Hearts Across Space

Chapter Ten: The Empire Begins

By the time Alex had finished recounting his story to Dr. Lisa, she was absolutely gobsmacked ©DM by what he had told her.


"Dr. L..."

"Okay, ALEX, I surrender; however, as I started to say, this is awesome news, and for that, I am going to take you for lunch, Chris and Jane too, on me. Don't even try to talk me out of it; you have no idea how wonderful I feel right now. So, call your friends, and let's go to lunch, NOW!" a very exuberant Dr. told her favourite, now ex-patient.

They had lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall Portuguese Restaurant called El Papagaio. The food and service were out of this world, and conversation flowed quickly and wittily. Chris and Jane took a while to figure out why they were included, because they didn't think that what they had done was that big of a deal. Once they understood, the celebration turned into a pick on Alex lunch.

"Alex, in case you haven't figured it out yet, you don't need to see me anymore. Of course, you can always call me, if you ever have any questions for me. Unfortunately, I will be leaving here very shortly to go back to Pennsylvania, as a friend of my brother-in-law needs my help. But I will always answer your calls, don't worry; though you won't need my help, if you just listen to Jane and Chris. If you two ever have any problems with the big lout, call me, as well, and I will tell you where to kick him, where it will do the most good." As she finished, Lisa raised herMargarita EspecialMargarita Especial (" Margarita Especial, also sometimes known as a Presidente Margarita:1 1\/4 ounces Sauza Commemorativo Tequila<br \/>1\/2 ounce Presidente Brandy<br \/>1\/2 ounce Cointreau Liqueur<br \/>4 ounces of Chili&#8217;s LEMON cocktail mix. Most will let you buy it from them, just ask.<br \/>1\/8-1\/4 ounce Lime Juice (squeeze a lime slice)Pour all ingredients into a shaker glass with crushed ice.&#160; Shake very well and serve in a salt rimmed margarita glass with some ice.") and toasted Alex.

Dr. Lisa's announcement at lunch came to a complete surprise to him, but when Alex thought about it some more that night, he realized that he shouldn't have been surprised. When he looked deep inside himself, he saw that he actually, for the first time in his life, was okay, perfectly okay. He was just about sound asleep when he felt a body slide into bed with him. At first he thought it was Chris, but it wasn't; it was Jane, and he started to jump out of bed and shout in shock. Jane pulled him back down and, after placing a finger over his lips, began to speak softly and tenderly.

"Shush, Alex; I am not here to molest you. Chris and I had a long talk, and we both agreed that we love you, but we are not in love with you. However, that doesn't mean you have to sleep alone, as we both know that you sleep much better when someone is sleeping with you. So, until I find a boyfriend, or Chris gets married, we will take turns sleeping with you. We can cuddle and snuggle all night long, with no worries, and Chris said he will still teach you what you need to know." Jane's last statement started both of them giggling.

A few moments later, the day caught up with Alex, and he was out like a light.

While Alex was drifting off to sleep, curled up with Jane, he wasn't quite asleep, when he felt another pair of arms wrap themselves around him. Moments later, it would have taken an 8.9 magnitude earthquake to wake him. While he was sleeping, the computer programs that he and Chris had written were hard at work. They were looking for specific prices of a very select group of companies. When the programs found the right fit, they executed buy and sell orders. Some of the orders didn't make a lot of sense, as they were for holding companies that, on the surface, had nothing to do with Aerospace or Metallurgy. Since most of the companies were overseas, the full effect of the purchases and sales wouldn't be felt until the US markets opened. Chris and Alex, with a few of Jane's tweaks, had done a better job programming than they had realized. There were going to be a lot of shocked investors, once the trading day was over. Too many traders were going to be caught on the 'short' side of the market.

While Chris and Alex were busy programming their stock and bond programs, Jane was busy picking the brain of her sister's boyfriend; this guy had been toying with a sync program like SETI, only far simpler and easier to set up. Jane had talked Duane into giving her an installation disc of his program and a list of the necessary cables and wireless instructions. She then went used computer shopping and picked up what she hoped was enough computers, for a few hundred bucks. Since Jane was fairly tech savvy, she picked up a few uninterruptible power supplies and a small air conditioner. While the boys were in class, she quickly turned Alex's spare bedroom/study into a climate-controlled mini-server farm. Once that was done, she sent the boys a text message, telling them to stay out of that room, and then she headed off to class.

When the three of them met that evening at Alex's place, and Jane explained all that she had accomplished, the three of them set to work. With Duane's software and the boys' hacking ability, they soon had a linked system of computers that were now performing as a Super Computer. Duane's software basically joined all of the separate processors into a single virtual processor. But he didn't stop there; his software found a way to effectively quadruple the processing power of the separate processors, when they were linked.

One of the first things Alex had done with his Lotto winnings was to have a FIOS internet connection installed in all three of their abodes. Once their stock analysis and purchasing program was installed and running, it was the fastest and most comprehensive program of its kind on earth. When that speed and performance were coupled with a 100 GB internet connection, the Stock Market didn't stand a chance.

Once the US Markets opened, things happened very quickly. While overall very little money actually changed hands, the results were stunning. When Chris and Alex finally dragged themselves into the kitchen, they drowned themselves in coffee. Once they were halfway awake, they logged into Alex's laptop and began checking the summary of their program's efforts. When they saw the results, Chris called Jane on his cell and told her to log in NOW! Before she had a chance to respond, he hung up and continued reviewing the unbelievable results of the last eight hours of their program's work.

Once Jane had logged in and had set up a Skype voice chat, they began the real work. They had to double check their research of the management and boards of several of the companies they now owned outright. As a result of their shrewd programming and information from Alex's uncle, they now owned several cutting edge aerospace design and manufacturing companies. In addition to those, they also had taken possession of several very high tech metallurgical companies. Also, by a very lucky stroke of timing, they now owned several companies that had the necessary sheet and bar stock of the rare metals they needed. The night's and morning's work were actually the result of several months of intense computing and small to miniscule stock and bond purchases, as well as hours and hours of library and internet research by the three owners of Gemini Aerospace, Ltd. Now came the hard work of emailing their instructions to all of their new companies, setting up Skype teleconferences with multiple Boards of Directors.

While Chris went to refill their coffee cups, Alex continued voicing with Jane, while at the same time scanning their list of acquisitions. He finally found what he was looking for. Unfortunately for Jane's hearing and her Skype connection, Alex was very exuberant and vocal.

"We did it, we did it!"

Just as Alex finished trying to destroy his quarters with his voice, Chris' cell rang. It was Jane, asking what in the hell was going on.

"Ze Plane, Ze Plane, we got the plane!" Alex was now singing and dancing around his living room.

Finally, it dawned on Chris what had happened, and in his excitement he dropped his cell phone and joined Alex in his singing and dancing.

"Chris, Chris what is going on?" Jane was screaming her lungs out into her cell, once her ears had stopped ringing, when Chris' cell had hit the floor. Realizing that neither Chris nor Alex could hear her, she gave up and terminated the call. She then threw on some sweats and headed over to her best friends' place. As she was heading over there, plotting how she was going to slowly dismember and torture the boys, something clicked in her brain. 'The plane? Oh shit, the Plane!!!' She then began to run as fast as she could, because she wanted to share in the celebration.

Once Jane had finally figured out what all the noise and excitement was about, she thought back to the day that they had literally stumbled across something quite spectacular.

Several months earlier:

One afternoon when the three friends had no classes, they had assembled at their favourite place overlooking the lake. Armed with lunch and bags of peanuts and sunflower seeds for their chipmunk friends, they were discussing a transportation issue that had arisen.

"You realize that, unless we can purchase all of the companies we need, locally, we are going to have a transportation problem. There will be times when we will literally have to visit one or more of our companies at a moment's notice." Alex began explaining the problem to his friends.

Chris, who was actually doing some coding in his head instead of paying complete attention to the discussion, made a dumb statement.

"What problem? We have enough money to buy first class tickets around the world, like a gazillion times. I don't see the problem."

Jane reached over and smacked her friend on the back of his head.

"You idiot! Remember 9/11? We can't just walk up to the ticket counter two hours before a board meeting and say, 'We want three first class tickets to Bismarck, North Dakota.' By the time we get done answering questions from the guys in black suits with badges and guns, the board meeting will be long, long over, and we will have missed several days of classes. We need our own transportation, either our own plane or a very good and flexible leasing agreement. Do you understand now, dufus?"

They spent the next several hours trying to find the right solution to their problems. They needed a plane with long range, to eliminate refueling stops as much as possible. They also needed at least a capacity of twelve, not including crew. If that wasn't enough, the plane needed to be cutting edge, or beyond. They checked out all of the used and new models of Learjet, Gulfstream, Bombardier, and a host of others, too many to mention. They couldn't find what they were looking for, until they had just about given up for the night. Just as they were about to quit for the evening, they found it, a plane that not only met all of their criteria, but exceeded them by a large margin. Not only was it at least thirty percent faster, it was also forty percent more fuel efficient than even the newest offerings they had looked at.

"Okay, guys, this is too good to be true; there has to be a catch. There has to be a really good reason why no one has snapped this plane up. It is priced way below its value, and it is light years ahead of its competition, technology wise. It is almost like it was designed expressly for us. Do we keep digging and find the catch, or do we just forget it?" Jane gave voice to all of their feelings.

"I want to keep digging; I want to know what the catch is. This plane is exactly what we are looking for; nothing else comes even close. So I vote we keep digging." Alex stated his opinion verbally and with his keyboard.

Chris didn't bother responding vocally he just nodding his head and kept typing and scrolling away.

"Eureka!" Chris shouted, "I found the catch, and it is a sneaky one!"

While Alex and Jane were formulating their responses, Chris was busy typing away. He then grabbed the remote and turned on Alex's 72" HD LED TV, made a few more mouse clicks, and a web page appeared on the TV.

The web page was for a very small and private company that was for sale, named The Flying Wing Aerospace Company. There was a small blurb about the company, and then a gorgeous picture of the Delta Flier. Below the picture was a text box with the plane's specs and other sales hype. Underneath that was the explanation, 'the catch,' so to speak. It seems that not only was the plane for sale, but so was the company, and the only way to actually buy the plane was to buy the company. Unfortunately, the three friends didn't have all of the shell and holding companies set up yet, and weren't quite ready to purchase the company. Using some slightly nefarious methods and a few phone calls, the three were able to anonymously give the company a large enough infusion of cash to hold off the sale for approximately six months. Once that was done, they made a list of companies and bank accounts that they needed to establish, and then called it a night.

Now back to the celebration:

The reason for all of the excitement was very simple the plane they had bought was one of a kind as was the company that designed and built it. It took a lot of stealthy stock and bond trades to acquire the company. They also had to move very slowly so as not to tip their hands. The Delta Flier had a range of over 9,000 Nautical Miles and could reach a top speed of Mach 1.2; all this, while seating fifteen and a crew of four or five. The plane was made of some of the newest and lightest materials around; the engines were specifically designed for the plane. Their thrust to noise ratio was off the charts. There weren't any other engines out there that could match their efficiency, let alone their size. They were a third smaller than their nearest competitor, yet were at least forty percent more efficient. One of the best things about the plane was the fact that it needed a third less runway to take off or land than a Gulfstream G650 its closest competitor.

The Flying Wing Aerospace Company was originally formed to develop high speed experimental aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and NASA. However, neither the Air Force nor NASA believed that the company could deliver on their claims, because all of the materials used and the frame design had never been manufactured or tested before. Not only was the airframe being constructed of tubular and hollow beam construction, the materials used were made of composites and bi- and tri-metal alloys, even a few quad-metal alloys. The consensus was that a plane built that way would never fly. It seems that the powers that be in the Air Force and at NASA had forgotten what the term 'experimental' actually meant. Instead of something completely new, that would do exactly what they wanted, they settled for a modified version of an existing plane. This 'New Plane' would just barely match two thirds of the original specs, and that was stretching things.

If only those idiots had done their homework and looked at the DVD that came with the Flying Wing Aerospace Company's proposal, they would have known it would work. While the frame was by definition 'hollow,' that wasn't exactly true; both the 'hollow' tubes and beams had a hexagonal inner core. This hexagonal, or honeycomb, core was the secret to the revolutionary airframe's overall lightness, as well as its extreme strength. Rather than give up, they designed the Delta Flier, the commercial plane that could fly higher, faster and farther than any plane currently flying. Not only that, the interior would rival any executive jet currently existing.

Not only was the airframe a completely new and revolutionary design, but so was the composition of the airplane's skin and windshield (windscreen). The windshield was made of crystalline osmium and was only one third the thickness of standard airplane windshields. The aircraft's body was almost out of this world in composition; it was a very unusual quad-metal alloy. Not that quad-metal alloys are that unique; it was the metals used, and how the alloy was formed that was revolutionary. The skin was a three layer sandwich alloy, the top skin was Lutetium, the inner layer was Tungsten Carbide, and the bottom layer was Titanium. The construction of the three layer alloy was anything but straightforward or simple; in fact it was a very complex process, and full of several extra steps.

The first step was fairly simple and straightforward, simply the creation of one-quarter inch thick sheets of each metal. Then each separate sheet was fed through special furnaces stacked one on top of another by a conveyor system. Each furnace was set to different, specifically chosen, temperatures. The temperatures were chosen to heat the individual metals to the appropriate level of malleability. Once the sheets were heated to the correct temperature, they were fed out of the furnace into a special rolling mill. This mill was a series of stacked cylinders hooked to a hydraulic system that allowed them to exert pressures ranging from several hundred pounds per square inch to several tons. As the three individual sheets arrived at the first set of rollers they were slowly squeezed together by the rollers. Each subsequent set of rollers increased the pressure by several hundreds of pounds. By the time the process was finished the final set of rollers were compressing the metal with a force of five tons per square inch. The intense pressure of the rollers combined with the specifically selected furnace temperature caused the three sheets of different metals to fuse together into a single layer. The intense pressure of the rollers also created intense temperatures that kept the metals malleable. The finished product that emerged was only a quarter of an inch thick. There wasn't any metal stronger or more durable anywhere on Earth. There was still yet more to do to the metal, before the process was completely finished.

The new alloy was harder and lighter than anything ever constructed before, and required special Tungsten Carbide and Diamond tipped tools. The material was so hard that, for pieces that required large curves or angles, the pieces were heated again before they were formed. Once each part of the skin was formed and all necessary holes and cutouts were in place, the final process would be done. Once each piece was formed it was then reheated to a top secret temperature in a specially designed vacuum furnace with an integral quench tank filled with a more highly top secret polymer quenching bath. This process not only made the metal even harder than before, it also made the metal very, very corrosion resistant. It wasn't until the three friends went to pick up their plane that they learned the final secret to the creation of the superalloy. That came about by a serendipitous question by Chris; in their exhaustive research of the company they came across its energy usage. Considering the amount of transformers and other energy producing equipment the company owned, the amount of energy used was out of whack.

"According to my calculations, the creation of each sheet of alloy should only require 3 Megawatts, yet you are using 5 Megawatts per sheet; why?" Chris inquired of the VP of Engineering, who was giving them the owners' tour.

All that came out of the VP's mouth was,

"Ahhhhhhhhhhh, ammmmmmmmmm."

"Never mind, just take us to the furnace." Chris and Alex ordered almost in one voice.

The stunned VP could only mumble;

"Of course, right away sirs and Ma'am."

Once the party arrived at the furnace, the answer was very obvious. The quenching tank had several electrical cables the size of fire hoses attached to it.

"So, you use a high voltage current to realign the molecular structure of the alloy; for what purpose?" Jane asked very diplomatically, before Alex or Chris could pop off.

"Excuse me? I mean, according to our R&D and Engineering Teams, the voltage improves the adherence of the corrosion resistance coating, and, yes, it does realign the molecular structure. However, we only apply enough voltage to realign any misaligned structures." While the VP was answering Jane, he was also surreptitiously texting his Chief Engineer to get his ass there, yesterday! [The corrosion resistance coating is the fourth layer of the quad-metal alloy]

"Ahh, I see our Chief Engineer coming; he will be able to give you far more in- depth answers. I will see you before you depart; I will check with your pilot and make sure your new plane is ready to go. Thank you again for restoring our dreams to us." The VP quickly shook their hands and then introduced the Chief Engineer. Once that was done he headed back to his office as fast as he could, without looking as if he was escaping. Once there, he poured himself a double Sapphire Martini and then began to unwind a bit. 'That has to be the most intelligent group of college kids I have ever met! They know more about what we do than I do, and I helped form this company. I think they are going to be very interesting owners.'

The three new owners couldn't believe how lucky they had been with their newest purchase. Alex was particularly pleased, as this company wasn't afraid to try new ideas; also they had already started designing several vehicles for use in space. Their design for a Reusable Reentry Vehicle made the Space Shuttle look like an Erector Set construction. Now he just needed to add a few people that knew how to design fighters, and they would have over half of their aerospace empire in place.

"I think we have seen everything we need to, so let's get aboard our new plane and see how it flies. I think the people at our airport are going to be shocked when we land," a grinning Alex commented.

"Sounds like a plan to me," was both Chris' and Jane's response.

"I just had a brilliant idea! Since we need to head to Paris soon, why don't we give Dr. Lisa a ride home, and then fly to Paris?" Alex said to his friends.

Meanwhile back at the Castellano Estate:

Jared and Travis, along with the Overseer's assistant, arrived in the village outside the Estate and set about their errands. Jared accomplished the errands for Barbara and the personal shopping he was supposed to do. He was fairly reluctant at first, but, with some subtle and not so subtle nudges from Travis, he finally got with the program.

Solving the problem of where to put all of the displaced children was turning out to be a major headache. The old hotel that both Barbara and Mr. Rex had suggested was in the process of being demolished and was no longer suitable. In fact, the only building available was not suitable for long term occupation. It was an old factory building, with an empty first floor of large proportions and several floors of what used to be offices and conference rooms.

"Travis, I don't know what to do; the factory will only work for temporary, and I do mean temporary accommodations; otherwise, the kids will be damaged even more. Do you have any ideas?" a subdued Jared inquired of his bodyguard and best friend.

"I guess you will just have to build new accommodations, then, won't you?" was Travis' only slightly helpful reply. Although Travis didn't realize it, he had stumbled on the solution and started Jared thinking.

Jared was mulling over Travis' answer, when he suddenly remembered something that he had seen on the way to the village. Just outside the village was a large plot of land with several meadows separated by small streams and a few copses of trees. It was a very beautiful stretch of land that looked unoccupied. 'Hmmm I wonder who owns that land. That would be perfect for the new campus for all the displaced bondlings.' Travis was thinking how that space would work out.

"Travis, who owns that large plot of land with all the small meadows, on the outskirts of town?"

"Ahhhh, you do." Travis answered, well, sorta answered Jared's question.

"What do you mean, I do?" a confused Jared responded to his bodyguard and adviser.

"Well, it is part of the Castellano Estate, and since you are Castellano Estate, therefore, it is yours." Travis grinned and ducked away from Jared's swing. The poor Overseer's Assistant was dumbfounded at the tomfoolery.

"Ahh, okay, let me make a few calls, before we go any further." Jared then quickly entered the appropriate information into his comm.

"Yes, Jared, how can I help you? It isn't time for your appointment, you know." Brosius answered warmly, hoping to put Jared at ease, if necessary.

Jared quickly explained why his quandary, and then, at Brosius' prompting, what he wanted to do.

"Slow down, Jared, let me think for a mic. Let me ask you a simple question: would you feel comfortable, living in those kinds of accommodations?" Brosius finally got a word in edgewise.

"If you would be comfortable, then that is your answer. I have a class to teach; I will see you tomorrow at the Estate for your session."

Ambrosius was gone before Jared could question him further. Travis realized that Jared needed a little support, so he moved next to him and gave him a hug.

"See, Jar, I told you that you could do it. Now, go ahead and comm your Mom."

Jared spoke the necessary commands into his comm, and very shortly was talking to Barbara.

"Mom, we have a slight problem with the housing for your bondlings. But I may have a solution; however, it is expensive, more so than we had planned..." Jared paused for a second to reformulate his thoughts, in case Barbara said no.

"Jared, honey, will your plan work, and will the bondlings be happy and safe?" Barbara wasted no time cutting to the heart of the matter.

"Yes, Mom, they would, and later we can use the campus for other things," Jared timidly replied.

"Then, go for it, hon.'bye, I have to go."

Travis had to reach over and hit the end button, because Jared was playing statue.

"Jared, what is the problem? You have been staring out into space for mics, now."

Meanwhile, back at the Castellano Estate:

As soon as Jared and Travis had left on their excursion, Barbara had called an Estate Staff meeting. Those whose jobs wouldn't let them attend physically attended by comm.

"Okay, everyone, please listen up; this won't take very long at all, as I know we all have important things to be doing. Mr. Rex will be gone for longer than originally anticipated. We have had a long conversation regarding his absence, and we are both completely in agreement. Effective immediately, Jared is the de facto Overseer for the Estate. Yes, I know he is young, and, yes, Mr. Rex didn't get to teach him everything he wanted to. However, according to Mr. Rex, Jared has an intuitive grasp of what needs to be done. His theoretical knowledge, according to Mr. Rex, is definitely up to the task. Also, according to Mr. Rex, Jared isn't afraid to ask questions or ask for help, if he needs it. The only problem we have is his low self-esteem. However, the esteemed Physic Ambrosius assures me that Jared has never backed down from a challenge, and probably never will." Barbara took a moment to look around the room and at the Wall Comm's to gauge the atmosphere of her staff. She was very happy with what she saw; no one seemed apprehensive, and everyone seemed determined to help Jared.

"Okay, here is the plan to overcome his self-esteem problem. As soon as he returns with Travis, I want several of you to immediately start asking him questions. Ask him what to do, ask him his opinion on things, and keep asking. Don't give him time to think, keep him off guard and just reacting. If he questions why you are asking him, just tell him he is the Overseer. I will be away from the Estate doing some shopping; that way he won't be able to run to me. If he starts to stutter or flounder, make him a suggestion. According to Ambrosius, within a few mics, he will be totally focused on the tasks at hand and will have completely forgotten the fact that he can't do the job. Does everyone understand?" The response to Barbara's question was overwhelming and definitely in favour of her plan. Of course, the fact that most of the staff had fallen in love with Jared because of the way he treated them might have had a small part to play.

Meanwhile back at the village:

"Ahhh, ahh, nothing, Travis, everything is okay, I think. I just have a lot of things on my mind all of a sudden. But nothing we can't handle; you are going to help me, right?" Jared's bravado failed slightly at the end.

"Yes, Jared, I will help you. So what is the plan and what is our next step?" Travis responded to Jared enthusiastically. 'I like that glint in his eye, he is finally beginning to snap out of it.'

"First things first. Callen, please go ahead with the purchase of the factory. Travis and I will head back to the Estate and inform the construction crews what needs to be done. If you have any problems comm me or the Overseer. Can you handle that?"

"Yes, Master Jared," the Assistant Overseer replied, "it will be a piece of cake; there won't be any problems. Mistress Barbara has already notified the village that you have her and Mr. Rex's authority. Just send an aircar for me in about thirty mics, unless I comm otherwise." Callen then gave Jared a short bow and headed off to find the owner of the factory.

Totally oblivious to what awaited them back at the Estate, Jared and Travis headed home with a detour for a very thorough aerial survey of the land in question.

"Jared, now that we have seen the land again what are your plans for it?"

"Well, Travis, it is really simple. We are going to build a campus of detached cottages in the small meadows, connected to the main Administration and Medical Building in the largest meadow. Everything will be connected by winding footpaths and footbridges. We will use the Estate Frissoc Fields for Exercising and Physical Education. Each cottage will house six to eight bondlings, with a Physico in residence. All of the buildings will be built to fit into the landscape as much as possible. I am going to also ask for volunteers from some of 'The Companions' friends to help with the transition. I would also like you to teach the bondlings Gemanji to help build their self-esteem and sense of independence. Do you think it will work?" Jared asked Travis, who now was recreating the role of a statue.

Once Travis' brain had finally processed the fact that he had been asked a question, he answered his friend.

"Jared it is a wonderful idea, the beauty and peace of the natural setting will go a long way in helping them heal and grow. I can't wait to see the completed project."

Meanwhile back in space:

Once Commodore Skywriter had informed Captain Shorty Phillips of what had transpired with the late Captain Shrub, he returned to the Tommy and informed Captain Beauty and S'ean what had transpired.

No one aboard the Tommy was too shocked at what happened to Captain Shrub aboard the GFS Lonestar. Everyone concerned was disheartened for Captain Shrub's family.

The rest of the cruise went very smoothly, compared to the beginning of the cruise. Tommy and S'ean put their small flotilla through its paces. As the exercises progressed, the overall morale, especially aboard the 'Tommy', climbed dramatically. Both Captain Phillips and Captain Richards spent more time aboard the 'Tommy' than they did on their own ships. When Tommy had finished demonstrating the remote control features of the 'Tommy's' upgraded CIC, all of the crew in the CIC were ecstatic. Everything worked exactly as designed, if not better. Overall the cruise was considered a rousing success. S'ean and Shorty also spent quite a bit of time on the GFS Haven. They were both impressed with its performance as well, and Shorty would report back to Andreas that all of the GFS Ships be updated as soon as possible. Captain SB and Commodore Skywriter concurred enthusiastically.

When the flotilla arrived at Maxellus they immediately went to Red Alert, due to the massive security screen around the planet. Luckily for all concerned, Captain Shorty was on the bridge of the 'Tommy' and was able to transmit authorization codes from Andreas. The commander of the Security Screen quickly acknowledged the codes and let the Flotilla through the screen.

As soon as S'ean arrived on the ground at the Spaceport on Maxellus he was met by a Commander for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Commander Castellano?"

"I am Archon S'ean Castellano."

"Commander Castellano, here are your activation orders and those of your 'Companions'."



Author's Notes:

Well here is another chapter and we are now a lot closer to being caught with all of the storylines. I hope all of you who have written about Jared are happy with his development.

There is still a lot more to come in this story and yes eventually Alex will meet S'ean and A'lexii. However, that is still a long way in the future, or is that the past?

I want to thank David Miller for his help in making sure that the metallurgical information in this chapter is correct.


Northeast Editor's Notes:

I had the feeling at times that I was reading three or four stories in one, but our author is weaving them skillfully (if a little subtly) into a single story. What could be coming next?

Mid Atlantic Editor's Notes:

So now we have another chapter behind us. All the different subplots are moving along and we are all awaiting the next exciting chapter.

I'm sorry TSL, the cliffhangers are just a bit weak, but there are certainly plenty of them. Dare we actually hope for some resolution? I thought not. Sigh.


Author's Answer: Maybe :)

Midwest Editor's Notes:

Here we are, with a lot of interesting developments. I would say that this is a very exciting story, but it would be more accurate to say that it is more like about four interlocking stories, all of which are very interesting, and more so because, we know that eventually they will interconnect, and we will have all of our questions answered, or at least we hope so.

I am ready for the next time. Grin!

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

Author's Answer: Maybe ;) I'll think about it.

Comments Appreciated at The Story Lover