The artifact had a holographic message from Kairu. The artifact was to be a present to Megrez, to create his first child (planet).
School had been going on for a week. Tomo and Juro were put in charge of the holodeck for recess. They discussed with the younger boys what would be wanted, and the younger boys pushed for a pool to skinny-dip. Tomo and Juro weren't sure there would be time, so they tested it. Steve and Brad broke in the classroom, sex-wise.
Juro was tested to be certified for solo watches on the Bridge; though he did fail the first time, he eventually passed. He and Tomo discussed wanting to marry once they are old enough.
Earth received Dave's report shortly after Dave filed it, now they want to know how.
Will Crusoe and John Luke started forming a relationship… How far will it go?
Dave watched as Big Bubba hovered at the edge of one of the clouds of stellar material that had been designated by Megrez. It took about fifteen minutes until the bubba shot back toward the Sooloo. Dave looked at the timer, they had fifty-nine minutes remaining.
Once Big Bubba had returned to the Sooloo, John Luke, who had been manning the Astrogation station during Kyle's absence, received a call from Kyle. "Bible, execute Megrez Escape Program 1. NOW! John, NOW!"
Dave heard the message and announced to the ship, "Prepare for extreme velocity. All hands brace yourself."
The program had been developed over the previous twelve hours to account for the latest data on the surrounding space. Dave had been well aware of its parameters. It would see the Sooloo jumping from a dead stop to maximum hyperflight speed instantly instead of gradually increasing speed, since they weren't absolutely sure how far they had to be away from the artifact when it activated.
The viewscreen was split, one half trained forward, and the other half trained on the location where the artifact had been deployed with magnification increasing automatically until it was at maximum. As the ship hurled away from it, the artifact began appearing smaller.
Kyle returned to the bridge with the rest of his team. He relieved John Luke at Astrogation. Lars took a seat on his Dad's lap when his talisman, the necklace Hal had given him, started to glow. In a voice not his own, Lars said, "It has begun. I cannot express my gratitude to you all for helping with the birth of my family. We will talk again once it is done."
Lars slumped back against his father's chest.
For what seemed an eternity, they hurled away from the artifact. Dave called out that there was one minute until activation. On the bridge every eye was focused on the viewscreen. The next thing anyone knew, there was a bright white flash that momentarily knocked out the viewer, but when it returned, they could see the stellar mass of the cloud seemingly pulling into itself.
"Sir! I read a shockwave approaching. Estimated impact in 20 seconds." Juro, who had taken the station from his father, called out. Aiden was standing behind him and confirmed his estimate to Dave.
Dave called out, "All hands… brace for impact!"
A few seconds later the ship shook violently, the main lighting throughout the ship went out; the engines went offline. To everyone aboard it felt like the devastating 10.8 earthquake of 2030 along the San Andreas fault multiplied by 100.
After the initial shockwave, the Sooloo was being pulled back toward the newly forming planet. With no engines, Kyle called out, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…"
Dave was not a religious man, but he found himself praying for the safety of his family, and crew… and for the new planet that was being born.
Danny sat at the viewing window of the lower shuttle bay, the one in the belly of the Sooloo. Between the two Bubbas, he could see his fighter, the Endou. Although he understood it belonged to the Sooloo and its crew, he thought of it as his fighter. He was the one who flew into battle with Meagear Endou, the man he named the new fighter after, who piloted a Draconian fighter against mighty Lizon fighters, who twisted that fighter and turned it and flipped it and looped it. And now, sitting in front of him was a sparkling brand-new fighter waiting to bond with him, to let him fly it and twist it and turn it and loop it and make it truly his own.
He took a deep breath as he remembered those same battles he had won against the Lizons, they almost defeated him as well. But they didn't defeat him… they didn't defeat him because he had people who loved him, respected him and reminded him of who he was; Hal, Meagear Endou and the amazing boy who, in the whirlwind that was Draconia, became his husband, they all showed him that he was a winner.
The fighter that looked glistening in the light of the shuttle bay would become as much a part of him as those who had shown their faith in him. Once they bonded, no matter who flew it, joining would never change. And in the main shuttle bay a few decks above him, the Raphael was sitting quietly at rest; it was already a part of him. The Raphael was the school that changed him from a damned good shuttle pilot to a warrior pilot who left an impression on a great warrior. It was a machine bonded to a boy as much as Danny was a boy bonded to a machine.
The Raphael had been flown by the other shuttle pilots, even after the escape from Azazel, the rogue star, but the special link between him and the Raphael remained and would never fade. The same was going to be true of the new Endou.
At one point he had thought his sudden fear of piloting was the low point of his life, but it wasn't. The low point of his life began when Kyle's father kicked him out of the Robinson's house after discovering him and Kyle naked in bed together. The low point was when he sat naked in the front yard, bawling like a little baby, not wanting to get up and move, but knowing he had to dress himself and leave the best friend any boy could ever have.
That was his low point because there was nobody to offer him a hand, pull him up to his feet, and help him put his clothes on. There were no family or friends to lift him back to his feet as there had been after he was overcome by a senseless fear. And Kyle. Kyle couldn't be there for him when he was helpless in his friend's front yard because Kyle was in the house as helpless as he was.
And yet, two years later, Kyle's father, the same man who tossed him out of Kyle's house, made sure Danny would be on the same starship as the boy he loved and who would become his husband. And with Kyle's loop they were not only husband and husband, but they were also piloting brothers.
Except for those lows, Danny Harper was almost always a happy, carefree boy. Sitting on a chair in a state of quiet meditation while looking at a spacecraft he undoubtedly loved was not what Danny Harper would normally do. While the thoughts in his head weren't exact, they caught the essence of what he felt. That morning he, Danny Harper, couldn't help but reflect on how blessed he was.
Jace was sitting at the IS/Engineering Station when those from the shuttle returned to the Bridge. Jace stood up and let Tomo have his seat. When the shockwave hit the ship, Tomo remained in the seat, but Jace was tossed around.
He picked himself up and started checking on the boys on the bridge. He saw Aiden checking on Juro. "Tomo, are you alright?" Tomo was the last one Jace checked on. He was glad that no one was hurt. As the ship began being pulled back toward the new planet, Jace thought about his family on Earth. He really wants to introduce his sons to their grandparents, his parents, especially Jason to his dad. Then Jace looked over at Jordan sitting at the Ops Station; he was searching through the damage reports for the ship. Jace thought about when they first met. Jordan was wearing only a towel and Jace was immediately attracted.
Jace noticed that Tomo was also looking through the Engineering reports. As he watched Tomo, Jason started hugging on Jace's left side, crying. Jonas was hugging his right side. Jace instinctively put both his arms around them as best he could. Jace was scared and his mind wandered through many thoughts. He remembered reading of a similar incident in the Draconian History course, but at this moment, his nearly eidetic memory was failing him. He looked at Juro and thought hard, 'Draconian History, do you remember what we read?'
Scott Trevor was sitting in the Tactical/Security Office monitoring the situation when Dave called out, "… brace for impact!" Then when Scott felt the engines stop, he started thinking about his life. The first fourteen years were really good years. He was a normal boy.
When his voice cracked for the first time, his older brother approached him and asked if he wanted to try some sexual stuff. Scott was quick to agree. They didn’t do anything hard core, but mainly mutual jacking off, and blow jobs at least once a week. Scott asked about kissing and Robert pressed his lips to Scott's. It felt weird when Robert's tongue went into his mouth, but Scott figured that was normal. Robert was sixteen, so he never fucked his younger brother, he was afraid he would hurt him. He did finger Scott's ass hole with two fingers coated with lube. Scott really enjoyed that. No one knew that Robert was gay except Scott.
A month before Scott turned fourteen, he was approached by a recruiter about joining an experimental program for boys. He was told that there would be three thousand boys in the program and half would go into space. The recruiter warned, "Most of the boys will be gay."
"I don't care, I'm gay," Scott blurted out.
His dad looked surprised, "Are you sure? I mean, if you are, it doesn't matter as long as you are happy, but are you sure?"
"Yeah Dad, I am," Scott watched his father for a response.
"Then I hope you find someone who will treat you with respect. And if you adopt, I hope to meet my grandchild. Never forget, you are my son and I love you."
Robert found courage from Scott's coming out, "I'm gay too, Dad."
"Well you heard what I told Scott. The same applies to you. Now I'm going to tell both of you, don't let anyone talk you into doing something you aren't ready for; and don't force anyone into doing anything they aren't ready for."
Scott declared, "I'll remember that."
Then on Scott's fourteenth birthday, his uncle, his mom's brother, spent the night. Scott remembered that night too well.
During his time at the Academy, several boys approached him, but Scott felt too ashamed to date anyone. He felt as though he were tainted. Then Dave Bowman interviewed him. He seemed impressed with Scott and said that he wanted him aboard the Sooloo, but not as the Chief of Security and Tactical. No, Scott really excelled at Tactical, so Dave asked him if he would be the Assistant Chief of Tactical. Scott felt like all his hard work had paid off. He confided in Dave about what happened, but Dave already knew. It was in Scott's file.
During their time with the Endurance, Scott met Ensign Łukasz Kuc. He felt a strong attraction to him but didn't say anything. What good would it do to fall in love with someone on another ship. Scott rarely prayed, but every night during that time, he would pray, "God, I know I shouldn't be asking, but can you find a way to get Ensign Kuc on the Sooloo? I don't mean just to visit, I want to date him." Then when Łukasz transferred to the Sooloo, Scott looked up and said, "Thank you."
Łukasz had been so patient with Scott, so loving. True to his word, Łuke let Scott set the pace when they did stuff. Scott definitely loved Łuke and he knew Łuke loved him. They were ready to get married and just needed to ask the Captain.
As the ship was pulled back toward the planet, Hal started thinking. He stood there with his arms around Dave who was holding their son, Lars. In his mind's eye he was taken back through his life... before meeting Dave, his life seemed so ordinary, so empty... but in the time since, he has grown both physically and mentally.
He came to realize that Dave completed him... made him better... either one of them were great people, but together they became greater than the sum of their parts... he wondered why that was.
Getting to know Dave was easy... well, for him at least. Dave had a lot he was going through, and it made Hal feel good to be able to help his friend. Knowing Dave helped him, too. He had been struggling with his sexuality, trying to fit in a mold that he felt others wanted him to fit into, but that didn't feel right to him. When he was with Dave, he felt right.
In his mind, Hal recalled when he finally got up the courage to tell his mother how he felt; her reaction was far from what he expected. He expected her to rant and rave that he'd never provide her with a grandchild... instead she was caring of his feelings and accepted him for who he was.
His mind was now brought back to their current situation, Dave, holding their son... his mother's grandchild, the one she felt she'd never get. At that moment, he knew he and Dave and Lars, along with everyone else would be fine.
He wrapped his arms around his family, kissed Lars on top of his head over his husband's shoulder and laid his head on Dave's, nuzzling his neck. He whispered, "I love you, Baby."
After the shuttle landed in its bay, most of those aboard headed for the Bridge. Kyle took over his station at Astrogation. Aiden had Juro take the Tactical Station. Tomo thought about standing at the Science Station, but then his back would have been to the view screen, and he wanted to watch what happened. Jace called him over, "You can sit here, Tomo. You can see what's happening on the view screen while monitoring Engineering."
Tomo took the seat. Shortly after, Juro announced the oncoming shockwave, then the ship shook. Tomo felt sorry for Jace being thrown around but he was also thankful that he was in the seat and wasn't thrown. As the ship shook, the power blinked out until auxiliary power kicked in.
With the ship being pulled to imminent danger, Tomo thought back to the day almost five years ago when his parents were killed. They were having a picnic at Niedhousen Sea, but then Eiji, Tomo's twin brother, wanted to go swimming. He seemed to disappear shortly after he went into the water, so their mom and dad went in to look for him. That was when Tomo saw the creature. It looked almost ethereal in appearance and grabbed his dad. Raising Taksou high in the air, the creature bit him in half, then grabbed his mom before Yokou could get out of the water.
Tomo was in a state of shock, frozen for what seemed an eternity. It wasn't until Hanabusa Erikku found him that he even moved. Erikku asked him, "Why are you out here alone? Where are your parents?"
Barely able to speak, Tomo pointed out to the water and said, "Mommy and Daddy…" Erikku looked and found the body parts. The scene was sickening. He called on his comm and told some guards to gather as much of the body parts as they could. It was late, and the orphanage would be locked for the night, so Erikku took Tomo to his home. Tomo slept in Juro's bed for the night.
Juro had been nice to him from the moment they met. Even after he went to the orphanage, Juro and eventually Prince Zifaa would come several times a week to play with him.
Five years, Tomo had known Juro. Five years, Juro had treated Tomo like a prince. The thought of Juro brought nothing but smiles and happy thoughts to Tomo.
With the ship being pulled back toward the newly forming planet, Juro thought back over the last few days. He recalled him and Tomo researching the artifact in the files uploaded with Darastixian History. With all that Megrez has meant to the Darastixian people, they wanted to give him the gift of a planet, a family, his first child. The artifact was meant to do that. Juro thought about when he and Tomo approached Captain Dave with their research discovery and explained how the artifact worked. Juro felt proud to be a part of activating the device to do that; if it meant they gave their lives to do so, it would be an honorable death, but if there was anything he could do to prevent that, he wanted to live.
Finally, Juro reflected on his love for Tomo and how much they enjoyed each other's company. It didn't matter if they were having sex, working in Engineering together, just talking or playing on the holodeck; when they were together, they had fun.
Engineering… Juro started thinking, "Captain, if I am correct, it will take Opsola about thirty minutes to restart the engines. We will be hitting the new planet in twenty-nine minutes. Darastixian History told us, the Kaisokusen had a similar incident, only, it was falling into our star, Draconis. King Zedrick was a prince back then and Commander of the Kaisokusen. He took over the Helm's seat and turned the ship toward the star. The ship gained speed, but that made it easier to maneuver, and at the last second, King Zedrick pulled up. Using the momentum built up, they started heading away from the star and by the time the gravity started pulling the ship back, they were able to start the engines again."
"Kyle, can you turn the ship toward the planet?" Dave inquired.
"We don't have thrusters or anything, Sir. I can't do anything without at least thrusters."
Juro added, "I believe Tomo and I might be of better use in Engineering. We might be able to help start the engines faster."
"Both of you, head there immediately," Dave ordered.
Before leaving, Tomo hit a few buttons at the IS/Engineering Station. "Try your thrusters, now."
Kyle smiled, "They are working, but how?"
"Thrusters can work without the engines. They went offline with the engines, but I ran them through auxiliary power," Tomo explained. Tomo left for Engineering and Jace took his seat.
Connor was busy at work when Juro and Tomo entered, "Opsola, what can Tomo and I do to assist?"
"Juro, you stay here and monitor the engines. When this light turns green, tap here," Connor explained as he pointed to the display. "You will be the one who is starting the engines, so this is a very important job. Tomo, come with me."
Juro watched the light. It was red for a very long time but finally turned yellow. Juro wondered what would happen if he tapped the "start" then, but he didn't do it. He was told to wait for green.
Connor and Tomo were checking various consoles, making sure everything was ready.
As the ship sped toward the new planet, Aiden called out, "Hull temperature is now 3033° Kelvin ("‪ 3033° Kelvin is 2759.85°C or 4999.73°F. "). If we still had the alumitanium hull plates, they would have melted already. Heck, if we had diamond plating, it would be starting to melt."
Dave called to engineering, "How soon until we have our engines back on line?"
"About ten minutes, Sir," Connor replied.
Dave shook his head, "We may not have ten minutes. I'm not sure what the melting point is for our hull plates, but I bet we're almost there."
At the last possible minute, Kyle, using just the speed from being pulled toward the planet, pulled the ship up and turned away from the planet. Kyle thought, 'Danny did that maneuver with a shuttle, I just did it with the whole ship. I'm glad he showed me how to do it.'
"Hull temperature is cooling down as our speed is decreasing. I estimate, if Connor doesn't get the engines back online in ten minutes, we will start being pulled again." Aiden no sooner said that and Jace reported that the engines were back online.
Dave sighed in relief, then looked at Kyle, "That was some fancy flying, and without engines. Great job."
Randy Kohl reported, "Sir, the new planet had no atmosphere at first, but now it is becoming like Earth's. And I detect foliage growing, but no other life forms."
"Megrez is doing that. He knows that we will want to explore the new planet, so he is making it possible," Kyle stated with an ear-to-ear smile.
Dave called to the galley, "Logan, I know you and Randy were planning a party for Mark Wallace and Whit Olsen tomorrow. Is it possible to have the party today, and down on the planet? Today is Mark's birthday, and the birth of a new planet, Plus, after what we've just been through, I believe a party will help boost morale."
"Everything is ready, Sir," Logan reported, "We can have it whenever you like."
After Dave closed the comm, he asked Kyle, "So, what does Megrez wish to name his new planet?"
"He is thinking about naming it Kairu, in honor of King Kairu, since he is the one who initially set out to create the new planet. And he said it would also honor me since I had been so trusting of him."
"I think that is a perfect name for his new child. I wish I could speak to him and simply let him know how grateful I am."
Lars spoke up, "While you may not be able to hear him, Megrez can hear you and he appreciates you trusting Unka Kyle. When you really need to hear what he says, he can speak to you through Unka Kyle or me."
Dave smiled, "I can accept that."
Danny smiled as he felt Kyle doing a loop with the Sooloo… of how proud his husband had to be, pulling off the maneuver with a ship that shouldn't have been capable of doing it and doing it with the ship's propulsion system shutdown, with just the inertia of what must have felt like a giant vessel. He was so proud of Kyle and what he was doing, and how he was a part of it simply by showing "his love" what could be done even when you had your doubts.
Logan, Randy and Ben were busy setting up for the birthday party. Dave told all Division Chiefs to make sure everyone had a turn down on the planet, and that Mark Wallace and Whit Olson were to be planet-side during the entire party.
Since everyone would spend some time on the planet, Logan and Randy prepared the evening meal for the party. The Galley on the ship still had food for those who chose not to eat planet-side, but it was a light version of what was on the planet.
After the first group ate, Ben Maxwell brought out a cake that he decorated for Mark Wallace and Whit Olson. With Whit's birthday on Halloween and Mark's being the day before, Ben decorated the cake with a Halloween theme. He even had the Sooloo carving a pumpkin with its laser. Once Ben placed enough candles on the cake, everyone sang Happy Birthday to the two, then cake was served.
While at the party, Scott Trevor and Łukasz Kuc approached Captain Bowman, "Sir, Luke and I have become very close, and we would like for you to marry us in the presence of Megrez. We know it has to be aboard the ship, but we think this planet would make an awesome site for a wedding."
"If there was a local government, they could grant me permission to marry you down here, but since there is none… the closest we have to an authority here is Megrez, himself."
"If Megrez would permit it, that would be cool, but if it must be aboard the ship, Scott and I want to get married. And then, with your permission, when we return the artifact to Draconia... Scott and I are very impressed with the older Draconian boys. Koji is cool, but we don't deal with him as much as the older boys."
"I understand what you are saying, and if Zedrick will allow another boy to leave his planet, you have my permission."
Kyle was nearby, "Megrez says that you have permission."
The boys were sitting together eating some of the birthday cake when Tomo asked, "What were all the designs on the cake? There was a green lady…"
"Those are Halloween decorations," Jonas interrupted. "The green lady is a witch, then there are bats and ghosts, pumpkins and tombstones."
"What's Halloween?" Juro inquired.
Jason and Jonas were excited as they talked about Halloween, carving pumpkins, dressing up in costumes, and trick-or-treating. Lars spoke up, "We had a similar holiday on my home planet, but we called it Alfablót, or 'Sacrifice of the Elves.' Grandpa told me that it was a Scandinavian holiday on Earth. Instead of pumpkins, we carved turnips. Then the adults would hide candy and the children dressed in costumes to look for it. Later, this became going door-to-door and saying, 'knask eller knep' which means the same as 'trick-or-treat.' We didn't have any bats or witches, though."
"That sounds like fun," Koji got excited.
"We should talk to our parents about letting us go," Juro commented, "you said Halloween is tomorrow?"
Jason nodded his head. "Lars, ask your dad if we can do this," Tomo requested. "Juro and I will talk to Ali, Jace and Kyle about carving pumpkins during recess."
"We're supposed to swim, tomorrow," Koji pouted, "it's Friday, swim day."
Juro asked Koji, "You're right, it is, but can't we carve pumpkins just this one time? I'll see if we can't get an extra swim day next week."
Reluctantly Koji agreed, "Okay."
Dave looked around the bridge, while it wasn't customary to have all his officers that were dads on the bridge at the same time, Dave asked that they all be there. Even though Ali wasn't a dad, Dave invited him to this informal meeting. Since some of them had watch on the Bridge, Dave felt like it was a good place to hold it. "Jason and Jonas informed the other boys about Halloween and they had expressed an interest in carving pumpkins, dressing in costumes and Trick-or-Treating. Now, the boys don't NEED an escort, but if any one of you WANT to go out with them…"
Kyle looked to see if Dave was going to say any more before he spoke up. It seemed that Dave was looking directly at him. "I'll take charge of this parade," Kyle offered.
"Good, I understand that Randy Jenkins and Ernie Marquez will be making treats to pass out. Then at 2200 hours, I believe we will be having a costume party for the crew. Unless you are on watch, you are dismissed."
"Well, what do you think?" Kyle asked Steve Boyer. They were sitting in Steve's little office where he spent almost all his working time as the ship's administrator.
"It's doable," Steve replied. He was obviously stressed out by his added duties, fun as they were. "I just wished all of these costume ideas had been given to me with a bit more lead time. Okay, make that A LOT more lead time. The replicator has been working at capacity for most of the day and it's straining to keep up with that. I have to say Tomo and Juro have worked miracles to keep the thing from shutting down."
"It's not like… the whole crew needs costumes," Kyle pointed out. "They're just for the kids."
"And for certain officers who think they're still kids."
"Hey, Danny and I aren't teens yet, you know. Besides, except for Danny and me, since we're leading the parade, the kids got top priority."
"As they should. Look, most of the things produced by the replicator come from templates. It's easy as can be. But the costumes are custom made and that works the poor machine to death." Steve turned in his chair, opened the door of the metal cabinet behind him, and pulled out an orange and black striped costume. "Say hello to Tigger, from the ancient Pooh books. This thing was a pain in the ass to replicate, but I'm going to be bouncing around this ship collecting goodies."
"Is that yours?"
"Duh. I might be fourteen, but everybody knows I love thinking like I'm twelve. No offense to you, of course."
"None taken. I thought the kids got priority."
Steve turned back to his desk. "Dude, you forget who you're talking to. I might be twelve on the holodeck or in bed, but I'm the master at my job. I can read a calendar with the best of them. I replicated this over a month ago."
"Okay, so what about my idea?" Kyle was eager to get to his quarters. Working double watches the past few days had worn him down, as it had everyone on the crew.
"Did Danny approve of this?" Steve's sinister smile said that he already knew the answer.
"Of course not, but he will. Screamer indeed."
"Revenge is sweet. The replicator has two more costumes in the queue, including Koji's, and we're done. Well, except for procrastinators like you."
"My nap couldn't wait. Is there any way these could be put at the front of the line?"
"I can push a few buttons and put these at the head of the line, but not because you're some hotshot senior officer."
"Okay, then what would the reason be?"
"The reason would be bribery."
Since nobody can be bribed by credits, as no one carries any aboard ship, Kyle knew what Steve was going to ask for, but he asked anyway. "I'm supposed to bribe you with what?"
"That beautiful mouth of course. I get a blow job while sitting in the co-pilot's seat of a shuttle within the next week. And if I don't get it, there will be a penalty."
"What kind of penalty?"
"One that Danny will approve of once he sees the costume you're having made for him."
Once again Kyle knew what Steve was suggesting. "No way he would approve of that. But, no worries, I'll have you taken care of in plenty of time."
"Then don't be late. Oh, just to keep your perpetually worrying mind from worrying, if it turns out you miss the deadline because the delay is my fault or because of a ship's emergency, then the countdown starts over. Now, get out of my office, SIR, because I have work to do."
Ali Bakabazi was in the classroom as the boys filed in. Once they were in their seats, he told them, "Due to a wedding today, we will be letting class out early. This means, there will be no recess today."
"Well, there go our plans," Juro sounded disappointed.
"Also, instead of class, we are going to the holodeck, where you will carve out pumpkins and play Halloween games. Steve Boyer is setting the holodeck up like an American town with several pumpkins. Each of you will get to carve a pumpkin, and then later this evening, you will be able to trick or treat."
Tomo was excited, "That works. It's not exactly what we planned, but it's close enough, maybe even better."
"Yeah," Juro perked up.
The boys walked from the classroom to the holodeck. Once they were there, Kyle and Jace joined Ali to help the boys pick out good pumpkins. Steve handed Kyle a large tote bag, then excused himself, "I wish I could carve pumpkins with you, but I need to set up for a wedding."
Ali demonstrated to the boys how to carve them. "When you carve a pumpkin, you want to open the top first, then clean out the inside. Then pick a sturdy spot to carve. Use small controlled movements, and NEVER put your hand inside the pumpkin while carving. Above all else, don't rush."
Jace was really impressed with Tomo's pumpkin, "That looks really nice."
"This image represents what Megrez supposedly looked like when he visited King Kairu on Darastix," Tomo explained.
Kyle came over to look, "That DOES look very good. It's not a penguin, but then King Zedrick did say he took on the form of a dragon. Did you draw that free hand?"
"I just cut it, I didn't even draw the image ahead of time," Tomo felt proud.
"Wow, you are good."
"Yeah, you should see when Tomo does draw," Juro proclaimed. "Mine isn't as good."
Jace looked at Juro's, "I don't know, that looks really good to me. I'm sure it wasn't easy getting that one part to stay."
"It wasn't that hard, you just don't go all the way through except where you want the light to show," Juro explained.
"Look at mine, Daddy," Koji exclaimed.
Kyle looked and simply replied, "Yup, that definitely looks like you made it. It looks like you even started carving your name in it."
Jason and Jonas worked together to carve their pumpkin. They wanted to do the more traditional face. Jonas scooped out the insides, then with Jace supervising, Jason carved the eyes and nose. Jonas carved a wicked looking mouth.
"He looks mean," Ali commented.
Jason nodded while Jonas said, "Yup, and if you don't keep an eye out, he'll steal your candy."
"He better stay away from my canny," Koji scowled.
Lars was looking at the pumpkins; most were orange, but he also saw some red pumpkins, some were white and some were blue. They were the various shades of Earth's pumpkins. While the other boys went with orange pumpkins, Lars decided to grab a white one. At first, he didn't know what he was going to make out of it, but then he remembered reading about the snow owl in school. This pumpkin would be perfect for that. Lars took his time and carved carefully to get the desired look. When he was done, he wished that Hal or Dave were there to see it. Ali walked up to him and said, "Wow, that is a really good owl, Lars. I can't wait to show it to your dads. I never even considered carving a white pumpkin."
Lars beamed with pride as everyone commented on how good his owl was. Even Tomo said that he thought it was the best.
Kairu ~ 1200
Dave was standing in a beautiful meadow with colorful wildflowers beside a romantic waterfall. Before the ceremony began, Dave announced, "The pumpkins adorning the aisle were carved by our children. After the ceremony, they will be on display in the Officer's Mess, where you can vote on them. The categories will be 'Best Looking,' 'Most Unique' and 'Most Traditional.'" After Dave's announcement, Scott Trevor walked up to him, then turned to watch as Łukasz Kuc approached. Once Łukasz was with them, Juro and Tomo walked down the aisle. Juro stood beside Scott and Tomo stood beside Łukasz. Dave announced, "First I want to thank Megrez for allowing me to perform the first wedding on this new planet. Since the days of the first ships, Captains have enjoyed the joining of two people together in the bonds of holy matrimony. There is no greater joy for a Captain than to unite members of his crew. Today, before God, Megrez and their friends, I have the privilege of presiding over the bonding of Scott Trevor and Łukasz Kuc. Normally this would need to be done aboard my ship, but as I stated, Megrez has granted me special permission. Scott and Trevor have written their own vows; Scott, would you like to go first?"
"Luke, when we first encountered the Endurance, I felt attracted to you. I tried to push down those emotions because you were serving aboard another ship. But then you transferred over to the Sooloo. I didn't just happen to come to your table; I wanted to be with you, to see if we could be more than just crew mates. Then I shared with you something that few people aboard the ship even know about, only Dave and maybe Hal, but I felt I could trust you and I wanted to let you know." Several crewmembers looked at each other, wondering what Scott's secret was.
Scott continued, "I love you more and more each day, and I feel that love being returned. I promise that I will always love you and make each day as special as I can."
When Scott finished speaking, Dave whispered, "You know, many people here may ask about what your secret is, don't you?" Scott nodded his head with a thinly disguised smile. As Scott regretted mentioning his secret, Dave looked at Łukasz, "Luke?"
"Scott, when I saw you enter the officers' mess, I was hoping you would sit with me. I thought regulations would prevent us from getting together, but I still hoped. When you approached me, you made all my dreams come true. I vow that I will love you always and try to make all your dreams come true. I love you so much."
"Scott James Trevor, do you take Łukasz Matthew Kuc to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward?"
"Łukasz Matthew Kuc, do you take Scott James Trevor to be your lawfully wedded husband to have and to hold from this day forward?"
"Then by the power vested in me by Megrez, I pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss your mate." As Scott and Łukasz kissed, Dave announced, "I'd like to introduce Mr. Scott Trevor and Mr. Łukasz Kuc."
Łukasz looked at Dave, "I'd like to take Scott's last name."
"Okay. Mr. Scott and Mr. Łukasz Trevor."
John Luke whispered to Will Crusoe, "That may be us someday." Will responded with a smile.
"What the fuck is this?" Danny asked as Kyle pulled his costume out of the large tote bag.
"It's your Halloween costume, Amelia," Kyle replied.
"I thought I ordered a pirate costume. No way I'm going to dress as a woman."
"Think again. Try it on."
"No buts. Try it on or I'll scream."
"Fuuuck." Danny stripped then picked one of the three costumes that were spread out on the bed.
"That's my costume," Kyle pointed. "Be good now."
"But this thing has boobs," Danny groused as he pulled on the blouse.
"Yeah, and you know how much you love it when I suck on your flat little things." Kyle squeezed one of the foam breasts. "Think how it would feel if these were really yours. That should give you a boner."
"Look, the whole screaming thing was a joke."
"I know that, and now you get to pay for it by putting up with my joke for a night, which you must admit, is a lot less time than I had to live with yours."
"Well, if you didn't scream…"
"Put the wig and the hat on." Kyle was now stripped down to his underpants. He started donning his costume as Danny placed the wig and hat combination on his head. The hat was an ancient style leather aviation hat. He looked in the mirror and sighed. He truly did NOT look good with big boobs.
He saw that Kyle was now dressed in a similar outfit. But, his didn't have boobs or bloomers and he just had a leather hat and aviation goggles on his head.
"Okay, I'm Amelia Earhart, but who the fuck are you?"
"Sweetheart, I just happen to be your navigator, Fred Noonan" Kyle laughed.
The boys stripped off their costumes and underwear and tossed it all on the bed. They walked out into the family room and sat on the small couch. Kyle placed his arm around his husband's slim but well-toned shoulder. He placed his lips on Danny's and gave him a gentle kiss.
"I hope you're not mad at me," Kyle whispered.
"Not any madder than you were about the screaming business. Since I can't be a pirate, I guess I can be a mystery woman for Halloween night. My costume is sure to give somebody nightmares, and it will probably be me."
"Mystery woman? You mean the mystery of the long-lost woman pilot?"
"Yeah, her." Danny leaned into Kyle and returned his kiss. Both boys were now sporting rock-hard teen erections. The kissing became more frantic as the boys grabbed each other's erections and rubbed and stroked each other.
"Oh, man, I love you Danny," Kyle breathed. "I bribed Steve to get our costumes early. I need to show you what I'm paying him."
"What does that have to do with what we're…," Kyle clamped his lips around Danny's erection, "…oh…yeah, I get it."
Kyle moved to the floor and knelt before the husband he worshipped, keeping his prize in his mouth the entire time and went back to work on Danny's hard, hairless little shaft…, jerking off while he sucked. "Oh, dude, I'm gonna cum," Danny panted. Kyle's hand was flying as he shot his light load onto Danny's right thigh at the same time he brought Danny to an orgasm. And that was the situation when Koji and Lars barged into the quarters.
Koji and Lars looked at each other with wide, knowing grins. "We do that, too," Koji said, and Lars nodded his head.
"What the fu…," Kyle dropped Danny's cock from his mouth, rivulets of clear cum dripped down his chin.
"What are you guys doing here?" Danny asked as if Koji didn't live there.
"I live here," Koji said, reminding Danny of that fact. "Koji did nothing wrong." Stress sent Koji from first to third person.
Kyle was wiping his mouth with one hand while he was trying to hide his rapidly deflating boner with his other hand. At the same time Danny was wiping off his leg with his hand. "You're right, you did nothing wrong Koji. Daddy Danny and I did by doing sex here in the family room."
"We do that," Lars said, repeating what Koji had revealed.
"We don't do what the others were doing."
By others, Danny and Kyle assumed he meant Steve and Brad. While they weren't having sex when they were caught naked in the classroom, it was correctly assumed by everyone that is what had happened earlier.
"Koji and I won't tell anybody," Lars said. "We were told not to tell, and we won't."
"Like Lars said, we won't tell. It is very private."
Kyle stood up. "You are both good boys. What you saw is what people who love each other do, but usually in private. We didn't think you would be coming home until later."
"I came for my costume," Koji said as he bounced back to first person. "But I wish to be a nudist."
"Koji, we already settled that issue."
"Please? We will be only on the holodeck where we swim naked, so I can trick-or-treat naked."
"Koji, no is no and nothing else," Kyle said sternly.
"Yes, it is no. Unka Steve said my costume is here."
"It is?" He looked over at Danny.
"Yes, it is. I placed it on our bed. How did you miss something bright red in the middle of everything?"
"I guess I was busy looking at you," Kyle grinned. "It is on our bed Koji. You and Lars have permission to go in there to get it."
The boys retreated to the master bedroom. "Unbelievable, Koji and Lars have seen two senior officers naked during or after sex," Danny pointed out. He and Kyle did not know about the boys catching Dave and Hal in the act of doing "what the others" do, or the number of senior officers they caught would have doubled to four.
"Even worse, we're his dads," Kyle sighed.
"I don't think it will hurt them. I mean we are still boys after all."
Kyle shrugged, hoping Danny was right.
Koji and Lars came out of the room. Koji was naked, sporting a little peg of an erection, and carrying his costume while Lars was carrying Koji's clothes. "Can Koji… can I wear it on me like this?"
"Like how?" Kyle asked.
Koji pulled the costume over his head. "Like this. Nothing under." Lars handed Koji his horns, which Koji placed on his head.
"I have no problem with that. Thank you for asking." Danny nodded in agreement.
Koji grinned. "We are going to my room for me to get dressed so we can go back with my costume."
"What are you going to be, Lars?" Danny asked.
"The great god Thor," the little blond answered. Kyle wished Lars had pulled his clothes off along with Koji; his crush on Lars was still in effect.
"Sweet. I bet you will look real good wearing it."
"Just like my ancestors from Norway," Lars said proudly. He took off, following Koji into Koji's bedroom.
"If they take their time coming back out of the room, I'll bottom for you tonight."
"You're on," Kyle responded. "I wonder if either one of them is a screamer."
"If one of them is, he can have a smaller version of my costume."
Lars and his best friend Koji were in Koji's bedroom discussing Halloween. Koji was trying on his costume. He had wished to be a nudist, but his fathers had forbidden it. As Koji was fussing with his costume, Lars' mind started to reflect.
Things were so different for him now. His grandfather had told him he was destined for great things, but he never expected anything like what was happening to him. Now he had parents again... he had friends who were far better friends than the other boys on his planet.
He started thinking about some of the more 'fun' things he'd been doing... having sex with Koji topped the list. Oddly, in his mind's eye, he started imagining the thought of him and Koji doing the things that 'others' had been doing. His little spike made its presence known and this confused Lars.
He loved his new parents and knew they loved him but being the son of the Captain and First Officer put a burden on Lars that he himself didn't really grasp. He knew others looked up to him in a way, but he never put together the reason he was treated so differently was because he was the Captain's son.
As much as he loved Koji though, his mind kept drifting to another boy on the ship. Some of the times he imagined doing 'those things' with Koji, the other boy's face was what Lars looked at... he wondered if he and Jonas might do some of the things he was imagining.
Koji calling his name brought him back to reality. "Lars? What are you thinking? Does Koji... I mean do I look good?"
Lars smiled at Koji and involuntarily blushed, "You look good, Koji." He never let it be known he had been fantasizing about Jonas.
Zorn was walking through the hallways of Space Fleet on his way to a scheduled meeting with Admiral Mirah. Being Halloween, several people who passed him made comments like, "Nice Costume, Dude? Where'd you get it?" The entire concept was foreign to Zorn, he would need to ask his friend Admiral Mirah what they meant.
Zorn arrived at Mirah's office and was shown in almost immediately. He had been in this office on many occasions and Bill Mirah considered Zorn a friend. They talked about random things, including Zorn asking about the "costume" comments, until Bill brought up the events aboard the Sooloo.
"I just don't understand how we could have received their report mere minutes after they transmitted it. Are you sure the upgrades you did weren't responsible?"
"The upgrades performed by your crew, with the assistance from Aurix were all with systems which dealt with propulsion and information systems. We weren't dealing with anything structural, and I know we did not address any of the systems involved in communications."
Zorn appeared deep in thought and ventured, "You did say they went to Draconia, right? Sinocard and Draconia have dealt with each other in the past, it is from them that we were able to create near instantaneous communications for our fleet. Could they have been responsible?"
Jason and Jonas dressed and were ready to go… "C'mon Daddy, we want to go trick-or-treating," Jason begged, "and Shadow wants to go with us."
"Pappy's taking you down to the classroom and then Unka Kyle is taking you to trick-or-treat," Jordan responded. Then he called out, "Jace, what's taking you so long?"
Jace came out of their bedroom dressed like a ninja. Jordan looked at him like he was crazy. "What? I want to watch our sons go trick-or-treating."
"No, Kyle is taking them. You are just dropping them off. Then when you return, I have a special trick, or maybe it's a treat for you."
"Fine, I'll change into my regular clothes," Jace feigned disappointment. Well, maybe there was some truth to his disappointment because he DID want to watch Jason and Jonas go trick-or-treating, but with what Jordan had planned while it was just them, he was excited, too.
Jace left with Jason, Jonas and Shadow.
When the six boys were finally all gathered in the classroom at 1745, they were all in costume. Some had changed in the classroom and some in their quarters.
Because of the complexity of their costumes, Tomo and Juro dressed in Juro's bedroom. The two boys were dressed as dragons and had to do more than simply slip the costumes on. Although they had already tried the costumes on, they appreciated Aiden helping them dress.
Koji and Lars dressed in the classroom. They had spent the afternoon with the twins and came into the classroom together. As soon as they arrived, Koji stripped naked and enjoyed teasing Ali by parading around in the nude, his little pecker at full mast. Not to be outdone, Lars joined in the fun, although he didn't sprout an erection.
"I want to wear a nudist costume," Koji told Ali, carefully speaking in the proper person despite his excitement. "But Daddy Danny and Daddy Kairu say 'no I can be a devil.'"
Ali wanted badly to say, 'You do a good job of being a little devil without the costume,' but he held himself in check. Koji was the son of a senior officer, after all. Lars remained naked until Hal came into the classroom about ten minutes after the boys to help Lars with his costume.
He shook his head when he saw the boys' state of undress. "Sorry if the boys bothered you with their behavior," he told Ali.
"They were not a bother," Ali replied. "They were just having fun."
"Do you plan on wearing anything underneath your costume?" Hal asked Lars.
"Nope. I am wearing what Koji is wearing under my costume."
"Whatever. Let's get you dressed."
As Hal helped Lars into his Thor costume, Kyle and Danny showed up. They were dressed in their aviator costumes. Danny was unhappy about the razzing he took over his breast size from "Damn those are big knockers" to "You mean that's all you've got?"
"Daddies!" Koji yelled when he saw the two enter. He ran over and hugged Danny. "You're like a girl." He squeezed one of his daddy's foam breasts. "You feel nice."
"Thanks," Danny grinned. Koji seemed to find a way to make him smile just when he needed a smile. "Now, how about getting your costume on."
"Okay. I will not be a nudist and I will not have big breasts. But I will be a devil."
"Just as you always are," Kyle kidded him which made Ali break out into laughter.
That was when Jason and Jonas showed up with Jace and Shadow. The two Ninjas saw Hal helping Lars dress and noticed that Koji, who was still naked, had his costume in his hand. "Are you going to really go as a nudist?" Jonas asked Koji.
"No," Koji pouted as he pulled on his devil costume.
Hal had to battle Lars a bit to get things to fit, but when he finished the great god Thor was standing in front of him. Hal wished he had talked Lars into dressing in their quarters; the process would certainly have gone much smoother without any distractions around.
Just after Koji and Lars were dressed, Tomo and Juro came in. The two dragons growled and snarled and stomped and danced. They did everything but breath fire. The four smaller boys squealed and giggled and ran over to pet the dragons. It looked like everyone was ready to head to the holodeck and enjoy their first time as trick-or-treaters.
Kyle and Danny led the gaggle of excited, costumed boys down the corridors from the classroom to the holodeck. Many of off-duty crew members, some of them in costume, came out to watch the noisy little parade pass by. The boys waved, squealed, and laughed as the crew members shouted out their encouragement. Dave was one of the spectators, proud of his blond Norwegian god strutting happily by.
Steve Boyer and Randy Jenkins were waiting when the parade arrived at the holodeck doors. The entire holodeck would be in use to create Spooky Town and the trick-or-treating adventure. Steve was dressed in his Tigger costume while Randy was dressed as an old-time cowboy, complete with ten-gallon hat.
As the boys started filing into the holodeck, Randy handed out small plastic storage bags, with each boy getting one bag apiece. They knew what they were getting and why they were getting it.
Kyle and Danny had the six boys meet in front of them. They reminded their charges what trick-or-treating was about and how they were to walk along the street. They needed to keep together but didn't have to be close together. They were to converge on each house as a group so they could share the adventure together as friends.
Before leaving the classroom, Kyle told the boys what the system would be for determining who would ring the doorbell or knock on the door. It was a semi-random system. The order would change, but it was programmed so nobody would get their second turn until everyone had their first, and so forth.
Lars' name popped up first on the screen of Kyle's tablet and he would start at the first house. Kyle had thought about telling them to be sure to shout out trick-or-treat in unison but decided to let them figure that out for themselves. Either he or Danny would be in position to keep an overeager boy from dashing ahead. Some of the houses were programmed to respond according to what happened at one of the previous houses.
Also, the boys would be kept from retreating by Steve and Randy. After turning a corner, a block that was out of sight would change, allowing the boys to do their trick-or-treating along an entirely new street. Steve and Brad had spent the last two hours testing the complicated program. They were confident it would work perfectly. While the ideas were Steve's, the serious coding was done by Brad.
The initial reaction by the boys convinced Steve that all the work had been worthwhile. They oohed and aahed and pointed and laughed at the old looking brick houses that lined the narrow street on the first block.
"There's nothing scary here," Koji said. Just you wait, you little devil, Steve smiled to himself.
Lars walked up to the door confidently with the others right behind him. He saw that the door had a door knocker in the form of a salamander. He reached for it, thinking it would be wooden or maybe some kind of stone, but it was slimy like a real salamander.
"EEEEEK!" he screeched as he pulled his hand away. The action set the doorbell ringing.
"What happened?" Juro asked.
"It was all slimy!"
At that point the door opened, and a sweet looking old lady stood in the doorway smiling.
"Knask eller knep," Lars said, giving the Norwegian Halloween greeting.
There was a scattering of trick or treats from the boys behind him. They crowded the door holding out their open tote bags. "Look at all of the nice costumes. Dragons, and a Viking, and boys in black suits, and even a devil." The old lady placed a wrapped chocolate chip cookie in each bag.
"I am sure you are really a sweet angel," she said as she placed a cookie in Koji's bag. The boys wondered how the holographic lady knew what she saw and who she was talking to. The answer was sitting above the ceiling where Roger Duncan was seated at a control panel with monitors. He was the speaker; his voice was modified by the audio controls.
"That trick-or-treat was really lame," Tomo said as they walked to the next house. "We need to shout it out together." Everyone agreed and decided they would be loud and unified.
"It was hard to do with Lars giving his Norwegian trick-or-treat," Juno said, "but it was still cool to hear, Lars."
"I dunno, I think it stuck out like a Thor thumb," Randy Jenkins, who was following the group with Steve, said.
"Dang, you must have been hammered to think that one up," Steve added.
"You guys should be egged," Danny shouted back at them.
The next three houses were routine, with nice people handing out candy, cookies or fruit and the boys getting their trick-or-treat chorus coordinated.
"See, I told you this wasn't scary," Koji complained.
Juro was picked as the next leader. He rang the doorbell and a scowling old man answered the door. "What do you want?"
The boys responded with a surprisingly well-coordinated shout. "Trick or treat!"
"Get lost. I don't have time for nonsense. I don't need some slimy lizard and his thieving friends trying to embezzle candy from me." He slammed the door.
Juro turned around with a stunned look in his face. "Who wants to do it?"
"I think the slimy lizard should be one," Tomo offered.
"I'll go too," Jonas shouted.
Nobody argued. Both boys reached into their plastic storage bag and pulled out a holographic egg, throwing it against the door of the house. Kyle added one more for good measure and they all ran away laughing as the man stood at a front window shaking his fist at them.
When they got to the next house, an old man who looked like the one who didn't give them candy answered the door. Lars was the first to the door again. This man, while a bit grumpy, gave out Ben-baked oatmeal-raisin cookies. Koji pulled out one of his eggs and prepared to throw it at the house.
Kyle stopped him. "No, Koji, that one gave you a treat, so you don't give him a trick."
"He looked like the other man," Koji pointed out.
"Maybe they're brothers or something, but he's not the same man. So, no trick."
"Koji will throw next time we got no treat."
"Fair enough," Kyle chuckled.
Earlier, in the classroom, Jason had been picked by the other boys to lead them to the third house, the next house. He was going to have a role to play and would be a key to getting candy.
Jason walked up a couple of steps to the porch of the third house. He was so nervous he was shaking, but he was determined to perform his task exactly right. The doorbell was answered by a middle-aged man who smiled at the obviously frightened boy.
The boys all shouted out, "Trick or treat," and Jason quickly felt better knowing his friends were with him.
"Hello boys. How nice to see you," the man said kindly. "I have a rule at my house. In order for you to get your treat one of you has to tell me a joke." One of Steve's neighbors when he was a little boy had that rule at his house on Halloween, so Steve thought it would be a cool idea. It was decided that the group would pick one person to tell the joke and Jason was elected. The group also agreed on what the joke would be. What they didn't know is that as soon as the joke was determined, Danny got on his comm and relayed the information to Randy.
Jason took a deep breath and said, "What is a snake's favorite subject in school?"
The man thought and thought. He finally smiled and shook his head. "I don't know."
"Hisssssssssssssssssstory!" Jason shouted gleefully. He wasn't totally sure he understood the humor but was happy that the man laughed out loud.
"A wonderful joke." He dropped candy into Jason's bag. "All of you come and get your candy."
The boys crowded onto the porch and the man dropped some Ernie-created candy bars into their bags. Just as the boys started walking off the porch, two snakes dropped from the eave in front of them and another big snake slithered up the sidewalk. With a unified scream, they ran off the porch, around the snake, and out into the street.
"Nobody can say this isn't scary now," Jonas shouted as they ran to the next house.
Then Jonas' name came up as the next leader to the door. He knocked, and the door was opened, but nobody was at the door. In fact, the background was all black. Jonas was just about to turn away, when a headless man came silently to the door and dropped a specially cooked piece of candy into Jonas's bag. Jonas screeched and backed away. Lars came to the door holding his hammer high while Tomo and Juro walked up making growling noises. The devil and the remaining Ninja decided they wanted nothing to do with headless men.
Kyle was the next leader chosen by his program. Doctor Tom opened the door wearing a vampire costume. He displayed his long bloody fangs and, with an evil laugh, told Kyle, "I vant to dlink your blood."
Kyle laughed and said, "Trick or treat" with the now practiced chorus of boys joining him.
Dr. Tom winked and dropped a replacement brush for his electric toothbrush, a roll of dental floss, and an apple into his tote bag. The other boys came up for their "treat," thanked Dr. Tom, and walked back to the sidewalk. Koji pulled an egg out of its storage bag and threw it at the house where it broke open with a splat against the door.
"Koji!" Kyle shouted.
"That was not a treat. Koji gets those when he gets his teeth checked. So, he gets an egg." Considering where they were and what they were doing, all Kyle could do at the time was accept Koji's warped logic.
After Dr. Tom's house they had to cross an arched wooden bridge across a stream to get to the next house. Danny, who was leading the way, had just started over the bridge when two trolls came out from under the bridge. Their gray bodies were stocky and ugly.
"Stop!" the troll on the left shouted. "You must pay your toll to the cross the bridge."
"The toll is three cookies from each of you," the other troll said.
Danny was as astounded by the trolls as everybody but Steve and Randy, who were a couple of houses behind. They stopped to see how the group would react to the surprise intrusion. He and Kyle had not been told what to expect, so the trick-or-treating escapade was a completely new adventure to them as well. Kyle wanted to show his authority and tell the trolls they wouldn't pay, but once again a hammer wielding Norse god and two dragons took the lead.
"Stay where you are," Tomo ordered. "My friends are going to cross the bridge."
One of the trolls took a step in, but stopped when Lars held his hammer over his head in a threatening position. The trolls stopped dead in their tracks. Danny and Kyle started over the bridge, followed by the two ninjas, who each took some kicks at the trolls as they passed by.
Next to cross was Koji, who stopped in front of the first troll. "We won't pay your trolls, toll." He took two steps and stopped. "No, we don't play your tools, trolls…tolls, trolls!" Kyle and Danny did their best not to break out laughing. Koji wished he'd ask to have a pitchfork like he'd seen devils have in pictures, so he could have helped his friend Lars attack the trolls. When Steve crossed the bridge, he was pleased with how well that program had worked. He had used the famous Freemont troll, who had lived under the Freemont bridge in Seattle for over one hundred years, as his model.
Jason had the lead for the next house. He squealed when the door was opened by a floating head, whom he recognized as crewman Jesse Gross. "Trick or treat," he said shakily and was joined by his friends. He could now see Jesse's bare feet, but nothing in between. Had he reached inside, Jason would have discovered that the effect was created by holographic black screen blocking off Jesse's body, which was naked. Jesse got a wicked thrill knowing he was naked but nobody, not even Steve, could tell (although Steve did know what Jesse had planned).
As the boys got their Ben-created chocolate cupcakes, Juno and Tomo, who had yet to meet Jesse, wondered if the head belonged to the headless torso they'd seen earlier.
Danny knocked at the next house. Brad answered this time. He was wearing his native African garb and looked stunning. Steve sprouted a wicked hard on as soon as he saw his lover at the door. Brad gave out beignets and said soothing things to the boys. It was the first house in a while in which they'd felt relaxed.
Tomo was the last to get a beignet. Just as he turned, he heard a loud roar behind him. Looking behind him, he saw a large lion standing next to Brad, his mouth open for yet another roar, its mane bristling. Forgetting he could return the lion roar with a dragon roar, Tomo hustled off the porch. Steve looked up at Brad from the street and gave him a thumbs up. By now the boys had to know that the holograms weren't real, but it didn't stop them from being frightened as their youthful imaginations went wild.
That brought them to the last house. Juro drew the knocking duties and the door was answered by Whit Olson. Whit greeted Juro politely and invited the boys to gather in the house for some cold drinks and to organize their walk back to the classroom.
The boys knew that Whit was calm and easy going. He was always nice to them. Whit was the last person on the crew to try to scare them. They agreed that the ready-to-pounce lion in Brad's house was the end of the adventure.
"I have flaming lemonade in the dining room," Whit told them. The boys were impressed by the dark wood paneled rooms giving the house a bit of a spooky feel all by itself.
Then Lars noticed cobwebs in the ceiling joists and swore he saw a big spider in one of the webs. Maybe there is more to come after all, he thought. He was about to point out the cobwebs when he was struck by a bright flash and then a pair of ghosts floated by. The boys squealed and yelled yet again as they were suckered in by the quiet calm of Whit and his beautiful house. They tried to retreat to the living room but were stopped by two snarling dogs who were drooling.
They looked for another escape, but the way to the parlor was blocked by three wizards with lightning flashing out of their wands. Tomo walked up to the dogs and did the best dragon imitation he could without flames and the dogs ran off. Lars and the twins went after the wizards. One of them shot out a harmless bolt of light and then the three of them retreated out of the back door. Koji went after the ghosts, delivering his best evil laugh. The ghosts disappeared through the wall, returning to wherever they had come from. The boys shouted in triumph and celebrated their victory in what they would call the Battle of the Haunted House.
Steve had watched the entire battle. He couldn't see how the entire trick-or-treat adventure could have gone any better. As the boys drank their lemonade, they were surprised that the flames didn't burn them and was actually cold. When Kyle thanked Steve for creating Spooky Town, the boys joined them.
"Thank Brad, too," Steve told them. "His computer knowledge was a big part of this."
"That was the most fun I can remember having in a long time," Tomo said. His engineering mind wanted to know how Brad had created some of the effects, but his boy mind didn't care. He had to admit to himself that his boy mind had overridden his engineering mind as he found himself being genuinely frightened by the scary effects.
Of course, the fright was not just a result of the effects. The location, the timing and properly setting up the scenario for maximum fright, which was Steve's contribution, was a huge factor in keeping the boys frightened and on edge.
The boys chattered constantly about their adventure as they drank their lemonade and sampled a couple of treats from their tote bag. They chattered on their walk back to the classroom to change into their regular clothes. Those who had changed in their quarters had left a change of clothes in the classroom that morning. And they chattered as they stripped their costumes off, took a moment to display their naked bodies, and dressed. Koji was the first boy who stripped naked and the last to get dressed.
After the boys were done dressing, Ali rejoined them in the classroom. He asked them, "Did you have fun?"
"We sure did, but this is only once a year?" Juro queried.
"That is correct. Halloween is the last day of October, just like Christmas is always in December."
Tomo questioned, "Christmas, what's that?"
"We can discuss that another time, but for now, I want to pass out the awards for your pumpkins. For the best pumpkin, Tomo, you won the award."
"I thought Lars' was better."
"His was very close, and he will be getting a different award," Ali explained, "For most unique, Lars."
Tomo agreed, "His was definitely unique."
"It was very close between Lars and Juro for being most unique. For most traditional, we have Jason and Jonas. Juro, you won the coolest."
"I didn't get an award," Koji started to pout.
"Do you see this last award sitting here? It goes to you, Koji. Everyone received an award for something."
Koji looked at his award… "It says 'For WTF,' what does WTF mean?"
Ali was hoping Koji wouldn't have read his trophy, "Ask your daddy when you get to your quarters."
Dave was sitting in his chair on the bridge after returning from Kairu. The wedding was excellent. He had been thinking of sending off a message to Draconia to explain what they'd found and that they'd be returning in a matter of days.
He was brought out of his thinking by Juro, manning the Tactical station stating, "Sir, I am receiving a transmission directed to you."
"Who is it?"
"He says his name is Zorn, Sir."
"Put it on speaker. Zorn! Where are you?"
"Hello Dave, I'm still on Earth."