The Press Conference was set up and going smoothly. Kyle finally had his chance to say what he was thinking and then opened up the floor for questions.
Kyle felt a surge of adrenaline as he stepped up to the dais, but he quickly realized it wasn't fear he was feeling, it was the anticipation of action that surged through him when a challenge of some sort occurred on the bridge or in some other part of the ship. It was the kind of adrenaline rush that told him that he was prepared to meet the challenge.
The broadcast on the monitor facing Kyle showed camera views of the media representatives in the WNN studio, while those seated in the tier of seats could see Kyle's image on the screen as well as see Kyle in person. Kyle's backdrop was the surface of an Astrogation table showing the same star chart that the crew on the bridge was looking at.
"Thank you for the introduction, Commander… er, Commodore Hanson." Kyle breathed a mental sigh of relief after catching his near error. The time he had put into polishing his introduction had almost backfired on him. "I wish to thank WNN and Brian Merritt for allowing me this opportunity to present my rebuttal to the remarks made about me by our critic."
"OUR CRITIC, indeed, you snot-nosed brat. The last time I looked I had a name and it was SENATOR COOPER. Don’t be afraid to say it—I can always use the publicity," Allen Cooper snarled as he sat at his desk. “Next time you wipe your ass, IF you even take the time to wipe it, how about using the toilet paper to wipe the smirk off your face and blow your nose into." His chief of staff continued to ignore his boss's tirades.
"I'd like to thank Fleet Admiral Mirah, Rear Admiral Crusoe, Commodore Hanson, my father, my Grandmother Miranda, my brother-in-law Tommy, my two wonderful sons, Koji and Duskin and my amazing husband Danny for their support during the ordeal." Koji and Duskin beamed when they heard their names mentioned.
"I want to start by responding to a few specific accusations that were made. I thank Commodore Hanson for letting you all know what my actual duties were, as opposed to the silliness that was insinuated," Kyle continued.
"Silliness! I'll show you who's silly you immature little shit!" Cooper ranted. "So far everything I've heard from you and those sorry adults you enjoy servicing in bed has been out and out lies and I can't wait to expose them for what they are."
"As you heard from my grandmother and Commander Hanson, I was never forced to join the Explorer Program. I wanted to be here; I wanted to go to the stars. I've loved looking at the stars since I received my first telescope as a little kid.
"The things said about Danny and me simply weren't true. Danny and I have been friends since before we started school. Things happened that caused us to lose contact during our years at the Space Academy, but we found each other, learned we were both gay and have been partners and now eventually husbands ever since.
"And as for the senior officers on the Sooloo, they have been nothing but professionals in all the time I've known them. I trust them with my life, as I should be able to on a starship in the depths of space. They have never, and I mean NEVER done anything to violate that trust or cause me to doubt them."
Kyle paused and looked at the media reps being panned by the cameras, wondering how many of them would be hostile. He took a deep breath and said, "I'm ready to answer your questions now."
Brian Merritt returned to his host duties. "Okay, gentleman, you know the procedure. Raise your hands and I will call on as many of you as I can in the time remaining."
The first questions were of the fluff variety, asking about such topics as the difficulties involved in being a preteen father, how it was he and Danny rarely crossed paths during their time at the Academy, what Kyle's grade point average was, did being an astrogator require a special certificate, what did he think of the food on the starship and did he get enough to eat. Kyle raved about the kitchen Randy Jenkins ran and the great food it provided. "And there is more than enough for everyone. We all work to stay in shape so we can eat as much as possible," Kyle grinned.
The first tough question came from Canadian reporter Loren Bradford. "Senator Cooper has mentioned the many drug and alcohol infused parties on the Explorer starships. What is your reply to those accusations?"
Kyle answered him. "Have you ever been in space, Mr. Bradford?"
"Unfortunately, not yet, but I have plans to visit Mars sometime in the future."
"I cannot emphasize enough the dangers and threats that are always present away from Earth," Kyle replied seriously. "One of the few things the critical senator had right was his mention of the dangerous environment kids like us were being sent to." Kyle used the Senator's title to emphasize that Cooper was correct but refrained from using his name. "What he didn't say was that anybody, whether he is fourteen or forty, who doesn't take outer space seriously twenty-four-seven, won't be alive long enough to enjoy very many parties. So, my answer is, those parties are all figments of his imagination."
Merritt called on Vince McCafferty next. Kyle knew that McCafferty was no fan of Cooper and vice versa. "Commander Robinson, why do you think Senator Cooper decided to use you as his prime example of the problems he sees in the Explorer Program?"
As a member of the media, McCafferty was not restricted from using Senator Cooper's name as Kyle had been by Admiral Mirah. For Kyle, Cooper had become "our critic" even though he knew that everyone listening knew to whom he was referring. When Kyle used the plural form, he wanted to indicate that he was speaking for the entire Explorer Program and not just for himself. When he was replying about personal attacks, Kyle shifted to the singular form.
"I don't think our critic intended to just go after me. Yeah, there were issues like my age, my sexuality, my being married before I was even a teen and even me being a father. But it wasn't me he was after, and it still isn't me he's after. His battle is with the Space Fleet Explorer Program, and I was just somebody he used to make what he thought were good points." This was a question Commodore Hanson as well as Kyle's father had anticipated and he had gone over his answer with both. What nobody had anticipated was the next question.
"Mr. Carlson, you're next," Brian Merritt said.
"Ole Carlson with the Scandinavian Tribune. I would like to preface my question by saying that my nephew, Neil Dahl, is a Commander in the REAL Space Fleet and serves as Astrogator. He has told me that he is convinced that not only Kyle Robinson, but also the rest of the child Navigators are frauds. They send their destinations to Space Fleet, who figures their course, and send the information back.
"My question is really a request. Commander Dahl has a problem for Kyle to solve regarding setting a course to a planet that was discovered just a few days ago. He is willing to give Kyle two days to create a course, providing he is willing to give his oath as an officer and a gentleman, that he will seek no outside help. What do you say, Commander Robinson?" It hurt Ole Carlson to call the little boy on the screen by his rank, but he wanted to emphasize the 'officer' aspect of the request, especially since his nephew was, in fact, a Lieutenant Commander.
"Before I agree, I have a couple of questions of my own," Kyle responded. "First, instant communication is a technology we've just begun using. When the program began, those communications took weeks to even months to travel just one direction, so to get a response took over a month or several months. How does your nephew think we communicated with Space Fleet Headquarters quickly enough before then to set our courses?" Good question, Commodore Hanson and Admiral Crusoe both had thought, especially since the same idea had popped into their heads.
Carlson listened to someone speaking into an earbud for a moment and then said, "You could have gotten most of your assignments and courses before you left Earth, and even if a change is needed, it's not like you kids were in any rush to get anywhere." Kyle bristled at Carlson's use of 'kids'.
Brian Merritt interrupted. "I assume you are in contact with your nephew, Mr. Carlson."
"Yes sir, I am."
"Which is fine as long as you inform us first and you place your contact into the broadcast, at least verbally."
"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware of that."
"It always helps to read the directions." A technician approached Carlson's seat and fiddled with some wires. "Okay, your nephew is now connected to the network sound system. What was your next question, Commander Robinson?"
"What is his current duty station?" Kyle asked this because he knew that the process of converting the regular Space Fleet ships to the new technology had just begun.
"Commander Dahl is not currently assigned to a ship. He is currently assigned to the Tycho Brahe telescope, which, as you know, is in orbit around Earth." Carlson knew this was another sore point with his nephew… that ignorant kids are racing around space getting lost, while there aren't enough berths for experienced Astrogators in regular Space Fleet ships.
That explains the recent finding of a planet, Kyle thought. It's strange we haven't heard the news yet, since we do have instant communication. While Crusoe and Hanson knew of the discovery of the planet, they were not aware that Space Fleet hadn't informed the Explorer ships. They would learn later there was nothing conspiratorial involved. There was a legitimate reason the news hadn't been released yet.
"I've decided to accept the challenge," Kyle said, knowing there was no way he could turn the challenge down and still come across as a confident, professional officer to the media. Hanson was thinking much the same thing—Kyle was damned if he took the challenge and damned if he didn't.
The voice of Neil Dahl then came over the PA system in the WNN auditorium and the Sooloo holodeck. "I'm Commander Neil Dahl of the Space Telescope Brahe. I will give Kyle Robinson some coordinates and two days to create a course to the planet from his current location, with his word he will not ask anyone for help," Dahl stated formally. Dahl wasn't worried about Kyle asking for help since, in his opinion, nobody else on a starship crewed by children would know how to find the planet anyway. They would all be as ignorant or even more so than their so-called Chief Navigator.
"Newly discovered planet Alpha Delta 75669 Epsilon in the Werner von Braun nebula. I look forward to hearing from you in two days."
Kyle stood in silent thought. The Braun nebula was an interesting one, since it was a recent discovery as well. It had been discovered just before the launch of the Sooloo hidden behind another, much larger nebula. It was a nebula few had heard of, and even fewer called by name. Werner von Braun had not been an astronomer; he had been a rocket scientist. Kyle thought it interesting that Dahl called it by name rather than by number, thinking it would make it harder for him to recognize. But he knew its number, so finding it was all but complete. All he needed to do was locate the position of the planet.
"Two days? Really?" Kyle asked with an air of surprise.
"You mean that isn't enough time? Would you rather have five days?" Dahl asked in amusement. "By then the coordinates should have been released to your starship, so that even you could find it."
"Five days? I think five minutes is all I need," Kyle responded confidently. His statement was met by silence in both venues. Five minutes? Hanson thought. Kyle Robinson, even you aren't that good.
Everyone heard Neil Dahl's laugh over the PA. "I like your audacity. You're on, kid."
"I will need the help of the watch officer," Kyle said. "I have the screen shot of the Astrogation as my background, but I can't manipulate it. I need for the watch officer to enter the data and tell me what he sees."
"I can make out a live shot of the Astrogation table on the monitor in front of Kyle," Brad cut in. "All Will, the watch officer, has to do is enter the data and manipulate the table as Kyle instructs. The results will appear on all of the monitors." Neil Dahl agreed to Kyle's request and the challenge began in earnest. Admiral Crusoe's ears perked up when he heard that his son, Will, was the Astrogation watch officer.
Kyle started out by instructing Will to enter the digital identification of the von Braun nebula. Neil was stunned that Kyle had the number of the nebula on the tip of his tongue; Hanson had to hide a smile. One of these days I will learn to give Kyle all the credit he deserves, Hanson thought.
"What I want for you to do now Will, is create a split screen on the table, bring up the oldest screen shot of the nebula we have on file and place it side by side with our current view."
"We can probably go back even farther by getting an image from the Space Fleet computer," Will said.
"True, but I want to show that the Sooloo is self-sufficient and can solve any Astrogation problem it needs on its own."
The members of the media, the class sitting in the holodeck, and the class of younger boys, as well as the crew members of the Sooloo sat entranced as they watched the drama unfolding before them on the monitors. WNN split the monitors in the auditorium between Kyle and the Astrogation table and Roger did the same with the monitors on the starship. The broadcast was a split screen showing both.
Kyle studied the two side-by-side screens and instructed Will to lay a similar grid across both screens. After giving each screen a long look, he had Will place an icon on an intersection of an x and y axis on the view of the current nebula (which was actually a week old). He studied the differences in how the gas in the nebula was distributed. After two minutes of moving and studying, Kyle was satisfied.
"Okay Will, you can put the current view on full screen and highlight where our icon is." He then addressed Neil Dahl. "I believe the dark spot you see highlighted is planet Alpha Delta 75669 Epsilon." He then recited the dimensions of the highlighted celestial body. "If those numbers are accurate, then I will say that this is the planet without a doubt. Will should have no problem creating a course from here to the nebula. It would not be a good idea to plan a foray into the nebula until we reach it, since what we see does not accurately account for distance and time, plus our instruments aren't accurate enough to chart a course inside the nebula this far from the nebula itself. It would be dangerous to chart that course until we were close enough for accurate readings."
The audience watched as Will changed the dimensions on the table and laid out a red line connecting the Sooloo to the nebula, indicating the course the starship would follow. "Werner von Braun was a pioneer in rocketry, but his work was not capable of connecting us to the stars. But he pioneered the way by connecting us to the planets in our solar system," Kyle said. "How did I do, Commander Dahl?"
"I am sitting here in shock," Neil Dahl replied. "You were right on the mark. I salute you Commander Kyle Robinson and take back all my negative remarks. They were completely unfounded, and you have my abject apologies. I am humbled by what you just did. You can astrogate my ship anytime you want." He paused for a moment and then said with a chuckle, "Four minutes and forty-seven seconds—that was cutting it kind of close."
Back in Canada, Allen Cooper screamed at his monitor, screamed at Pierre Lamont, screamed at his walls, screamed at any target. "That was a setup if I ever saw one. Those assholes all stick together even if when it's obvious they're a lying bunch of fools. It's time for me to fire the heavy artillery."
Once again, Lamont said nothing. He was seriously wondering if he could maintain a decent lifestyle off his retirement. He had advised against Cooper using his 'heavy artillery'. At that moment he knew if Cooper gave the go ahead, his wondering about retirement would change to applying for retirement.
Cooper picked up a communicator and held it in front of him. "Louis, it's a go." Cooper had a small crew of friendly media members ready to bring Kyle Robinson down from his roost, and Louis Johnson's question would be their signal to start.
"That was quite a display," Brian Merritt said. "I would love to finish on that note, but we still have time left for a few more questions. Just don't start us off on another trip through the galaxy. Okay, Louis Johnson, you are next."
Johnson's question, while the key to arming the weaponry, was a fluff question compared to what was coming. "Louis Johnson, WNN, Toronto. Commander Robinson, may I call you Kyle?" Without waiting for an answer, Johnson continued. "Kyle, Senator Cooper claims your husband is MUCH older than you, yet Candidate Zeller claims he is only days older. Which is more correct?"
Kyle felt let down by the stupid question thrown at him after the thrill of meeting Commander Dahl's challenge. But he quickly figured out how to answer the challenge of the reporter's question. "Would Commander Daniel Robinson please stand up?" For reasons unknown to himself, Tai had shifted the target of his camera to Danny's seat. Danny stood up, smiled, gave a bow and waved, and then sat down.
"I think that answers your question Mister Johnson. May I call you Louis? And if you have any doubt, Tai would be happy to focus his camera on Danny's ID."
"Ms. Harper," Brian called out next.
"Brenda Harper, New York Times." Brenda was not part of Cooper's brigade. "I understand you are the youngest Senior Officer on the Sooloo. Do you feel intimidated by that?"
"I understand I am also the youngest Senior Officer in the entire Explorer program, and I don't feel intimidated by any of it. On the Sooloo we all work as a team, from Captain Tietokone on down. We are all about doing what is best for our ship. Plus, I know I am good at what I do. I have no reason to feel intimidated because we know we survive as a team."
"Thank you for an excellent response, Commander Robinson."
"Mr. Drake, you are next."
Drake was able to access the auditorium using a fake media pass he received from Pierre Lamont. "Which of you is the 'girl' in your relationship with your husband?"
Kyle felt his face flush, but before he could say anything, Merritt stepped in. "That question is totally inappropriate, as you well know."
A voice in the back of the auditorium called out, "Have you ever had sex with either boy who are now your sons?"
For the first time during the conference, Kyle had a hopeless look on his face. Kyle's face was replaced on the screen by that of a furious Admiral Crusoe. "Mr. Merritt this is totally uncalled for," he barked sternly.
Before Merritt could react, another voice shouted out, "Two questions. Do any of the older boys force you to have sex with them and do they get kinky when they do?"
"Can't you turn off the sound?" Hanson shouted. "We came here in good faith, and this is what we get?"
"You bastards should be ashamed of yourself!" Miranda screamed out.
Brian Merritt was obviously as flustered as Kyle was. The sound engineer turned off the sound and the picture went to a view of the World Capitol Building. An outside voice came on saying the program was being interrupted due to technical difficulties.
In his Senate office, Allen Cooper roared with laughter. "If they can put on their little act with their fake star search, I can put on my big act with real live questions," he told Pierre Lamont. "And we both know which one the audience is going to remember—the last one."
Pierre Lamont rose from his chair and looked down at the man he had served for most of his life. The man who had been the consummate politician and whose lies and foibles had been a part of the game and turned into someone he didn't recognize. "You realize you just sexually harassed a twelve-year-old boy," he said forcefully.
"I understand that I made my point and that somebody had to suffer for it. And since when were you so sensitive."
"Since you went from a politician to a man who has completely lost his conscience. You'll have my resignation on your desk by the end of the day. It is time for me to retire." Lamont turned and stomped out of the office.
Meanwhile order was quickly being restored in Vegas and on the Sooloo. The first thing Brian Merritt did when the news conference went off the air was signal the three security guards who had been standing unobtrusively at the back exits. This wasn't the first time in their careers that a live broadcast had been disrupted and everyone knew their roles. Merritt implored everyone to stay seated as each security guard along with two more who appeared from the emergency exits escorted the four disrupters from the auditorium.
Considering the controversy along with the bizarre behavior that had been circling around Senator Cooper, Merritt had brought in extra security for this conference and was more than happy he had. As the three "reporters" were led away, Merritt signaled for Crusoe, Hanson and Miranda Buckner to join him at the main podium. Miranda was there via satellite. She was at her home in Puerto Vallarta.
"I apologize to all of you for what just occurred," Merritt said. "This is not what the World News Network is about."
"I have a feeling I know who might be behind the disruption," Admiral Crusoe said.
"You and I are most likely thinking of the same individual."
"What about Kyle? Do you know anything about what is happening on the Sooloo?" Hanson asked.
"My technical supervisor is in touch with the ship right now. As soon as everything has settled, we will return to the airwaves to issue an apology to Commander Robinson, his family and his crewmates, as well as our audience," Merritt responded.
"We appreciate how quickly you've reacted and took action," Crusoe said. "It was a response worthy of a Space Fleet crisis."
Merritt touched his ear bud. "My producer tells me we should be on the air within the next two minutes for a sign off," he told everyone.
On the Sooloo, Kyle stood in shock. He had expected tough questions and had received them. He considered all of them to be fair until the final volley which shook him to the core.
As he stood at the dais looking out into space, Danny and Tommy left their seats on the tier, walked up to Kyle and gave him a double hug. "We love you, Kyle," Danny whispered. "Don't let the bastards get you down."
"We're with you all the way, Uncle Kyle. You did a totally awesome job," Tommy added.
"It was just a shitty way for it to end," Kyle said. "Why couldn't it have ended when I found the planet? Now it all ended with me looking stupid." Kyle felt like he had earlier in the day before Koji's love had pumped him up.
"The network says we'll be back on the air in less than two minutes," Roger announced.
"There you go, Love," Danny said. "Now you can get your last word in." Danny planted a loving kiss on his husband's lips and he and Tommy returned to their seats. Kyle stood proudly at attention, once again buoyed by love—this time from Tommy and Danny.
The producer called for silence and then said, "We will be on the air in five…four…three…two…and one."
"Welcome back to Meet the Media. I apologize to our audience for the disruption and thank you for returning," Brian Merritt said. "I assure you that the disrupters are currently being dealt with by law enforcement. My sincere apologies also go out to Admiral Crusoe, Commodore Hanson and Mrs. Buckner for the disruption. But my biggest apology goes to Commander Kyle Robinson, who is now smiling to us from the SS Sooloo." Kyle was shown on the monitor standing behind the dais, a serious look on his face.
Merritt wanted to cut off any response from Kyle to save him from further humiliation by behaving like a wronged twelve-year-old. But, when he saw the regal bearing of Kyle's body and the intense look on his face, he knew he wasn't looking at a pubescent boy ready to go off into an angry rant. Merritt knew he was looking at a Space Fleet Senior Officer and that Kyle Robinson's pride in his position would prevent him from creating his own humiliation. Besides, even a pubescent snit would be a better ending than the look of hurt and humiliation the boy had on his face when the cameras shut off.
"Your apology is accepted, Mr. Merritt. What happened wasn't your fault or the fault of the Network." Kyle wanted to go into a rant against those who 'had it in for him' but decided to behave like a Senior Officer on a starship rather than someone looking for revenge. When he had been waiting at the dais to be contacted by Brian Merritt, he felt that the idiots throwing out the disgusting questions at him would be dealt with by WNN. He was even more than pleased that they have to deal with law enforcement.
"I would like to thank Admiral Crusoe, Commodore Hanson and my Grandma Miranda for their support during the disruption. I want to thank my husband Danny and my brother-in-law Tommy for their love and support while I was waiting to see if the program would restart.
"But, most importantly, I want to thank WNN and Mr. Merritt for letting me tell my story. And I don't say that because it was about me, I say it because telling my story was telling the story of every Space Fleet Explorer Cadet who graduated from the Space Fleet Academy and became a member of a starship crew. I was also telling the story of the new Cadets at the Academy who are dreaming of doing the same thing soon. It is the story of all of us in the Explorer Program who have been wrongly insulted during a certain election campaign." That was as close as Kyle would come to putting blame for the disruption on Senator Cooper.
"We love what we do as members of the Explorer Program, and we love each other. We have had each other's backs since the beginning and plan to continue doing so. We're ready to grow up doing what we love, and then take what we learn and become even better at it when we become adults.
"Thank you to everyone on the Sooloo for your support and love."
Kyle nodded and his image faded away. He felt tears of love and happiness well up when the students and the crew members in the tier of seats stood and applauded. He reached under the top of the dais and picked Megrez off the shelf. He turned and quickly left the dais before he broke down completely. He was stopped on his way out of the holodeck however, by Hal and Dave, who were blocking the exit.
Hal took Kyle's right hand and clasped it between both of his. "Commander Kyle Robinson, it is an honor to serve with you."
Hal noted the little stuffed penguin in Kyle's left hand. "It looks like you took some expert help to the podium with you," Hal said calmly. Kyle nodded and scooted around his commanding officer as the tears started flowing down his cheeks in earnest. Hal and Dave didn't stop him; they were too busy dealing with tears of their own.
A half-hour later, Kyle was lying naked in bed with Danny. The two had held each other as they let their tears flow and their emotions ebb. The next step would be the best one which their growing penises attested to. But before they could do anything, Kyle's communicator went off with a tone saying Dave was calling.
Kyle cursed and picked up the communicator, forgetting to turn off the visual. "Yes, Commodore Bowman?" Kyle asked formally, but with a hint of irritation in his voice. He thought he had been guaranteed privacy until his watch started.
"Hmm, I appear to have disturbed something important," Dave chuckled. "You may want to double check your video settings on your communicator when you're a bit… um… compromised."
Kyle felt a full body blush as he turned off the video setting. It didn't help that Danny had rolled over on his side trying without success to curb his laughter.
"Admiral Mirah wishes to speak with you on channel four," Dave said.
Kyle calmed down a notch since Dave obviously had been given no choice but to contact him. "Thanks, Dave," Kyle said. "And next time, maybe you need to cover your eyes." Kyle laughed at his last remark.
Kyle switched over to four and saw the visage of Fleet Admiral Mirah. Mirah made no comment about the video being off even though it was considered bad form when speaking to the Fleet Admiral. Dave had given him a quick heads up that Kyle wasn't dressed for video chat.
"Hello, Admiral Mirah."
"A fine job handling your press conference, Commander Robinson," Mirah offered. "I was impressed by the maturity and personal growth you displayed during the entire conference. You had quite a few opportunities to go off track, but your behavior, your replies and your poise were exemplary. I plan to place a commendation in your file. Congratulations, Son. You're a fine example of a Space Fleet officer."
After Mirah signed off, Kyle had barely gotten a kiss in when his father called. There were times when Kyle was not a fan of instant communication. Greg kept it short, however.
"I know you're probably feeling overwhelmed right now, but I wanted to say I'm proud of you and I love you beyond belief," Greg said.
"I love you too, Dad and thanks for the call," Kyle responded sincerely.
Kyle then looked at Danny and gave him his sexiest smile. "Everybody else waits—right now I want your body."
"You've got it, Love. It's all yours."
Ali told the boys that Randy would have lunch in the holodeck around 1210, and that they should go enjoy themselves until lunch arrived. The boys practically ran to the holodeck, Koji stripping as he ran. Duskin thought that was normal and started stripping as well. By the time they reached the holodeck, both boys were as naked as the day they were born, with a ball of their clothes in their arms. Tomo laughed, "I didn't know you could strip like that while running, Koji."
"I just want to get as much swimming in as we can," Koji declared. "Being on Darastix and having new boys made us miss out for two weeks."
"We got to swim last week," Marasu pointed out.
Koji responded, "True, but it wasn't nekkid swimming, so it wasn't the same."
Those who had enjoyed both agreed. While swimming was fun, being naked as they swam was much more fun.
Once inside the holodeck, the rest of the boys were out of their clothes in no time and in the pool. Lakinae whispered, "This pool is great, but I so much enjoyed the pond better."
"I thought you would," Tommy smiled. "That's why I chose the pond for your first time. I want you to be happy."
"Just being with you does that," Lakinae averred before giving Tommy a kiss.
Drake whispered and kissed with Oliver, too. Between their sessions of kissing and swimming, Drake asked Oliver, "Is this the holodeck that we will be using for our camp out?"
"Unfortunately, no," Oliver dismayed. "Security and Tactical will be using both holodecks for training tonight, and this one tomorrow. Someone booked Holodeck One Section A for tomorrow, so we will be in Holodeck One Section B for our camping."
At noon, the boys started preparing for Randy to arrive with their lunch. As they were finishing their lunch and getting ready to get dressed to go back to class, Hal entered the holodeck.
Tommy grabbed Lakinae's hand. He was a bit unsure about his captain seeing him naked. But when both Juro and Tomo approached him in the flesh and offered him a formal salute the fear he was feeling disappeared.
Hal addressed the group, "I have been meaning to talk to all of you. I know you have been informed that you have the go-ahead for your camping trip. I wanted to tell you that I have been and am very proud of you. Ali told me that you have been good about being back to class and ready to learn after your 'nekkid swimming'. At first, I was unsure as to whether or not to approve it. I am glad that you have not made me regret having approved it. Maybe sometime in the future I will join you."
He let them stew on that comment for a moment before starting to laugh. "Don't worry, I wouldn't impose on your fun. I just wanted to let you know that the training that was planned for Holodeck One has been rescheduled. I felt you deserved privacy and have decided that you can use both sections of the holodeck, starting tonight."
"What about someone having half booked for tomorrow?" Oliver inquired.
Hal informed them, "It has been rescheduled. You boys can enjoy your camping trip."
Hal had to stifle a grin when all of the boys stood at naked attention and offered Hal a salute. Tomo then thanked Captain Tietokone for delivering the message and added, "I think I speak for everyone here when I say that you would be welcome to join us at any time."
All the boys met outside the holodeck ten minutes before the agreed upon time. After Hal had given them the word that they had access to both sections of the holodeck, plans needed to be revised for how the holodeck would be configured. Since there was little time from when they got the word until the beginning of the trip, Jinzo was tasked with making the modifications. Nobody knew what he'd come up with, so it was a complete surprise when they entered and found an idyllic scene, a vast field of green grass abutting a serene forest. Off to the left, they saw a lake, on the lake five tepees were floating just off shore.
The group assembled and Tomo stepped up, "The way we figured it is that since there are 18 of us, we would have four tepees with four people and one with two."
Some discussion among the boys ensued and it was decided that since Juro and Tomo were the de facto leaders of the group, they would get the tepee with only two people. The other four were divided among the couples with the only surprise being that Tommy, Lakinae, Duskin and Marasu would share one. Everyone expected Duskin and Koji would share one with Tei and Marasu.
Once everyone had their gear stowed in their respective accommodations, the group met to decide what they wanted to do. Several suggestions were made when from the far side of the lake sixteen unicorns of various sizes and what appeared to be two Pegasus, one black and one white, approached. The unicorns wandered over to a boy of appropriate size for his mount, and the winged horses joined Tomo and Juro.
It was agreed that they would ride either in small groups or in pairs around the scene Jinzo had designed. They agreed to meet an hour later to decide what to do about eating. Randy Jenkins had prepped the fire pit and appropriate food for the boys.
The boys went off into their small groups in various directions. As they were riding, Tommy began to blush. Seeing this, Lakinae surmised what was on Tommy's mind. They slowed and allowed Marasu and Duskin to pull ahead of them, out of range of their hearing. Tommy asked Lakinae what he wanted to do in the tepee. The thought of what Tommy was insinuating made Lakinae start to blush and another physical reaction to start making itself apparent. Tommy laughed when he saw the state Lakinae was in but quickly got quiet when Lakinae pointed out that Tommy was in much the same condition.
Duskin looked over at them and told Marasu what was happening. Both of the younger boys giggled as Marasu said, "Tommy and Lakinae are both tonn. I think I know what they are thinking." Duskin showed he had a bit more street smarts than someone of his age would usually possess by suggesting that he and Marasu plan on much the same in the tepee they would share with Tommy and Lakinae.
After about an hour, the boys all returned to the campsite. The 'day' was turning into 'night' in the holodeck and the boys noticed a fire pit had appeared between the shoreline and where they were all gathered.
Tomo and Juro prepared the meal that Randy had set up for them, mainly just opening the heated containers with plates of food for each boy. In another container were cold drinks. The group sat and enjoyed their meal.
On his way to his watch, Danny had stopped to check on the boys. Tommy asked Danny if he could talk to him… privately. Danny saw the look on his brother's face and quietly said, "What's on your mind, Tommy?" He assumed the topic of the conversation would be when he saw Tommy's full-body blush.
"I'm a little nervous. I think that some sex stuff will be happening in our tepee tonight."
Danny was a little concerned when he asked, "Is that something you want or is it something you feel you have to do?"
"I want to, it's just..."
"I understand, Tommy. If it's something you want to do, then just go slow. Make sure it's something you both want and make sure you listen to what he's saying, just as he should listen to you. If anything feels wrong, it probably is, and you should stop. I am going to leave now so you guys can have some privacy, but you can call me on my communicator at any time if you feel you need to."
"I might call Uncle Kyle, if that's okay with you."
"I have no problem with that, but I want to call him and let him know you may call."
Tommy hugged Danny, "Thanks Danny… you're the best."
"So are you, Tommy… I'm so proud to have you for a brother. Have fun and be safe."
Danny left the holodeck at that point. He contacted Kyle to let him know that Tommy might call and then went to report for his watch."
After dinner, the group sat around the holographic bonfire. It was a quiet time where couples just enjoyed being with their mate. Two by two, they left the campfire and headed to their tepees.
Tommy and Lakinae were the last two to enter their tepee. When they went inside, they saw Marasu and Duskin cuddled up… naked and fast asleep. The older couple went to their makeshift bed and, after stripping, cuddled each other.
The next morning, Lakinae woke to his younger brother prodding him. "I'm hungry."
"Hopefully someone has breakfast planned. You and Duskin should head to shore and see if it is. We'll be out in a bit, and if nothing is planned, we'll figure something out."
After the younger two left, Lakinae woke Tommy. "Good morning, did you sleep well?"
Tommy grinned, "You tired me out, so I slept really well."
"Duskin and Marasu went to see if breakfast is ready. We should get dressed and join them."
Tommy gave Lakinae a deep kiss then started pulling on his shorts.
At breakfast, several of the couples started talking about their nights. They kept the details to a minimum, but it was still somewhat funny watching some of the boys blushing.
With breakfast out of the way, the boys broke up again for another ride through the forest. While they were out, Tommy and Lakinae called Danny. Both thanked him for his advice and told him they truly enjoyed their night.
Danny rolled over and gave Kyle a kiss, "They had fun. I don't think it was as much as we had since all the kids were gone, but…"
"Honestly? I don't want to know everything they did. As Long as they're both happy, I'm happy."
"Sir," Ensign Doug Erikson called out, "We are approaching a planetary nebula. The distress signal is coming from within."
"On screen," Hall requested.
After seeing the nebula, Hal asked, "Are you able to scan into it?"
"We can, Sir," Doug replied, "but until we get closer, some of the more distant scans are being distorted."
"What about with infrared again?" Kyle inquired.
Doug answered, "That will give us an idea of what is in the nebula, but no real information. We can make out a rogue planet with many ships around it, one of which is the Explorer Class sending out the distress signal. She still has power, as do some of the ships. Most have either lost power or been powered down."
Hal ordered "Keep scanning. As you get more detail, let me know. Helm, move us to the edge of the nebula."
"Aye, aye, Sir," Kyle responded as he guided the ship.
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