* Eight *
"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 crew mates and friends, awaiting conformation from the bridge that all the shuttles had arrived safely aboard, before she would give her welcoming speech. As soon as she received the conformation and was completely satisfied that everyone had been given a language translator, 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 bonafide reason as to why, at that particular rendezvous point. And feeling that something just isn't right about the situation, 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 that she's going to give us trouble or something?" Jackson asked.
"Anything's possible at this point in time." 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 star ship Orion." she began while looking over the vast crowd of newcomers.
"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 may and will repeat myself," she said.
"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 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 to receive a language aid translator calibration if necessary, 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 star ship 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, carrying his hearing aid translator in his right hand.
"Captain Jackson, after, and not one minute before, I find that your brother has inserted his translator, I will then speak with him," the admiral sighed as she turned back around.
"Tell Commander Jackson to insert his translator, get his 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 and hopefully they will 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 and her own as he finally placed the translator in his left ear.
"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 as he turned to get one more look at the shuttle that bore Patricia's name.
"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, turning back to face Davadra, 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, having noticed that he had been gazing at the shuttle as well as Eric and herself. "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.
"Yeah, 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.
"Yeah, see you Uncle Robert." Candy's children all said in unison.
After Davrina Adriakar had 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 tram into the Round Forest Sciences Section 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 Round River where the four of them seated themselves at 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 remember." 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.
"Okay. 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 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. "Except for the dreams."
"Well, we haven't always stayed within the confines of your solar system, seeing as how your world isn't as advanced as ---" Davrina Adriakar added and stopped herself short, seeing the look that Robert was giving her. "Dreams you say?"
"Yes, each and every night, over and over since the day that I returned to---
"Anyway, my sister has become the newly elected president of the United Galactic Consortium of Inhabited Worlds, and can not always be at just anyone in particular's beck and call." she said, knowing that Robert sat there for a moment, not quiet being able to get over just how much she favored his beloved late wife 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. Is it because of your being elected to president of the Consortium?" he asked changing the subject.
"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, yes to your question, but, I don't want the crew to know about it at this time."
"With Admiral Mazanurra on ice, who's left to lead us then?" he asked as he looked out over Round River.
"That's one of the reasons why you are here, Admiral Jackson." she answered him, watching as 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 hurled the comet clear out of the solar system. I'll be the first to tell you, right here, and right now, that this sends the comet clear out of the galaxy. 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 what happened?" he paused for a few seconds before answering for himself. "It killed me deep down inside, Davadra, when that damned Dorkonian father of yours, killed my wife and . . . I wish that I would have died, right along with her!"
"Robert, no one else is as qualified for the position as are you." Davadra told him.
"Bull shit, I haven't seen nor have I logged 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 in a huff.
"And what is your other reason for not accepting promotion?" Davadra asked, awaiting his answer.
"Well, to be honestly truthful with you," Jackson replied before he went on. "The other reason is because of Valakadria Tawn's present situation. What makes you think that I'm going to be able to find out any more about her than you yourself? he asked raising his voice an octave or two.
"And oh yes, Davrina, you can now lead me to my quarters, Counselor Adriakar." Jackson finally ended as he arose up and out of his chair.
"How did you know that I was assigned to be your personal counselor?" Davrina asked as she too arose 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 back down, and that's an order!" Davadra said a bit forcefully and watched as 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." she bellowed, while watching the captain tap on his hearing aid translator.
"You are refusing to cooperate with us." she further 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 sat back down, didn't I?" Jackson asked, having interrupted her.
"Yes you did." she answered sighing.
"You know Davadra," Jackson said as he sat there. I used to like you a little bit, but your starting to get under my---
"I think that he still does." Sathrana said all of the sudden as she had 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 replied instead.
"It seems as if we've brought a lot of hungry passengers aboard,' he told her. "The bridge has been 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 said 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. "Before you send me back home!"
"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, throwing his chair back and standing back up on his feet. "You sure as hell 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
"Why she could destroy and dominate our galaxy with a third of the Zaleen fleet!" Jackson boomed aloud.
"And Donald did say earlier that her mother had passed on."he said while rubbing his chin with his left hand.
"Hells bells!" he stormed. "Now that Valakadria Tawn is the queen bee, she could wipe us off the star charts."
"That's why I've requested that only her ship be allowed to rendezvous with us in the orbit of the planet Glammadren. This way we might get to the bottom of things." she told him.
"All it takes is but one Zaleen battle crusier destroyer to ... well, destroy us, Madam President of the Consortium!" Jackson bellowed at Davadra Adriakar.
"And now, for the part that I know your still not going to like," she said rather than to bellow back at him.
"She's expecting the admiral of the galactic fleet to be there with us when we meet with her. 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, having laid all of her cards on the table.
"Oh really now! " was all that Jackson replied at that moment.
"So, how does it feel to be the captain of the Orion, Sathrana?" he asked while crew members began filling 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 new 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, knowing that he hadn't, as of yet, accepted the promotion.
An admiral does have certain advantages that a captain doesn't. Jackson thought.
"Alright Davadra, as long as the Zaleens pose us a threat and not a minute longer, I'll accept the promotion. After that, another 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 him, she, or it, by myself." Robert stated the facts to them as he turned to enter the galley.