by Lanny J. Luttrell
Robert Jackson sat drifting soundly off to sleep in his over stuffed chair while watching television on a nice and quiet Friday evening. Then the video communications system that had been installed into the wall of his living room began chirping. It was the first time that it had audibly chirped in thirteen years. He shut the television off with the remote and rose up and out of his chair to walk over and sit down at the desk that sat just below the chirping unit, before he activated the vid-com screen above him. Sleep would evade him one more time.
"Jackson here," he said yawning, as a visual of his long time friend, Donald April appeared on the viewer.
"Jay, I really do hate to bother you this evening. As you can see I'm back, aboard the Orion, in the orbit of Mars," April informed him.
"All right Donald; I can see that," Jackson said, yawning again. "Why are you there?"
"A very old friend of ours has decided to repay us a visit. A Zaleen battle cruiser destroyer has crossed the Uorexuan-Zaleen neutral zone and is enroute to the Glammadren star system," April answered.
"There should be enough ships in the fleet to take care of things and make it change its course. Because I'm watching---
"Jay, it's Valakadria Tawn's flag ship, the Kalaketvia Tawn," April said, cutting Jackson off before he could finish.
"Ok. What does she want other than to make a social call after all these years?" Jackson asked.
"Well Jay, for starters, Empress Kalaketvia has just recently passed away. And secondly and most importantly, there has been a shift in power, if you catch my drift," April replied, as Jackson watched Donald's eyebrows raise.
"What's Valakadria's reason for not wanting to meet with us in Martian orbit?" Jackson asked as he reached over to grab a cup of hot steaming coffee that he had just poured.
"There ah ... wasn't one, Jay," April answered.
"Donald, can't you handle this problem? There's a real good television show on right now."
"We, and that includes you Jay, have got to go meet with her in the orbit of the planet Glammadren, Captain sir," April replied as his face loomed larger on the viewer.
"I would rather that she was enroute to Mars, Commander!" Jackson said, heatedly.
"Get yourself ready for immediate transport, First Officer April out," he said, and seconds later the screen turned pitch black.
"What a minute!" Jackson thundered. "Shit! Damned it Donald!" he yelled as he stood and nearly spilled coffee on himself, mainly due to the deafening noise of the engines on his transport shuttle as the windows rattled and things were knocked off of tables and shelves. For the shuttle was attempting to land in his driveway, it's forward floods filled his living room with their ultra bright blinding light. "Well there goes the neighborhood and my sleep," he said to himself as he headed for the front door while covering his eyes with his hands.
Dogs barked from one neighborhood to the other and cats meowed and hissed as they ran for cover anywhere that they were able to find it, along with a few of their owners as well.
"Son of a bitch, Jackson! Why can't you go to the airport like the rest of us?" yelled one of his next door neighbors.
"What the sam hell is that thing that just landed in your driveway?" yelled another.
"Somebody is paying for these broken windows!" yelled yet another one of his neighbors.
"Hurry up Bro, before they call the Air Force on us! We don't have all night you know!" yelled the voice of David Jackson as he motioned for his older and practically blinded brother to hurry up and board the shuttle, while at the same time a police car tore down the street and squealed to a stop in front of his house.
"Gotta go officer. I'll explain later!" Jackson yelled as the officer and her passenger got out of the still running car and made haste up the driveway and onto the shuttles ramp.
"Not without us your not!" Amber Jackson yelled as she and her brother Eric raced to enter the shuttle before David closed the hatches to deaden the sound of the noisy engines.
"Sis, shouldn't you have at least killed the motor on the patrol car?" Eric yelled as he picked out their seats.
"Backup can take care of it!" Amber yelled as she dropped down into the vacant seat beside her brother.
"Come on every body; take your seats so we can get under way!" yelled Steven Davis, from the front of the shuttle.
"All right, we can all stop yelling at one another!" Robert Jackson yelled as he dropped into a seat across from his children.
"Are you sober this time Steve?" Candice Jackson Simmons asked as they all began buckling up.
"He had better be. I'm not going into space with a drunken shuttle pilot," Amber Jackson said as she tried to strap herself in.
"Amber, we'll throw him in the brig if he's been drinking," her father told her as the shuttle lifted off and away from the not so nice and quiet neighborhood.
"If we should just happen by chance to make it that far," David Jackson said, having put in his two cents worth.
"For your information, I haven't been drinking," Davis told them. "However after tonight, that's liable to change. But for now, you'll all make it to the mama ship safe and sound," he said as he gently nudged the shuttle forward and upwards into the evening sky while Amber desperately struggled to strap herself in.
"Hello to the Walton family," Jim Jackson said as he leaned back in his seat.
"Donald got a hold of us on our vid-com systems, Dad," Eric Jackson said as he gazed over at his father.
"The whole cotton picking crew was contacted by our illustrious Commander April!" David Jackson stormed aloud from his seat behind Robert's.
"I'm one of those that didn't want to make this---
"The Consortium went through the trouble of locating the entire ships complement from all over the Earth, and every one of us are on our way to the Orion, like it or not," Davis cut in to inform us.
"Why couldn't Davadra and Donald go meet Valakadria and call it a day?" Robert Jackson asked.
"I'm just a lowly helmsman and shuttle pilot. How the heck should I know," Davis said as the shuttle made its quick departure for Earth orbit.
"Will somebody help me buckle my seat belts, pleeeeeease!" Amber screamed.
"Holy crap!" David uttered nervously, as he watched his niece struggle with her harness from across the isle.
"Will she be ready to make the trip to Glammadren?" Robert Jackson asked as he watched, unable to help Amber with her straps because everyone was pinned back into their seats by the tremendous g-forces as the shuttle accelerated into space.
"She can't even get secured in her seat," David Jackson thundered. "How the hell can she be ready---
"Oh she's ready all right, Captain," Davis informed every one as within minutes the g-forces slowly began subsiding. "The Consortium has over seen the Orion's refit in Martian orbit from start to finish," he added.
"They won't like turning the reigns back over to---
"They don't have to turn anything back over to us if they don't want to David," Jackson said, cutting his brother off as the shuttle's view port and starboard windows began opening after they had made it safely into orbit.
"Davis, I know this thing has stabilizers, artificial gravity and all that!" he blasted as he hurriedly unstrapped and darted across the isle in order to help his niece with her safety harness.
"Course set and locked in for planet Mars," Steven Davis said, paying David Jackson little attention as he made preparations to leave Earth orbit.
More shuttles took off from different countries on the planet's surface, making their assent in to Earth orbit, following the captain's personal shuttle now on its way to the Orion.
"Activating phase drive," Davis said and the shuttle began accelerating in speed, leaving their home world behind them.
"I'm not exactly sure as to how we're going to successfully explained this mass exodus off the planet on these alien space shuttles to the rest of the human race," Robert Jackson said, breathing a little easier now that his daughter was securely strapped in. "A lot of people are going to be peed off more so this time than the last time, that is, if we ever make it back home to explain what just happened." he stated.
"A lot of people, including myself, are peed off for having been dragged back up here after thirteen years of shore leave," David Jackson said, now strapping himself back in just in time as we watched the view port and starboard windows close.
"Has it really been that long?" Robert Jackson asked sarcastically.
"I know I'm peed," Darla Jackson said from her seat next to her husband Jim.
"Ya. Me too," Jim Jackson added.
"Me too," Summer Dawn echoed.
"They had better have some coffee waiting when I get there, or I'm gonna be peed off at somebody big time," said Candy Simmons, Robert's, David's, and Jim Jackson's baby sister.
"I'm already peed off. I think I've wet my pants," Amber Jackson said as they whisked passed the moon.
"Going to phase zero point six. Phase zero point seven. Phase zero point eight. Phase zero point nine. Phase one. Phase one point one. Phase one point two. Phase one point three. Phase one point---
"Just get us the hell to Mars, Stephus! And count to your self, will you! I for one don't want to know how fast we're going!" David Jackson yelled to the front of the shuttle. "And yes dear brother, for your information, it's been thirteen years," he added.
"Phase one point five," Steve finished the count aloud any way.
"I'd say that we're going pretty fast. Wouldn't you say so, Mister Davy Crockett Jackson?" Steve asked aloud.
"If you weren't flying this heap, I'd be thumping your head, just as fast as we're going, too!" David yelled back.
"That ought to about do it. Killing phase drive on behalf of David Jackson!" Steve yelled back as he took us out of phase drive.
"Screw you too!" David replied.
"All-right you two!" Candy yelled at the top of her lungs. "Settle it! And I mean right now!"
"Some things will never change," Jim Jackson said as Darla and Summer both agreed while they waited for the red planet to appear out the view port windows as they slowly reopened.
"Just a slight course correction and we should be seeing Mars at about any time," Steven said as the shuttle's speed continued to decelerate. "This is Lieutenant Steven Davis, aboard the captain's shuttle, Patricia Gayle. Orion, do you acknowledge, over?" Davis asked, turning in his seat to face Robert Jackson. "They've renamed a few of the shuttles after our deceased loved ones and crew mates, as memorials to them," He told us as we sat there in silence.
"Patricia Gayle, this is Commander April aboard the Orion. The captain's shuttle can dock when ready," said the voice of Donald April over the vid-com system.
"Steve, do you think that you can safely dock this shuttle without crashing us into one of the engine nacelles and killing us?" David asked as the Orion appeared in the orbit of Mars.
"Just like riding a bicycle," Steve answered as we neared the mother ship. "You never forget."
True to Steve's word, the United Inter Galactic Consortium of Inhabited Worlds had made some major improvements to the outside of the ship from bow to stern as she rotated in her titanium steel girdered dry dock that their shuttle slipped easily enough through. There were no port or starboard sides of the ship because for the most part, the Orion was cylindrical. An aft and forward gangway tunnel connected the Orion to the four-mile long bay via the Orion's central core air lock entry ports.
The Patricia Gayle along with many other shuttles slowed to match the speed of the Orion's rotation and looked as if they seemed to hover magically over their oval shaped docking bay doors, all along the three mile long starship's hull, between the twelve engine nacelle view deck pylons. Steve then rolled his shuttle over, or turned it upside down, and the huge solar paneled covered oval door slowly opened above them.
Shuttles from everywhere on the planet Earth now hovered over and under their individual docking bay doors all about the Orion's outer hull, and were either rolling over or turning upside down so that their bay doors were above them, otherwise they were being pulled up and into the ship.
Steven Davis held their shuttle steadily in place until a grappler arm attached itself to the top of their small craft and pulled it upwards and into the first of two air locks.
During this moment in time Davis began his shut down procedures.
The outer doors slowly closed and they continued upward into the second air lock. They hung suspended inside the lock until the middle set of doors slid shut beneath them before they ascended to the main shuttle deck.
While still hanging suspended, the last set of doors slid shut beneath their shuttle before the retractor arm settled them gently down onto the door itself, which then doubled as the deck flooring beneath their feet.
Unstrapping, David hurriedly opened the hatches while the others unstrapped from their seats and made their way down the shuttles ramp. He waited up for Steven Davis so that he could thump his head.
Robert Jackson walked slowly down the ramp to stand along side his family members and friends that had gathered about in the docking bay as they departed the shuttle. His eyes riveted on three people that stood at about six or so feet in front of the ramp that he had just stepped off of as other shuttles began settling down in the bays that were forward, aft and on either side of their own.
Davrina Adriakar who slightly favored Catherine Zeta Jones stood to the left side of the person in the middle and Sathrana Celane who slightly favored Sandra Bullock stood to the right side of the person in the middle who slightly favored Jane Seymour. It was the person in the middle, now handing him a language aid translator that he inserted into his left ear, who would speak with him first.
"Well, this had better be good," Robert Jackson said as his eyes gazed around the shuttle bay for the first time in thirteen years. "Now that everyone on Earth has been thrown into a worldwide panic," he said as the others came to semi attention.
"Permission to come aboard granted, Captain," said the one in the middle.
"The earpiece must be working, Davadra," Jackson informed her. "Or is it Admiral Adriakar now?" he asked stepping forward to take her right hand in greeting.
"Not entirely," she said whispering her answer into his ear so that only he would hear. "Welcome back aboard the Orion," Adriakar said as he shook her right hand. She stood there, along with her crewmates and friends, awaiting conformation from the bridge that all the shut-tles had arrived safely aboard, before she began her welcoming speech. As soon as she received the conformation and was completely satisfied, she would begin.
"Davadra, Donald told me that Kalaketvia has died and that Valakadria wants to meet with us in the orbit of Glammadren, rather than Mars," Jackson told her as they all gathered together on the shuttle deck.
"Yes," Davadra answered. "But who ever spoke for her gave us no bonafied reason as to why, at that particular rendezvous point. And for that particular reason I've recalled the Orion's entire crew complement back from Earth," She said as conformation from the bridge came through over her vid-com watch.
"You think she's in trouble or something?" Jackson asked.
"Anything's possible," was all that Davadra replied before she walked over to the podium that had been erected for their arrival and stepped up to activate the vid-com system so that she could begin her welcome aboard speech. "I want to welcome everyone aboard the Consortium starship Orion. Not all of you have been here before, and this marks your first trip in to space. There arises no need to fear the other extraterrestrial members of the crew aboard this vessel. You will all be led from here to your quarters by a personally appointed counselor that will be your guide and informer for the rest of your stay aboard the Orion. May it be a much shorter stay, this time around. None of you, and I repeat myself. None of you will be granted or given any liberties or freedom to traverse this vessel until you have been fully educated on your duties and responsibilities for which you have been brought aboard," she told the ones that stood before her and that heard her from shuttle bays all over the ship via the vid-com system as each word was being translated into their own language. "For those of you that have been here before and have traveled in space, your quarters are as you left them over thirteen of your earthen years ago. You also shall be assigned a personal counselor that will be your guide and informer for the rest of your stay aboard the Orion. All of you will be granted and given liberties and the freedom to traverse this ship as you have been brought up to date on your new duties and responsibilities for which you have been brought aboard," she continued to speak as they all listened. "Before any of you leave the docking bay areas you will all pass by the entrance portals and receive your language aid translators, a transcribe, and a video communications chronograph. Upon entry your personal counselor will be awaiting to take you to your quarters. No visitations until you are further ordered. And once again, welcome aboard the starship Orion," the admiral informed them all before she deactivated the vid-com unit and stepped down and off of the podium. "Captain, shall we?" she asked as she motioned for Robert Jackson to follow, before she turned and headed for the Orion's version of a customs checkpoint desk.
"Yo, Admiral Driakar. What about the rest of us?" David Jackson asked as he made his way across the deck.
"Captain Jackson, after, and not one minute before, I find that your brother has obtained his translator, I will then speak with him," the admiral sighed as she turned back around. "Tell Commander Jackson to obtain his translator, transcribe, and vid-com watch, and I pray that the creator will be with his personal counselor," Davadra Adriakar told the elder Jackson. "Please have him go with him or her to his quarters so that they remain there until further notice. I know that he doesn't understand me, Captain," she said pleading with Robert Jackson while slightly dipping her head and raising her eyebrows at David.
"Why, I understand you completely, Admiral Driakar," David Jackson answered. "I've learned to speak enough Delindrian gibberish to get me by," he told her to Robert's surprise if not hers.
"That's ... that's good," Davadra replied. "I was ah ... hoping that ... you ah ... may have matured somewhat ah ... since your last tour of duty among us," she said at a loss for words before turning back around to face his brother Robert with a stunned look upon her face.
"Good Lord David!" Candy Simmons stormed. "Try not to tick her off again, like you did seventeen years ago," his sister said as she and her children followed behind David and Tiffany.
"Yes. Try and mind your manners for a change David," Darla Jackson told him as her husband Jim stood there on the shuttle deck laughing while Steven Davis gently massaged the bump on his head.
"Captain shall we, again?" she asked once more.
"I sure could go for a good strong cup of Delindrian coffee right now," Candy said before yawning, as she stood in line with the others.
"After you Admiral," Robert answered, shaking his head in disgust, as she led the way with her sister Davrina while Sathrana Celane followed close behind.
"We'll see you around a while later Dad," Amber Jackson told her father. "I've got to get out of these wet pants," she added as she, Eric, and Summer Dawn now stood in one of the many lines that had started up ahead of them so that they could receive their things.
"Ya. Later Dad," Eric said as he waved them on.
"See ya, Uncle Robert," Summer said as they all watched him wave back before he began following Davadra, Davrina and Sathrana.
"Ya. See you Uncle Robert," Candy's children all said in unison.
After Davrina Adriakar passed him his transcribe and vid-com watch, Robert Jackson strapped the watch to his left wrist and tucked the transcribe under his left arm before continuing to follow the admiral, her sister, and the captain through a set of oval shaped air lock doors and into one of the many corridors on the ship. He continued onward without uttering so much as a single word. A series of corridors and turbo shaft elevators later, they rode a mono train into the Round Forest and descended one of the vine covered tram towers to the grassy forest floor, still without uttering a single word. Walking down a familiar rock inlaid pathway lined with trees, shrubbery and flowers, they strolled across a vine covered arch bridge and up onto the vine covered veranda of the galley that sat over the Round River where the four of them seated themselves around a round table. The admiral sat with both arms on the table holding her chin with both hands and gazed across at Robert Jackson while both Davrina and Sathrana copied her.
"He'll never change," the admiral finally said, not releasing her chin.
"He's still the same as far as I can detect," Davrina Adriakar added as she looked over at Jackson without any show of emotion.
"Beyond the shadow of a doubt," Sathrana Celane inputted, also showing no emotion.
"Ok. I know that the three of you didn't bring me all the way out to the orbit of Mars just to talk about my brother David," Robert Jackson told them as he slammed his transcribe down on the table with his right hand.
The three of them then broke into laughter loud enough for everyone in the Round Forest to hear while Robert sat there shaking his head in disbelief. Soon, though however, the laughter abated and Davadra Adriakar became a little more civil, as did her sister, and Sathrana.
"No, we didn't bring you all the way out here to talk about David Jackson," Davadra Adriakar replied. "We haven't seen or heard anything out of you for the past thirteen years," she told him as they sat there.
"Nor I, any of you," Jackson told them.
"Well, we haven't always stayed within the confines of your solar system," Davrina Adriakar added. "My sister here has become the newly elected president of the United Inter Galactic Consortium of Inhabited Worlds, and can not always be at just anyone in particular's beck and call," she said as Robert sat there for a moment, not quiet being able to get over just how much she favored Patricia.
"By anyone in particular, I suppose that that would be me," Jackson said as his gaze was redirected over at Davadra Adriakar. "Davadra, out on the shuttle deck, you whispered in my ear that you're not entirely an admiral. Now just what did you happen to mean by that statement?"
"For your ears only Robert," Davadra replied. "Present company included of course. I am not an admiral, as we have led others to believe. And I don't want the crew to know about it at this time," she told him as he listened.
"With Admiral Mazanurra on ice, who's left to lead us then?" he asked as he looked out over the Round River.
"That's one of the reasons why you are here, Admiral Jackson," she told him, before he nearly fell out of his chair.
"Now wait just a ... damned minute!" Jackson thundered as he steadied himself. "Hi-jacking me to the captaincy of this ship seventeen years ago was going way too far. I'll be the first to tell you, right here and now, that I will not accept a grade promotion to the rank of the admiral of the Galactic Fleet!" Robert Jackson fired away at the three of them as they listened to him. "I played the part of your galactic hero for four years and where did it get me!" he paused for a few seconds before saying. "I was almost killed, Davadra!"
"Robert, no one else is as qualified for the position as are you," Davadra told him.
"Bull shit! I haven't seen active duty aboard the Orion in the past thirteen years!" Jackson uttered aloud, and the three females just shrugged their shoulders to acknowledge that they didn't understand the remark that he had made in anger. "Slorpan Sliver shavrida!" he said, nodding his head yes, hoping that they understood this time.
"That's gross," Davrina said, almost gagging.
"I decline the promotion. And that ... as they say ... is that. No more discussion on the matter," he told them as he made ready to leave for his quarters.
"And what is your next reason for not accepting promotion?" Davadra asked, awaiting his answer.
"Well, to be honestly truthful with you," Jackson replied before he went on. "The next reason is because of Valakadria Tawn and her present situation. What makes you think that I'm going to be able to find out any more about her than you yourself? And oh yes, Davrina. You can now lead me to my quarters, Counselor Adriakar," Jackson said getting up and out of his chair.
"How did you know that I was assigned to be your personal counselor?" Davrina asked as she too rose up from her chair while Sathrana and Davadra remained seated.
"I just took a calculated guess that you were," Jackson answered Davrina while he was turning to leave.
"Captain, Counselor, sit down! That's an order!" Davadra said a bit forcefully and the two of them quickly retook their seats.
"As I told everyone earlier, and that includes you, Captain Jackson, you will be granted and given the liberties and freedom to traverse this ship as you have been brought up to date on your duties and your responsibilities for which you have been brought aboard. And you are refusing to cooperate with us," she informed him as the four of them sat there together. "Robert, I may not be your commanding officer any longer, and that's because no one has yet to fill that position, but I am the president of the Consortium. "And---
"Davadra, I did sit back down, didn't I?" Jackson asked cutting her off short.
"Yes you did." she answered sighing.
"You know Davadra," Jackson said as he sat there. I used to like you a little, but your starting to get under my---
"I think that he still does," Sathrana said all of the sudden as she hoped to head off an oncoming fight between these two friends.
"Most definitely," Davrina added as Davadra sat there shaking her head and sighing heavily.
"Commander April to Admiral Adriakar," Donald April said as his voice emitted from Davadra's wrist unit.
Thank you, thank you. She thought to herself, very thankful for the interruption "Yes Commander?" she said instead.
"It seems as if we've brought a lot of hungry passengers aboard. The bridge is receiving a lot of complaints from all over the ship as well as threats of mutiny, Admiral," April said as everyone listened.
Led by my sister no doubt. Robert Jackson thought to himself.
Davadra raised her arm to within inches of her mouth and began speaking into her vid-com watch.
"This is Admiral Adriakar to all ship's counselors. The galleys will reopen in half an hour. At this time liberties and freedom to traverse the ship will be to the galleys only, Adriakar out," she said lowering her arm back to the table.
"Well, as long as we're already here, I may as well grab a late evening snack," Jackson said as the galley lights brightened inside.
"Captain, Valakadria is thought to have defected with almost a third of the Zaleen fleet on her side," Davadra said as she looked over at Robert.
"A third of the Zaleen fleet in the Glammadren system!" Jackson thundered. You sure know how to ruin someone's appetite!"
"I did mention that they were on Valakadria's side, didn't I?" Davadra replied, noticing the evil squint of his eyes
"She could destroy and dominate our galaxy with a third of the Zaleen fleet!" Jackson boomed aloud. "Though however, Donald did say that her mother had passed on and that there has been a shift of power in their government," he said bringing himself under control while rub-bing his chin with his left hand.
"That's why I've requested that only her ship be allowed to rendezvous with us in the orbit of the planet Glammadren. So that we can get to the bottom of this," she told him. "And now, for the part that I know your still not going to like," she said as she sat there wondering what to say next. "She's expecting the admiral of the Galactic Fleet to be there with us when we meet with her. And Robert, I most assuredly do not believe that any one other than you will be able to find out what my half sister's intentions are at this point in time," Davadra said, as she laid all of her cards on the table.
"Sathrana? " was all that Jackson said at that moment.
"Yes sir?" she asked looking over at him.
"How does it feel to be the Captain of the Orion?" he asked while crewmembers began filling the Round Forest with their presence. "Donald April referred to himself as the XO of this ship when he hailed Davadra from the bridge earlier. So, the CO has to be you," Robert added.
"You're right Admiral," Sathrana Celane replied. I'm the Captain of the Orion now, sir. And it's an honor to be in command of the Consortium flagship," she informed him.
Though however, an admiral does have certain advantages that a captain doesn't. Jackson thought. "All-right Davadra. You've managed to talk me into this. But only for as long as the Zaleens pose us a threat and no longer. After that a new admiral with more experience will have to fill Kondulon Mazanurra's position, should I have to travel to the far ends of the galaxy and find one myself," Robert told them as David Jackson walked down the stone inlaid pathway to the Round Forest River Galley with his new woman, Tiffany. James Jackson and his wife Darla along with their daughter, Summer Dawn, followed them. Amber and Eric Jackson followed behind them. Candy Jackson Simmons followed them with her children. Behind them came someone that Robert hadn't expected but the Consortium called for her as well. Rhea Warner walked along side Candy and was talking with her as well while pointing to the flowers, shrubbery, trees, mono trains, their towers and the central core way up above along the pathway to the vine covered bridge and galley. Donald April tagged along behind them with Marsha, Andrew and Ben. "Shall we take ourselves inside?" Robert asked grabbing his transcribe and entering the galley to take a seat at the head of the officer's table.
A while later, after the galley had filled to capacity, Robert Jackson pressed a touch control pad on the tabletop activating the ship wide vid-com address system before he stood up.
"Silence every one," he said as his voice rang out all over the ship.
Davadra, Sathrana nor Davrina, had expected what was to come next.
"Welcome aboard the Consortium starship Orion everyone," he yawned and waited a few seconds before continuing. "For those of you that are here for the first time, you are now, as we were then. You're scared out of your wits, somewhat ticked off, and bewildered. But, then again, so are our families, neighbors, friends, and co-workers back at home on Earth. Not to forget, the authorities from the city and federal governments," Jackson said, getting a few laughs from those who where there for the second time. "Be thankful that you have an appointed counselor with you. We did not have one, on our first voyage. As we have all now been informed, our liberties and the freedom to move to and fro on this starship will be earned. Or as they are granted, once we have been fully brought up to par as to our duties and or our res-ponsibilities, for which we have been brought aboard," he explained. "I hope that I've recited most of this as rightly as was told to us upon our arrival, just a short while ago," Jackson said as he stopped speaking long enough to take a drink of what he had hoped was water. "Not bad," he said, licking his lips before continuing on. "I hope that my sister Candy got her coffee," he added, getting a laugh or two. "Whatever we do, let's not lose our hearing aid language translators or our video communications watches," he said, pointing to his ear and his wrist with his right index finger. "Also, let us remember to keep order here, and order will be kept, in an orderly fashion. My brother David will probably be seeing to that," Jackson said, as everyone halfway listened while placing their orders on the menu screens that rose up from the tabletops in front of them. "A Zaleen battle cruiser destroyer has just crossed the Uorexuan neutral zone and is enroute to the planet Glammadren as we prepare to journey there shortly ourselves. It's commander, Commodora Valakadria Tawn, along with a third or more of the Zaleen Fleet has led some, if not all, to believe that she may be defecting to the Consortium of Inhabited Worlds to help us battle a newly arising Zaleen imperial government. It will be our mission to find out if this is true and take appropriate actions from that point onward," Jackson said, gaining everyone's undivided attention. "Just a short while ago, after having departed from our shuttles, we were greeted, personally and or visually, by Admiral Davadra Adriakar, Captain Sathrana Celane and Counselor Davrina Adriakar. We were informed that we could not take it upon ourselves to seek out and explore any portion of this ship unaided and uninformed. This is only right for those of us that are newcomers here on our first space voyage, or tour of duty. And now that I have everyone's undivided attention, I want to take it upon myself, as this ships former captain, to inform you all that after having met with the three afore mentioned officers, I stand before family and friends, of the past voyage of the Orion, our present voyage, and if it should be, whatever future voyages we may or may not share together, and do hereby at this time, accept the vacated position and grade promotion to, admiral of the Galactic Fleet, but only for as long as the Zaleens pose a threat to us and to the free and inhabited worlds in the Consortium," he told everyone that heard his speech.
"Admiral of the Galactic Fleet!" David Jackson thundered expectedly as usual.
"David, Commodora Tawn is expecting the admiral of the Galactic Fleet to meet with her in the orbit of the planet Glammadren," Robert Jackson explained to his brother. "I now intend, as an admiral, to know myself, beyond the shadow of any doubts what so ever, whether or not the past thirteen years has changed Valakadria back into her old destructive and domineering self. It could also very well be, that she's coming to join forces with us, should the Zaleen Empire decide to attack the Consortium," he told not only his brother but the others that had gathered there as well.
"If your going to replace Admiral Driakar over there, then who's going to be my commanding officer on this one way trip to hell?" David asked. "Is it Donald April?" he inquired before Tiffany pulled him back down.
"Not this time David," Donald informed him and David stood back up.
"If not you, or my brother, or Admiral Driakar, then who?" David asked as Tiffany poked him hard in the leg to make him sit down, while everyone awaited an answer as well.
"Would you happen to know, Donald?" Robert Jackson asked before anyone else could answer.
"I hadn't given it much thought until now," Donald answered as he scratched his head. "Heck, I'm just as much in the dark about this as everyone else is," he said, a little teed off at not having been informed himself.
"You've been here far longer than the rest of us, and you don't even know yourself?" David Jackson uttered.
"Will the real commanding officer of the starship Orion please stand up and let his or her presence be made known in our dire time of need," Robert Jackson ordered, and as Sathrana Celane stood up, David Jackson fell back down in his chair while Donald April fell completely out of his.
"Now I know I'm going to have nightmares," Donald said as Marsha helped him to retake his seat and Tiffany took it upon herself to revive David.
"Yes. Now you know," Robert Jackson said as the others who had paid close attention laughed as food was being carried to their tables.
"Oh, and one last thing before I sit down to order my meal. Our now former admiral, Davadra Adriakar has been recently elected to the position of president of the United Inter Galactic Consortium of Inhabited Worlds," Jackson said, and turned to notice the icy stare coming from Davadra before he sat down to press the touch control pad that would stop the vid-com recording of his soon to be released transmission. Most, if not all the passengers and crew, gave her a standing ovation, which lasted a few minutes before they retook their seats to eat their late evening meal. Jackson finally pressed the touch pad once more.
"Admiral Jackson! I wanted the personal privilege of telling the crew, myself!" Davadra growled as she smacked him on the arm.
"In a way, it feels great to be back aboard the Orion, and in another way, it hurts," he told everyone at Captain Sathrana Celane's table this time, while rubbing his sore arm. "When do we get under way, Captain?" he asked, pressing the touch pad once again to raise the menu screen and order his food.
"Tomorrow morning, Admiral. After everyone's had sufficient rest," Captain Celane answered as Jackson looked across the table at Rhea Warner. She held her chin with her right hand and gazed at Robert Andrew Jackson as if she had never met him before.
"Sathrana, she's your ship now," Jackson told her.
"I know Admiral, sir," Sathrana replied as she noticed how he looked at Rhea.
"Your ship, and your crew," he began. "Take care of them both and they'll take care of you," he told her as the others listened. "If not, you'll be smacked on the arm. With or without the choice of which one."
"I'll will try to do my very best, Admiral," she said as her eyes gazed about the table, at the faces she wanted to burn into her memory for as long as she lived and served with them.
"I'm hungry," Amber said as she looked at her father.
"Are we there yet?" Eric asked as he looked at his sister, putting everyone back in stitches with laughter.
"Valakadria, as some of us have great reason to believe, may still want to wipe us out of existence," Donald April said voicing his opinion and noticing David Jackson giving him the thumbs up.
"You know," Jackson said, just to change the subject. At first, I declined the admiralship of the fleet and very heatedly so. I thought the mission of playing hero to the destroyed worlds was completed. We have all experienced very great and painful losses in our lives to the Zaleens, time and time again. And as some of us will recall, a devastating virus brought aboard the Orion from the Daneka Amoria about ended our last voyage. It all but took the lives of our Uorexuan and Zanarian crew mates," he said before drifting away in deep thought.
"That's something that none of us will ever forget," Donald April spoke up. "Until a cure can be found for them, they will have to remain in suspended animation on the ice planet Kristonia, for the rest of their lives," he added sadly, and more or less, to himself.
"I played Valakadria's hero, by saving her life and, thus preventing her death. She owes me the same service in return for my mercy upon her," Jackson continued on having heard clearly what his best friend had said as their food arrived.
While eating, he looked across the galley in all directions to see Alex Scott, Laura Andrews, Steven Davis, Tekorr Tharashaen, Bohemeah Javreen, Josette Sanchez, Khaba Satria, Lektan Tholari, Mardaui Lumada and the countless others that were here, perhaps on their last voyage together. He thought back to the time that he went against his own better judgment to save the Zaleen princess, Valakadria Tawn. He had entered her littered cell were she lay naked in the filth. The only thing that had, for some unknown reason, managed to stay clean and shiny on the girl, was her golden neckband or birth collar. Valakadria was completely covered in the muck and the mire from head to toe. He remembered the stink that the ventilator mask was unable to filter out. She had cringed and hidden her face from him as he made his way into the corner of her cell were she lay drawn up into a tight ball on the cell floor. She cried weakly and was nothing but skin and bones from the lack of nourishment. They had broken her down both body, soul and mind and he found out that she was unable to walk. They had degraded her to the point of eating the flesh of the dead Zaleen's thrown into her cell. Yes, he had saved her after she had him hunted down on his own ship and being shot in the back, had taken six month's of his life away from him as he lay in a coma in med bay. And now, thirteen years later, the memory of his Uorexuan and Zanarian shipmates, left behind, perhaps forever, on the subfreezing and barren planet of solid ice, comes back to haunt him.
"You haven't heard a word that I've said, have you dad?" Amber asked, very loudly this time.
"No. I've been in deep thought over the past few minutes. I'm sorry, but I haven't been totally here with you," Jackson told his daughter as he rose up from his seat, yawning. "I'm going to bed. It's getting late. We'll be leaving tomorrow. Pray that we're all prepared for what's to come," he told everyone before leaving the table.
"Amber, follow me," Davrina said, getting up and excusing herself as well, making a grab for Robert Jackson's forgotten transcribe.
"Would you mind if I came along too?" Rhea Warner asked as she pushed back her chair.
"She can come, Davrina," Amber replied.
"Very well. Follow me," Davrina said as Amber and Rhea walked beside one another behind Davrina while she sought to catch up with Robert Jackson. "I'm going to let your counselors know that you're all with me," she said as she stopped for a moment beside a vine covered vid-com tower. "Robert ... Admiral Jackson, wait up!" she yelled, almost out of breath, after having crossed the bridge at a run.
"Davrina, Amber, Rhea. What is it that you want?" Jackson asked.
"Amber," Davrina said, as she handed the transcribe back to him.
"What I wanted to know earlier, while you were further out there in deep space than we are right now is, are Eric and I going to get to spend any time with you while we're here? Or is it going to be pretty much like it was seventeen years ago? I mean, we no longer have mom with us any more. And even though we're older we---
"Amber, as long as we're not in a meeting with the staff or in another war with the Zaleens. You, Eric, and I, can spend as much time together as you like," Jackson told his daughter as Eric walked up to meet them.
"And what about me?" Rhea asked as she stood there with them.
"You too. That is, if you want too," he told her, as he tucked the transcribe under his left arm.
"Rhea, I'm hoping that this trip to Glammadren will be a short and sweet one. I'm hoping that we don't have to battle with the Zaleens. I'm also hoping that when we are all able to return to Earth, we may also be able to continue on with our regular, boring lives," Jackson said as the others listened. And I seriously doubt that, because our exodus from Earth was anything but regular and boring," he added.
"What if it's not so short and sweet? What if we do just happen to go to war with the Zaleens? What if we can't return to Earth for any reason, whatever that reason might be?" Rhea asked, very much afraid but doing her best not to let it show.
"Dad, answer her please," Amber said, awaiting his answer for herself as well.
"That's allot of what if's to answer. But we'll work this out together, somehow," he answered as he gazed through Rhea Warner.
"Do you need me for anything right now?" Rhea asked point blank and it made Robert Jackson think before he answered.
"We need each other," he answered.
"Robert Jackson! Do you need me to help you with Eric and Amber or not?" Rhea asked, somewhat irritated this time.
Robert Jackson hung his head as if he had just been defeated in a battle all ready.
"I would deeply appreciate your help, Rhea. And so would they," he answered as Rhea's daughters and her son walked slowly up behind her and scared her.
"Hello mom," they all said together.
"Rhea, we all are here because of a need rather than a want. And the need out weighs the want right now, at this time," Jackson said.
"We've been looking all over for you mom," Sabrina said as she grabbed her mom by the arm.
"Oh my. It's Sabrina Warner," Amber Jackson said before she passed out on the grassy Round Forest floor.
"She's a big fan of yours Sabrina," Robert told her as Davrina revived Amber.
"A big faller, or I mean follower too," Eric said as he laughed at his sister.
"I'm going to go find a bed and get some sleep," Robert said as he stepped into the mono tram elevator tower that stood nearby. "I would suggest that the rest of you do the same," he told them as Davrina managed to squeeze in before the oval shaped doors slid shut leaving Eric, Amber, Rhea, and her family, outside.
"I'm your counselor. I'm coming along too, Admiral," Davrina told him.
"You'll have to find your own bed, Davrina," Jackson told her as the elevator ascended to the top of the vine-covered tower.
"Very funny," she replied, looking over to find Robert Jackson leaning against the elevator wall, asleep.
She too was very tired all of the sudden, and about fell into a trance like state. Memories of the past and the present came crashing together. Robert had lost Patricia a few years back on Earth. Her heart had finally given out on her. Robert had never pursued her sister Davadra afterwards and neither she nor Davadra ever pressed the issue after Patricia's passing. Davadra never told Robert Jackson as of yet about the daughter he left behind. He would find out soon enough though about Valdara Adriakar Jackson.
**** Later ****
Robert Jackson lay in his bed, safely inside his quarters and couldn't sleep.
"Issac, are you still online?" he asked into the air.
"Internal Ships Systems Analytical Computer is always online, Admiral Jackson," the ships computer said in answer.
"Lets us see if all the old records are still in your memory banks," he said, sitting up in bed. "Replay David Jackson, Jalep Adeez, first meeting, Security, on screen," he ordered as the vid-com screen came to life on the far wall of his bedchamber.
"Ah, Slorpan Sliver! I see that you've finally decided to report to me for your first training session!" thundered security chief, Commander Jalep Adeez, who sat behind his desk in the security unit.
"You may be my commanding officer, alien twerp! But you and me are gonna get one thing straight! I can whip the crap outta you any day of the week, month or year! Got that carp face?" thundered David Jackson, shoving his finger into the alien's face, just as Davrina Adriakar walked into Robert Jackson's bed chamber and sat herself down in a chair to find out what Robert was watching on his vid-com.
"Earthman, you do show promise and have great potential. I'm going to mold you into a first rate security officer," said Jalep, now standing.
"What are you---
"Hush, Davrina!" Jackson ordered.
" ... that my brother told me about this flying car ... "Issac,
replay that entire sentence from the start," he ordered into the air while giving Davrina the zip her lip signal.
"Look here piglet, is everything that my brother told me about this flying carpet with it's Mickey Mouse crew and why your all here, true?" David asked, shoving the commander back down in his seat as Davrina turned to stare weirdly at Robert, who placed his finger to his mouth and shook his head for her to remain quite, before she turned back around.
"Your brother, I presume, is going to be the captain aboard this ship?" asked the alien security chief, standing once again.
"Ya, the Wizard of Oz. What a joke on us all. But yes. Some ignorant alien fool critter off of his rocket made my brother a star ship captain!" David thundered once more.
"Freeze Issac," Robert ordered as Davrina wished to speak.
"All-right Davrina. Go ahead and have at it," he said as she sat there.
"This recording was made before I was brought aboard the Orion and you we're given command," she stated.
"No kidding Princess. Shall we," he said, pointing back at the screen as Davrina turned back.
"All-right Issac, continue," he said.
"Anyway, ferret weasel. Is what he told me the truth?" he blurted out, slamming his fist on Adeez's desk.
"What did he tell you, Thrug Shalurtling?" asked the commander as Valdara Adriakar Jackson slowly opened the oval shaped closet door just enough to hear the vid-com more clearly.
"Looks like your heading into another fight!" David thundered. Call me a pig will you! he added. "I found out what a Slorpan Sliver and a Thrug Shalurt was, you baboon!" David said, moving nearer to Jalep Adeez's desk. "I don't like being referred to as a pig in a slop pen, creep!" David continued as he grabbed the commander and pinned him to the wall behind his chair. "There's something that I don't like about you alien, and I'm gonna find out why I don't. I don't believe all the bull crap I've heard or seen. So, you had better be doing some serious talking if you value your life, peanut brain!" said David as he tightened his grip.
"Is .ard .o .alk .hen .ome .ody is .hoking ..u .o .eath," said the Perrinan as his face was deepening in color.
Davrina and Robert watched on and Valdara listened as a club like weapon came crashing down quickly over David Jackson's head felling him to the floor but still clutching the Perrinan by its neck. The club should have knocked David unconscious but David's head was thicker than the club, which shattered.
"That did it. Now you've went and made me mad. So, if your gonna mess with the best, your gonna have to suffer like the rest!" he told them and then the fight broke out.
David Jackson could hold his own in a hand to hand battle, or at least he could thirteen years ago.
"Security alert! security alert!" said the voice on the screen. "Security to Security! We have a problem down here! Admiral Mazanurra, Captain Jackson, can you come down here to Security?" asked the voice.
"On our way," answered the admiral over the vid com in the security unit.
"Enough Issac," Jackson said as Davrina turned in her chair to face him and noticed at once that his oval shaped closet door was partially open and wasn't before. She slowly arose from her chair and made her way across the bedchamber to yank the door open.
"Valdara, what are you doing hiding in the admiral's closet? Get out of there this instant!" she ordered, and the girl stepped out into the light so that Robert could see who his intruder was. A miniature version of Davadra stood near the closet door while Davrina held her by the arm. She tried to speak but no word uttered from her mouth nor had it for eight years.
"Davrina, bring her here to the side of the bed," he ordered.
"The only place that Valdara's going is---
"To the side of my bed! And that's an order, Davrina!" he ordered.
"Yes sir, Admiral," Davrina said reluctantly as she marched the child across the floor and to the side of Robert Jackson's bed.
"This girl is your niece, isn't she, Davrina?" Jackson asked.
"Yes sir. She is," Davrina answered as her eyes wandered.
"This girl can belong to no one else aboard this ship but to Davadra Adriakar. Am I right in assuming that much?" he asked as he looked from Valdara to Davrina.
"Yes sir. Your right again," Davrina answered nervously this time.
"Davadra would have died if she wasn't allowed to carry and produce a child. I haven't forgotten this Davrina," he said as he placed his left hand on Valdara's right arm. "Sit here on the side of the bed Valdara," he told her and she obeyed. "You know who I am, don't you?" he asked as he looked into her blind eyes.
"She can't speak Admiral. She hasn't uttered a single word in the eight of her thirteen years. And she's also---
"Valdara, you know who I am, don't you?" he asked once again, paying little if no attention to Davrina or the fact that his daughter was blind and could not see him.
Valdara knew that this day would come and she prayed and had hoped that it would so that she could know beyond the shadow of a doubt. Oh yes, she knew now who her father was but now wasn't the time.
"Valdara, I know who you are," he finally told her as he continued looking into her sightless eyes.
Yes. She thought to her inner self. Perhaps the time was now.
"You, Valdara, are my daughter," he told her and she jumped slightly at his acknowledgment of the fact.
Yes. It was true and he had acknowledged it. She said to herself as she worked up the saliva to wet the inside of her dry mouth.
"Yes. You're right for the third time, father," she said, and Davrina Adriakar just passed out on the floor in front of them.
"I thought she said that you couldn't talk," he said with an unseen smile on his face.
"I am only blind, not dumb. I chose not to speak until I met my father and he acknowledged me as his daughter," she said with a sweet and musical voice.
"Won't your mother be surprised," Jackson said as he tossed her hair.
"Not if aunt Davrina tells her," Valdara told him.
"She'll wake up in a little while," her father told her. She's passed out on us. So, how about going to the living unit for a while so I can get dressed. Then you and I will take a walk in the Round Forest together," Jackson told his newfound daughter.
"I'll be waiting. But what about her?" she asked as she rose up from the bed.
"Looks like she's found her bed for the night," he answered as she slowly walked unaided, to the living unit.
Shortly later, the both of them walked hand in hand until they finally stood on the grassy Round Forest floor and began their trek along the dimly lit white rock inlaid pathway, lined with a countless variety of shrubbery, flowers and trees. They continued onward until they came to the vine covered ornate bridge that led them across the Round River, where they both found that her mother and Captain Celane were out on the beautifully vine covered wrought iron veranda that surrounded the galley which sat on the Round River itself. It was a terrible thought that Valdara would never see the beauty of the Round Forest science section of the three-mile long starship. The lighting that surrounded the outer hull of the central core had dimmed to a near moon light simulation as it reflected off the waters surface below.
"Davadra!" Jackson bellowed out her name, making Valdara jump again. I found this intruder in my bedchamber closet and thought that I would bring her before you and Captain Celane. Then I'll have her tossed in the brig!" he said as he put on the act of being mad. "Seeing as how I'm the admiral of the fleet, I could have just taken her there myself. Though however, I thought that perhaps the two of you might know who she belongs to," he added as he helped Valdara up the steps to stand in front of her mother who just lowered her head into her hands. "Perhaps I should just call on Security to handle this matter---
"Valdara!" her mother said heatedly.
"Go on back to bed, Admiral. We'll handle this situation," Sathrana said as got up to take Valdara's hand.
"And just how will this situation be handled? Doesn't her parents know her whereabouts at this time of night? Shouldn't they keep a better watch over her? Don't they care about her welfare?" Robert Jackson asked forcefully as he continued to lay it on thick.
"One of them will, Admiral," Davadra finally said as she took Valdara by the arm and led her to sit in one of the nearby chairs.
"Both of them will, Davadra," Jackson told her as he stood on the veranda steps.
"Wha ... what?" she asked almost at a whisper, being thrown off her guard.
"Both of her parents will know were she's at all times. Both of her parents will keep better watch over her. And both parents will care about her welfare," he told her.
"She only has one parent, Robert," Davadra told him.
"Davadra." he said and waited a moment before continuing. "Valdara is our daughter. Your mother and the captain seem busy. Come along now," Robert Jackson said as he walked up the steps and across the veranda to take her by the hand.
"I'll see you awhile-later mother," Valdara said as she and her father walked over to and down the steps, hand in hand.
"Yes. We'll see you later, Davadra," Jackson said as both he and Valdara disappeared on the other side of the bridge while the dim light of the flowery vine covered glow glob posts and the moonlight of the core lit their way.
"He knows, Davadra," Sathrana said as she looked over at her.
"She can talk," was all that Davadra uttered.
"She told him then," Sathrana said.
"Oh no," Davadra uttered. "He knew. The moment that he lay eyes on her, he knew. This was his way of letting me know that he knew. Calling security and taking Valdara to the ... she can talk Sathrana," Davadra said, cutting herself short.
"I know. I heard her speak too, Davadra," Sathrana said.
A while later Robert Jackson toed Davrina gently in the side and helped her get up off the carpet and to her feet.
"Davrina, take Valdara to her mother so I can get some rest, if you would please," Jackson said as he fell on his bed and fell just as fast, to sleep this time.
"Valdara, your mother is going to kill me," Davrina said as she took Valdara by the hand.
"Don't pass out on us again aunt Davrina. All-right?" she asked.
"Eight years, and you pick right now of all times to speak," Davrina said as she led Valdara from the room.
"He knew and he told me that I was his daughter. I didn't have to tell him. He knew Davrina, he knew," Valdara told her aunt.
"And later this morning, so will everyone else," Davrina said nervously under her breath as they left Robert Jackson's quarters.
**** Morning ****
Robert Jackson was sitting in his office reading the crew roster when a name rose up and slapped him squarely in the face.
"Tori D. Buckingham!" he said aloud from behind his desk. "It can't be the Tori Buckingham that I know," he added as he looked up from the transcribe.