Their beliefs are not so far removed from Zen Buddhism.”  Lucas insisted.

“No, I suppose you’re right.  I just never stopped to think about it.  Do you think there will ever come a time when you might want to confront Caleb’s dad?”

“Ask me after I’ve reintegrated Caleb.”  Lucas sighed deeply.

“Makes sense to me, Son.  You know I love you, and I’ll love Caleb, too.”

“I know, Dad.  We both love you.”

* * * * * * *

Jack kept his word and hired good defense attorneys associated with the Grange to defend Elam.  They put up a hell of a defense, but the evidence against Elam was just too overwhelming, and he got a sentence of lifetime slavery.  He went on the auction block.  Jack bought him and gave Elam to his older brother in Colorado.  Before he left with Jack’s brother, Jack went to see him one last time to say ‘goodbye.’  Elam told Jack he asked B.B. to forgive him for killing her, but he wasn’t real sure she heard him.  Jack assured him she did.  Jack kept in touch with his brother to check on Elam’s progress, and he was pleased and surprised to find old Elam was doing well.  His brother claimed once he got Elam broke to the saddle, he rode right well.  Elam became one of Jack's brother and his brother’s foreman’s favorite substitute mares.

* * * * * * *  

During World War II and afterward in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts the U.S. Navy would secretly carry troops in disguised ships.  So the enemy wouldn’t know how many men they were sending, the passengers, or Army troops, would be required to remain below decks so passing planes couldn’t see they were carrying troops.  It sometimes took a week or more to sail to their intended designation and it was tough on the men to remain cooped up in such small confined spaces; however, they allowed a number of the troops on deck for an hour or so for stretching and a smoke on a rotation basis wearing Navy clothes.  Every man got a couple of hours a day on deck.  Lazarus decided that was a good option for their Visallian guests.  They created rotations for those who could go ‘ashore’ or have ‘liberty’ from the ship.

After their return, the community slowly got introduced to Captain Vinceeth and his crew.  There was a little over a hundred and fifty big men to see to, and they kept the cowboys and Lazarus’ staff busy.  Of course the Mighty Bee became their home ship while on Earth.  They were quartered in barracks  built for them on Lyle and Strom’s new property in Parson.  They all loved the small town atmosphere and were active in building and helping the community anyway they could; however, their big treat was to have ‘liberty’ on shore from the Bandersnatch with the cowboys of the Goodnight ranch.

They looked forward to Sundays with the good food and the football games.  Many were getting good at the game themselves, but they were just too big to play with the cowboys.  They had larger bodies than most professional footballers.  It cost Lazarus a fortune just to outfit them as cowboys to blend in with the locals.  They loved the cowboy look and began to adopt the cowboy lingo and mannerisms.  Some got pretty good at it.

Keekepata was in her element with her Visallian warriors and about ten of her own Shushonni people with her.  They were all billeted in quarters in Parsons along with their symbiotic brothers, the Visallians.  They felt safe flying over the Parson countryside without fear of being shot or snared by a large predator. The locals couldn’t get enough of them and were always waving and inviting them in for tea.

The plan was to have the first group of men stay through the end of August which was about three weeks.  At the very end of summer, the last of the boy’s vacation, they planned another trip to Venus and Mars to exchange warriors with those who were left behind to give them a chance at R and R.  They also planned to take more food and other supplies to the critters and folks on Mars.  They wanted to see how much the android staff left behind had done to get the other caverns activated.  They also left several Visallian warriors and Shushonni behind on Mars to supervise.

Waco was thrilled to have his warrior Captain with him for a while.  Waco got to take care of his Captain and insisted on seeing to him himself.  Trey and his men were thrilled to visit Earth and get to pal around with the cowboys they’d come to love over the past year.  Even with the Kryscellians’ help Cable’s best estimate was it would take Trey and T’kan three weeks or more for their legs to heal enough to remove their casts.  He wanted to do more scans at the end of that time to see how far along they’d come.  He expected T’kan to heal more quickly than the Captain, and he was right.  Waco didn’t mind.  He had his handsome suitor right where he wanted him for a while.  He figured being on crutches would slow Trey down just enough for them to get to know each other well.  It didn’t.  His little buddy was a good teacher, and the two of them would have races around the compound on their crutches.  Most of the time T’kan won.

Lazarus sent Waco, Lucas, Travis and Little Bear out in the Buttercup a couple of days after they returned from their trip to look for Kuluke and T’gan’s dad.  They carried Strom and Ox as contacts in case they found anything.  Trey and several of his officers went along as backup personnel.  Lucas invited Commander Maddragon and Travis invited Sergeant Major Doggoral.  Of course, Lyle Chambers was included.

Myra had Kuluke and T’kan’s DNA on file.  The men made a thorough  scan of the Northwest territory and found only trace amounts of similar DNA in individual lummox indicating a relative; however, none strong enough to indicate a match as a parent.  They spent one day from early morning to late in the evening searching and scanning and found almost nothing.  Strom suggested they widen their search to include a more Northerly arc to the radius of their search.  After about forty-five minutes flying over vast uncharted wilderness they found a match but it was a female.  It was the only lead they had.  Strom and Ox beamed down to the surface to check her out.

The crew on the Buttercup could follow their progress from the robo-cams.  Lyle was a bit apprehensive about sending Strom and Ox into a group of wild lummox; however, Strom reassured him they could handle themselves and communicate peaceably with the natives.  Waco assured Lyle, Myra would pull them out in the wink of an eye if they were threatened.

Ox and Strom were beamed down to the surface.  It didn’t take them long to locate the group where Kuluke and T’kan’s mother was.  They were not prepared for what they found.  It was a scraggly band of lummox outcast and misfits.  Wild lummox are rarely altruistic to others of their species except their young which they hold sacred; however, when a lummox was born deformed, retarded or became crippled by an accident, they didn’t know how to cope with them.  If they couldn’t adapt or adjust, the group went their way and left them on their own.  Many times they were just left to die.  The practice isn’t unusual in a species, even humans.  American Indians often left someone behind to die when they were too sick or old to continue on with the  rest of the tribe.  

The lummox female who was Kuluke and T’kan’s mother was not only severely deformed, she was retarded as well.  She could barely communicate and was traveling with a band of about six other outcast lummox; five males and two females.  She remembered giving birth to two bairns, but she couldn’t remember the second birth dad.  She was sure it wasn’t the same lummox who impregnated her.  Their second birth dad was not the same male.

As in every society there are decent folks and there are those who take advantage.  From what they could understand the deformed female called Wenetika was raped each time by the same lummox male.  He left and was never been seen again.  They all said he was mean spirited and no good.  He was mean to Wenetika and refused to accept her bairns as a second parent.  The group intimated the male who did accept them preferred males for his partners but reluctantly agreed to bring her two boys to term. They all seemed to agree he was a decent enough lummox.  One of the larger males seemed to know more than he was willing to tell.

Since that time, the band Wenetika was traveling with protected her and wouldn’t allow another lummox to rape her.  It was difficult because she didn’t seem to know enough not to follow her animal urges.  She took a shine to Ox and wanted to couple with him.  He politely refused.  The group further told them the male they called Bolobo who accepted them was killed a couple of weeks ago when he slipped and fell from a cliff.  They buried him in a hidden cave.  Strom and Ox knew they were telling the truth from mental images they received from them burying his body.  They sent them vivid images of laying his large body in a pool of bat guano deep in a dark cave.  They showed Ox and Strom a mental picture of him as his body slowly sank beneath the soft dung.  It was not an unusual burial for a lummox.  It disposed of the body and it returned to the Earth much quicker because of bacteria and critters in the bat guano that broke it all down to basic elements.  It wasn’t pretty but it was a true picture of what occurred.  Wenetika never asked about her bairns.  She barely remembered giving birth to them.

Strom and Ox were beamed back aboard the Buttercup and they returned early the next morning to dock with the Bandersnatch.  They related to the other men what they found.  Strom wanted to keep the boys, and of course, Lyle wanted what Strom wanted.  Kuluke and T’kan went to live with them on their farm in Parson.  Strom and Ox related to the boys what they found and flashed the mental images the others shared with them of the burial of their surrogate dad Bolobo.  They recognized him immediately and wept.  They knew he was gone.  They knew Ox and Strom couldn’t make up mental images like that when they never saw their dad before.  They never knew he was not their biological dad.  Now they felt more bonded with Strom and Lyle than ever, but fortunately, by that time they were more sophisticated and were quickly learning the ways of becoming a gentrified young lummox.  

* * * * * * *

The last three weeks of summer were idyllic.  There was always something going on that captured everyone’s hearts and imaginations.  The warriors loved the animals around the ranch and spent hours riding and enjoying Ranger and his family.  His mother, father and the two mares gained back a lot of the weight they lost and were feeling much better.  There was something about the Visallians that horses took to and vice versa.  Horses seemed to be drawn to them.  Even though the Visallians didn’t have horses on their world, they seem to have a natural affinity for them.  The ponies felt the same for them.  Waco, Lucas and their brothers laughed and giggled with each other.  They swore it was because they were first cousins in the evolutionary chain.  Cowboys will talk and compare notes about the critters they work and associate with day by day.

Of the greatest fascination to the boys were the covering of the Visallian’s penis.’  Rather than have a soft foreskin like the cowboys, theirs were more like that of a horse.  It could be best described as a protective carapace.  It was of a stiff, almost rawhide like texture but could be pulled all the way back into the base of their enormous dicks and held in place by a sphincter muscle which surrounded the base of their penis for just that purpose.  When fully exposed their penis looked like any typical male human penis except they were considerably larger.  When they released the holding muscle the foreskin shot forth like a spring loaded covering to immediately hide their cocks in a heavy protective leather sheath.  The warriors lovingly referred to it as a sheath for their sword.  The cowboys agreed it was an apt description, especially those who were lucky enough to have been penetrated by one.  It was like, as St. Theresa of Avila once observed, like being pierced by the sword of ecstasy by a great, bright angel with whom she was said to have wrestled in mid-air.

They could call it whatever they wanted, the cowboys found them incredibly sexy and the Visallians warriors knew no modesty.  They would just as soon be in the raw as David, Jonathan and Cable.  They were proud of their bodies and their physical development as a result of their arduous military training, tribal dancing and acrobatics.  Naturally, the same sex male communities loved them and they formed many long lasting relationships with them; the female same sex communities— not so much.

The videos of their trip, including Keekepata and Blue’s dance, were broadcast on closed circuits to the villages on board the Mighty Bee.  They had to tour the villages with Ms. Patty as she came to be known.  She became the darling of the social set.  Her sisters Maxine and Laverne were a little jealous of her; however, they formed a singing trio and Lucas and Arnie taught them one of the Andrew sisters’ standards, “Boogie-woogie Bugle boy.”

Moe was distraught after losing his two cowboy buddies, but he stuck close to Hattie and Ole Bloom.  He was always in the control room on the Mighty Bee on Thursday evenings to send a holo-vid message and talk with Stan and Jimmy-Bob.  Things seemed to be going well for the boys, but they had a couple of months to go before their graduation from the Temple training school.  Then, if they passed all the religious training, they would be allowed to attend school at the Temple high school.  Neither one was looking forward to it.

* * * * * * *

Darryl, the albino Venusian, sent weekly reports back to his superiors and they were full of bits and pieces of personal interest about critters and the folks he was living with.  He was never denied entry anywhere.  He could go where he pleased and stayed with whom he chose.  He became clever at interviewing folks and spent large quantities of his time on his weekly broadcast back to his home world.  “Darryl’s Weekly Digest”  became the rage of Venus.  His weekly show jumped to the top of the ratings for any broadcast show on Venusian video.  On their equivalent of a Saturday night, ninety percent of the homes on Venus were tuned into his show.  

His show alone paid for the repairs on the Banshee a hundred times over; therefore, the government of the planet was very generous and considerate when it came time for billing.  Lazarus was ready to pay far more than they asked; however, they did ask to extend Darryl’s stay as a goodwill ambassador.  Darryl was thrilled.  He loved it on Earth and just became a part of the Goodnight phenomena as he called it.  He would test out things on the cowboys for shows and got a lot of assistance, suggestions and help from Arnie and Keekepata.  He got considerable help from his critter friends.  He included a long list of credits at the end of each show and never failed to give Kyron and Ms. Myra credit for video productions and editing.

Darryl was everywhere interviewing someone or showing a day in the life of a particular person, critter, or separate intelligence.  He even interview Kyron and Mr. Myra on one show.  Another, he interviewed the Steeles and their two new Evanescent children.  They were coming along fine and learning the ways of  humans.  Sonny and Vivian stressed they weren’t imposing human lifestyle on them and from time to time they were allowed to revert to their Evanescent state and intermingle with each other or their parents.  Sonny said he’d never been closer to his human children.  Vivian agreed with her husband.  From that show alone, there was a rush on the government by Venusian families to inquire about adopting Evanescent children.   
Unbeknownst to Darryl, he was assigned a legal staff to look out for his interest on Venus.  He was becoming a very wealthy Venusian man.  His program on Venusian video was raking in the credits (money) for a lot of Venusians and he was getting paid outrageous sums, of which, he wasn’t even aware.  On Earth, he was living on the graces of the Goodnights and Admiral Long.  When he found out about his newly acquired wealth, he insisted on paying for the repairs to the Banshee himself.  Lazarus and Charlie were stunned, and Darryl contributed greatly to their business ventures on Earth.  He became even more welcome and included in everything.  Everyone loved him.  He seemed to blossom in his role as ambassador and video raconteur.  He became the greatest ambassador the Venusian world ever had, and he did it not by meetings and negotiations, but by living a good example, loving those he associated with, and working hard to create something of lasting value for both worlds.

* * * * * * *

Waco set Burt and Phil up with Ping and Pong and Kyron to attend their shuttle flight school a couple of times a week.  By the end of three weeks they were getting  competent with the simulation programs and needed to be taken out in a shuttle to practice.  Waco and Lucas took them out in their own shuttles.  Burt was assigned one named ‘Bullfrog’ and Phil was assigned one named ‘Barnstormer.’   They were, what Waco explained to them, the “B” series.  Bullfrog or “Froggy” as Burt came to call him was also the name of the on-board intelligence.  They all got a bit testy being called ‘artificial.’ Froggy sounded like his name.  He sounded like an old cowboy who drank too much and had a voice like an old rasp filing away on a piece of rusty metal.  Burt fell in love with him right away and Froggy seemed to bond quickly with his new young pilot.   

Phil’s on-board intelligence was another male voice named “Dandy.”  Dandy had a decided British accent and sounded like he was a butler.  He wasn’t particularly formal but just very crisp in his speech.  Phil liked him.  Dandy seemed to become very fond of Phil.  After one outing, he felt like he could work with the young man as his Captain.

* * * * * * *

Larry and Shep were bitten by the space bug and wanted to go every time a shuttle left the Mighty Bee.  They were unofficially adopted by the Visallian warriors and when they weren’t busy herding cattle with their sister, dad and mom, they were with the warriors.  With Larry and Shep’s approval, the warriors submitted a request to their Commander to appeal to their Captain to ask Admiral Long, Captain Waco, and his dad if they could adopt the two pups.  Since the Admiral was sharing with the Visallians his technical knowledge of sub-miniaturization they could have several sections of land on their ship where they could carry critters for food and animal by products.  They could have their own small farms for food and oxygen production and the pups would have plenty outdoor time.  Waco, Lazarus and Charlie couldn’t see any problem with it, and the pups did make excellent goodwill ambassadors for the Visallians and Shushonni who became as attached to them as their warrior brethren; however, they did set the pups down and talked with them.

“You guys remember the shape the Banshee was in on our last visit, don’t chu’?” Lazarus asked.

“Yes, Sir.  It was in pretty bad shape.”

“You realize the Banshee is a battleship.  H’it ain’t no pleasure cruiser.  It could be destroyed in a battle and you guys would die along with the men of the ship.”  Waco told them.

“We already done talked about that, Master Waco.  We realize there’s a risk, but there’s a risk in everything we do.  We could be accidentally killed by and mad cow or bull.  We could’ve been killed by that big cat on the Buttercup.”

“You’re right.  All of life is somewhat of a gamble.  We just wanted you to think about it.  Some choices are more risky than others.” Waco urged caution.

“We’re willing to take our chances with the good warriors of the Banshee.” said Larry.

“I agree.” added Shep.

“Since when did you two agree on anything?” laughed Charlie.

“Since we been associating with the warriors.  They’s all so good to us.” grinned Shep.

“Miracles come from strangest places sometimes.” Lazarus laughed and rolled his eyes.  Charlie joined him.  

So Larry and Shep became official spacer-dogs along with their sister Patty.

* * * * * * *

Johauk Kodaly returned to his family to reveal the wondrous things he had seen and done on his trip.  His parents didn’t want to share his travels with his youngest siblings; however, Johauk thought that was being exclusive, and he told his folks that was not the lesson of family they taught him all his life.  He felt the youngest should be given the opportunity to hear him, learn and understand what he witnessed and to know there was a much larger universe out there which had substance and purpose much greater than can be imagined by our everyday lives on Earth.  His parents were chagrined and  humbled by his insistence his youngest brother and sister be allowed to participate and ask questions.  As it turned out, they had less trouble accepting the scope and vastness of his explanations than the older ones.  They asked intelligent questions and made cogent analogies to their lives in comparison.  Later his parents talked with Johauk in private.

“Have you decided what you want to do in life, Son?” his father asked.

“I plan to stay here with you and mom to help you on the farm as much as possible.  I have all sorts of possibilities available to me.”

“You know we don’t have the money to put you through college.” his dad reminded him.  

“I’m not concerned, Dad.  If I wanted to go to college the Grange will see to my education.  Admiral Long and Master Charlie already told me it’s available to me if I want it; however, I don’t think that’s what I want right now.  I have many years to decide what I want to do.  Until the time of the rapture, when we’re all taken away from Earth, I need to be here with you and on call for Admiral Long and Mr. Goodnight.  I’ve been offered a position as a shuttle captain for one of the shuttles on Admiral Long’s ship.  I want to learn to fly a spaceship and help with the relocation and transportation to Mars and Venus.  It would mean I’d be home based here and can help you during harvest time.  In the meantime, I’d like to keep up my lessons with mom.  I want to improve my technique playing the organ.”

The Kodaly’s were proud of their son.  They still had some trepidation about the strange and almost unbelievable adventures as related by Johauk, but they were mostly optimistic, and since his boy was primarily responsible for saving his wife’s life, Zolton believed in his son more and more.  He even had to admit, to include his youngest brother and sister in discussions of his miraculous journey into the heavens was the correct thing to do.

* * * * * * *

The night before the Buttercup was due to depart for Venus and Mars, Waco sat down with his dad to have a talk.  They were so busy they rarely had a chance to have a one on one talk.  They caught up on a lot of things that were going on in each of their lives.

“Is it difficult for you with Trey, Son?” Charlie asked with a grin.  Waco knew exactly what his dad was getting at.  

“Like you wouldn’t believe, Dad.  Poor Travis and Little Bear.  I’m afraid we’re gonna’ have to have a retread done on Travis’ ass and Little Bear loves it rough and ready; although, lately he’s cried ‘calf-rope’ a couple of time when I got too rough.  I’m so jealous of ma’ brother Lucas I could bite clean through a nail.  He’s so happy and comfortable with the Commander.  I ain’t been a bad boy, Dad.  I’ve kept our agreement.”

“I know you have.  I told your slave I didn’t pay thirty-five thousands bucks for him just to protect you from bad people.  Ox knows what I meant and he assures me you been a good boy.  It ain’t been easy on him neither.  I think he’d like to see you and the Captain together as much as you’d like to be with him, but when you and Trey do get together, you must let Ox watch.  You owe him that.  We owe him that.  He’s been far more to us than just a slave.  He’s family.”

“I’m glad you feel that way about Ox, Dad.  I feel the same.  He’ll watch over us.  I don’t have no problem with that, and I know Trey don’t.  Ox does him and me both.  He’s so loving I couldn’t imagine my life without him.  I talked with Trey and told him there has to be room in our lives for Ox.  Trey’s as right with it as I am.  He’ll just become our slave; that is, if we keep him as a slave.  We just may marry him as a third husband or a husband to the both of us.”  Waco laughed.  Charlie grinned.

“So much for the Christianist narrow standards of marriage.”  Charlie laughed. “How would we ever explain that one?”  Waco broke up laughing with his dad.  “You think it’s time we readjusted our thinking, Son?”  Charlie asked.  “You know you won’t be sixteen until next year.  I was hoping for you to hold out until you’s eighteen; however, I had a talk with our ramrod the other evening, and I had to agree with him, you being around men like Trey Vinceeth is like a kid working in a candy store.  How can you tell him he can’t have no candy?  However, Trey and his men are gonna’ be taking off as soon as repairs to their ship and an engine retrofit on Mars is done.  Can you hold out?”

“With a nine foot monster to slap my hands and shake his head ‘no’ what choice do I have?  Trey is just as frustrated as I am, but I’m convinced he’s a man of infinite honor.  Even if we didn’t have Ox with us all the time, I don’t think he’d betray your trust, Dad.  ‘At’s just the kind of man he is.  Although, I gotta’ admit, having Ox as a reminder makes it a hell of a lot easier for me.”  they shared another laugh.  “I just don’t understand why there has to be a double  standard for Lucas and me simply because he’s a slave and I’m not.  It makes me wonder if I shouldn’t become a slave for several years.”

“Ramrod and I done talked about that, too.  He offered us a way out of our conundrum.  He said he was willing to buy you from me as his indentured slave.  He weren’t kidding none neither.  Said there didn’t have to be no recording of the transaction as long as he held the papers in case anyone contested it.  Then, to protect all of us, it would have to be officially recorded since we have to abide by the laws here on Earth.”

“How much am I worth, Dad?” Waco grinned.

“One and a quarter million.” Charlie said flatly.

“Hoe-lee shit!  Oh, for cries sakes, do it, Dad!  With my blessing!”

“I have some problems with it.” Charlie confessed.

“Why?  We talked about me becoming your slave for several years so you and I could play around under the radar of them Jesus freaks.  How much different would this be?  No one but us has to know the other reasons we done it.  I’d get what I want.  You get a hell of a lot of money.  We even talked about you using me as collateral on a loan for the ranch and paying it back.  This way, I’d just be working for Ramrod Long.  Hell I’m already working for him.  How much different is my life gonna’ be for five years.  Being Admiral Long’s slave would be just another title along with Captain of the Buttercup.  Hell, with the way our world is going, I may be a damn-sight safer as Ramrod Long’s slave.  If push came to shove, he could always claim first rights on me because of documents what state you sold me to him in a private transaction.”

“You’re really coming along, Son.  We discussed that same thing; however part of my problem is pride.  I don’t know’s I could submit someone as close to me, someone I love as much as you to slavery.  The stigma of it might be too much for me to bear.”

“Have you talked with ma’ uncle?” Waco asked.

“Naw, I was gonna’ talk with you before I spoke with Angus.  I don’t need to speak with him no ways other than for courtesy.  I know what he’ll tell me.”

“So do I.  He’ll tell you to go for it; however, I got me a feeling he’ll suggest you hold out until I’m sixteen.”

“Why’s that, Son?”

“‘Cause that’s the age he set for Little Bear, and even though Little Bear’s a slave, Uncle Angus ain’t backed down a bit.”

“I’m sure you’re right.  I asked the Ramrod why he allowed Lucas to go with the Commander since he was only fifteen.  He pointed out how you boys have grow’d so much larger and faster than most boys your age.  What with all the exercise, good food, a steady diet of lummox milk and several other reasons he felt Lucas was emotionally as well as physically ready.  You men are running all over the seniors in your football games.  They have a difficult time keeping up with you.  Look at how Sam and Jeb Stamper are coming along.  They’s as big as you men, and it has to be for the same reasons.  All you boys got the physical bodies of men five years older.  That’s what makes ya’ll so damn attractive to them warriors.  Nevertheless, if we decide something between us, I’m willing to compromise, but you will have to become an indentured slave to get around Earth laws.”

“If I become a slave tomorrow, Dad, I could legally have sex now.  What about the argument we’re living in desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures?  How do any of us know we’ll be alive a year from now?  I’d hate to think something happened to me between now and my sixteenth birthday, and I never got a chance to taste Trey’s love.”  Waco said almost in an adolescent whinge.

“There is that argument, but I can think of a number of others to counter it.” Charlie said firmly.

“You’re right, Dad.  I’m getting too big for my britches— literally.  I need me some new Wranglers.  I’m splitting these at the seams.”  Waco showed his dad, “I apologize.  As much as you care about me and everyone else on this ranch this couldn’t be an easy decision for you.  Tell you what, let’s not discuss it no more.  I’ll stay a virgin as long as you want.  I won’t try to influence you.  I’ll leave it up to you.  I just find it so damn stupid I can fuck my slaves, but I can’t have them fuck me.  Neither can I get fucked by my suitor nor can I have sex with him in anyway because that would be against our laws.”

Waco almost went on to remind his dad what Charlie and his ramrod did together could be considered against the law, but since they were consenting adults everybody looked the other way.  Besides, like Lyle Chambers and Chet Baker, whoever pointed a finger better have something to back up their accusations or they faced stiff lawsuits or even jail time for perjury.  Waco continued,  

“Whatever you decide, I promise I will abide by your decision without complaint.  Whatever your decision, I know in my heart it will be the right one for both of us.  My time will come.  If Trey is the honest and honorable man I think he is, he’ll wait with no problem.  We still have Ox to take care of our needs, and he’s the greatest love of our lives right now.  Just remember, for five years of my life, as long as my potential for life has been extended, to be a slave for Admiral Long, would be fine with me.  I wouldn’t look on it as a bad thing.  As much as I love and care for that man, to be his slave would be an honor.  Makes ma’ tongue hard jes’ think’n on paying homage to his big boots— yours, too, Dad. ”

“You’re a good son, Waco.  You’ve never given me a minute’s grief in all these years.  You’ve worked hard to make me proud of you and you’ve become a responsible young man.  I’ll make you a promise, I’ll keep all those things in mind when I make my decision.”

“Thanks, Dad, I love you, too.”

“Now, are you inviting Trey back with you?”

“If’n it’s all right with you.  I want to spend as much time with him as I can.  When I take him back the last time, I have no idea when I’ll see him again.  Besides, Cable doesn’t want to take his cast off just yet.  Says he needs to keep it on another three weeks.  I sometimes wonder if Cable is doing it for Trey or me.”  Waco laughed.

“Probably both, Son.” Charlie smiled.

* * * * * * *
The summer came to an end and it was time to take Captain Vinceeth and his men back to Venus.  A smaller group would go this time.  Bert and Phil were to go along to get in some actual flight time on the Buttercup.  Darryl went along to personally say ‘hello’ to his audience on Venus.  He wanted more video of what was happening on Mars.  He wanted to interview some of the critters and personnel seeing to their needs.  The Buttercup was loaded with food and supplies and personnel who volunteered to go to Mars to live for a while to help.  There were several veterinarians and a doctor who were going to the new Mars colonies.  Darryl interviewed everyone and had enough material for several weeks of shows stored away with Myra and Kyron.

Warren and Jack were invited to go along and they readily accepted as unofficial critter wranglers.  They weren’t so concerned anymore about walks in the forest.  Ah-ne-purrna and her kittens were dropped off in the deep Northwoods the same day Waco took the Buttercup out to look for Kuluke and T’kan’s dad.  They told her they had her DNA on file and would save her and her kittens when the end came for the planet if she wished to be relocated to another world.

“Will there be good game to feed my family?” she asked.

“Plenty, sister cat.” Strom assured her.

“It would be good to survive.” she allowed wisely.

Ping and Pong expressed an interest in seeing Venus and Mars and Waco jumped at the chance to invite them along.  They left Jack and Jill behind in the care of Strom and Lyle.  Patty, Larry and Shep were invited to go, but not Moe nor his other two sisters.  Charlie felt like he needed to stay behind and see to the ranch; however, he wanted Lazarus to go along to look after his cowboys and make sure everything went as planned.  Lazarus expressed his disappointment Charlie wasn’t going along, but it proved a chance for his mate Arlen to get away from the jungle and join them.  He’d heard all about the wonders they found on Venus and Mars and he wanted to see for himself.

Things were slow on the Bandersnatch and Cable wanted to go with them this time.  Waco was thrilled to have him.  He brought a couple of lesser androids with him to look after their guests and left David and Jonathan on board the Mighty Bee.  The Kryscellians expressed an interest and Waco invited them to come along with them in their new mobile home.  They were delighted.  Waco’s usual crew of Lucas, Travis and Little Bear were included.  Waco invited Johauk to go along and observe at closer range.  He was going to start him on pilot training after they returned.  Keekepata and Blue were invited but decided not to go along.  Waco invited Jesse and Utah to go along and they accepted.

The previous trip had been for pleasure but this trip was business.  Everyone felt it and were anxious to see what they would find.  It was to be a short trip; just long enough to exchange warriors for R and R and return to Earth.  Waco and his men had to start school the following week.  

Waco and Lucas sat by Burt and Phil’s side as they took out the Buttercup from the Mighty Bee.  Burt did well his first time.  He beamed  when Lazarus referred to him as Captain Burt Stamper.  He and Phil got in some major flight time on their run to Venus.  They were either sitting in the Captain or First Mates chair almost the whole trip except for rest periods and then Travis and Little Bear would take over for them.  They were learning to earn their wings as well; however, they were much further along than Burt and Phil.  Waco and Lucas were the first to be awarded their wings.

Waco asked Lazarus to go for a forest walk with him that afternoon when the Warren and Jack took the pups and Ping and Pong for a stroll.  They left Arlen Jones in charge of the bridge.

“We don’t get much chance to be alone and talk.” Waco said to Lazarus.

“Lately, almost none.  You got Ox, Trey and your posse following you most of the time, to say nothing of a band of adoring critters.  We always know when Waco’s coming over the rise, there’s a cloud of dust what announces your arrival.”  Lazarus laughed.

“I just wanted a chance to thank you for your offer to my dad to buy me as yore’ indentured slave, Sir.” Waco said quietly so no one would overhear.  Lazarus chuckled.

“My, how times have changed.  Never has a man thanked me for the opportunity to become my slave.” he said.

“That’s the way I look at it, Sir— it would be nothing short of an honor.  It’s the opportunity of a lifetime s’far as I’m concerned.” Waco assured him

Lazarus put his arm around Waco’s shoulder, pulled him close and stole a kiss behind his ear.

“As you know.  Ain’t much would change except ritual greetings and such.  The way you look at ma’ boots sometimes, like they’s the last roll on the table at the last supper, I don’t think you'd have no problem with it.” They shared a laugh.

“Naw, Sir, when we returned from Mars and them Stamper boys lined up, every’ damn one of ‘em, insisting on paying homage to you and ma’ dad’s boots I wanted to snatch a couple up and take their place.  The only time my old wanger gits harder is when I git's me a good whiff of my warrior's male scent.”  Waco confided quietly.  Lazarus held him tighter and roared with laughter.

“Them ole warrior boys do have an intoxicating smell about them, don’t they?” he agreed.  “I just thought it might help your dad out a bit and give you sort of a guaranteed job protection program.  ‘Sides, yore’ maintenance and upkeep would fall to me, since I’d own you, and that would be an added benefit.  After five years, on yore’ twenty-first birthday or the day we leave Earth, whichever comes first, you’ll be a free man again.  You will have paid your indenturement  to me.”

“I told dad to go for it.  I hope he does.”  Waco said.

“Your dad’s a proud man.  It’s the idea of coldly selling you into indenturement without you doing anything to provoke him into it is what sticks in his craw.  Now, he’s got the thing about you waiting until your sixteenth birthday which is okay with me.  My offer is extendible.  I guess he told you I allowed Lucas to have his first time with the Commander because I thought he was old enough, big enough physically and strong enough emotionally.  You men are growing up at an accelerated rate due to the long-shot and all the lummox milk you boys been drinking.  Hell, ever’ damn time I turn around one a’ you’s hooked up to Strom or Ox.” Lazarus laughed.  “I ain’t scolding you.  I ain’t got no room to talk.  I been git’n my fair share.”  he added.  “Charlie told me what you said, you’d leave it up to him.  That was wise of you.  Chances are, that’ll git you what you want quicker than confrontation and whinging.” Lazarus mused.  “I’ve come to love yore’ daddy like he was ma’ own brother, Waco, and I come to love you like you was ma’ son.  I told Charlie I’d jes’ feel a little safer if I had as solid a claim to you as he does.”

“I brought that up with him.  Ever’ since Stan was whisked away, none of us men have felt very safe.”

“Don’t worry.  We’ll be git’n Stan and Jimmy-Bob back before very long.  H’it’s only a matter of time.” Lazarus reassured him.

“Are you doing this just for us, Ramrod, or is there other interest represented in your actions?” Waco asked raising an eyebrow.

“What do you think?  Of course there’s other interest come to play here.  I’d do anything for Trey Vinceeth.  He’s like a grandson to me.  I owe his great-grandfather, his grandfather and his dad debts I could never fully repay.  You two belong together, and my boy Ox belongs with you.  I can’t imagine a better home for him than in the hearts of you two men.  I’ve talked with him and he don’t wanna’ be freed.  He wants to be your and Trey’s slave.  That way, he has an unbreakable bond with you men.  You wanna’ know something, I ain’t never seen him happier than he’s been with you.  Even when he was with his two human husbands he was happy, but nothing like he is now.  When he was in the depths of despair from losing his last mate, I done told him there would come a better day.  A time he would be happy again.  Kids!  They don’t never listen to you.”  Lazarus smiled, “I thought when Trey came into the picture he’d get a little upset, but it’s had just the opposite effect.  He sees how happy you two are together, and he wants you mated and bonded as quickly as the rest of us.  Everyone’s talking behind yore’ backs.  They want you together as soon as possible.  It’s like waiting for the other boot to drop.”  Lazarus chuckled.

Lazarus stopped.  There was no one around.  He took Waco into his arms and looked deeply into his eyes.  He brushed his dark bushy moustache against Waco’s lips as an invitation.  He didn’t have to wait for a reply.  Waco was swapping spit with his Admiral in a considerably more than strict military protocol display of brotherly affection.  This was full-blown passion.  They cooled down a bit and broke it off.

“Why don’t we do that more often, Captain Waco?” Lazarus smiled.

“Damned if I know, Admiral.” Waco grinned at him, “I’m willing, but we always seem to have an ocean of folks, critters and projects between us.” he chuckled.

“Damned if it ain’t true!”  exclaimed  Lazarus.  Before they could get anymore out they heard big footsteps behind them, turned to see the broad, smiling, handsome face of Trey Vinceeth almost to them.

“That’s fine, Admiral.  With your permission, I can take over from here, Sir.” Trey laughed, dismissing Lazarus.

“The hell you say, Captain!” Lazarus laughed.  “This is the first real kiss I ever got me from this here cowboy, and I assure you, h’it ain’t gonna’ be the last.  Lord knows I done stole enough from you when you’s just knee high to a grasshopper.”

“You did at that.  When you went away, I missed them furry mouthed kisses.” Trey laughed.  Lazarus released Waco and he went to Trey’s arms.

“What chu’ men been talk’n about?”

“Guess.” said Lazarus with a grin.

“Aww, you been talk’n ‘bout me, cowboy?”

“Yes, Sir, Captain— and other things.  Should we tell him, Admiral?”

“I don’t know, Son.  Has he been a good and faithful warrior?”

“Faithful, yes,— good?  Not so much.”  Waco shook his head, laughed and kissed Trey on his cheek.

“Well, tell me anyway.” Trey begged like a young boy.

“Next year, about this time, I may buy Captain Waco from his father to become my slave.  It’s in the works.”  explained Lazarus briefly.

Trey got a concerned look on his face like a frown.  The word ‘slave’ didn’t set well with him; however, he was looking into Waco’s lapis blue eyes and saw no fear but a twinkle that said look deeper.  Suddenly, he put two and two together.  He grabbed Waco to him and hugged him.  Waco laughed.

“Does that mean what I think it means?”

“Why do you think we’re doing it, Son?”  Lazarus asked.

“Praise a God with no name!  Praise the Ancient Voices and the Wind's of consciousness!  You mean to tell me, there’s even a slim chance this time next year we could have what your First Mate and my Commander have?”

Waco nodded his head and smiled real big at him.  They hugged and kissed in front of Lazarus.  He was laughing at the joy radiating from the men.  Warren and Jack came back over the hill with the pups.  They knew something was up.

“Did we miss anything, Admiral?” asked Warren.

“Not really.  We were just having a private conversation between Captain Waco and myself, talking about a business transaction, and we got rudely interrupted by this heathen here.”  he laughed.

“My rude handsome warrior heathen.  I like that.” laughed Waco.

“If all goes well, next year, I’ll show you how great a rude warrior and better heathen I can be.” said Trey.

“Where is my lummox when I need him most?”  Waco exclaimed.

Ox came lumbering over the hill, Ping on his shoulder and Pong holding his huge right paw.  He was wearing a big smile on his furry face.  He had been evesdroping on his young master’s conversation with the Admiral.  Waco felt him tap his mind, but he didn’t shut him out.  He wanted his beloved Lummy to hear.  They had no secrets from each other.  Ox went to them and politely took Waco from Trey’s arms and held him like he was checking him out to make sure he hadn’t been violated.  He seemed satisfied, but continued to hold Waco close as he waggled one huge finger at Trey.  Everyone laughed.

End Chapter 38 ~ Waco’s Lummox
Copyright 2007 ~ Waddie Greywolf
All Rights Reserved ~
E-mail to: waddiebear@yahoo.com