Commander Tom Collins was nervous, he had a suggestion and just hoped that it wouldn't go over like a lead balloon. He wanted to go to orphanages to look for potential candidates for the Academy, and maybe the Prep School, depending on their test scores. He approached Rear Admiral Minor first.
Minor wasn't liking the idea, "Commander, we have several scholarship students already. They come from good, if somewhat impoverished, environments. There is no reason for us to scour the dregs of society for recruits."
Collins argued, "With all due respect, Admiral, it is my job as a recruiter to bring in the best and the brightest. I think if we simply wash our hands of those you refer to as the 'dregs,' we will miss someone who deserves to receive what we have to offer and who will be the type of person we want and who will more than repay our efforts."
Minor wasn't budging, so Commander Collins asked if Fleet Admiral Mirah could sit in on the discussion. Minor wasn't happy about Collins wanting to "go over his head," but the Commander did have strong feelings about this matter. "Fine, I will allow one boy from each state as a trial run, but only you, that Marine, Colonel Savage, and one other recruiter may go, and only to facilities that approve your coming."
The result of his long campaign to broaden the base of their recruiting was Admiral Minor giving him a reasonable window to recruit children into the system, especially orphans under the care of CPS, but just him, along with two other recruiters. He could only go to facilities that contacted him once he sent notice that he was recruiting in the area. One thing about Admiral Minor, Collins thought, he might be tough to convince, but once you convinced him, he went all-in.
Date of Birth: 03 July 2107
Location: Charleston, SC
Aiden was discovered when his social worker contacted the Academy after hearing that we were interviewing potential new recruits. He had been asked to be taken out of four different group homes for propositioning other boys for sex. So, I was sent to interview the boy.
When I arrived at the Charleston County Social Services office where Aiden's case worker, Bertha Cringe worked. She told me that Aiden was being held in their 'special' holding area as they couldn't put him with other boys. I was taken to the Charleston County Jail then to a cell in their Juvenile detention center. I was appalled by what I saw.
The boy was being kept in a cell with no windows. The walls were painted white. The sink, toilet, and even the bed frame was also white. The worst part of this was, Aiden was naked. I demanded that the boy be given some clothing and brought to me in a conference room.
When the boy arrived, Aiden was sullen; not surprising in this situation. He stood about 4' 10" and according to his file, weighed about 100 pounds, but the boy in front of me couldn't have weighed over 90. He had the most mesmerizing eyes. When I first met with him his eyes were hazel with flecks of green. I administered the standard aptitude tests and his test scores were through the roof, with him showing an exceptional aptitude for Tactical. During the course of the interview that followed, his eye color shifted. The flecks of green changed to brown when he was sad and almost red when he was angry. As I explained the program to him, his eyes opened wide and his entire demeanor changed when he heard that the majority of the boys on the mission were gay.
I talked to him about his unusually high sex drive; as soon as I mentioned it his face dropped. Tears began forming in the eyes of this boy who will turn 13 in about a month. He looked up at me and said, "I didn't proposition any of those boys. I simply told them I thought I was gay. I know that there are still people out there who feel that being gay is bad, but I can't help it. I have never had sex, not with anyone. When I told them they all got mad at me and told me to stay away from them. Mr. Collins, is it bad to be gay?"
I looked into the boy's eyes, they were hopeful of my answer. "No Aiden, it's not bad to be gay. I'm gay, and I was adopted too, by two dads," hearing this the boy's tears dried up and his smile returned. I asked him if he wanted to go to the Academy.
"For reals? You mean I can go there and go into space?"
"Aiden, you can go to the academy. You must study hard, and train hard. You will need to earn the right to go into space, but I am sure you can do it, if you put your mind to it."
His reply was to hop over the table and wrap his arms around my neck, hugging me fiercely, bury his head in the crook of my neck and cry. A few moments later he said, "I want that more than anything. I will be the best student at the Academy."
I took Aiden to the hotel where I was staying that Friday afternoon. I had initially planned this to be a working vacation and wasn't scheduled to leave until Tuesday, 4 June 2120. Under better circumstances, Aiden would have been left in the care of Social Services, but in all good conscience I couldn't leave him.
We spent the weekend talking. He asked all sorts of questions. Questions about the mission. Questions about what it means to be gay. I guess he looked at me as sort of a father figure. I noticed that the boy seemed happy and when I looked at him the flecks of color in his eyes had changed to the most brilliant blue.
Connor Marlin couldn't believe his luck. A man from Space Fleet Academy had come to the orphanage and announced, "I am here today because we are selecting one boy from an orphanage in each state to be part of a program. This orphanage was selected for the State of Texas. One lucky boy could get the opportunity to leave the orphanage and hopefully attend the Academy; not the boarding school, but the actual Academy. Those interested must be between the ages eleven and sixteen and you'll need to write an essay as to why you would be interested in joining. Only those of you with an exceptional essay in your age group will be selected to test, and only the top passing test score will get selected." Connor wrote the best paper that he could and when his name was announced to test, he was ecstatic.
Colonel Savage, with the Marine Division of Space Fleet, sat with Connor and chatted. He explained the program in great detail to Connor and asked for his thoughts. Connor replied, "It seems interesting, yet scary. It'll be a challenge that I believe I am capable of handling, yet at the same time worried that I may fail. Until we get out there, we won't know what to expect, but I believe the rewards of finding out exceed the risks."
"That sounds like a logical assessment," Savage was staring at the boy's eyes. Realizing that he was, Savage quickly apologized, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to stare, but your eyes are highly unusual. One is a dark blue and the other is a bluish green. And the pupils…"
Connor smiled, "No worries, I get that all the time. I used to hide them behind sunglasses, but now, it doesn't bother me. To my knowledge, my eyes have always been like this. Doctors call them dragon eyes, but they can't explain why I have them. Several tests have been run, and my DNA proves to be a hundred percent human."
"And they can't explain the different colors either?" Savage inquired. "Were either of your parents' eyes like yours?"
Tears started welling up in Connor's eyes as he spoke, "My mom died giving birth to me, and my dad, well I haven't a clue who he is, or was. I've lived in this orphanage since birth. I've been shunned by prospective parents because my eyes scare them. They think I'm a demon or something."
"I see, so passing this test and getting the highest score would mean a lot to you," Savage acknowledged.
Connor gave a weak smile, "Only if I truly earned it. I don't want anyone just giving me something out of pity."
Savage smiled, "I can understand, I wish you the best."
There were twenty boys who signed up to take the test. Some were as old as seventeen. Of those twenty, only ten wrote an essay worthy of consideration. And of the remainder, five dropped out when they discovered they would be on a ship full of mainly homosexual boys and no females. That left five boys, Connor was among this group.
After the exam, the boys anticipated hearing how they did. They sat for half an hour before Savage sent the score results to the tablets on their desks. Connor looked, hoping he made it, but ready to accept it if he didn't. He read...
Connor couldn't believe that he missed them all. With tears in his eyes, he raised his hand to ask how. Savage came up to the podium and started to speak, "If you have questions about your score come see me after you are dismissed. For now, I would like to announce the boy who will be going to the Academy, and that boy is Connor Marlin, with a perfect score." Connor started to shake when he heard his name. It was then that he realized Savage claimed he had a perfect score; he didn't miss any.
He walked up to Savage and asked, "Did I really get a perfect score? You didn't give me any extra points, I hope."
Savage chuckled, "I assure you, you earned that score. Why would you doubt it? Per your academic records, you rarely miss anything."
Connor nodded, "That is true, but I had to be sure. If I deserve the position, I will accept it."
Savage smiled, "With an attitude like that, you will go far."
Connor chuckled, "Like maybe space?"
Savage dropped his head and started to laugh. "Let me get the paperwork arranged and I will take you home with me tonight and then to the Academy tomorrow, even though they won't be starting the next session of classes for two months. During that time, if you need anything, even if it's just to talk, call me."
Savage delivered Connor to his dorm room. He explained all the rules and regulations associated with living in the dorms. He explained how meals worked. He demonstrated the comm system and he finished by telling Connor that his roommate, Aiden Douglass, would be moving in soon. Giving Conner a chance to put away what little he brought, Savage gave him a tour of the base and took him to lunch.
Once I had Aiden's clothing sizes, I sent for an Academy Cadet's Uniform. Once he was dressed in the uniform, I took Aiden to the transport center, to be taken to Nevada and the Academy. I brought him to the room to which he was assigned. I knew his roommate arrived earlier, so I had him knock. Connor opened the door and the two boys stared at each other. Almost a minute passed before I broke their trance.
"Connor Marlin, I'd like you to meet Aiden Douglass, your new roommate."
Connor and Aiden were sitting on Aiden's bed talking. It was as if they'd known each other their entire lives. When Connor asked about where he was living before, Aiden's eyes went brown, his head dropped, and said, "I really don't want to talk about the last place I was, but before that I was in different foster homes. But they all threw me out."
Connor moved toward his roommate and held him. "Why would they do that, you seem like a really great guy!"
"They threw me out because they said I was asking boys to have sex with me," Aiden paused before continuing, "it's not true though; well not totally true, there was one boy that I asked, but he and I were the same age and we were already talking about sex stuff so I asked him if he wanted to try it with me. His mom heard and had me taken away that same day." As Connor held Aiden, the boy continued, "The first one I was thrown out of, all I did was look at some gay porn on the internet. My foster mom came in and saw me. She started yelling at me, asking if I ever did anything to her boys. My foster brothers were 8 and 9. I told her no, that I was just looking cuz I was curious, but she didn't believe me. The next home, they obviously told them what happened in the first home. I was there about a week when my foster brother, he was 14, came into my room. He said he wanted to fuck me since I was a little faggot boy anyway. He took off my clothes, then took off his own. His dick was huge, and he was hard. He laid on the bed and told me to sit on his dick or he'd beat me senseless. I had no choice so I hopped up onto the bed and as I was about to let him inside me his Dad came into the room. He yelled at me and asked Marty, my foster brother, what happened. Marty started to cry and said I forced him to do it, that I said I'd kill him in his sleep if he didn't. Well, Marty was his blood son so he believed him."
Aiden needed to stop for a few minutes to compose himself. He had no idea why he was telling this boy everything about him so soon after meeting. He just felt comfortable doing it. Not to mention that he really liked Connor's arms wrapped around him. "The last foster home I was in..."
"I thought you didn't want to talk about the last one," Connor asked.
"Nah, not the last home, the last place they kept me at, before Commander Collins came to rescue me. The last foster home I was in, I was only there a few days when one of my foster brothers, there were three of them, Timmy, Tommy, and Tony. Timmy was 14, Tommy was 12 like me, and Tony was 10, came to me and asked if I was gay. They didn't beat around the bush; they just came out and asked. I told them I wasn't sure but I thought I was. They all backed away from me and told me that I was dirty, that I was a sinner, that I was going to rot in hell and they didn't want anything to do with me. The next morning Mrs. Cringe came and took me to the jail. That was the last place I was at. They put me in a room that was all white. All the furniture was white too. There were no windows, not even on the door. Then they took all my clothes away. I was there for almost a week, the only time I saw anyone was when they brought me my food."
Aiden had no intention of telling about the jail, it just came out. Connor held Aiden even tighter and hugged him. Aiden turned his head and the two looked into each other's eyes. Aiden was captivated by Connor's eyes. The next thing he knew his head was moving toward the other boy and they kissed. It was like the Fourth of July in Aiden's mind.
When they broke the kiss, they looked at each other. Aiden got scared and said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that."
Connor just smiled and said, "If I didn't want you to do that, I wouldn't have let you, besides, I actually liked it. I didn't know for sure if I was gay, but how much I enjoy just being with you, I believe I am. Maybe we can become better friends and see what happens." Connor started asking Aiden questions, getting to know him and then finally Aiden asked, "I told you when I'll be thirteen, how about you?"
Connor smiled and responded, "I'll be thirteen on the thirtieth of June..."
Aiden looked surprised, "So you are three days older than me?"
Connor shook his head, "I didn't finish. I'll be thirteen next year. You are three days shy of being a year older than me."
"Then we should celebrate our birthdays together," Aiden stated. "Man, I hope that we both get to go to space, hopefully on the same ship."
Connor agreed, "Me too, but if we don't, let's make a pact to try and stay in touch if we can or attempt to meet somewhere when we both return to earth."
With no classes, Connor and Aiden were left on their own for the most part. Provided they followed the Academy rules, no one would give them any gruff. They went to the secretary, Melissa Gebhart, and asked who to seek permission from to go into town for a bit. "As long as you let me, or whoever is at this desk, know you don't need permission to go to town. If you go beyond town, or wish an extended visit into town, then you will need to seek permission from the Superintendent."
"Then we are going into town to explore," Aiden stated.
Connor asked, "Is there anything that we should know?"
Melissa Gebhart replied, "Be sure you are back on base no later than 2100 hours. After that, you won't be allowed back on without notifying Vice Admiral Minor."
"Thank you for that advice," Aiden responded, "but that shouldn't be a problem. We expect to be back for supper. Neither of us has any money."
Melissa smiled, "I guess they didn't tell you. Connor, Colonel Savage placed two hundred credits in your base account. I guess he kind of adopted you because he arranged for you to receive this monthly, that is until you leave the Academy. And Aiden, Commander Collins did the same for you. Of all the boys that they've talked to, you two are the only ones to whom they are giving some of their credits."
The boys asked how they could get access to the credits and use them, so Melissa explained. Once she was done, they went to explore the city close to the base.
Las Vegas, Nevada, used to be a gambling town, but when monetary currency failed and they moved to the credit system, gambling wasn't what it used to be. There were still a few places, but now, most of the casinos have become historical places. Aiden and Connor walked into a place called the Pink Cadillac. As they walked in, they heard a song playing, 'Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go…'
Aiden smiled, "I don't care how old that song is, I like those words." Connor took that as a hint and draped his left arm over Aiden's shoulders.
As they continued walking through, they saw a mannequin with unusual sideburns wearing a white jumpsuit with an eagle design. They were able to sit in a pink Cadillac that claimed to belong to royalty. Connor asked one of the guards, "What country was Elvis the king of?"
The guard started to laugh, "He was considered the King of Rock and Roll, not a country." Connor gave the man a funny look.
As they continued, Aiden asked what the vinyl-looking discs on the wall were. A man said, "When the King was alive, those were some of his records. Each side has a song on it."
They continued walking and heard another song playing, 'Baby let me be, your lovin' Teddy Bear. Put a chain around my neck, and lead me anywhere, oh let me be your teddy bear…'
Aiden looked at Connor, "Would you be my teddy bear?" Connor just laughed and gave Aiden a kiss.
They found a place to sit down and were watching a giant vid screen. On the screen, this guy they kept calling Elvis was in Hawaii and kept singing throughout the movie. Aiden looked at Connor and started to sing one of the songs, "Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you. Shall I stay? Would it be a sin, if I can't help falling in love with you?"
Connor laughed, "I think you're nuts, but I think I like you, too."
The boys did everything together, even some personal stuff, getting closer and closer, becoming the best of friends. They talked about being boyfriends but agreed to wait and see if they were assigned together before making that commitment. If they were not on the same ship, they didn't want to make the other one feel trapped.
Aiden woke Connor up with a kiss. That was as far as they've gone so far, but they have discussed doing other things in the almost month they have been friends. When Connor opened his eyes, he saw the most brilliant blue flecks sparkling in front of him. When they separated, Aiden offered, "Today is your birthday; whatever you want to do, I am yours all day."
Connor swallowed hard, "I want you to be my first for everything, but I'm not ready for some things."
"That's fine," Aiden stated. "Truth be told, while I want you to be the one who does it, I'm not really ready to go all the way, either. But I was willing if you wanted, since it's your birthday."
Connor whispered, "You are my best friend, and we talked about it being with benefits, at least until we get on the ship, but I don't know what to do. Can we try sucking each other?"
Aiden smiled, "Whatever you want, Babe. I'm yours all day."
Connor explained, "Sometime today, I would like to call Colonel Savage and invite him over, and you can call Commander Collins. Then we can celebrate both our birthdays. But for now, I would like us to show each other what we truly mean to each other."
Aiden gave Connor another kiss and then started kissing down his body, turning his own, until they were in a sixty-nine position. Together, they tried things that they had heard about or read. It was after noon before they took time to eat and call their recruiters, or "adopted dads."
Both men showed up and while the boys wanted to pay for them, to show how much they appreciated everything, Commander Collins insisted, "We are celebrating your birthdays, let us pay. It wouldn't be right for you to."
The boys gave in and spent the rest of the evening with the officers, until they were required to be back in the dorms. Colonel Savage handed Connor a package and said, "I hope you like this. I wasn't really sure what to get a twelve-year-old boy."
Connor opened it up and it was a remote-control helicopter kit. His eyes lit up, "This is cool."
Savage explained, "Once you build it, it'll use a rechargeable crystal for energy, but it should actually fly."
"Thanks a lot, Dad," Connor slipped, "errr, um, I mean Colonel Savage."
Savage mussed Connor's hair, "While I'm not really your dad, if you want to think of me that way, I would like that."
Commander Collins handed Aiden a package as well. "It's not your birthday yet, so wait to open it," he instructed.
Aiden debated, "You should be here when I open it, so I either want to open it now, or would like to wait for you to return for when I do."
Collins grinned at Aiden, "I'm glad you want me here. I may not be able to come on the third, so go ahead."
Aiden opened his present and there was a Holodeck game called Secret Ops. It was based upon the Special Forces Teams. Aiden looked at Commander Collins and said, "When you get a chance, the two of you should join Connor and me in this. See what us kids can do against you adults."
Savage laughed, "You know, before I was assigned to the Academy, I was part of the Special Forces from which that game was designed. Still, you learn how to play the game, and I think you'll give us a good challenge, if not beat us. Maybe we can get two games in, first being you boys against us, and second, Connor and me against the two of you."
Aiden grinned, "We have nowhere to go for Thanksgiving or Christmas…"
With a tear in his eye, Collins argued, "Yes you do, we will make sure you have good holidays for both holidays. We'll play the game with you on Thanksgiving, then take you to one of our homes for the feast."
Connor did a reverse of what happened on his birthday, except Aiden was waiting to see if he would. When Connor went to kiss him, Aiden wrapped his arms around Connor and pulled him tight. Connor whispered, "Remember the deal you made me? Well, same goes to you except, I think I'm ready. I want you to take me and make me yours for your birthday."
Aiden had a tear in his eye, "I would like that, but are you sure? I love you more than as a brother, and I hope we get assigned together because I've fallen in love with you."
"I know," Connor whispered, "and I love you, too. That's how I know I am ready. Even if we do get separated, you will always have my heart. I know that we agreed not to be boyfriends, but I still love you like one."
Aiden gave Connor a kiss, and countered, "OK, but since it's my birthday, I want you to enter me as well."
Until classes started, the boys were inseparable. They shared one bed, they played Aiden's game every chance they could, and they took care of one another.
True to their word, Colonel Savage and Commander Collins showed up on Thanksgiving morning. Aiden explained, "Instead of us going against each other, there is a group that has challenged us. There are four on their team and they have been giving Connor and me some grief, so I told them, Thanksgiving Day, we would have four and take them on. What do you say?"
Savage grinned, "Sounds like fun. So how well do the two of you do against them?"
Connor looked down, "We usually get two or three of them out, but we've never gotten the fourth one."
Collins lifted Connor's chin so they were looking eye-to-eye, "Considering they've had two more than you, that's nothing to be ashamed of. Let's go beat them."
As the game was loading up, Savage looked at the names of the team they would be up against. One name stood out to him, Red Dragon. He hit the comm button and asked, "Red Dragon, you wouldn't happen to be General Savage, would you?"
A voice came back, "Not many people would know that, and I was wondering when I saw Blue Dragon on the other team, you must be my son. The boys you are playing with have gotten exceptionally good, I look forward to the challenge, especially knowing you will be helping them. Good luck to both teams, we'll all need it. Red Dragon out."
Connor asked, "Red Dragon is your dad?"
Savage nodded his head, "He is, and you've been playing against a team that does this game for a living. Win or lose, we are proud of the job you've been doing."
At the conclusion of the game, Connor and Aiden lost again, but this was the closest they had ever come to a victory. Red Dragon told them that if they ever consider to play on his team, he would welcome them, and once they graduated, if they decided to join the Special Forces, he would recommend them. The boys didn't feel badly about losing since they found out who they had been playing against.
They left the Holodeck and went to Savage's house. His wife had a fabulous feast waiting on them when they walked in. Savage introduced Connor, "Honey, you remember Connor, the boy that I sort of adopted, not legally but I told him that he could call me Dad."
She looked at the boy and said, "Pleased to meet you again, Connor, my name is Darla, or if you're calling Javier Dad, I guess I am Mom."
Connor smiled, "I like that, and thank you, Mom." Then he gave her a hug.
Savage continued, "Then of course, you know Tom. And this is Aiden, Connor's roommate, and the boy Tom's been sort of fathering."
"Nice to meet you, Aiden," Darla offered.
The boys were anxious to eat, but they waited. When the door chimed, it was the Commander who answered it. He came back to the dining room with another gentleman about his age. "Aiden, Connor, this is the love of my life. Phil, Aiden is the boy I've been helping."
Phil shook both of their hands, but looked at Aiden directly, "Pleased to finally meet you, Aiden. Tom has been going on and on about you, ever since the day he came home from recruiting you. I almost got jealous of you."
"So, what took you so long?" Savage asked.
Phil explained, "My husband put in a call to Admiral Minor before he left. With it being a holiday, Minor didn't respond right away, but he approved the boys staying out until tomorrow. Connor can stay here, and Aiden will go home with us." The boys had mixed emotions about sleeping apart, but thought if they end up on different ships, they would have to endure it.
As they sat to eat, Commander Collins reminded them that Christmas would be at his place.
"Cadets Marlin and Douglass, reporting as ordered," Connor said to the secretary as the two stood at attention.
"Commander Bowman will be with you shortly, gentlemen; please have a seat." The secretary then picked up her phone and made a call which lasted only a few seconds.
The two boys sat close to one another, but not too close. The wait, even though it was only a few minutes, felt like hours. For Aiden Douglass, his wait was going to be a bit longer, as a young man, maybe seventeen, stepped out wearing the uniform of a full Commander. He called Connor into the office with him. He looked over at Aiden, smiled, and entered the office, closing the door.
Aiden was left to sit there, waiting… wondering.
Inside the office Connor stood at attention in front of the desk the young man had taken a seat behind. "Cadet Marlin, reporting as ordered, Sir!"
"Have a seat, Cadet. Let's have a chat, shall we?"
Connor took a seat. He was nervous because he hadn't been told why he had been summoned. The fact that both he and Aiden had been summoned confused him all the more. His confusion wouldn't last too long as Bowman began to speak.
"Connor, my name is Commander David Bowman. You are aware of the upcoming deep space mission. You also know that you have been selected to be in the pool of candidates to go on that mission. I will be the Captain of one of those vessels and would like to talk to you a bit to see if you would be a good fit for my crew."
Connor listened intently and waited as the Commander reviewed a file on his desk before continuing, "I see from your file here that you have been the perfect example of what a Cadet should be. You study hard and you train hard. Your instructors all have nothing but good things to say about you. Tell me, what is your biggest flaw?"
Connor was taken aback by this question, "My biggest flaw, Sir?"
"Yes, tell me one thing you'd like to change about yourself," Bowman clarified.
Connor thought for a moment before saying, "Well, Sir, I guess I would have to say that at times I get a bit too emotional. I am pretty good at hiding it, but I feel it inside."
Bowman listened to this answer and replied, "Good, what do you do to deal with this?"
"Sir, I have found that having someone to talk to about these feelings helps a great deal,"
"I also see from comments made by your recruiter that you have an exceptional level of integrity. You scored a perfect score on the entrance exam, I believe only a handful of Applicants have done that. I also see that you wanted to make sure you earned your spot, that the Colonel… Colonel Savage, that he didn't give you extra points because he felt pity for you," Bowman appraised the boy before asking, "What would you do if I told you that he did give you bonus points because he felt you deserved to go to the Academy more than the others who applied?"
Connor was upset, "Please don't tell me that is what happened, Sir. If it did, then I would be bound by my own conscience to resign from the Academy."
Bowman laughed which further upset Connor. Bowman then smiled at the boy and said, "I didn't believe what he told me about your level of integrity, but you just proved it. Moving on, I see from your records that your specialty is Engineering. You have been second in your class only to Cadet Blackwell. I see that your overall testing record is the highest in the Academy. What would you say if you were offered a position on my ship?"
"All I can say, Sir, is I don't want anything just handed to me. I have done my best and if you feel I have earned a position, I will do my best to prove I am as good as I hope you believe I am."
"Of that I have no doubt, Lt. Commander Marlin."
"Lt. Commander? Does that mean you are inviting me to be on your crew? Thank you, Sir, you have my word that I will keep studying hard so I can be the best I can be for you."
"That is exactly what I mean. This all needs to be approved, and I do not know specifically what exact position you will hold, but I want you on board as a member of my crew."
"Thank you, Sir. Thank you so much," Connor was ecstatic until one thought came to him. "Sir, I know that Cadet Douglass has been summoned as well; if he doesn't mind, would it be okay if I sat in on his interview?"
Bowman looked the boy over once again, wondering if this was going to present a problem. He decided to test Connor's resolve, "Before I answer that… I know you and Cadet Douglass have become very good friends. Being that you have already been offered a position on my crew, what would you do if Cadet Douglass was not? Would it affect your decision to join my crew?"
Without hesitation Connor replied, "No Sir, it would not. I would feel badly because Aiden and I have become close, but when I accepted your appointment I made a commitment to you, one that I cannot and will not break."
Bowman smiled, "Maybe I should make you the Ethics Officer. I have no problem with you sitting in on the interview providing you keep quiet unless you get permission to speak, and that Cadet Douglass has no objections." Bowman picked up his phone and told the secretary to send Cadet Douglass in.
As Aiden entered, the first thing he saw was the smile on Connor's face. That alone did much to allay the fears that had been building in his mind during the nearly one hour he'd been sitting alone in the waiting room.
When he entered, he stood in front of the Commander's desk at attention and stated, "Commander, Sir. Cadet Douglass, reporting as ordered, Sir."
"Please have a seat, Cadet. Lt. Commander Marlin has asked to sit in on your interview. I have agreed providing you have no objections."
Lt. Commander? Aiden couldn't believe it, "No… No, Sir, I have no objections."
"Very well, let's get started then, shall we?"
Aiden sat as Commander Bowman reviewed the file on his desk. "Aiden, my name is Commander David Bowman. As I told Connor, I am sure you are aware of the upcoming deep space mission. You also know that you have been selected to be in the pool of candidates to go on that mission. I will be the Captain of one of those vessels and would like to talk to you a bit to see if you would be a good fit for my crew."
Aiden listened but said nothing, Bowman continued, "I see from your records that you are specializing in Tactics and Security. The job of Tactical Officer on a starship is one of the most important on the ship and that person is also fifth-in-command of the vessel, so I am going to be very careful at who I select for that position. Should I choose not to select you, would you be willing to accept a subordinate position if that is offered?"
"Sir, if selected for any position, I would do my utmost to fulfill my duties. I'm not one who feels I have to be in charge, but I can take charge when necessary," Aiden replied with a level of confidence he wasn't sure he actually felt.
"Excellent, I was reading the report from the recruiting officer who met with you, Commander Collins, I believe." Hearing this, Aiden's face went slack, his eyes changed from green to brown as the Commander continued, "The situation he found you in was terrible, I am so sorry you had to endure that. We've done some investigating on your claims and found what you'd told him to be basically accurate however there were a couple of discrepancies. Would you care to clear those up?"
Aiden looked over at Connor, he could see in his roommate's eyes that he should tell Commander Bowman everything. He swallowed hard and told the commander everything he had told Connor on that first day over six months previous. He felt embarrassed when he told Commander Bowman about being left naked in that cell but the Commander seemed unfazed by this revelation. When he had finished, he looked up at the Commander expectantly.
"Very good, that is exactly what he had determined in our investigation. Thank you for being so honest with me, Aiden. I see from your Academy records you have scored highest in your class in every subject. Your training officer says that you never try to get out of anything assigned to you and occasionally even ask for additional training exercises. Tell me, what do you think is your biggest flaw? What one thing would you like to change in yourself?"
Aiden didn't hesitate, "Sir, I guess it's that when I get onto a topic I feel strongly about, I tend to ramble a bit. Connor has been good at keeping me from doing it, but anyone who brings it to my attention would be able to get me to stop."
Bowman chuckled, "From the assessment of your teachers, they tend to agree with you." Over the next fifteen minutes, Bowman asked Aiden how he would react in different sets of circumstances. Aiden answered as best he could for each.
Bowman sat back and was thinking for a few minutes before he said, "Aiden, tell me. If you were not offered a position on my crew, and as you already know, Connor has already accepted one, how would that make you feel?"
"Sir, whereas I would be upset about losing a close friend, one who I have very deep feelings for, I would be happy for him. This is an incredible opportunity. I'd be sad I'd be losing him, but I'd know I still had an opportunity since there are nineteen other ships."
"Thank you, Cadet. That's all I need for now. I will get back to you in a day or so with my decision." Aiden and Connor stood and saluted the Commander before leaving the office.
Aiden and Connor had just finished giving each other the love they desired when their comm started beeping. Aiden and Connor pulled on a pair of shorts and went to answer it.
Commander Bowman's secretary was on and when she saw the two of them she said, "Good, you're both there. Commander Bowman wants to see both of you in his office, pronto! I suggest you both get dressed and run over here as soon as possible."
Aiden and Connor looked at one another once the comm disconnected. As one they immediately rushed to get dressed into their uniforms; which they did in record time. After a quick kiss, the two left their quarters and raced to Space Fleet Headquarters on the other side of the Academy campus.
Once inside, they took the lift to the 3rd floor where Bowman's office was located. Out of breath, Aiden said, "Lt. Commander Connor Marlin and Cadet Aiden Douglass reporting as ordered."
Commander Bowman was in the doorway and called them into the office. "Gentlemen, please take a seat." Once they were seated, Commander Bowman asked, "Aiden, just for confirmation, your specialty is Tactical, am I correct?"
"Aiden, at this time, I am inclined to offer you a commission on my crew. I have you slated for the position of Chief Tactical and Security Officer. I am also considering one other individual, so know that right now, you will either be Chief Tactical and Security Officer or Assistant Tactical Officer. That is, if you accept this commission."
Aiden smiled and asked, "So, this would mean that Connor and I would be on the same ship?"
Bowman smiled, "Yes, that means you and your boyfriend would be serving together on my crew. I will warn you though that just because you are in a relationship your job comes first."
Aiden's grin split his face, "Sir, I would gladly accept the position on your crew, but you should know that Connor and I have not yet agreed to be boyfriends, but not knowing if we'd be together on the same ship was one of the reasons. All I really want is to be able to give my best in whatever position you place me in. The fact that Connor and I can still be together is a dream come true, for both of us."
"Very well, Lieutenant Commander Douglass, and Lieutenant Commander Marlin, you are dismissed, don't forget to stop by my secretary's desk to get your new rank insignias."
The two boys stood and shook the Commander's hand, then left. After stopping by the Secretary, they headed to their dorm room to celebrate.
"This is so amazingly incredibly awesome," Aiden shouted as he and Connor walked out of the Academy's Central Office and into the Quad, situated between four of the major buildings. He skipped and twirled and danced along the concrete path that led to the statue and fountain at the center of the quad. "Hey, come on and catch up to me, Connor! We need to go celebrate."
Connor wasn't quite ready to yell and dance, especially after seeing the stares that Aiden was garnering from some of the students walking through the Quad. He had never seen Aiden so overcome by exuberance. Aiden was always playing the role of the proper Academy cadet rather than give in to his inner twelve-year-old boy. Connor looked around the Quad and finally decided, "Ah, fuck it!" and skipped to his best friend, who was standing next to the rim of the fountain pool. "You're right—this is amazing and we really need to celebrate."
Aiden turned, wrapped his arms around Connor and planted a kiss on his cheek. At that time, Connor noticed that Aiden's eyes were so brightly blue they'd light up a dark room. That brought on a few looks as well, although one boy kissing another on campus wasn't quite as unusual as two boys skipping and dancing around the Quad, unless maybe they'd earned perfect scores on their end-of-term finals. While gays were a minority of the overall student population, they were accepted by the vast majority of the students and were not afraid to be out. Many of the straight students had some kind of relationship with another boy, too.
"So, how are we planning to celebrate?" Connor asked.
"I've got a couple of ideas," Aiden answered. "But the first thing I should do is call Commander Collins."
They went to their dorm room so Aiden could make his call in private. Commander Collins, the man who had recruited Aiden from the Juvenile Detention Center in Charleston, was just like a father to young Aiden.
"We did it!" Aiden shouted without introduction when he heard his recruiter's voice answer the comm. Aiden didn't wait for Collins to reply—he was too excited to pause. "Me and Connor are going to be on the 'Sooloo' together and I'm going to be a Tactical and Security Officer and maybe even the head but Commander Bowman, who will be our Captain hasn't decided that yet, but that doesn't matter because I'm now a Lieutenant Commander and I'm going to be with my best friend in the entire world." Aiden finally stopped for air, after forgetting grammar, protocol, manners, and a myriad of other things he would have normally remembered when talking to Commander Collins.
When he realized what he'd just done, Aiden waited to be properly chastised. Instead he heard a roar of laughter on the other end of the line. "Oh my, I do believe you are a tad bit excited Cadet…no, make that Commander Douglass," Collins laughed.
"I'm sorry if I was out of line, Sir," Aiden said as he tried to wipe the grin off his face and recover himself.
"Son, you can call me dad, and if you didn't go overboard with excitement after what you've just accomplished, I'd begin to wonder if you were really a young boy or some kind of impersonal android. Son, there is no question that you have proven yourself to be all boy."
"Thanks… Dad." Aiden said. "But I didn't accomplish anything—Commander Bowman gave me the job."
Collins chuckled. "Look, Bowman didn't give you anything. You earned your position, fair and square. I've seen your grades, your test scores, and your personal reports. You are one hell of a young man who has made me a very proud papa."
"I tried hard."
"And you succeeded. What does Conner think of all of this?"
Aiden looked over at his best friend. "He thinks it's the greatest. We're going to celebrate now."
"Oh, and where are you going to celebrate?"
"I think we have enough allowance money to go to Pepper's if we get permission to leave the campus, that is."
"Peppers has great hamburgers, but I think this calls for a little bit more. How about dinner at the Golden Triangle?" The Golden Triangle was the best restaurant in the area surrounding the Academy and Prep School campuses.
There was a long silence as Aiden worked on an answer that wouldn't sound too dumb. He decided the truth was the best way to go. "Prep school students aren't supposed to go there on their own, and besides we can't afford it anyway."
"You are not a Prep School student, and while you do still need training at the Academy, you are officers in Space Fleet. It just so happens that Bill, the owner, is the cousin of one of my dads, which gives me a bit of an in. I will call him and let him know you and Connor are coming for dinner and to put it on my bill..."
"No buts. This is a done deal. As for going off campus and eating at the Triangle, just to be safe, I will clear that with Admiral Minor while you boys put on your best uniforms—that's best, not dress. The one's you wear for inspections. Now clean up, get busy, have fun, tell me how it went when you can. I know you two will make me proud from the moment you set foot in the Golden Triangle."
After the connection was cut, Commander Collins took a deep breath, but it wasn't enough to keep the tears from flowing. He thought back to the naked boy on a cot in a sterile, all-white, horrific environment. What he had found was a boy who had given up all hope. The boy he had just spoken to has the same name as the boy he found, but he is barely the same boy. As Commander Collins saw it, he had recruited a miracle—a miracle named Aiden Douglass. He remembered when he first approached Minor with the project.
Tom looked at his husband and shared the news. Then said, "I have a phone call to make for two amazing young boys who helped to show that I had been right."
As Commander Collins learned later from Bill, Aiden and Connor were the model of civility and of the behavior expected not only of a student at the Academy, but of an officer and a gentleman. "They could give lessons to some of your faculty members who come in to eat here." When he had a chance later to compliment Aiden and Connor on the good report from his cousin and restaurateur, the boys had grinned with pleasure. They also assured Aiden's "dad" that they had cleaned their plates and that it was the best restaurant meal they'd ever had and that the raspberry cheesecake was amazing. Aiden finished when, with Connor's okay, he told his "dad" about the special conversation he and Connor had had at their table.
The evening of their dinner, the boys arrived at the restaurant ten minutes before the reservation that Commander Collins had made for them. They felt a little out of place when they entered, but that feeling didn't last for long. The maître d made them feel like they were the most important customers to enter the establishment all day, as soon as they arrived at his desk. He seated them, introduced them to Peter, their waiter, and wished them a bon appetite. At first the prices on the menu frightened them, but Commander Collins had told them not to worry about prices, so they didn't; they simply ordered what they wanted. Bill paid a visit as they started into their entrees (prime rib for Connor, roast half chicken for Aiden). He complimented them on their sharp looking uniforms, on their deportment, and on their choice of meals.
For the boys, the highlight of the meal wasn't the meal itself, it was their conversation just before dessert. It was a topic Aiden had been afraid to bring up for the entire meal as he worried about his perfect day being spoiled. He knew he shouldn't be worrying, but a lot of his background started to haunt his memories. He'd had too many giant disappointments in his young life to believe in perfection. He found out right then how needless his worrying had been.
Connor reached half-way across the table with both of his hands. "Hold my hands, Aiden."
"I believe you're the only Aiden at this table." Aiden reached out with both hands and grabbed hold of his friend's hands. "Aiden, now that we know we're going to be together for almost the rest of our lives, I want to ask you what I've wanted to ask you in like, forever." Aiden could feel his heart pounding in his chest, hoping the question was the one he thought it would be. "Aiden, will you please be my boyfriend."
Aiden almost fainted when he heard those words, but he kept enough of his mind going to squeeze Connor's hands tightly and say, "Oh, yes, yes, yes. Oh, Connor, I've wanted this so bad for so long and, as I got to know you better, I knew I wanted you even worse. Yes, I'll be your boyfriend and you'll be mine... forever."
When Peter arrived with dessert, he saw two young adolescents holding each other's hands with tears dripping down their smooth cheeks. Peter knew exactly what he was witnessing—it was young love, a tough emotion to match. He set their cheesecakes to the side so as not to interrupt the hand holding. "Congratulations, boys," he whispered, and then he moved quietly away.
That night they stripped naked and climbed into bed together. They were full, they were happy, they were proud, they were dreadfully tired and they were in love. They kissed deeply knowing that as tired as they were, nothing was going to occur beyond holding what they considered to be the most beautiful human in history. The lights had been turned out, but there was enough ambient light that they could see each other's face and eyes. There was a last kiss. They were face to face, their bodies tangled together.
"I just had a thought," Aiden whispered.
"There really is such a thing as a perfect day."