Hearts Across Space

Chapter Eight: The Fight Begins

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to persons past, present or future is purely coincidental or the results of an over active imagination. Furthermore no politicians were harmed during the creation of this chapter. If you do see yourself in this chapter please contact Dr. Lisa :)!

"If they didn't care for A'lexii so much and he for them I would never had suggested it in the first place!!! You wouldn't have gone through with the adoptions if you thought it was a sham and didn't love A'lexii and them also. S'ean can you and A'lexii let me speak to them through your links?"

'Yes father we can of course they will probably be shocked to the 'Keeper',' Was A'lexii's smirking response over the link.

"This close father and with A'ndi's help you should be able to 'hear' their responses as well." S'ean replied vocally and across the link.

'How do you want to talk to them love? Do you want to link to them through my link to them or shall I establish the link first and then we can bring your Dad and A'ndi in?' A'lexii sent while he was tying his shoe so Barbara wouldn't know what was going on.

"Actually I think my link to them is strong enough love that I will link to them then add you and then we can add Dad and A'ndi; shall we try that?" S'ean vocalized and sent at the same time an heard A'ndi gasp in surprise.

'If you think it will work A'lexii then I think we should try it.' A'ndreas sent through the partial link that S'ean had established when he took his and D'avid's hands.

"Okay give me a moment," was S'ean's guarded response.

S'ean closed his eyes and then cleared his mind until he was calm and at peace; he then lowered his shields and searched for the lights that were his sons' filtering out the blazing lights of his Bond, his Dad and A'ndreas. Quicker than he had expected he found his sons' lights and began reaching out to them. S'ean decided to try something he had never done before, however, since he had bonded with 'Lexi he thought he was strong enough. Taking a deep breath S'ean prepared to link to both L'ogen and C'obi simultaneously something A'lexii could do while asleep.

'S'ea... Daaad is that you?' Rang two young and joyous voices in S'ean's head.

'Yes sons, A'lexii mentioned something to me and your grandfather wants to 'speak' to you. So give me a 'mic' while I link to 'Lexi and then your grandfather and A'ndreas.' Sent S'ean to his surprised sons.

'Granpa wants to speak to us? Are we in trouble?' Was the dual voice that sang through S'ean's consciousness.

While his sons were asking the question S'ean had already linked to A'lexii and the two of them were bringing D'avid and A'ndreas into the six way link something previously unannotated. Of course having physical contact with A'ndreas and his Dad made things a lot easier on that end of the link. A'lexii was just providing S'ean with strength and a little control but S'ean was controlling the gestalt completely on his own and he was thrilled.

'I will let your grandfather answer that question;' S'ean sent with all the love he could, across the link.

'L'ogen and C'obi, you are my grandsons and I couldn't be prouder of you. While there were some political reasons behind your adoption, they were minuscule compared to the fact that your grandmother and I got two wonderful grandsons out of the deal. Trust me; your grandmother is doing the exact same thing for the two of you as she has done many times for my son and myself. She has even dragged A'ndi shopping when he didn't have formal clothes that she liked. You two are our grandsons and we do love you and we will take very good care of you when your two dads are off saving the galaxy. Your grandmother and I love and will always love you.' D'avid then did something that S'ean did not know how to do; he sent a kiss across the link.

'Guys, I will be there for you also, someone has to teach you how to play Frissoc correctly, unlike your wimpy dad, S'ean.' A'ndreas sent laughingly across the link.

'Thanks grandpa and ...'

'You can call him 'Gramps', just don't call him grumps! And he will always be there for you whenever he can, just as he was there for me. Whatever you do don't ask him for something after your grandmother has already said no; because somehow they can communicate and it isn't this way.' S'ean asked the question that L'ogen and C'obi were trying to ask.

'L'ogen and C'obi, you can also call me Gramps due to the fact that I am your grandfather's Bond, I consider the two of you my grandsons also; just like I consider S'ean my son. And don't pay any attention to your Dad's tall tales about me but I can tell you lots of stories about him growing up. By the way, thanks to your Dad and that bunch of hooligans that call themselves his 'Companion's' your grandmother has eyes not only in the back of her head but on the side too.' A'ndreas sent with a smile.

'Thanks grandpa and gramps we feel much better now. And Daddy S'ean, we love you as much as we love Daddy 'Lexi. Uh oh Grandma is done with Jared and it is our turn again. Daddies can you please call Jared and let him come relax with you in the Spa tub it will do him good. He is really tense cause he doesn't believe we all love him yet and we can't calm him down.' L'ogen and C'obi asked together.

'Sure, Sons, I will do that and thank you for looking out for Jared. Don't worry he will be fine Brosius and your Grandma will have him fixed right up in no time. He just needs lots of Grandma Hugs.' A'lexii responded and then S'ean chimed in with, 'Luv ya's.'

"Mom, since you are finished with Jared can he go hide with S'ean and A'ndi and Dad?" A'lexii asked Barbara with an ear to ear smile. "I will stay and help you with my 'two imps'."

"I think that is a great idea, Son; that way he can keep an eye on those three and try and keep them out of trouble," Barbara replied and then walked over to Jared and gave him a hug and a kiss.

"Jared honey, you go right ahead and relax with my son and husbands it will do you good to be pampered a bit." Barbara then activated her wristcomm.

"Dion honey, can you come and show Jared where your lazy boss is hiding?"

"Yes Mom, I will be there in a moment."

As Dion said 'moment' the suite's entryway comm chimed and then Dion entered.

"C'mon Jared, let's go see what the old folks are up to and give S'ean a bad time for leaving you alone with these terrible 'imps' for so long," Dion spoke to Jared and then grinned widely at L'ogen and C'obi.

Jared started to tighten up and his skin started to pale slightly until L'ogen and C'obi launched themselves at Dion, screaming;

"We ain't terrible; we nice 'imps';" The two excited younglings hit Dion at the same time and took him to the floor, they tried tickling him but found it impossible because the defense mechanisms in Dion's Mark VII Skinsuit kicked in.

Dion had forgotten he was wearing his Skinsuit and was taken aback when the suit inflated slightly and stiffened. This was a built-in defense mechanism to stop knife thrusts and blows from reaching the wearer's body.

Jared burst out laughing for the first time in a long, long time as L'ogen and C'obi screamed out together.

"Dion, you cheating you wearing armour; we can't tickle you!"

The 'two imps' jumped up off of Dion, their faces displaying righteous indignation. Their looks of indignation soon faded and they joined Barbara and Jared in laughing like crazy and nearly falling on the floor they were laughing so hard. A'lexii meanwhile was busy broadcasting the whole scene to his Bond and his two Dads.

What was so funny was no matter how hard Dion tried he couldn't get up off of the floor!

'That will teach you to pick on my sons!' Sent S'ean through his link to Dion. 'I guess we need to read the instruction manual, huh Dion?' D'avid and A'ndreas were laughing so hard they were causing waves.

Jared decided it was time for him to repay some of the kindness that had been shown him and walked over to Dion, then knelt down next to Dion and tried to help him stand up. Seeing that wasn't working, A'lexii used his wristcomm to contact Michael and then he walked over and helped Jared to get Dion on his feet.

As Michael entered the suite, L'ogen and C'obi rushed over to him shouting;

"Uncle Michael, Uncle Dion was being mean to us; make him stop, please?"

Michael took one look at the blushing Dion and then said,

"You got yourself into this mess; you can get yourself out! C'mon Jared, I will take you to see the other reprobates so you can clean up, unwind and enjoy the good life for once. Don't worry about a thing; you are among friends and no one here will hurt you or allow you to be hurt." Michael then turned to A'lexii and mouthed; "HUD""HUD" ("H.U.D. = Heads Up Display") he then took Jared by the hand and tried to lead Jared out of the suite but he found it hard to move with the 'two imps' attached like leeches.

"Boys, let your Uncle Michael go; he has work to do and Jared needs to get pampered a bit. Go hug your Uncle Dion. I think he has learned his lesson; even though the armour wasn't his fault." Barbara told the two boys.

"Bye Uncle Michael, take good care of Jared; we like him." L'ogen and C'obi followed their grandmother's instructions and as they ran over to Dion, Michael and Jared slipped out the door.

A'lexii decided to have a little fun with Dion and casually asked him.

"Dion, have you tried the HUD yet?"

Dion went from scarlet to crimson over and over.

Michael led Jared to the Ambassadorial Suite and used his passkey to enter the suite before David could use his.

'The Companion' David, seeing that Jared was a little uneasy, spoke to him warmly.

"Jared, go on in and relax a bit; they won't bite you and if they do, just yell for me and I will take care of them and if I don't, big bad Michael will." David then closed the door before Michael could respond.

"Jared, before I forget, this is yours in case you need to get a hold of any of us. This unit has a fairly short range here but once we get back to the Estate I will give you your own personal one which has the same range as mine, S'ean's, A'ndreas's and 'The Companion's'. I know you still are trying to figure everything out but for now, just' relax and go with the flow; you are considered family." Michael then handed Jared a wristcomm and motioned to the robe laying on a sedan.

"If I don't see you beforehand, I will see you at dinner. Go soak and unwind." Michael then gave Jared a nudge towards the robe and headed out the door fully intending to have some fun with David. However, David being no fool, had one of the bellhops ask Steve to take his place. Michael didn't even acknowledge Steve he just yelled;


Jared stood there for a few moments trying to get his bearings. 'I can't believe everyone is being so nice to me. I was trying to take A'lexii's place and now he treats me like a brother and if that wasn't a big enough shock, I am being groomed to take S'ean's place at the Castellano Estate! I keep waiting for the mountain to fall on top of me!' Jared mused to himself while subconsciously following Michael's instructions and undressing in preparation for putting on the robe and heading to the Spa.

While Jared was getting ready to join the three in the Spa, those in there decided it was time to take matters into their own hands as Jared was broadcasting his insecurities so strongly that D'avid was reading him easily. The three Castellano's decided that one of them needed to go get Jared and bring him in bodily if necessary as Jared was talking himself out of joining them.

Just as A'ndreas was starting to get up to get Jared, D'avid interrupted him.

"A'ndi, let me go; I need to do this so Jared will believe Barbara and me that we want him in our family."

"Good idea Dad and have fun." S'ean lovingly told his father as he had a very good idea how his dad was going to accomplish his task.

D'avid didn't bother with his robe as he figured his plan would work better if Jared was too shocked to resist. As D'avid walked into the chamber where Jared was arguing with himself, he heard a stunned gasp from his intended prey.

Jared was standing there in his underwear slowly reaching for the robe when he heard the door open and saw a naked Grand Marshal with a very determined look on his face striding purposely towards him. Jared stood there trying to say something but before he could get any words out, D'avid had reached him, removed the robe from his hand and said;

"You won't need that and you are coming with me!"

As soon as D'avid had finished his forceful speech, he ducked his shoulder and before Jared knew what hit him, he was slung over D'avid's shoulder and on his way into the Spa.

Jared was too stunned to even protest and only barely registered the fact that D'avid had very smoothly and swiftly removed his last remaining garment.

Before Jared had recovered from his shock, D'avid had carried him into the Spa and announced.

"Jared here, decided, with a little help, to join us." As D'avid finished speaking laughingly, he very gently deposited Jared into the tub with his Bond and his Son.

Jared managed a very weak grin for S'ean and A'ndreas before the warmth of the mineral water made itself known. Within moments, Jared felt all his tensions and unease begin to leak out of his body as the mineral waters performed their magic. In addition, the warmth, caring and love that S'ean, A'ndreas and D'avid were sending him also helped his unease quite a bit.

S'ean was the first person to break the ice so to speak.

"We are all glad you could join us, Jared and don't worry you are safe from my mother in here." S'ean was grinning widely as he said that.

"What my smartassed son was trying to say is that you can relax and enjoy yourself in here. Barbara will be busy with A'lexii and the 'imps' for a bit. And she would never bother us in here; she knows how important it is for you to get to know us and for all of us to bond together as family." D'avid leaned over and tried to smack his laughing son as he spoke. S'ean easily evaded his dad's attempt but not A'ndreas's.

Jared finally began to relax as he watched two of the most powerful people on all of Geminii cavort like children. Soon he also began to get involved in their conversations and horseplay and before they knew it, dinner was announced. Jared had another shock awaiting him when they went to get dressed, as clothes he had never seen before were laid out for him and Dion was there to help him get dressed.

Jared looked around and saw that D'avid, A'ndreas and S'ean were being helped by what he assumed were bellmen.

"Don't worry, Jared, I am here because A'lexii thought you might like having someone you know assist you, rather than a complete stranger. Don't worry, this won't take long and will be painless unless we are late for dinner, then Barbara will have our hides." Dion's words helped Jared relax a bit further and before he knew it, everyone was headed for dinner, dressed to the nines.

Dinner that night was an eye opening experience to say the least for Jared. Dinner was served in the Main Private Dining Room of the hotel and every diner had at least two people waiting on them. Jared was very surprised to see all of the High Ranking Archons and Military Personnel there; he was even more surprised when those who spoke to him spoke to him warmly. The conversation at dinner was unlike anything he had ever experienced at the Formal Collegium Dinners; everyone was involved in the conversation including L'ogen and C'obi. The conversation was lively and covered multiple topics and whenever Jared tried not to join in, Barbara or D'avid would direct a question to him. The food was unlike anything Jared had eaten before; he was stuffed and the food was still being served. As Jared started to push away from the table, dessert was brought in. Jared groaned slightly and the person seated next to him chuckled quietly as Jared blushed.

The dinner seemed to last forever or so it seemed to Jared. When it was finally over, Jared was stunned when all of the high ranking guests stopped and said goodbye and most shook his hand.

After all the guests had finally left, the family started to head towards their own rooms; Jared stood their for a second not knowing where to go.

"Jared, why are you standing here?" L'ogen and C'obi were standing in front of him with their hands on their hips.

"You are supposed to sleep with us, or did you forget?" The 'imps' queried Jared.

"I thought you were kidding; you really want me sleep in your room with you?" Jared asked the two youngsters.

The two boys didn't actually answer Jared verbally, but their actions left no doubt regarding their intentions. L'ogen had grabbed one of Jared's hands and C'obi had grabbed the other one and had begun pulling Jared out the door.

When A'lexii and S'ean prepared for bed that night, A'lexii sent to S'ean;

'Love, I know we have to wait until I am old enough and until Alexander joins us; but we can still cuddle can't we?'

'Yes love, we can cuddle and thanks for being so understanding.' S'ean replied sending love to his Bond.

The two Bonds snuggled warmly in bed and started to head towards slumberland. The two Geminiians were having a little trouble dropping off to sleep until another weight joined them in bed. When Kevin came to wake the two in the morning, he couldn't figure out why there was an impression in the bed next to A'lexii yet there was no body.

The family's trip back to the Castellano Estate was uneventful which was a very good thing. Patrick had made sure that the new staff at the hotel understood their jobs and that things would run smoothly in his absence.

On the day before S'ean and his 'Companion's' were to leave for Maxellus, Jared was taking a walk through the estate, trying to figure out what he was going to do. As soon as they had arrived at the Castellano Estate, he was escorted to what he was sure was a Master Suite in the Family Wing. No matter how much he protested, his servants replied with the same thing;

"Master Jared, this is your room." They wouldn't say anything more besides; "the Tailor will be here soon."

That night, at one of the most sumptuous and enjoyable meals that Jared had ever had, the food was even better than at the Hotel Andromeda and everyone was talking back and forth and enjoying themselves. It was unlike any dinner Jared had ever been to, including the one at The Andromeda. Tommy was telling him constantly to relax this was a Family Dinner, even though it was served in the Formal Dining Room. Jared thought he would survive until Barbara stood up and got everyone's attention. Barbara waited until the staff members she had sent for arrived before speaking. Once she began speaking, Jared wanted to crawl under the table and hide.

"Everyone, I would like you all to meet the newest members of our family, S'ean's Bond A'lexii and their sons L'ogen and C'obi and D'avid's and my grandson's; as well as my newest son, Jared. Jared will also be my assistant and the new Overseer for the Estate. Once he is trained he will be responsible for the day to day running of the estate. I will be able to take care of my other duties and I will be busy caring for some hurting children displaced by my Andi and my eldest son." Barbara's announcement caught a few people off guard but those people were quickly caught up on things by whispered comments from those in the know.

As Jared wandered through the Estate taking in the beauty of it, the lush meadows and grasslands. He was totally amazed at the expanse of trails that wound seeming aimlessly through the woodlands of the estates. Jared also wondered at the way all of the paths were made of natural materials and seemed a part of the natural feel of the Estate. Occasionally Jared thought he caught glimpses of Castellano Security through gaps in the trees, he thought he saw the same guard several times. Jared came across a bench situated in a small opening in the woodlands overlooking a valley below with a small village in it. As he stood there lost in his thoughts, he never heard or saw the Castellano Security Guard walk up to him until the guard spoke, startling him out of his retrospection.

"Master Jared, is everything alright?"

"Ahh uh Tr....." Jared muttered as he couldn't remember the guards name.

"It is Travis, Master Jared." Travis replied succinctly.

"Why are you and the other guards following me? Am I a prisoner here?" A slightly irate Jared questioned.

"We aren't following you exactly, we are guarding you; and you are definitely not a prisoner. As for me, I am assigned as your personal bodyguard." Travis replied very calmly to Jared while looking directly into Jared's eyes.

"Protecting me from what and why do I need a Personal Bodyguard?" Jared questioned Travis's answer.

"Jared, you are a member of the Castellano Family and as such, you require protecting and as a son and the Overseer, you are entitled to a Personal Bodyguard. Mistress Barbara would be very upset with us if anything happened to you. And I wouldn't want to try to explain to L'ogen and C'obi how we let you get hurt." Travis replied just as calmly as before.

"So let me see if I understand this, I can go anywhere I want and you will follow me? What happens if someone tries to harm me? What if I want to leave the Estate?" Jared questioned Travis a bit more nicely this time.

"Jared, you are welcome to leave the Estate anytime you want, as long as you are wearing your wristcomm. You can take an aircar with a driver or I can drive you. You can also walk to the village if you want as well. As to your question regarding someone trying to harm you, I would do everything in my power to stop them; including giving up my life in the attempt." Travis's reply rocked Jared back on his feet.

"Yo...u wou... would give up your life for me?" Jared asked incredulously.

"Yes, I would and gladly; it is my job and it is what I am trained for." Travis replied matter of factly.

"Why would you do that for me? You don't even know me," Jared was barely able to squeak out his question as he was in a state of shock.

Before Travis even had a chance to reply, they were interrupted by the 'imps' arriving, out of breath.

"Travis where have you been........we have been looking all over for you for hours and hours?" C'obi and L'ogen got out between pants.

"Guys, I have been right where I am supposed to be, protecting Jared. You know that is my job and if you really wanted to find me, why didn't you use your wristcomms?"

Travis's answer caused both boys to look at their wrists and blush bright crimson.

"Travis, it is time for our GemanjiGemanji ("Gemanji is a combination of Karate, Judo and Savate and is offensively oriented not defensive.") lesson."

Meanwhile back on Earth as Alexander was walking across the campus, he saw an older man who had white hair and a craggy weathered face with laugh lines around his eyes. As Alexander got closer, he could see the gentleman was intently studying a map of the campus. Alexander could see the old man had the map right up to his glasses; so he decided to go and see if he could help him find what he was looking for.

The Gemanji lesson was an eye opener for Jared as he got to see how much of an honor having Travis as a bodyguard actually was. Jared was very surprised to see that Travis was a highly regarded instructor. Travis's classes were attended by not only some of the village's children, but some Drop Force Commando's as well. Travis was very professional in dealing with all of his students and never made any of them feel bad. Jared missed a good portion of the lessons as his wristcomm went off and he had Overseer Lessons to attend.

The following morning was rather tumultuous with the leave taking of S'ean, A'lexii, L'ogen, C'obi and most of 'The Companions'. Everyone had a bit of a surprise when they saw the vehicle that was going to transport them to Aero Milita as it was not an aircar as expected but a GSF Drop Force Marine Shuttle. Of course, L'ogen and C'obi thought it was awesome and S'ean, Tommy and Patrick had gleams in their eyes as well. The shuttle could carry the whole party in one load instead of using two or three aircars. The fact that the shuttle was armed had L'ogen and C'obi acting like tykes on a sugar high; anyone looking at S'ean, Tommy and Patrick would have seen a similar sight. Several marines quickly disembarked and with a quick salute to S'ean and Barbara, grabbed the party's luggage and had it stowed in moments.

As the party neared the boarding ramp, L'ogen and C'obi stiffened slightly when they saw the two Marine Corporals guarding the ramp. As the two boys made sure that their ID's were clearly visible, they missed the looks the two corporals sent each other. Once L'ogen and C'obi were looking forward again, the two marines snapped to attention and gave L'ogen and C'obi salutes. The tension in the entire party dissipated and conversations resumed. The loading of the shuttle went very quickly and before L'ogen and C'obi had barely been seated, the shuttle had launched. Because the 'imps' were too busy gawking and trying to impress the marines, they never noticed the Strike Fighters circling high overhead. S'ean and Kevin had noticed and Kevin was quickly busy contacting Michael and his contacts at Aero Milita.

Once Kevin had received the information he requested, he sent a quick message to S'ean.


They quickly arrived at Aero Milita and landed very close to the GSF IF Space Shuttle that would take them to their ship for the trip to Maxellus. Since it was only a short trip across the port, the party was quickly on board and soon on their way to their promised R&R.

When Senior Captain WG Shrub of the GSF IF found out he was going to be escorting a bunch of teenagers 'pestiferous school kids' as he called them, he wasn't the least bit happy, especially since one of them was placed in overall command of the small squadron. He was so incensed at having to act as a babysitter that he never bothered to check their names.

The small squadron consisted of two Light Cruisers and the FAC that was ferrying S'ean and his 'Companion's' to Maxellus. The two Light Cruisers were to act as escorts and observers as this was the final real life test of a production FAC. Had Captain Shrub bothered to check out the name of the GSF, Tommy Castellano, he would have realized that he was being honored not subordinated as he thought. Since this was the first production FAC, it was being assigned eventually to Grand Marshal Castellano's Personal Squadron, until S'ean Completed his training and then it would be his Flagship. Captain Shrub was further galled by the fact that he was flying in what normally was the Flagship of his squadron the GSF Lonestar. What he, in his jealous stupidity, failed to realize was that the GSF Tommy Castellano was specifically designed as a Flagship and had far more advanced CIC, ECOM and Fire ControlCIC, ECOM and Fire Control ("CIC = Command, Intelligence and Control aka Command and Control. The ships offense and tactics were controlled from here. ECM = Electronic Counter Measures. All jamming, decoys and other countermeasures were controlled from here. Defensive counter fire was also controlled from here. ") capabilities than did both of the two Light Cruisers together.

Captain Neal Richards, on the other hand, was excited with his escort duty; as this was his first flight as a captain and he was flying the latest non FAC upgraded Light Cruiser, the GSF Haven. The GSF Haven had just finished its own shakedown cruise and was the newest of its class. It was overall about Twenty Five percent more efficient than the GSF Lonestar. Captain Richards had attended the Orientation Briefing unlike Captain Shrub who had sent his beleaguered First Officer Lt. Commander Shorty Philips. Captain Richards was amazed that he was even considered for the cruise, considering how new both his rank and ship were. He was bold enough to ask that very question at the briefing the Captain of the Tommy Castellano, S. Beauty, told him that he had been personally chosen by Commodore A'ndreas, he replied;

"But I am so young!"

Captain Beauty replied enigmatically; "Exactly" [Also known as a 'Pat' answer.]

Captain Richards realized that was all the answer he would get and wisely replied;

"Aye Sir."

Later, when he had returned to ship to change into his Dress Uniform for the Launching Dinner on the GSF Tommy Castellano, he quickly glanced over the Ships Manifest and Crew Rosters for the Squadron and burst out laughing as he realized that Captain Beauty's enigmatic answer wasn't enigmatic at all; he was just telling the truth very concisely was all. Captain Neal was only seven years older than most of 'The Companion's' so his inclusion in the squadron now made a modicum of sense. 'I wonder what Grand Marshal Castellano and Commodore A'ndreas are going to think about the snub that Captain Shrub gave them and their son and his 'Companion's'? I don't think WG knows what he just did to his career; those kids, and I use the term loosely, are very talented, well trained and extremely mature. Hell, some of them have more flight time then I do and I ranked at the top of my class. This is going to be a very interesting cruise.' Neal brought his thoughts back to the present and finished buttoning up his jacket.

Little did he know what was in store for the small squadron and if he had known, he would have definitely changed his words.

Captain S. Beauty of the Flagship GSF Tommy Castellano had two sets of orders to follow and he was going to enjoy obeying the secret set to the utmost. His good friend's D'avid and A'ndreas had tasked him with ascertaining how good S'ean and his 'Companion's' actually were at both giving and following orders. Captain Beauty, although not entirely happy with the choice of Captain Richards, abhorred the choice of Captain Shrub for this cruise for several reasons; foremost the Captain was the most hidebound, By The Book, Captain in both fleets of the GSF and that was saying a lot. He did have to admit that Captain Shrub actually had a very good combat record and was supposedly very steady under fire; however, he abhorred change and was very critical of all of the new classes of ships that BuShips was turning out. Especially the FAC's 'Child's Toys' he called them. At least Captain Richards was of the new school and had a brand new ship and hopefully would be able to connect with S'ean and his 'Companion's' and work well together. Captain Beauty knew that Captain Richards was justifiably proud of his new ship and he hoped that Neal wouldn't be too chagrined when he found out just how much better the new FAC's were than the class of ships they had been based on. Somehow S. didn't think that would be as big a problem as Captain Shrub's reaction would be!

That evening when Lt Cdr. Philips tendered his Captain's regrets, Captain Beauty felt genuinely sorry for the LCDR, 'Well if that is how he wants to play the game it is going to be his head in the noose and no one else's. Now I know why A'ndi told me to trust Shorty he has personal honour and loyalty to the fleet. He stood up to me and did his onerous duty like a man and made no attempt to shirk his duty or denigrate his Captain no matter what his body language and facial expressions said. Well just for that, Neal will have to sit across from Shorty as they will be sitting at the table with Archon S'ean Castellano at the head. I was really hoping to see the look on WG's face when he realized he would be sitting between L'ogen and C'obi.' S. quickly closed his thoughts and hit his DeskComm to his Steward to rearrange the Dinner seating. Captain Beauty quickly signed the last of the ever present plastifilm's that seemed to haunt him in ever increasing numbers.

The announcing chime rang and S. said, "Come In."

As he finished speaking his XO Commander Marc Cymraeg stuck his head in the hatch and said,

"It's time, Capt. or we will be late and I for one don't want to deal with those 'two imps' if their dinner is late! And I have the Duty I mean the Honor of being their escort after dinner while you have the pleasure of discussing our orders with LCDR. Philips and Captain Richards."

"Okay Marc, let's get a move on; we don't want be late for dinner." Capt. S. replied with an evil grin.

"Ahh Captain, what is going on? You have a very devilish grin and you are definitely up to something, I can tell. Now spill the 'beans''beans' ("Translated from Geminiian by Alexander of Terra for our edification.") I think you have cooked up some cockamamie plan that is either brilliant or is going to get us buried so deep in auroch fecal matter that we will need eons to dig out from under. So tell me so that I can help make sure WE don't go down with the ship!" Marc responded to his captain with a friendly grin.

"Old friend, you know me too well sometimes; and yes I have a plan to put Captain Shrub in his place before D'avid or A'ndreas have to intervene and the beauty of my plan is that it is completely covered by Commodore A'ndreas's orders." S. paused for a moment as his words had stopped his XO in his tracks and Marc had a very strange look on his face.

"Marc, I will explain the rest of the plan later if you haven't figured it out by then; you have seen the "Secret Orders" so I am sure you can figure out most of the plan. However, I do need you to request a semi official favor from A'lexii, I would like him to do a very shallow scan of LCDR. Philips, as something about him is giving me twitches. 'Plus the fact that A'ndi's message said "to move carefully with him as he has some nefarious connections" and that has my senses twitching.' Don't bother S'ean unless it is necessary, which it shouldn't be since you have been assigned to be A'lexii's Military Tutor for the duration of this cruise. If A'lexii has any questions, please refer him to me and never and I repeat never underestimate any of that party. There is far more to all of them than meets the eye and if WG doesn't wake up, he will end up escorting Garbage Transports or worse."

"Of course, S. I will do as you have requested and I don't believe there will be a problem with A'lexii; that is one very sharp Bond. He resonates with so much power and confidence that I will definitely continue to respect him. However, keeping that request from his Bond is going to be impossible; in all my years working with Bond's, I have never seen anything like their bond. Not even their 'Fathers'; the two of them know where each other is at all times and they are constantly in communication at some level I cannot feel. And neither distance or area of the ship means anything to either of them." Marc had to pause as his last comments had caused S. to stop abruptly and he didn't want to run his captain over.

"Even in 'our' Meditation Chamber?" S. asked very curiously as the Meditation Chamber had been modified at Marc's request and to A'ndreas's specialized knowledge and orders. Marc rated very high on the Raderian Empathic IndexRaderian Empathic Index ("See <a href=\"?t=2R6PCUp14pRbkfrw\">Errata Five<\/a> for more information.") which was why he was S.'s Executive Officer.

"Yes, even there! Although he did thank me and a 'mic' later through their link, so did S'ean. A'lexii projects so well I thought S'ean was in the room with us he felt so real in my mind. A'lexii and S'ean both assured me that they would use the chamber as it would still be beneficial to them. And Capt. I must tell you that if I hadn't known how short a time those two had been bonded, I would have sworn it was centuries; the two of them feel so much like one person at times that is extremely remarkable. Well it is time to put on our 'game face' as we are here for the meet and greet." Marc answered his Captain and then proceeded to open the hatch and precede him into the gym, announcing as he did;

"Captain on deck!"

Marc and the Capt. quickly verified that everything was ready for the reception and that the seating arrangements had been changed. They had just finished when the hatch opened and the Castellano party entered with the Marine Honor Guard announcing them as they stepped through the hatch. All of the announcements were customary and standard until S'ean stepped through the hatch.

"Lieutenant Commander S'ean Castellano, Archon of Geminii and Callisto."

S'ean stumbled slightly as he heard himself announced as a LCDR. He was going to have words with A'ndreas. He quickly recovered and snapped off a very smart salute to the Captain that brought a small smile to Captain Beauty's face.

'This is going to be more fun than I thought;' went through S.'s mind and he snapped back to reality at the sharp nudge from his XO.

"Bond A'lexii Castellano."

A'lexii shocked the Marine Guard by nodding his head to him as he stepped through the hatch. A'lexii then took a few steps forward and waited for L'ogen and C'obi to step through the hatch, hoping they wouldn't trip over their feet. Barbara had told them in no uncertain terms that they had better be on their toes as this wasn't one of the Families Aircar's this was a Navy Ship. A'lexii was very sure that his two 'brothers' now his sons' were constantly looking over their shoulders for Barbara; that was why he was keeping an eye on their feet cause they surely weren't.

Immediately after the Castellano Party had entered the Gym, Captain Richards entered and snapped a fairly sharp salute and then broke out into a grin upon seeing L'ogen and C'obi's wide eyed looks as they took in the size of the Gym. His grin quickly changed to a look of professional admiration as he saw how the 'Companion's' had artfully arrayed themselves. They may have looked to the untrained eye as teenagers enjoying a party, however, that wasn't the case. There was always at least one of them within arm's reach of the Archon and his Bond; and at least two of them were keeping their eyes on the hatches leading into and out of the Gym. When one of them caught him checking things out he just nodded his head and continued his watching. Neal then went over and shook hands and got the official introductions out of the way. When he was introduced to A'lexii though, he was stunned. Because although he knew how young A'lexii was, he also knew that he was very talented and well trained to be in his position. What stunned Neal was the fact that although A'lexii looked a lot younger than his age, he exuded confidence unmatched by many three and four times his age. He then looked up and realized that not only were the 'Companion's' protecting S'ean they were also protecting A'lexii. He now knew that this was going to be a very interesting cruise.

As Neal was making small talk with LCDR. Cymraeg and trying to get a better feel of what was expected of him during this mission, the Executive Officer of the GSF Lonestar was announced. Two very strange things occurred during the announcement, first LCDR. Philips was introduced with the ancient phrasing of his rank, "Lieutenant Commanding" a direct reminder that Captain Shrub had snubbed the Archon. The second occurred when S'ean and several of 'The Companion's' noticed the new arrival and stiffened slightly at his announced rank. 'There is something very interesting going on here,' thought Neal. His thoughts were confirmed when he noticed several of 'The Companion's' lean forward slightly and whisper something into their collars; it was then that he noticed that all of 'The Companion's' were not only fully armed they were wearing 'skinsuits' under their uniforms. One of the 'Companion's' had noticed his scrutiny and was on his way over to him. Neal decided to meet the bull head on and made his way in that direction.

"Captain Richards, I see your Intel Training took hold very well. My name is Kevin and I am in charge of Archon Castellano's Security on this cruise. I would appreciate it very much if you would keep your observations to yourself. We will talk more later; I need to get back to my position." Kevin saluted and left before Neal could respond.

While Neal and Kevin had been having their one sided conversation, Shorty had made his way over to Captain Beauty and the Archon and his party. Neal casually made his way over there to greet the LCDR. as well. As he was nearing the party, he heard the new Archon greet the LCDR in a very friendly tone but with a very strange emphasis on Shorty's rank? Neal was reintroduced to everyone and just as the main party was ready to head to Captain Beauty's Private Dining Room, someone else was announced and this person was not on the roster that Neal had seen.

"Commodore Skywriter IF Strike Force Commando's"

The large Gym went completely silent and all Military Personnel present snapped to a very rigid attention and faced the hatchway where Commodore Skywriter was entering. Out of the corner of his eye, Neal noticed that 'The Companion's' were the first to snap to attention and they looked more like Honor Guards than did the Marines on duty. Commodore Skywriter then broke with Military Protocol and returned the salutes of the Archon and his 'Companion's' before returning Captain Beauty's and the remaining officers.

When Commodore Skywriter greeted the Archon and his party like old friends, Captain Beauty's eyebrows raised in surprise as did Captain Richards' the only people who weren't surprised were his XO and Michael. Captain S. was still trying to figure out his orders regarding Michael, he seemed to have no rank but ALL of Michael's Security Clearances were higher than his, and his were fairly high. Not only that but Captain Beauty was instructed to obey any and all of Micheal's orders regarding The Castellano Party, especially concerning their security. Not that anyone could get anywhere near them without going through at least fifteen different visible Security Checkpoints. S. wondered how many of his new crew members were either 'PS' or IF Intel or If Security. If he knew A'ndreas like he did there were lots of undercover crew members which meant he could sleep a little easier. Which didn't mean sleep would be easy; not only did he have the Grand Marshal's only son, he had also been trusted with one of the newest and most potent weapons in the GSF arsenal. The more he learned about his new ship, the more he fell in love with it. Fast enough to outrun almost anything but a courier ship and with enough ECM and Firepower to hold off a Ship of the Line for quite awhile and that wasn't even counting the birds he carried in the ship's belly.

As an Ex-Fighter Pilot, Capt. S. drooled with delight every time he thought about the birds that he was carrying. During the initial testing cruise of the GSF Tommy Castellano, everything had worked better than designed but BuShips had still made a few tweaks here and there and that was one of the reasons to use the 'Tommy' to ferry the Archon and his party to their R&R on Maxellus. Having the designers and inventors of the 'Tommy' onboard for the final shakedown cruise made perfect sense to him. Captain S. had wondered why one of his wings of Strike Fighters had no ornamentation or numbering of any kind on it. He was ecstatic though that he was first to get to test the Strike Fighter Model E's, as they were supposed to be the wickedest Starships in existence. Upgraded Stealth Skins, ECM, Radar, Missiles the whole Kit and Kaboodle were now spec'd twenty five percent higher across the board than the original A's. As Commodore Skywriter entered the Gym, he now knew who the unmarked ships belonged to and who the officer they had been waiting for was.

Captain Beauty started to introduce Commodore Skywriter, but the Commodore performed the introductions himself and the only one whom he had not met was Captain Richards and he quickly took care of that.

"Captain Beauty, I realize that everything is ready for us to eat, but before we do that we need to use your 'Meditation Chamber' for the meeting you had planned for after dinner. The following officers will attend, yourself, your XO, Commodore Skywriter, Captain Richards and LCDR. PHILIPS."

S'ean put a large amount of emphasis on Shorty's name.

"Michael and Kevin will take care of external security; A'lexii and I will handle security in the chamber, and Tommy will take notes. The rest of my 'Companion's' will stay here and assist your stewards in entertaining the rest of your guests. Let's get moving the sooner we can conclude our business the sooner we can eat all of the prime Roast Auroch my mother had shipped here."

Captain Beauty remained totally nonplussed as he had been through similar occasions before, however, he also remembered his orders and instructions from both D'avid and A'ndreas.

"We will do as the Archon HAS SUGGESTED

"S. was pleased to notice that S'ean had the courtesy to blush and nod his head in admission that he was a little bit over the top. He was taken aback when the diminutive Bond A'lexii gave S'ean a non too soft swat on the rear letting everyone know where he stood.

'Barbara was right; I don't have to worry about A'lexii at all and I can see that S'ean won't get a very fat head with A'lexii and his 'Companion's' around either.'

The group that had been requested slowly made their way to the hatchway in two's and three's while Captain Beauty let his Chief Steward know of the slight delay. Captain Beauty was informed in no uncertain terms that the Castellano's Chef would not appreciate too long of a delay. The Chief Steward was still looking over his shoulders for that raving lunatic with the razor sharp knives. All he had done was suggest that the Auroch be roasted till it was well done he was lucky to still be alive!

Once all of the requested parties were inside the 'Meditation Chamber' as soon as A'lexii told him the chamber was secure. S'ean, without any pleasantries, began the questioning.

"CAPTAIN Philips, would you like to explain this LCDR. Business?

Shorty ignored S'ean's rather abrupt question and instead addressed Captain Beauty.

"Captain Beauty, cousin A'ndi asked me to give you his warmest regards and introduce you to some of my "nefarious connections" and yes Captain, I really am Captain Shorty Richards and I apologize for the subterfuge. However, Commodore A'ndreas has my Captaincy so buried in BuPers that it would take years to find it. As far as the rest of the GSF knows, I am just a lowly LCDR. mouldering away in mediocrity. S'ean, A'ndi was supposed to have notified you and Michael; obviously wires got crossed somewhere. Am I forgiven?"

A'lexii answered before S'ean had a chance while sending calming thoughts.

'S'ean. I told you there was a perfectly good reason and all you had to do was scan him yourself! But no, you had to act like your father and get on your high horse. Now relax and let me handle this.'

"LCDR. Philips, I will ensure that all of our party understands that you are a LCDR. And there will be no more problems over your rank. Isn't that correct, Archon?" A'lexii put the spotlight right back on S'ean.

"Shorty, I do owe you an apology; I was just shocked to see you here at a lower rank, since A'ndreas had told us you had been promoted. So let me take a guess; what you conveniently forgot to mention is that you are assigned to him? Whatever the reason, we have bigger fish to fry. Captain Beauty what is the reason Captain Shrub has decided to ignore this dinner and what are we going to do about him calling Tommy's pride and joy a TOY?" S'ean apologized and then quickly turned the meeting back to Captain S.

At Captain Beauty's next words, the whole room shuddered and groaned.

"My plan is simplicity itself and now with the LCDR. on our side, it will be even easier; especially if Commodore Skywriter's Squadron will join us." S. took a moment or two and looked around the room and seeing he definitely had everyone's attention continued.

This is a four-day cruise to Maxellus, so this is what I want to do. S'ean, on the second day of the cruise, I am going to turn over command of this ship to you and whomever you choose as your XO. Marc and I will share the bridge with you in an advisory capacity only." S'ean started to object but somebody or somebodies by the looks on Michael and A'lexii's face shut him up.

"And before you tell me that I can't do that as your 'Companion's' don't have Military Rank, let me remind you that this ship is still under the control of BuShips and the Design and Manufacturing Teams. Tommy, are you not the Lead Member of the Manufacturing and Design Team and do you not have to sign off on this vessel before it is officially released into service again?" S. kept on steamrolling along before Tommy had a chance to answer. "Officially, my Crew and I are actually only here to get experience with the upgrades and answer any of your questions. We have been nominally in command so as to give you and your 'Companion's' as stress free a trip as possible. Any Questions?" Before anyone even could open their mouths S. began speaking again.

"As I was saying S'ean, you will take command and put all three ships through their Station Keeping Drills and also Evasive Maneuvers. I expect Captain Shrub to be a little non responsive or lag behind. Shorty you need to arrange your watch schedule so you are on the bridge at Four Bells of Afternoon Watch. Shorty, your job will be to keep a mic keyed open so S'ean can hear Captain Shrub's reply when S'ean issues orders to him to tighten up. Unless I miss my guess, WG is going to open his mouth and say something like 'No Snot Nosed Brat is going to tell me what to do!'. When he does, S'ean, you will then order full out emergency launch of five wings of Strike Fighters. The fighters will envelop the 'Lonestar' and paint it with all of their Lidar and Ranging Radars. Then both the 'Tommy' and the 'Haven' will bracket the 'Lonestar' fore and aft with our big Growlers. If that doesn't get the message across that the 'Tommy' isn't a toy, then WG deserves whatever grief your father and A'ndreas dump on him. Commodore Skywriter's Squadron will launch as one of the five and Commodore, you can have the honor of demanding WG's surrender to the 'Snot nosed Brat'. That's my plan and if we don't show up to dinner in two 'mics' we wont be alive to finish this cruise!" Captain Beauty then headed to hatch and Dinner.


Author's Notes:

Well I finally finished another chapter after a long delay. I wish I could promise to write faster but my new job makes that impossible. It will be very interesting to see what happens to Captain Shrub don't you think? I want to thank all of the authors whose unwitting or unknowing contributions to this chapter help make it what it is. They are responsible for any and all cliffhangers contained in this chapter.

Also thanks again to Str8mayb and Dark Star for the use of their characters or their character's likeness.

As A'lexii would say from my mind to yours,


Comments Appreciated at The Story Lover

Associate Editor #1's Notes:

I'm not at all sure I should be associating with editors but here goes. I enjoyed this chapter. However, Cliff Hanger is such a negative term, of course it fits. Especially the ones left dangling in the middle of the chapter. After all the stranger might have been editing and not looking at a map.

I have said many times that I can deal with ignorance but STUPID punches all my buttons. Shrub is STUPID! I'm a Navy Brat and my Dad was a Captain. He told me once that only two kinds of men get 'Birds' Good men with common sense and A$$ H@!#$. I guess this is an example of that. Captain Richards, Captain S. Beauty and Captain Philips are examples of the first kind, Capt. Shrub... At least the good ones out number the others.

Capt. Shrub will assuredly be pruned back and quite possibly transplanted to more fertile ground, like a garbage scow. It will also be fun to see the 'Toy' in action. Just' wait and see. It is always fun to see a snob get a good 'Goos'. I think I'll leave the other puns to the Pun Master.

Good work TSL. I hope things get settled and you can write a bit faster.


Associate Editor #2's Notes:

Ah, I see I am still number 2. I guess, like Avis, I will just have to try harder. I think that Shrub had better hedge his bets. He is going to find himself out on a limb. He is rooted in misunderstanding, when it comes to paying attention. I wonder how long it will take him to twig to the obvious. He will be ground down to where he belongs. I suspect that before too long he will be evergreen with envy. He will have to bough to the others and he will pine for the position he used to have. He will be mighty blue before too long. Even if he were to spruce up his situation, I don't think it will help him too much.

Of course it looks like someone made a good impression on the two sleeping bonds, earlier in the chapter. I think the bonds earned interest.

It is very good that Jared is being treated so nicely and that everyone wants him to feel at home and loved.

I think I have covered most of the things that I needed to, but Thank you TSL for another great chapter of this great story. I am going to have to check with 'Goos' and ask him for a few more cases of commas and semi colons.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher AKA Sleeping Beauty