* Twenty - Three *
"Admiral, I need to see you as soon as possible," he told his brother. "Alone."
"Very well Commander, I'll be waiting right here when you return." Robert Jackson said as everyone exited the briefing room.
A short while later Admiral Robert Jackson stood before the view of Round Forest from the oval window when Commander David Jackson walked swiftly back into the briefing room.
"Aright David," Robert Jackson said. "It's just the two of us now, so what's on your mind?" he asked, turning from the window.
"Well, for starters, we're on our last one way voyage to you know where for sure." David began. "But what else is new?"
"You had better sit down Bro." he said as he took a seat at the conference table himself. "You know, we haven't always seen eye to eye, and it's not because I'm taller than you." David told his older brother.
"I need to check up on the fleets position David, so can the crap and tell me what's bothering---
"Alright, damned it to hell, that Zaleen witch is in love with you Robert." David stormed as he sprang back up from his chair and onto his feet. "There now, I've said it, see you later, you can handle her, I've got other things to attend---
"That's it?" Robert asked his brother while closing the oval view port window and exiting the briefing room. "That's what your all fired up about?"
"Issac, lights off," he commanded as the oval shaped door to the aft command section briefing room slid shut behind them.
"She's your puppy, not mine, so you take care of her." David Jackson replied as they walked down the corridor only to run into Valakadria Tawn, standing there by herself, and all alone.
"Admiral, might I have a word with you?" she asked as David excused himself in a huff and made his way on down the corridor to check out the links in his chain.
"Sure Commodora," the admiral said. "How might I be of service to you?"
"Would I be correct in assuming that Commander Jackson has been conversing with you in regards to me, personally?" Valakadria asked.
"Your very perceptive, Val." Jackson answered as they began walking down the corridor to the nearest lift.
"What did he tell you about me Admiral?" she asked as others walked past them in the corridor.
"My brother told me that you're still in love with me, and that I should take care of you." he answered stepping in front of the oval lift door.
"And just what did he mean by saying that you should take care of me, Admiral?" Commodora Tawn asked as the two of them stepped into the lift together.
"Exactly that, Valakadria." he answered as the lift doors closed.
"What kind of puppy food would you eat I wonder?" he said to himself.
"What kind of what would I---
"Main deck entrance to Round Forest Sciences Section." the admiral spoke into the air.
The elevator turbo lift started it's decent as the two of them stood gazing at one another.
"Do you love me, Robert Jackson?" Valakadria Tawn asked as the lift continued on its downward journey.
"We've been over this before, Valakadria, and the answer is, as it always has been before, as a friend only." Robert Jackson answered nervously.
"Why do you continue to evade me Robert Jackson?" she asked as the lift began slowing.
"When I was out here in space seventeen years ago, I was actually accomplishing something in my miserable life." Jackson explained to her. "I had a purpose for living, and other lives were effectively changed . . . and some were lost."
"One of those lives that was effectively changed was my own Robert, because if not for you, I wouldn't be out here trying to purposely accomplish the impossible in my life, now why ... do you ... evade me?" Valakadria asked.
"Because I'm back out here doing what I have to do." Jackson answered. "What I need to do, what I want to do, and what must be done, even if reluctantly so."
"Val, this is most definitely not the time for this discussion, for you would be a distraction and hinder me from getting the job done this time." he told her.
"And just what is it that you're trying to get done, Robert?" Valakadria asked as the lift finally stopped and the oval door opened.
"What I set out and failed to accomplish on our last voyage, Commodora." Admiral Jackson answered as he stepped off the lift with Valakadria Tawn in tow.
"After you've succeeded in what you set out originally to do, but failed to accomplish, then what are my chances at becoming the distraction that you truly need?" she asked as the admiral made his way to one of the three triple oval air lock portals that led into the round jungle forest section of the Orion.
"You'll be the very first to know, Commodora Tawn." Admiral Jackson answered as he stood in front of the crowded portal.
"I had better be, Admiral Jackson." Valakadria replied as Robert Jackson reached out with his right hand to pull her into his arms and hug her tightly in front of everyone that had stopped or was passing through the portal.
"Damned it, to hell with regulations, Val." he said as he kissed her for the first time in over thirteen years, and she didn't hesitate to hold him as if she would never let him go.
"I'm holding you to it, Robert," she said as the kiss ended.
"You're ... holding me ... too tight!" Jackson said in a little bit of pain.
"You're ... squeezing ... the breath ... right out of me, Val!" he gasped as everyone stood gasping themselves, at the scene going on before them.
"I'll do more than that if you should let me down, Robert." she said as she let go of him.
"I ah, don't doubt that in the least, Valakadria." he replied as she slowly turned around and started walking back to the lift, in order to return to her ship.
"Valakadria?" he called aloud as the crowed began to move along and disperse.
"Yes Robert." she answered as she quickly turned back around to face him.
"Don't let us down." Jackson said as he walked back to where she stood, noticing the tears in her eyes.
"We need your help, I need your help." he told her as he reached into his jacket and pulled out his handkerchief and passed it to her.
"See, Robert Andrew Jackson, you can't succeed without me in your miserable life." she told him as she took his handkerchief to conceal a pill like object that he had transferred to her mouth from his, before she continued on down the corridor to disappear inside the lift.
"Perhaps not." he said above a whisper to himself before turning about and walking through the triple oval air lock portal doors that led into Round Forest.