Chapter Seven: New Friendships

A Collaboration of TrueFan, Zarek Dragon and DouglasDD


23 February 2121

Academy Dorms:

Aiden and Connor, unusual for the two of them, slept in on this lazy Sunday. Neither of them, while confident that they have their positions on the Sooloo, had heard back from Commander Bowman yet, as to exactly what their positions will be.

Even though both know that the Commander had a lot of people to interview, and a lot of decisions to make, it didn't make it any easier to avoid the anxiety of waiting. For the two, their newly forged boyfriend relationship is what has kept them going; they are building a relationship based on trust, honesty, and most importantly, love.

Neither is dominant nor submissive in any way; they truly shared each other's lives. Very early in their still fairly new relationship, they agreed that they'd be equal in all things. But, as Connor was quick to point out, "We can be equal in all things, but all things do not include our duties to our ship and our Captain." This was something Aiden loved about Connor. His integrity.

Even though both were awake, laying naked in their bed in their dorm room, each with their own thoughts, neither let the other know that they were awake. They were just enjoying being together. Aiden spooned to Connor's back, his arm draped over his boyfriend's torso, their legs intertwined.

Simultaneously, the two had an identical thought, "I hope we hear from him soon."

24 March 2121

Academy Headquarters:

David Bowman had been working diligently, interviewing, assessing and planning, but was behind in notifying his crew as to their final positions. The last two he needed to talk to were Aiden Douglass and Connor Marlin. Lt. Commander Douglass' position had been clear from almost the time of his interview when the other boy he was considering for the position of Tactical Officer proved to be the lesser choice.

The problem he had was, until three days prior, he was unsure whether Connor would be Chief Engineering Officer or Assistant Chief. His conversation with Jace Blackwell, and his acceptance of the position of Chief Internal Operations Officer made his decision easy.

At precisely 0855, the comm on his desk beeped, indicating a call from his secretary. "Commanders Marlin and Douglass reporting for their 0900 meeting with you, Sir." He thanked her, stood and put on his coat, and walked over to the door.

"Come in, Gentlemen," Bowman said as he led the two young officers into his office, "please take a seat."

Once everyone was seated, Bowman turned to the two and said, "I'm sorry it's taken me this long to get back to you both, it was unavoidable. As you can both surmise there are a lot of decisions that needed to be made before coming to a consensus as to who the top-level officers will be."

Turning to Aiden he said, "Commander Douglass, your position was pretty much a given from the day of your interview. There was really only one other we were even considering for the position of Chief Tactical and Security Officer. Recent events have made it clear that you were the right choice for that position. So, I can now say that I am offering you the position, assuming you still want it."

Aiden's voice betrayed his excitement as he said, "Yessir! Of course, I still want it! But…" Aiden paused before continuing, his voice a bit softer, "but, Sir, what about Connor?"

Bowman chuckled before he replied, "Well, Commander, that was the next piece of business on my agenda. Commander Marlin, the main reason for the delay in getting back to you was that I needed to make a decision as to whether you or Jace Blackwell would be Chief of Engineering. Blackwell's expertise spans two different disciplines, those being Engineering and Information Systems. We have decided to create a new position, one that is not usually present in the command structure, but we feel would be the best fit to get the best people. It did mean that our crew would have one more member than any of the other nineteen. We have offered Commander Blackwell the position of Chief Internal Operations Officer, a position that would be responsible for both I.S. and Engineering. As such, we would like to offer you the position of Chief of Engineering, reporting to Commander Blackwell."

"Jace and I haven't really spent a lot of time together, other than in class, but I do know he seems to me to be the type that I could easily work with. Thank you for your confidence in me, Sir. I will do my best to perform my duties adequately."

Bowman was pleased, he decided to make certain of one thing, "Excellent, I assume you two would like to share quarters?"

Aiden and Connor looked at one another and a grin crossed their faces. Aiden spoke for the pair, "Sir, we've been roommates ever since we came to the Academy. We would not have any problems sharing quarters."

"Excellent, Congratulations Commanders. We will contact you with a schedule for your Advanced Command Training. I look forward to having you as an integral part of our crew."

The three shook hands then Aiden and Connor walked out of the office. Once out of the building, Aiden took Connor into his arms and they hugged. "It's really happening C. This is going to be SO cool!"

10 May 2121

Connor and Aiden woke up and decided to spend this Saturday afternoon on a holodeck. They got dressed, ready to play Shadow Ops and headed over. As they arrived, they ran into two boys that they recognized from the Academy. Connor asked, "Aren't you Jason Blackwell and Jordan Rivers?"

Jace responded, "We are, but my friends call me Jace."

"Cool, Jace," Aiden continued, "I'm Aiden Douglass, and this handsome guy is Connor Marlin. I understand that we will be working with the two of you aboard the SS Sooloo. I will be Chief Tactical and Security Officer and Connor will be the Chief of Engineering."

Jace looked at Connor, "I almost received that position, but Commander Bowman thought I would be more useful in another. Congratulations on getting it."

"Thank you, Sir," Connor chuckled, "the Commander told us that you will be Chief of Internal Operations, and I will report directly to you. You seem intelligent, so I believe we will work great together."

Jace laughed when Connor called him intelligent. He thought, If he only knew… but didn't say it. Instead, he said "We were getting ready to play Dragon World, would you two like to join us?"

"We were actually getting ready to play Shadow Ops," Aiden exerted, "perhaps you would be interested in that?"

Jordan spoke before Jace had a chance to respond, "We would love to play, on one condition."

Jace looked at Jordan, wondering what he was thinking. Aiden was the one who asked, "What condition?"

Jordan smiled, "You will be the Chief Tactical Officer, I want you to be the leader, deciding the tactics."

Aiden felt proud of himself, but also nervous. What if he failed and these boys told Bowman how bad he was? Jace could sense the hesitation, he offered some relief, "Look, this is only a game and you are still learning. This will be good practice for you, and a learning experience. If we get slaughtered, that doesn't mean we failed, it just means we faced a better prepared opponent."

That was just what Aiden needed to hear; he agreed and the boys went into the holodeck. The team they were up against were surprisingly located on base; they were called the Black Devils. The boys played with Aiden giving directions. When the game was over, the boys claimed victory. The leader of the Black Devils looked at Aiden and said, "You're pretty good, and that's coming from someone who will be a tactical officer."

"You weren't so bad yourself, and I will also be a tactical officer, aboard the SS Sooloo," Aiden chimed.

"Seriously?" the other boy was surprised. "I'll see you on there, then. I just found out I will be the Assistant Chief Tactical Officer. Once I meet the Chief, I'll put in a good word for you."

Connor started to laugh, "You just met him, my name is Connor, and this handsome man is Lieutenant Commander Aiden Douglass, Chief Tactical and Security Officer."

"I'm Lieutenant Scott Jackson Trevor, and I look forward to working with you and learning from you, Sir." Jace and Jordan introduced themselves as did the boys on Scott's team.

After the game, Jace, Jordan, Connor and Aiden were talking. Aiden was talking about growing up in the foster care system and mentioned that Connor was in an orphanage. Connor added, "But don't feel bad about us, Commander Collins kind of adopted Aiden, and My recruiter, Colonel Savage…"

Jace interrupted, "Wait a minute, Colonel Javier Savage? He was my recruiter, too."

Connor continued, "That's cool. He kind of adopted me. He and his wife are the family I never had."

Jace looked down, "I kind of envy you. I grew up with a family, but then last Christmas, my dad threw me out of the house when I came out that I am gay. Tomorrow is my birthday and Mothers' Day, and I can't even call Mom to wish her a happy Mothers' Day." Jordan had a smirk on his face, knowing about the surprise that he and his parents (mainly his mother) arranged for Jace.

7 June 2121

It was Saturday afternoon and Connor wanted to do something, anything but stay in the dorm. "I'm bored," Connor moaned using the time-honored words of tweens everywhere.

"Mac gave us plenty of stuff to do for our research papers," Aiden reminded him. He was referring to Captain James McCutchen, who taught their Space Fleet History class. He was also the Chief Academic Administrator, working under Admiral Minor in the Space Academy Administration Building. While McCutchen had left teaching for administration five years ago, he leapt at the opportunity to teach the trainees for the new deep space program.

His students called him a hard ass and talked with each other about how mean and tough he was, but deep down, they liked and respected him as much as any teacher they'd had at the Prep School or at the Academy. Yes, he was a hard ass, but he was a fair hard ass, and he had a way of presenting dry historic material that usually made it interesting and sometimes downright engrossing. McCutchen's colleagues, and many students, thought it was a shame when he was transferred to administration.

"I've got most of the research done, we have almost two weeks to finish, I have everything else done, and I'm bored," Connor repeated.

Aiden sensed his boyfriend's frustration and knew it was time to leave their dorm room for a break. It was obvious that Connor had reached the end of his tether for the time being. "We could go to the gym and see if something is going on there, or maybe do something on one of the holodecks."

"That sounds boring," Connor said quickly.

Aiden could tell that Connor was quite out of sorts and wasn't sure what he could suggest that would interest him. He wasn't sure why, but he took a tack away from reservation and towards academia. "We could go to the science building and see if any telescopes are available at the observatory—take a look at stars and planets and stuff."

Instead of giving Aiden's idea an instant rejection, Connor sat quietly at his desk mulling over the suggestion. "Mars is supposed to be in a great position for viewing on the Dyson telescope," he finally said, more to himself than to Aiden.

The Dyson telescope, like the Hubbell Ten telescope, was in a high orbit above Earth. Its main purpose was for the study of close-in astronomical bodies, including the planets of the Solar System.

Aiden leaped at the opening. "Let's go see if any viewing stations are open and check it out." Anything to get him out of the room so he can relax some, Aiden thought. While most of the telescopes and viewing stations at the observatory had to be reserved, a limited number were on a first come, first served basis.

"Sure, anything to get out of here so I can relax a little bit," Connor grinned. Connor's grin was all it took to make Aiden's heart leap. I love that boy so, so much, he thought.

The two of them had been studying in the nude as they usually did in their room. It didn't take them long to get dressed and trek to the observatory, which was about a fifteen-minute walk from their dormitory.

While Aiden and Connor were walking hand-in-hand to the observatory, Kyle Robinson was sitting at the Trevor K. Rogers telescope, which he had reserved for an hour. The big digital telescope was named for the computer and astrological genius who developed the big Earth-based digital telescopes.

The telescope where Kyle was perched was one of the early models, which didn't make it any less powerful or any less accurate than a new one. Trevor Rogers had seen to it that it would be donated to the Space Academy, rather than scrapped, when it was replaced by a new, although not necessarily better, model. That particular telescope had been his favorite, even after newer models were developed, which said a lot about its quality.

Only faculty and a handful of qualified students could reserve space on the Rogers telescope. Kyle was one of the qualified students—in fact he was the youngest student allowed on the multi-million-dollar machine. More than one unknowing upperclassman had tried to chase him off, only to sheepishly find out that Kyle had every right to be there. The fact that Kyle sat Megrez next to the view screen may have had something to do with his getting a disapproving look from upperclassmen, but he didn't care. His penguin was an important part of his star and planet gazing.

Normally, Kyle loved looking at the stars, and when conditions were right, listening to them. He never knew what those right conditions were or why he could hear the stars in his head, but those times were very precious to him. However, tonight the sky was clear and sharp and Mars was close (relatively speaking) and very visible, so he focused the big scope on nearby Mars.

He quietly looked at some of the canals, and then changed his focus to Olympus Mons, the largest known volcano in the Solar System, standing almost 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) tall. Kyle knew it was a large shield volcano, resembling those on the Hawaiian Islands. Not only was it tall, but it was also about 600 kilometers (370 miles) wide. As many times as he'd seen the volcano he never failed to be awestruck by its size and beauty.

As he looked at the gigantic mountain on the 21-inch ultra-high definition screen, he thought of what it would be like to be in orbit around Mars and to look straight down into its gaping crater. While Kyle liked using the telescope's viewfinder to focus in on his target, the digital screen was where he looked to get his details.

The Rogers telescope desk was above the main floor of the observatory. The main floor had all the desks and telescopes except the Rogers and the local stations for the Hubbell-10 and the Dyson scopes. Kyle liked being up and away from the clutter downstairs where forty student desks were connected to the secondary telescopes. Since the desks shared ten smaller telescopes, coordinating targets between the desks took patience and the ability to operate the synchronizing computer. It worked remarkably well, but was not the same as having a private telescope.

The upstairs viewing rooms had desks not only for the Rogers telescope and the two orbiting stations, it also had three desks for three smaller telescopes that could be reserved by single students who qualified for them.

Aiden and Connor entered the main viewing room with which they were familiar. Even in the dim light they could see at least six desks that were open for general student use. If they were lucky they would either be keyed into a telescope set for viewing Mars or would be able to program the telescope themselves.

"Let's go upstairs and check out the real telescopes," Connor suggested.

"Those telescopes are for upperclassmen and have to be reserved," Aiden reminded him.

"I know, but nobody said we can't see what they're like on our own," Connor said. "I've never been in this place when it wasn't packed."

Aiden decided Connor was right and started up the winding metal staircase to the second level. Both boys had been on the second level during their initial tour of the school as well as for some classes. When they reached the landing, they walked into the hall that housed the stations for the three major telescopes. It was lit by low-power lighting.

They peered into the Hubbell room and saw an older teen looking at a star cluster on his video screen. The next room housed the station for the Rogers telescope.

"We never got to check out that room during our tour because some professor was using it," Connor reminded Aiden. "Let's see if anybody is in it."

The door to the viewing room was open, which was a requirement when a student was in the viewing room. Aiden and Connor were surprised to see a young boy their age sitting at the desk looking at the surface of Mars on his view screen.

"Wow, awesome," Aiden whispered.

Kyle was sending his images of Mars to his own computer where he could look at them in more detail later. He was surprised when the quiet of the upper level was disturbed by a boy's voice. He turned and saw two boys around his age standing at the door. He recognized them but couldn't remember their names.

"What are you guys doing up here?" Kyle asked a bit more harshly than he'd intended.

"We were going to ask you the same thing," Aiden replied. While he didn't like the harsh tone of Kyle's voice, he could also sense that the boy hadn't meant to sound quite so negative, so he let it pass. Aiden and Connor both saw the little stuffed penguin sitting on the desk, bundled up in his green scarf and stocking cap. Aiden sensed that the presence of the penguin made Kyle a much gentler figure than he appeared to be at first.

"I have the telescope reserved," Kyle told them. "At least for ten more minutes."

"I thought you have to be like an upper classman or a teacher to reserve this telescope," Connor said. "We just planned to sneak a look but you kind of caught us. But, how did you get to use it?"

"I am a senior officer on one of the deep space project ships—the Chief Astrogator."

"You're a Chief Astrogator? No offense, but you look like your eleven or something."

Aiden sensed Kyle's building impatience. "Look, I want to get as much of this into my computer as I can." Our age or not, this guy seems like an asshole, Connor thought.

"But, I'll talk to you downstairs in one of the classrooms when I'm done," Kyle offered.

Or maybe he's not an asshole, Connor conceded.

"Okay. We'll wait for you downstairs," Aiden said. He really wanted to learn more about Kyle, who was not an easy person to figure out.

"You can wait for me here if you want, just don't talk to me," Kyle told them.

The two of them waited silently as they looked at the changing landscape on the view screen and admired how Kyle seemed to effortlessly manipulate the complex piece of machinery pulling in those scenes.

Just as Kyle finished an upperclassman arrived. "Hey little boys, you can leave now. The telescope is mine." He watched Kyle pick up Megrez and gently set him into his backpack. "Maybe I should just call you little children. I think I'm going to report the bunch of you to the supervisor downstairs unless you show me your permission to use this telescope. And since I know you can't show it to me, you guys are in a shitload of trouble."

Kyle pulled out his student ID and his status as a senior officer qualified to use the Rogers telescope among other things.

"Well, fuck me up the ass. You, are an officer? This school really is going to hell. You must be with the deep space project and smart enough to use this thing."

Kyle nodded as he started out of the room. "And these two guys are my guests," he told the upperclassman, "which I am allowed to have."

"What's with the stuffed penguin?"

"As far as fucking you up the ass is concerned, you're not my type. I prefer people with at least some intelligence. And the penguin, he's here to protect me from aliens and from bossy upperclassmen."

He led Aiden and Connor out of the room as the upperclassman shook his head while muttering, "Fucking Prep School kids are ruining this place."

The three boys sat in an empty classroom which was fully lit. Kyle introduced himself "I'm Kyle Robinson, and you're right, I am eleven, but I will be twelve soon."

"I'm Aiden Douglass." Aiden noted that he was a little bit older than Kyle.

"And I am Connor Marlin."

Kyle liked both boys. He liked their personalities, and he thought that they were both attractive boys, with Connor getting a few extra looks. He quickly wondered where that thought came from.

"If you're a senior officer, which ship are you on?" Connor asked.

"I will be serving on the Sooloo," Kyle replied.

Aiden and Connor looked at each other and grinned. "That is going to be our ship. We're on the Sooloo," Aiden said with his characteristic enthusiasm.

"Wow, that, that is really amazing," Kyle said. "It's cool that we've met each other then. You're the first guys I've met on the Sooloo who are around my age." Kyle looked at Connor again, fighting off the strange attraction he felt, at the same time he started wondering how they could become friends.

"Connor and I are really happy we got to be on the same ship. We were best friends before we got assigned and now we're boyfriends." Aiden saw the look of disappointment on Kyle's face and sensed what it was about. "It would be cool if the three of us could become friends along the way."

"Yeah, yeah it would be, really cool," Kyle agreed, as he fought off his disappointment at learning the two were boyfriends, while at the same time he wondered why that news should disappoint him. It shouldn't have made a bit of difference to him.

Aiden could once again sense conflict in Kyle. To him Kyle was an enigma, a boy not certain about himself. He was a preteen who could use one of the most sophisticated telescopes in the world, at the same time he had a stuffed penguin sitting in front of him at the console. He was a boy who sounded a bit rough while wanting to be accepted. He had an obvious attraction to either him or Connor or both, but he couldn't, or didn't know how to, accept that feeling.

Aiden saw Kyle as someone who looked and acted like an insecure little boy  he had the smarts and abilities to be a senior officer of a star ship. Aiden found Kyle to be confusing, but also sensed Kyle could become a good and loyal friend to him and Connor. In their own ways, Connor and Kyle had the same feeling as Aiden—that eventually the three of them could become good friends.

28 June 2121

It was the Saturday before Connor's Birthday, and Aiden had a holodeck reserved. He and Connor dressed to play Shadow Ops as they have most Saturdays. Aiden was also very careful not mentioning Connor's birthday. He was hoping that Connor would think that he had forgotten.

When the entrance to the holodeck opened, it was dark inside. "Cool, we're doing a night mission!" Connor exclaimed. Aiden just smiled.

They walked in, the entrance closed and suddenly, "SURPRISE!!!" The lights came on and Connor saw some of his classmates from the Academy. He looked to his right and saw a sign reading "Happy 13th Birthday, Connor!!!" Then on the left was a purple cake with green lettering saying the same thing.

Aiden saw tears running down Connor's face and asked what was wrong. "Nothing's wrong, it's just that, I've never had a birthday party, let alone a surprise party. Last year was the closest I've ever had."

"You never had a birthday party before?" Aiden asked.

Connor shook his head, "The orphanage thought it was a waste of funds to have one. They never even said 'Happy Birthday,' just acknowledged that I moved up the ranks, so to speak. Last year, just before Dad came to get me, they reminded me that when I turned twelve, chances of me leaving were slim to none."

Connor turned his head quickly when he heard, "Then I'm really glad that you did so well on that test. I personally tested boys in your age group at orphanages in seventeen different states. Of all of them, none has made me as proud as I am of you." Connor ran up to give Colonel Savage a hug. Darla started rubbing his back.

Aiden wiped the tears off Connor's face and said, "I love you so much. I am glad that I got to give you your first party, but to be honest, it was my dads' idea to make it a surprise party."

"We only asked if it was going to be one," Tom Collins stated.

Phil added, "Yeah, this whole thing was your idea."

Connor gave Tom and Phil a hug and then hugged Aiden again. He whispered, "I don't care whose idea it was, I love you, Aiden, more and more each day." Then Aiden took Connor around the room, greeting his guests.

Jace and Jordan were the first ones they greeted. Connor started acting official, but Jace said, "Relax, this is your party, ranks are not permitted in here. I am just a friend helping you celebrate."

Connor sighed, "Thanks, both for saying that and more importantly, for being here."

"Hey man," Jordan started, "we are all here to have fun, so let's party."

Next, Aiden led Connor to a boy they share one class with. As they approached him, Aiden asked, "Do you know Tom?"

"Actually, it is Dr. Thomas Abernathy III, but my friends call me Thomas."

Connor looked puzzled, "You don't like 'Tom'?"

Thomas looked thoughtful, "I honestly never gave it much thought. It does have a friendlier tone to it. Sure, you can call me Tom. I think I will like that."

Tom Collins chuckled, "I think it is a good name."

"So," Aiden asked, "have you been assigned to a ship?"

Thomas replied, "I have, the SS Sooloo. I will be her Chief Medical Officer."

Aiden and Connor cooed at the same time. "Cooooooool," then Aiden added, "that's the ship we will be on.  They chatted for a few minutes, getting to know the doctor a little better.

Connor and Aiden walked up to a boy who looked around Aiden's age but was in Connor's Engineering class. Connor stuck his hand out and asked, "You're Andrew, right?"

The boy smiled, "Yes, that's right, Andrew Taylor, my parents named me after some Sheriff in a little town called Mayberry, wherever that is. I believe your name is Connor. Just before Christmas, Commander Bowman interviewed me. He told me that that he didn't think I was right to be the Chief, that I needed more training, but that I might be in the running for Ass't Chief. He told me that he had two candidates that were better qualified for the Chief Engineering Officer."

Connor gave a weak smile, "I was selected to be the Chief Engineer on the Sooloo. I'm guessing that you were given the Assistant position, then." Andrew nodded his head.

As the two moved on, Connor noticed Kyle sitting by himself so he sat with him. "I want to thank you for coming to my party, it means a lot to me."

Kyle gave Connor a shy smile. "Aiden invited me, and you two seemed friendly a few weeks ago, so here I am." He picked up a package he set down next to his chair. "I bought you a gift; I hope you like it."

Remembering how he had thought for a moment that Kyle was an asshole when they'd first met at the observatory, he was taken aback by the shy sincerity of that same boy. Connor accepted the present and opened it right away. With the shape of the box and knowing Kyle's passion, he suspected what was in it, and he found a nice, but not elaborate telescope. Connor exclaimed, "This is so cool, Thanks, Kyle!"

Kyle inquired, "You really like it?"

"Well it's not the Trevor K. Rogers telescope, but this has so much meaning behind it. It's a start for me to get into star gazing, and I can use it to look out the windows of my quarters. Like it? I love it!" Then without thinking, Connor gave Kyle a kiss on the cheek.

Returning to their dorm, they found a package and a note from Commanders Bowman and Tietokone explaining why they had to miss the party.

3 July 2121

Aiden woke up to a sensation he wasn't all that familiar with. When they'd gone to bed, he was spooning up behind Connor as they usually slept, his arm around Connor's chest. This morning, somehow he was facing away from Connor and the younger boy was spooned up to him. He was lightly kissing the back of Aiden's neck and running his finger ever so lightly around the lobe of his ear.

He giggled and said, "Good morning, babe. That was a nice way to wake up."

"Good morning, Aiden. Happy Birthday."

Since they had from Thursday until Monday off due to some conference or other that the instructors needed to attend, Aiden rolled over so the two were facing each other. Both started to giggle when their morning wood collided. Aiden looked at his boyfriend and sulked, "No surprise party for me?"

Connor had difficulty holding back his mirth, but he did. The two took care of their morning ablutions and had headed to the cafeteria when Aiden asked, "So, what do you have planned for me today?"

"I figured we'd grab some breakfast, then maybe play some basketball. You promised to let me try to beat you."

"You want to beat me on my Birthday? Sounds kinky," that comment caused both boys to descend into laughter.

At the end of breakfast, they kissed, then went back to their quarters to change. Once in the gym, Aiden played easy. He was over an inch taller than Connor and had a significant reach advantage. Near the end of the game the score was 20-20, the next basket would decide the winner. Aiden knew he could easily win, however he felt this time he'd 'slip' and give Connor the 'W.'

Connor had possession of the ball and was charging the basket. Aiden was guarding the basket when Connor leapt up and shot the ball to attempt a layup. When he came down he slammed into Aiden knocking the boy to his butt. As he fell he looked up and saw the ball bounce against the backboard and fall into the basket.

Aiden smiled and said, "You did it!"

"I know, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to knock you down."

"No! The ball… it went into the basket… you won!"

"You wouldn't be just saying that. You know…" Connor stated.

"Babe, of all people, I would know that you would never want me to just say you won. If I did, then you'd feel it wasn't a valid win. I swear to you it went into the basket."

Connor's grin nearly split his face as he hugged his boyfriend. Almost immediately he noticed that they were laying on the ground in the basketball courts hugging. People were pretty tolerant at the Academy, but as they've been told, it's better to be discreet.

Connor stood and offered his hand to his boyfriend and helped him up. They went to their dorm and showered, then decided to go to the cafeteria for lunch as it was about noon. They opened the door and were confronted by two Space Fleet Security Officers.

"Lieutenant Commander Aiden Douglass?" The first guard asked.

"I'm Aiden Douglass, what seems to be the problem?"

"I'm afraid you'll need to come with us, Sir."

Connor, in a very shocked voice questioned, "What's this about?"

"I'm sorry, Sir. I am not at liberty to discuss the specific charges being levied against Lt. Commander Douglass. You will need to take it up with Commander Bowman, Sir."

Connor watched as the two men dragged a shocked Aiden off. Connor went back into the room and over to the comm unit. He hit a couple of buttons and when the voice-only connection was established, he said, "They're on their way."

* * * * *

Aiden was taken to the Security office near the main administration building. He was placed in a room and told that someone would be in to see him in a few minutes. When the door opened his recruiter, Commander Tom Collins, entered the room.

"Dad! What's this all about? I've been trying to figure out what I did wrong? I swear I didn't do anything!"

Tom went over to Aiden and put his arm around the boy's shoulder and pulled him in to a sideways hug. "Commander Bowman will be here in a minute, maybe we can get this straightened out."

No sooner had he said that when the door opened and Commander Bowman entered. Reading the expression on his face was impossible. "Gentlemen, please follow me." He turned and exited though the same door by which he'd entered; the two other officers following behind.

Aiden had no idea what to think. Bowman approached a set of double doors. He opened them and told the two following him to enter. There was a very bright light facing the entrance and Aiden was temporarily blinded by its brilliance. A moment later the light went out and he heard, "Surprise!!! Happy 14th Birthday!"

Aiden didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He turned to Tom and hugged him. About that time, Connor came over and took over the hugging duties. Connor was a little unsure of why Aiden was holding him so tightly and crying on his shoulder. As if a light bulb had gone off, Connor remembered the story he'd heard a bit over a year ago, about what happened to Aiden before Commander Collins found him.

"I'm sorry, Babe. I didn't even think. You must hate me."

Aiden pulled back so he could look in his boyfriend's eyes, "Why would I hate you? At least I got to keep my clothes this time." With that statement, whatever negative feelings either had left.

They went around the room greeting people who'd come to wish him a happy birthday. One of the first they sat with was Kyle Robinson. "Hey Kyle."

"Um… Happy Birthday. I have a small gift for you, I am sorry it's not as nice as the gift I gave Connor… I know from the way he looked at the big telescope at the observatory that he'd appreciate it. The gift I got you actually goes together with the gift I gave him. It's a star chart pad. When we get underway, you can bring it to the bridge and I can update its charts from the Astrogation table."

Aiden hugged the smaller boy, "Kyle, that's the best present I've received in a very long time. Thank you so much." Kyle smiled a bit hearing that. Aiden and Connor excused themselves and started to walk away. As they were walking, Aiden said to Connor, "I'm really glad we got to know him. He's a pretty cool kid. Now we need to get him to loosen up a bit and have some fun!"

Next were Commanders Bowman and Tietokone. "Hello, Sirs. Thanks for coming," Aiden said.

"Aiden, I'm a bit upset with our Captain about the stunt they pulled on you. I want you to know I'm sorry," Hal said, as he gave Aiden a hug and whispered 'Happy Birthday' in his ear.

"Please, Sir, don't be angry with him. It was a cool joke. I was really scared there for a bit."

"When I heard what they'd done, I reminded Dave of what happened to you before you were recruited. It completely slipped everyone's mind."

"I also want to apologize, Aiden," Dave Bowman said, as he extended his hand to shake.

"Please Sir, don't worry about it."

Connor was standing there listening, his chest swelling with pride over how his boyfriend was handling himself. Hal spoke up, "Aiden, we're here… not as your superiors, but as friends who want to help you celebrate. For the rest of the day, and even after, if it's just us, call me Hal, and him Dave."

"Thank you, Si… um… Hal," Aiden replied with a blush.

Next, they approached Jace Blackwell and Jordan Rivers, who were talking to a boy they both recognized, but had forgotten his name.

"Happy Birthday, Aiden," Jace said, before turning to Connor and saying, "Aiden, Connor, I'd like you to meet Andrew Taylor. He's going to be the Assistant Chief of Engineering."

The Fourteen-year-old extended his hand to Aiden and said, "Happy Birthday, Sir," then turned to Connor, "and nice chatting with you again, Sir."

"I meant to ask you, Andrew, do you prefer Andrew, or can we call you Andy?" Aiden asked. Jordan and Jace figured out they had already met.

"Oh no, not Andy Taylor. That name haunts me. Remember, I said that my parents named me after some old TV show about some hick sheriff. I'd use my middle name but that one's even worse," Andrew said, obviously embarrassed. When nobody said anything he continued, "My parents must have loved that vid show because my middle name is the name that the cute boy actor had in the show… Opie!"

Everyone laughed, then Connor said, "Why don't we just call you A.T. and when it's just us, or in an informal setting, as Captain Bowman suggested," Dave was about to say something when Hal put his hand on Dave's arm as Connor continued, "Just as they're Dave and Hal, please call us Aiden and Connor."

They moved on around the room. They met all the senior staff that they hadn't met at Connor's party. Aiden met both of his Assistant Chiefs; Scott Trevor, who he'd actually met on the holodeck, and his Assistant Chief of Security, Richard Head. Aiden decided to leave the obvious joke unsaid.

The last two guests they met were Kyle Robinson's assistant, John Luke, and Dr. Tom's (as he now preferred to be addressed by the moniker 'Tom'), Head Nurse (and also the Assistant Chief Medical Officer), Antonio Vargas.

Everyone had a great time at the party, but everything must come to an end. Connor and Aiden made their way, hand-in-hand, to their room. As they walked Connor asked, "Did I really win the basketball game? You didn't let me win?"

"Honest, Babe. I saw that last basket hit the backboard, bounce against the front of the rim and fall through the net."

Connor looked into Aiden's eyes and smiled. That night as they lay cuddling, Aiden gave Connor a tender kiss. "Thanks for today, Connor. I love you."

"I love you too, Aiden… more and more, each and every day."

22 August 2121

Kyle buckled himself into his seat on the shuttle and placed Megrez into the pouch on the back of the seat in front of him. The day was moving so fast with so many things happening, he couldn't stop his head from spinning. He was about to travel into space for the first time. He was going to see his beloved stars with his naked eyes, unblemished by Earth's atmosphere for the first time.

And then there was the meeting with his father. As he stared out of the window, he wanted to be negative about everything his father had to say—to call it all a big lie. But he knew it wasn't a lie. Even through the turmoil that roiled through his young adolescent heart and his pubescent brain, he could see that his father was sincere. He knew deep down inside himself that as much as he wanted to say differently, his father had swallowed his pride and his ego and had humbly come to his son asking forgiveness.

Instinct had told Kyle to turn his back on his father, the admiral, and show his own superiority. But he had learned a great deal in his leadership classes and one of the big lessons was that good leadership depended on the leader's humanity and yes, his willingness to be humble when need be. Kyle had taken those lessons to heart over the past few hours with his father. The time with his father had been short—too short—but just like his father had put his humility on display for his son, Kyle had done the same for his father.

It had not been an easy task for either one or them. But reaching out had been one of the most rewarding things the father and son had ever done. For Kyle, as he prepared for the shuttle to start moving, he understood that one more lesson from training had shown itself. One of the teachers, a long-time starship captain, had told the class that love and hate were related emotions and one could all too easily replace the other. He reminded the students how important it was that they guarded the things they loved and treasured, so they would not lose them to hate and jealousy and envy.

What Kyle had learned as well was what he had just experienced. Love could replace the hatred. It had happened in a surprisingly short time with his father. It was like that change of emotion had been something he had really craved. He understood what his father had also understood, that Kyle Robinson could not survive on the voyage of the Sooloo with hatred in his heart. He smiled internally as he let the love and wisdom he never knew his father possessed course through his body.

Kyle's internal smile leaked out on his face some when he saw Aiden and Connor enter the cabin of the shuttle. He thought he'd seen them on board already, but apparently he'd been so lost in his own thoughts, that he must have imagined seeing them.

"Hey, Kyle," Aiden greeted, as he walked up the aisle past Kyle's seat. Connor stopped next to Kyle, greeted him and asked if anybody had taken the seats across the aisle from him. Kyle shook his head. Aiden returned carrying two backpacks. He and Connor had set them down inside a luggage bin situated against the back bulkhead. He placed them in the overhead compartment.

"Um, hi, guys," Kyle said, as Aiden and Connor got settled and buckled themselves into their seats. His mind was still in spin cycle, causing him to somehow forget to open his mouth.

Kyle turned and looked out of the window. He knew this shuttle trip wouldn't be carrying anything close to a full load, so it was highly unlikely anybody would want the seat next to him.

His thoughts were on the two friendly boys sitting across the aisle from him. He thought about their surprise birthday parties and how pleased he had been to be invited to both of them. It all happened because of their meeting at the observatory a little over two months ago. Kyle had been impressed with their enthusiasm over the telescopes and seeing the close up views of the surface of Mars.

In the three weeks between meeting for the first time and the birthdays they had bumped into each other three times; twice while waiting for their holodeck appointments, and another chance encounter in the observatory.

Both times at the holodeck, Connor and Aiden had seen Kyle standing off alone and had invited him to join them in the holodeck to play Shadow Ops with them, but Kyle politely declined. Both times he had been in a funky mood, which was not unusual, and he simply wanted to shoot free throws to relax and slow his mind down.

But, when they met at the observatory, things were different. Aiden and Connor were sitting at one of the desks open to all students. Kyle entered the observatory to use the Trevor K. Rogers telescope, which he had reserved for 2030. Things were different than those at the holodeck waiting area. Aiden and Connor were busy looking at the view screen on their desk and didn't notice Kyle enter the room. Kyle saw them; however, and walked over to greet his two crewmates.

"I have the Rogers room reserved if you want to join me," Kyle told them.

"As long as some mean upperclassman doesn't give us crap," Connor said light-heartedly.

"I can't control that," Kyle said, "but I can tell you this. I reread the rules for using the room, and they do say that I am allowed two guests when I use the room, as long as they sign in with me and I don't leave them alone in the room. Also, you have to pass the rules and safety quiz. So, the only thing we could have had a problem with was you guys didn't sign in with me and haven't taken the test, but it really doesn't matter now."

"Well, that takes care of us going with you tonight," Aiden lamented.

"Nah. Come with me and I'll tell Morgan to give you the quiz. It only takes five minutes and you have to be brain dead to flunk it. There aren't many rules and they are right in the same pamphlet. It's open book—the only reason you take the quiz is to show you read the rules."

"So, if you took the quiz, how come you didn't know all of the rule about guests?" Connor asked.

"I don't recall having that on my quiz," Kyle stated.

Morgan, who would be an academy senior the next academic year and the proctor on duty in the student room of the observatory that night, had the answer. "That's because the guests taking the quiz was added to the fourth edition of the rules and Kyle's test was on the third edition, as was mine. The new edition just came out a couple of days ago." Because they were eligible to use the Rogers telescope without supervision, they had to take a long and involved test. Morgan handed Aiden and Connor the quiz.

"So when will somebody tell me about it?" Kyle asked. "Other than you, I mean," he told Morgan.

"That's my job, and you've just been told," Morgan laughed. He pushed a form over to Kyle and instructed him to sign and date it, which Kyle did. "Kyle now officially knows the new rule. Ain't bureaucracy grand?"

"Are you on the crew of one of the ships?" Aiden asked.

"Nope, and I didn't want to be. I got myself a girl and after we finish college work, we plan on getting married and having us a family. Spending the best part of my life racing through the stars and chasing after possible aliens ain't my thing." He looked at the three young boys at his desk and added, "Not that I have anything against the project, it's just not something that interested me."

Aiden and Connor sat at nearby desks, quickly finished their quizzes and handed them back to Morgan. Morgan checked over them and grinned. "Perfect scores, as expected. Have fun, dudes."

Aiden and Connor's enthusiasm trumped their first visit, if that was possible. Neither boy was surprised when Kyle pulled a little stuffed penguin out of his backpack and set it next to the viewfinder. He then typed his student ID into the computer and his password "MeGrez12". Kyle set his two new friends to work, giving them stars and other heavenly bodies to find. Both boys had taken Intro to Astrogation and were able to use the hints they received from their mentor. Remembering Kyle's impatience the first time they met him, they were quickly impressed by his patient and careful teaching.

Kyle gave them much more freedom as they went along, presenting each boy with individual problems. Aiden sounded especially pleased when he yelled out, "I found Megrez!" When Connor flashed him a look that said Megrez was right in the room with them, he added, "No, silly, I mean the star, not the penguin."

Aiden then pleased Kyle by lifting the stuffed penguin from the table and turned it toward the view screen. He pointed to a dot just off the center of the screen and said, "That's yourMegrez star, Megrez. That's who you were named after." Nobody Kyle had met at the Prep School or the Academy had ever accepted his penguin the way Aiden just had.

Their time was over all too quickly. Kyle logged off the computer just as fourteen-year-old Grant Stewart entered the room. Stewart was the Chief Navigator on the "Ronald Riker," named for the captain of the first ship to leave the Solar System.

The next day, while Kyle was in the student store purchasing supplies, he thought about the upcoming birthday parties. It had been hard not to mention them the night before, but he understood his duty and wasn't about to spoil anybody's fun. He wasn't planning on bringing any gifts. After all, he never had birthday parties with gifts or otherwise, so why should he bring gifts for anybody else.

Without knowing how it happened, Kyle found himself on the second floor in the astronomy section. He thought about the enthusiasm of Aiden and Connor and how hard they worked on the problems he gave them. In his mind, he pictured Aiden lifting up Megrez to show him Megrez. He walked over to a small telescope and took it off its shelf. Just a few feet away a star chart pad was on display and he picked it up as well.

Kyle's father made sure he had a steady allowance each month and Kyle only spent a fraction of it. His father didn't give him much, but the allowance was big part of what Kyle received from him. "Guilt credits," was how his father described it to Kyle a couple of months later. He had more than enough credit to purchase the gifts. Besides, in a couple of months he would have no need for the credits in his account. In fact, for the next thirty years he would have credits deposited in an investment account and would probably be quite rich when he returned to Earth.

As he waited in line to pay, he thought that the telescope would be perfect for Connor who couldn't take his eyes away from the stereoscopic viewfinder of the Rogers. The star chart pad would fit Aiden who loved looking at the big view screen and naming as many stars as he could as Connor focused in on them.

That night, he programmed Aiden's pad to bring up Megrez, the star, the first time he booted it. He smiled thinking of Aiden's reaction to that. For the first time since he had entered the Academy, with the possible exception of his work with John Luke, he was giving something while expecting nothing back. Yet a lot of what he did with John had to do with their relationship as Astrogators, not their relationship as friends.

"Earth to Kyle. Come in Kyle." Aiden's voice shook Kyle from his reverie. He turned to look at Aiden, who was sporting a wide grin. "There must be something really interesting outside of that window." But, Aiden sensed there was more going on in Kyle's mind than the buildings of the spaceport that could be seen from the window. It was then that he noticed Megrez secured to the pouch.

"Sorry, I was just looking at things," Kyle said quietly, which Aiden knew was at best a half-truth. He quickly changed the topic away from himself. "Did you guys leave the shuttle for a while?"

"Yeah," Aiden answered. "We saw you boarding and you walked right past our seats. We said 'hi' but it was pretty obvious that your mind was in a different galaxy."

"Yeah, I guess it was," Kyle shrugged. "Why did you leave the shuttle?"

"We got here pretty early," Connor replied. "Me and my babe decided we wanted to stand outside and breathe the air of Earth one last time before we left for the recycled stuff."

Kyle cringed a bit when Connor mentioned his "babe." Being around boys who had the kind of relationship that Connor and Aiden had, often made Kyle cringe. He didn't cringe because he disapproved; he cringed because they had something he wished he had.

"Who was the admiral dude we saw you talking to?" Aiden asked. He didn't get into the hugging between Kyle and the admiral.

"He's my father."

"Oh," Aiden replied quietly. Kyle had never mentioned anything about his family the few times they'd seen each other. Aiden then did his own change of subject. "Is it different doing astrogation say in class or in the observatory than at an astrogation table on a ship in space?"

Aiden wasn't sure why he picked that topic except that he sensed he needed a topic as far away from Kyle's family as he could get. Astrogation, which was Kyle's love, seemed like the obvious choice. What he didn't know was how significant that question would end up being.

Kyle liked that Aiden was interested enough to ask him the question, even if it seemed like a strange time to ask. "Yeah, it's a lot different. Astrogation tables are way more accurate, not that you can't find what you want using the telescopes at school. It's just you have to figure that you probably have to do some adjusting when you reach your destination."

"Have you ever made a mistake?"

"Everybody makes them, especially when you're in the Intro class, which you know. I made five that I know of." Connor and Aiden both nodded, remembering how they managed to end up in the wrong star system more than once. "Aiden's star chart pad is going to help him a lot with his tactical stuff and cut down on his chances for mistakes."

"Did you know how to fix your mistakes?" Connor asked.

"Two of them I didn't have to fix, because the questions had mistakes in them, which I proved to the school. And two of them I fixed because I found my own stupid mistake; I figured I was sound asleep when I did the test."

"What about the fifth one?"

"I still haven't figured that one out. All my math was good. Everything agreed with the star charts. But I kept ending up in the wrong star system. No matter what I did, I kept getting the same answer. I had Commander Hanson look at it, thinking there was a problem with the question, but there wasn't. He had two other Astrogation teachers look at it and they made the same mistake. The really weird part is that everybody ended up being really wrong, like four star systems away. I mean, that is a ginormous mistake and nobody can find it."

"That sounds so totally weird," Connor remarked. But Aiden said nothing, it was his turn to let his mind spin around. Obviously, something was wrong with the numbers. He knew he didn't have the necessary knowledge to figure out what, and yet there was something in his mind that said he might know what the solution was.

"There's this one Astrogator in the program, whose name and ship I won't mention, who has called me a dumb shit to my face over it," Kyle told Connor, knowing he'd said too much.

"What did you do?"

"I wasn't going to do anything, but John Luke heard him. John told him that maybe he should try solving the problem himself instead of opening his big mouth. The kid said he wasn't going to waste his time on a problem that a dumb eleven-year-old can't solve, especially when he isn't even close to the right place."

"Did John Luke hit him?"

"He told me later he wanted to, but he knew Commander Bowman would be all over his ass telling him that wasn't the way crew members of the Sooloo solved their issues."

"So, what did he do?"

"He told the asshole that he tried the problem and couldn't figure it out either. The asshole called him a liar, saying he was just standing up for his so-called superior officer, and walked away."  What Kyle didn't say was that the asshole was named Devin French, the Chief Astrogator of the "Endurance."

"How come you just didn't tell him even the teachers got it wrong?"

"Because he's a dickhead. John and I figured if he was going to run around acting like one why should we stop him?"

Suddenly, Aiden's eyes lit up. "I got it. I think I got it!"

"What?" Connor and Kyle asked simultaneously.

"Listen, every bit of math you did was correct, right?" Kyle nodded. "And the star charts you used had two mistakes, right?"

"They were as accurate as a star chart can be when we've never visited the star systems in that area, which is pretty accurate. So, yeah, there could be a mistake, but a lot of brains were working on it; somebody would have figured out if there was a mistake."

"So, there is a really tiny chance of a mistake, and probably there aren't any mistakes, but you keep on ending up in a star system a long way off, right?"


"Then I have a possible answer."

Before anybody could say anything, they heard the hatch shut and the voice of the pilot coming over the loudspeakers, telling them that they were ready to taxi to the end of the runway. He reminded them to be strapped in. The thrusters revved up and the shuttle started slowly moving away from the terminal.

When Kyle asked Aiden what his answer was, Aiden said it would wait until they were out in space. "It's going to be too noisy to talk really soon," he added.

As the shuttle taxied to the end of the runway Kyle opened the seat pouch and removed Megrez. He set the stuffed penguin on his lap and went back to looking out of the window. He wanted to turn to Aiden and insist he give his answer now, but he knew that would be futile.

What is it that Aiden knows? Kyle wondered. Aiden had only taken Intro to Astrogation. He needed hints to find basic stars in the observatory, although having the star chart pad had been helping him. Kyle could tell that the time he took Connor and Aiden up the hill to look through his own telescope. Still, he barely had the background to write the math, let alone find a mistake with it. Kyle just couldn't see Aiden figuring out astrogation math in his head.

Kyle decided that since there was nothing that could be done now, he'd go back to looking out of the window and enjoy the shuttle's launch into space. After that, it was all about thrust, about the retreating surface of Earth, about the black of space with its solid pinpoints of light, about zero gravity, about approaching Earth Station 2, and about drifting out to where the exploration project ships were in orbit around Earth. Through it all, Kyle held his beloved penguin tightly to his lap, stroking its black back with his index and middle fingers. He didn't want to get separated from Megrez in zero gravity.

The ship was quiet. Kyle looked over at Aiden and Connor who were experiencing their first trip into space. As much as he wanted to know Aiden's answer, he didn't want to interrupt the unique emotions the two were enjoying. It was Aiden who broke the mood.

"You want to know what I came up with, don't you Kyle?" he grinned.

"Hell yes, I do. I'd just like to know how you could do the math in your head—even I couldn't do that. So, what did you figure out?"

"Who said anything about math?" Aiden chuckled.

"Huh? Astrogation is more math than anything else."

"It's not even about astrogation."

"You're making no sense at all."

Connor looked at his boyfriend. He was as perplexed about Aiden's direction as Kyle was.

"It's about the bending of light. If your math is right, and your star charts are right, and everything figures out the way it's supposed to, then the problem has to be with what you're seeing."

Kyle cut him off. "But…," but Aiden held up his right hand to stop him.

"The way I see it, this is about tactics, not astrogation. Let's say you're an advanced alien civilization and you want to stay hidden from other civilizations. You can't just disappear in space, but you could camouflage yourself. Set out giant reflectors, or some kind of electronic mechanisms to bend the light of the stars and planets so that anybody looking from a long way off sees everything different than it really is."

"So, the math isn't wrong?"

"Not if I'm right it isn't. Of course, I could be wrong. But, I kept thinking that I might know the answer, and when I started thinking tactically instead of mathematically, this is the solution I came up with. After all, tactics is what I know best. You astrogators never thought about looking at something differently than as astrogators."

Connor gave Aiden a kiss on the cheek. "Babe, that is one hell of a solution," he said. "Only somebody super smart and who knows his stuff could come up with that."

"Tactics," Kyle muttered. "Damn, I'm going to have to sit down with my charts and pictures and work this out. "Tactics," he muttered again. "Amazing, just simply, awesomely amazing." It was at that moment Kyle realized what amazing friends he had sitting across the aisle from him. The cauldron of emotions stirred up by his father's visit calmed as he looked at Aiden and Connor.

Ever since his father had kicked Danny Harper out of his life, Kyle had used his so-called friends for tactical reasons. He made friends with Wade Bailey to hang with an older boy who might give him something, even if he wasn't sure what that might be and Wade was probably taking advantage of him. He was friends with Derrick Lewis because Derrick was his roommate and he needed to work with him to survive and Derrick felt the same way. Even John Luke was a tactical friend—he and his Assistant Chief needed to bond in order to have the solid relationship needed to do their jobs. While these weren't his exact thoughts, they did describe the way he felt.

But, Aiden and Connor had asked nothing from him. He had sometimes wondered if the gifts he gave them for their birthdays had been to win their friendship. But now, sitting on a shuttle far above the Earth that was drifting to its rendezvous with his new home, he knew in his soul that Aiden and Connor could not be purchased by mere things. He knew that the two of them were bigger than that—all they wanted was to be his friend.

He looked across the aisle and saw the two holding hands. Earlier today that would have made him feel pangs of envy and jealousy. But now, their love gave him happiness, because it was love between two friends. This relationship between them was about love, not tactics.

Aiden noticed Kyle staring at him and Connor. The boy whose face so often looked sullen and aloof, looked relaxed. Aiden felt a surge of love for the boy across the aisle. It was a different kind of love than he had ever felt before.

It was not the kind of love he felt for Connor. It must be the kind of love a person felt for a best friend who wasn't a lover. He wondered if this what one brother felt for another, then decided it didn't matter. Aiden knew tactics—it was a big reason he was looking at the Sooloo's profile growing in his window as the shuttle approached it.

But tactics had nothing to do with the heart. Kyle was now in his heart, as well as in Connor's. If he sensed Kyle properly, he knew he and Connor were now in Kyle's heart as well.

What had won Aiden over was very simple. Kyle could have laughed at him and told him his camouflage theory was a pile of shit. But, he didn't do that. Instead, he accepted it and saw it as a theory for him to test. 'In other words,' Aiden thought, 'Kyle buried his pride and ego, and took me seriously.'

The shadow of the starship darkened the cabin as the shuttle inched into the shuttle bay. Connor knew that Kyle was a senior officer, and yet there he was, sitting in his seat on a space shuttle, looking vulnerable as he stroked a small stuffed penguin.

Aiden and Connor knew that between Earth and the Sooloo they had made a new friend—a real friend.

Kyle knew that during the happenings of the day from his father's visit to Aiden's bending light theory, he had made two very special friends—friends who were real and full of love. Kyle gave Megrez a quick rub between his beak and his green scarf as the artificial gravity of the Sooloo took hold.

And as the shuttle bay door closed and the shuttle was secured, all three boys knew they were home.



End Notes:

This work is a collaboration of 3 authors. We will be posting chapters of this story as we are able. When commenting, please cc all three authors. Authors of Voyagers