After the wedding, Kyle and Ronnie got to know each other better, more on a personal nature. Admiral Greg Robinson adopted Ronnie to be officially his son and not a stepson. Danny legally changed his last name to Robinson, as did Koji.
Kyle's proposal was accepted, much to the relief and excitement of Kyle.
Juju got to perform his dogfight with the ensign who claimed he could fly circles around Juju. It wasn't even close.
Kyle spoke with Corey's parents, getting their permission for their son to go on the Sooloo's Shakedown Cruise. Then he spoke to Corey, who became VERY excited.
Fleet Admiral Mirah took Dave, Hal and Jordan on a tour of the recently refitted Sooloo. He explained some of the changes, and the reasons behind them.
The fighter pilots graduated, with one exception, all of them made it, even the ones who were struggling before squadrons were formed.
Medici was escorted to his home, and talked with Kyle, Jace and their boys.
Discussion about re-boarding the ship was made, and Logan Kristof paid a visit.
Hal thanked Logan for the heads-up and closed the communication. Dave, looking at his husband's expression, could tell that Hal was livid.
"What's up, Babe?"
"I can't believe what Logan Kristof just reported to me, but I will confirm it." Hal turned to his computer and called up the video record from the Sooloo upon Logan's arrival. What he saw confirmed the report and, if it were at all possible, Hal looked even more angry.
After a moment to confirm the other half of Logan's report, Hal asked, "Who is responsible for coverage of the Sooloo shuttle bay while our crew are on leave?"
Dave looked something up before replying, "It says that Space Fleet's Maintenance Logistical Support Division handles temporary staffing for ships during retrofit when the assigned crew are off the ship."
Hal opened a communication to Logistical Support Division. He was able to find out who the officer in charge of the Sooloo Refit team was and opened a call to that person.
When the call was answered, the voice on the other end reported, "Lieutenant Commander Wesley Moore."
"Commander Moore, this is Captain Hal Tietokone of the Sooloo. Would it be possible to meet with you sometime this afternoon?"
"Yes, Sir. I'm in my office at Headquarters and will be until 1900."
"Thank you, Commander. Commodore Bowman and I are on our way."
Fifteen minutes later, Hal and Dave were shown into Lt. Commander Moore's office. Wesley Moore was a career officer with Space Fleet. He was 43 years old and in his final year of service, having served since he was 18. He had put in his 25 years and was set to retire from Space Fleet that summer.
There was a common feeling of dislike among the 'regular' Space Fleet personnel where the 'explorer brats' were concerned. The belief was that the younger contingent of Space Fleet's staffing that they did not deserve even a small modicum of respect, but outwardly, they treated the Explorers as they would any Space Fleet personnel.
Hal didn't start with any pleasantries. "Commander, is it common practice for Logistical Support to ignore safety protocols on a ship during its retrofit?"
"I'm sorry, Sir. I don't understand what you are asking." Moore fully understood but could not let on that he knew.
"I have received a report that firstly, your shuttle pilots do not communicate with the ship they are going to on approach. Also, when one of the officers arrived today, the shuttle bay was 'manned' by only a single individual, and that individual was literally sleeping in his seat."
"I seriously doubt that he was actually asleep, Sir."
Hal stood and leaned over the desk of the commander. "Commander Moore, are you saying that the video record I just viewed was not accurate? I saw your crewman obviously asleep unless you commonly have members of your staff leaning back in their chairs with drool leaking from the corners of their mouths."
Moore lost control of his anger at this point and his true feelings of the Explorer Program shown through. "You little pissant! You come into my office and talk to me without the respect the 25 years I've served Space Fleet is due?"
Hal was about to respond when Dave, in a quiet and calm voice said, "I'll take it from here, Captain."
"Commander Moore, last I knew, a Captain outranks a Lt. Commander, am I correct?"
Dave's attitude took the wind out of the sails, so to speak, of the Lieutenant Commander's rebuttal.
In a much calmer tone, Moore continued, "I find it demeaning for a person more than 20 years younger than I am to take me to task for a job I've held for almost 20 years and have been given more than a few commendations for the way I do my job."
Hal had reigned in his own emotions somewhat when he said, "Commander, when I informed you of the actions of those under your command, you could easily have said, something to the effect of, I'm sorry, Sir, I wasn't aware. I will take care of the issue, thank you for bringing it to my attention. But instead, you chose to attack me verbally. I may only be seventeen years of age, at least until my birthday tomorrow, but age is of no consequence. I am a duly commissioned officer of Space Fleet, holding a rank higher than yours. You have no right to speak to any superior officer in the manner you spoke to me. Rest assured that I will be making a formal protest which will be placed into your personnel file."
This shocked Moore to the core, "But Sir, I am slated to retire in a couple of months. In 25 years, I have never had any negative actions placed in my file and you filing one could affect my pension."
"I would have thought of that before allowing my emotions to give me a severe case of hoof-in-mouth syndrome. I suggest you go see your personal physician and have him treat you for an acute case of cranial rectosis. I expect copies of your report on the discussions you will have with your shuttle pilots and the person who was present in MY shuttle bay this morning by 1600 tomorrow afternoon. After seeing how you handle it, I may decide not to file a negative report in your file. Good Day, Commander."
Hal and Dave then stood and left the office. They had not gotten ten feet away when Hal's comm rang. Noticing who the caller was, Hal answered, "Good Afternoon, Admiral."
Dave had transmitted the conversation as it happened to Bill Mirah. Admiral Mirah simply said, "You handled that well, Hal. Let me know if he doesn't follow through on the order you just gave him."
"I will, Admiral." Hal closed the communication, took his husband's hand and walked away from the building where the meeting took place.
As they walked, Dave said to nobody in particular, "It's terrible that any Space Fleet officer would hold any other group of Space Fleet officers in such contempt. I think it should be suggested to the Admiralty that this be addressed with all of Space Fleet."
Hal smiled and the pair headed back to their headquarters offices.
Having already celebrated Hal's birthday a day early, the Bowman Family headed for the Sooloo after an early supper. Mama understood that since he was now the Captain, Hal was needing to be aboard when his officers arrived. One of the benefits of rank is that Dave, Hal, Oliver and Lars had a private shuttle taking them back to the Sooloo. It was still a new experience for Oliver. Sure, he'd been on a few shuttle trips, but this one was taking him to the Sooloo... to his new home.
Dave and Hal were deep in conversation about the upcoming shakedown with their blond-haired pilot, Gordy Mason, leaving Lars and Oliver to gawk out the windows, watching the Sooloo gradually get larger as they approached.
Oliver couldn't wait for the rest of the senior staff and their families to arrive. While the 'parents' were busy, Oliver was looking forward to some private time with Drake. Unfortunately, Dave and Hal had other plans for the kids.
"Hi, Jack," Jace greeted the pilot as he climbed aboard Shuttle 21.
The pilot, Jack Gillespie, chuckled, "If you hi-jack me, my First Officer might get upset." Jace just shook his head and smiled.
Behind Jace, were Jonas, Jason and Shadow with Jordan helping everyone climb aboard the shuttle before climbing aboard himself. Jace sat Jonas and Jason in the front two passenger seats, then took one of the seats behind them. When Jordan boarded, he took the seat beside Jace.
Jack looked at Shadow, "You need to be in a seat, too. You want to sit up here and help me fly?"
Shadow barked, then hopped into the co-pilot seat. Jordan asked, "How many more flights do you have tonight?"
"This is my last flight tonight, but tomorrow I will start shuttling officers from 0600 to 2000. I will get an hour break at 1100 and again at 1600 for lunch and dinner."
Jace questioned, "So, the Michelangelo will get a real workout, eh?"
"No, not the Michelangelo," Jack responded. "She can only hold five passengers besides myself. I will fly her down, but then I will be flying one of Space Fleet's Transport Shuttles. They can hold twenty-four passengers besides me and a co-pilot. I hear other Space Fleet pilots refer to them as Li'l Bubbas."
"So, no flights while you are on break?" inquired Jordan.
"There will be flights," Jack answered. "Juju offered to fly my shuttle and Billy Angel will be flying Gordy Mason's shuttle during our breaks. Juju looked at me and said, 'I may have become an officer and gotten my fighter wings, but I am still a shuttle pilot, like you.' It made me feel good that he doesn't think he's better than me."
Jace questioned, "If the flight is about forty-five minutes each way, plus loading, how can you have only an hour break?"
"We plan to take our breaks on the Sooloo so we know we will have good meals, then while waiting for the shuttles to return, we can file our reports of who we brought to the ship thus far. It will make our 'End of Watch' report smaller."
"That makes sense," Jordan acknowledged, "then will you be flying on the twenty-seventh to bring the remainder of the crew aboard?"
"They wanted us to, but Juju insisted that after a full day tomorrow, Gordy and I would need some rest, so he and Billy will be flying Big Bubba while Shawn Quinn and Gabriel Cardiff will be flying Bubba Loo."
"You have a lot of respect for Juju, I can tell."
"I believe he is a great officer," Jack replied, "he reminds me of you."
Kash had hoped he and Jay could ride up with Jordan's family, but they were going up in one of the Sooloo's shuttles, which only has room for five, besides the pilot. Instead, he was catching the first flight this morning. "Greetings, Commander," the pilot offered.
"Hello to you, too," Kash replied. "This is my son, Jordan Rivers, but he likes to go by Jay."
"You must be Kash," the pilot smiled, "When I took Jordan and his family up to the ship last night, he was telling me that you joined the team and I would like you. My name is Jack, Crewman Jack Gillespie."
"If you like my cousin, you will probably like me; I try to emulate him… yet keep my own style."
"I believe you will like most of the crew. We have had a few that I am glad are no longer on the ship, like Dick Head and A Hole…"
Kash started laughing, "I hope you didn't call them that to their faces."
"Why not?" Jack questioned, "that WAS their names, and they did a damn good job of living up to it."
"Seriously?" Kash was surprised. "Their actual names were Dick Head and A Hole?"
"You can look it up," Jack suggested. "Richard Head was the Assistant Chief of Security until he was busted down to a Crewman, and Alan Hole was a Tactical Crewman."
"Interesting…" was all that Kash said
"As I said, fortunately, all the trouble makers seem to have gotten themselves booted off the ship already. I believe you will like everyone else."
"Good to know."
Jack turned to Jay, "This is a short flight, only about forty-five minutes, give or take, so no snacks, but I did pick up some fruit snacks, if you would like a pouch."
Jay looked up at Kash, who nodded his head. Then he looked at Jack, "Yes, please, and thank you."
"My pleasure, especially to a very polite young man. Your dad taught you well."
"Not me," Kash clarified, "I only recently adopted him after his father, a family friend, had passed. But yes, his dad did teach him well, and I am proud to continue teaching him."
Kash and Jay were in their seats as the shuttle taxied to the runway. Jack could have lifted slightly and flown to the runway as he had to in the Michelangelo, but since the Space Fleet's shuttles have wheels, he wanted to experience the taxiing.
Jay opened his packet of fruit snacks, pulled one out and held it up to Kash. When Kash opened his mouth for Jay to put it in, Jay giggled and put it in his own mouth. "You little stinker," Kash laughed.
Will and John were packed and ready to leave. John was helping Drake finish up while Will went to speak with his dad one last time. "So, Dad, you never did tell me what happened in Vegas."
"Haven't you ever heard that old saying? Whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," Robert chuckled. "Seriously though, Admiral Mirah looked at me and told me, Admiral Pershnell was merely a Lieutenant Commander at the time of my accident, so he had no problem with promoting me to Rear Admiral. He also asked me to fill the void in the Explorer Program made by transferring Pershnell out."
"So, you won't be going back onto a ship?" asked Robby.
"No, Robby, I get to stay on Earth and get to know you better. I missed twelve years of you and Will growing up, I hope I don't miss any more."
"I'd like that. Mom told me stories about you, and Will shared what he remembered, but now, I get a chance to really get to know you," Robby cried as he hugged his recently discovered father.
"Also, I guess there was some issue with Space Fleet Logistics concerning the refit of the Explorer Class ships, so Bill asked me to head up a new Explorer Program Logistics Division. That, and since I was an Astrogator, Commander Hanson asked if I could possibly assist him from time to time, talking to his classes."
"Sounds like you are going to be busy," Will chimed.
Robby pouted, "I want to be an Astrogator, too, but I suck at math."
Robert gave his youngest son a strange look, "Mom showed me your report cards, you're getting A's in Math."
"Yeah, but I get 97's to 99's on some of my tests. I should be getting 100's all the time."
Robert chuckled, "And here I thought I was bad when I got upset about getting a 96 once. Son, you are great at Math, and don't you forget it. Bill and I talked and if you would like, you've been accepted to the Academy next fall."
"That would be awesome," Robby smiled, "Matthew told me that he's been accepted, too. Maybe we can share a room."
"I can arrange that, but if you want to be an Astrogator, you will need to apply yourself, I can't pull any strings."
Robby acknowledged, "In a way, I'm glad. It will mean more to me if I earn it."
"I'm pleased you feel that way." Robert then looked at Will, "Before I forget, I will be on a ship for three days at a time. Bill thinks it would be a good idea if I am on the Shakedown Cruises, so I have a better understanding of the ships. And I hear that the first ship has an awesome Astrogator, who I would love to chat with, if he has time."
"The Sooloo will be the first ship, and Commander Robinson IS an awesome Astrogator. But an adult on the ship?" Will questioned.
"I will just be observing, I will have no authority at the time. Bill recommended that I not even advise in any capacity, but he did suggest that I learn a thing or two from Kyle, especially with the way Astrogation has changed in the last twelve years."
"Kyle is a natural Astrogator, I have never seen anyone better," John poked his head in the room. "Drake is ready, and kind of anxious to get on the ship. It seems he misses his boyfriend."
"I need to be heading to the ship, too," Robert lamented. "Robby, I look forward to spending as much time with you as I can once I get back. I will miss you while I am gone."
"I look forward to it, too, but this will be your last chance to spend time with Will, so don't worry about me. We will have our time together when you return."
Robert hugged his youngest one last time before heading out the door, "I repeat what I said when I first met you, your mom did an awesome job of raising you."
Even though the shuttle was nearly empty, Aiden was sitting on one side of Juro while Connor sat on the other. Dr. Tom Abernathy, accompanied by Christian and Ronald, entered and greeted the other three on the shuttle.
"Well," Aiden quipped, "if the in-flight meal gives us trouble, we have pretty much the entire medical staff here."
Juro looked at his Opsola. "There's no in-flight meal, the trip is only about forty-five minutes!"
It was obvious that Juro was still learning the ins-and-outs of human humor. "He was joking, Juro," Connor squeezed Juro's knee.
Juro shook his head but said nothing.
The Abernathys took seats across the aisle from the other three. "Only six of us on this shuttle?" Ronald asked, wondering why they didn't fill the shuttle with more officers.
At that time, Crewman Jack Gillespie, their pilot entered and answered Ronald's question. "The shuttles will be filled to capacity when we bring the rest of the crew up, but it was felt that the officers should be able to embark onto the Sooloo at their convenience. We're running regular shuttles between the Sooloo and the space port and, as long as everyone reports by 2000 tonight, all is good."
This appeased Ronald's question and Jack went to the cockpit to perform his pre-flight checklist.
Ronald looked around the spacious shuttle, truly looking forward to serving on the Sooloo. When his brother had been selected in the first round and Ronald was not, his mood dropped tremendously. Only when he was recruited to Fleet Admiral Bill Mirah's staff did things change.
From the very start he threw himself into his work, dedicated himself to showing he deserved to be there and that, in the past, he probably deserved to be on one of the explorer ships.
To say that Ronald was successful would be an understatement. He was constantly pushing the edge of the sciences looking for something to set himself apart. What he didn't realize was that pushing himself as he did is what set him apart from the rest of Space Fleet. A fact that wasn't unnoticed by his boss and the rest of the Admiralty.
When he found out that the Sooloo, and eventually all of the Explorer ships, would be returning to Earth, Ronald tried not to hope that a replacement would be needed, and he might be one of those replacements.
He got the best of Christmas presents when his brother arrived, and it was made official that he would be the new Assistant Chief of Sciences aboard the Sooloo.
The six aboard the shuttle watched as the ship left Earth's atmosphere and gradually approached the ship. To the others it was not as exciting, even though there had been a few external modifications to the ship, but to Ronald, it was truly amazing. He sat back counting his blessings. This was going to be an adventure like none other he had experienced in his life.
Tomo was asking a million questions as they boarded Transport Shuttle 70, "Do you think Juro is already on the Sooloo, or will he come later? Did he take Kallie back onto the Sooloo, or leave her with his grandparents? How long is this flight?" and so on and so on…
"You would think you hadn't seen Juro since we left Darastix, the way you are acting," Randy chuckled. "As to your first two questions, I guess we will find out when we get on board the Sooloo, but remember, you are an officer now, so duty will need to come before boyfriend."
"As for how long the flight is," Tom took over, but Gordy Mason answered.
"The flight is approximately forty-five minutes," Gordy replied. "And Jack Gillespie just logged in that he dropped off Dr. Tom, Christian and Ronald Abernathy about fifteen minutes ago, along with Aiden, Connor, Juro and Kallie." Tomo smiled and took his seat beside Jinzo.
John Luke landed the Leonardo in the Shuttle Bay and the family disembarked. One of the Shuttle Bay crewmen would place the shuttle in her proper docking bay. Will grabbed his and his dad's grips and headed to find Dave and Hal. Drake was hoping to see Oliver; he led the way, even though this was his first time on the ship. Walking onto the Bridge, Will introduced his dad, "Captain, Commodore, you remember my dad from John's and my wedding?"
"Yes, the wedding crasher," Dave chuckled.
"Pleased to meet you again, Sir," Hal offered.
"Likewise," Robert responded. "Dave, I understand you were told that you would be receiving four fighters since you have the Draconian Fighter."
"That is correct," Dave acknowledged.
"That will not be the case," Robert averred. "I looked over the reports, then Bill and I had a chat. The Draconian fighter was presented to Danny Harper. Even though he changed his last name to that of his husband's, that fighter will go with him should he ever transfer ships, or even leave Space Fleet. With that in mind, I convinced Bill that every ship should receive five of our fighters, and with you being a Commodore and aboard the Sooloo, it wouldn't hurt having an extra fighter aboard."
Dave smiled, "It makes me feel good to see that you took my wellbeing into consideration."
"That, and from a logistic point of view, it will make it easier to keep track of who has what if all the ships start with the same number of our fighters."
"I understand that Bill suggested you ride on all the Shakedown Cruises," Hal stated.
"That's right, but I am not here as an admiral. I will have no authority over you, my job is to discover anything that may have been missed so we can fix it right away. Also, I understand Astrogation has advanced while I was sleeping for twelve years. I would like to speak with Kyle Robinson, and possibly learn what is different."
As he said that, Kyle happened to walk onto the Bridge. The first thing he noticed was the change to the Astrogation Table, adding a Helm. Will walked over to him, "Kyle, do you remember when we first met, and I told you my dad was an Astrogator?"
"I do," Kyle assured him.
"Well, I would like for you to meet my dad, Rear Admiral Robert Orlando Crusoe," Will proudly proclaimed.
"Man, the Astrogation table HAS changed in the last twelve years," Robert declared. "I'm hoping you can bring me up to date while we are on the Shakedown Cruise."
Kyle eyed the man suspiciously.
Sukotto and Noah walked in the front door, and Sukotto inquired, "Opsolas, when are we going up to the Sooloo?"
Scott looked irritated, "We were supposed to go today, but there are no more flights tonight."
"I'm sorry," Noah apologized, "I don't go up until tomorrow, so I didn't think about you going up today."
"No harm, no foul," Łuke assured. "Scott spoke to Aiden a few minutes ago and told him that we were waiting for Sukotto and you to get here. He simply said that he understood, and we need to be sure we are on the first flight tomorrow."
"So, you're not mad at me?" Noah inquired.
"No, Noah," Scott declared, "if I was mad at anyone, it would be myself. We...; I should have reminded you about our flight, or we could have made plans for Sukotto to go up with you tomorrow and we could have been on a flight today."
"Phew, I feel better," Noah smiled.
"And you," Scott almost snapped at Sukotto causing him to jump, "I was worried about you since you hadn't contacted us."
"I'm sorry, Opsola."
"As punishment, you have to give me a hug," Scott chuckled. Sukotto grinned and wrapped his arms around Scott as best as he could.
Gordy Jenkins woke up with his brother Randy draped over him. Even though Randy had two beds connected to each other, somehow the two brothers always seemed to end up in one of the single beds. Gordy was happy he had been able to stay an extra day rather than return to Earth with all the extra personnel on the Sooloo. Since Danny and Kyle were going to make an extra shuttle trip to Earth, he had finagled staying with Randy for one more night.
And what a night it was, Gordy thought. As tired as he was, Gordy knew he wanted to do as much with Randy as he could, which ended up with Randy having his way with Gordy twice while he returned the favor once. The only reason he had awakened was because he had to piss terribly. As he rubbed his tired ass, he yawned and fought to open his eyes. Even though he was twelve and Randy was fourteen, Gordy knew he could hold his own in bed any time they had sex. Even now, when he could barely stay awake, he wanted to roll over on top of his brother and ravish him. Instead, he eased out of bed, walked into the bathroom and took a difficult piss through his softening erection.
Gordy looked at the clock when he returned and was happy to see he could sleep for another hour. Instead of taking the empty side of the two beds, he snuggled up against the warm naked body of his brother. He was so grateful he had the chance to spend time with him. He loved his big brother with all his heart, not just because of the sex, almost all of which he had learned from Randy, but because of the opportunity to spend a week on a real starship and learn a ton about the art of cooking. Randy had worked his ass off, but Gordy didn't care; this had been the best week of his entire life. He had no doubt in his mind that the Space Academy would be the place for him in the fall, and he could hardly wait to become a cadet.
Later that morning, after showering (together) and eating breakfast, Randy escorted his little brother to the shuttle bay. They were met by Jesse Gross, who was on duty. "Commander Robinson and Lieutenant Harper... er, I mean Robinson will be here shortly. There is a waiting area behind that door," he said as he walked to the door and opened it for them.
Jesse closed the door and sat at his station checking the test readouts from the Rafael. After seeing that everything was checking out, he thought about his leave time. He smiled as he thought about the six times he was naked in bed with Sandy McGowen, and the four times he fucked her. The fourteen-year-old girl was not only sexy and cute, but was also the daughter of an admiral, which made her really special as far as Jesse was concerned. Sure, getting his cock sucked on occasion by a couple of officers in return for a hand job was a great way to get off, but what he did with Sandy was real sex. When he was in bed with her, he was a stud and since she was on the pill, they could fuck any time.
In the small waiting area, the Jenkins brothers sat next to each other on adjoining chairs and traded a quick kiss. "Are you eager to get home?" Randy asked.
"Yes and no. I had so much fun helping you even if you did work my ass off. I loved being on the Sooloo even if it never went anywhere. And sex with you is the best. But, I'm ready to see my friends and to get it on with Kailey Davis—she's ready for me."
"Kailey Davis? Damn, Bro, I swear you change girlfriends more often than you change your underwear."
"That's because they get so goofy. I mean Cindy wouldn't let me put my hand inside her panties except on the second Monday after the first Saturday before a full moon. At least when a guy is horny, we can just go fuck. And let me tell you, Grant Kennedy loves having something up his ass."
"He's on your basketball team, right?"
"Yeah, when I'm there playing instead of pretending to be a space boy. Anyway, Grant's a stud but we didn't do much beyond jerking each other off when we messed around. Then one weekend, Kelly Barker's parents left him alone for the weekend. His parents said he could have one friend over and that ended up being me."
"Damn, they're pretty trusting."
"Yeah they are. Anyway, somehow, I ended up being multiplied by five, which made six of us. So, we ended up having a two-day sex and pizza orgy and Grant learned how much he loved real sex—like he had much choice," Gordy laughed.
"It was all pizza and sex? No beer and weed?"
"Me and all my friends belong to the 'Not This Time Club'. Whenever anybody asks us about that shit, our answer is 'Not this time,' which is our way of saying, 'go fuck yourself, asshole.' But we did have lots of sugar to keep us going."
"I gotta say, you lead an exciting life," Randy grinned as he planted another kiss on his brother. Just as he got serious, Danny and Kyle walked into the waiting area.
"Fuck, guys, I'd say get a room, but you've got a room," Danny chuckled.
"Sorry to break up the make out session, but time for us to get going," Kyle added.
Randy gave his brother a tight hug and a peck on the lips. "I'm gonna miss you, Bro. You have real talent in the kitchen."
"That's not the only talent of mine you're going to miss," Gordy grinned. Randy wiped away tears as he watched his little brother's sexy ass, along with the rest of him, walk down the corridor to the Rafael.
Gordy, Kyle and Danny, along with Jesse, walked down the corridor. Jesse took his station at the hatchway to the Rafael and the other three boys boarded the shuttle. Danny went through his preflight checklist with Jesse and Kyle, then started the engines. They were ready to leave the Sooloo for Earth.
Gordy yawned and strapped himself in. As the Rafael made its way out of the shuttle bay and away from the Sooloo, Danny contacted Earth Traffic Control for a flight path to Vegas. "My fucking brother has been working my ass off," he announced to Danny and Kyle. "Wake me up when we land." Since the shuttle was clear of the starship, he unstrapped himself and stretched out for a nap.
"I have a feeling that Randy has been working Gordy's ass off in more ways than one," Kyle whispered to Danny with a smirk.
"I guess there's nothing like brotherly love," Danny whispered back. Gordy fell asleep instantly, which gave Danny and Kyle a semblance of privacy. Once Danny had received his instructions from Earth Control, he had some time to talk to his husband, Kyle.
Danny deftly maneuvered the Rafael out of the Sooloo's shuttle bay. This was a trip he wasn't expecting, but he was always happy to take the helm of one of the spacecrafts.
"Shuttle 20, you are clear of shuttle bay doors," came the voice of Crewman Jesse Gross over the radio. "You are cleared to launch from the Sooloo for Tiberius Space Port."
"Roger that, Sooloo," Danny replied. "Setting course for Earth and Tiberius Space Port."
"Safe travels, 20. Sooloo out."
Danny had set his coordinates into the Rafael's computer as the shuttle completely cleared the shuttle bay and maneuvered away from the starship. As soon as he received clearance from the Sooloo, he accelerated the shuttle to cruising speed and lined up the shuttle on its flight path. Danny and Kyle could see that Gordy was already sound asleep.
The shuttle flew in silence for a couple of minutes when Kyle spoke up. "Robert is making me nervous."
"Because he's an adult on our ship?" Danny inquired; Kyle nodded.
"He's only on board to observe." Danny reminded him. "It's his job to make sure all of the ships are retrofitted and tested properly."
"But he's been hanging around me a lot on the bridge, asking me a lot of questions about astrogation."
"He has told everybody he's interested in learning more and that you're supposed to be the best."
Kyle shifted in his seat as he thought about how to phrase what he wanted to say next. "I don't know more than anybody else. I mean there is only so much out there to know—once you've got the math down it's just a matter of putting it all together and being organized."
"Well, it's putting it all together that makes you so good. What's the word for that? It's like into something or other."
"The word is intuitive. Commander Hanson says it describes me best, but I don't see how it's something Robert can learn. It's just how I think."
Danny was often amazed about someone as brilliant and talented (not to mention cute and sexy) as his husband was could be so down on himself. But what Danny saw as a problem with confidence others saw as humility. It was something Hal had been spending time getting Danny to understand.
"Well, you take that intuition and add the fact that you're mega-organized and then you have things you can teach," Danny told his husband. "Look at what you've done for Devin French. But all of this has nothing to do with Robert. Why does he make you nervous other than being adult that is?"
"I think he's testing me," Kyle said flatly.
"Testing you for what?"
"To see if I'm as good as everybody says. I know there are some officers in HQ who don't like me because I'm Greg Robinson's son, and they would like to see me fall on my ass."
"Kyle, there are times I think you're just plain paranoid. I don't think Robert is reporting to anybody. I've watched him and he's really interested. He even takes notes and shit."
"I think I'm going to be careful about what I say around him."
"I think you need to talk to Dr. Tom about getting your head shrunk."
Their conversation was interrupted by radio instructions from Traffic Control. When it resumed, Kyle looked over at the human being he loved more than any in the world (although, in his own way, Koji might be tied for that honor) and smiled. "Yeah, you're right. You always manage to get me back on track. I still think he's too nosy, but damn, his son is on board, so I doubt he is the enemy. I will answer his questions and be myself."
"But... ?" Danny asked knowing Kyle well enough to realize his husband had one more thing to say.
"But I'll still be careful around him."
Danny took another look behind him. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you had a giant crush on Cadet Adams," he said to Kyle, who was sitting in the co-pilot's seat.
"What are you talking about?" Kyle asked.
"I mean, look at this. The dude becomes a temporary cadet and suddenly he gets his own private shuttle flight to his three-day assignment."
"It wasn't my idea—Commander Hanson convinced Bill that since Corey's parents are accompanying him to the Sooloo, giving them and Corey their own private flight would make them feel special and important."
Danny was amused as to how Kyle referred to his former teacher by rank and last name while calling Space Fleet Admiral-in-Chief by first name. It indicated how deep Kyle's respect for his mentor penetrated.
"Oh, so this is about Corey's parents, then?"
"Yeah. This is something that's never been done before. And even though Corey's dad works in space, he's involved with ship's cargo not with ship operation. It's all kind of complicated."
"Since Corey's parents are taking a regular shuttle back, doesn't that mean this is more about Corey than about them?"
Kyle was becoming irritated by Danny's questioning. He turned to penetrate his husband with his best glare when he saw the sly smirk on his face. Once again, Danny was yanking his chain and getting away with it.
"Okay, I admit it, I have a mad crush on Corey Adams. I set up his three-day ride along so I can fuck his tight ass every night. Why else would I do something like this?"
"So that's why you're hard every time you see him?"
"Well, you're the one who gets a hardon every time Jesse gives you clearance over the radio. You know you'd love to sample his ass, which looks like a pretty sexy piece of equipment."
"If it's half as sexy as his big cock, then yeah, I'd sample it. I might even let you watch."
There was a long silence while Danny waited for Kyle's retort. Sexually charged kidding was not uncommon between the two spouses, but a long silence usually meant somebody had inadvertently stepped over the line.
Usually the last one to speak was the one to break the silence. "Did I say something wrong, Kiddo?" Danny asked. The look on Kyle's face told his husband otherwise, however. It was a pensive look; a look of deep thought that indicated Kyle was reacting to something much different than Danny's snarky remark.
"Sorry, I was just thinking... which I know can be dangerous."
"You looked like you were thinking about something pretty serious."
"I do have kind of a crush on Corey, but it's not, like, a mad crush. But sometimes I wonder if I did this whole setting up his trip on the Sooloo because I find him sexy."
"First, I know you have a crush on him... and on Randy Jenkins," he checked the sleeping boy in the back of the cabin, "...and on Gordy Jenkins... and on Brad Kanye, and well... you and me are both horny twelve-year-olds and having crushes is part of the game. I think we handle it all pretty good."
"You're pretty smart for a fighter jockey. And what's second?" Kyle asked.
"You have way too much honesty to let the fact that Corey is a sexy dude be the reason for his trip."
"And that brings us to why I went out of my way to set this up."
Danny thought he knew where Kyle was coming from. "Yeah it does, so tell me why you did it."
Kyle took a deep breath and looked straight at the boy he loved so much more than all his silly crushes put together. Then he told Danny something from deep in his soul—something he would only share with one other person in the world. That person was Danny Robinson.
"When I talked to him in his bedroom that first day we met, the thing I saw in him more than anything else was me. I saw a boy my age who was lost and ready to fail, who was smart and wanted to be successful, but didn't know how the fuck to do it. I wanted to give him the same chance I had."
"I thought it might be something like that. I think you did a fucking good job, and if you happen to have a crush on him, it doesn't matter. You know and I know that had nothing to do with what we're doing now, and don't you fucking think otherwise."
"You know what, Danny?"
"Space Central Control calling Sooloo Shuttle 20 for Earth entry coordinates," the radio interrupted.
Danny grinned at Kyle and shrugged. "Sooloo 20 acknowledges Space Central Control and is ready to copy."
The traffic controller gave Danny coordinates for entry and instructions to call Space Central for final instructions when he approached third coordinate.
"I copy, Space Central." He repeated the coordinates. "Will call at third coordinate. Sooloo 20 out." Danny looked at Kyle, "I think we left off about me knowing something. It wouldn't have to do with you loving me would it?"
"That was it exactly." Kyle leaned over and planted a kiss on Danny's lips. "I hope that doesn't break some regulation in the pilot's manual."
"If it does, I'll gladly accept my punishment. And I love you, too, kiddo."
"Thanks for helping me understand what I'm thinking."
"Um, no offense, sweetheart, but there ain't a person alive who can figure out what goes on in that complicated, whacko brain of yours."
"But you do a pretty good job of faking it, and for that I love you more than I could ever say."
"Well, you have until after we land to come up with something, because we're at our first coordinate and I have to give my favorite flying machine my full attention."
Kyle unstrapped himself and walked to the back of the cabin to wake up Gordy. "Shit, is it morning already?" Gordy moaned.
"No, it's landing time and regulations say you have to be strapped in and sitting upright," Kyle responded.
"Bummer I could use another day's sleep," Gordy mumbled as he sat up and strapped himself in.
After Danny secured the Rafael at the shuttle terminal, he, Kyle and Gordy disembarked. An admiralty limo and a driver were waiting for them. The plan was for them to drop Gordy off at the Space Academy before they picked up Corey. Gordy was scheduled to meet with Lieutenant Commander Collins to report on his experience aboard the Sooloo. He would spend the night at one of the guest rooms at the dormitory before flying home to Minnesota the next day.
But when he saw how much time he had, Gordy persuaded Kyle to pick up Corey and his family first. "We're kinda like buddies and it may be my last chance to see him for a while," Gordy told him. "I'm hoping if we both get into the Academy in the fall, we can be roommates. But first I have to get in—I think Corey is gonna be a lock."
"The only way you won't get in is if the dude looking at your application got indigestion from your brother's shimmy stew," Danny laughed.
"What about Corey?"
"He still has a lot of work to do," Kyle replied, knowing in his heart that Corey was going to get it done.
"Thanks for being willing to spend a night in the crews' quarters," Randy Jenkins told Whit Olson as his friend moved back into his quarters. Randy planted a long, loving kiss on his best friend who he considered his boyfriend.
"I left pecker tracks on the sheets as a souvenir for somebody," Whit grinned after they broke off the kiss.
"The cleaning bots had that bed stripped before you could even get your cum-stained underwear into your grip," Randy chuckled.
"Anyway, I was happy to help out my best friend in the galaxy. I know how close you and your brother are. I take it the sheets have been changed after they got smeared with whatever bodily fluids the two of you left behind."
"Those are virgin sheets," Randy assured his friend. He sat on the bed and beckoned Whit to sit next to him. Another, longer, kiss was exchanged before they started telling stories about their leaves. The common themes were how supportive and loving their parents, as well as their siblings and other relatives, made their leaves even more pleasant.
"I didn't get the mileage out of Max you got out of Gordy, but we enjoyed a few jerk-off sessions and he learned the wonder of the blow job—both getting and giving. Max is even straighter than I am, so he doesn't have a sorta-like boyfriend the way I do to have real sex, but he loved the tricks I showed him, most of which I learned from you," Whit told Randy.
Max was Whit's twelve-year-old cousin who received lessons from his space-faring cousin on how to take care of being horny. He had been a very willing student.
"One person I didn't tell him or anybody else about was Melissa," Whit said.
"Oh, oh, don't tell me you went the distance."
"It kind of was like this. We kissed and made out when we could. There were times I got her shirt and bra off and we got my shirt off and had some serious make out sessions. She's thirteen and her boobs are just starting to sprout."
Randy wasn't terribly interested in the size of Melissa's boobs since he preferred his chests flat and muscular—like Whit's. But, the thought of his boyfriend, with his long thin cock, rock hard, straining in his pants as he made out with the girl, had Randy begging for Whit to tell him more.
"One day we thought we had lots of time alone at her house and got down to just our underwear and I was sucking on one of her boobs. I started to pull on her panties and was about to see her naked for the first time in almost a year when we heard the garage door open." Whit paused and took a deep breath. "Fuck, that was scary. I never thought I could get dressed that fast. I had to hide until Melissa could sneak me out."
"Did you ever get naked with her?"
"Three times. It was a lot different than the first time. We were just thirteen and all curious then and stuff. This time we were totally horny, and she wanted to go the distance all three times. I was so wanting to do it and said, oh fuck no."
"While she was saying oh fuck yes?" Randy giggled.
"Something like that. I mean girls don't get knocked up as much as I guess they did in the old days because they got all these pills for guys and girls and we're all supposed to be smarter. We had no protection and she said it was okay the timing was right. But I like to think I was smarter than that. The third time my dick was touching her pussy and I knew if I stuck it in her what would happen right away, so I backed off and jerked off over her. She was so pissed it ended up being the last time we made out."
Whit noticed that while he had been talking, Randy had pulled down his pants and underwear. "Do you know how you would have done her?" Randy asked in a hoarse, horny voice.
"Sure, I do. I've had good teaching."
"Do you want to show me what you were taught?"
"With pleasure," Whit grinned. The two boyfriends were not quite boyfriends and were naked in an instant and splayed side-to-side on their bed. They agreed after Whit finished that he had put on an excellent demonstration. The "virgin" sheets had lost their virginity.
Corey was ready to leave when the admiralty limousine pulled up in front of the Adams' house. He had been packed and ready for the past two hours. His face had been literally glued to the front window of the house. It was all he could do not to leap through the picture window when he saw the car pull up. Even though it was unmarked, there was no question that it was a government car.
"Mom! Dad! They're here!" he screeched.
"Are you sure?" his father, Bob, asked in amusement as he watched his son dash out of the front door.
"Kyle! Danny! I'm ready," he yelled as he met the two striding up the sidewalk. Kyle and Danny were both wearing duty uniforms. Corey was wearing the Cadet uniform sent to him by the Head Quartermaster at Space Fleet Headquarters. It was the same uniform worn by cadets at the Space Fleet Academy.
"You're looking sharp," Kyle grinned as he gave Corey a quick hug.
"Be careful you don't wrinkle it," Corey admonished him. "My mom will kill me if I get a wrinkle in it." Bob Adams fought down the urge to laugh as he listened to his son.
Bob stepped out to greet the two officers. "I'm glad to see you both," Bob grinned. "They told me you might be free to make the trip," Bob said to Kyle.
"Kyle knows where the bodies are buried, so they had to let him come," Danny smirked. In reality, Hal saw to it that the work schedule was rigged to allow Kyle to make the trip to Earth to pick up Corey and his parents.
"Are we going to go right away?" Corey asked.
"Do you get the idea that the boy is excited?" Bob chuckled.
"He has good reason to be excited and to be in a hurry. We have a tight schedule to keep, so get your grip so we can get going," Kyle said in the voice of a commanding officer. Corey skipped back into the house, carrying the official grip also given to him by the quartermaster. As a temporary cadet, Corey was eligible for the perks given to regular cadets.
If he gained admission to the Academy, he would have one uniform and a grip, as well as a backpack. The good news regarding the uniform was that he could get a replacement should he outgrow his current uniform by then.
Corey froze when he came back out of the front door. A third boy had stepped out of the car. When Corey saw that it was Gordon Jenkins he screeched, "GORDY!" he screeched as he dropped his grip, ran to the car, and hugged the boy.
"What are you doing here? Are you going with us to the Sooloo? Are you going on the shakedown, too?" Corey ran off rapid fire.
"I'll tell you after we get in the car. No. And no. And you look sexy in the uniform." They brought their lips together and planted a heartfelt kiss, that might have been a bit longer than they'd planned, hoping Corey's father was looking the other way.
Bob Adams, who had watched the entire scene between Corey and Gordy looked over at Kyle and Danny and shook his head in amusement. The sullen, underachieving boy who had been his son just weeks ago had become an outgoing, enthusiastic boy who couldn't get things done fast enough. Not long ago he had been a mean bully and now he was standing in front of him hugging and kissing another boy. And not long ago, Bob Adams would have disowned his son for that very action.
He knew the light-haired boy standing next to him in the Commander's uniform had a lot to do with that. He stepped over to Kyle, put his arm around the boy's slender shoulder, and said, "Thanks for giving me my son." Even after watching the kiss, Bob Adams was proud of his son and had never loved him more. He had never seen Corey happier than he was today.
Ellie Adams, Corey's mother, locked the door to the house as Corey and Gordy sat in the back seat of the limo, Kyle and Danny in the middle seat, and Bob and Ellie in the front. Before Ellie got in, she placed a large zippered tote bag in the trunk.
"We could have driven to the space port to meet you," Bob told Kyle. "It would have been quicker."
"That would have meant a lot of paperwork. You've flown in space long enough to know that anytime a spaceman can avoid paperwork is time well spent." Even though the forms Kyle was referring to were computerized, they were still referred to in most circles as paperwork.
"Good point." Bob was well aware of what the paperwork was like in the world of space travel.
Gordy and Corey tried to get as close as they could without touching but were unsuccessful and somehow their legs, arms and hands found a way of touching.
Gordy quickly told Corey about his time on the Sooloo. They talked about their progress in working toward being accepted at the Space Academy. And they also made a promise that if both were accepted, they would do everything they could to be roommates in the fall.
All too soon they stopped in front of the dormitory where Gordy would be staying. After noting that his parents were looking forward, Corey landed a good-bye kiss on Gordy's lips which was returned enthusiastically. Kyle heard the kiss being landed, counted to three, and turned to face the two. There was no denying that message in Kyle's look said it was "Time To Go."
Corey got out of the car with Gordy, helped him get his two bags from the trunk, and carried one of the bags to the dorm. They went into the lobby where one of the proctors, wearing a cadet uniform, was waiting to greet Gordy. The proctor was surprised to see the second boy but wasn't surprised to watch the two twelve-year-olds engage in a long, wet, goodbye kiss. It wasn't like they were the first boys to trade a passionate kiss at the Academy.
When he got back into the car, Corey sat in the middle seat next to Kyle. After the limo pulled away from the curb, Corey wondered what all the passion was about. He barely knew Gordy, and yet his feelings for him were very strong. He wondered if this was what love at first sight was about. As the proctor guided Gordy to his guest room, Gordy felt the same sensations and had the same questions as Corey did. Both boys hoped that they not only would be classmates, but roommates come the fall quarter at the Academy.
When the car arrived at the Space Port, Kyle's ID got them into the Space Fleet terminal, where the Rafael was waiting for them. Except for Danny, the party entered the terminal building. Kyle guided them to the second level where they took a breezeway that was connected to the shuttle. Danny had stayed on the ground to do his preflight inspection with a member of the ground crew. Kyle wondered what Corey's mother had in her tote bag; everything Corey needed for the three days should have been packed in his grip.
Corey's jaw dropped when he stepped into the shuttle's cabin. "Wow," he whispered. He wished he could say more but couldn't think of anything else to say.
Wait until you see the interior of the Sooloo, Kyle thought.
Bob was thrilled as well, although he had been on many shuttle trips during his career in space. But none of them involved his son or were on a shuttle that had been a part of exploration history.
Kyle took his place in the co-pilot's seat and Corey sat directly behind him. "Can you fly this thing?" Corey asked.
"I'm qualified to fly a shuttle—all senior officers are, but not nearly as qualified as a regular space jockey," Kyle replied. "Danny is going to fly us to the Sooloo. Not only is he a better pilot than me, he's the best pilot in the Explorer Fleet.
Bob sat in the seat next to his son and strapped himself in. "Are you getting your excitement under control?" he asked, knowing it was a lame sounding question.
"Nope. I'm so excited I can't stand it. I never knew I could get this excited about anything, ever."
"I understand where you're coming from, son. I truly do understand."
"But, Dad, going to the Sooloo has got me so excited it's given me a boner." Corey quickly realized what he had said and blushed a deep red. Kyle, who had overheard him, worked hard to maintain control.
Bob loosened his seat belt so that he could lean over and put his arm around his son's shoulder. "Like I told you, I completely understand. You've got nothing to be ashamed of."
Kyle turned back and faced Corey. "I've been there, done that in similar conditions. Danny likes to say that it's all part of the package of being twelve and in puberty."
"What's part of the package?" Danny asked as he entered the cabin.
"Boning up when something really excited you."
"Ohhh, if you think you're excited now, wait until you've sampled my piloting," Danny chuckled.
"And then when you board the ship it will be all you can do not to cream your... oooops." Kyle had just noticed Ellie Adams sitting behind her husband. "I am really sorry, Mrs. Adams, I..."
"My husband long ago explained that young boys experienced a great deal of the world through their penises and it often had nothing to do with sex."
"But I was totally out of line."
"Apology accepted. I was not offended, but I would appreciate if the conversation was toned down from here on."
"We will do our best," Kyle promised.
After being politely put in their place, Kyle and Danny then went through the preflight checklist. Corey did his best to follow what was happening. The little to-do with his mother did nothing to curb his enthusiasm or to soften his erection.
Danny, deftly using the Rafael's rockets and thrusters, lifted the shuttle away from the terminal to the tarmac. He talked with the control tower, and before Corey knew what was happening, he was thrown back in his seat as the Rafael leaped forward and Danny pulled hard on the yoke, sending the shuttle pointing straight into the air and shooting out of the atmosphere and into space.
The trip was happening too fast for Corey. He wanted badly to slow things down, but in what seemed like a blink the SS Sooloo was filling the view screen. He was so ridiculously hard his cock was quivering. Slowing things down was a skill yet to be learned in schooling at the Academy.
After leaving Earth's atmosphere, the Rafael's cabin was quiet except for the ambient hum of the shuttle. Corey was trying to process everything that was happening around him. Bob couldn't help but be amazed at being skillfully rocketed into space in a shuttle craft piloted by a preteen the age of his son.
Ellie was happy that the men in her life were participating in something as wonderful as this trip together. While this wasn't her first trip into space, it was her first as part of an official party. Ellie's other two trips had been as a passenger on an interplanetary passenger liner
The quiet was broken by a radio call from the Sooloo. "Shuttle 20, this is Sooloo. I am advised by the bridge that there is heavy traffic in your vicinity approaching at high speed at six o'clock." The voice belonged to Jesse Gross who was handling the Rafael's approach. Kyle and Danny wondered why the message didn't come directly from the bridge, then decided that having Shuttle Approach communicate with them simplified matters.
Kyle pointed to himself, indicating he would take over communications, leaving Danny to concentrate on the incoming traffic. "Shuttle 20 acknowledging heavy traffic approaching at six o'clock," Kyle replied.
"Whoa, I've got them on our sensors. I see five blips in formation coming at us hard," Danny reported. Corey could tell that the approaching ships were unexpected. He was also impressed by the incredible calmness being displayed by Danny and Kyle. It was as if unexpected happenings were something to be expected.
Corey, Bob and Ellie cried out and would have come out of their seats if they hadn't been buckled in when the shuttles collision alarm sounded.
"Sooloo, any identification of the bogeys?" Kyle asked. If whatever was coming at them was unknown, they might as well be identified as such, Kyle thought. What unknown traffic could be coming right at them this close to Earth? was the question.
"Negative, 20," Jesse lied.
Danny cut the alarms and saw that the bogeys had caught up to the shuttle. He and Kyle looked out the windows and were shocked by what they saw.
Going right by them were three of the Sooloo's six fighters, which were braking quickly. Behind them, two more fighters were slowing as well. Corey wondered what the menacing looking spacecraft outside the viewports were. They certainly looked dangerous, but Kyle and Danny looked to be more surprised than frightened.
"Sooloo Fighter 11 saying 'welcome home to Shuttle 20 and greetings to Cadet Adams,'" came the clear voice of Julian "Juju" Danvers over the shuttle's speakers. "Please place the 20 in escort formation three," he commanded.
Danny quickly did as he was ordered and maneuvered the Rafael into the proper position as per the flight manual instructions he had taught the fighter pilots. Fighter 11, piloted by Juju, was the lead in the formation. Billy "Blue Devil" Angel was forward and to the right of the shuttle in Fighter 12, while Finlay "Red" Lynch in Fighter 13 flew exactly even with Fighter 12 and to the left of the shuttle.
The Rafael was nestled in the middle between those two fighters and Fighters 14 and 15, which were even with each other and directly in line with 12 and 13 while flying off the right and left rear of the shuttle. Fighter 14 was piloted by Gabriel"Ace" Cardiff and 15 by Shawn "Shawndrome" Quinn.
The formation had been created quickly, efficiently, and professionally. As Bob Adams observed the teens and tween at work, he vowed to punch out the next person he heard criticizing the Explorer Program no matter what his rank was.
Corey thought he had just taken a flight into a different universe. Even more, he couldn't wait to be a part of all this.
The six spacecrafts flew in perfect formation to the Sooloo where Danny contacted the starship. Jesse responded to the call and gave initial instructions for approaching the shuttle bay.
"Squadron, welcome home, change formation to Patagonia C," came Juju's voice over the radio as the formation came to a stop. The five fighters then moved into a five-pointed star, with each fighter facing out, while the Rafael dropped out of the formation and eased into the open shuttle bay door.
Corey listened to Danny's chatter with the ship as he expertly guided the Rafael into the shuttle bay. Danny docked the shuttle with scarcely a vibration. Kyle was the first to disembark once the hatch opened. Corey and his parents followed him and entered the connecting corridor to the rest of the ship. Danny came out as soon as he had shut down the shuttle's systems.
Jesse met the group at the control center. Kyle introduced him to the Adams family and then gave him the eye. "You knew who was behind us all the time. There are some guys who could take away certain perks that you enjoy for that."
"Of course, I knew," Jesse grinned. "And before you get on my ass for it, please be advised that Hal and Dave were the evil ones behind the entire thing. I mean how much of a threat could there be out here just a few thousand miles from Earth?"
"Not enough to worry anybody. And I had to know that Hal and Dave were behind this, especially Dave. This had Dave 'The Trickster' written all over it. And I have to admit, the Squadron performed perfectly. It was a great drill for them."
"If I may ask, sir, what is Patagonia C?"
Corey moved in a couple of steps to hear the answer. He had wondered just what it was that happened as the fighters changed their formation.
Danny knew the story behind the name, of course, and answered the question. "Long story short, Patagonia is an area of Argentina, which is in the South American republic. Well one of the pilot trainees from the Victorious went to a zoo with his dad when he was like nine or ten. There was an outside habitat with animals from Argentina. One of those animals were Patagonian cavies, who were rodents. In order to protect their group, five of them would make a five-pointed star, so one cavy was looking out at each point. This way they could see threats from every direction.
"When we started to work on the five-ship protection formation, he suggested calling it the Patagonian formation. Everybody liked it and there you have it."
"And I bet the C stands for cavy," Corey volunteered.
"I was wondering who would comment on the C. Good job, Corey. Corey beamed at the praise and Bob gave his son a pat on the shoulder. The moment served to increase the excitement in Corey's pants.
The entourage moved to the main corridor where they were met by Hal and Dave. Kyle saw that Bob was carrying Corey's grip, but Ellie no longer was carrying the tote bag. Kyle was about to tell her that she had left the bag behind on the shuttle, when he saw Corey struggling with it. Whatever was in the bag filled it to capacity but didn't appear to be heavy. Kyle felt as if he should know what was in the bag, but the answer wouldn't come to him.
Kyle introduced Corey and his family to Hal and Dave. Since both were in uniform, Cadet Adams saluted them smartly.
"You may stand down, Cadet Adams," Hal grinned. "We will be on the informal side during the tour." They entered the main body of the ship and made their way to the entry to the bridge, where the door opened upon their approach. Kyle placed his hand on Corey's shoulder and guided him onto the bridge.
Corey stood awestruck and took in what was around him, trying once again to slow things down. He set the tote bag down on the deck, opened it, and pulled out Yunikon, the stuffed unicorn Koji had presented to him.
Corey held the large stuffed animal's head against his chest. "I told you I'd bring you into space with me," he whispered in its fluffy ear, not caring who saw him or heard him. As he held the unicorn, he noted that his speeding mind had slowed down and that he was standing where he belonged. There was no longer any doubt in his mind that someday he would be standing in the bridge of a starship as a member of a crew. He was hit by so many feelings at once he had to fight for breath. Suddenly his body shook, a moan escaped his lips, and he saw stars.
"Are you okay?" Kyle asked.
Corey took a deep breath and nodded. He looked down, hoping the fluids he had just shot into his briefs didn't show through his pants. He took another deep breath and decided it didn't matter. He was really, truly, fulfilling one of the greatest dreams of his life.
"Yeah, I'm okay," he said with a quiet confidence he felt. "I think I've just come home."
Dave turned away to dab some suddenly forming tears. As much as exploring the galaxy, this was what the Explorer program was about—turning boys like Corey Adams into men.
While Kyle and the others headed for the bridge, Danny went to find his Fighter Pilots. He was damn proud of them and wanted to express that. They were still taking off their flight suits, changing into their duty uniforms when he found them. "Guys, that was an awesome display of piloting, and you made me extremely proud."
"We were hoping we would," Gabriel declared. "Juju asked Commodore Bowman what he thought of the idea, and the Commodore approved, but told him not to say anything to you about it. He thought surprising you would go over big."
"And THAT, it did," Danny chuckled. "And it also made me even more proud because I know you arranged it without needing my assistance. I am happy to have all of you in my squadron."
"And we are happy to be in it. We know you had first choice, so we feel honored that you chose us," Billy Angel shared the sentiments of all the pilots.
Danny suggested, "Now that we have the fighters aboard the Sooloo, we need to name them."
"What about after our favorite ice creams?" Finlay Lynch piped in.
Billy shook his head, "I'm not crazy about flying the Mint Chocolate Chip."
"That's my favorite ice cream, too," Juju chuckled. Looking at Danny, he added, "You fighter is a Draconian Fighter, what if we named them after different dragons? Number 11 could be Draco, 12 could be The Fucanglong, 13 Sapphira, 14 Puff and 15 Onaga."
Billy turned to Juju, "I like the name Fucking long for my fighter."
"We're not talking about your dick," Juju grinned, "that's Fucanglong, the Chinese underworld dragon who guards treasure."
This would be the last passengers and supplies being picked up. Haimono Jaku had some final business with the Darastixian Embassy, so he couldn't go up with the rest of the crew. Enzan Kage elected to ask permission to board with him.
Instead of returning to the Sooloo early with Kyle and Danny, Koji stayed behind on Earth to enjoy time visiting with his best friend, Tei. Tei, of course, was Tei. Koji always loved being around him. But he liked the redheaded Akage, who was a good friend, too, even if he wasn't Tei. To top it off, Jaku and Kage treated him like he was one of the family.
But the time had come for all of them to return to the Sooloo. The launch date was upon them and there was work to be done. As they walked through the covered gangway connecting the terminal to the Big Bubba, he wondered how something as big as the shuttle could fly. He decided that one of two forces were at work: magic or some science he hadn't learned yet. He liked the magic idea better but decided it would probably be better if he learned the science.
The boy broke out into a huge smile when, moments after boarding the shuttle, he was greeted by Danny.
"Opsola Danny!" Koji cried out as he ran up to his Daddy Danny and wrapped him in a hard, loving hug. "You're here!"
"I told you I would be," Danny told him as he kissed his son's forehead.
"I know, but it's better when it's real, then you're really here and not saying you'll be here. And that makes Koji very, very happy."
"Whatever you say, Koji. I'm happy you're happy."
"I had fun with Tei and with Akage and with Tei," Koji told his dad. "Thank you for letting me stay with them a little longer."
"Like I said, I'm happy you're happy. By the way, you said Tei's name twice."
"That's because he's my bestest best friend, and Akage is my best friend so I have to say Tei two times." Danny nodded as if he understood Koji's logic. "Why didn't Opsola Kyle come?"
"Because he has to get his new astrological table all figured out, so I am here to help take you home."
"The Sooloo is home for me and for Tei and Akage and for Jonas and Jason and Lars and now we have new boys, too, and plus it is home for Tomo and Jordan and Shash..."
"I think I got the idea. But we need to get to our seat and strap in."
"But I forgot to say..."
"Koji!" Danny barked sharply.
"I am sorry, Opsola." Koji was used to be being barked at by Kyle more than by Danny. Kyle tended to be the disciplinarian of the two, but right now Danny was the parent in charge, a lesson Koji had just learned.
Devin French was one of the first to board the Big Bubba. Nobody in line had recognized him, even those whom he had recognized. He saw Kyle's husband, Danny, but he could see that he was busy dealing with his little son. He stowed his grip in a storage compartment and then found a seat to the front of the shuttle and strapped himself in.
Enzan Kage noticed the strange face sitting at the front and walked over to see who it was. As the Assistant Chief Security Officer, he felt it was his duty to know who was on the shuttle. Due to the refit and the upcoming launch of the shakedown cruise, it wasn't unusual to see strange faces. He knew who the new crewmembers were, and this boy was not a new crewmember. Enzan did note that the stranger was wearing commander pips on his uniform and approached him accordingly.
"Welcome aboard the Big Bubba, Sir. I'm Lieutenant Enzan." He held out his hand.
Devin noted that the lieutenant was assigned to security. He figured if he explained everything right away, he could avoid whatever long list of questions the lieutenant was ready to ask. He shook Kage's extended hand. "I'm Devin French from the Endurance. I'm coming aboard the Sooloo to observe Commander Robinson and the new Astrogation setup."
While Kage hadn't heard Devin French's name specifically, he knew a number of officers from other ships were scheduled to observe the Sooloo's shakedown cruise. "It's a pleasure to have you aboard, Sir. Does Commander Robinson know you will be arriving on this shuttle?"
"No, he just knows I will be arriving today. I will communicate with him once we leave Earth's atmosphere."
Devin prepared himself for the shuttle's liftoff. He knew the Bubbas had to work up a head of steam once they got off the ground to give them the momentum they needed for vertical liftoff. He was a bit nervous about being on a strange ship, but it wasn't as if he didn't know anybody there. He felt comfortable working with Kyle.
Once the shuttle was out of the atmosphere and operating at standard speed, Devin texted Kyle that he was on the incoming shuttle. Three minutes later he received a reply. Kyle told him he would be at the shuttle bay to meet Danny and Koji and for him to wait for everyone to disembark. "I have to deal with family," he went on. "John Luke, my assistant, will come on board Big Bubba and escort you to your quarters. I'll come meet you as soon as we take care of something with Koji."
Everything went routinely and as planned. Devin had considered saying hello to Danny, but he could see his son still had him occupied. He silently praised Danny for his patience.
The forty-five-minute trip to the Sooloo was routine, if Koji talking Danny's ear off about everything he and Tei did together could be considered routine, except for what happened between them in bed. Just to be fair, he kicked in what he and Tei did with Akage as well. Danny nodded and occasionally got a word in edgewise, but also realized how much he had missed his son, even if it had only been for a couple of days. He was also reminded about how much he loved the super-hyper little boy.
As always when he was riding in a shuttle, Danny critiqued the flying of whomever the pilot was. In this case, it was Juju Danvers and Billy Angel, two of his best fighter pilots, who handled the big shuttle like their brains and hands were directly connected to its workings.
As the shuttle started unloading passengers, Devin unstrapped himself and stood up. He called out to Danny but could tell he hadn't been heard in the babble of the disembarking passengers.
Kyle was at the Bubba shuttle bay waiting for Danny and Koji to disembark. As soon as Koji saw Kyle, there was a repeat of the hug fest he had enjoyed with Danny. When Kage stepped off the Big Bubba behind Tei, Akage and Jaku, he and Kyle exchanged knowing looks.
When Danny, Kyle and Koji arrived at their quarters, Koji darted into his room. His bags had been checked on the shuttle and would be brought to the room by a crewman once all the baggage had been unloaded.
While the shuttle was emptying, John Luke made his way on board and spotted Devin standing at the front of the compartment. He came over and introduced himself. Devin knew that John Luke was older than Kyle, but he was surprised by how much bigger he was physically and how much more mature he looked. He liked the big kid right away, just as he had Enzan Kage. He could tell he was going to enjoy his time on the Sooloo.
Kyle and his family had already left the unloading area when Devin and John exited the shuttle. John made sure to introduce Devin along the way. He knew there was no way that Devin would remember everyone he met, but he also knew how important it was that the Sooloo crew members knew who Devin was.
"Opsolas, what is Yuni doing on my bed?" Koji asked the moment he stepped into his room.
"I think he's sitting there," Kyle replied.
Koji shot him a look that said, "get real, Daddy," and then looked at Danny, who was fighting not to laugh. "When you gave Yunikon to Corey, he promised to take your special gift into space with him. Right now, that is the best place for him to set Yuni down."
"Where is Corey?"
"With Shasho. Shasho is giving Corey what is probably the most organized tour of the ship anybody has ever had, before handing him off to Jinzo."
"Where will Corey sleep?"
Danny stated, "That still hasn't been decided."
"We're going to have to decide pretty soon," Kyle added.
Koji wondered why his daddies, who always had things planned out didn't have a plan for Corey. What Koji didn't know was that they did have a plan and he was right in the center of it.
"Can I go see Tei? I want to ask him something."
"You could use your communicator," Danny pointed out.
"I want to see Tei," Koji insisted.
"Okay but be back within a half hour."
Koji appeared at the door of Tei's quarters so fast, it was as if he had transported there. Tei answered and squeaked with pleasure when he saw who was at the door. They went to Tei's room and sat on his bed. When Koji told Tei why he was there, Tei grinned and suggested they talk to Kage, who was sitting on the couch in the main room, reading what his duties would be during the shakedown.
Jaku was at the Bubba shuttle bay to help with unloading the baggage on the incoming Bubba Loo. The job was one done mostly by crewmen, but as a liaison, Jaku liked to help in any capacity he could, and getting the shuttles unloaded and moving back to Earth was a big priority. Besides, he knew what he, Kage and Kyle had planned that morning, and wanted Kage to take care of their end of the plan.
"Can Koji stay with me while we do the down shaking?" Tei asked.
"It's shakedown, and why?" Kage asked, even though he already knew the answer. "You guys practically lived together the past couple of weeks."
Koji explained about Kyle and Danny trying to find a bed for Cadet Corey. Kage gave the matter a great deal of thought, and finally agreed to it. "BUT, as soon as the shakedown is finished and Cadet Adams leaves for Earth, you and Koji will sleep in your own beds for a while?"
"How long is awhile?" Koji asked.
"As long as your dads and I say it is."
Koji and Tei both understood they had talked themselves into a small victory and decided it was best that they accepted what they got.
"Let's go tell my opsola's," Koji said and the boys zipped out of the room.
Kage picked up his communicator and punched in Kyle. "Mission accomplished," he reported.
When Koji and Tei reported their solution to the bed problem to Kyle they felt proud as to how they took care of a problem that apparently had everyone stumped. What they didn't know is that Kage, Jaku, Kyle and Danny had come up with the solution that morning but wanted to give Koji and Tei a sense of accomplishment by making them think the solution had been theirs. The two boys never did figure out the deception of their parents.
John Luke dropped Devin off at his quarters and told him Kyle would be coming to greet him within a few minutes. Devin unpacked his grip and put the contents away. He also brought a bigger bag which had been checked and would be delivered to his quarters.
A few minutes ended up being a half-hour. When Kyle finally showed, the two astrogators and friends shared hugs and pats on the back.