Connor’s day was already four hours gone; he had risen at five, hit the gym again, had a shower and dressed. By seven-thirty, breakfast was out of the way and he was back in his room reading and listening to music. At eight his phone rang and a man’s voice identifying himself as Ensign Swanson informed him that a car would pick him up in front of the lobby and bring him to the presentation site. The hotel security team had been informed as Connor discovered when he checked with the desk.
The black Tahoe took him from the hotel to a nondescript industrial compound. He was greeted by two civilians and half dozen Naval officers with impressive collections of fruit salad on their chests. There were two Admirals, a Captain, two Lt. Commanders and one Commander.
"Good morning, Mr. Dennehy, I’m sorry we had to delay your presentation but there was a scheduling error and the mock-up wasn’t ready," Admiral Powell told him. It was clear that he would be the spokesman for the Navy.
Connor shook hands with the officers, all of which wore the submarine service twin dolphins, except the lone Commander who displayed the eagle and trident of the Navy Seals. Connor had become familiar with military insignia over the years but this was an impressive group.
"I hope your partner will recover quickly; we were all sorry to hear of his illness. Duane has really recognized the urgency of this project and risen to the challenge."
"Yes he has, this is the sort of design challenge that we all like to get involved with and it is currently our top priority."
"Well, shall we get started with the briefing and demo? Our technicians have mounted the actuator on two units and one has been simulated to have a mechanical impediment."
The two test beds simulating reactors were set up in a large laboratory and Connor wasted no time getting into the discussion once he had verified that the lab crew had been cleared to hear the presentation. He explained that the carbon fiber unit would be much lighter than the solid titanium piece and that T-15 Titanium wire had been laminated into the lock plate actuator that was suffering an alarming failure rate. He also presented a design for a modified actuator shaft that improved manual operation in an emergency. Once the presentation was complete, it was just Connor and Adm. Powell in his office.
"Well Mr. Dennehy, you and your people have come through for us yet again and our techs say the modification for emergency manual control is well thought out and should be an inexpensive retrofit."
"Rick Sowell came up with that on the spur of the moment and cadded it out and then printed a sample for you. Once you get the actuator into production you should see a substantial weight savings and a reliability improvement as well."
"Be sure and tell him thanks for sharing such a good idea. You know many of your competitors would have withheld it and finagled to get a separate patent granted. Any reason your company didn’t follow suit?"
"It took Bender all of an hour to plan and CAD into the printer. By the way, the design can be printed in Titanium, which seems to be LTV’s metal of choice. But the reason for not holding the design back is simply ethics. If it saves one seaman’s life or health then it’s worth it."
"Oh sorry, it’s Rick’s nom de guerre. It’s from a silly cartoon show called Futurama. Rick does a spot on imitation."
"Ah yes, I know the show. I quite like it, as do my boys. It’s full of real science references and little tidbits of math that appeal to me. Do you have kids, Connor?"
"Yes, my boy Liam, he’s the light of my life. He may one day join the Navy, although not the Submarine service. We’re both terribly claustrophobic."
"Yes, that’s a draw back in Subs; not a lot of free space."
"Well he’s just turning twelve; he’s plenty of time to figure out where he’s going."
"I have a twelve year old myself; that’s him in the middle photo there."
Connor took out his phone and pulled up an image of Liam."
"Fine looking boy, they’re so much fun at that age. I waited a bit late. After my first wife passed, I met Amanda by chance and well, she has blessed me with three wonderful boys."
"And handsome lads they are."
"Thank you Connor, your son is also a handsome boy, I like that impish twinkle in his eyes."
"He’s quite a wit and a great musician. I’m very proud of him, he’s well on his way to becoming a good man."
"That’s all we can really hope for; the rest is up to chance, don’t you think?"
"I suppose you’re right, Admiral."
"Jim, my name is Jim when we’re just talking."
"Okay, Jim. It was a fair observation.
"I was sorry to hear you had a run in at the airport, security informed me. That sort of thing is worrying; but it seems he was just an opportunist."
"Well he received nothing for his efforts except a broken wrist and a sore face."
"Yes, Neil told me about that, you must have clocked him coming down the stairs."
"I did, he was probably used to disoriented travelers that don’t check their surroundings. But I feel no sympathy for him. He should find a safer line of work."
"Yes, I suppose so," Powell chuckled. "I’m just glad there were no Iranian or Chinese entanglements. That would have required an investigation to figure out how they got your travel plans. And that’s trouble we don’t need, either of us."
"Very true Jim," Connor agreed.
"Well, I have to present to my superiors now, I wish we had more time to chat. Be sure and give Duane our best wishes for a speedy recovery won’t you? And be sure and convey our thanks to Bender."
"I will indeed. Thank you Jim; I imagine my driver is idling out front as we speak."
An hour later Connor was back in his room and had already informed Duane of the success and personally congratulated Bender on his well-received design. His flight out was several hours away and he would arrive home about the same time he left the John Wayne originally.
He sent a text to Liam to let him know to expect him that evening. At that hour, he reckoned Liam would be in a classroom so calling was out of the question.
When first period was finished, Liam checked his phone and grinned broadly while reading Connor’s message.
"You look happy, did you win the lottery?" Cheri asked.
"Better, me Da is coming home tonight. I miss him when he’s traveling."
"That’s so sweet, and you don’t seem to care who knows it."
"Why should I, he’s my Da. I love him."
"Well you may not know it, but most boys don’t let their feelings show; usually because if they do they get ragged on for having feelings and affection for someone."
"I guess I’ve seen that enough. I just ask them if something happened to their Da would they be sad. Would you want to spend the rest of your life wishing you told him you loved him?"
"Damn it Liam, stop making me cry at school," Cheri growled in mock anger while she dabbed at her eyes.
"Well, shall we go and see what Ms. Harris has in store for us then?"
"I’ll be along in a minute; I just want to send off a message to my mom and dad."
Liam smiled and left her to it. His intent wasn’t to make her feel bad but if she could understand how he felt about his father she could get closer to her own parents.
Danny was in the ceramics lab chatting with Todd and a couple of other boys.
"Are you guys gonna play guitars in the quad today?"
"I hadn’t planned to, and Liam wants to make sure everybody gets a chance to show off whatever music style they like."
"He should be careful, some of the older guys think he’s trying to be a freakin’ Kanye or something," John said.
"Liam, hah. That’s the last thing he’d want. He doesn’t want everybody staring at him. He’s actually kind of private. I mean he’s really nice and he’ll talk to anybody but he doesn’t like a lot of publicity."
"Danny’s right, Liam is a really nice guy. He’s just a little different than people are used to. Darren and I have talked to him and he’s not a dick or anything," Todd added.
"He sounds okay, I was just saying what I heard. I think it’s mostly because every girl in the school wants to give him her body," John explained.
"Yeah, I wish I looked that good, maybe they’d notice me," Eli said.
"Well I gotta’ head off for my nap in Mr. Mitchell’s history class. Beuhler? Beuhler? I swear he is so boring. It’s too bad because he seems to know what he’s talking about, but he just talks so slow and nasal."
Todd suddenly got Eli’s joke and barked with laughter. "I love that movie, especially that Ferrari."
The boys broke up their discussion and made their way to the next class. Danny was headed for Geography and looking forward to it. They would be covering the British Isles, Ireland, and then move on to Scandinavia.
At the other end of the campus, Liam was just finishing up at the urinal when an unpleasant voice called out, "Hey mick boy!"
David Parker was a self-entitled son of fairly wealthy parents. It had given him the notion that he could act however he pleased and David was sick of hearing about Liam, and the other guitar playing fags as he perceived them.
"And who might you be?" Liam asked coldly, he was reading the kid and looking for any clues about his ability, but he didn’t like what he saw. The boy had looks and dressed well but there was a taint to him. He leered at Liam and checked out his crotch. It gave Liam the creeps, like if an adult was looking at him and sizing him up for sex or maybe rape. David was fifteen and quite a bit taller and heavier than Liam but he was no scrapper. He probably took Karate lessons at some point but didn’t really have any skill with it. He was obviously arrogant and thought of himself as special.
"My friends call me Dave but you can call me Mr. Parker."
"So, yer an Irish lad yerself, what’s yer problem?" Liam’s accent was coming on heavy, which meant he was losing patience with the other boy.
"Not me, I’m a hundred percent American so stuff Ireland up your skinny ass."
"You are disagreeable aren’t you, lad?"
"And clever as well."
David reached out and pushed Liam’s shoulder. Liam allowed it to happen and then warned David. "Don’t put yer’ hands on me again, lad, you will well and truly regret it."
"Of course that prompted David to reach out with his closed hand aimed at Liam’s shoulder again."
Liam snatched at David’s hand and put it in a vice like grip with his own fingers on top of David’s hand. Liam squeezed and pressed his powerful fingertips between the carpal bones in David’s hand and the punk forgot all about dominating an underclassman. David squealed like a small child and sank to his knees in front of Liam.
"Now, if I was not the forgivin’ sort, I’d break yer jaw right now, but then the school would get involved and you’re not worth getting expelled over." Liam released his grip and David cradled his hand.
Liam offered him the same warning he gave Brian; "If yas come at me again, I’ll feckin’ cripple yas." Liam walked out of the restroom pausing to wash his hands with plenty of time to get to class.
The door to the stall opened and David saw the feet approaching him.
"I could have saved you all that but you kind of had it coming," Brian Holcomb said.
"So, do you want to help me get even?"
"Fuck no, he’s actually a nice guy, man. What the fuck happened to you anyway, you used to be pretty nice too."
"That was just little boy shit; I’m not interested in your faggy games anymore."
"Too bad, D&D is still a lot of fun."
"That’s cuz you’re a fag like that Irish kid."
"Well, I was going to help you up but now you’re on your own. Oh and he’s right, Parker is an Irish name."
Brian washed his hands and walked out into the daylight.
Ms. Harris’ literature class was as usual unintentionally entertaining. A few decades back Ms. Harris would have probably been considered a hippie. She had that flower power outlook and her effusive love of great literature was comical at times. They had been discussing Jane Eyre and other gothic novels and one of the Lit queens said it should be considered a romantic masterpiece. Almost all the boys refrained from commenting. When pressed, Liam said he considered the entire genre unreadable. It was bleak and boring and the characters would have been better off cutting their own throats.
"Spoken like a true man," Ms.Harris sniffed. "But he has a point; there isn’t a great deal of joy in the genre."
"I’m just sayin’ that if Austen had been an Irish woman, Sense and Sensibility would have been all of a half an inch thick, cover and all. All that beatin’ around the bush, fer Christ’s sake just feckin’ ask him if he fancies you."
"Well that’s an interesting, if somewhat colorful viewpoint Mr. Dennehy."
"Sorry about the bad language."
"No worry, it’s part of literature, although at the moment we’re focusing on Bronte and Austen and not Mr. Ginsberg."
Outside Cheri exclaimed, "Gawd Liam that was so funny. Just so you know I’m a girl and I find the gothic genre boring as hell."
"I have noticed that Cheri, but that whole lot is a plate of piss, all that flowery talk and nothin' gets feckin’ said."
Cheri laughed in a loud and unladylike manner.
"Hey Cheri, do yas know where Charlie would be about now?"
"Um yeah, he should be near the band room, he and Crawford like to practice during lunch."
"Thanks, if ya see Danny, please tell him I’ll catch him up at the caff."
"Sure Liam, I’ll be meeting Amber there and Danny will probably be there, too."
"Okay, see you in a few."
Cheri’s information was accurate and he caught Charlie and Crawford as they entered the music room.
"Hey Liam, what’s up?"
"I wanted to talk to you about a lad named Dave Parker, do ya know him?"
"Yeah, wish I didn’t, but I do. Why do you ask?"
"I had a bit of a set to with him and wondered what you might know. He doesn’t strike me as the type to just take a beatin’ and call it a day."
"Do you mean a beating? Just it sounded like you said baitin' but probably not, he’s probably trying to find a way to get even. I just don’t think he’s got any friends that would help him jump somebody."
"Yeah, that’s why I’m askin’, the look he had on him that told me it wasn’t over yet. Am I going to really have to beat him down to stop him or what?"
"I don’t know man, he has a history of hassling younger looking kids like you. Look, I’ll tell you something but I'd like to keep it between us if you can please, okay?"
"We used to be friends but one day I caught him trying to talk my little brother in to putting his mouth on Dave’s dick." My little brother was six and he was thirteen. That was the last time Dave was at my house or in my life."
"It’s true, Liam; I was there and heard Dave trying to get Jamey to blow him. I had to hold Charlie back too."
"Right then, I guess I need to warn Danny and my other friends."
"Yeah, it’s probably a good idea. Give us a yell if you have any trouble and tell Danny and the others the same, okay? We don’t need guys like Dave around."
"Another one, shit Liam. That Dave Parker is a real asshole, just stay away from him."
"Have you had trouble with him, Danny?"
Danny was quiet for a while and then looked up at Liam. "He grabbed my balls in the locker room and it wasn’t a goof. It felt really creepy. He yanked off my towel and just grabbed and said sick shit that I don’t want to repeat okay?"
"What happened after, did he leave you be?"
"Yeah, Sean Cleary showed up and offered to mess up his pretty face. Dave took him serious and moved away. He hasn’t bothered me since, but I don’t like him. At least I don’t have to see him in the locker room. He does his P.E. in the library. He’s got asthma or some weak ass shit excuse not to get dressed out. The coach wouldn’t let him even hand out towels. He’s creepy, Liam, stay clear okay?"
"I will if he will. I mean I won’t go lookin’ for him but he better stay clear of me. And if he bothers you or any of our friends, get Charlie or Crawford if I’m not around."
"You should really reconsider letting that video get out Liam. It would scare him shitless," Cheri said.
"Nah, but if he makes a play for me or one of you, you’ll have my blessing to spread it around. I just don’t like all the craic that comes with it."
"Craic?" Cheri asked.
"Irish slang meaning gossip or just chatter, very popular in Dublin, fancy that?" Amber said with a good imitation of a Dublin accent.
"Not bad, Amber where’d you come up with that?" Liam asked.
"Hours on YouTube; and you better appreciate it. I couldn’t tell what you were saying half the time."
"Well thanks for makin’ the effort Amber, yer a dear one." Liam kissed her cheek.
Amber’s grin could have lit a coalmine after that.
"I’m grabbin’ some chips and a drink; I mean fries and a coke," Liam said without accent."
"Nice effort but still sort of Irishy," Cheri said blowing him a kiss.
Liam grinned and walked to the caff window.